SGU has started fairly strongly. Despite many thinly drawn characters and a lack of dramatic impetus, the show has grounded us in a very intriguing situation, bolstered by a few key performances. Robert Carlyle as Dr Nicholas Rush is the obvious stand out, although underplayed in many respects. The other character is Greer (Jamil Walker Smith), one of the more watachable military grunts trapped on the ancient ship Destiny as it ploughs through space. Despite starting off holed up in a cell like some kind of McQueen pastiche, Smith reveals nuances to a somewhat stock character that will hopefully develop over the course of the show. If SGU neglects the character, it could be loosing one of the aces up its sleeve.
“Light” follows the episodes “Darkness,” “Water” and “Air” which follow in the – yes, I’m going to mention it again – BSG innovation of showing the logistical realities of human space travel. While the idea is still fruitful and interesting, it does have the downside of lacking the dramatic punch if special care isn’t taken to establish a greater arc, and Light does suffer from this neglect. We still don’t know where the show is going, and because Destiny’s route seems to stretch throughout the universe, there is the feeling that without an arching narrative to compel us to watch, our interest may slip after Destiny stops off in a solar system to refill the dwindling supply of hand soap in the aft deft’s ladies bathroom.
Yet with Light, like Darkness, Water and Air before it, there is a real polish in the way these stories are crafted, and a real sense of discovery and awe amongst the crew of the Destiny that proliferates with the viewer. While we never for one second believe that Destiny will be destroyed by the Sun, the manner in which it is cleansed and rejuvenated amongst a fiery backdrop is a beautifully crafted sequence. SGU seems to want to rediscover the wonders of the Galaxy that have been forgotten by Science Fiction. Kudos must be given to the composition of the accompanying score too, for while it never reaches the beauty of BSG’s various orchestral delights, it delivers the sequence with an aplomb of serenity.
Carlyle’s Rush remains a peripheral figure amongst the greater crew, and the show doesn’t seem to know whether to present him as a silent menace, a hidden enemy or a watchful protector. It really hasn’t gotten into his head yet, but hopefully when it does, the show will crack open.