The Best and Worst of Stargate SG-1: Season 6

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For previous installments:

 

Season 6 of the series primarily dealt with the threat of Anubis, Jonas Quinn (from Season 5’s Meridian) joining SG-1, and introduced the lost city story arc that would conclude with the Stargate: Atlantis pilot.

The Best:

Redemption, Descent, Frozen, Abyss, Shadow Play, Cure, Prometheus, Unnatural Selection, Smoke & Mirrors, Metamorphosis, Disclosure, and Full Circle

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Briefly:

  • Redemption both deals with Teal’c’s son Rya’c, and Anubis’ plan to destroy the Tauri Stargate, and Stargate Command;
  • Descent follows up from Season 5’s Revelations with Thor and the Ha’tak vessel, where Jonas Quinn proves himself (don’t get me started with this one) to the team;
  • Frozen is the second adventure to take place in Antartica after Season 1’s Solitudes;
  • Abyss is one of my favorite episodes of the season, which includes O’Neill being tortured by Ba’al, an ascended Daniel visiting him, and has some particularly great imagery;
  • Shadow Play is an interesting episode about the dangers of experimentation without proper safety mechanisms in place, which can have disastrous results on others;
  • Cure is another story with a moral where what we think is a Goa’uld symbiote being used to create Tretonin, is actually Egeria, the mother of all Tok’ra;
  • Prometheus is the first episode with the X-303, allowing the show to use interspace travel as a plot elements in future episodes;
  • Unnatural Selection is the first story to feature the Human Form Replicators, which would be important for Season Eight;
  • Smoke & Mirrors deals with quite a bit of politics, with someone using the Foothold alien devices to pose as O’Neill in order to assassinate Senator Kinsey;
  • Metamorphosis is actually inspired by the X-Men film;
  • Disclosure is a really decent clip show; and,
  • Full Circle finally reveals the ascended Daniel facing off with Anubis.

According to the GateWorld review of Redemption, Part 1:

Trust seems to be the dominant theme of “Redemption, Part 1,” the much anticipated Season Six opener. Trust in self, friends, family, and newcomers; trust in equipment, both tried and true and untested, to work as expected; trust in the hope that Carter will come up with a solution to save the day, like she always does. Backed by strong dialogue and solid character scenes in a script by Robert C. Cooper and directed by fan favorite Martin Wood, the theme of trust is driven home again and again.

Set three months after “Meridian,” the returning members of SG-1 are still coping with the loss of Daniel Jackson. The episode begins with Captain Hagman, the ninth attempt at a replacement, apologizing to an injured O’Neill while running to the gate, hundreds of angry natives in pursuit spilling over the hills in a sweeping panoramic shot reminiscent of old adventure films of yesteryear. Upon SG-1’s return to Earth, a tranquilized Hagman collapses as Jack grumbles to Hammond, “Next.” And, “next” is an often occurrence as unexpected hurdles, numerous faces, and a barrage of exposition (to bring newcomers to the series up to speed) fly past at hyperspeed.

Colonel Chekov, a Russian military liaison to the SGC, wants a Russian to be named a member of SG-1. Jonas Quinn wants to join SG-1 to prove his mettle to both himself and O’Neill. And Hammond wants a fourth member on the team to provide the type of unique perspective that Daniel Jackson did. Add the new X-302, “the first human designed aircraft that’s capable of interstellar travel” (thanks to the naquadria provided by Quinn), Drey’auc’s unexpected death calling Teal’c to return to a rebel Jaffa camp to deal with his son, and a dangerous incoming wormhole at the SGC, and we have an incredibly eventful episode.

Restricted to base, Jonas struggles to come to terms with his part in the accident resulting in Daniel’s ascension and to adjust to an alien world with those who hold him accountable. In an amusing boxing scene, Teal’c tells Jonas that O’Neill doesn’t trust him. “How can I even begin to make up for it [the accident] if he won’t give me a chance?” Jonas asks. When Teal’c later suggests adding Jonas as the fourth team member, Jack disagrees because “he’s an alien,” and insinuates on that reason alone that Jonas can’t be trusted. “You learned to trust me, O’Neill,” Teal’c counters.

At the Jaffa camp, Teal’c deals with guilt when confronted with an angry Rya’c following Drey’auc’s death. Teal’c accepts Rya’c’s anger and physical assault because of his own grief and sense of responsibility that his choices have contributed to the circumstances surrounding Drey’auc’s death. He also feels somewhat responsible for the current situation of the Jaffa rebels — the Goa’uld do not trust the Jaffa priests with their young any longer, so the supply of symbiotes that keep the Jaffa alive is dwindling.

Rya’c doesn’t trust his father or himself — spillover from when Apophis brainwashed him in Season Two’s “Family”. Teal’c’s recent brainwashing experience in “Enemies” and “Threshold” provides the much-needed middle ground for the two as Teal’c reaffirms his trust in his son.

Beautifully scripted, Teal’c’s reaffirmation with his son on the threshold to the Stargate is poignant and Christopher Judge, showing more emotion than we have ever seen from Teal’c, is magnificent in this scene. “Whether you believe in me or what I have chosen to do doesn’t change the fact that I have never doubted your heart, Rya’c. You never have to win back my trust, my son, for you have never lost it.”

O’Neill and a wisecracking Carter deal with a wormhole threatening the Stargate. An extremely low power stream fed to the gate through the wormhole and the resulting power overload could cause the gate to explode — a blast of two to three thousand megatons and its resulting effects could destroy all life on Earth. A dangerous attempt by the two to reach hyperspace and contact help on the untested X-302 fails. Back at the SGC, Carter ultimately retreats to her lab to reason out a solution which she can’t see herself finding in time. Concerned at her absence from the control room, Jack seeks her out and tells her that he trusts she’ll pull a great idea out of her … head, and save the day.

Besides changing to The Sci-Fi Channel, moving to a new broadcast time, and instituting a new opening credits sequence, the show has switched to widescreen format — which lends a very big-screen, movie-like sensation. Sweeping new background music, unique camera angles, new and improved lighting throughout the SGC provides for a very cinematic experience.

Neil Denis reprises the role of Rya’c in a powerful and touching performance. Sgt. Davis, Sgt. Siler, the citrus-allergic scientist McKay, the long-missing Lt. Graham Simmons, and a huge pool of extras fill the SGC and Area 51 to the rafters with life and movement I haven’t seen since the original movie. The numerous supporting cast carries a lot of the bulky exposition needed to instruct a new audience in Stargate 101.

However, with the good comes a little bad. Shaq’rel, a Jaffa buddy, conveniently shows up at the camp at just the right time with the information that the SGC is under attack by Anubis, and Bra’tac conveniently knows the gate coordinates to most of the worlds under Anubis’ control — a Goa’uld that the System Lords didn’t even know was still alive just a few months ago.

As for costuming — what’s up with the flight suits that Carter and O’Neill wear? A very strange cross between athletic gear with elbow and knee pads and a confused mime’s catsuit, I can only imagine what the characters said when handed the uniforms to wear, much less the actors.

Finally, the clichéd hologram of Anubis and his very clichéd dialogue wraps up the premiere episode. I echoed Jack’s “puh-lease” as I half-expected to see someone pull back the curtain on the great, gloomy Anubis projection and find the professor from another MGM classic, “The Wizard of Oz” — ignore that man behind the curtain.

All in all, “Redemption, Part 1” is a visually engaging episode, redolent with poignant moments of humor, resplendent with long-missing banter between Carter and O’Neill, and replete with heart from the usually reserved Teal’c. I can’t wait to see who ends up saving the day in part two. I trust that the show’s staff will pull a surprising solution out of their … heads.

According to the GateWorld review of Redemption, Part 2:

“Redemption, Part 2” concludes the season opener with SG-1’s usual panache. Written and directed by the same team who brought us “Redemption, Part 1,” Robert C. Cooper and Martin Wood supply continuity in style and story for the transition between episodes.

This episode marks a lessened appearance by Richard Dean Anderson due to a noticeable knee injury, and his discomfort is clearly visible on his face in the long walk to the elevator with Sam. Even though we know the behind-the-scenes reason for Jack’s reduced screen time (the actor slipped and hurt his knee while carrying his daughter), the character’s absence is blatant. Jack just disappears in the first half with no explanation.

“Part 2” is a very Carter-heavy episode, highlighted by her sparky contact with McKay. McKay continually baits her, and his suggestion that they need to “get over this whole physical attraction thing” draws a retort filled with hidden meaning. Sam’s assurance that she can “act as though it never happened” is a clear reference about something else she’s been good at covering; her attraction for the colonel.

In an odd bonding scene between Sam and McKay in the infirmary, she steers away from the personal with him, firmly establishing her preferred distance with him even when he compares her scientific abilities to an art form. McKay vacillates between redeeming his character by providing needed assistance and berating her in front of Hammond.

Later, after a peck on his cheek, she acknowledges it’s bad for him if she actually likes him. Is she just yanking his chain (because she can) or does a part of her give thought to the number of men she’s cared about or befriended who have met their untimely ends? Is her kiss to McKay one of jest or one of doom?

McKay’s affect on Carter is fun to watch. I’m looking forward to see why such time was invested in him this episode and I’ll be greatly surprised if his character isn’t brought back at least once more before the season’s end.

Sam’s snarky attitude is a refreshing change from the techno-babble queen we had for a lot of Season Five. Whether it’s from being around Jack way too much or that she’s decided that life is too short not to enjoy it, Sam’s funny, snide comments and devil-may-care attitude is an exciting change for the character. She’s dropped her tight control and is more open to all about her feelings, whether it’s with a pat to Quinn’s arm in the gate room following his question, her weighty “good luck” to Jack before the hyperspace maneuver, or her visible relief that he survives the mission.

Jack’s decision to add Jonas to the team comes off as an off-the-cuff remark in Hammond’s office, presumably under pressure to add a Russian to his team. However, Teal’c, Sam and Jonas provided valid arguments as to why Jonas should be given the chance to be on the team; that a person is more than the sum of his actions. Jack’s convictions generally drive his decisions and when he makes up his mind, he’s not going to change it to placate politicians. Jonas shows pluck when he corners Jack and asks outright for consideration. I’d say Jack’s mind is made up before the elevator doors close.

Notebooks in hand, always drinking or eating, watch on his right wrist; Jonas’ quirks are coming out. He also has a quirky way of looking at situations, as we saw in “Part 1” with his stating the obvious when it came to Colonel Chekov’s behavior. Jonas’ innocent question about how the Stargate was installed in the gate room provides the spark for Sam. He’s obviously been watching her work style, as it’s clear on his face that he knows he’s planting seeds for Sam with his question. Will he continue to see solutions through fresh eyes as he joins SG-1, or will Jonas continue to be encumbered by his inability to act in “Meridian?”

Less time is spent in “Part 2” focusing on Teal’c and Rya’c’s storyline, and I find it difficult to swallow that they’d mount an attack on a heavily-defended planet without more warriors. It is very nice to see Teal’c and Rya’c become more comfortable with each other, given the great time spent apart and the resulting emotional distance between the two. Bra’tac taking on Rya’c as a protégé to continue to train great warriors provides another binding link between father and son.

Teal’c’s statement that the gate weapon used by Anubis was the Ancients’ technology seems out of the blue, though. When has Teal’c seen anything remotely similar to the giant circular weapon, and why would the Ancients have had a weapon of destruction to destroy the very same gates that they built? I’ve gone through my memory trying to make a connection, and come up short.

New and improved special effects pepper the episode, starting with an updated look to the hyperspeed warp effect seen when the cargo ship was hurrying to the planet. The cargo ship used by Teal’c and friends has been redecorated with the new fluffy clouded sky finish seen in Osiris’ ship in “Revelations.” In addition, the palm scanner that controls the iris, first talked about in “Show and Tell,” makes its on-camera debut.

The EM generator is very cool to watch, spinning to emit its pulse, as is the ripple effect when it sends the wave through the event horizon. I’m intrigued to know why they have one on base, though. It doesn’t seem to be an item to keep on hand considering the damage to base electrical infrastructure it causes.

I must say again: I really like the cinematic music, the increased lighting within the SGC, and other subtle changes in the way the first two episodes were directed. Here’s hoping those style changes stick for future episodes.

“Redemption, Part 2” winds up with the eternal question as to why the need to rush the endings, this time in an effort to get SG-1 through the gate with its newest member as the closing shot. However, I think I’d have much preferred being left hanging until the opening of the next episode to have seen Jonas make the team.

There’s sarcasm, humor, angst, great effects, and a wide open future for us as the four step through the event horizon. Bring on the rest of the season!

According to the GateWorld review of Descent:

Okay, I admit it. I occasionally read spoilers. Not the really in-depth kind, but the kind to whet your appetite for an episode. And more often than not when I read spoilers, I come away disappointed in the episode.

“Descent” was one of those episodes for which I couldn’t keep from reading the spoilers. And, I have to say, the real deal far surpassed my imagination. Between the action and special effects were tucked touching character moments that focused on fears of failure. Not enough to be preachy in a “here’s the moral” sense, the fear of failure theme carries forward aspects introduced last season.

Written by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, “Descent” is reminiscent of their Season Five episode, “The Tomb.” The mothership’s maze-like corridors and blocked passageways seem to be stand-ins for the ziggurat’s tunnels and crumbling infrastructure. However, instead of a forced pairing with political adversaries, the emotional bar is raised by enlisting Jacob and long-time liaison Major Davis to assist SG-1 with the ship’s reconnaissance and recovery.

And, in this version of the story, the team fights to avoid death by drowning within the ship versus death by the hands a psychotic Goa’uld. With the exception of three easily-dispatched Ninja-like Jaffa, the only enemies to SG-1 in this outing are water and time.

Peter DeLuise puts his Seaquest DSV experience to good use in directing “Descent.” Intricate in their simplicity, the water effects go beyond just sinking a set. From quiet shots of the water quickly rising to the claustrophobic near-drowning of Carter and O’Neill, the water adds dimension to what could have easily been another “escape the trap” episode. The pièce de résistance has to be a swimming Jonas and gallons of water unceremoniously splashing to the floor after being ringed from one level of the ship to another. It has to be one of the neatest effects I’ve seen in a while.

Both Carter and Quinn continue to deal with personal insecurities introduced in previous episodes. Carter gave voice to a fear of failure in “Redemption, Part 1,” which shows here when she’s under the gun to get the force shield up so that the team can escape.

Recent incidents with damaging the K’Tau sun (“Red Sky”), reconstituting Teal’c from the gate buffer (“48 Hours”), and dealing with the loss of Daniel (“Meridian”) all support the rehumanization of Carter. Far too often, she’s been the only one to provide the solutions to save the day; it’s only reasonable that she begins to doubt herself in the face of many too many life-or-death close calls. O’Neill realizes she’s struggling under the pressure of yet another countdown (one of several in recent months), and reassures her by patting her on the back — something we rarely see Jack do.

Jonas struggles to fit in, and to deal with his lack of action in “Meridian.” His eagerness and excitement for the mission covers his big fear that he won’t be able to react in the heat of the moment. And his fear is realized when he doesn’t react to the ninja Jaffa. To some degree, Jonas romanticizes Teal’c’s position within the team and has an image of fitting Teal’c’s mold. Between that and having seen Jack in action, Jonas has a slight case of hero-worship — and, because of this, he really needs acceptance from Jack. In his mind, “intellectual exercises” are not enough to redeem his past actions. However, it’s his intellectual gifts, along with an amazing ability to hold his breath, which saves SG-1 and earns sincere thanks from Jack.

Jacob informs Jack that he’s afraid of his favorite planet being wiped out. Jack’s response of “What planet is that?” makes me wonder if they’re discussing recent close calls with SG-1 and, particularly, Sam. Sounds like a paternal warning to Jack; especially with Jacob’s later confession that he’s inadvertently responsible for releasing the Jaffa and that he could have gotten his daughter killed. Not often that you hear a Tok’ra admit when he’s wrong.

Not only was Selmac absent in voice, he seems to have been asleep the majority of the episode, because Jacob came across more human than we’ve seen him since his blending. This is especially noticeable when his voice cracks as he thinks Sam has drowned because of his failure to override computer protocols and open the door that traps her. I wholly expected Selmac to assume control and make the save.

Major Davis’ presence on the mission is never explained as he’s paired with Dr. “Red Shirt” Friesen. He provides some computer assistance, solving the mystery of the squeaky shoe sound coming through the ship’s intercom system, and is a great foil for Jacob while Carter and O’Neill are drowning. Past that, he seemed superfluous.

Future implications from this mission are great. One Asgard brain, two death gliders, and three ninja Jaffa are nothing to be sneezed at! Thor’s consciousness is now on ice in a Goa’uld computer core, and I wonder what kind of favor Jack will be able to cash in on with the Asgard now. Anubis’ mothership blew to smithereens, but the SGC now has two slightly damp death gliders (hope the salt water doesn’t cause too much corrosion). And Teal’c single-handedly captured three of Anubis’ Jaffa — I say “captured” because we only saw him zat the boys once, and then Jonas seemed to be standing guard over them. It will be interesting to see if the plight of the ninja warriors is followed through.

“Descent” allows Jack to play with explosives, poke fun at pesky scientists, and finally give orders that are followed … well, kind of. He also seems preternaturally disposed to keep an eye on Carter, something that’s been happening on an increasing occurrence since her kidnapping last season.

Incredibly fun to watch, “Descent” is a standout episode which had me applauding the television at its conclusion. An underwater striptease and the glimpse of bare feet along with some amazing water sequences are the icing on the cake. “Descent” was, to quote Jack, “excellent!”

According to the GateWorld review of Frozen:

The last time they were in Antarctica, Carter and O’Neill barely escaped alive. “Frozen” marks their return trip to the continent, but this time one of them doesn’t escape unscathed. “Frozen” is a quiet, fill-in-the-blank episode working to answer many of the series’ questions and set up a major storyline for the remainder of the season. And for all that it’s required to do, “Frozen” does an okay job.

The episode — the third Cooper / Wood collaboration of the season (and we’re only four episodes in) — is satisfactory despite all of the science thrown about. Cooper consistently foreshadows events that occur at the end of the episode through veiled lines, like Janet’s, “Some of us, or all of us — who knows?” and Jack’s, “Not a snakehead, right?” There’s no question that he’s dropping hints about what’s yet to occur.

Cooper also references events from as many as six previous episodes to answer long-standing questions — and yet the biggest question is never completely answered. Who is Ayiana?

Much of “Frozen” is a discussion of the science behind the theories, which is all well and good, but staid as heck. For nine people who are rapidly becoming seriously ill and are trapped in an Antarctic biodome for nearly the entirety of the episode, there’s not a lot of empathy between them, especially those who’ve worked closely together for the past five years. Cooper is usually known for writing personal touches between the characters. With the exception of a connection between Jonas and Ayiana, “Frozen” is bereft of these touches.

“Frozen” is also lacking both action and technical effects. The external views of the biodome remind me of the much, much larger one in “Beneath the Surface.” Inside, the scenes are mostly two-character discussions to get across all of the exposition.

Something I missed when the characters were in the entry tunnel to the living and science quarters is visible breath. Cold enough to have snow underfoot, but no visible steam when the actors exhaled as was seen in “Solitudes,” this minor thing bugged me throughout the episode.

The medical action scenes with Fraiser barking out orders included a bad camera angle in which it’s obvious that she doesn’t insert the laryngoscope into Ayiana’s throat to intubate. Instead, the slight of hand is apparent; the tool slides to the outside of the actress’ cheek.

Much of the episode is without background scoring, which adds to the sense of isolation from the rest of the world. The wind roaring in the background when Jonas asks Ayiana to do her healing on Michaels and Osbourne provides eeriness as the tone of the episode changes from scientific to wary. A partially-thawed Ayiana, still encased in ice and the mirroring of action within the quarantine lab on the flat screen monitors within other areas of the observation room, are among the highpoints of technical effects within this episode.

Kudos to Wood’s directing choices with mirroring images throughout the episode. He opens with a woman within a coffin of ice and ends with Jack in a quarantine transport box which resembles a coffin. On the exit through the gate, Carter, Jonas, Teal’c and the Tok’ra Theron are carrying Jack in the quarantine box — the image mirrored is that of pallbearers carrying a casket. Are they carrying him to his death? Is it symbolic of the death of the character we have come to know and love for the past five years as he becomes something else?

Wood also mirrors the separation of Carter and O’Neill much in the same way he did in “Divide and Conquer.” He has Carter again asking for Jack to leave in order to save his life and, again, there’s a physical barrier (her bio-hazard hood versus the force field) between them representing the emotional barrier that still exists.

However, Wood falters when he directs Amanda Tapping not to show more of the emotion Carter must be feeling when asking her dying commanding officer to accept a symbiote. Tapping usually conveys Carter’s feelings very well through her facial expressions, belying what her lines say. Carter showed immense grief when Daniel lay dying only a few months ago (in SGC time). It’s not a huge leap to reason that she’d show similar grief for her commanding officer, any personal feelings between the two characters notwithstanding.

Corin Nemec finally shows his dramatic potential with Jonas in wonderfully sweet scenes with Ayiana. His mildly irritating eagerness from the first episodes of the season is tempered by his curiosity about Ayiana, and Nemec plays distress at Ayiana’s death very well. Guest stars Venus Terzo as Dr. Francine Michaels and Ona Grauer as Ayiana also log stellar performances. Grauer’s nearly wordless Ayiana emoted beautifully, so much so that my four year old was scripting her scenes through her body language.

Slow and plodding at times, complemented with shots that include watching ice melt and water drip, “Frozen” only picks up at the end. The characters take getting desperately ill thousands of miles away from a medical facility with little more than a raised eyebrow. In addition, even the characteristic banter was markedly absent.

I know the theories bandied around about the origins of the Stargate and of Ayiana will be of great importance later. I recognize there are future plans for the character of Colonel Jack O’Neill that this episode set in motion. However, because of these many goals, “Frozen” came across very much as a tooled episode, written only to bring questions about the Ancients back to the forefront and to provide a reason to “Tok’ra” O’Neill.

According to the GateWorld review of Abyss:

Probably the most anticipated episode this season for a variety of reasons, “Abyss” does not disappoint. Beautifully written by executive producer Brad Wright, the visually striking “Abyss” delves into the psyche of Jack O’Neill as he is repeatedly tortured to death and revived with a Goa’uld sarcophagus.

Strong performances are logged by all of the actors throughout “Abyss,” but especially by Richard Dean Anderson, who glows in this episode. Anderson’s portrayal of Jack is mesmerizing as he layers frustration over desperation over desolation while at the same time holding on to Jack’s sense of honor and duty and, above all else, his overwhelming loyalty to those he cares for regardless of consequence.

The scenes between O’Neill and Daniel Jackson, reprised by Michael Shanks, seem surreal. Until the end, you’re still never really sure that Daniel is Daniel and not some figment of Jack’s imagination, or a Goa’uld trick. It isn’t until Daniel returns from eavesdropping at the SGC that I was certain who we’d seen is actually the ascended Dr. Jackson and not some chimera.

Martin Wood directs “Abyss,” and does so with great artistry. From Jack’s drop from the “gravity” rack into a black pit and appear to land on the floor of his cell to the paradox of a woman sitting on the floor that is Jack’s ceiling, the episode looks like it’s pulled from an M.S. Escher drawing.

The musical score chosen of simple piano music is especially poignant, adding to Jack’s feeling of despair and isolation. Though Daniel’s been there with him, it’s clear that the ascended friend doesn’t understand completely what motivates Jack. That separation is evident through the haunting music backing their scenes, as well as through the blocking between the actors.

Even at the end of the episode, the score continues, carrying through the feeling that Jack has been affected more than anyone will ever know. However, when Sam reenters the infirmary the theme finally does fade to a more familiar, hopeful melody (similar to one heard at the end of “Entity”).

There is a very gothic look to the set, complete with stained glass above Baal’s dais and a wrought-iron gravity gate on which Jack was tortured — similar in design to a “rose” window common in medieval cathedral architecture. Baal seems positively Machiavellian in both character and costume, with his black jacquard waistcoat with ruffled sleeves, which lends to the macabre feeling of the episode.

The visual effects for this episode are also a wonder to see. Jack being drawn magnetically to the gravity gate, the daggers dragged by gravity to impale Jack, the acid falling horizontally, the shifting of the center of gravity within Jack’s cell — all are amazing to watch and so seamlessly blended that the effect is entirely believable.

Jack’s torture loops mimic the time loops from “Window of Opportunity,”in some twisted way, with the repeated flashes of light and focusing in on Jack at the beginning of his scenes. Even with the last flash, you’re not sure if Jack truly escaped or if the torture is about to begin again.

Brad Wright does a remarkable job with the dialogue in “Abyss,” which crackles from start to finish. Scenes between Hammond, Counselor Thoran and SG-1 are just as heated as those between Jack and Daniel. Wright also heightens the tensions between the SGC and the Tok’ra with the tug of war over information that could lead to the rescue of O’Neill.

Problems with the episode are few, but those that exist are nagging. Why does Daniel disappear for such a great deal of time? Heck, why did he show to begin with if he wasn’t going to help in any way? He didn’t come in with the expressed intent to ask Jack to ascend; he only offered that later when he realized that no one knew Jack was imprisoned by Baal.

As much as I enjoyed Michael Shanks’ reprisal of Daniel, I am perplexed, as the only reason he seems to be in the episode is to eavesdrop on the SGC so Jack can be warned when it is time to escape. Daniel’s presence may have offered a small comfort to Jack, but it equally unnerved and irritated Jack because of Daniel’s unwillingness to bend the rules for a friend.

Questions for this episode still remain. Was Jack forced to leave the Tok’ra by Kanan or was he a partner in the rescue attempt of the slave girl? How did Jack actually escape? Will there be repercussions from Jack’s experiences in future episodes? And, what will be the temperature of future contacts between the SGC and the Tok’ra, or with System Lord Yu, for that matter?

“Abyss” is a very powerful look into who Jack O’Neill is and what he’s made of. While the on-screen torture of Jack shown is less intense than what Teal’c suffered through in “The Serpent’s Venom,” what is left to the viewer’s imagination is more than sufficient to get the point across: that the potential damage to Jack’s psyche, like the actual brutality of the torture we didn’t see, is unfathomable.

Poignant and bittersweet, “Abyss” is visionary, both in characterization and in execution, an episode that microcosms relationships between friends and enemies and how indiscernible the line can be between the two.

According to the GateWorld review of Shadow Play:

“The function of the shadow play is to educate as well as amuse, by portraying good and evil, with good always triumphing, although evil is never destroyed. In Hindu thought, good and evil are necessary parts of the whole and must exist in equilibrium.” *

“Shadow Play” continues the plot elements introduced in Season Five’s “Meridian,” and in effect, is a reverse image of that episode — or a shadow play in itself.

In “Meridian” it was the death of their friend Daniel Jackson’s physical body (his spirit ascended) that Jack, Sam, Teal’c and the SGC had to confront, and are still coming to terms with. In “Shadow Play,” it is the irreparably damaged mind of Dr. Kieran, Jonas Quinn’s former teacher and colleague (and possible mentor), which Jonas must learn to accept.

The political situation between the three major nations on P2S-4C3 — Kelowna, Tirania, and the Andari Federation — has deteriorated in the four months that have elapsed since the events of “Meridian.” The Tiranians and the Andarians are expected to sign a non-aggression pact, leaving the Kelownans vulnerable to attack. The Kelownans have successfully tested a naquadria bomb.

The SGC now finds itself in that proverbial position — between a rock and a hard place. On several occasions, the SGC has been denied advanced technology by friendly allies — the Tollans, the Nox, and the Asgard — because Earth was deemed too primitive a planet. The SGC in turn has denied Earth’s advance technology to other planets for somewhat similar reasons — the events that occurred on Euronda (“The Other Side”) are referenced in this episode.

Jonas Quinn is equally placed between the rock and a hard place. His discussions with Daniel Jackson during “Meridian” opened his eyes to what a threat the Goa’uld were, and still could be to Kalowna. Now that Jonas has been aboard a Gou’uld mothership (“Descent”) and has seen for himself the level of technology that the Goa’uld have at their possession, he’s afraid that any further use of naquadria by the Kelownan’s will alert the Goa’uld to their presence again.

In this shadow play, the naquadria is the element that is both inherently good and evil. The naquadria may be able to provide the power to create defense shields and hyperspace windows; it also has the power to destroy (as it nearly destroyed P2S-4C3 10,000 years ago when the Goa’uld experimented with it). And even latently, it has the power to damage brain tissue, creating a schizophrenic type condition — as it did with Drs. Kieran, Leed and Silas.

Veteran character actor Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap) gave a strong performance as Dr. Kieran. Was it only his paranoid schizophrenia that induced his anti-government actions, or was it truly the pacifist nature of the man so disturbed that the pursuit of knowledge in the study of the naquadria had led to the creation and testing of the destructive naquadria bomb?

Also in shadow in this episode were the performances by series regulars Richard Dean Anderson (Jack O’Neill) and Corin Nemec (Jonas Quinn).

A subdued, quiet Jack O’Neill is obviously still recovering from the events from “Abyss.” When seated at the briefing room table, both at the SGC and on Kelowna, his normally busy hands (usually playing with a pen, scribbling on a notepad, etc.) are either clasped, lying on the table, or in his lap. Jack lets Sam and Teal’c lead the majority of the discussion on Kelowna.

Interestingly enough, Jack is last one to arrive in the SGC Gateroom when the team leaves for Kelowna. I’ve been racking my memory, trying to remember the last time Jack was the last to arrive in the SGC Gateroom, and haven’t been able to come up with an episode.

Corin Nemec played two versions of Jonas in this episode — the real animated, concerned Jonas Quinn, and the very restrained, passive Jonas Quinn that was part of Dr. Kieran’s hallucinations. Dr. Kieran had three scenes with Jonas that were really only part of Dr. Kieran’s schizophrenic hallucinations.

The first scene of Dr. Kieran alone in his lab with Jonas, the scene of Dr. Kieran and Jonas in the Kelownan alleyway, and the first scene of Dr. Kieran and Jonas in the SGC infirmary were all part of Dr. Kieran’s fantasies.

What made the Kelownan alleyway scene so interesting was Dr. Kieran had Jonas armed with an Intar — that non-lethal weapon that the SGC acquired in “Rules of Engagement.” Dr. Kieran was such a pacifist at heart, that even in his fantasy, he had his protector defend him with a non-lethal weapon.

Although it is the mandate of the SGC to seek new allies, and procure technologies to aid in the defense against the Goa’uld — the SGC may want to be careful for what they wish for in the future. They thought they had found an answer with the naquadria, but instead it appears they have opened another Pandora’s Box.

 

According to the GateWorld review of Unnatural Selection:

SG-1 encounters a very different kind of Replicator in “Unnatural Selection,” the first new episode of 2003. But while their appearance, abilities and approach to the universe may have radically evolved, the motives of the “Replicator people” — reproduction and conquest — remain the same. The coolest villains since the Re’tu provide for an episode of Stargate SG-1 that fires on all thrusters … once it finally gets going.

It is a slow start. The entire teaser is a mass of exposition, with everyone but Jonas sitting in a chair and talking. Then, they must return to Earth, pick up some supplies and have a conversation with General Hammond. Next, they must travel to the Asgard homeworld and think about what they’re going to do (as well as debate over a name for the ship). Finally, they must land the ship and start their mission.

The episode is fully half over before the team meets one of the most interesting and dangerous foes they have ever encountered. What follows is pure gold — terrific visuals, great acting on behalf of the guest stars, a flash from Jack’s distant past, and the constant threat of being literally surrounded by Replicator blocks. The enemy appears hospitable at first (as one fan has observed, the most fearsome villains always invite you to dinner), despite the fact that SG-1 can seem to do nothing to harm them.

It’s the why they are hospitable that makes for one of the series’ most disturbing moments. The Replicators are thoughtfully planning their conquest of our galaxy by raping memories from the minds of SG-1, to see the worlds to which they have traveled. And this is the sole reason why they are still alive.

Resistance is futile.

But an otherwise terrific episode would have ended much stronger had we spent more time getting to know the Replicator people — and especially Fifth, with whom we are presumably suppose to sympathize when he is betrayed by our heroes — and the grave threat they pose to all life. Explanations to Hammond, ice cream jokes, and strolling the decks of the Prometheus steal valuable screen time from the story’s true heart and purpose.

Comparisons will be endlessly made between Stargate’s Replicators and Star Trek’s Borg (especially now that our favorite bugs have taken humanoid form). And in that contest, Stargate will ultimately triumph if these bad boys and girls get some more screen time. With “Unnatural Selection,” the bugs are given a personality. They are no longer a mindless accident gone wrong — a “virus” that is not inherently evil, but only programmed, as Jonas observes — but sentient beings that have seen the alternative (in Reese and in Fifth) and decided to walk the path of evil.

It is a brilliant thematic stroke for the series. The Replicators may be temporarily trapped in a bubble while the Asgard puzzle and puzzle until their puzzlers are sore (at which point they’ll doubtless come up with another bad idea), but don’t count them out yet. They’ve matured into far too excellent a foe to dispose of in a giant, temporal closet.

The mindless automaton spiders have been made a far greater threat than ever before: the Replicator people are malevolent and uncaring, seeing themselves as the natural end of organic life in the universe — superior to humankind. And that’s where they beat out the Borg, who started as a driven, unstoppable force, and were gradually humanized — until in Star Trek: Voyager they became little more than a manic gnat on the shoulder of a small starship.

And where The Next Generation‘s Picard chose not to use a sympathetic Borg to destroy its entire race (Hugh in “I, Borg”), O’Neill makes a decidedly different choice. He uses Fifth’s humanity against the Replicators, trapping him with the rest of his kind. No Replicator, even a kind and fuzzy Replicator, can be allowed to escape the trap. The writer’s characterizations are dead-on; we expect nothing less from Jack O’Neill. He is as confident in this decision as he was in shooting Reese dead.

And yet, this brings an unsettling new dimension to the pattern of O’Neill’s rabid hatred for his enemies (be they Replicators or Goa’uld). His entire approach to the Replicators has been motivated by the need to exterminate. But what does O’Neill do when one of his vermin prey turns and expresses a desire to be good, and not evil? O’Neill cannot turn from his path; he would rather be guilty of killing one good creature than risk a galactic plague.

Where Picard would announce, “We mean you no harm, we have a Prime Directive,” and Daniel Jackson would say, “We’re peaceful explorers from the planet Earth,” here Jack cannot consider anything other than, “We’ve been sent to kick your asses!”

Sam and Jonas fail (or rather do not have the opportunity) to be Jack’s moral conscience, until after the deed is done. And Jonas’ final evaluation of their betrayal of Fifth is as telling of his own character as it is of Jack’s: he used Fifth’s humanity against him. While Daniel would condemn Jack’s decision (as he did in “Menace”), Jonas simply makes the observation — not knowing what he himself would have done in the same situation. Though Jonas has a very small role in this episode, his character is quietly becoming very complex.

“Unnatural Selection” doesn’t tie everything up with a neat little bow, but it does the job. It leaves us asking questions, debating the morality of the decision made, and seeing how messy life is. Despite its slow start, it’s is not only a great episode of Stargate. It’s the perfect next-step for the Replicators, who will no doubt return with a vengeance more terrible and fascinating than the mere assimilation of technology.

According to the GateWorld review of Smoke & Mirrors:

The phrase “smoke and mirrors” is commonly used to describe something that distracts or draws attention from a sly or unpleasant action. In the case of this episode, the title is appropriate on several levels. In the story, a rogue group within the already-rogue NID uses stolen holograph technology to accomplish their underhanded goals and, on the set, the cast pulls it together to make up for a Richard Dean Anderson-light episode.

One of the episode’s strengths is that it doesn’t waste time trying to convince us that maybe, just maybe, O’Neill really killed Kinsey. The writers seemed to have remembered “Shades of Grey” and realized that they couldn’t pull another fast one on their audience. Instead of vainly trying to raise our suspicions, they use the other character’s reactions to reinforce our belief in Jack’s innocence. Even when confronted with seemingly infallible evidence, neither Sam, Teal’c, Jonas or Hammond appear to doubt Jack for a second; instead, they rally around him, devoting their time and resources to finding the real assassin.

Sam echoes the sentiment later, telling a suspicious Agent Barrett that “When you work with someone that long, you just know.” Unless you’re a brand-new viewer or have a peculiar dislike of the character, that kind of certainty is gratifying to the audience. We don’t like our heroes suspecting each other of murder. (It’s bad enough when they suspect each other of insanity.)

The story’s weakness, surprisingly, has little to do with the lack of O’Neill, mainly because the other characters manage to stay so busy. A very tanned Sam Carter takes the lead for much of the episode, working with Agent Malcolm Barrett to eliminate the cancer within the organization and clear Jack’s name. The interplay between the two characters is engaging, and one wonders if it’s meant to represent the future relationship between their two organizations, the NID and the SGC.

The theme here is also trust, and the difference a little cooperation can make. Barrett isn’t the most dynamic guest character Stargate has ever had, but he reveals himself to be a nice guy and — considering his profession — that’s enough to put him in our good graces. By the end of the episode, it seems that he might have learned a valuable lesson about having faith in other people, and that gives us some hope for the NID in general.

Jonas and Teal’c spearhead the effort to find the scientist who made O’Neill’s set-up possible to begin with. Jonas is the brains of this dynamic duo, with help from Fraiser, tracking down the suspect Area 51 scientist and then possessing the ability to recall a single airman’s face. Teal’c gamely plays the “muscle,” effortlessly bringing down the fleeing scientist and later intimidating him into a confession with nary a word.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to this Anderson-light season has been the opportunity for the friendship between these two characters to truly shine. Finally Teal’c is able to impart five-plus years of Earth knowledge to someone else, and in him Jonas has a mentor, confidant, fellow alien and — in a way — peer.

The biggest problem with the episode is mainly logistical. The nail in Jack’s coffin with regards to the assassination charge is that there is evidence placing him at the scene of the crime, and no one to back up his claim that he was alone at his cabin. However, the drive from Colorado Springs to Minnesota would have taken him between 16 and 18 hours to complete, making it improbable that he would not have been seen by others, or would not have left a paper trail through the use of credit cards. Depending on the reach of the NID and “the Committee,” it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that any witnesses could have been silenced and the paper trail covered up, but it’s never explicitly mentioned.

This minor flaw is easy enough to overlook, however, especially considering the enjoyable continuity linking this episode to Season Three’s “Foothold” (which, conveniently enough, was one of the repeats aired by The Sci-Fi Channel earlier in the week). Something Stargate has excelled at is the ability to reference old episodes without leaving new viewers completely in the dark, and that’s been especially true this season, as it tries to appeal to Sci-Fi’s larger audience.

The technology from “Foothold” — and the reason the entire incident was covered up — was revealed with enough detail for the new viewer to follow along, but not so much that it would bore longtime fans. Some conspiracy-based episodes are accused of being too derivative of The X-Files, but the end result of “Smoke and Mirrors” was less The X-Filesand more Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

Senator Kinsey is arguably the focus of the story, yet he doesn’t actually grace the audience with his presence until the last scene of the episode. It’s a gem, though, as he and Jack make an uneasy truce that will allow O’Neill to be publicly cleared (although the true importance of that is questionable) while making Kinsey appear to be a friend of the military, protector of democracy and pillar of the community. The idea of a budding trust between these two characters is not even in the realm of possibility, and as the Senator waves and smiles, as smug as though he’s already won the Presidency, the audience is left wondering if Jack should have made this particular deal with the devil.

According to the GateWorld review of Disclosure:

From across the room, representatives of the international community are gathered. They narrow their eyes, listening carefully and regarding one another with mingled distrust and disbelief … but enough about the U.N. Security Council. Let’s talk about “Disclosure.”

“Disclosure” was the inevitable clip show episode of Season Six, a relatively easy way for the producers to lessen their workload, give the actors some time off, and spare the budget for more pivotal episodes. The plot was straight-forward and the set simple. In fact, disregarding flashbacks, the whole of “Disclosure” takes place in a single room in the Pentagon, where ambassadors from the United Kingdom, China and France have assembled to be informed, in detail, about the existence of the Stargate program.

The premise of the episode is dual-purpose. First, after almost six years of various craft exploding in orbit and “meteors” falling into the ocean, the idea that these incidents would have gone unnoticed by the rest of the world is doubtful. Cover stories, as any UFO enthusiast can tell you, can only explain so much. And as Hammond points out, the threat from the Goa’uld — namely Anubis — warrants a much greater level of military preparedness than currently exists. If a full-force attack is launched, the world must be ready to react.

Unfortunately — as evidenced by the disclosure to Senator Kinsey during the first season episode “Politics” — the Stargate isn’t exactly something that’s easy to agree over.

Second, explaining the Stargate program and its history to the ambassadors is as good an excuse as any to explain it to the audience. While long-time fans may groan at seeing familiar clips strung together to emphasize simple points, it does give newer or less-focused viewers the opportunity to catch up. “Disclosure” was written under the assumption that Season Six would be Stargate SG-1‘s last, and recapping the past before heading off to the final episodes isn’t a bad idea. It’s a better strategy than the one The X-Files utilized; their series finale was a clip show, and the result was hardly satisfying.

Of course, “Disclosure” didn’t go over every arc from the past five-plus years, sticking mainly to the threat posed by the Goa’uld in general and Anubis in particular. For the most part, new viewers picked up the essentials about why Anubis is dangerous, and what possible defenses Earth has against him, including technology and allies.

The question is, can an episode that features only one of the show’s main characters — General George Hammond — stand as interesting in its own right? Even in “Politics” and “Out of Mind,” Stargate’s previous clip shows, the flashbacks were integrated into a dynamic cliffhanger-ending storyline … and they featured the complete cast. “Disclosure” has its drawbacks in that regard; clips aside, it’s the only episode ofStargate SG-1 in which none of SG-1 appears. But it also has its moments.

The anchor of the episode was General Hammond, who’s waited patiently through the years for his own episode. “Disclosure” wasn’t that, exactly, but Hammond was still the glue holding the episode together. His reactions to Kinsey’s accusations, and his calm interaction with Thor– excuse me, Supreme Commander Thor — were the audience’s reactions. As the ambassadors express their disbelief, suspicion and occasional snideness, and as Kinsey further riles them up, it is Hammond — and sidekick Major Davis — with whom we could identify.

The politics, both at the table and behind the scenes, also provided for some amusement. We all know that the Russians aren’t working with the S.G.C. out of the goodness of their hearts; wherever you find international cooperation, political and personal agendas are involved. Russia’s Colonel Chekov points out to the Chinese ambassador that playing second fiddle to the Americans has its advantages. The S.G.C. puts its lives — and the United States’ money — on the line, and Russia reaps the benefits.

Kinsey is up to his old machinations as well, trying to finagle control of the Stargate by manipulating the British, Chinese and French. However, a timely — not to mention unexpected and rather impressive — visit by Thor put a stop to any chance that plan might have had. When a bona fide alien beams into the Pentagon and makes a request … it’s understandably hard to say no.

Was “Disclosure” the most amusing, most thrilling, or most crucial episode of the season? No. But it did have a role to play, and it was successful in that regard. Now if we could just convince Thor to make a few more visits …

According to the GateWorld review of Full Circle:

Not knowing whether or not Season Six would be their last, The Powers That Be of Stargate deigned to call the season finale “Full Circle.” Even though fans have now been ensured 22 more episodes — and a possible movie — the title is still appropriate.

“Full Circle” is a good example of the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Once more we find a grave threat posed by a power-hungry Goa’uld. Once more we find Abydos under attack. Once more, mistakes are made and loved ones are lost, but there is still hope for the future.

Naturally, there are also differences. The show hasn’t hit a reset button or attempted to keep things at the status quo for the last six years. Along with the introduction of new enemies and allies, the characters have changed over time in ways too momentous to properly address in a short review. The team is closer, they have gained hard-won knowledge, and they have been through a slew of difficult experiences together. The Goa’uld, in all of their theatrical finery, aren’t as frightening anymore — as evidenced by Jack’s provocation of Herak — but what they can now do is all the more horrifying.

The character in this episode that’s changed the most physically is Daniel Jackson, who transformed into an “enlightened” glowing entity at the end of the fifth season. Since then, we’ve only seen him a few times as he attempts to get his Boy Scout merit badge in Moral Support. In “Full Circle” he returns to Abydos, trying to protect it as he was unable to in “Children of the Gods.” But, as an ascended being, he isn’t able to directly interfere. Instead he turns to SG-1, compelling them to go to Abydos and find the Eye of Ra before Anubis can discover its whereabouts.

However, no sooner do Jack and the others recover the would-be weapon than Daniel brokers a deal with Anubis. If the Eye is handed over, he says, Abydos will be safe and SG-1 will be free to use a tablet they found in the pyramid to locate the lost city of the Ancients.

Unfortunately, it’s very rare to have a Goa’uld who met a promise he didn’t like to break. With the Eye in his procession, Anubis quickly dispatches a fleet of motherships sent to stop him, and then destroys Abydos.

Many explanations may be given for Daniel’s actions. It is in character for him to have a narrow focus, to miss the big picture and focus on the small details instead. Add that to overconfidence in his abilities, or an assuredness that Anubis wouldn’t betray a fellow pseudo-Ancient by going back on his pledge. Or perhaps Daniel was aware of the big picture, came to realize that more was at stake in this situation than one planet, and decided to take a risk. In either case, the people of Abydos paid with their lives — or would have, had Oma not interceded.

In a way, the destruction of Abydos, the original planet from the Stargate movie, also brought a strange sense of closure to the series, and certainly a measure of finality.

This episode had a lot to accomplish in a relatively short time. Not only did it have to potentially complete the series, but it had to lead into the movie and drop in a few hints about the possible spin-off, as well. Because of this, the pace was slightly hurried. Depending on one’s stylistic preferences, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. The plot developed quickly, from the very minute that SG-1 find out about the Eye of Ra and its potential dangers.

But because of the large percentage of action in the episode, the character interaction suffered somewhat. For example, Daniel’s greeting to Sam was nearly nonexistent, and even the most dramatic events — such as Skaara’s death and the realization that the Abydonians had ascended — were a little stilted.

The final scene of the episode — what could very well have been the final scene of the series — was something else that was familiar; longtime viewers might be reminded of the closing scene in”Emancipation,” for example. And while it was comforting in its familiarity, it also left a little something to be desired. A bit more closure — perhaps a final scene on Earth, hinting at the future, however vaguely — would have been a nice addition. (A good example of such would be the closing scene in “Revelations.”)

All in all, I found “Full Circle” to be an enjoyable episode, asking questions and opening possibilities, driving home the idea that the journey is never really over. Although some characters had more prominent roles than others, there was hopefully something for everyone to enjoy: Jack’s wit and sarcasm, Skaara’s wedding invitation, lively banter between characters, Jonas’ use of the exclamation “sweet,” Teal’c firing a gigantic gun, and so on.

Would “Full Circle’s” ambiguity have gone over as well if it was the last episode of the series? We’ll never know. But the way things are now, it certainly makes us wonder what the future holds.

The Worst:

The Other Guys, Paradise Lost, and Prophecy

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In bits:

  • The Other Guys is one of the light-hearted SG-1 episodes I have had little liking towards;
  • Paradise Lost features Harry Maybourne and Colonel O’Neill together again, ugh; and,
  • Prophecy is a bit Jonas Quinn-centric with super-powers, and I was not interested in that.

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According to the GateWorld review of The Other Guys:

It has to be tough being Jack O’Neill. As the commanding officer of SG-1, he’s been through a lot over the past five years. Yet despite all the trauma, tragedy, and injuries to his psyche and body that he’s endured, O’Neill and SG-1 have managed to save the world seven — no, eight times. And now SG-1 has been chosen for another undercover assignment involving their reluctant allies, the Tok’ra.

And that’s when things all go horribly wrong.

Damian Kindler, the new Stargate SG-1 staff writer and producer, wrote “The Other Guys.” His previous SG-1 contribution was the story idea (with Robert C. Cooper) for the second season’s “Need.” “The Other Guys” is a witty episode, that skewered some longstanding science fiction themes and icons (particularly Star Trek and, more slyly,MacGyver), poked fun at SG-1, and even managed to reference at least three key plot elements for the sixth season.

The casting of John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox from Enterprise) as Simon Coombs (who was the Trekkie) was brilliant. Normally an Applied Math teacher at Yale, Coombs made an unwilling hero, but gamely went along with Jay Felger’s plan to rescue SG-1 from the Goa’uld. (Is there a more terrifying statement than “I have a plan?”)

Also astounding casting had Patrick McKenna (the nerdy Harold Green from Canada’s The Red Green Show) as Jay Felger — a lecturer in residence at M.I.T. Felger has a serious case of hero worship for Jack O’Neill (who mispronounced Felger’s name throughout the episode). And the fantasy at the end of the episode revealed another type of worship for Sam Carter.

The third scientist, Meyers, had a role of duct tape attached to the back of his equipment belt. Duct tape was a featured item on The Red Green Show — and it was something MacGyver never left home without inMacGyver.

Equally interesting was the casting of Adam Harrington as Khonsu. This actor previously guest-starred on SG-1 as “Goa’uld #2” in “Children of the Gods”; could he have been an undercover Tok’ra even back then?

Some of the Star Trek inspired themes in the episode included: the Klingon style bat’leth weapon hanging on the wall behind Khonsu’s throne; Coombs actually being a Trekkie; the ventilation shafts Felger and Coombs crawled through were reminiscent of the various Enterprise’s Jeffries Tubes; the reference from Coombs that he and Felger might as well be wearing red shirts (the red shirted Star Trek security officers were often the first to die) — and Lord Khonsu dressed in red is killed by his own First Prime. Even the red drapery behind Khonsu’s throne, decorated with the various swords, seemed similar to the decorations in Spock’s quarters aboard the Enterprise NCC-1701 during the original series of Star Trek.

I have to admit, though, my favorite was Coombs telling Felger where SG-1 was being held captive — in either an armory or a bathroom. Only a Trekkie, who has read the official blueprints of the U.S.S. Enterprise, would understand the humor of finding a bathroom on the schematics of a Goa’uld pyramid.

SG-1 isn’t spared from the spoofery. O’Neill had mentioned to Teal’c in “Redemption, Part 1” that Hammond wanted to appoint to SG-1 a “socio-political nerd” to offset their “overwhelming coolness.” Felger’s first remark about O’Neill and Teal’c is, “They are so cool!” The often-used being incarcerated for their own protection is again employed in this episode. And how about that cell aboard the ha’tak? It had a double set of doors — but a convenient escape panel that is magnetically locked.

Mention is made of Carter’s DHD reports (“Frozen”); Felger had studied every SG-1 mission report (shades of Jonas Quinn); Felger goes to rescue SG-1 because they never leave a man behind (although, technically, it’s the scientists who were left behind); Sam teased Jonas about not smiling (“Descent”); Coombs went the wrong direction on the ha’tak (which Jack has done on more than one occasion); and Jack even lectured Herak about ending a sentence with a preposition.

A key plot element in this episode was the fact that Lord Khonsu was an undercover Tok’ra. If there’s one Tok’ra impersonating a Goa’uld, it’s possible there could be more than one. Could this explain the recent developments with Lord Yu? After the events of “Abyss,” it appears that the alliance has not been broken with the Tok’ra. And — will the SGC find out where and how Anubis is obtaining his new technology?

The sixth season has been blessed not only with clever writing and magnificent direction, but also enriched with the gorgeous set designs from Bridget McGuire. Other essentials include the exquisite music from Joel Goldsmith (in this episode, we heard some Season One themes woven in among the new themes), fantastic special effects, and beautiful matte paintings by Kent Matheson and Matthew Talbot-Kelly.

And the lovely opening shot of the episode — the placid lake, the Stargate, the Goa’uld pyramid rising up above the trees, the three Death Gliders flying over head — helped emphasize that it’s not only the SG-1 team, but also all the component production elements of this series that elevate Stargate SG-1 from typical TV broadcasting to an entertainment art form.

According to the GateWorld review of Prophecy:

Precognitive visions and Goa’uld attacks aside, “Prophecy” is a very character-centered episode, one of the best showcasing Jonas Quinn since “Shadow Play.” Even if one isn’t particularly inclined towards the character, however, there’s still plenty about the episode that’s interesting and entertaining.

Whereas “Shadow Play” gave us some insight into Jonas’ past, “Prophecy” — ironically enough — sets the stage for his future, wherever it may lead. Through his interaction with Janet, we learn that after almost a year on Earth, serving with SG-1, Jonas still feels some of what he expressed back in “Descent”: the need to prove himself to others. Even though the rapidly-growing tumor in his brain could very well kill him, he puts the most importance on the potential good it could do as a strategic tool.

In a way, he’s correct; it’s his warning to Hammond that sets in motion a chain of events that changes the future as he foresaw it. But by arguing against surgery until the last minute, when Fraiser makes the decision for him, he also puts himself in terrible danger in order to be considered useful.

One of Jonas’ greatest struggles, as evidenced by his conversation with Sam in the infirmary, is to what degree the things that he sees are etched in stone. It’s a question that fictional characters — and their fans — have been asking at least since Charles Dickson’s “A Christmas Carol,” and probably even before. Can the future be changed? Is there such thing as fate? Do humans have free will or are the outcomes of our lives predestined?

It’s not a novel concept, especially for science fiction, but Stargate puts an interesting spin on it by bringing in Newtonian physics and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. In order to be able to predict what will happen in the future, Sam infers, we have to be able to observe it in the present. But in the case of quantum physics — and prophetic visions — one can’t observe without affecting the present … which in turn affects the future.

Jonas’ vision of the Jaffa ambush is the perfect example of this, and also brings up some complex paradoxes. Hammond sends a warning through, which leads the traitorous natives to realize that Jack, Teal’c and the others have escaped. Ignorant of Mot’s ambush at the Stargate, an alarm is sounded, which gives our heroes just enough notice to turn the tide and defeat the Jaffa. Hammond was only able to send the warning in the first place because of Jonas’ vision, but it was a vision of something which ultimately never happened.

Even though it’s not new, this is one of those topics that make for good television because it asks an unanswerable question, and even though the solution is elusive we find ourselves searching for it nevertheless, right along with the characters.

Jack and Teal’c are on the receiving end of Jonas’ visions, but they also play an important role in their liberation of the locals from the Mot, a Goa’uld slowly gaining power to escape servitude under Baal. Jack, Teal’c and the other members of the SGC were forced into an unstable situation, dealing with some individuals who acknowledged that Mot was not a god but feared his wrath above all else. It’s a new perspective on a common scenario: the terrorized citizens don’t see the Goa’uld so much as a divine being as a powerful tyrant possible to overthrown under the right conditions.

At the end of the day, of course, our heroes prevail. Precognitive visions led to Jack and Teal’c’s successful battle against Mot’s Jaffa. The predictably-villainous Mot himself was the recipient of some impressive amateur marksmanship. Sam missed out on much of the off-world fun, but she did get to have a nice heart-to-heart with Jonas.

And Jonas … he wound up getting something he probably never expected: an indication of real concern and acceptance from Jack (who may or may not realize that, for some, Vegas is a more appealing vacation spot than northern Minnesota).

Jonas’ fate from here on out is currently in question. However, fans of the character can certainly enjoy this episode for the insight it gives — and the hope that Jonas no longer feels that he must prove himself to his team.

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The next in best and worst is Season 5.

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13 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Stargate SG-1: Season 6

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