The Best and Worst of Stargate SG-1: Season 10

I have enjoyed watching Stargate SG-1 for years as one of my favorite television shows. I really enjoyed the premise of the series as described in The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader by J.P. Tollote, page 268:

Certainly, the premise of Stargate SG-1 is not new; it derives from Roland Emmerich’s 1994 film Stargate and is brilliant in it’s simplicity. A circular, gate like device, discovered in Egypt in the early twentieth century, is powered up by contemporary scientists working for the U.S. Air Force. At the other end of the gate, on a planet circling a distant star, a military and scientific team emerges and discovers a human population enslaved by snakelike parasites (Goa’uld) who possess the bodies of their human slaves. Inherent in this description are a number of concepts that drive the continued popularity of the series: travel to the stars, military science fiction, an unequivocally evil enemy, strongly differentiated characters, and a linking of aliens with human mythology. All of these are major contributing factors in the series’ long-term success and are consistent with the predictable/novel nature of the television’s contemporary aesthetic that [Umberto] Eco describes. Consistent pseudoscience allows the viewer to become comfortable with the Stargate world; military drama underpins the structure of the episodes through an archetypal struggle between good and evil; a familiar mythology allows the audience to anticipate the introduction of characters, locations, and plot structures; and the strong differentiation of the characters provides a comfortable template for much of the dialogue and action.

However, this is not to say I would celebrate it’s depiction of race, because Stargate is inherently white. According to Traveling Through the Iris: Re-producing Whiteness in Stargate SG-1, Conclusion titled “Closing the Iris” states:

According to Edward Said “American attitudes to American ‘greatness’ to hierarchies of race, to the perils of other revolutions … have remained constant, have dictated, have obscured, the realities of empire, while apologists for overseas American interests have insisted on American innocence, doing good, fighting for freedom” (7). In Stargate SG-1, both the appeal to “greatness” and to interventionism by the U.S. is based upon calls for democracy and “freedom”. Indeed, SG-1’s stated objectives for travelling through the Stargate is to fight the despotic Goa’uld, free those under Goa’uld tyranny, gain allies and new technologies, and to further strengthen Earth’s defences against alien attack. While the Goa’uld’s imperialism is shown to be deplorable, that of Stargate Command is depicted as justified. Stargate Command‟s imperialistic and paternalistic role in and attitude towards alien civilizations is rationalized through a conflict/confrontation with evil. Stargate Command is only brought into action through the confrontation with the Goa’uld, an evil force who subjugate those they encounter.

Stargate SG-1, portrays the “human race” on Earth as white and American. In addition, this whiteness sets the standard for all of humanity and aliens. Significantly, whiteness as power is fluid and in Stargate SG-1 this power is contested between SG-1 and white aliens. The episodes examined here thus address questions about power; the power to name, to define, to detain and to exclude the other. In Stargate SG-1, each of these power processes act to maintain white privilege. Indeed, whiteness is the overwhelming and invasive presence. Through this overwhelming presence whiteness fades as outstanding, while at the same time is visibly dominant. As a result, whiteness becomes the normative position and the dominant or central value system. The dominance of whiteness, however, is created through and depends upon the subordination of the other. Stargate SG-1’s minority representation of nonwhite characters represents a white hegemonic discourse that situates otherness alongside alienness, while also acting to reinforce the “invisibility” of whiteness.

In populating Stargate Command with predominantly white characters Stargate SG-1 presents a “white washing” of humanity (Bernardi). While the majority of aliens in the early episodes are depicted as nonwhite, in “Enigma” and “The Tok’ra,” the technologically superior alien is linked to whiteness. The white alien retains a freedom and agency that is lost in the representation of the nonwhite alien. Indeed, Stargate SG-1’s portrayal of nonwhite aliens equates nonwhiteness with fear, threat and the need to protect white interests (humanity) against the other. Teal’c and Apophis are represented as threatening, as alien, by coding them as nonwhite, as black. A consequence of locating blackness in alienness as both a threat and a state of primitiveness is that it marks out and reinforces whiteness as normative and superior. Blackness becomes a site of threat and a challenge to the discourses of whiteness. As the only nonwhite member of the core cast, Teal’c stands out, while the white members of the team blend into the overall whiteness of the show. Teal’c is made visible as an alien through the choice of an AfricanAmerican to play the part and by the physical mark or brand of the Serpent God to whom the character has been enslaved. Teal’c’s primary role in the first two seasons is a warrior, a fighter and as a foil for the white members of SG-1. In the episodes discussed within my study, Teal’c is shown as athletic and possessing superior physical strength but having a limited knowledge of technology. As the only alien member of Stargate Command, Teal‟c rarely takes the initiative. Even when confronted with the Goa‟uld, with whom Teal‟c has lived and served his entire life, he follows O‟Neill‟s lead. In Stargate SG-1, racial stereotypes are reconfigured onto the alien.

Stargate SG-1, like many mainstream American science fiction narratives looks backwards to the dehumanizing depictions of the other in colonial and imperial narratives and uses these to symbolize the alien. Imperialist discourses structure the episodes’ portrayal of and encounters with the alien other. The imagining of the alien other is based on discourses of whiteness and otherness that emerged out of western colonialism and imperialism and which viewed the other as threatening, inferior and/or hostile. According to Jacobson “that the ‘savage’ resides at the borders of our imagined national community has textured American political life from the Indian Wars to the Gulf War” (204). It is within the ideological framework of the alien as the threatening dark other in science fiction that dialogues of imperialism and paternalism emerge.

As argued in Chapter two, SG-1 act paternalistically towards the nonwhite aliens on Abydos and Chulak. This paternalism manifests itself in SG-1’s protection of the non-Goa’uld inhabitants of Abydos and Chulak, SG-1’s reluctance to share advanced technology with these people, and in their closing of the Stargate on Abydos. However, this paternalism is also reflected back upon SG-1 through their encounters with white aliens. For example, the Tollan will not share advanced technology with SG-1 and the Tok’ra initially view SG-1 as not advanced enough to be effective allies. The deflection of whiteness away from SG-1 and onto the white alien enables the exploration of how discourses of imperialism and paternalism are used to control and maintain white privilege. Through an analysis of how the white alien views SG-1 and the Tau’ri the hegemonic power of white discourses are highlighted. The superior white alien‟s relationship with SG-1 reproduces Stargate Command’s attitudes towards the inferior other. As I have argued in my analysis of “Children of the Gods,” inferior civilizations are viewed by SG-1 and Stargate Command as childlike, needing the paternalistic guidance of the U.S. This same stance is mirrored in how the Tollan and the Tok’ra relate to and interact with SG-1. In “Enigma” and “The Tok’ra” I & II, the struggle for the dominant position between opposing dialogues of whiteness, demonstrates that whiteness like other identities is mutable. It also reveals that white privilege depends on the ability to assert and maintain one’s superior position in relation to the other. Significantly, what is never questioned is that whiteness is superior, entitled and privileged.

Although SG-1 resists the paranoia shown by representatives of the National Intelligence Department (N.I.D) (“Enigma”), their treatise is not removed from the show’s “common sense” discourse that views and situates both whiteness and Americanness as superior. This situated position has been demonstrated in my analysis of the conflict between Stargate Command and the Tollan. The N.I.D view the Tollan not only as a risk to national security, but also as an opportunity to obtain technological knowledge that will give the United States an advantage against the Goa’uld. As examined in Chapter three, Maybourne views the detainment of the Tollan as necessary to protect U.S interests and national security. In this respect, Maybourne’s actions are not unlike that of the System Lords, who are willing to obtain technology at any cost. The rights and lives of individuals are swept aside for the good of the empire or nation. However, the series does not develop the ideological similarity between the System Lords, the Tollan and Stargate Command, and surprisingly, upholds the hegemonic power of Stargate Command. In Stargate SG-1, white U.S. military discourses dominate. The actions of SG-1 present an image of the white U.S. military command, for the most part, as heroic and redemptive. Although Stargate Command’s agenda is one of militaristic expansion into unknown worlds and the extermination of the System Lords, the United States is represented as the protector of the weak against evil, rather than as the aggressor.

The episodes analyzed here, which were filmed during the 1990s, reflect the United States’ foreign and domestic concerns of the period. The 1990s were a period in U.S. history that saw the United States emerge from the Cold War as the only super power (Reynolds). Potential threats in its status and access to resources outside its borders came from different quarters, from countries developing nuclear weapons and political instability in the Middle East.  However, in the late 1990s new anxieties were also emerging regarding terrorism not just aboard but at home. 22 For example, the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993 saw tensions in U.S. national security running high. As Wald argues the United States was continuing to develop an increasing military and policing presence throughout the globe (Wald). In fact, according to Wald, it was during this period that the United States increasingly portrayed itself as the world‟s policemen. In Stargate SG-1, these anxieties are re-worked fictionally in the conflict between the Goa’uld and SG-1.

Significantly, within Stargate SG-1, some aspects of U.S. society and foreign policies are directly addressed, while others are ignored or rearticulated onto the alien. For example, there are allusions to the Gulf War in “Children of the Gods,” when Captain Carter states that she logged in time over enemy air space during the Gulf War and in the framing of the conflict on Abydos within a desert terrain setting reminiscent of Desert Storm. The participation of Captain Carter in the Gulf War, rather than critiquing the war, is used to add credence to Carter’s place on the team, determining that she is worthy of respect because of her participation in the Gulf. The reference to the Gulf War also signals the similarity between the goals of SG-1 and a similar fight for democratic freedom from tyrannical invaders of defenceless nations. Meanwhile, “The Enemy Within” looks back to the Cold War and the paranoia which accompanied the tensions between the U.S. and communist powers, especially in the reluctance of many officers at Stargate Command to accept Teal‟c and, in the acts of sabotage and betrayal by O’Neill’s close friend and fellow soldier, Major Kawalsky. This story line also mirrors the social conflicts happening internally within the U.S. during the 1990s, such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by U.S. army veteran Timothy McVeigh. This bombing was a shocking revelation to U.S. military investigators that those responsible were not foreign terrorists but rather “one of their own”.

In contrast to the overt references to the United State’s involvement in the Gulf War, references to slavery are projected firmly onto the alien. Significantly, for my analysis, slavery is projected onto the black alien disassociating it completely from whiteness. This role reversal sees blackness enslaving whiteness. Therefore, in Stargate SG-1, the black body as alien is appropriated by whiteness to display and critique the issues of slavery. Favourable aspects of U.S. history are mentioned within the narrative as part of the discourse of the Tau’ri, while those historical moments which reflect poorly on U.S. images of nationhood are diverted onto the alien. 24 As a consequence, white interests and actions are upheld as “good” and “right”. In contrast, the Goa’uld represent the quintessential threat of the other. Signalled as other through representation, actions, and contrasts to SG-1, the Goa’uld presents the archetypical villain against whom the United States constructs its identity.

Through an analysis of Stargate SG-1, I have sought to demonstrate the significance of popular American science fiction television as a medium for understanding how dominant white discourses can create and reinforce popular (mis)understandings of racial formations including whiteness. In Stargate SG-1, whiteness and white privilege are reinforced through hegemonic discourses. In addition, narratives in Stargate SG-1 reinforce and engage with historical and contemporary United States constructions of whiteness. As I have demonstrated, the alien inhabits worlds that are primitive, dark and reminiscent of images of colonial and imperial writings. In the episodes discussed the alien other is depicted in terms of their contrast to and relationship with whiteness. This study also determined that whiteness is an identity that invokes privilege and superiority. Within Stargate SG-1, whiteness is determined as an identity conceived alongside and through blackness/nonwhiteness/alienness. As a gateway to the stars and multiple universes, Stargate SG-1 merely reproduces the invisibility of whiteness and ultimately contributes to white privilege here on Earth.

According to Going Rampent‘s “Everyone is the Same (Stargate)“:

What strikes me as odd, though, is that SG-1 never encountered racist cultures before. Considering how many entirely white civilizations they encounter, it’s surprising that there’s no commotion over the fact that Teal’c is a completely different color of human being. Sometimes people react fearfully toward him because of his Jaffa mark, which makes me wonder why he doesn’t wear a hat, but the color of his skin is only made an issue in the episode where the villains are specifically the villains because they are racist. Characters can be racist without being total baddies, though, and just have prejudices as part of their personality flaws. They did manage to have McKay be sexist without making him a villain, just excruciatingly obnoxious.

Speaking of the SGC, there is a definite lack of persons of color who are actually characters on the show. I’ve seen a lot of black guys walking around the base in the halls, so it’s not that the SGC itself is racist, and instead that the show doesn’t hire persons of color for major roles. Teal’c is kind of the token black character and he’s an alien turncoat not really in the U.S. Air Force. Most persons of color on this show are Jaffa or Goa’uld hosts like that of Apophis and Ba’al, members of exotic foreign cultures, while the good guys at home are white.

The homogenous casting also has some unfortunate implications with regard to Stargate’s pre-Darwinian take on evolution, where every being changes for the better until Ascension. According to this, lower life forms turn into modern humans, modern humans turn into superpowered psychics, and superpowered psychics turn into godlike Ascended beings. This is a set pattern that happened before ages ago with the Ancients and can be seen happening at the time of the show. So, it’s unfortunate that all of these superior forms into which beings evolve happen to be white. Oops.

Teal’c certainly is shown to hardly spend time with his son, Ry’ac (who appears intermittently in the show), despite his tenure at Stargate Command he is never shown to have any leadership position (even outside the SGC), and during his second, and more substantial, appearance on Stargate Atlantis, he is shown mainly to interact with Ronon Dex.

The show has also been known to be quite sexist, as Lt. Col. Samantha Carter, despite tenure, never truly attains leadership onscreen.  “Meta: The Unrealised Potential of Stargate’s Female Characters” describes Samantha Carter’s leadership in SG1:

Sam/Pete vs Sam as leader of SG1

The idea of Sam exploring a successful romantic interest in S7 wasn’t unreasonable and in terms of a personal character arc, having become successful in her career, to want to explore the options in her personal life was one that I believe many women would identify with including myself. While arguably there are issues with Pete’s introduction in Chimera, for me the main issue occurs in S8 when the show focused more on Sam’s choices in her personal life than exploring a major change in her career. The show effectively ignored Sam’s promotion to SG1 leader (beyond the ceremony itself and it being the B plot in Zero Hour) in favour of exploring her romantic indecision regarding Pete, and thus it never realised the potential of showing Sam as the SG1 leader.

If effectively ignoring the premise that Sam was the leader of SG1 was the major mis-step of S8, the bigger misstep happened in S9 when Sam was effectively demoted back to a team-member to accommodate the introduction of a new male lead.

Sam being replaced as leader of SG1

I wasn’t in online fandom at the time but I remember thinking as I watched Avalon, ‘OK, so I like Mitchell and he’s in charge right now but when Amanda Tapping comes back from her maternity leave, presumably Sam will take back over.’ Clearly I was deluded.

I think my shock at the fact that Mitchell continued as leader of SG1 after Beachhead was compounded by the complete lack of believable in-story reason for why Sam went back to the SGC and her non-reaction to returning. In Beachhead she only returned because of her expertise with the nuke and was assigned temporarily; that hadn’t changed at the end of that episode, yet by the beginning of EDM she’d moved back into her lab at the SGC and returned to SG1 with no real explanation as to her reassignment. It was left to the audience to guess that she’d been ordered back.

On top of that, beyond a slightly pained expression when Mitchell slaps a SG1 badge on her, there is no in-story reaction by Sam to her return. Resentment, frustration, anger, resignation – all these emotions could have played out in subsequent stories (or at least one reaction episode), yet none are explored. The audience is left to assume that Sam, who had presumably lost the command of R&D she ostensibly had left SG1 to take up, having returned to SG1 a team she used to lead but only as a member again, with a new CO who didn’t have her experience with off-world missions and the Stargate, having returned to fight another war when she thought the fighting was over…was just OK with all that? That her pride in her professional success hadn’t been hurt at all by events? That a woman who had a strong feminist streak in her younger years would just merrily accept it?

I can accept that there were probably more factors at work in determining that a new leading man’s character had to be the leader of SG1 beyond the creative but the implicit sexism of elevating a male character at the expense of a female character (even if Tapping herself retained her position as female lead) was huge and for a show that had produced such a great female character not to even seem to realise that what they had done was inherently sexist, and to deny that it was when faced with fan reaction over the situation, still boggles my mind.

However, life isn’t fair; women all over the world deal continually with implicit and explicit sexism in the workplace, and had the story arc tackled it head-on showing a Sam who felt the loss of her previous status and position, and who had to deal with the unfairness of that (while not necessarily blaming Mitchell for what happened and continuing to be professional in her work), it could have created a great arc for Sam.

The show mis-stepped when it failed to realise Sam’s potential as SG1 leader in S8; it mis-stepped hugely when it removed that leadership from her in S9, and it mis-stepped again when it failed to realise Sam’s potential in showing the impact of that loss. (And no, giving her the leadership of Atlantis and command of The General Hammond in other Stargate shows doesn’t make up for it).

This same article also goes over inherent problems with the depiction of Vala Mal Doran, who appeared throughout Seasons 9 and 10:

Vala as Daniel’s Love Interest

I’m not that fond of Prometheus Unbound overall as an episode and Vala Mal Doran is introduced in broad brush strokes as the sexy bad girl with very little beyond that. Unfortunately, her next introduction at the beginning of S9 (ostensibly to provide a female presence on the show as Sam was absent due to Tapping’s maternity leave) drew heavily on the parameters of that previous episode: bad girl with a sexual interest in Daniel.

I will credit the Stargate team for giving her a mini-arc which pushed the character into ‘bad girl trying to redeem herself’ territory which culminated in her gaining some understanding of responsibility (The Powers that Be) and saving the galaxy (Beachhead), but the overriding note through her episodes in S9 was Vala’s relationship with Daniel complete with her propositioning him in his bed in one episode. It’s made very clear that she’s only there because of her connection to him (which is underlined symbolically, visually and physically through the handcuffing and subsequent bonding of Daniel and Vala). Even her formal introduction as a member of the SGC in S10 is based on the premise that she is rescued by Daniel (Flesh and Blood); that Daniel advocates for her to become part of the team and is the reason why she chooses to stay (Morpheus); that only he gets through to her (Memento Mori); that ultimately on a ship trapped in a time bubble they finally get together (Unending).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the Daniel/Vala pairing, and my complaint here is not that they are shipped together but that it is done at the expense of establishing Vala as a character separate to Daniel. Any number of different storylines could have been constructed to reintroduce her without emphasising and underlining continually the character’s connection to Daniel. And some of Vala’s most interesting moments for me come in her interactions with others such as Tomin in Line in the Sand, and Sam and Teal’c in Uninvited.

Vala as Comic Relief

What I love most about Vala are the broad character notes of ex-host turned ruthless and clever interplanetary con-artist who had the intelligence to crack most of the Prometheus’ systems, planned strategically, and who could fight her corner. Some of that continues to play out through S9 where she’s shown as scrappy and determined; a survivor. But far too often for me Vala is used as comic relief (especially in contrast to the other characters).

It’s more of a problem in S10: Morpheus which should examine her reasons for staying with the SGC is played mostly for laughs; Company of Thieves has her being very irreverent and irritating Daniel while Sam and the Odyssey are facing capture and torture; Bad Guys plays up the humour when she attempts to break into the museum exhibit for the bomb so they can use the power source; Bounty plays up the alien-on-Earth disparity; Family Ties and her issues with her father are mostly played for laughs.

It’s not so much that Vala is comic relief that’s the problem but that by making her constantly the jester, her character is portrayed less seriously than others and her potential restricted by not being allowed to react with an appropriate level of sobriety to events. When she is allowed to be serious, Vala shines as a character such as in Line in the Sand.

The Orici’s Mother

Much of Vala’s arc in S10 is meant to be about her relationship with estranged and evil daughter Adria (alongside the continuing S9 arc of Vala’s own redemption which is effectively tied up in Family Ties). Flesh and Blood introduces it but while it’s continued in part in Counterstrike, it’s mostly ignored in The Quest and The Shroud, only to return briefly in Dominion (and finally laid to rest in the movie: Ark of Truth). This entire storyline had the potential for greatness – a woman being used to carry and give birth to the enemy; to have to face that enemy on the battlefield; to love her child despite that and want to save her, and yet having to come to the decision that it would be better to kill her than allow her to continue to live…

It’s powerful stuff yet dealt with rarely and fleetingly in the episodes. Here was a storyline that could have fully showcased Vala to all of her potential and yet didn’t. Some of that is undoubtedly down to the cancellation of SG1 which effectively cut the entire Ori arc short, but the subtle replacing Vala with Daniel as the subject of Adria’s focus in The Quest and The Shroud undermines Vala’s role and the mother-daughter dynamic they had set up (and once again, creates a connection between Vala and Daniel rather than allowing Vala to own that relationship by herself).

Lastly, I was a frequent contributor to the GateWorld Forum under the name, MattyTheBlessed, and as such, had the idea of Charlotte Mayfield (from Season 9’s “Ex Deus Machina”) be the Goa’uld Athena. This was one of a few ideas I had that made the series.

Athena

The Best:

The Pegasus Project, Counterstrike, The Quest, The Road Not Taken, The Shroud, and Dominion

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For brief blurbs:

  • I really love crossover episodes, so The Pegasus Project was a fantastic crossover between SG-1 and Atlantis considering Daniel Jackson had been trying to get there since the Stargate Atlantis pilot, Rising;
  • With Counterstrike, Adria as a threat was firmly established, which was lacking the previous season having the Priors take that lead. Adria put a face on the Ori, that was needed;
  • With Merlin finally appearing in the flesh, complete with a quest, The Quest is frequently on replay. Further, much of the tension came from Morgan le Fay’s trials to get the Saangral, accompanied by two of their greatest foes: Ba’al and Adria;
  • The politics of The Road Not Taken on infringement of rights and liberties have really drawn me to enjoy watching it over, and over;
  • Although The Shroud was great for bringing Jack and Daniel back together, along with Richard Woolsey, and continuing the Ori story-arc, I also noticed within this episode Adria is depicted as the Evil Demon Seductress (see Feminist Frequency‘s #4) when she turns Daniel into a Prior; and,
  • Dominion remains one of my all-time favorite episodes during the season because of it’s continuation of Adria’s story, has an ambitious utilization of Ba’al (though I found his clones to be a boring story)and the tension between Vala and Adria.

According to the IGN review of The Pegasus Project:

SG-1 is heading to Atlantis to talk about the Ori and the supergate, in hopes of seeing if there is anything they can do to stop either one. Taking a cue from a previous SG-1 episode, Carter got the idea to detonate a nuclear bomb inside the blackhole, causing the wormhole that is being established by it to reset and jump. SG-1 had headed to Atlantis so Carter could get some help from McKay, and also so that Daniel and Vala could look in the Atlantis database to see if they could find anything about Merlin and his weapon. SG-1’s project fails once, with Teal’c at the other end verifying what he saw. Daniel and Vala are having better results however, when Daniel asks where the other two planets are and the program easily gives up the info.

Daniel doesn’t think everything is working out exactly right though, because the answers shouldn’t have come that easy. He asks the database to show him all the first ancients and find a picture of Merlin, which is what he expected to be found there. Daniel then looks straight at the holographic project (a woman) and outright tells it to reveal itself; the hologram then looks at Daniel. It turns out that the hologram is Morgan Le Fay.

Meanwhile, because of the blackhole’s interference, the Odyssey is unable to hear that a Wraith hive ship is approaching their coordinates, but Teal’c hears it loud and clear; Teal’c isn’t getting it easy though, because a Ori ship is coming down on his location, making it necessary for him to cloak not only himself but the stargate as well. After relaying the message to the Odyssey that a hive ship is on them, they maneuver closer to the black hole, shoot around it, and while the hive ship swings by the stargate, the Odyssey beams two nuclear bombs to the hive ship. This eliminates not only the ship, but the Ori ship on the other end of the spectrum, and now the supergate is open and Earth has control. Hooray!

Meanwhile, Morgan tells Daniel about the history of the Ancients and how both Merlin and herself had bucked the system because of the Ori and their dangerous potential. Daniel is pissed at the Ancients for not helping them given the danger they know they are in. Daniel asks Morgan why she won’t help, and she says she is afraid of being punished. Unable to hear Daniel anymore, she decides to reveal the truth about Merlin’s weapon, but is ripped away by the Ancients before she can. Daniel realizes the Ancients will never help.

I’m a huge fan of the continuation of storylines over many seasons in a television series, especially when it is incorporated so well. Joss Whedon was really well known for it with Buffy and Angel, and the SG-1 team has been handling it well now for several years. For one thing, you’ve got their whole plan of action that involves detonating a nuclear bomb inside a blackhole to cause the connection with the gate to reset. The second moment, which was my particular favorite, was when McKay thanked Carter for saving his life. It is a moment that works even if you didn’t see the episode – but if you saw theAtlantis episode last season where McKay imagines Carter to help him get through things, and the things he asked her and what happened between them during that episode, it makes the line that much sweeter.

I was amazingly surprised that SG-1 managed to do more with the Atlantisproperty than that show has done within two hours so far. The characters actually behaved like they were supposed to behave, and because of it there were some really good Rodney McKay moments; too bad more people don’t cower at the vision of a lemon.

Though there were two big endings (Morgan and the stuff involving the gate or Ori) it sure did take a lot of time to get there. There seemed to be a lot of repeating as it seemed as if the writers didn’t know what else to add that was new. The writers did this fairly well, as I didn’t find myself getting too annoyed, but I did get the sense of deja vu several times throughout this episode.

This season seems to really be about Daniel and his journey. He has been where no other man on the team has been – he has dealt with the Ancients, he knows their procedure, and he is fed up. Where once Daniel Jackson felt fairly tepid, now he seems to be at his wit’s ends for one of the first times in his life, and he is becoming – dare I say it – a little dark. Obviously Daniel will continue to press forward to find Merlin’s weapon, but I’m starting to worry that he might lose a little of himself along the way to get there. Until that point (if it ever happens) I’ll be watching, because so far SG-1 has been a quality show this season.

According to the IGN review of Counterstrike:

Remember when the Jaffa used to be cool? It’s hard to believe that Teal’c is still sticking by his people, because though he gave all he had to help free them from the rule of the Goa’uld, the Jaffa suddenly, in only a handful of years, have quickly become a bunch of idiots who, sad to say, deserve to get wiped out completely by the Ori. After SG-1 is suddenly beamed away from a planet that the Ori are visiting (along with their leader Adria – Vala’s child, played by Morena Baccarin, who was Inara on Firefly), a radioactive wave of sorts sweeps across the entire planet, emanating from the stargate, and nobody is left alive. SG-1 only knows one weapon like that – the one on Dakara they used to destroy all the Replicators. With Ori technology possibly sitting in their lap, SG-1 beams back down to see if they can find anything of use.

The Jaffa are boring. Teal’c is the only exception and Bra’tac sadly fell off the radar, because though in the early seasons he was a reason to shout and point at the screen in excitement, now Bra’tac is met with only vile cynicism as he has been used so poorly as of recent. It was actually kind of interesting to see the Jaffa go evil in a way, wiping out innocent people just to strike back at the Ori, but there wasn’t a face to go behind that evil, because all viewers were left with was random Jaffa fodder after the next, so there was no level of menace or anything remotely close to it.

That being said, Adria was a complete 180 compared to the Jaffa, because though she had this grace and beauty about her (played by the lovely Morena Baccarin as if she was channeling Inara down to the letter), she acted in such a way as to give the illusion that she mentally still had the mindset of a child. Once you look past the beauty and childlike wonder, then there lurks the psycho, who won’t think twice to psychically probe your mind or suspend you in the air, only to snap your neck like a twig once she has had her fill of you. The younger child actors were quickly done away with to give birth to this more adult Adria, and hopefully the writers plan to keep Morena around and not get rid of her the next week for an older actress (continuing the trend of her constant aging procedure) or place a ton of makeup on top of her.

The thing about the Ori that works so well is that they are actually winning. Unlike the Goa’uld of the past, who SG-1 seemed able to thwart week after week, so far they haven’t really won once against the Ori. Perhaps SG-1 will find Merlin’s device and will be able to rid the galaxy of them in the series finale (yes, sadly this is the last season if you haven’t heard the news), but the main point is this – the Ori were obviously built to be a threat for a long time coming; the way they are setup now, winning one after another, it would’ve been great if that trend could’ve continued for another season or so, with SG-1 only scraping by a few times, and then finally the big payoff and the ultimate win would come. However, with the series finale looming on the horizon, unless this season was planned perfectly, anything given at the end will seem like a poorly done rush job to resolve the show.

According to the IGN review of The Quest, Part 1:

So we’ve come to this, the tenth episode, the mid-season break for Stargate SG-1, the episode with the inevitable “To Be Continued” conclusion that should have us eagerly waiting for that second half premiere to come around. In the case of “The Quest,” it partly succeeds and partly fails in that department.

After Daniel learns the three planets supposedly traveled to on the quest for the Sangraal, he learns that the three planets form a perfect triangle; at the same time Vala is waking up from a dream with the idea that by taking symbols from each of the three planets’ gate addresses, they’ll be able to find the address of the planet where the Sangraal is hidden. When SG-1 gets to the planet, the Sangraal is indeed located there, but to get it they must partake of a quest, focusing on several important factors to prove themselves worthy of owning it.

Since the Sangraal is an important discovery for SG-1, given the fact it is supposed to be able to destroy the Ori, the portion of the episode that works is the overall mythology of the Sangraal and the steps needed to take to discover it. A few of the “testing” puzzles involved were kind of interesting, but only because it pushed the episode to the ultimate conclusion. In a way, it worked much like reading The Da Vinci Code after knowing the truth about the discovery, because then it isn’t so much about reading to find the truth, but instead enjoying “how” the truth is discovered.

However, everything else was just very middle-of-the-road average. For starters, the reveal of the Sean Connery-sounding guide not being all he claimed to be was completely telegraphed, though credit is due for it at least being Adria, which worked well for the remainder of the episode. The real problem with the episode came in the fact that little nitpicks came to the forefront and totally ruined the mystique of the episode. When Carter’s time fluctuation reader dies on them midway through the maze, she gets the idea to throw rocks to see where the boundaries of the time maze are. Very clever, yes indeed, but Baal has already gone through, and since no such fluctuation reader was seen with him, he must have used the same idea, but if so, how come there were no rocks already endlessly floating in the sky like was seen when Carter did the same thing? Yes, it’s a very, very small little detail, but it just nags and nags on you until you completely pull yourself out of the episode’s “ride” and instead can focus on nothing more than that issue.

People are probably wondering what happens next, after SG-1 discover the Sangraal and come face to face with a flying dragon, but there isn’t that anticipation, there is no clamor of “Oh, I wish the episode was next week.” – the past two Lost and Battlestar Galactica finales this is not, but there is still a need to wonder and find out what happens next. The mid-season finale ofStargate SG-1 could have been so much more, but at least it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been either.

According to the IGN advance review of The Quest, Part 2:

Stargate SG-1 finally return this Friday after its oh so very long mid-season break, and if the second part of the break cliffhanger is any indicator, it certainly looks like fans will be in for quite a treat the rest of this (regretfully) last season. So what was it about this episode to inspire such hopes and dreams? Beyond other things it all starts with a dragon&#Array;a pissed off dragon&#Array;a pissed off dragon named Puff&#Array;or Darryl.

If you can remember back to the break cliffhanger, our heroic mainstays were on the search for the Sangraal, a device created by Merlin that was said to be the device they could defeat the Ori with. After arriving on the planet, however, SG-1 found themselves confronting numerous quests, and gathering two more reluctant party members on their end – the Goa’uld named Baal and Val’s Ori leading daughter Adria. The team then adventured on to what ended up being a meeting with a dragon.

Said dragon starts the episode off, and it is easily the best part. Though the dragon from a technical standpoint doesn’t look too good, it serves its purpose in establishing a good, action-filled opening, with plenty of running, guns blazing, and fire&#Array;um&#Array;firing. However, it’s comedy that really sets the whole dragon thing off, as our heroes have to figure out how to take down this monstrous being. Some of the comedy comes from the act of trying to figure out what tactics work and don’t work, but then again the funniest moment of the whole exchange is the simple thought of the gang wondering what the dragon’s name might be and throwing out their suggestions.

Eventually the dragon crisis is solved and SG-1 stumbles across someone they probably never expected to find, in what amounts to a prison that manages to flip between planets at will. But then again, is it really a prison? We don’t want to spoil every nuance of the episode, but we shall say that the Sangraal does indeed come into play and that it comes from a source nobody will probably see coming (in a nice nod to the long-time fans, a certain something-something that has appeared in Stargate SG-1 lore makes a return appearance in grand fashion again). I know, I know, cryptic, but you don’t want to be spoiled now, do you?

The certain “something-something” also leads to some great depth for Vala, as she finds herself facing a situation in which someone she cares about seems to be suffering and struggling, and yet all she can do is sit back and watch, because it is a risk they have to take or else the Ori may never be stopped. The gathering moments of emotions are capped off with Mitchell telling her that because she is feeling that and experiencing that for the first time, now she is officially a member of SG-1 in his mind.

In the grand scheme of the show, the episode won’t be remembered as one of the best of the series’ run, but it does what it needs to do to get us back into the swing of things and ready for the rest of the season (and series) – namely it provides a solid, engaging and entertaining episode that features quite a few laugh out loud moments, some nicely done action-packed moments, and helps advance the narrative while ending it off with a rather nice cliffhanger itself that could lead to some very interesting story possibilities depending on where it goes from here.

According to the IGN review of The Road Not Taken:

It’s the second week in a row on Stargate SG-1 and Merlin’s device continues to produce more problems than it does solutions or else our lovable cast are just idiots and don’t know when to leave well enough alone. Did Daniel even get it completely finished before Vala’s daughter arrived and took him hostage? Well, that doesn’t stop Carter from fiddling around.

Would you believe it that this week, the SG-1 teams once again deals with (gasp) an alternate universe&#Array;or parallel one (same diff). There have been some pretty well done and overall fun alternate universe/what might have been scenarios, but this one just didn’t work for many, many, many reasons. For starters, Carter is the only main member of the crew we even get to see for the majority of the episode, meaning that other than the bookends of the episode and one minor beginning, the only other regulars we see are ones we don’t care about all that much, such as General Landry (although it’s nice to see Don Davis return to reprise his Hammond role in the alternate universe). Don’t go thinking we aren’t Carter fans – ’cause we are – and we especially liked Amanda Tapping getting sexed up with her low cut dress and skirt and knee high boots (hey, we never get to see Carter this undressed), it’s just that we wanted to see her interact with people, not carry a whole episode.

The deal is that while our Carter was fiddling with Merlin’s device and the Carter in the alternate universe was working on stealing energy from thousands of other alternate universes, our Carter ended up getting transported there. In this world Carter is a Major; Teal’c went back to hang with the Jaffa; Vala is in prison at Area 51; Daniel was kidnapped by Ori; Mitchell never became leader of SG-1 and is actually in a wheelchair; Landry is now President; and Hammond is back in control of the SGC. Given Landry’s high standing in this new world, of course he would get a lot of attention, and in this world he is an a political ass.

You see, as President, Landry once used Mitchell as a war hero to get him won over with the public, the dropped him when he was done. After Carter saves the world from an Ori attack with Merlin’s device working properly, he uses her to solidify and make sure he stays in control of the US government. With veiled references to war and events going on three years (about how long Iraq has been going on, right?) it was pretty obvious this episode was dealing with the issue of politics much like last week’s dealt with religion. However, unlike last week, this week’s issue was way too heavy handed and too in your face and blatant in its finger pointing. We like our real world criticism to be more philosophical or metaphorical, not blunt.

Besides Carter getting sexy this episode, the only other thing we really liked was learning that in this world, she was once married to Rodney McKay, who we thankfully got to see this episode. Carter and McKay are such wonderful characters when placed together, as they play off each other wonderfully and have produced some great interactions throughout the years.

Overall, it was just a boring episode that wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before, and featured only a quarter of the cast that we really enjoy. A guest appearance here and there by Hammond and McKay helped a bit, but an ending that came out of nowhere and silly political moments left the episode a waste of an hour.

According to the IGN review of The Shroud:

Talk about having an idea and not running with it at all. Here you have Daniel, always the good guy and holier than thou (almost literally with ascending), and here the writers had a chance to really do something quite interesting and make Daniel a legitimate bad guy and a threat. One has to wonder if that would have indeed been the case, had this not been the show’s final season – it certainly feels like a storyline that was intended, but found they couldn’t change and redeem Daniel within that short episode time frame. Instead, we get the same old Daniel&#Array;only with some screwed up face makeup.

The story: after being captured by Adria (the ever so lovely Morena Baccarin), Adria tried to convert Daniel, but with Merlin in his head they devised a plan to stop the Ori once and for all. Turning himself over to Adria knowing that Merlin would protect him, Daniel let himself be turned into a Prior to gain her trust. SG-1 soon found itself in a village where a Prior was preaching the Book of Origin, but not the “convert or die” mentality – turns out it is Daniel. Daniel is taken captive where he then reveals his plan to fly an Ori ship into their universe through the supergate, detonating Merlin’s device and wiping them all out. The problem? Is Daniel really Daniel, and this is indeed the plan – or has he been twisted by Adria and the Ori and this is really her plan to allow their ships to come through the supergate.

The inherent flaw with this episode is there is a lot of talking, a lot! I’m talking Quentin Tarantino gets in a kick and writes almost thirty minutes of dialoge (I actually enjoyed Death Proof more than Planet Terror), amounts of talking. The thing though, is Tarantino can write that much talking and it is usually fresh, interesting, and you don’t care that you are watching people converse – it is just that good. Here though, they tried to tell us a story by watching people talk, not letting the story come from watching people talk – there is a huge difference. Most of the episode is Daniel confined to a chair, over and over stating that yes, he is a Prior, but a good one and this is all part of his plan if they would just listen to him, and he needs to tell this same story over and over to almost every SG-1 member (even Richard Dean Anderson who guest starred this episode) until finally they reach a compromise.

In the end, we think the Ori are dead, but we have no way of knowing since the episode ends with a ship going through the supergate and supposedly blasting away the Ori from existence. The only thing we know “for sure” is that several ships poured through in the closing seconds and are intent on waging war – whether they have the Ori backing them now is the only question. Overall the episode just wasn’t anything special, which was a shame considering you had Daniel, a freaking Prior, and Richard Dean Anderson returning (who incidentally had some nice lines and comedic barbs). If anything, the episode seems more like a glance of what might have been had the SCI FI Channel not decided this would be the last season of Stargate SG-1.

According to the IGN review of Dominion:

We’ve got our finger on the pulse here at IGN TV. We have our ears to the grindstone. Insert random cliché number three to show we know some of the stuff going on in the world of television. With that knowledge comes the fact that we know that though this is indeed the last season of Stargate SG-1, two movies have already been commissioned and should be heading our way in the not so distant feature. We even found out in an interview we conducted with Michael Shanks what those films would be about. Given that very final fact, though there was one nice twist, the rest of this episode simply worked forward to a conclusion we already saw coming.The episode begins with Adria (the ever so lovely Morena Baccarin) finding her mom Vala gambling away on a planet, having been abandoned and left on her own after a falling out with SG-1 after they deemed her a security risk. Of course, we knew better to believe that, though we thought Vala was merely fooling, so at least the early twist of them replacing her memories with false ones was a nice diversion. The false memories were supposed to lead to the capture of Adria, but instead a group of Jaffa beam down to the planet, kidnap Adria, and now Baal has her under his care.In a nice storytelling moment, we have Baal bringing out a Goa’uld snake, which he intends to use on Adria to gain control over her and the Ori army. Luckily for SG-1, they arrive in time to kill Baal before the Goa’uld can be transplanted&#Array;or do they? Nope, for you see, a symbiote was indeed already placed in her. In several, rapid-fire moments together, the Tok’ra come to remove the symbiote (ends up being Baal himself) and plant one of themselves in Adria to carry-out a plan to control Adria to call off her troops, but Baal poisons the host body, Adria dies, and decides to ascend before all is said and done.

First up was the issue of Baal. When Baal got killed, we knew he wasn’t dead. Of course, we didn’t see him being the symbiote in Adria, but we knew he wasn’t dead because Baal is supposed to be the villain and main story point of the second movie. Later on, when Baal is removed from Adria against his will, there is no satisfaction or anything really, in thinking that Baal has finally been killed off once and for all. Why is that? To state again, because we know he is in the second movie. Frankly, we couldn’t care less about Baal as of now. TheStargate SG-1 writers have played this game of “Kill Baal — but what of those Baal clones?” so many times now the event is played out and tired.And then we have Adria about to die, and only then deciding and thinking to herself, “Oh, I should ascend and totally continue to be a thorn in their side!” The reveal of Adria ascending came completely out of left field and was nothing more than a solution to the writers placing themselves in a corner and needing to write their way out. The story of Adria and the Ori also has us rolling our eyes and disinterested, because we know that this time the first movie will wrap-up the events of the series, and officially deal with and do away with the Ori threat for good, we assume. So why question the fate of the Ori this episode, when practically everyone in the know knows what you are presenting doesn’t matter. In the end, it was a boring and worthless episode, if only because we know the events that happened didn’t mean a darn thing in the grand scheme of things.

The Worst:

Uninvited, Talion, and Family Ties

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Again:

  • I have never particularly enjoyed Uninvited;
  • Much of what Talion had to offer wasn’t my cup of tea;
  • What is redeemable about Family Ties? Not a damn thing. Overall, this episode kind of reminds us that people who have dysfunctional family members are people we should laugh at, and are irredeemable.

According to the IGN review of Uninvited:

After a disappointing fourth episode, Stargate SG-1 came back with a rather entertaining episode, though it was far from spectacular. For a good portion of the episode, the SG-1 team is split up into two groups: Group A (Mitchell and General Landry) are at a cabin, on a retreat to bring the “whole” team together, while Group B (Carter, Teal’c, and Vala) are off on another planet, trying to capture a creature that had mauled a village and attacked a SG team. Daniel, meanwhile, is missing in action once again; the lack of Michael Shanks, as proven by these past two episodes, has been very, very noticeable (the energy and presence he brings is sadly missed).

The Mitchell/Landry sections are fairly cut and dry, as they are meant for the most part to bring a sense of levity to the proceedings, and while Mitchell did have some quality lines and Beau Bridges doing the duck call was funny, other bits didn’t hit their intended target. The story dealing with the creature, however, did fare slightly better even if the reasoning for it all came a little out of left field; it wasn’t terrible – technically it was sound – it was just that there was no way for the viewer to help figure it out like any good mystery.

The episode worked because it used what it could and managed to camouflage its flaws rather well. The writer(s)/director knew they wouldn’t be able to pull off some monstrous predator. This is evident by the fact that the creature was never really seen in action until the last handful of minutes of the episode, and the creature looked like nothing more than an orange-esque blob resembling a wolf or dog of some sort. By purposely only showing the resulting carnage it left in its wake (a dead body here, blood thrown here, a scratched tree here), a certain level of menace had already been instilled in the viewer by the time viewers were ready to see what they could come up with, so that even that “blob” of a thing still managed to come off pretty creepy.

Claudia Black continues to shine on the show, as she seemingly steals every single scene that she is in; she could only add a word to the matter or maybe even just an expression, but for whatever reason you can’t help but be drawn to her whenever she appears on the screen. The positioning Vala took in this episode, trying to make herself seem like the dominant female of the show, was quite comical to watch, as she continuously defied Carter, by first mocking her by having the guts to sit in Landry’s chair and by going against her plan to contain the creature; it’s obvious that Vala is used to being the only woman the men look at and drool over.

Stargate SG-1 is still an enjoyable hour of television, even if it seems it is just treading water as of now. Shanks has been missing from the past two episodes, the Ori have faded from view, and beyond one episode there has yet to be another truly captivating story; when those elements come back into play, perhaps then it will be cause to celebrate and rejoice, but as of nowStargate SG-1 is nothing more than that welcomed place viewers can turn to once a week to escape for a bit.

According to the IGN review of Talion:

Perhaps it was Mick Jagger who said it best, when he sang the lyrics, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need.” In other words, you can want something all you want, but perhaps it is best that sometimes you don’t get it. We thought we wanted the show to focus on and give a little more time to showing Teal’c, but after this episode, we find out it just isn’t what we need.

The episode starts off with a very Michael Bay-esque moment, with Teal’c going into slow motion while an explosion happens. Explosions always get a “yeah” in our book, because hey, we like things that go boom sometimes, yet they are even better when there is good storytelling to back them up. After learning of essentially a terrorist Jaffa in cahoots with the Ori and getting ready to lead an assault on Earth, a newly healed Teal’c goes looking for revenge, by getting to the bottom of who blew up a lot of innocent Jaffa, and deal out that vengeance with death. Or at least we think that is what happened. You see, a big problem with the episode was that they tried to cram way too much story info in an hour runtime, and so there was a lot of “Oh, this guy is behind it,” “Am not,” “I want to attack you for this reason,” “Bring it on,” and “Oh, it’s already been broughten!” And yes, purposeful misspelling intended there. There were too many layers to this Jaffa/political conflict, and we just didn’t enjoy it. Jaffa politic centered episodes are never anybody’s friend. We might even rank our disgust of Jaffa politic episodes over Earth-based politic episodes; we shudder at the mere thought of the Consortium.

You’d even think seeing Teal’c go all dark rouge and Dirty Harry on a bunch of evil Jaffa would be killer, and yet it seemed more gimmicky or completely against Teal’c’s character, where it was mostly laughable. For example, seeing Teal’c interrogate a suspect for info, and then walk away while the guy explodes because of explosives Teal’c put in him was a cool visual and a badass moment, but yet another slow-mo walk with an explosion in the background was just too much, and we laughed. We will give the show credit that the final battle involving Teal’c was well choreographed, but a bit tooRocky for our taste; getting beat down over and over, until he finally rallies in the end to win, while still battered and bruised. Wow, three movie references and a song, that might be a new record.

Though we hate that this is the last season of Stargate SG-1, we have to say that we won’t be disappointed in the fact that we’ll never have to see another Jaffa centric episode, because when it comes to reruns or DVDs, we can always skip over those with the push of a button. If you missed this episode, don’t fret, because not much was missed. Just imagine Teal’c is any Michael Bay film and you’ll automatically have a better image and good time than what happened in this episode.

According to the IGN review of Family Ties:

We love Claudia Black as the sexy and quick-witted Vala. We love Fred Willard for his many appearances on theTonight Show With Jay Leno, his role in Best In Show, guest appearances on Everybody Loves Raymond, and much of his other work as well. It seems putting these two favorites of ours together would be a match made in heaven. But boy were we mistaken, because instead of elevating the entertainment value up into the clouds with cherubs floating around with golden harps, this sucker tanked, and descended into the fiery abyss of hell. If hell truly exists, we won’t be forced to eat donuts like Homer in The Simpson, but instead we’ll be forced to watch this episode on a never-ending loop, with our eyes forced and held open like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.

After last week’s villain of the week Arkad threatening to attack Earth, all seemed well at the conclusion with Teal’c killing off this one-note foe. Sadly, Arkad would make his plan still known this week, as apparently he had already sent out ships, prepared to attack should the time come. Thankfully there is one man with insider info who knows of the plan – Jacek, who just so happens to also be Vala’s father.

While Vala might not get her good looks from her mother, she got her backstabbing, double-crossing ways from her father, as Jacek is nothing more than an alien con-artist, always looking for an angle to make some money, including a scam about a Hispanic boy, swindling old ladies at a bingo night, and selling fake stardust on the Internet. When Jacek leaves his monitoring device at home, we aren’t really surprised when he happens to be meeting up with a Jaffa that is in control of the ship that Arkad sent to Earth. We also aren’t surprised when Jacek wants the ship for himself to make a profit and double-crosses his own daughter. This, of course, leads to SG-1 letting him think he is stealing the real ship, while they actually confiscate the real one for themselves.

The whole episode was just one big sleeping pill of a mess, as the episode tried to surprise us with twists and turns, yet ones we expected to happen right from the beginning. Vala’s dad is a con-artist? No way! Get out of town. You must be pulling our leg. Whenever the show wasn’t trying to surprise us with a twist, they hammered across poorly done sentimental moments involving fathers and daughters, including General Landry and his daughter, Dr. Lam (Lexa Doig) as well as moments with Vala and Jacek.

The only clever moment of the whole episode involved a bit with Carter, Jacek, and Dr. Lee, in which the writers and actors – not very subtly – referenced the cancellation of Stargate SG-1 by Carter mentioning to Jacek how the government didn’t view the “program” in the same way, and Jacek talking about the “network of planets” and how good SG-1 must have been to them. And through it all, Dr. Lee chimes in with a “Eureka,” referencing the fact thatEureka is indeed the hot new show on the channel. It was sort of clever, and yet sort of not. However, when it comes to the overall quality of this episode, there is no sort of anything; it was just bad, really, really bad.

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Next in the best and worst is Season 9.

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19 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Stargate SG-1: Season 10

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