The Best and Worst of Stargate SG-1: Season 4

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For previous installments:

 

 

The Best:

Small Victories, The Other Side, Upgrades, Crossroads, Divide and Conquer, Window of Opportunity, Scorched Earth, Beneath the Surface, Tangent, The Curse, The Serpent’s Venom, Chain Reaction, 2010, Absolute Power, Prodigy, and Exodus

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In brief pieces:

  • Small Victories continues from Nemisis, with the Replicator threat, but concludes with two separate stories: Teal’c and O’Neill aboard the Russain submarine, and Carter and Thor in Othala;
  • The Other Side, like many episodes on this list, deal with some moral dilemma, a characteristic of much this season;
  • UpgradesCrossroads, and Divide and Conquer form a story involving the Tok’ra, Anise/Freya working with SG-1 in lieu of Tau’ri-Tok’ra Treaty being signed;
  • Window of Opportunity, inspired by the film Groundhog Day, is certainly one of the best episodes, which, of course, I put on rerun. However, there is a scene in which O’Neill kisses Carter, and this is done because he knows she will not remember it after the loop completes then restarts, meaning there will be no repercussions on his part for doing this to her;
  • Scorched Earth is another great moral story of the early episodes;
  • Beneath the Surface deals with SG-1 having their memories wiped or covered by new ones in order to be brought into a slave workforce beneath the surface of a planet;
  • Tangent is the first substantial foray in seeing the United States government utilizing Goa’uld technology to make ours more formidable;
  • The Curse introduces both Daniel Jackson’s former colleague, Dr. Sarah Gardner, and the Goa’uld, Osiris;
  • The Serpent’s Venom is a key episode regarding Goa’uld System Lord Apophis, whom becomes the most powerful Goa’uld in the galaxy “by far”;
  • Chain Reaction sees Senator Kinsey, with help from the NID, gets General Hammond to retire from Stargate Command so that way he can install General Bauer in order to dismantle SG-1;
  • 2010 is much better compared to it’s sequel, 2001;
  • Absolute Power is a yet another moral story on how to correctly utilize power, through Shifu, the Harcesis Child;
  • Prodigy introduces one of my favorite characters, Cadet Jennifer Hailey, and the episode also features U.S. Air Force Cheif of Staff General Michael Ryan; and,
  • Exodus has one of the best cliffhangers in the history of the show, as I remember being utterly floored the first time that I watched it.

According to the GateWorld review of Small Victories:

Wow, what a ride! “Small Victories,” the first episode of “Stargate SG-1’s” fourth season, has everything you could hope for in a blockbuster movie – tense drama, seat-gripping action, strong plotting and exquisite cinematography – as well as the humorous touches thatare so uniquely SG-1. This episode also brought us some interesting new looks.

The pacing for “Small Victories” was perfectly balanced for both of two temporarily divergent story threads, one with Carter assisting the Asgard, the other with the rest of SG-1 attempting to save Earth yet again. In contrast with its predecessor, “Nemesis,” there were no dull moments. This time, when Daniel was not only waiting for word, but actually watching the threat to his teammates’ lives, I could truly empathize with his concern.

The use of mini-cams on the helmets of those given the task of boarding the Replicator-infested submarine was a great touch. We, the viewers, were given the opportunity to feel more a part of the action, even to sense something of the tension experienced by Daniel, Major Davis and the others who were left behind to watch the monitors and make the final, and potentially even fatal decisions. The drama throughout Jack’s and Teal’c’s two separate treks into a veritable nest of Replicators was everything it needed to be, and was neither forced nor lacking.

In contrast, the “brain-storming” sessions with Carter and Thor (a potentially boring scenario) kept me engaged with its humor. It was an amusing irony to watch Carter taking Jack’s place not only in helping the Asgard, but also in her inability to comprehend their highly advanced technologies. Her echo of Jack’s “yah sure you betcha” as she enters the Stargate with Thor emphasizes her own awareness of the changing roles. Yet this heavy dose of humility was appropriately countered by the victorious outcome of the “stupid” idea she managed to develop for the apparently too-sophisticated Asgard.

It was also comical to hear Thor saying “I like the yellow ones” – referring to small,geometrically shaped food particles. I was briefly reminded of ET and the Reeses Pieces(TM) that character enjoyed so well. Thor’s food, however, was obviously a far cry from those colorful candies, as proved out by Carter’s gagging on the foul taste when she followed Thor’s advice.

From the opening scene, where the camera takes us on a crashing dive into the ocean and boards a Russian submarine, to the climactic moment when the cavalry (in the guise of Thor and his new Asgard ship) makes a nick-of-time rescue, barely preventing the imminent deaths of both Teal’c and O’Neill, I was thoroughly hooked. Everything “Nemesis” left me wanting, “Small Victories” provided tenfold.

I could still puzzle over some unanswered questions, particularly with regard to the utter lack of any reference to the potentially catastrophic effects of the Beliskner’s fiery crash at the conclusion of “Nemesis,” but “Small Victories” was such a success I won’t quibble over these minor points.

Some new looks greeted us with this season’s opener. Most notably, Teal’c is now sporting a bit of yellow fuzz on his chin. While the writers have acknowledged the change, they refuse to explain it. Even Daniel is left guessing. Upon greeting his teammates, who have returned to Earth one week following the events of “Nemesis,” Daniel’s effort to inform the Jaffa that something is on his chin is cut short when Jack shakes his head, as though to silently say “don’t go there.”

Carter, too has made a change. She’s sporting a new “do.” At first, it was fitting to see her with an unkempt, “bed-head” hair style. After all, the team had been off-world for over a week, and had been driven hard even before that. The general ordering Jack to take a shower was a rich testament to what can happen to a person after a week without such little pleasantries as a bath and a change of clothes. Yet after the showers were taken and things appeared to be back to normal, Sam’s hair was not. She wore the same “hair in her eyes”look throughout the episode. This may well be the latest trend in Hollywood, but the look does not seem fitting for a major in any branch of the armed services. I expect the general’s next command regarding personal hygiene to be “Major, get a hair cut.”

I couldn’t possibly end this review without commenting on the “O’Neill.” What greater honor could a military man receive than a ship with his name? And what a great irony that the “O’Neill” is the most technologically advanced Asgard ship ever built. It was unfortunate “she” was launched to complete her maiden voyage before she was ready, and that voyage had to be a suicide mission. Perhaps this was a subtle reminder that the living O’Neill and the rest of humanity aren’t quite ready to deal with the Asgard’s ways.

All in all, “Small Victories” is a victory in itself. How fortunate it was for us to get a project worthy of summer-time’s blockbuster big screen bonanza beamed right into our own living rooms.

According to the GateWorld review of The Other Side:

“The Other Side” is a compelling, philosophical study which raises numerous questions about the role of the S.G.C. in the universe and the character of Colonel Jack O’Neill, raising a plethora of moral and ethical issues.

Past episodes have made it clear that the actions of SG teams can have a profound impact on the worlds they travel to. “Touchstone,” for example, provides a glimpse of catastrophic effects, while “The Gamekeeper” shows that positive results can occur as well. In “The Other Side,” we see SG-1 come awfully close to causing perhaps the most profound catastrophe to date.

What if Hitler had come into power in the possession of technologies superior even to what we have today? This is a question addressed in “The Other Side” — and O’Neill nearly gives a Nazi-esque commander named Alar the resources not only to continue, but potentially to complete the “extermination” of “Breeders,” the name given an enemy whose only real fault we are eventually made aware of is that they reproduce with no regard to what the Eudonrans consider genetic perfection.

This episode shows us another side of Colonel Jack O’Neill, who begins to bear the most striking resemblance to date to his hard-edged counterpart portrayed by Kurt Russell in the original “Stargate” movie. Unconcerned with the consequences of his actions, Jack insists on negotiating with the Eurondans in order to gain new technologies which could aid the S.G.C. in their war against the Goa’uld. Despite General Hammond’s early statement that the S.G.C. could not and would not provide the resources to turn the tide in a world war, O’Neill seems prepared to do just that. Surely it is because of the general’s statement that the colonel persistently counters Daniel’s attempts to learn more about the war the Eurondans are fighting — and especially about the enemy, whose identity remains curiously obscured.

Like the tree falling in the forest, it is easy to ignore truths we’re not forced to hear.

O’Neill intends to keep himself blissfully ignorant. Daniel cannot. Thus Daniel becomes O’Neill’s conscience in this episode. Although Carter provides somewhat of a counter-balance, the resulting struggle threatens to drive a permanent wedge between the two characters. Luckily, Jack comes to see the Eurondans hidden truths, but he does so on his own.

Can Jack’s complete disregard of Daniel’s concerns be forgotten with a simple apology? Or can we expect further tension between the two? It will be interesting to see what happens in future episodes, particularly with regard to O’Neill’s character.

During Jack’s blissful ignorance, it was fun to see his kid-in-the-candy-store look when asked if he’d like to pilot a drone fighter and shoot down an unmanned target. But the subsequent revelation that the Eurondans best pilot is a vegetable provides the colonel with the first tangible evidence that something is not quite right there. He could ignore Alar’s cautious and perhaps even suspicious attitude toward Teal’c. He could ignore the elegant furnishings in this version of Hitler’s bunker. He could even ignore Alar’s ongoing refusal to justify the continued fight over a poisoned world, and Daniel’s ongoing struggle to understand what might be left there to fight for. Yet the state of that pilot was real, and unavoidable.

Why is it that Alar recognizes the pilot’s condition as well as the cause of that condition, but allows the man to continue fighting nonetheless? Jack should be asking this question. But O’Neill is still not prepared to give up his ignorance, not even when he sees the faces in the bomber he later shoots down (these faces, one black and one white, can be seen clearly on a slow, frame by frame video replay). This event angers him, but it is not until Alar asks Jack to return without Teal’c that he is fully prepared to learn the truth.

I have to say here that I am reminded somewhat of Machello (“Holiday”). Machello’s entire life had been devoted to developing technologies to fight the Goa’uld. That this noble sacrifice leads his entire planet to complete and utter devastation in the attempt to ensure he and his inventions remained protected paves the way for phenomenal philosophical debate. Can the destruction of one entire planet justify whatever technologies are gained? Does such a sacrifice significantly differ from the Goa’uld’s methods of obtaining technologies?

Colonel O’Neill did not think so, nor did he believe Machello’s knowledge was worth obtaining for the cost of one man’s life. Had that man been anyone other than his friendand team-mate, Daniel Jackson, I don’t believe his feelings would have been any different.

How then could the colonel justify the procurement of the Eurondans’ technologies? Simply through his ignorance, which clearly explains his fervor to keep Daniel quiet and leave the questions unspoken.

At the end of this episode, Jack displays an intense, cold yet calculated hatred as he steps calmly back through the Stargate and casually orders the iris to be closed. Under the shocked glare of Carter, he not only allows but causes Alar’s death. But what is he actually trying to destroy? Alar, or his own heedless attitude?

I missed Jack’s barbs and witticisms in this episode. I was, for the most part, just as stunned, confused and angered by Jack’s attitude as Daniel.

That I have spent the entirety of this review addressing the characters and the content of this episode is a tribute to both cast and crew of “Stargate SG-1.” “The Other Side” was wonderfully plotted and executed, and the acting was dead-on. I can only wonder at Jack’s true motivations, and the shades of grey within him.

According to the GateWorld review of Crossroads:

“Crossroads” in an intriguing episode. I was pleased to see new depth given to the character of Teal’c, who is finally allowed to show some true emotions, ranging from incredibly high spirits — at one point perhaps even basking in a bit of “afterglow” — to intense grief.

Yet “Crossroads” was not focused entirely on our favorite Jaffa. Rather, we are given a new Goa’uld enemy, and a new reason to distrust the Tok’ra.

Though we quickly learn of a history between Teal’c and Sho’nac, the Jaffa priestess who travels through the Stargate to the SGC using Master Bra’tac’s ID code, I had difficulty trusting Sho’nac’s motivations through most of the episode. Her claims to have established a communication with the larval Goa’uld within her and subsequently to have turned it against the cruel ways of its species were impossible to prove. Like the S.G.C., I was skeptical of her request to be sent to the Tok’ra.

Teal’c’s complete trust in Sho’nac could not be disputed. Yet as Sho’nac slowly convinces him to quit the S.G.C. and join her in a rebellion he himself started, my own distrust of her grew ten-fold. Her words had the ring of truth, of believability; but there was something behind those words, something unspoken which activated my own warning lights and made me want to shake Teal’c until he saw those lights as well.

Later it became evident that she was simply a poor, misguided soul who wanted so desperately to make a difference that she was easily swayed into believing she had.

But just what is the tale of Teal’c and Sho’nac? Clearly, their previous relationship had been a romantic one. They might even have been each other’s first loves, given the clue that they had been children together. It is also quite obvious throughout “Crossroads” that their love had never actually died, despite Sho’nac becoming a priestess, and even despite Teal’c’s marriage to Drey’auc.

I was surprised that no mention of Drey’auc was ever made. Has Teal’c not forgiven her for dissolving their marriage in order to marry another, and thus ensure a more positive future for their son?

I like that these questions can be raised. The character of Teal’c has always been a passionate if stoic one. His passion for what is right drives his loyalty and builds the foundation for the honor his very existence seems to symbolize, but the passion itself has not been explored.

Here, in “Crossroads,” that passion takes a romantic turn, and even manages to blind Teal’c to potential risks. That he can trust Sho’nac explicitly leads him to ignore the possibility that she may, indeed, be wrong in her own beliefs. That she might have been tricked by the Goa’uld she had carried within her is not even a consideration.

I liked this challenge to Teal’c’s good senses. Even Teal’c can make mistakes in judgement. He is made more real, more human, by this fallibility. The concrete statue is becoming flesh and blood.

In addition to the added dimensions in the character of Teal’c, the newly matured Goa’uld, Taneth, opens up a myriad of possibilities for future episodes. Taneth is directly responsible not only for Sho’nac’s and Teal’c’s misplaced hopes, but also for Sho’nac’s death.

And now we have a known Goa’uld spy among the Tok’ra. Can the Tok’ra truly prevent this spy from damaging, if not destroying their movement against the System Lords? The Tok’ra are as arrogant as their brethren Goa’uld; and I can’t help but wonder if that arrogance might be their undoing.

Still other possibilities surround the introduction of Taneth, perhaps the most intriguing of which is Teal’c’s promise that they will meet again, spoken through the guise of friendship but charged with Teal’c’s rage. Teal’c knows very well that Taneth murdered Sho’nac, and he is eager to seek revenge. Taneth, on the other hand, seems cunningly deceptive in his mutual promise to Teal’c. I can’t help but imagine that he holds an equal thirst for blood.

The part of Taneth is well acted. There is a sly glare in his eyes, a sinister smirk in his “friendly” smile. He reminds me somewhat of Caesar, pompous yet insightful and unhindered by traditional morals or ethics. I will be eager to see what this new threat brings to future episodes.

Finally, the Tok’ra, and most particularly the character of Anise, are rapidly losing any credibility they may have had with the S.G.C.

Hebron of Parabel becomes a willing host for Sho’nac’s matured Goa’uld, believing in the noble purpose that his action would serve his people. Yet when confronted with Taneth’s true nature, Anise casually dismisses Hebron’s sacrifice with the simple acknowledgment that he knew the risks. There is no sense of remorse, despite that the Tok’ra had expected Taneth’s motives to be deceptive.

Anise continues to use humans as pawns in the Tok’ra’s war against the Goa’uld. But does she act alone in her careless disregard of humankind, or is she just the first of the Tok’ra to reveal their true nature?

I enjoyed “Crossroads.” This was indeed a dramatic episode, one which explores the “epic” side of “Stargate SG-1.” So different from the first three episodes of this season (the believable and not so believable adventures of “SmallVictories” and “Upgrades,” and the dark, philosophical study of “The Other Side”), this week’s installment further shows the wide range of capabilities on the part of writers, directors and actors alike.

According to the GateWorld review of Divide and Conquer:

“Divide and Conquer” yields a wealth of surprises. Just as Colonel O’Neill and viewers like me are getting less and less trusting of the Tok’ra, the SGC hosts the signing of a treaty between the Tok’ra high council and the president of the United States. The plot thickens even further with an acknowledgement that both Sam and Jack care about each other a lot more than they’re supposed to, and with the unfortunate demise of Martouf.

Considering all of the above, it might be easy to surmise that “Stargate SG-1” is starting to go the route of a sappy soap-opera. However, that is far from true. The writing continues to be exceptional, and these little plot twists are only serving to strengthen the show.

The idea of a Goa’uld brainwashing technique is another good angle to add to the growing list of weapons the System Lords can use in their ongoing attempts to defeat both the Tok’ra and the Tau’ri (Earth). The possibility of Goa’uld influence on unsuspecting SG teams with mere seconds of contact is an intriguing one, and I’ll be curious to see what, if any, precautions will be enacted to protect against internal sabotage by affected “za’tarcs.”

It is also interesting to see the Tok’ra concealing yet more information from the SGC. But most intriguing was the fact that it was Freya, the Tok’ra I have come to trust least, who finally insisted on sharing her theory about za’tarcs, while Martouf, the only Tok’ra besides Sam’s father whom I have ever truly come to trust, insisted instead that the theory was pure conjecture and not worth mentioning – despite Freya’s evidence to the contrary. Perhaps this should have prepared me for the discovery that Martouf himself had become a victim of this new Goa’uld threat.

SG-1’s writers continue to surprise me. Still, they did leave some apparent “holes.” If even the members of the Tok’ra high council were tested for Goa’uld influence, why would Martouf not have been subjected himself to the test? With the intense levels of security being undertaken by both the SGC and the Tok’ra, this lapse is not logical, and thus doubtful.

Martouf’s death, augured by his being on the receiving end of at least a dozen bullets but hastened by Sam Carter firing a second zat blast, was another surprising and touching moment. I will miss this character, as well as the ongoing possibility of romantic involvement between him and Carter. However, it must be noted that this reduces the number of “suiters” interested in Sam, and thus increases Jack’s own odds.

Yes, Sam and Jack have finally admitted to having stronger feelings for one another than they should, given their current military status. However, they have not acted upon those feelings, and have even agreed to keeping them under wraps. These considerations are crucial to maintaining the integrity as well as the longevity of the series. A certain contingent of fans will now be eagerly anticipating that first kiss. Still another contingent will be dreading that inevitability. Let’s keep ’em all waiting, shall we?

I’m still not quite sure what to make of the Anise/Freya character. There’s a definite duality which makes her challenging to interpret. Though I wish she would get rid of the MarvelTM comics wardrobe, I’m growing to like this duality, with Anise as the ultimate Goa’uld scientist, arrogant and secretive, while her human host, Freya, is more forthright and humane, even seeming distraught as the young lieutenant commits suicide after failing her Goa’uld-implanted mission.

This differentiation between symbiote and host is further emphasized when Freya acts on her growing feelings for Jack, yet states that her symbiote, Anise, is more interested in Daniel. Confusing? Absolutely. Entertaining? Well, that part I’m not sure about either. Freya/Anise certainly dresses for the role of someone’s love interest, but I don’t believe that type of romance is needed in this series.

There are some good Daniel and Jack moments in this episode as well. It was interesting to hear Jack ask Daniel what he would do, given the choices our favorite colonel was faced with; and it was interesting also to hear Daniel comment about the Jack O’Neill moments he would miss the most, while Jack was utterly absorbed in untangling a yo-yo. But the messages told here go far beyond the words spoken.

These two characters have established a tacit closeness, even a reliance upon one another. Jack is admitting to trusting Daniel’s good judgment. Daniel is admitting to a certain degree of frustration in their ongoing inability to communicate at a higher level. Later, when the Tok’ra leader commends Daniel’s word-smithing of the treaty, Dr. Jackson’s mind is obviously elsewhere, presumably with the friends he may never be able to communicate with again, on any level.

My last comments are directed at the treaty itself. The last time a treaty was signed at the SGC, it involved the System Lords and the Asgard agreeing to give Earth protected planet status. This time, the president of the United States is representing Earth in an agreement with the Tok’ra to fight the Goa’uld. Will this new treaty nullify that firstone? Here is another curious thread I will be expecting to see unraveled in the future.

 

According to the GateWorld review of Window of Opportunity:

“Stargate SG-1’s” version of “Groundhog Day” was thoroughly entertaining. I found myself laughing out loud frequently. Yet this episode was not the comic book that “Upgrades” was. A recurring loop of time is at least more plausible than the superhuman powers experienced by the team in “Upgrades.” And the various ways in which that loop was utilized were also plausible.

Certainly, one of Jack’s moments-sans-consequences will have fans talking – again. A furvor of Internet activity resulted from last week’s “Divide and Conquer,” an episode which, as at least one fan phrased it, managed to divide and conquer the fans. Those encouraged by the possibility of a Sam and Jack relationship were delighted. Others who fear that such a relationship would destroy the show were appalled.

I found myself part of an entirely other contingent of fans who believe the situation is being handled appropriately. SG-1 can continue to operate as a team, with Jack as Sam’s CO, as long as these two maintain the working relationship they have already developed rather than acting on the mutual attraction which has now been admitted.

Of course, this week Jack did finally act on that attraction by first tendering his resignation then swooping Sam into his arms for a mega-kiss. Some fans will surely insist this will irreparably alter the course of the show. I disagree.

Jack was forced to endure the same moments over and over again. Daniel gave him the option to take a little vacation now and then – to do things without ever having to face the consequences. Hence the wormhole-golf, bicycling through the halls of the SGC, and even calling the good general “George.”

If Jack O’Neill was acting on impulses, why wouldn’t he also act on his interest in Sam? The only thing preventing a relationship between them is consequences. Here, with an endless loop of time erasing all consequences, the kiss just makes sense. In fact, I would have found the story less plausible had he not done something to acknowledge his feelings for Sam, now that those feelings have been substantiated.

I did find Jack to be a bit cruel in allowing Daniel to get bulldozed in the hallway on several occasions before finally taking action to alter that particular loop.

I also would have liked to have seen more of how Teal’c made use of his opportunities. It was good to see Teal’c finally slam the door back on the guy who had been continuously smacking him with it on each recurring loop. The Jaffa also had a pretty nice golf swing, as well as being a pretty good juggler. But these two activities were prompted by Colonel O’Neill. What would Teal’c have done on his own? What opportunities was he so eager to make use of as he dropped his chalk and hurried from the room as soon as he was made to consider them? The writers could have made use of this story to build greater character developmentin our beloved but little-understood Jaffa.

Despite the humor throughout “Window of Opportunity,” the moment of truth at the end is a poignant one. Malakai simply wants to see his dead wife one more time. That he’s caught 14 planets in an endless loop of time as he attempts to go back 12 years to achieve this reunion is of no matter to him – at least not until Jack gets him to realize that success would only force him to watch her die yet again. It might seem odd that Malakai would not have come to that realization on his own; yet grief can make us all lose focus sometimes.

In addition to the psychological studies this episode provides, we’re also given another glimpse into the existence of “the Ancients,” the original builders of the Stargate system. Those people created an incredible time machine, but the invention was a failure. It could not be made to work as it had been intended. Thus the Ancients were not perfect. Not only did the time machine fail, they also lost a colony to some unnamed calamity. They could build “roads” to other worlds, but they could not play god.

The special effects in this episode were outstanding, giving us an interesting planet and a glimpse of great ruins which would have seemed like a smorgasbord to the likes of Dr.Daniel Jackson. I was also impressed with the use of music which accompanied the more humorous scenes.

All in all, “Window of Opportunity” was wonderfully done. Though I was never much of a fan of the original “Groundhog Day” movie starring Bill Murray, I will count this so-called “remake” among my favorite Stargate episodes to date.

Now, I wonder how well Jack will remember the translations he’d had to learn. And will we ever find out what Daniel had been talking about so fervently over Jack’s morning Fruit Loops?

 

According to the GateWorld review of Scorched Earth:

“Scorched Earth” is a story ripe in moral and ethical dilemmas. Does the SGC have the right to decide who lives and who dies? That is the question posed here.

Two civilizations are utterly dependent on the choices to be made by the SGC, represented by Colonel O’Neill. In simplest terms, O’Neill must choose which society deserves to live on this planet. Looking at his choice from another perspective, however, it becomes far more harsh, for only one culture can survive. Perhaps this is why our colonel refuses to see that angle.

Colonel O’Neill remains frustratingly single-minded in this episode. He feels a deep sense of obligation to the Enkarans. This obligation prevents him from seeing Lotan’s perspective, thus he feels no sense of duty, neither morally nor ethically, to resurrecting the dead but preserved civilization that enabled the creation of Lotan – the Gadmeer.

The choices faced by Colonel O’Neill in “Scorched Earth” bear a striking resemblance to those in “The Other Side.” In that recent episode, Jack was so adamant to obtain potential Goa’uld-fighting technologies that he was ready to arm one side in a global war without ever coming to learn what the war was about, or what the opponent represented.

Jack’s single-mindedness in that episode nearly resulted in his assisting with genocide. That revelation lead the colonel to indirectly commit murder, closing the iris after a nazi-esque leader stepped through the Stargate to Earth. Therefore, I was a little surprised at first to find that attitude resurfacing again so soon.

By refusing to acknowledge the rights of the Gadmeer, Colonel O’Neill is effectively repeating his error – though this time he, alone, would be directly responsible for the genocide. His decision to arm a naquadah reactor aimed at destroying the Gadmeer’s terraforming vessel would not only wipe out that race, it would destroy any and all evidence that they had ever existed.

It might be said that the colonel is simply performing his duty. Colonel Jack O’Neill is a military man. The SGC has allied itself with the Enkarans. Any threat to the Enkarans, unless also allied with the SGC, is to be considered a threat to the SGC. End of story.

Even Major Carter is forced to accept this possibly skewed perspective. Though she obviously disagrees with the colonel’s decision, she is under his command and must follow orders. Teal’c also feels compelled to obey. It is therefore left to Daniel Jackson, a civilian, into whom that intense military code has not been so thoroughly ingrained, to find a compromise.

I enjoyed this story tremendously, as I enjoy most character studies. The choices each individual makes speak volumes about who they are. Jack is military, all the way. His first obligation is to his duty. He saw it as his duty to destroy the Gadmeer ship. When he learned that Daniel was aboard that ship, he waited as long as he could. He hesitated for critical seconds after Carter announced that he had to act immediately. But his duty to the Enkarans over-rode his duty to Daniel. And he activated the device.

Wow!

I have no doubt that he would have mourned that decision, but not regretted it, if the ship had blown and Daniel had in fact died with it. However, the ship did not blow. Daniel struck a compromise with Lotan at the last possible second, and the device was transported away.

How will these events affect the character of Colonel Jack O’Neill? Perhaps not at all. Of course he will be glad that Daniel survived, that everyone survived. But seeing as how the events of “The Other Side” did not affect his decisions here, I doubt the events of “Scorched Earth” will affect his decisions in later, potentially similar situations. Jack O’Neill is trained to make quick decisions in the field based on immediate facts. If we see him begin to hesitate, we will see his military career, and a huge piece of who he is, begin to die.

The next question is: how will these events affect the relationship between Jack and Daniel? Again, I’m not sure it will. Daniel knows Jack’s military “single-mindedness.” Jack knows Daniel’s chivalric nature. These characters are perfect opposites, and as such they strike a great balance. They keep each other grounded.

I cannot possibly end this review without once again applauding the special effects artists. The ship and its terraforming fires were phenomenally depicted. I could truly imagine what it must be like to stand among the Enkarans and watch it’s arrival. Terrifying could scarcely describe the sensation.

The size of the ship could be assessed by its slow, hardly discernable movement, which I compare to watching the approach of an immense, yet distant storm. You know it’s coming, but you also know you have some time to watch its progress in awe before heading into the basement. Of course, the Enkarans had no such refuge. They were ready to die.

All in all, this was another wonderful offering from a cast and crew I have come to thoroughly respect. In “Scorched Earth” they have given us another planet to visit; they have introduced us to two very different cultures; and they have given us another glimpse into the best and the worst of our favorite characters. Although I’m not entirely convinced the Enkarans would have been as steadfast as they were under the circumstances (unless these are the bravest souls known to man!), I have to give this episode a very high rating, indeed!

 

According to the GateWorld review of Beneath the Surface:

“Beneath the Surface” was aptly titled, describing both the underground facility in which SG-1 has been trapped as part of a willing slave labor force, and the memories of the team members which have been buried under new personalities. This story played itself out very well. I stayed interested, and any doubts I may have had about believability were responded to adequately as the plot unfolded.

At first, I was unsure about the concept presented here. Why would the administrator of aculture anticipating trade negotiations with the SGC essentially kidnap the team members, stamp their minds with false memories, and hide them away as laborers? Yet as Jack began to remember, the reasons became only too clear.

The character of the administrator is a perfectly portrayed autocrat with a massive superiority complex. The workers are nothing to him. They bring power to his great, domed city, and as such they are no better than machines themselves. They are not welcome in his city. They are not welcome in his presence. He won’t even deign to dirty his hands by physically touching the reports given him by Brenna, the woman in charge of the plant; he will only accept them from her once he has carefully arranged a red cloth between his flesh and the file.

His actions with SG-1 are therefore easily understood. Made aware of the slavery, Colonel O’Neill not only refuses to promote the trade negotiations, he also passes “judgment” on the administrator and his ways. This is, of course, completely unacceptable to the administrator.

I was also a bit uncertain initially about the interactions between the members of SG-1 when they appear as strangers to one another. I was most taken back by the early fight between Jack and Daniel. Even having no recollection of any prior friendship, I would expect some sense of familiarity. Yet, on retrospect, Jack was simply trying to help out Sam, while Daniel was trying to help Kegan, a woman he had been finding companionship with. As the episode progressed, and it became clear there was no real animosity between them, I became far more accepting and understanding of the incident.

The progress of remembering that was experienced by the team members was intriguing, and well-handled. Teal’c is the first to remember. Given his extreme physiological differences, attributed to the larval Goa’uld he carries, it makes sense that the memory stamping would affect him differently. Further, his failure to remember his need to perform Kelnorim, and the subsequent illness this failure caused, added credence to the story.

That Daniel is the only one to actually listen to Teal’c’s claims is understandable also. The memory stamping focuses on a deep sense of commitment, the “honor to serve,” as theworkers continuously state. Jack and Sam, as members of the military, were both familiar with and accepting of this notion long before their arrival on this planet. They both have long had a deep commitment; they both believe in the “honor to serve.” The memory stamp did not need to instill this sense into them, it needed only to alter the direction of their commitment, i.e. the establishment which they are so honored to serve.

Daniel, however, is not military. His commitment has long been simply to understand cultures, and to map out histories. It is little wonder, therefore, that once he realizeshe can not see his own history as complete, that there are holes in his awareness, he needs to fill those holes. Thus it is Daniel who pursues Jack and Sam, and tries to find his memories with them.

Like Daniel, Sam is a scientist, a person who is used to asking “why.” Even despite her militaristic sense of duty, I liked that she listened to Daniel, and that she shared his dreams about a glowing “puddle.”

Jack, on the other hand, is not used to asking; rather, he is used to doing what he is told. His dreams are more mundane, and, presumably, somewhat sexual in nature, given his persistent attraction to Sam, one that could not be blocked with the rest of his memories. He is the last to remember, though when he does so his memory comes through far more vividly than it does for the others. And it becomes very apparent, painfully so, that he is disappointed to remember that his relationship with Sam must remain platonic.

The last piece to the puzzle of this well-conceived story is the SGC. Hammond’s attempts to be diplomatic with the administrator – despite his obvious misgivings – was in keeping with governmental obligations. Major Griff’s off-the-record report that Colonel O’Neill would never have allowed his teammates to explore the glacier under such harsh conditions answered another question that I had considered early on, and that surely the general would have wondered as well.

Still, my question went one further: if SG-1 did feel the need to explore the glacier, even against the advice of the administrator, wouldn’t the administrator, given his own involvement in diplomatic obligations, have sent guides with them, and otherwise attempted to ensure their safety? Though this was not touched on in the story, I have no doubt it would have been on the general’s mind, and would surely have increased his suspicions.

Yet, while the major’s revelation might solidify General Hammond’s suspicions, it would not untie his hands. He would remain obligated to do what his superiors require of him, and until he can provide them with any concrete evidence of foul play, they would continue to require the negotiations to proceed. Nonetheless, I expect that if SG-1 had not managed to free themselves, the general may well have authorized the covert mission alluded to in his discussion with Dr. Fraiser.

The storyline in “Beneath the Surface” is not among my favorites. However, this is certainly among the most well-written episodes. There were no holes evident in the plotting. There were no poorly handled threads. Rather, it was well and tightly woven.

My only complaint is in the utter failure to link SG-1’s memories in any way with the skylights in the underground facility. When the special effects team designed these lights,perhaps the resemblance they bore to the Stargate was overlooked. That is unfortunate. I expected any one of the teammates at any time to look up, see the blue sky and the ice beyond those distant windows, and envision a pool of shimmering water.

 

According to the GateWorld review of Tangent:

“Tangent” was everything I could ask for in an episode. Drama, suspense, action, adventure and humor all rolled up into one neat, tidy and well-wrapped package. We even had a little visit from one of our favorite Tok’ra – Sam’s father, Jacob – and what might have been a glimpse into a Tok’ra’s influence over it’s host. (Has Jacob truly come to realize that humanity is, in fact, infantile and careless in its naivete, or were his opinions the result of Tok’ra arrogance – even though it was Jacob speaking rather than his symbiote?)

Here is another teaser in a season of teasers created to make us all second-guess the Tok’ra’s intentions and their true nature.

It was intriguing, but in keeping with this season’s course, to hear that the Tok’ra were capable of rescuing the colonel and Teal’c, but that the now infamous high council had declared they could do nothing until their closest operative, Jacob, had completed his current mission.

It was even more intriguing to learn that Anise had surreptitiously supplied Daniel with sufficient information to allow the SGC to contact that operative themselves, though the Tok’ra’s mission could thus be jeopardized. Daniel, of course, was too angry to recognize this little seed of help. After all, our favorite archeologist is not military and has a lot to learn about the tricks of the espionage trade; and let’s not forget that Anise’s symbiote was said to have romantic interests in him. His awareness of her interests could easily cloud his mind, and strengthen his frustrations.

This brings up another question: did Anise provide that seed for the sake of relations with the SGC and Earth, or merely because Anise herself has romantic interests in Jack? Ah, the plot thickens…

From a plotting perspective, “Tangent” was very well orchestrated. The three major threads – Jack and Teal’c trapped in space, the SGC’s coordination of rescue efforts, and Sam and Daniel’s mission to enlist Jacob’s aid – were expertly woven, providing us with a solidly told story that left no holes, and no loose threads to keep us hanging.

Unlike “Watergate,” which left me with an empty feeling,the sense that the story itself was incomplete, “Tangent” was wrapped up in a perfect bow; yet it still managed to end with a few questions that may or may not be answered in future episodes – questions such as: why are two Goa’uld mother ships and a “bad neighborhood,” as Jacob phrased it, so “close” to Earth?

The only potential hole I found had to do with the glider. Will it continue to float in space, allowed to wander back to Apophis in the next few hundred years? Will some stray Goa’uld or other race find it, and trace it back to Earth? Will there be repercussions? But rather than a true “hole” or loose thread, I see this more as a teaser, a curiosity to keep in mind and look for later in this or future seasons.

I loved the drama associated with Jack’s and Teal’c’s predicament. There was a moment when they were acknowledging the hopelessness of their situation and the camera panned away in conjunction with a wonderful musical composition that drew me in and gave me pause. I “felt” this moment far better than the one in last season’s “Nemesis” when Teal’c was floating in space unable to get back inside Thor’s ship. The sense of drama that I found missing in that episode was well accounted for in this one.

There was also a good deal of suspense here, particularly when Sam and Daniel were transported onto Jacob’s ship. I truly did not know who might come through that door as Sam trained her weapon on it in anticipation. I thought perhaps these two members of SG-1 had tripped some sort of booby trap on the planet and might need some rescuing themselves.

I liked the bickering between Jacob and Sam. As father and daughter they had surely done alot of arguing in their past, especially considering that they had been estranged. Yet since Jacob became a Tok’ra they’ve had nothing but respect and appreciation for one another. The bickering in this episode lent a greater sense of reality to their relationship, as well as providing the teaser mentioned above regarding the Tok’ra symbiote’s influence over its host.

Though it was based in space, this episode did seem to stay grounded in reality. From our retrofitting a death glider despite our failure to understand the physics behind it, to the time-lagged communications, to the attempted use of the glider’s missiles to boost its thrust for a sling-shot effect around Jupiter, the entire episode had a sense of believability.

I wasn’t entirely sure about the moment between Colonel O’Neill and Teal’c exiting the glider into space and subsequently being picked up by the transport rings. It seemed to me they should have somehow clung together to ensure they were close enough to be safely and simultaneously transported onto Jacob’s ship. However, I’m no physicist, so I’m not one to judge whether or not that might have been a discrepancy. I only mention this because it was, quite frankly, the single potential flaw I observed. Nothing else in the scripting or the production itself disturbed me even the slightest bit.

As for the time-lagged communications, I couldn’t help but notice that Jack’s tirade about Apophis was hopelessly garbled by the time it reached the SGC, though the rest of his message made it through pretty well. Had he consciously prevented those words from transmitting?

Clearly, despite the drama and suspense already discussed, “Tangent” was not without humor. Right in the beginning when SG-1 is introduced to the general from the pentagon and allthose titles get tossed around – i.e. “Colonel,” “General,” “Major,” “General,” “Doctor,””General” – it was made clear this would be a traditional SG-1 episode. One line which will long be a favorite was Daniel’s admission to having introduced himself to the Goa’uld as “the great and powerful Oz.” This is surely a classic “Stargate SG-1” moment.

To the credit of the writers, all of our favorite characters were true to form in “Tangent.” Daniel’s having to ask the time while still transmitting his message to Jack, Teal’c’s declaration that he sees O’Neill as a brother, Jack’s “back at you” comment in response, and Sam’s never give up, there’s always an answer attitude were perfect. I also enjoyed seeing Major Davis again. It’s good to know someone in Washington honestly cares about the SGC and SG-1, especially with the likes of Senator Kinsey and Colonel Maybourne floating around.

The cast and crew certainly put their best collective foot forward this week. “Tangent” epitomizes what “Stargate SG-1” is meant to be.

 

According to the GateWorld review of The Curse:

What an intriguing change of pace! I thoroughly enjoyed this little diversion away from what we might consider the status quo for “Stargate SG-1.”

While you’ve heard me state that I prefer planetary excursions to Earth-bound episodes, you won’t find me complaining that no one actually stepped through the Stargate in “The Curse.”

My interest was immediately piqued when this episode opened with a scene involving two unknown characters in a museum office filled with ancient artifacts. The mystery of who they were, why the younger character seemed to steal an amulet, and what significance that theft might have, captured my attention completely. I was reminded of those quiet, rainy Saturday afternoons as a child, when I used to curl up in front of the TV to watch old horror movies.

I enjoyed those old movies; and I enjoyed this new take on them. I’m also happy to report that there was nothing sappy or corny about this “remake”. Though zombi-fied mummies could frighten me as a child, I would have been disappointed had one made an appearance here. Of course, the writers of Stargate SG-1 have consistently provided intelligent scripts, and I expected (and happily found) nothing less with “The Curse.”

Daniel Jackson’s return to his academic past was a welcome detour. I have often wondered how his relative “disappearance” from the academic community might have impacted both him, and that community. When he bumps into two old classmates, Steven and Sarah, we begin to catch a glimpse of just that — though it is a glimpse only.

The varying perspectives of Steven and Sarah leave us unsure how Daniel’s disappearance truly affected Dr. Jordan, his former mentor. If Steven is to be believed, Daniel was a “bitter disappointment” to Dr. Jordan. If Sarah is to be believed, the professor had remained hopeful that Daniel would one day find proof to substantiate his unorthodox opinions about the origins of Egypt’s ancient pyramids.

We later learn that Sarah had been taken as a host by the Goa’uld Osiris. Presumably, she had already been under Osiris’ influence from the moment we are first introduced to her ass he greets Daniel at Dr. Jordan’s funeral. Still, I was initially of a mind to believe her explanation over Steven’s. On giving this more thought, however, I now think both were right, to some degree.

I liked Steven’s character, and would be happy to see him again. I would love to see him become involved in the Stargate program, to perhaps take the place of poor Dr. Rothman. His subsequent interactions with Daniel could provide interesting fodder for future episodes. Would his jealousy increase, or would he grow to respect the man he associated with Dr.Jordan’s most bitter disappointment?

Steven is atypical from what we are accustomed to seeing on television. He is not a completely horrible person, driven solely by jealousy and hatred. He is far more real than that, more complex. He is far more three-dimensional.

Steven’s theft of the amulet provided the audience with another piece of the mystery to solve. At first, we wonder why he stole the amulet. Later, as evidence mounts against him, we are led to conclude that he is the one whom Osiris has taken as a host. The writers followed a typical path in mysteries, in that they pointed us in the direction of one suspect, then tried to surprise us with the real villain at the very end. I’m glad Steven wasn’t the villain. That would have been too obvious. Yet I’m not convinced I like Sarah as the villain, either.

I’m not as fond of Sarah’s character as I am of Steven’s. She has less depth than he. Here we have a beautiful woman with a lilting, romantic English accent, who seems the epitome of perfection. Perfectly innocent, and perfectly accepting of Daniel’s return. We are even given hints suggesting that she may have been a former love interest of our favorite archeologist, yet she exhibits no discomfort at seeing him, and harbors no ill feelings against him at all. There is nothing to suggest why they stopped seeing each other.

But “The Curse” provided some fabulous moments for character development. Daniel is seen by Steven as “the Prodigal Son” returning. He has lost all respect in the archeological community, yet he holds his head high. He has pride in himself, even if no one else does; and he is willing to face ridicule, if such is to occur, in order to pay his last respects to a favorite mentor.

Once again we see that the quiet archeologist is far more than the geek Kurt Russell’s Jack O’Neil first met in the original “Stargate” movie. Dr. Daniel Jackson is strong and courageous by nature. He always has been. After all, it had to take “guts” to stand up in a room full of his colleagues and tell them their deeply ingrained beliefs about ancient Egypt were false. Yet his courage is subtle, and can easily be overlooked by writers and viewers, alike. Fortunately, the folks behind Stargate SG-1 have never allowed the writers to overlook it; but viewers sometimes can. I don’t think anyone could have ignored his courage in “The Curse,” however.

Daniel’s strength never wavers in this episode. He faces down Steven’s contempt as easily as he faces down the Goa’uld Osiris, even fighting his way through Osiris’ use of a ribbon device to reach into his pocket, pull out a dart, and stab the Goa’uld with it.

We also see some interesting development in the rest of SG-1. Instead of playing around with a naquadah reactor or some other new, alien technology, I was pleasantly surprised to see Sam working on a motorcycle in her office. I also liked her squeamish reaction to Dr. Fraiser’s autopsy of the dead Goa’uld, Isis. Further, it was good to see Dr. Frasier go along on the mission to find Steven in Egypt. Last but not least, Jack finally manages to go fishing; and Teal’c quickly learns that fishing is far from the fabulous experience Jack has described it to be for so long. The fishing trip, complete with hungry mosquitoes, provided what we might see as the requisite amount of humor.

There were some minor flaws to this episode. In addition to Sarah’s lack of depth, and Jack’s and Teal’c’s failure to key in on the importance of Daniel’s phone call, I was also a bit disappointed in the setting used to depict the Egyptian desert. I have seen American sand dunes in person, and I have often seen deserts on TV and in the movies. To me, the tomb to which Daniel, Sam and Dr. Frasier tracked Steven seemed to be set among sand dunes rather than in a desert – there was far too much green brush interspersed among the sandy hills, and some of the sand itself seemed less dry than it should, as though Lake Michigan might not be too far away.

Finally, at the very end of the episode, Osiris mentions the “Stargate” rather than the “Chaapa’ai,” despite the fact that “he” would never have heard the term “Stargate” before.

Nonetheless, “The Curse” was a terrific episode. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

According to the GateWorld review of The Serpent’s Venom:

“The Serpent’s Venom” was another “edge of your seat” kind of episode. I thoroughly enjoyed the two story threads, and thought they came together quite well. I also liked getting some more insight into Teal’c and Daniel, and perhaps even Jacob/Selmak. Once again, whole new avenues have been opened up, and are ready to be explored in future episodes.

It was interesting to find Daniel capable of translating, in a matter of minutes, something the Tok’ra have failed to make sense of over an untold period of time. I would like to see this angle brought out in future episodes. Daniel’s value to both the Tok’ra and the Goa’uld System Lords could have suddenly increased exponentially.

On the other hand, Teal’c has now proven to be a much greater threat to the Goa’uld than previously thought. He has proven to be unbreakable, capable of enduring a degree of torture that would kill lesser men; and doing so with his honor and his beliefs intact. He has thus turned at least one sworn enemy, Rak’nor, into an admirer who is likely to spread Teal’c’s message of freedom for all Jaffa.

The opening scene of “The Serpent’s Venom” intriguingly depicts Teal’c as a prophet. There is an almost religious awe displayed on the visage of the young boy who heralds his arrival, and Teal’c acknowledges this boy with a light touch that could be construed as a blessing. This imagery, coupled with the rumors which will undoubtedly grow out of the preaching I now expect from Rak’nor would surely raise Teal’c in the eyes of his “followers” to a figure above other men. He could be said to be taking on a godly role.

In a culture where Teal’c is effectively depriving his people of their gods, this could pose a significant challenge in the future. People need something to believe in. It would be natural for the people of Chulak to see Teal’c as their new god as they release their old gods, the Goa’uld.

I would expect Daniel, our local cultural expert, to be the first to see the danger signs of this transference. An episode with Daniel trying to open Teal’c’s eyes to this challenge could be an excellent relationship builder for these two characters.

I’m also left to wonder further about Jacob/Selmak. He does not appear surprised when the intercepted message between Heru-ur and Apophis is sent to the SGC, and is quick to enlist the aid of the SGC in sabotaging the meeting of these two System Lords without even mentioning his plans to the Tok’ra High Council. Could this mission have been planned all along? Is the SGC still a pawn in some high stakes Tok’ra games?

Further, Jacob/Selmak once again is all too willing to sacrifice a member of the SGC. While Jack tries to figure out some means of rescue, Jacob insists that Teal’c is “expendable.” This could be Jacob’s military career coming forth, forcing him to analyze the situation logically rather than emotionally. It could just as easily be his Tok’ra influence. After all, the Tok’ra, like their brethren Goa’uld, have been shown to arrogantly believe all humans are lesser beings than themselves.

Although Jack’s character is not further explored in this episode, there are some good scenes which play on the traits we’ve already been made aware of. I particularly enjoyed the colonel’s eagerness when Jacob turned the ship’s controls over to him. Jack’s face lit up like a kid at Christmas when he realized he was going to be given the opportunity to fly the ship.

I also enjoyed the way he gestured with his hand, as though he could simply sweep the mines out of his way, after he realized how difficult it was to maneuver through the mine field while simultaneously keeping the mine Daniel and Sam were working on stabilized.

Lastly, there was some good Daniel and Sam interaction in this episode, with Sam’s mathematical mind demanding black and white answers, while Daniel’s experience with the shades of gray associated with any sort of translation led him to accept such grays here as well. It was great to see Sam’s reactions whenever Daniel expressed his answers as possibilities rather than definites. Daniel’s failure to recognize the significance of “zero” and Sam’s insistence that he just accept the fact that zero would matter to the civilization that designed the mines was also good to see.

I’m curious to know more about the Tobin civilization, in fact; and I would expect Daniel to be curious as well. The culture has become extinct, or so the Tok’ra claim. Could it be they were a paranoid race that drove itself to extinction? They protected themselves from outward attack by littering their space with mines. I would assume that they would also have destroyed or buried their Stargate, if one had existed on their world. Thus they could only have destroyed themselves. Somehow I doubt this question will be answered in upcoming episodes, though it could be an interesting one to address.

As usual, the special effects artists did a splendid job. The costumes, something I have never commented on before, were also superb – again, as usual. However, the lingering bits of metal in Apophis’ face as he continues to heal after his torture at the hands of Sokar looked all too familiar. The name “Seven of Nine” comes to mind. I found the similarity disappointing.

 

According to the GateWorld review of Chain Reaction:

My reaction to “Chain Reaction” was a subtle one. This episode certainly caught my attention, but it did not leave me with the “Wow!” feeling I’ve come to look for when I watch “Stargate SG-1.”

I will say that I enjoyed the story. I enjoyed Teal’c’s subtle bit of humor regarding the tradition of singing a lament to a departing warrior (“Fortunately, we are not on Chu’lak”). I enjoyed the brief glimpse into General Hammond’s home life. I enjoyed the espionage revolving around Jack’s hunt for the elusive NID. I certainly enjoyed seeing Jack and Maybourne forced to work together, despite their profound, mutual distrust. However, the storyline involving General Bauer’s obsession with developing a doomsday weapon left me … well, “thinking” is the only way I can describe it.

Unfortunately, the very first scene in “Chain Reaction” made me question its believability. SG-1 is pinned down on a planet, under heavy fire. They activate the Stargate, but must wait for the right moment to go through. Suddenly, all four team members emerge at once, then all four stand tall on the ramp, looking back at the event horizon while energy blasts from their assailants continue to pelt the base around them.

First, I would expect the members of SG-1 to come through one by one, or in pairs. Four people running for the gate simultaneously would present an awfully big target. Second, I would expect them to dive for cover once back at the SGC, until they know the gate has been deactivated. Standing and looking back at the gate would almost certainly cause one or more to be hit.

Finally, based on the destruction caused in the gateroom, I’m amazed all four could come through completely unscathed — or at least nearly so, considering Teal’c did sport a small cut on his forehead.

Following these questionable events, General Hammond announces his retirement, seemingly based solely on this latest threat to his people. I, like Jack, found this to be completely out of character. Fortunately, Jack’s refusal to accept the general’s flawed reasoning allowed me to accept the dialogue, and hence to look past my problems with the opening scene. However, I would continue to question most of what occurred at the SGC after that.

It took two viewings and a lot of consideration before I decided I could believe in General Bauer’s character. At first I thought he might be just another stereotypical, pompous, “do as I say, regardless of the consequences” character, like we’re used to seeing on TV — the kind writers add when they need someone to push things beyond their limits and cause critical damage, requiring our “heroes” to save the day. But after the second viewing (though not immediately after, I must admit) I did begin to see Bauer as human, and thus real.

Bauer actually came to remind me of stories I’ve heard from people who have been affected by corporate takeovers loosely disguised as mergers, or simply by changes in executive management. In such instances, the managerial personnel coming in have tended to ignore the local experts, instead surrounding themselves with advisors who have followed them from their previous posts. They want their own imprint on everything, and quickly begin a complete “housecleaning,” effectively recreating the entire organization “in their own image,” so to speak.

Bauer’s immediate demand for bulleted summaries in future mission reports is his way of starting this process. His refusal to listen to the resident expert, a.k.a. Major Carter, also solidifies his control as the mouthpiece for the new majority partner: the NID.

Bauer played that role very well. Yet, in the end, he revealed his own fallibility, which is something I might not expect from the new CEO.

If Bauer had been the cardboard character I thought he might be, then I’m sure he would have felt results were all that mattered. The SGC did not get destroyed after his careless test of the doomsday weapon. Nor was the Earth subjected to deadly radiation. “All’s well that ends well.” End of story.

But that did not appear to be Bauer’s attitude. He saw his error, and even brought himself to apologize to Major Carter. It was far too little and far too late, of course, but the apology exhibited character growth nonetheless — something that is simply not going to happen with a cardboard character.

In addition to spending time trying to determine Bauer’s believability, I’ve also pondered Carter’s response to his demands. She voiced her concerns, but as any good military officer would, she backed down when she knew she must, and followed orders despite her obvious disagreement with them. We’ve seen this trait in her before, particularly in “Scorched Earth,” where she was not particularly thrilled with the prospect of destroying the alien culture on the terraforming ship.

Such instances as these make it clear to me that I would never survive in the military! In my own career, I’ve been told to do things I felt were wrong. Without asking, I’ve done what Daniel would do: look for, and present, a better alternative.

Daniel did not disappoint me here. Going directly to the source (the SGC’s computers) rather than relying on the apparently doctored report Bauer provided to Major Carter, Daniel continued to analyze data from the planet, even when it appeared to be too late to do so. As the bomb was being deployed, he was still diligently at work, finally seeing and eporting critical information that should have stopped the test — should have, but didn’t. The test was carried out, and the SGC, potentially the Earth itself, might have been lost as a result.

Yes, this episode made me think. What consequences might result from everything that happened here? Any number of new stories could be developed from the events that transpired here. Might Kinsey carry out some of his threats to Jack? Was the planet to which Bauer sent the bomb completely destroyed, and if so could its destruction have some uncalculated, negative effects on its solar system, and perhaps our own as well? Could the planet have maintained an established civilization (after all, the SGC’s analysis only covered a fifty mile radius)? What if that civilization had some significance the SGC had been unaware of? Could the destruction of that world result in someone else declaring war on Earth?

I suppose it might have been the senselessness of the whole Bauer business that numbed me to this episode. I want to say such a careless use of authority is completely unreal, but I know it’s not. It may well be illogical, but it’s only too real.

Writing these reviews often helps me to better understand not only the episode, but it’s impact on me. After writing this particular review, I realize now that “Chain Reaction” had a rather large impact. It has left me numb. Corporate takeovers have caused a lot of turmoil in the lives of too many of my own friends. Perhaps entire worlds haven’t been threatened; but entire corporations have, in fact, crumbled. I’m constantly dumbfounded by the absurdity of it all, and could easily see myself standing right there beside Teal’c, Carter and Daniel, with my own mouth agape, as yet another new executive ignored the local experts, this time with catastrophic results.

That said, I’d have to give this episode high marks for realism, though I won’t be rushing to watch it over and over again. Believability, after all, has very little to do with desirability.

 

According to the GateWorld review of 2010:

“2010” definitely captured and held my attention.

Set ten years in the future and mostly outside the confines of the SGC, this episode showcased the talents of actors and behind-the-scenes personnel beautifully, and even provided its share of humorous surprises. Despite what I saw as flaws in props and research, I found “2010” to be thoroughly enjoyable.

Special effects, and set and costume designers were given new ideas to explore, and were able to believably depict what our nation’s capitol might look like after ten years of rapid technological developments gleaned from an alliance with a generous and far advanced alien society.

I liked the way the Aschen and the humans were distinguished from one another not only by the subtle difference is suit styles, but also through their apparent hearing sensibilities, shown as the Aschen plugged their ears when Daniel, Sam and Teal’c were saluted with gunfire.

As to set design and special effects, I found the J.R. Reed Space Terminal to be quite well conceived; and I was impressed with the lighting effects during the dinner scene at the restaurant when Fraiser, Carter, Daniel and Teal’c first address the Aschen conspiracy. A brilliant setting sun provides an intriguing atmosphere for that conversation, making the entire restaurant awash in an almost ethereal orange glow.

Of course, as with all episodes of “Stargate SG-1,” “2010” was much more than good sets and lighting, and the expected amount of subtle humor. Strong characterization and story-telling are even more important to my own continued viewing. And “2010” did not disappoint, managing to go even further than other episodes with respect to characterization.

This episode provided an opportunity for cast members to spread their wings and show more of their characters than what we are typically allowed to see. This is particularly true of Teryl Rothery (Fraiser), Amanda Tapping (Carter), and even supporting cast-member Gary Jones, who is finally identified with a name when Jack “christens” his character (previously known only as “Sergeant”) with the first name of Walter.

It was nice to see Dr. Fraiser take on a greater role as she finally becomes an integral member of the group formerly known as SG-1. Ms. Rothery did a fabulous job of depicting a doctor whose job has been rendered virtually obsolete by the medical advancements of the Aschen, but whose military training quickly kicks in when she and Sam discover an Aschen conspiracy of devastating proportions.

While Carter battles an emotional outburst borne of despair for her recently discovered infertility, and anger at the Aschen for causing that very condition, Fraiser keeps a cool and calculating head, yet remains wonderfully “human” herself. Dr. Fraiser’s voice cracks in sadness as she describes a cryptic phone conversation with General Hammond the night before his death six years earlier. Realizing now that Hammond’s death must have been caused by the Aschen, she is clearly disturbed — but not overly so, managing to maintain the amount of poise and control required given the circumstances at hand.

My focusing on Fraiser’s cool head is not meant to belittle Sam Carter’s emotions, nor Ms. Tapping’s depiction of those emotions. On the contrary, Tapping also did a splendid job, giving us a character whose long-held hopes for raising a family with her husband, Joe, have just been shattered, and who must blame herself to some degree for the Aschen’s actions. As the primary physicist at the SGC and a key member of the SGC’s primary team, perhaps if she had shared Jack’s suspicions of the Aschen ten years earlier, they might have avoided their current situation.

I liked that the character of Joe was also three-dimensional, despite his relatively minor role. As ambassador to the Aschen, he is aware of their plans to limit human reproduction, yet he is not an evil character. When Sam informs him the global infertility rate is in excess of 90 percent, he is stunned by the scale, saying it was supposed to be a third of that. The ensuing argument between Sam and Joe is the most emotionally charged scene of the episode, with Joe claiming his holding this secret is no different than the secrets Sam has held throughout her career. Yet they never lose trust in one another, and Joe comes through in the end, supplying the team with the needed GDO.

Jack even comes back in “2010.” While the dumbing down of Jack O’Neill has been a hotly-debated subject this season, here he is seen correcting the grammar of Sam’s ambassador husband; and, more importantly, it becomes clear that Jack was the only member of the SGC who never trusted the Aschen in the first place.

Good ol’ Jack was right all along. Pity no one believed him. That lack of belief obviously made him bitter, not only against his friends but humanity in general — undoubtedly because of the loss of those friends due to their failure to trust him. Even Teal’c is distanced from him, something which I would never have thought to see. The character development here was dead-on. Given the Jack O’Neill who had just lost his son to his own gun in Kurt Russell’s movie, and even the slightly revised version who had finally lost his wife as well in the first episode of the series, a cabin in the woods, far from humanity, is precisely where I would expect to find a Jack O’Neill whose new-found family in SG-1 has apparently abandoned him by refusing to see and share his concerns.

All in all, the characterization in “2010” are what gives it its strength. It was brilliantly scripted and acted, and absolutely believable.

The flaws in “2010” are somewhat obscure, falling outside the scope of everything I’ve discussed here so far. Now, I know the Tollans told Sam that our understanding of quantum physics was completely wrong, but this should have been addressed somehow, regardless.

Current theories suggest that time travel is a possibility, but that events in a given dimension would not be effected by a change to events earlier in the timeline. Rather, if we change events in our past, we create an entirely new thread of time, without erasing our present thread of time. In other words, we create an entirely new dimension. Yet Sam clearly states on more than one occasion that if SG-1 succeeds in its attempts everything that has occurred within the past ten years will have been erased.

Perhaps this belief could be said to have helped inspire Sam’s teammates and friends to accept this suicide mission to send a note back to the SGC of ten years earlier. Okay, at least that’s the excuse I’m giving the writers. After all, it was a valiant effort for each of them and a horrible thing to see, as one by one our favorite explorers die under the constant bombardment of laser fire.

I might say there was a third flaw, but at least the writers did not neglect it — that is, why couldn’t they just wrap the note around a rock and throw it through the wormhole? Well, good ol’ Jack thought of that one too, but Daniel — not Sam, as I would have expected — replied that it would never make it past the lasers. Somehow, I think if each of them threw a rock, at least one of them would stand a greater likelihood of making it through than a much bigger human target; but, as I said, at least this idea was not ignored.

 

According to the GateWorld review of Absolute Power:

“Absolute Power” is another thought-provoking episode, providing us with lessons to be learned. But with a child as the teacher, riddles as the text, and a glimpse into a future that might have been where Michael Shanks spreads his wings to explore the bad side of Daniel for a change, I had fun in this class.

Since the idea of a Harcesis child was introduced in “Secrets,” a great deal of hope has been placed in the baby born out of the union between the hosts of Apophis and Amonet (host to Daniel’s lost wife). Said to possess the genetic memories of the Goa’uld, this child could easily transform the SGC from underdog to victor in the ongoing war against the Goa’uld.

No one has ever questioned the SGC’s need for that child’s information, nor how such information might be put to use. Yet here, in “Absolute Power,” we learn that the questions we fail to ask could have even more profound implications than the ones we are quick to consider.

The child, Shifu, comes to SG-1 via a side trip to Abydos, where Oma Desala, or “Mother Nature” — the superior, even somewhat angelic being who has raised him — sends him out of a whirlwind of dust. In addition to emphasizing the Mother Nature aspect of Oma Desala, this spectacular entrance also allows for some trademark SG-1 humor, with the whirlwind calling Daniel’s name, and him replying, “This is Daniel. Who’s calling?”

We soon learn that now inactive nanites are responsible for the child’s quick growth; but even more important, we learn that the child’s memories of the Goa’uld have been hidden from him.

“Oma teaches the true nature of man is decided in the battle between the conscious mind and the desires of the subconscious,” Shifu says. “Oma teaches the evil of my subconscious is too strong to resist. The only way to win is to deny it battle.”

This statement, combined with an earlier statement by Teal’c that “all Goa’uld are born evil,” helps to explain why Oma has hidden Shifu’s memories. Even Daniel understands that the boy would have the memories of “a thousand Hitlers.” Nonetheless, if just one of those memories might be provided to the SGC, it alone might be enough to help mankind defeat the Goa’uld. Thus when Daniel’s initial concern for the emotional well-being of the boy is countered by Sam’s suggestion that since Shifu “forgot” the memories once, surely he can do so again, Daniel realizes that the importance of the information to humanity is worth what seems to be a minimal risk.

Despite his youth, Shifu proves much wiser than Daniel and the other members of the SGC. He knows the risk is far from minimal, but he is unable to get Daniel to understand. He explains that “if the instrument is broken, the music will be sour,” perhaps implying that because the memories have been locked away, unlocking them will make them worse than they might have been originally; or perhaps that once they are unlocked, they will never be fully hidden again. Either way, releasing them is not wise.

However Daniel interpreted this riddle, his reply that “the music does not play the musician” offers what I’ll call a more hopeful wisdom, suggesting that it is the person who would control the knowledge, rather than vice versa. Well, the title of this episode alone is enough to tell us Daniel’s hopeful wisdom is far too simplistic. Shifu even says “normally there is truth in that.” Aha! Normally, but not this time. Not when you’re dealing with the memories of “a thousand Hitlers.”

Michael Shanks did a wonderful job in “Absolute Power,” first in his depiction of an honest, caring and hopeful Daniel bonding with the son of his lost wife, then in his obsessed, or perhaps even possessed “bad” Daniel proving the old adage that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

When Shifu gives Daniel the knowledge he seeks, the evil of his subconscious defeats his conscious mind, thus “souring” his music, or who he is. He becomes obsessed with building the perfect defense against the Goa’uld, but remains oblivious to his taking on some of their characteristics. He ignores the implications of the half-memory, half-dream events that pit him against his former friends, such as those in which he expects Teal’c’s subservience or wants to use a ribbon device on Jack. Nor is he concerned by the “red flags” associated with his refusal to involve the Tok’ra or the Russians, what could probably be considered typical Goa’uld System Lord behavior.

Daniel’s subsequent awakening one year later left me feeling a little cheated. The drastic changes, none of which could easily be dismissed or forgotten about at a later time — i.e. a mansion to rival the White House with aides and other various suit-clad employees (while Daniel is in pajamas) — made it instantly clear to me that what I was seeing was a dream. Shifu, after all, had mentioned that dreams teach. There was also some discussion of the “dream” Sha’re had given Daniel in “Forever in a Day.”

It took a few moments for me to simply accept what I knew and watch to see what might happen next. Admittedly, I would have enjoyed the “one year later” scenes far more if I was not already alerted to their falsehood. Yet after I pushed beyond this disappointment, I enjoyed the glimpse into a future that might have been.

“Bad” Daniel was despicable indeed, sending Sam to jail and spying on her conversation with Jack, even making Teal’c “disappear” to a fate no one seemed aware of. Smugly superior, this Daniel would dress in only the best clothes, surround himself with only the best furniture, and dismiss his old friends without a second glance. Although he would claim it was all for the greater good of humanity — that he was, in fact, single-handedly saving the world — parallels with any of the System Lords we’ve been introduced to were abundantly evident. Pity he couldn’t see them.

It was heart-rending yet fascinating to see what our Daniel could become, even to the point of anticipating Jack’s climatic and futile attack. It was obvious that Jack agonized over that final decision to empty the contents of his gun into his former friend. It was equally obvious that Daniel had expected the attack; and should the scenario continue, this Daniel might very well have seen Jack tried and convicted for attempted murder without feeling any sense of sorrow at all.

Without “feeling.” That would describe what had become of Daniel after receiving Shifu’s memories.

When Daniel finally awakens from this hours-long (or perhaps days-long) dream, through which he seemed to have lived out a full year of experiences, he is as aware of what had occurred as I was upon watching. He had the same background from which to draw his conclusion as I had. Thus we don’t see him waking “again.” There is no need. He seeks out Shifu, and informs his teammates that they can never access Shifu’s memories. The hope they had placed in the Harcesis child was mis-spent. They would have to find another way to defeat the Goa’uld.

And thus one of a multitude of loose threads left dangling from previous episodes has been neatly tied. We don’t really know whether or not we’ll see the Harcesis child again, but we do know that Daniel will not be determined to seek him out. Daniel has turned to a new path. He has shed a burden he could not take with him on the journey. All we can ask now is where will his new path lead him?

 

According to the GateWorld review of Prodigy:

“Prodigy” offers some significant character development on the part of Sam Carter, and introduces an interesting alien swarm of energy beings. Unfortunately, the storyline behind the energy beings is an old one: a scientist captures one of the beings to study it, and the rest of the aliens go on a rampage. However, I still found this episode to be a good one.

We are finally given the opportunity to examine some interesting aspects of Sam Carter that are not ordinarily shown. We see her here in a leadership role, and not simply in a military capacity. She is also portrayed as a leader in her field, something we are often reminded of, but for which we rarely get a true feel.

When Sam returns to the Air Force Academy to give a lecture on astrophysics, we see her basking in the glow of her own legend. Amanda Tapping gives a wonderful performance in this regard, as she manages to present us with a character who is obviously proud of her achievements and even a touch vain about them — but not overly so.

Further, this episode clarifies my view that Carter’s vanity seems due less to her expertise than to her image. She smiles coyly under the praise of her former professor and General Kerrigan, indicating something that’s been a staple of her character for a long time now. Samantha Carter is eager to please her superiors. Her love of science might sometimes be considered secondary to this trait. I’m not belittling this aspect of her character, however. It simply makes her more real, more human.

Cadet Haley poses a potential threat to the legend of Samantha Carter, coming into the same academy with even higher SAT scores than Carter. However, Haley is the opposite of Carter. This cadet takes such pride in her knowledge that she has developed a severe superiority complex, one that could ruin her career before it has even begun.

I like that Sam not only recognizes Haley’s potential, but also appreciates it to the extent that she risks her own vanity in the eyes of General Hammond. She can see beyond herself enough to accept that Haley’s proven intuitive capabilities could be an incredible asset to the Stargate program.

Carter subsequently gambles her own career, or at least Hammond’s respect for her, on the potential of a cadet who might never come to accept the requirements of a military chain of command. Granted, she first tests Haley in General Kerrigan’s office. Given an opportunity to quit, Haley refuses. This inspires Carter to believe in the cadet’s motivation to succeed, and thus to take her under her wing. Nonetheless, I’m not sure that Carter’s decision to introduce Haley to the Stargate program would be the wisest course.

I like Haley’s distinctly unlikable character. She has good traits, such as her defense of another cadet who is ridiculed by an upper classman. Primarily, however, she is an irritating know-it-all who might never be able to stand back and say, “Yes, sir!” to any direct command. She has an intense need not only to be right all the time, but to be acknowledged as being right. She wants to be the one giving the orders. Yet she’ll never make it to that point if she can’t first learn to follow orders, whether she agrees with them or not.

When Carter takes her through the Stargate, Cadet Haley learns something about risk. There is less risk to the colonel’s acceptance of Carter’s theory than there is to his acceptance of Haley’s. Perhaps seeing O’Neill risk his life will help Haley to learn the importance of making assumptions based on hard evidence, rather than on other assumptions.

In addition, she has undoubtedly learn that matter can only travel in one direction through a wormhole, rather than both ways, as one of her theories assumes.) In order to get a better grasp of her character and Carter’s gamble on mentoring her, I would have liked to have seen Haley’s reaction to being proved wrong in that particular intuitive leap.

I did have a problem with Carter’s insistence that their theories about the energy beings’ behavior are mutually exclusive. My guess would be that both are right. The energy beings likely would be affected by the polar alignment, as well as by a sense of anger resulting from the capture of one of their own. Perhaps their aggressiveness is made stronger by the combination of these two events. Why wouldn’t Carter accept this as a possibility?

Nonetheless, I thought this story was well told and believable. I would like to see what becomes of Cadet Haley. I expect she would always be somewhat of a wild card; but if she could learn a greater sense of duty, a significant sense of restraint, and an acceptance of the opinions and ideas of others — no small task, that — she could become an interesting “sparring partner” for Carter, and someone to bounce theories off.

 

The Worst:

The First Ones, Point of No Return, and Entity

FirstOnes01

Quite briefly:

  • The First Ones is yet another one of those Unas stories;
  • Point of No Return introduces one of the characters I just totally dislike, Martin Lloyd; and,
  • Entity, inspired by the film Virus, was overall a pretty big let-down.

According to the GateWorld review of The First Ones:

It felt good to be on a new planet again, away from the hustle and bustle of the SGC and the intrigues of the Tok’ra. And what an interesting new planet it was: the original home of both the Goa’uld and the Unas.

I enjoyed this excursion into new territory, and once again was thoroughly impressed with “Stargate SG-1’s” special effects and story-telling artistry. Although one plot thread within “The First Ones” was a little too vague and understated for my tastes, the chief storyline, Daniel’s captivity, was beautifully handled.

I found it intriguing, and not at all out of character, to see Dr. Daniel Jackson more interested in learning about his captor than frightened by it. Of course, with knowledge comes power, and surely that would have been Daniel’s principle motivation to continue attempting a dialog – even recording objective notes – rather than taking any and every opportunity to escape.

Yet, ironically, Daniel seemed to hold far more animosity against the Russian scientist in last week’s “Watergate” than he did against this scaly, sharp-clawed, pointy-toothed creature that dragged him across untold miles intending toserve him up for dinner. I can’t help but wonder that he felt a greater degree of mortality in a confining, mini-sub in the depths of a strange, water-world than he did at the hands of a young, powerful Unas on good old terra-firma.

Perhaps he was encouraged by the Unas’ reactions. After the initial blow that brought Daniel into its possession, it made no further attempts to harm him. It growled. It threatened. It yanked on the ropes binding Daniel’s wrists. But during their trek toward the caves it did not strike him. In fact, it even saved his life from an eager Goa’uld.

As a character study, “The First Ones” was a marvelous piece of work. This story would have been completely different if Jack O’Neill had been the captive, rather than Daniel Jackson. I would not expect Jack to do so much talking; and given the nature and the strength of the Unas, the continuous struggles that I would have expected from Jack would surely have resulted in the young Unas completing the intended ritual without trepidation. As it was,however, the Unas came to respect Daniel, so much so that the ritual lost importance.

The aboriginal Unas on this planet had long ago learned to protect themselves from Goa’uld possession, and had thus evolved along a path different from that of the more demonic Unas we’ve seen in past episodes. Through those previous glimpses, it seemed apparent that the Unas were nothing more than monsters, the likes of which children expect to find in their closets at night. But after seeing “The First Ones”, I can no longer hold such a firm opinion.

While clearly a primitive, tribal species, these aboriginal Unas exhibited the ability to learn, and by learning, to grow. And, of course, it was our culturally obsessed Dr. Daniel Jackson who provided them with their first lesson.

Through some pretty phenomenal special effects, this young Unas really came to life for me, especially when the creature began its chanting and meditation. Its eyes, mouth, and tongue were all acceptable as the real thing. But the way it breathed, nostrils pulling in and flaring out, neck and throat swallowing air and billowing out, even the huffing, grunting sound associated with these actions was really quite extraordinary.

The fossilized remains of ancient Goa’uld were also impressive. The swimming Goa’uld in the water were believable. Even the single, mature Goa’uld which flew out of the water behind Teal’c appeared tremendously realistic. Yet I was most impressed with Daniel’s captor.

The story of SG-11, however, did not impress me. There appeared to be a void in that plot thread, a black hole of obscure, or not particularly believable information. What happened to that team? Well, one team member was killed the moment before the Unas grabbed Daniel. The others went straight into search and rescue mode. Only two survived: Rothman and Hawkins, both of whom became possessed by Goa’uld.

We’re told that SG-11 was attacked. Yet there was no evidence of other Unas outside of the caves, and surely Daniel’s captor was not shown to take time out for battle. Presumably, then, the attack was by a “school” of Goa’uld. Why then were not more team members possessed? Or were they in turn killed by Rothman and Hawkins?

While holes like this can be made to work in a story, I don’t think this story warranted them. There was enough going on with Daniel and the Unas. Unless this other Goa’uld thread is picked up in a later episode, it served only one purpose as I see it: this thread explained the demise of Dr. Rothman.

Rothman’s death was a surprise in itself, but may have been accomplished by a variety of means. Even remaining with the theme of the Goa’uld possession might have worked if it had been better handled. Unfortunately, this portion of the episode was weak, and lessened the impact of the marvelously woven Unas thread.

 

According to the GateWorld review of Point of No Return:

“Point of No Return” was a silly episode with a somber ending. Full of the usual cliches used to depict the typical sci-fi and conspiracy obsessed geek, this episode was somewhat of a cliché itself.

I was a little surprised to learn the true identity and purpose of the aliens, but not surprised enough to be enthusiastic about this latest offering from our favorite cast and crew.

I felt like I was watching a spy show with a sci-fi twist, and was reminded of series’ like “I-Spy,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” and even “Mod Squad,” all of which I enjoyed watching at one time or another. But that was then and this is now. And now I much prefer the fantastical realism that Stargate generally offers. I don’t watch Stargate to get a dose of witty espionage.

I enjoyed such humorous moments as Teal’c’s indulging in the joys of a vibrating bed and Daniel’s imitation of the Thinker statue on the phony psychiatrist’s desk. But humor was not consistently present, even given the light-hearted nature of this story.

The aliens’ interrogation of Sam and Daniel was neither suspenseful nor funny, nor even particularly interesting. Both members of SG-1 accepted their captivity in a casual manner typical of U.N.C.L.E. agent Napoleon Solo. The aliens who held them were not bumbling fools, and they did have real guns, thus they seemed to pose a real threat to the well being of their captives. Nonetheless, Sam and Daniel both appeared quite unconcerned – although it might be argued that Daniel’s sarcasm, such as his “is that a duck?” comment could indicate that he was nervous, given similar statements in previous episodes like “Watergate” and “The First Ones.”

I liked the character of Martin. He had a profound innocence about him that lent credence to the storyline. I could even enjoy seeing him again in future episodes. Take away his sci-fi toy home décor, give him back his full memories, and you have a character that could prove to be an asset to the SGC. Not only is he familiar with Stargate technology, he is a soldier with a conscience. And though his conscience posed a threat to his alien comrades, who merely wanted to live out their lives in anonymity, they never were a threat to anyone, neither to Marty, nor to SG-1 (though Sam and Daniel could not have known that).

The concept of alien soldiers seeking to escape certain death as they watch their civilization crushed under the greedy and vengeful Goa’uld is a sobering one. The suggestion that one of those soldiers may feel a strong sense of guilt and a need to return at any cost is believable. And the possibility that his comrades would seek to prevent him from doing so without truly harming him might almost be commendable.

Combining these ideas could have resulted in an intensely powerful story. Unfortunately, it has not. Without true suspense and drama, this episode fell far short of what it might have been. Even the humor would have been more effective if it had been balanced with some tension based around the tragedy of the alien soldiers.

I did enjoy some of the more humorous moments: Teal’c as “Murray” smiling with relish on the vibrating bed, then later Marty apologizing for trying to bite “Murray” in his desire to get medicated being among the best. I also enjoyed the special effects associated with the explosion of the aliens’ escape pod. Bravo, to a job beautifully done.

Yet I do regret that this episode was not what it might have been. This installment will not ease the minds of those fans who have been disappointed with the turns the series has taken. Hopefully, it will not stand as the point of no return for them. I, however, expect that next week will make up for this temporary little detour.

 

According to the GateWorld review of Entity:

Season Four has been pushing the envelope on atypical lifeforms, and “Entity” is no exception. Thus far we’ve faced down a formidable enemy of replicators (“Small Victories”), met up with a planet full of water-like energy beings (“Watergate”), negotiated planet rights with extinct life forms that exist as nothing more than strands of DNA (“Scorched Earth”), and pissed off a super-powered species of dangerous fireflies (“Prodigy”).

Now, in “Entity,” we find another energy being — this one capable of growing exponentially in the SGC’s computer systems, or, losing access to that, Sam’s brain.

Whatever happened to your garden variety alien species? Things with form and substance that can be dealt with on a physical level? Of course, “Stargate SG-1” is a science fiction series, and as such probably has an obligation to find new ways of depicting living things. However, this particular science fiction series was founded on a blending of both primitive and superior cultures, and I’d hate to see that blending lost.

Nonetheless, “Entity” was well-conceived, and the concept of an alien being living in a computer is certainly a timely one. I have no complaints against the ideas behind this episode. I was even taken by surprise to consider that a single MALP might cause damage and destruction on a global scale, simply through its radio signals.

I do, however, have some minor gripes about the way certain elements of the plot were presented.

Sarcastic Jack is back with a vengeance. Though I enjoy his witticisms, they may have been slightly overdone here. Was he simply trying to diffuse the tension? Honestly, I’m not sure I saw enough tension in the first place, given the situation. The SGC had been compromised, its computer systems overrun by an unknown entity. It is subsequently quarantined, cut off from the rest of the Earth and all other worlds as well. Yet tension didn’t really become evident until the entity fled certain death in its computer nest by downloading itself into Sam.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conflict of interests depicted between Jack and Teal’c (whose primary concern as warriors or protectors is to get rid of the entity) and Sam and Daniel (who, as explorers, want to communicate with it). This conflict continues even after Sam’s nearly fatal attempt, with Daniel insisting to Jack that she had not been wrong to try. I would thoroughly agree; yet Jack clearly did not.

There is a lot of potential left in that conflict. Unfortunately, we do not get the opportunity to see any further discussion of the subject. Could the distance between these two characters grow larger for this?

I also can’t help but wonder what Sam’s opinion would be after recovering. Would she feel any chance to communicate with the entity was worth such a price?

Further, targeting Sam as the entity’s “host” might have been a little contrived. This seemed to be just another push to explore a forbidden relationship between Jack and Sam. The entity chose Sam because it knew this one was valued; Jack would not be willing to destroy this one. But how could it know that? What would appear in Jack’s files to give it this idea?

Despite the innuendoes we’ve seen, particularly this season, I would think Jack’s files would identify no greater bond between him and Sam than it would between him and any other member of his team. Otherwise, both careers would be in jeopardy. Further, why would the entity be more focused on Jack’s feelings than Hammond’s? General Hammond, after all, is the man in charge, i.e. the final decision-maker.

I enjoyed the confrontation in the infirmary between Hammond, Jack and the entity. Jack’s threat to destroy its world was as far from my mind as it was from Daniel’s, and I shared his surprise at first. Yet I was quicker to understand Jack’s objectives. The entity had already sacrificed its life to go to the SGC. It must have known this was a suicide mission. If it was that eager to save its own world, Jack’s threat clearly had to be taken seriously.

That threat forced the entity into action. It moved into the corridor to upload Sam’s consciousness into … what? What could be in the hallway that the entity could access? The security cameras? Perhaps, but this part did confuse me. We later see the message “I am here” projected on screens in the SGC’s mainframe as well as in the MALP room, although power to the nest there had already been cut. The nest should not have been able to power itself up again. Even before Jack severed its connection to the emergency lighting, we had received multiple messages confirming that the MALP room had been completely separated from the rest of the base.

Finally, this all culminates in a Frankenstein sort of ending. Sorry, but when Dr. Fraiser initiates a conduit between Sam and the nest, I couldn’t help but envision an old Frankenstein movie. I half-expected someone to excitedly declare, “It’s alive!” after all the lightening stopped charging Sam’s body.

Yes, I saw many flaws in this episode. Nonetheless, I did enjoy it. Dr. Fraiser had some excellent moments, further showcasing Teryl Rothery’s talents — which are too often overlooked. I’m glad to see her coming to the forefront more often this season. I hope this contiues next year.

Also, despite the limited believability factor in the final corridor scene, there was definite electricity to Jack’s dilemma about shooting Sam a second time with his zat gun, knowing a second shot usually kills. I couldn’t help but wonder if that second shot would in fact be as lethal as usual under the circumstances. After all, Sam’s body appeared unaffected by the first. Jack, however, did not seem to share my optimism.

There were some wonderful, emotional moments to “Entity,” and some thought-provoking ones as well. These are the things that consistently endear me to “Stargate SG-1.” Even with such flaws as can be found in this episode, the ideas still come alive.

This says a lot for the team that brings it all together. It takes an exceptional cast and crew to make a success out of what would otherwise be mediocre material.

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Next in the best and worst is Season 3.

 

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11 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Stargate SG-1: Season 4

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