"Stargate Universe" ends its voyage tonight, with an episode that, while not intended to be a series finale, works well as one.
In "Gauntlet" (8 p.m. May 9, Syfy), Eli (David Blue) and Rush (Robert Carlyle) discover a way to track the drone command ships, only to learn that the drones have blocked the Destiny's path to every planet with gate and to any star that could repower the ship. The Destiny can stand and fight, or run and slowly run out of power and supplies.
With few options available to him, Col. Young (Louis Ferreira) backs a last-ditch, highly risky plan Eli has devised.
The episode is rife with suspense, butting heads and amazing space battles. But there is also a sense of cooperation among the crew as the battle the drones. It foreshadows what might have been in a Season 3.
No one involved with the production knew that "Gauntlet" would be the series finale while they were filming it, Brian J. Smith, who plays Lt. Matthew Scott, told me earlier this year. (The series cancellation came later.) But they did realize that things looked bleak for the series, with ratings so depleted since Syfy had moved the show out of its Friday night spot to Tuesdays.
"We were very happy [with the work] and I think a lot of us were starting to kind of make peace with the fact that we might not be coming back," he said.
Smith told me the episode ends with "probably the biggest cliffhanger that has ever happened on our show." He admitted that some of the characters find a resolution of sorts, but overall, "It's like a piece of music that just sort of stops in the middle of a measure in a way. Do you know what I mean? You still get the sense that there could be more."
Many viewers will be upset with the cliffhanger, but I feel "Gauntlet" makes for an optimistic if bittersweet series closer. (You'll have to let me know what you think after watching it Monday.)
There are several touching, emotional scenes and even little moments that give the characters (and me) some closure, from Eli meeting with his mother (marvelously played by Glynis Davies and Blue) to Varro (Mike Dopud) and T.J. (Alaina Huffman) locking eyes in what neither of them wants to be the final time to a blind Dr. Lisa Park (Jennifer Spence) gazing, through someone else's eyes, across a serene pond back on Earth.
Later in the episode, Col. Young (Ferreira) gathers his main crew members—Rush, Scott, T.J., Greer, Wray, Eli and Chloe—for a dinner before they embark on that final, crazy thing they have to do.
"We've been through a helluva lot together, that's for sure," Young says, beginning a toast that I will write more about after the episode airs. It's a moving tribute to the people around the table.
The scene was the final one shot for the episode, according to Smith, and turned out to be prophetic.
"The last scene that we shot is a really poignant scene … and it kind of felt like the end," Smith said. "Louis is giving this speech. We're in the mess [hall] and he is talking to everybody and you could see it in everybody's eyes that this might be it.
"Everybody was down there, all the producers, all the crew. I remember Louis coming up to me and going, 'My God, that felt like the end.' And it was. It ended up being the last scene that we shot of the series."
Smith knows that "Stargate Universe" became the most controversial series of the franchise, and that many people will not look back fondly. But he, like I do, feel it will hold up well over time. When I asked him what he wants fans' lasting impression to be, he was a bit stumped.
"That is a great question and it's hard to answer, too, because people's responses are so individual and it's so idiosyncratic," he said. "The people who I talked to who have enjoyed the show and have followed us from the beginning are going to remember that this was a smart show that had a lot of heart. [It was] full of characters who really cared about not just their own survival, safety and their own basic needs, but about everybody around them.
"I just hope they enjoyed going on the ride."
No worries there; many of us did.