Stargate SG-1 5.22 – Revelations

Unusually, Stargate SG-1‘s fifth season didn’t end on a cliffhanger. That’s because Showtime had axed the show, and the Sci-Fi Channel picked it up for season six. Presumably, they didn’t want to launch their run with the second part of a story; they wanted a big new tale instead. So it’s an all-action starship runaround with lots of corridors and lots of bad guys, which is fine by our son, because that’s what he likes best and he enjoyed the blazes outta this one. Anna-Louise Plowman is back, and we finally get to meet Anubis, who is a robed and hooded figure who seems to have a black, shimmery portal instead of a face.

As to the “revelations” of the title, there’s the ugly one about Anubis having access to some far superior tech that nobody’s encountered before, and also something grim about the Asgard: they’re dying. They’re a clone race and they’ve reached the end of their genetic line. So Earth started this season with three powerful, if unreliable, allies. The Tollan have been wiped out, the Tok’ra have been decimated, and the Asgard are on borrowed time. Kind of a bad time for Anubis to show up with powers and weaponry far in advance of anything anybody else has, but a great point to end the season.

That’s all from the Stargate universe for now. We like to mix things up to keep them fresh, so this is going back on the shelf, but we’ll resume with season six in late March. Stay tuned!

Stargate SG-1 5.21 – Meridian

I have always been a little disappointed with last night’s long goodbye to two characters in Doctor Who, but that’s nothing compared to our son’s restless, exhausted, eye-rolling, face-hiding exasperation to this morning’s long goodbye to Daniel in Stargate. The episode begins with him already suffering from radiation poisoning. Michael Shanks gets a couple of flashbacks showing how he’d acted heroically and saved lives on the new planet they’ve visited, but otherwise he deteriorates and, eventually, the character dies, for now anyway. The kid was completely detached from this and didn’t want to bother with it at all.

“Meridian” introduces Corin Nemec as Jonas Quinn, a scientist from the new planet who will take over from Shanks in season six. Nemec spent some time in Atlanta as a teenager, and actually went to school with a couple of my good friends. Nemec got to be on the cover of the SG-1 Blu-ray set instead of Shanks, because the company that put it out used a photo of the season six cast. Doesn’t seem right, but it could’ve been worse, I guess. They could’ve used the cast of season ten instead.

Well, I like Jonas Quinn and I’m looking forward to revisiting the interesting new dynamic that his character brings to the show. The thing I don’t like is that this is where we really go full-bore into the whole business of the Ascended Beings, who were formerly the Ancients of our physical universe. The show has scratched at this before now, notably in the alternate timeline story “Absolute Power” in season four, but from now it’s going to be a major component of most of the ongoing storylines, with Daniel and Anubis and Oma Desala coming and going from physical forms to Ascended to Descended to hanging out in diners reading extraterrestrial newspapers. As I keep saying, the series gets consistently really good every week from about here on, but I’d like it even more without this stuff. (Didn’t Babylon 5 do the “beings of pure energy who left the physical world behind” business five or six years before this, anyway?)

Stargate SG-1 5.19 – Menace

The previous episode had been filmed almost entirely on location with dozens of costumed extras, many of whom I suspect were probably students at a martial arts academy in Vancouver, and lots of speaking parts. This one’s all in studio with one guest star and a handful of single-line parts among the base personnel. It’s not in any way deficient. SG-1 finds a humanoid robot alone and inactive on a dead planet. In a bitter little throwback to the end of season three, they bring the robot home before they realize the danger: this robot is the creator of the Replicators, and before long, the base is overrun by Erector-set bugs.

Our son thought this one was very intense, although he wasn’t overly frightened or worried. He said that he had no idea how this one was going to wrap up. Probably with the most intensely detailed sweep that base has ever had, followed by a dozen more to make sure not a single Lego brick from a blasted-apart Replicator bug got wedged between a fire extinguisher and the wall behind it. I think it’s a fine story because, unusually, Jack O’Neill is shown to be consistently correct from start to finish. He doesn’t make any stupid or silly suggestions. Even though he’s a little sarcastic – because he’s Jack – every time the others don’t listen to him, the situation gets worse. Even turning the deactivated robot over to their allies the Asgard after the events of this story will turn out to be a mistake.

Stargate SG-1 5.18 – The Warrior

Before we got started with tonight’s episode, I reminded our son that we had met Obi Ndefo’s character, Rak’nor, last season. In the past year, he’d been looking to spread the word that the alien enemies are false gods, and has fallen in with a powerful and charismatic rebel who is building a strong army to war against their oppressors. In time, our old pal Master Bra’tac checks them out and likes what he sees, and calls Teal’c in. They’re all convinced that this guy’s the real deal and believe that Earth should strike an alliance with him. But all the humans see is a cult leader no better than the oppressors he’d replace.

I think this is a very intelligent episode that makes some good points about bringing some skepticism along when somebody promises the moon. The villain of the piece turns out to be one of those false gods in disguise, a minor Goa’uld called Imhotep. It’s a little unclear, because a key scene is kept offscreen and left to our imagination, but it seems that Imhotep had staged all this to get a big kill together for one of the more powerful villains, Lord Yu, but evidently he got too big for his britches and ticked Yu off instead.

Teal’c ends up killing Imhotep, which is especially amusing since early in the story, the cult leader greets our heroes with a list of the villains they’ve killed. Vince Crestejo returns in this episode as Yu for a very small scene and just a couple of lines, but I like how he’s played. I’ve written many times here how I’ve been disappointed with how the villains in this show, in its earlier seasons, are often all bluster and bludgeons, but Yu – with whom we spent some valuable screen time in episodes 15 and 16 – is more subtle and intelligent. He’s not really interested in killing all the rebels. He mainly just wants Imhotep to know exactly how badly he screwed up in his lust for power. I can get behind that.

Stargate SG-1 5.17 – Fail Safe

This is an SG-1 take on the hit movie Armageddon, and it’s surprisingly effective, considering how little I think of that movie. They do a good job finding new complications in their mission to deflect or destroy an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. The biggest wrinkle comes when they realize there’s a bigger booby trap than just the rock itself; the asteroid is not in our solar system naturally. One of their Goa’uld enemies – presumably Anubis – flung it at them. The kid enjoyed it very much, especially with Jack, exasperated as they start running out of options, offering several very good gag lines. General Hammond might get the best one though, as he sadly notes that they’ll discuss Jack’s diplomatic shortcomings later. He has been overdue a class or nine.

Stargate SG-1 5.16 – Last Stand

Sadly, this episode is Morrigan’s second and final appearance. She gets maybe three lines across both parts. So why do I say sadly? Because the actress is freaking gorgeous and I love that outfit. She could’ve come back two or three times a year and I’d have been just fine with that.

Anyway, no, the second half of the story is not as good as the first half, because what seemed like a promising introduction to a bunch of new villains takes a distant back seat to Osiris dominating the story by telling the other seven System Lords that s/he’s joined the service of a villain so vile that all the assembled System Lords deposed him and banished him to a distant corner of the galaxy a thousand years ago. He’s called Anubis, and though he doesn’t show up in this story, a solid majority of this bunch votes to allow him back in. Anubis will become the dominant villain over the next three seasons, as the show becomes consistently solid and watchable every single week.

(Actually, the promising “Mardi Gras” of colorful villains takes such a distant back seat that one of them, Svarog, not only doesn’t get any lines but the actor is uncredited. Apparently, Stargate‘s fandom has not uncovered the identity of the actor who plays him. Somehow, it reminds me of that Batman episode with six master villains played in long-shot by stand-ins.)

This is the last onscreen appearance of Kevin Durand’s character Zipacna, although he’ll be mentioned from time to time after this. Courtenay J. Stevens makes a last appearance this week as well, since he gets killed off along with a huge swath of the humans’ allies the Tok’ra. If all this wasn’t bad enough, Anubis sends word that just because there’s a treaty between Earth and the System Lords keeping the planet off-limits, Anubis is not a System Lord – yet – and is not bound by it. Yeesh.

I enjoyed this story overall because of the dense world-building and the huge blows that the heroes take. Our son was less taken with it, since just about all the action and the shooting was in part one. It’s a downbeat story, as the series really needs from time to time, but I think this one ended on such a low note that he rolled his eyes and curled his lips. “It had a few good moments,” he shrugged.

Stargate SG-1 5.15 – Summit

First things first: “Summit” features the first appearance of Cliff Simon as a new recurring villain, Ba’al, and he is freaking fantastic. He is by far my favorite of this show’s many enemies. If they gave me the reins of Doctor Who tomorrow, I wouldn’t use the Master very much at all, but I’d offer the part to Cliff Simon. Ba’al is malevolent and smart and has a cunning that far outstrips the blunt-object idolatry of the System Lords, and Simon is completely amazing in the role. There’s another Goa’uld that I also like quite a lot, but we won’t meet him for quite some time, and he’s still no Ba’al.

“Summit” is a major episode in developing the System Lords. Three of the villains we’ve met before – Yu, Osiris, and Zipacna – are all reintroduced, and we meet five others, who are mostly one-offs*, and everybody’s getting together because somebody’s been wiping out their armies. So Vince Crestejo, who we haven’t seen in more than two years, is back, along with Anna-Louise Plowman and Kevin Durand. There are lots more speaking parts in this story than we normally see. Coordinating everybody’s schedule for this one must have been a joy.

Another reason I really enjoy this one and its follow-up: the heroes get themselves well and truly thrashed. While Daniel is infiltrating the System Lords’ summit with our old pal Jacob, Zipacna leads his armies against the Tok’ra. We saw the humans’ powerful allies the Tollan wiped out earlier this year, and now the Tok’ra are decimated. Even more surprising: just two episodes ago, we met Courtenay J. Stevens’ character of Lt. Elliot, newly assigned to SG-17. They all get killed as well. Elliot’s going to survive into part two, barely, but could this situation possibly get any worse? Tune in tomorrow night…

Stargate SG-1 5.14 – 48 Hours

Tonight’s episode of SG-1 introduces David Hewlett as Dr. Rodney McKay, who makes no friends at all as he smarms and condescends and talks down to everybody around him, taking such a particular delight in mansplaining to Major Carter at every opportunity that his comeuppance at the end of the episode is doubly delightful. McKay will be back often, and is frequently quite delightfully annoying, but his edges will get sanded down quite a lot before he becomes a regular on Atlantis.

This is a big follow-up to “Desperate Measures” and also ends the revenge storyline between Teal’c and his enemy Tanith. Peter Wingfield doesn’t get a credit or dialogue and that might not have even been him in long shot when Teal’c blows him up, another ignominious end to one of the villains in this series. As before, O’Neill and Maybourne team up to deal with Col. Simmons and his NID goons. The story ends with Simmons and his Goa’uld prisoner arrested, but as is often the case, the details of his downfall are dealt with offscreen. We won’t see them again for almost a year.

Our son was honestly a little restless again this time. This is another story that leads with an all-action teaser with lots of explosions, but it’s mainly people rushing around arguing about various conspiratorial dealings or scientific jargon. He finds the characters and their situations so endearing that he puts up with it a lot better than he would have even a year ago, but he’s just going to have to trust us that McKay eventually becomes one of those characters that you love to hate, emphasis on the love, because right now he’s just rude.

Stargate SG-1 5.13 – Proving Ground

I was initially a little petulantly annoyed that this episode came up in the rotation, because it’s in the way of three really good ones. It’s not bad at all, and it does introduce a new recurring character, Lt. Elliot, played by Courtenay J. Stevens, who will become important in a couple of the really good ones which we will see next week. And there are a couple of amusing twists and it was fun to watch our son try and put the pieces together.

The story seems to have been made to give lighter work for most of the regulars; Col. O’Neill gets to lead four trainees against a possible foothold incursion. One of them is Haley, who we met last season in “Prodigy” and one who never appears in this show again is a character played by Grace Park, who went on to star in Battlestar Galactica and Hawaii Five-O. Naturally it’s all another training exercise, but our son didn’t figure that out until enough clues had stacked up, and it had the right amount of action and shootouts to keep him satisfied.

Stargate SG-1 5.12 – Wormhole X-Treme!

For SG-1’s 100th episode, it’s a comedy. Picking up a year after the events of “Point of No Return”, our heroes need to find the alien who thought he was a human conspiracy nut, and learn that he’s working as the “creative consultant” on a television series that’s a lot like Stargate SG-1, only with a lower budget. We also learn that in the Stargate universe, what was, in our world, an infamously dumb unsold NBC pilot called Poochinski ran for a hundred episodes. And that Jack O’Neill really liked that show.

So this is naturally full of industry in-jokes and winks at themselves and several other sci-fi teevee shows, some of which the kid got. One of the actors is aggravated about a plot hole that befell a previous episode of this series, other actors use the pseudonym of The Six Million Dollar Man, aliens use Star Trek‘s transporter tech and its visual effect, and the reason the TV show has such a dumb name is because shows with an “X” in the title are supposed to get better ratings, which is why they’re considering adding a sexy alien woman to the program. It’s all in good fun and is winningly playful, and a hundred episodes later, we’d find out how successful Wormhole X-Treme! was.