Overall Rating: 7.5
A good action episode, but these drones aren't a new idea...it's a shame the series is ending with a plot that was done to its deserved demise on SG-1.
As the title implies, Destiny faces a serious problem now. The army of drones has figured out the ship's main weakness. It needs to stop at stars to refuel - in fact the ship prefers main sequence red giants (its' systems were not designed to handle hotter stars). Now, whenever Destiny drops out of FTL to gather more energy, the drones are there waiting - they've set up a blockade. Eli comes up with a plan to keep everyone alive, but it's definitely crazy. They're going to fly to the nearest blue super-giant - the hottest star type around - and bake Destiny at 400 degrees for about 7 minutes a pound until it's extra tasty crispy. Of course the crew can't stay on board for the fun, so they'll gate to a nearby planet and wait it out with the exception of Rush, Eli, and Park, who stays behind in the final environment suit to try to save some rare hybrids from the ship's arboretum dome. Unfortunately, the arboretum is going to incinerate, so they'll lose their primary source of food (this gets funner and funner, don't it?).
The crew heads off to downtown Pittsburgh (as Eli puts it) - a planet obviously colonized by humans (which implies they're related to our descendants from Novus) but now appearing to be abandoned. Young sends teams to scout for supplies in the ghost city (and they do bring back some goodies eventually), but quickly realizes, along with Lt. James, that the city was not simply abandoned, but attacked. By drones. The lovable little replicator wannabes are still about, and Scott and Greer's scouting party get pinned down by one of them...and then another...in the heart of town. It takes just about every bullet they have to send one to hell after it makes their position - the other was distracted by Morrison attempting to dial the gate to escape (and receiving a lovely broken nose for his efforts from Lt. James...awesome!) and gets shot down by the team holding the gate room (with a really sweet rocket launcher!). Of course, it's only a matter of time before the mother ship descends over the city and Destiny's crew is forced to abandon the planet and head home.
Back on Destiny, Park becomes trapped in the arboretum as Destiny realizes that the glass dome keeping in the atmosphere will collapse, but Rush needs Eli to focus on flying the ship and neither of them can figure out how to unlock the door to the arboretum; so he tells Park to get into the collecting pool and submerge herself in water to wait out the heat. This dangerous plan works ALMOST perfectly but at the last moment, as she waits in boiling water, the dome shatters and the compartment vents to space. She manages to hold on for dear life and pull her way to the door just as Eli (his mission to refuel now complete) races to the other side to rescue her. Rush is finally able to unlock the arboretum door and Eli pulls her inside and seals the door behind them. Unfortunately, she's been blinded by the capillary damage caused by explosive decompression - we hope temporarily - and will probably have post traumatic stress disorder from this experience. Yikes!
The crew comes home to a fully refueled ship, but the frightening realization that the drones will hunt them down if they try the same trick again. Their days are numbered unless they can find a way to definitively defeat them.
I like that Rush is working hard now to mentor Eli and develop his self confidence. That is the part of this episode that stands out for me. I'm not sure what Rush's ulterior motive is in convincing Eli of his own amazing abilities in pressure situations - perhaps it's still motivated self-interest (he needs a good right-hand man to survive and carry out his mission), or perhaps it's a desire to leave a legacy (Eli is the only person on Destiny gifted enough to meet or surpass his own great achievements). Perhaps Rush sees some bits of himself in Eli and wants to make up for his own lost time. Or perhaps...he really cares about Eli as a person and wants to help him step into a leadership role. What I do know is that it's nice to see Rush subjugate his own ego and hand the reigns to Eli in a tight spot, rather than trying to take over the mission on his own. That level of trust would have been impossible for him even half a year ago.
As for the drones and the problem they pose for Destiny - this is basically the replicator plot all over again. Aliens or humans (doesn't really matter...they all represent us in some way) invent weapons to protect themselves...weapons run amok and destroy everything else, including their creators...we get stuck dealing with the fallout. It's a nice twist that we're dealing with these machines on our own...we have no back-up and no advantage, and they are able to anticipate our every move. Which is rather scary. But the bottom line is...they're ending this franchise on a note thye've already played before, which is disappointing.
And yet, the jeopardy to Destiny does feel real. And they make that happen by actually injuring (and even killing) important members of the crew...a few at a time, our crew members all have to suffer...it's not SG-1 galivanting around the galaxy and looking ready for a photo-op when the mission is over. These people...who we now care about...are going through hell. This week, it was Dr. Park and, to a lesser extent, Lts. Scott and James. Park had to literally sit in boiling water with hellfire all around her for hours...then hold on for dear life when the ceiling gave way and exposed her to space (!)...then pull her way to the door after being blinded by the explosion and the exposure to the star and trust Eli to get her out of there. And yes...she survived...but I actually believed they might kill her off...and that's something I was never willing to believe on SG-1.
The strength of this episode is the personal stakes for the key players in the action. Eli and Rush learning to trust themselves and each other, Park going through hell and barely surviving, James learning to take control and curb panic amongst the civilians as drones attack. Otherwise, it's standard fare.
Nothing wrong with the acting either...the bit players are all proving to be very solid performers indeed - today's hero was Jennifer Spence (Park) who conveyed the shear horror of her situation wonderfully. David Blue and Robert Carlyle were their usual brilliant selves of course.
This is a standard action episode with little moral relevance other than a minor positive bump for Rush's decision to actively mentor and support Eli - an admirably selfless thing to do, whatever the intent.