Stargate SG-1 7.2 – Homecoming

As I’ve mentioned often enough, I really, really enjoy seasons six through eight of Stargate SG-1 a whole lot. One reason is that they’ve got the execution down to a science. They’ve figured out that the show needs a whole lot more than creeping around the enemy motherships looking for a way out, because we’ve done that enough back in the first few years and we need something different. “Homecoming” balances all that stuff quite expertly with some negotiations with other villains and a heck of an interesting story about what’s happening on the planet below.

Anubis’s mind probe from the previous episode has brought him to Jonas’s home planet in search of the super-rare MacGuffin “naquadriah.” So while Jonas and Daniel are creeping around on the enemy mothership, Anubis’s forces occupy the capital city, Kelowna, which we first visited back in season five. The three power blocs on the planet still can’t get their crap together even when a city-sized spaceship is parked right above the skyscrapers. Our son loved that visual, by the way, and not only because the special effects team made it look so good, but because he’s a silly ten year-old kid and it amused him to imagine the skyscrapers puncturing the big spaceship and it deflating like a balloon.

Even more interestingly, they’re doing something downright different with the System Lords. Again, this is something I’ve mentioned often, but the baddies are typically very, very run of the mill and have just the one note: they all do the same thing. But last time, Yu the Great withdrew his forces and sped to another part of the galaxy. That’s because, as his First Prime quietly confesses to Teal’c, his master is getting increasingly ill. Yu is deteriorating mentally; he has aged out of the ability to take a new host and his mind is going. He thought he was supposed to battle Anubis thousands of light years away.

Interestingly, Vince Crestejo isn’t in this episode; it’s explained that Yu spends so much time in his sarcophagus attempting to heal that he’s trusting decisions to his First Prime, who doesn’t know what to do anymore. So he and Teal’c strike a deal with Ba’al to come take down Anubis. And this works really, really wonderfully: it leaves the audience on a knife’s edge, wondering whether Ba’al is going to end up betraying everybody as well.

So it all ends okay in the end. Anubis meets another huge setback, Ba’al amasses new power, the big jerk Commander Hale from Kelowna betrays everyone and gets killed for his efforts. It works out great for everybody except poor old Corin Nemec. The life of an actor is tough and full of things getting moved around by producers and studios that leave people thanking you for your time. Michael Shanks left the program after five years, and then there were some real world behind-the-scenes negotiations, and now he’s back with one of those slightly more prestigious “and the actor as the character” credits, meaning there’s not room in the show for Jonas Quinn anymore. So it’s a shame to see Corin Nemec go for now – he’ll return for a guest shot about halfway through the season – and an even bigger shame that they couldn’t find a role for him on Atlantis the following year. I still wonder why that never happened.

Stargate SG-1 6.6 – Abyss

“There wasn’t even one explosion in that,” our son grumbled. Kind of drives home how a nine year-old is definitely viewing the show through a very different lens right now. I am really enjoying this run of episodes all over again for all the character conflict and interesting production decisions – this one is definitely one of the cheapies – but he’s been dissatisfied since this season began, unfortunately.

Anyway, this is the first time we’ve seen Cliff Simon’s excellent villain Ba’al since he was introduced the year before, and also the first time since Simon’s tragic death in March. This is where he became my favorite of the show’s bad guys, a patient, ruthless, and incredibly intelligent opponent. Much of the story is a two-hander between Simon and Richard Dean Anderson…

…but the meat is the two-hander between Anderson and Michael Shanks, who makes a return visit this week as Ascended Daniel, coming back to our plane of existence to help Jack ascend, because there doesn’t seem to be any other way out of the trap he’s in. There’s such great chemistry between the actors, and there’s an amazing moment where Jack loses his temper, and he can’t keep up the sarcastic front any longer, letting the real and unpleasant Colonel O’Neill come to the surface. It’s great stuff.

As a very nitpicky aside, while I do enjoy this hour a great deal, they missed a trick by giving it (yet again) another forgettable title unrelated to anything that actually happens in it. Ba’al’s fortress has all these gravity traps within it, and Jack’s prison doesn’t need a door, because one little control knobs turns the far wall into the floor, with the door in the ceiling. Surely it should be titled “Oubliette.”

RIP Cliff Simon, 1962-2021

We read some other very sad news yesterday. Actor Cliff Simon, best known as the recurring villain Ba’al in the second half of Stargate SG-1, was killed this week in a kiteboarding accident in Malibu, Caifornia. Simon brought a malevolent and energetic sparkle to the character, and made him easily my favorite among all of the program’s many recurring villains. He did several other guest star parts on American TV and hosted Into the Unknown for the Travel Channel last year. Our condolences to his friends and family.

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…