SG-U: A New Metaphor For The Human Condition?

Ever since it aired back on October 12th, the tune from this closing sequence of Stargate Universe has been playing in the back of my mind:

(Sort Of Revolution by Fink)

The show involves a motley crew of soldiers, scientists, and civilians who, by way of the mother of all stargates, go on a mission that has, so far, gone nothing like it was planned, and have ended up trapped aboard a space ship of unknown design, on the far side of the universe, headed to who knows where. Now in its second season, the group’s struggle to survive, to gain some control over the ship they call Destiny, and, most of all, to get home, has made Stargate Universe one of my very favorite shows.

Now I know that most people will read my description of the show and immediately think something like, “Oh here we go with the aliens and warp drive crap again.” And, on the surface at least, that’s precisely what it is. But looking beyond the surface, I see a show with the potential for becoming the kind of metaphor for the human condition that the original Star Trek series became. But while Star Trek used individual episodes to explore difficult political and moral issues from the safety of the far off future, I think the Stargate Universe series itself acts as a mirror reflecting the very real challenges we face in our struggle for survival here and now on this huge spaceship we call Earth.

The Earth? A spaceship? I know that that is a strange concept to many, but despite the illusion that we live in an environment of endless variety, the fact is that our environment is a closed one, vulnerable to dangerous contamination, with no outside source of maintenance or resupply. And for all the appearance that we stand in a solid and motionless place with all the universe moving around us, the fact is that we and our planet are always in motion.

A spot on the equator rotates around the Earth’s axis at over 1037 miles per hour (1669 kph). Where I am, at roughly 40° north of the equator, it’s just under 795 mph (1279 kph). The Earth moves, on average, at over 67 thousand mph (108 thousand kph) in its orbit around the sun. The sun (and the solar system) is revolving about the center of the Milky Way galaxy at over 500,000 mph (804,672 kph). The Milky Way is traveling at over 1.3 million mph (2.09 million kph) relative to the locations of other galaxies. The net result is that the Earth travels about 32,211,882 miles (51,839,999 kilometers) per day, or roughly 11.7 billion miles (18.9 billion kilometers) per year.

Impressive, right? Not to mention sobering! But the “Spaceship Earth” concept has actually been around for many years in academic and environmental circles. You can get a glimpse of how much thought has gone into this idea in this quote from one on-line document, Science NetLinks: Spaceship Earth:

“This lesson is entitled Spaceship Earth to reinforce the idea that our planet is – in reality – like a spaceship hurtling through space on a long-duration mission. There is no resupply from outside sources. Recycling is as much a part of the natural order of things as is the sunrise everyday. Pollution occurs when there are outputs that cannot be used as inputs for something else. Pollution is harmful and can be downright dangerous. The connections between parts of the natural system are imperative to its normal operation. By actively thinking through what it takes to keep people alive on a spaceship, the students will come to understand more fully what it takes to keep people alive on this planet.”

Despite all the efforts of the “egg-heads” to bring this idea to our attention however, most people have hardly given it a thought. But think of it we must, I believe, because it’s a very large piece of the “big picture” that we need to grasp in our own best interests. And just as we benefited from the influence, through popular culture, that Star Trek had on how we treat each other, I think that Stargate Universe can have that same kind of impact on how we treat our world – as another great and influential metaphor for the human condition.

For more: Stargate Universe Official Website, Spaceship Earth – Wikipedia, Boulding’s Spaceship Earth, Why Spaceship Earth?, and, just for kicks, Warp Drive On Paper.

I want ice water.

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24 thoughts on “SG-U: A New Metaphor For The Human Condition?

  1. I became aware of the Starship earth concept a few zillions miles ago and like it. But it is not an ida that will stimulate your average Brit (or yank I suspect) into recycling and related activities. They will only respond to direct action on their money. Words to the effect of, “Either recycle your rubbish or pay a fine/tax/penalty deducted directly from your salary/benefit until you so do!” All IMHP only…


    • Ultimately you’re right, of course, but the outrage sparked by local-level attempts to pass such laws in the states show that they won’t become widespread without a significant cultural shift. 😕


  2. I haven’t been watching this show. Maybe I’ll pick it up later, but another SG spinoff? WTF? Surely there is new material out there waiting to be used. In fact, I KNOW there’s new material out there. But the “risk averse” nature of TV production continues to pump out things that relate to things that have once been successful. Shit, here we go again. But it doesn’t matter. Even if some really cool new show popped up, I probably wouldn’t have time for it. And, really, if people are willing to watch new renditions of old material that’s been mutated, why not produce it? Frankly, if SG mutates any more it will turn into Space 1999.


    • I had a similar reaction when I first watched the show, except that I was bothered by just how far off the beaten SG path the show’s creators had gone. But it is so well done, in a gritty kind of way, that it grew on me very fast. Now, with my new perception of its possible cultural significance, I’m thinking it may just be the best spin-off from the original movie of them all.


        • Now you know that I’m well capable of rambling on and on about my impressions of the show, but I’ve sobered up a bit from the high of putting this post together and I’m feeling that “what have I gone and said now?” thing, so I think I’d best shut up while I’m ahead. 😳 😆


  3. I had the same feelings as writerdood when the new SGU series started to be promoted. The several episodes I have watched have intrigued me, but, I have not been able to keep up. It is a good spin off, though .. whether from the original SG movie, SG1 or SGA series.
    Got an idea not too many can get their head around the immense numbers and distances you gave … it is pretty mind boggling. All you said is true however far our heads are in the sand.


    • I keep up only with the help of my trusty DVR. I’d been planning to look up those numbers for a long time, so I was kind of expecting big numbers, but I have to admit that seeing them all laid out still blew me away. I can’t help but think of how a genuinely global recognition of our “all in one basket” situation could go along way towards helping us get over the petty differences that are so small by comparison. 😀


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  5. DON’T READ THIS. YOU WILL BE KISSED ON THE NEAREST POSSIBLE FRIDAY BY THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE. TOMMOROW WILL BE THE BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE. NOW YOU’VE STARTED READING THIS. DON’T STOP. THIS IS SO FREAKY. 1. say your name ten times. 2. say your mom’s………………… name five times…………….3. say your crushes three times. 4.paste this to four other groups.If you do this, your crush will kiss you on the nearest Friday. But if you read this and do not paste this, then you will have very bad luck. SEND THIS TO 5 GROUPS IN 143 MINUTES. WHEN YOU’RE DONE PRESS F6 AND YOUR CRUSH’S NAME WILL APPEAR IN BIG LETTER SON THE SCREEN.

    What? I’m depressed.


  6. I love SGU as well, was never a big fan of the Stargate series but got hooked on this one due to one of my favourite actors starring in this spin-off, the lovely brit Robert Carlyle. Such a tremendous actor. But I love the stats, have seen them before but they always astonish me over and over again of Spaceship Earth. So keep on astonishing me dude…


    • Wow, Robert Carlyle is British?!?! Guys like Simon Baker (The Mentalist) are easy to spot, but Robert Carlyle and Hugh Laurie (House) are scary good at seeming American! 😀


  7. “This Island Earth” . . .an old movie I still like to watch whenever it comes on. The universe as a whole fascinates me. Black holes, super massive black holes, starts traveling in excess of three million MPH . . . Intelligent life is a given, considering the billions of galaxies, trillions of stars and hundreds of trillions of planets. Awww . . . to be on a real SGU.


  8. Pingback: Geek Squeaks’ of the Week (#85) « What's On My PC

  9. “If you ever start taking things too seriously, just remember that we are talking monkeys on an organic spaceship flying through the universe.” ~ Joe Rogan

    Love Alexis Murdoch. Two good tunes. I think I’ll have to check out SG-U.


  10. Pingback: Spinning Our Wheels On Spaceship Earth | I Want Ice Water

  11. Pingback: Let Me Know When We Get There… | I Want Ice Water!

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