Stargate SG-1 8.18 – Threads

“Threads” is an extra-length episode that was originally broadcast in a 90-minute slot, and our kid really hated it. Their goal was to wrap up absolutely everything, all the outstanding continuity, clearing the decks for a big, fun two-part finale without all the weight of loose ends. This one even introduces a whole new loose end: O’Neill has been seeing a CIA agent named Kerry for a few weeks, but that gets wrapped up as well, so that he and Carter can finally begin a relationship. But wait, you say, wasn’t she engaged to Pete? The guy who’s been barely mentioned and not seen since “Affinity”? Yeah, she breaks off their engagement. And her father dies, so it’s farewell this time to both Carmen Argenziano and David DeLuise, making their final appearances in the series.

Okay, so technically O’Neill and Carter don’t actually formalize anything onscreen. Then there’s the fact that the series continued with occasional guest appearances from Richard Dean Anderson showing that his character does not actually retire from the USAF as it is strongly hinted here. But I’m pretty sure that “I can’t believe we didn’t do this years ago” is all the meat that fans of that ship needed. It works, offscreen, from here if you’re willing to let it.

Our son was very, very bored with this one. It’s all talking, with the action offscreen. On Earth, it’s deaths and breakups, in space, all the money for big battles needed to be spent in the next story, and then there’s the Astral Diner. Happily, mercifully, this story also mostly wraps up all the business with the higher planes of existence, and finally answers the problem posed two years previously why Oma Desala never stopped the supervillain Anubis.

But it’s all so dopey! Daniel is trapped in a diner whose appearance was pulled from his memories, and populated by Ascended Beings who ignore him while he and Oma Desala and a mysterious loudmouth argue about free will and death and good and evil and coffee. It all plays out precisely like those deeply bizarre tangents that Steve Gerber would write in 1970s Marvel comics like Man-Thing and Omega the Unknown, where you thought you were buying a comic with a monster or a superhero and you got people on roller coasters having a mid-life crisis and talking directly to the reader. That fine character actor George Dzundza plays the loudmouth in the diner, and his identity is a nice surprise, but I’ve said before that the higher plane of existence business has been the weakest thing about Stargate and they were determined to wrap it up as goofily as possible, weren’t they?

Stargate SG-1 8.16-17 – Reckoning (parts one and two)

So, the final five episodes of the series, or at least that’s what they planned. You might could read it as a three-parter followed by a two-parter, but I kind of see it as a pair of two-parters with a interesting loose-ends story between them. It begins with one of our favorite villains, Yu the Great, being killed, and ends with every Replicator in this galaxy wiped out, their threat finally destroyed. And in between, the Goa’uld Empire falls. Big event TV, in other words.

Naturally, Tony Amendola and Carmen Argenziano return for all the chaos, because it makes sense to bring back recurring players at a time like this. We also get a surprising guest star for the first three hours of this farewell tour: Isaac Hayes. Plus we get some explosions and other visuals from previous stories and the return of the great big stone prop from “Window of Opportunity” because that thing probably wasn’t cheap. Well, when you go bigger than the budget, you cut corners where you can!

It’s a shame to see Yu go, but my absolute favorite villain on this series, Cliff Simon’s Baal, just owns this one. These are among his worst days. Baal is inches away from complete domination over all the System Lords when the Replicators make their move and start wiping out his fleet. In the end, he’s still sneering but he has to form an alliance with the humans and the Tok’ra to stop the erector-set bugs from spreading everywhere. Simon is just a joy to watch. He’s like a volcano in this one.

All told, this is a very fun story. Hats off to everybody involved; they separated our heroes into four places of action and the stakes get higher and higher and things get worse and worse. Our son was in heaven. He was so excited by everything that happened in this one, with great dialogue to outer space visuals to lots of gunfire and explosions, paced just perfectly. It’s a really thrilling story, directed extremely well. You might could make the argument that it’s all sizzle and no steak, but that’s okay. It sizzles really nicely and we’ll get the steak next time.

Stargate SG-1 7.16 – Death Knell

I really admire the way this show is willing to do the opposite of tie up loose ends. It unravels them completely. As ever, there’s a lot going on offstage in SG-1. Over at the new Alpha Site, where the humans work with their two allied groups, they’ve been working on new weapons to deal with the indestructible Kull Warriors, who were introduced in the big midseason cliffhanger adventure. But as they established in a story in the previous season, the alliance is really tenuous because the two alien groups can’t trust each other. And then one of them reveals their location to Anubis, who sics two or more of the Kulls on them.

I like how they don’t tell us who’s to blame. Maybe some of the Jaffa who went on a recruiting drive were captured and talked, or maybe it was a Tok’ra spy who has a high-level position within the ranks of Anubis’s latest enemy. Whichever, nobody can get to the bottom of it and in the end, it doesn’t matter. Nobody wants to listen anymore, and the episode ends with the three forces going their separate ways. Carmen Argenziano’s character of Jacob has been around what feels like every three or four episodes for the last two seasons, but this is the last we’ll see of him for a year.

The kid was really not impressed with this one. I thought they did a good job balancing the negotiations on Earth with Sam trying to get away from the last Kull – it knows she has some of the Kull-killin’ prototype tech with her – as Jack and Teal’c try to find them. There’s great location filming, some tense situations, a few shootouts and a mammoth explosion, but it wasn’t enough. The unresolvable debates back at the base really weighed this story down for him and he tuned out. “I just don’t like everyone arguing and everybody unhappy,” he said. “Why can’t they all just get along?” You’d think that after all this time they’d agree.

Stargate SG-1 7.13 – Grace

On the plus side, I really like the attention to continuity and detail. Earth’s flying battleship, last seen toward the end of season six in “Memento”, has been stuck on an alien planet having its engines overhauled and repaired. They haven’t cut corners or sped things up for teevee time. It’s been grounded there for the better part of an entire year. And I also really like that they gave Amanda Tapping a dedicated hour. She’s the only person onscreen for most of the running time, thanks to a weird accident, a concussion, a strange gas cloud, and a never-identified hostile gang of aliens.

There are a couple of scenes back at the base with everybody worried, but most of the dialogue comes from Carter having short conversations with hallucinations of her teammates and her dad, and that’s where we get into what I don’t like: men telling the show’s female lead that she needs to think about finding some love in her life at last. Y’all boys shut your mouths and let our Carter reverse-engineer some quantum hyperdrive dilithium propulsion-plasma housing Kryptonite electrons and reverse the polarity of the neutron flow. And speaking of technobabble and dilithium, I was quite right to think that this felt like the sort of thing they’d do on Star Trek. According to the Stargate Fandom Wiki, both Voyager and Enterprise did episodes where one of the crewmembers wakes up alone on their ship stuck in a gas cloud and starts hallucinating the rest of the cast!

Mind you, I still think they should’ve brought back that gang of aliens in the great big ship…

Stargate SG-1 7.11-12 – Evolution (parts one and two)

After several entertaining one-offs, SG-1 reached a big midseason split with this epic two-parter. The first half was shown in August 2003, the second almost five months later in January 2004. It brings back three of the recurring good guys, played by Tony Amendola, Carmen Argenziano, and Bill Dow, introduces Enrico Colantoni as an old black ops buddy of Jack’s, and gives Anubis a new army of unthinking zombie-like drones in indestructible armor called Kull Warriors.

Like I was mentioning when the season started, the show has perfected keeping two big set pieces going on, so while half of our heroes are sneaking around an enemy base, the other half is dealing with an unexpectedly real-world problem on Earth. Looking into the origins of the Kulls, Daniel unfurls a plot thread that goes back four seasons, to his grandfather’s research into alien skullduggery with the Mayans. So he and Dr. Lee head off to Honduras to find a secret temple, and are kidnapped by anti-Honduran terrorists who have a camp in Nicaragua.

I thought this was a really good adventure, and interestingly it ends with three of our heroes having had the daylights knocked out of them and bound for a few weeks off the active duty roster. Our son liked it a lot, too, and we talked a little bit afterward about zombie lore. We also paused midway though the story to discuss what black ops are, because it suddenly struck me that the show’s occasionally mentioned O’Neill’s background a time or two and he had no idea what that meant. Maybe one day we’ll show him some Mission: Impossible, even if nobody’s hands really get dirty in that program’s fanciful kind of black ops.

Stargate SG-1 7.3 – Fragile Balance

I’d have thought that week three of a new season might have been a bit early for a comedy episode without the star actor for most of the runtime, but I suppose it worked out just fine. That’s in large part thanks to the really, really good impersonation of Richard Dean Anderson by Michael Welch. Then just sixteen years old and already with three dozen credits behind him, Welch has grown into one of those “oh yeah, that guy” actors with more than a hundred parts, and his impression of Colonel Jack O’Neill is downright uncanny for a teenager to have pulled off. Since the whole production rested on his shoulders, it looks from a distance more like a gamble than a comedy break, but darned if it doesn’t pay off.

This one isn’t a time travel episode, surprisingly. A rogue scientist from one of Earth’s allied races decided to borrow O’Neill for experimentation – there’s an in-universe reason, but it’s lengthy – and left behind a clone with memories intact for the week that he needs him, but a flaw left the clone stuck as a teenager. This results in a whole bunch of continuity references to similarly unlikely sci-fi stuff happening in the series, including why Jack’s in no hurry to go into stasis again while the Tok’ra figure this out. Teen Jack also gets to remind Carter that he is still her superior officer and shouldn’t be called “kind of cute,” and then retreat to the base guest quarters and grumble in front of his Playstation.

Admittedly, it does get a little strained at times – O’Neill is surely smart enough to know that without even an attempt at a fake ID, nobody is going to sell him any beer – but the comedy is appropriate for the situation and our son really enjoyed this one. He liked it better when it was just being funny and before they figured out what was going on, but I think we can call it a win.

Stargate SG-1 6.19 – The Changeling

Hmmm. Think we may have found out why episode 17 was a clip show! “The Changeling,” which was written by one of the stars, Christopher Judge, features several recurring actors, Peter Williams, Michael Shanks, Tony Amendola, and Carmen Argenziano, multiple locations, including the same bridge that was later used in the first episode of Batwoman, where young Kate and Alice and their mother went into the river, and a whole passel of extras. True, they went a little light on the special effects and gunfights this week, but there’s just so much more going on in this episode than a typical one that it sure looks like they needed to cut a corner somewhere else.

A Doctor Who story that was made seven years after this episode, “Amy’s Choice”, had a somewhat similar premise of two competing realities, each of which seems like a dream to the people who wake up in the other one. Our son did not like that Who, and he didn’t like this either, struggling to come up with a tortuous analogy that understanding this was like holding on to a very high set of monkey bars with grease on the metal. The kid likes television better when he’s on surer footing.

Stargate SG-1 6.9 – Allegiances

This makes two in a row. This season’s finally looking up for our unsatisfied kid. “Allegiances” is a really good episode that rounds up three of the show’s recurring players, Tony Amendola, Carmen Argenziano, and Obi Ndefo, for a location-based story full of extras and lots of anger. The story reminds us that the humans and one bunch of their allies have been sharing an alpha site whose location is unknown to the villains. Suddenly, they have to provide refuge for another bunch of allies, but there’s very bad blood between these two gangs. Almost immediately, there’s sabotage and murder.

The kid suggested that it was a bit like a game of Clue as they tried to determine where everybody was at the time of the first killing. Then the fellow they were holding for it also turns up dead in his cell. Lots of location stuff, lots of fighting, lots of gunplay, big desperate situation in the end, and a villain everybody sincerely hopes they will never run into again. I enjoyed this one a lot, and I’m glad the kid did as well.

Stargate SG-1 6.3 – Descent

Another in a long line of Stargate stories where they have a big problem with some technology refusing to cooperate and a situation that just gets worse and worse. There’s lots to like about this one, apart from the bright, helpfully see-through ocean water, which is hardly a problem exclusive to this series, but the most interesting facet is Jonas completely freezing and blowing his first firefight. It’s a very good thing Jack was on another ship and didn’t see that. The character’s drive to do better in his next trial by fire ends up saving the day, which is admittedly kind of obvious, but it’s done quite well.

I was impressed that our son did some critical thinking about the situation. This time, the tech that’s about to go all kinds of wrong is an alien mothership parked at the farthest edge of Earth’s orbit, with no shields or engine power and no life signs aboard. I suggested that my first thought, as they gingerly approach it to see what’s up and what might be salvaged, was that it could well be full of Replicators. But our son said that wasn’t likely: their scan shows the hyperdrive engines are intact, and the Replicators would have either taken that apart or upgraded it immediately. That’s true! The kid got ahead of me, which is awesome.

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 5.16 – 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.