And now back to the summer of 2000 as we resume Stargate SG-1‘s fourth season. We talked about the premiere episode last month; like many of the seasons, this one had a bridging two-part episode. For week two, it’s an all-studio story in the cramped hallways of a besieged bunker with very few speaking parts. The main guest star is the talented Rene Auberjonois. Three seasons previously, Armin Shimerman, who played Auberjonois’s sparring partner from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, had run up to Canada during a break in that show’s production to film a one-off appearance.
I like Rene Auberjonois a lot; he was a terrific performer in everything he was in, which is why, the first time I watched this episode, I was surprised to find myself not believing in his character at all. Then, about two-thirds of the way through, his mask slips a little. Oh, it’s good. With a couple of exceptions much later in the run, I haven’t looked at any of Stargate since we watched it all a decade back. As I’ll explain next time, this has meant a few blind spots in my memory. But I was really looking forward to seeing this one again just to see how Auberjonois does this and pulls off the deception. He’s by no means a conventional baddie – he’s just perpetuating a sick, generational, crime and doesn’t want to do anything villainous against our heroes – but he’s also aware that he needs to put up a mask to get help from Earth. The actor was a great actor, but his character is not, and that’s where the performance sparkles.
And the other great performance is from Richard Dean Anderson, who rediscovered Colonel O’Neill’s military jerk during the events of “Shades of Grey” last season and dropped it square on the negotiating table, awkwardly, to put Daniel in his place. He apologizes later, but it’s fascinating – I don’t think you could call it “fun” – to watch him effortlessly hide his playful and mildly sarcastic swagger when he needs to be all business. This is the character that O’Neill should have been projecting during “Pretense” instead of being a comedy stooge at an important, critical event.
Unfortunately, our son wasn’t really taken with this one too much. The revelation of what’s happening on this alien planet was a little over his head. It’s a very heavy-handed metaphor for grown-up viewers, but sometimes you get lost in the sci-fi trappings and miss what the story’s actually about when you’re young. Good thing this one’s got parents to help him make sense of it.