Stargate SG-1 7.6 – Lifeboat

“Lifeboat” is a fine example of the way that the demands and requirements of an action-adventure teevee show sometimes get in the way of the good stuff. The sci-fi material is interesting, even if it seems like it was all designed to give Michael Shanks a lot more to chew on than he usually got to do on this series, and I think it’s another fine example of a continuity-free hour from this period of the program. But I’m so much more interested in what happened next. Like the previous episode, it ends with a massive refugee crisis that Stargate Command will get to sort out, and it suddenly struck me that everything that follows the end credits would be incredibly interesting to see.

Somewhere around a thousand survivors of this ark ship are going to wake up from cryosleep to learn the ship crashed, they’re nowhere near where they were meant to go, and Earth’s got to find a new planet for them to start over with extremely limited resources. How do they decide on a new planet? Does Earth help with food and supplies and building material? Do we get to have a new treaty with the government that takes over after their sovereign meets his weird fate? I bet there’s a fun story there, albeit not necessarily one that would work in a conventional TV hour. It’d be a much more interesting frame story for the next clip show than what they usually come up with, though!

Stargate SG-1 7.5 – Revisions

This episode’s guest star is a remarkably interesting location: the shuttered Fantasy Garden World park, a quasi-medieval village underneath a castle. It was mostly closed down by the early 2000s and its few rides removed, and was occasionally used as a filming location for Vancouver-based TV series and, I understand, some music videos. Remarkably, this was the first time that Stargate ever found a reason to use this site, but Atlantis would stop by once or twice a bit later on. Visually, the hour is a complete treat, since the director found all sorts of reasons to keep the camera moving around and through the twisty little avenues and streets.

Storywise, it’s also really entertaining. The little town is in a biodome in an otherwise hostile environment. A few centuries previously, the residents retreated into this protected world as the rest of their planet became toxic. Fortunately, it’s just half an hour’s walk – with a hazmat suit – from the Stargate, otherwise things would have gone very differently. The thousand-plus residents are all connected by a “link” they wear on their faces to a central computer, but it looks like the computer can make changes to the population’s needs without letting anybody know what it’s up to. I wouldn’t say the story is radically original or weird, but it does present our heroes with an extremely interesting problem: how can they convince the residents that there is a problem when the computer can wipe their memories of any reason to think a problem exists? It’s a genuinely well-done hour, and a nice break from all the ongoing continuity that informs most of the episodes at this point in the show.

Stargate SG-1 7.4 – Orpheus

I enjoyed this one, though I have to admit it feels a little long waiting for the good guys to finally get the rescue going in the third act. Most of the time, the Stargate universe doesn’t do as good a job as this one does emphasizing the time between adventures. This one recounts the events of “The Changeling” in the previous season, and explains that shortly after that story, two of our heroes’ allies were captured on a mission behind enemy lines. They’ve been in a prison camp for months, awaiting rescue, and Teal’c, recovering from an injury on duty, doesn’t feel like he is strong enough to be part of the team.

Anyway, our son enjoyed this one, particularly the anticipation of the big finale when O’Neill decides they’re going to take out an under-construction mother ship. Tony Amendola and Obi Ndefo are back, giving more definition to the ongoing storyline of the baddies’ troopers building into a rebel army. It’s a good story overall, though I confess the mischievous side of me had the most fun with a short scene where Sam tells Daniel about a very silly film that he missed while he was away: M. Night Shyamalan’s dopey sci-fi movie Signs.

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 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 7.1 – Fallen

One of the treasures of watching our kid grow as we’ve watched things together is seeing how he’s able to make connections at age ten that he couldn’t at age seven. I was reminded this morning of watching A Close Shave with him in 2018; he couldn’t quite connect that the “launch sequence” bit in that was a tip of the hat to Thunderbirds. But “Fallen” just pilfers its plan to beat the villain straight from the original Star Wars, even down to having the lights down low in the briefing room where they discuss the whole business of shooting missiles into a convenient exhaust port. It took our son no time at all to start singing the Star Wars theme, figuring it out even before Jack protests that he wanted to be called “Red Leader” on this mission.

Anyway, in non-space battle news, Michael Shanks is back as a regular starting with this episode, with Corin Nemec knocked down to guest star for this installment and the next. I’ve never read much about the behind-the-scenes stuff; I’ve always assumed there was some contract stuff in play here. At least Nemec gets an entertaining cliffhanger for his last story. Our heroes have crippled Anubis’s super-weapon so that Lord Yu’s forces can destroy Anubis… but weirdly, Yu betrays everyone and sends his fleet away. Jonas is captured and the episode ends with Anubis ready to use his ugly, spiky mind-probe ball on Jonas. “That thing!” our son said, loudly, when Anubis revealed his gadget. “Oh, I hate that thing!” Then he growled that we were going to make him wait several hours for the next part.

Stargate SG-1 6.22 – Full Circle

Apt name. “Full Circle” sees the team going back to the planet Abydos, site of the original film, for a final time, to finish out the season. This week, Anubis, the most powerful of the current crop of baddies, has set his sights on a Macguffin that Ra, that first villain from that first film, left behind. And so there’s more to learn about Anubis and the ascended beings and more shootouts in the desert. Vince Crestejo makes another small appearance this week as Yu the Great rallies some of the remaining villains to defeat Anubis, but they’re too late. Our son enjoyed this one a whole lot, but his biggest smile probably came from seeing that credit, “Yu the Great,” in the end titles.

As I mentioned when we first started dealing with Oma Desala and the ascended types three seasons previously, the rules for the higher planes of existence are really arbitrary. There’s supposed to be a general rule against intervention, which Oma keeps breaking, slyly, and which Daniel’s ready to start breaking as well. We’ve seen him bend the rules a couple of times this season, to give Michael Shanks a little screen time, but in this story, he makes a deal with Anubis to spare everybody on the planet below. Anubis decides against keeping his end of the bargain and Daniel is about to finally use his powers to just flat out wipe the villain from existence… and then those arbitrary rules kick in.

It looks like Oma Desala has the moxie among her crew to be the one to decide who ascends and who just dies, but she doesn’t like anybody she does bring to their plane to draw attention to themselves by wiping villains from existence. It’s more important for her to save the entire planet’s population from Anubis – in fairness, lots of these planets have extremely small populations, but still – than it is for Daniel to strike him down. Anubis and his forces are going to rack up a mighty body count over the next two seasons. Is Oma going to save all of the innocents he’s yet to kill? Gods work in arbitrary ways.

Stargate SG-1 6.21 – Prophecy

Last time, we had a guest appearance from actor Robert Foxworth, and this time we have an episode called “Prophecy,” and forty-odd years ago, Robert Foxworth starred in a monster movie called Prophecy that I watched repeatedly on HBO as a kid. OK, that’s tenuous even for a silly coincidence-loving geek like me, but it made me giggle.

Anyway, this “Prophecy” follows up on the events of “Metamorphosis” earlier in the season, and reveals that the dead villain Nirrti’s final experiments had been on our hero Jonas, and left him with limited powers of precognition in the form of an ugly tumor that is slowly killing him. Hopefully he has a chance to help the people of a planet enslaved by another Goa’uld before they have to surgically remove the tumor.

So our kid really enjoyed most of this installment. There are a couple of swell gunfights and a good mystery about how Jonas’s power can be used to their advantage, but he really didn’t like the surgery scenes, and, weirdly, he didn’t like the actor who played the villain, saying “His face unnerves me.” That’s Victor Talmadge as Lord Mot, another one-and-done Goa’uld, above. SG-1 don’t kill this one themselves; one of the enslaved people on the planet gets him with O’Neill’s sidearm.

Amusingly, while our son can’t recognize actor’s faces worth a darn, he did recognize a prop, which is almost as cute in my book. The “concussion grenade” bomb had been used previously in a season five episode, “Proving Ground”.

Stargate SG-1 6.20 – Memento

You know, because I’m not as clever as my mouth sometimes talks, I started tonight’s episode thinking that guest star Robert Foxworth might be the only Columbo villain to appear on Stargate, but that’s certainly not true. Ian Buchanan had been here before him, just eight episodes previously. Well, shucks.

Anyway, back when we were watching the episode with Buchanan a month ago, I had grumbled, good-naturedly I hope, about Earth having a big flying battleship. But here’s a story that wouldn’t have been able to have been told without it, and it’s a pretty good one. The Prometheus is on a training run and is crippled when its hyperspace engines fail. They are able to make their way to a planet listed in their original “cartouche” of addresses but have never been able to reach, indicating that the planet’s gate had been destroyed or buried. So it’s an interesting story of first contact for the people of Tagrea, who are technologically about on par with Earth, but don’t have any records of their history prior to three hundred years before. The gate, like their past, genuinely has been buried, and most of the Tagrean people are just fine with that, but without the gate to dial home for help and repairs, they will be stranded.

All is resolved in the end, but our son surprised us by thinking this was going to be a two-parter. He was reading all the Tagrean stuff as a side story from the actual mission to break in the Prometheus. We joked about what could possibly end up happening in a supposed second half of this tale, and he eventually concluded that it would mainly be Jack and Teal’c being so bored that they started knocking their heads against the walls.

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 6.18 – Forsaken

We watched episode 17, a clip show, last week, but I didn’t feel like writing about it. Normally we leave the clip shows on the shelf, but this one had an interesting frame story where the US and Russia let China, France, and the UK know about the Stargate and everything that’s happened so far, and they brought in Ronny Cox to make it all seem more important, and possibly a teeny bit more expensive, than your ordinary clip show.

Episode 18 is back on location with special effects and gunfire and a new alien race. Strangely, they do extremely little with the Serrakin after designing them. Maybe they realized that, despite all the hard work the designers and makeup people put into their idea, that they just looked more like Star Trek than Stargate. The story’s a pretty basic one about not judging by appearances, but it drops in some interesting backstory that’s never really developed like it could have been, and the Serrakin never become the allies against the Goa’uld that they could have. I enjoyed seeing Jonas stay a couple of steps ahead of their opponents. His character hasn’t really been used that well in recent episodes, so this was overdue.