What Could Have Been: Stargate Universe Season 3
Seeing how popular the Stargate Atlantis article was last month, I thought we’d continue on this trend by taking a look at the lost future of its younger brother, Stargate Universe. Much like Atlantis, it was canceled prematurely, but unfortunately it wasn’t really given a satisfying ending. The producers tried to pull out the wrap up movie technique for this also, so we once again have two different possibilities that the show could have taken to continue on. There’s a lot less solid info for this one, given that it’s more recent, and part of it is still being withheld from the public on the vague hopes that the story may still be finished in some form, be it television or otherwise. Let’s push forward into inevitably depressing territory with vanished potential of Stargate Universe Season 3.
One of the big things that made SGU distinct from its predecessors was the presence of a myth arc from the show’s inception. While it’s not exactly the core plot thread, there’s on persistent question pushing through the entire series: for what purpose did the Ancients construct the Destiny, and why was it abandoned? That’s not to say that SG-1 or SGA didn’t have series-long story arcs, but there was never that kind of a core mystery to them in the same way. Even Atlantis, which arguably had a similar initial premise as SGU, didn’t really have as many questions surrounding the city of Atlantis itself as those around Destiny.
Now, the why of Destiny‘s abandonment seemed obvious: the Ancients figured out how to Ascend and just kind of gave up on everything else. They were very irresponsible like that, leaving their toys scattered all over the universe. But Destiny‘s mission seems to have been a particularly special one; Rush was convinced that its purpose involved some sort of message left from the very beginning of the universe. The exact kind of thing that ought to still be relevant to Ascended beings. Once again, I’ve turned to Joe Mallozzi’s blog for answers, but he says that the decision to release the plans for SGU’s myth arc rests with Brad Wright. So far, Wright doesn’t seem interested in telling us what that arc was. He also said he’d hoped for SGU to run for 3-5 seasons, so it’s likely that while the answers were known to him, exactly how we’d get there wasn’t mapped out yet (although Mallozzi seemed certain they could finish in 3, if needed). Any reveal of this answer would inevitably be disappointing without the buildup to it. Heck, I’m sure it would be divisive no matter how it panned out, given its nature as universal fact of the Stargate Verse.
So, fact of the matter is, there’s just no where near as much developed potential to write about for a post like this. Not many plans exist, and most of those that do are still being kept secret, but I’ll let you know what I did find:
- First is, obviously, a resolution to the cliffhanger. Funny thing is, they hadn’t originally planned for the person left outside to be Eli; the initial cliffhanger would have been a coin flip between Rush and Young as to who remained out. So given the fact that they ultimately went with Eli, the cliffhanger’s resolution wasn’t as firmly set. Mallozzi speculates on some possible solutions in the Stargate Universe Season 3 premiere:
- Eli fixes the pod in time and manages to join the others in stasis. A little anti-climactic, admittedly, but this would have had one advantage: with everyone in stasis, literally ANY amount of time could have passed in between. Mallozzi specifically states “Between 3 and 1,000 years” in stasis, which is a huge margin. Remaining in stasis for that long would have some obvious big problems; all earth-bound characters would be dead, and no one really wants that. Perhaps they’d have tried to fix this with even more time travel, but that’s really risky. Maybe a more realistic period of time, like 10-20 years, where our earth-bound characters are still alive, but there’s been enough time for major changes to occur. That still holds a lot of dramatic potential without unintentionally telling the audience all their old favorites are dead. (Side note–he mentions one idea for the 10-20 year time frame would be awakening to find Earth in the midst of interstellar war with the Lucian Alliance. Talk about big changes!)
- Eli finds a way to survive the three year journey without a stasis pod, or at least without a pod for the majority of it. This has a lot of big impact for his character–how does Eli deal with loneliness and solitude for that long? Does he develop any bitterness towards his comrades in stasis? And how exactly does he survive? Mallozzi suggested the shuttle might be the answer, given that it has its own, much smaller and less power-intensive life support systems. I think if they went this route, they’d have to spend a good chunk of the premiere showing Eli’s solitude. We’ve seen episodes similar to this for other sci-fi series (“Doctor’s Orders” from Enterprise, or “One” from Voyager), though never for such a long period of time.
- Eli can’t fix the pod, can’t find a way to keep life support going, and out of desperation, uploads himself into the Destiny‘s computer through use of that interface chair. This is actually a really interesting possibility, in my opinion, and the consequences of it would definitely have been somewhere between the two extremes presented by the other options. Mallozzi says that this would likely only have happened in the event of a wrap-up movie: if the series were to continue, they’d obviously have wanted Eli to stick around, but knowing that there was only one movie to follow, the restrictions of serialized story telling fly off. With Eli’s mind in the computer, and presumably still with years of stasis-time to get acquainted with it, he would be able to offer the awakening crew full control over Destiny‘s systems, making whatever grand finale-type events that take place all the more epic. This would also have the side effect of reuniting Eli and Ginn, which would be great for people like me who were furious over Ginn’s death in season 2.
- Earth finds a way to dial aboard Destiny and launches a rescue mission. Less satisfying, as Mallozzi notes, but in the event of a movie it could have been combined with any of the three earlier solutions. It also offers a plethora of potential guest stars, including Carter, McKay, and even Jonas Quinn, all three of whom Mallozzi mentions specifically, in addition to any number of others (Daniel Jackson being another highly likely guest). We’ll get more into this stuff later, not that there’s a lot more to it.
- Another possibility is accidental rescue by an alien species, perhaps surviving Ursini or Nakai (the “blueberry”/”catfish” aliens). This idea seems to be the least developed and least likely of the possibilities.
- Moving on past the premiere, one idea kicked around as a possible Stargate Universe Season 3 enemy was tied to the Novus colony discovered at the end of season 2. Mallozzi mentions a militaristic human race, descended from Novan survivors. They even considered the possibility that the Berserker Drones had been constructed by them. The big thing with this would be the fact that the Novans were explicitly shown not to have FTL/Hyperdrive technology. So how would they get to the next galaxy that Destiny would arrive in at the beginning of the season? No clue. Stolen alien tech, perhaps? But even then, very few of the aliens encountered so far were a match for Destiny. This does have the obvious benefit of cutting down CG costs–we have here an enemy that the crew can encounter on a regular basis without breaking the budget. Their presence might have helped the show to lessen the reliance on interpersonal drama (often derided by those who disliked the show as being too “Soap Opera”-y) and allowed for more high concept sci-fi episodes.
- Joe Mallozzi discusses the Planet Builders (powerful aliens responsible for the world encountered in “Faith”) potentially appearing in the third season. Having dealt with the after effects of their interference already, and become a subject of fascination for them, it does make a certain amount of sense that the Planet Builders would show themselves to Destiny. Not much to go on here, but Mallozzi makes it clear that they wouldn’t just be Ancients or even humanoid, and not the typical sci-fi Energy Beings or AI.
- But speaking of the Ancients, he does propose showing the Ancients and their construction of Destiny either via flashbacks or actual time travel/temporal weirdness.
- Mallozzi mentions another episode he would have liked to do regarding the crew finding very old corpses in a newly opened section of Destiny, left from a previous attempt that some group had made to board the ship at any point in its long and unknown past. They would have left behind some evidence or readings (maybe even Kino recordings?) that would be critical to the resolution of the plot.
For some more character-based, rather than plot based possibilities:
- Park’s blindness and TJ’s developing ALS would have both likely continued on throughout Stargate Universe Season 3. Park’s blindness as a running thing is definitely an interesting idea (Agents of SHIELD seems to be doing something similar with Fitz this season) and it reminds me a bit of Tuvok getting blinded in Voyager‘s “Year of Hell,” which was also meant to be a season-long arc. It’s a fair bet that both would have been resolved eventually, however.
- And on the subject of TJ, the baby thing was never intended to be pursued. Its purpose was more for personal character growth than an actual mystery of the show. They also considered an episode dealing with TJ’s attempts to further her medical education via the communication stones, I’m guessing as a B-plot.
- Varro, one of the last surviving Lucian Alliance characters, would supposedly have taken on a main character role in season 3, although to what ends he doesn’t say.
- Another idea tossed about would be having Chloe’s pod sustain damage, causing her to become brain-dead. Out of some weird attempt to save her, Ginn’s consciousness would be downloaded into her now-vacant body. I really doubt this one would have happened; as mad as people were over Ginn and Perry dying, pulling something like this with Chloe would be hugely divisive. Low probability, in my book.
- Franklin, who was zapped into Destiny‘s computer, would have had a role to play in the events of Stargate Universe Season 3, but no other information I found as to what. Given that he’s described in the blog as a “base for Destiny‘s developing AI,” it’s possible he could have served as a means of granting the crew better control over the ship in much the same way as Eli was described above.
One last thing: getting back to the wrap-up movie, and what that might have been like, had it gone forward. Mallozzi insists that had there been such a movie, it would have been up to Executive Producers Brad Wright and Robert Cooper to write the script, so he’d have had minimal impact, if any, on the way it shaped up. But he was still willing to share the ideas that he’d have liked to see in the movie, pulling from a number of the possibilities listed above. To quote:
Eli is able to reroute power from the shuttle to a pod and go into stasis, awakening one hundred years later. They find themselves in the clutches of an off-shoot of their descendants, a military civilization with designs on Destiny. Earth, meanwhile, has undergone major changes. Everyone they once knew has passed on but the standing world organization has been able to create a power source that, with the help of the Destiny, will create a stable, limited time wormhole to the ship. Some return, some remain, while some familiar faces (the A Team whose members allowed themselves to be placed in stasis should the opportunity to finally reach Destiny present itself) join the crew (I’m thinking maybe Daniel, McKay). The time in stasis has allowed Park to heal and she can see again while the crew’s interactions with their advanced descendants offer T.J. a cure for her condition. With the help of advanced Earth technology and know-how in addition to a few of the descendants themselves who turn against their own, Destiny is transformed into a lean, highly efficient powerhouse that kicks major ass and makes good its escape.
So that’s it, as far as I can tell. Unlike with Atlantis, Mallozzi seems to be the only one to have spoken out about their plans for SGU. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the foreseeable future in case we do learn what the myth arc was, or hear any more about potential season 3 plans, but it’s a long shot either way. And if Mr. Mallozzi should happen to find his way here (probably from the linkback traffic, if at all), I’d just like to say thanks for helping make such a great franchise, and an extra special thank you for being so open about what it’s like making a show like this. As someone who’d love to get into the industry, these posts have been invaluable as a window into the world of the TV writer. And as a fan, it’s nice to have some of these hanging questions answered at last, even if the answers are of dubious canonicity.
Next month, Battlestar Galactica spinoff Caprica will get its turn in the hotseat. You can subscribe to the “What Could Have Been” RSS Feed to be notified when it’s posted here. Until then, consider drowning your sorrows by rewatching Season 1 and Season 2 on Amazon.
If you want more from me, might I recommend checking out my new book, The Arcology? Cheaper than a single episode on Amazon.