Stargate SG-1 6.13 – Sight Unseen

Every once in a while, the episode of the show that you’re watching does a hard swerve about halfway through. I like “Sight Unseen” for the neat way it does this. Our heroes bring home some very ancient tech from a long abandoned planet, and slowly but surely everybody in the base starts seeing really big and remarkably ugly, albeit intangible and harmless, insects. They pass through walls and the ones with legs can walk on tables and sit on the windshields of cars, but nobody can touch them. They are, however, really big bugs, and surprising enough to give anybody the shock of their lives, and then people in the nearby town of Colorado Springs start seeing them as well.

So this is the sort of problem that the government has a solution ready to deploy: there was a chemical leak causing hallucinations. Happily, Sam and Jonas find a solution in record time and reverse the alien artifact’s effects, but one guy got through the military cordon, and the farther he travels, the more people will start seeing the bugs and the longer it will take to painlessly get the effects reversed.

The manhunt is played very, very cautiously because the guy is a well-meaning but very, very paranoid Gulf War vet, who came home with a severe case of PTSD and believes that he was experimented on in the Gulf. It’s a neat trick, because the alien bug business is played very broadly, with a few scenes that our son found incredibly entertaining, but once they get that under control, the remainder of the story requires sensitivity and tact, and for Colonel O’Neill to handle the situation with considerably more human diplomacy than he usually demonstrates in across-the-table negotiations on other planets, like the most recent one. I like that the character can show far more empathy with a troubled vet than blowhards on other planet, and admits that the intangible bugs are alien.

It ends with everything relaxed enough for the writers to engage in a delightful in-joke at Richard Dean Anderson’s expense. As I mentioned when we were watching some of MacGyver, that show did pretty well for ABC, but it was never honestly a hit. In the 1986-87 season, it often ranked third in its timeslot against CBS’s successful Monday comedies and, disgracefully, ALF on NBC. (“The Wish Child”, for example, pulled a 13.1 rating against ALF‘s 15.6. Source.) The vet mentions “ALF, you know, on TV, the puppet?” and O’Neill simply replies “Never saw it.”

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