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.

Galaxy Quest (1999)

I can’t believe how badly this film has dated. It sure didn’t stand up to a second go-around for me. It was amusing and entertaining, and the kid enjoyed it very much, but I swear the whole shebang has got to be among the least funny “comedies” ever scripted. In Galaxy Quest, some aliens think that a 1980s TV series was real, and ask the actors to help them save their planet. The underemployed actors think it’s another gig, but it’s real. That’s it. That’s the joke. It’s a mighty fine premise, I’ll grant you, but the movie is so busy having fun with saving the Thermians from their implacable enemy that it forgets to mine that premise for actual comedy.

So anyway, the movie features Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shaloub, and Daryl Mitchell as the stars of an early 1980s sci-fi show that ran for eighty-odd episodes, along with Sam Rockwell as a glorified extra who got killed off as a redshirt in one installment. They’re all pretty fun to watch, and Allen especially does a mighty fine job when his character gets to be “Commander Taggart” and play things straight. Enrico Colantoni, rudely, steals the movie out from all of them as the hero-worshipping leader of the aliens. The gag is that since their species does not understand anything other than absolute honesty, they’re easy prey for space conquerors who can lie to them with impunity, and they think that Galaxy Quest and Gilligan’s Island are historical documentaries. Nothing is done with this. Our heroes somehow don’t use lies and subterfuge to trick the Thermians into defeating their enemies; and the hapless aliens end the movie no wiser than they began.

I think what frustrated me this time around is that the film plays everything so straight that it has the same tone as any mildly amusing or wry sci-fi movie, when this thing should have had me laughing so hard I couldn’t hear what they were saying anymore. It knows that its audience is in on the joke, so it doesn’t bother to tell them any. At one point, the actors phone up a blueprint-loving “tech manual” style of fan who knows the schematics of the ship to help them get through the actor-sized ventilation ducts, and the joke seems to be “this kind of fan actually exists,” when of course they do. Was that supposed to be funny? I appreciate the design and the work of the actors, technicians, designers, and visual effects crew, and resent the screenplay for being so damn lazy.

What would have been better? Miles more on Earth. The aliens navigating agents, finding the stars’ homes, renting limousines. More of the actors’ other roles. The aliens looking up Tina Louise and Bob Denver to make sure they got off the island. The revelation that Tina Louise or Bob Denver had been a guest star in a 1982 episode of Galaxy Quest and the aliens trying to square that with what they think about television. Lots more gags about television. Heck, the fact that the aliens were able to get a working spaceship out of technology that does not make any scientific sense whatever is a gold mine of gags left untouched. I swear they spent $45 million on a movie with only one script draft. Into the sell pile with you, Galaxy Quest. You didn’t even produce a fake 1982 episode as a DVD extra!