Stargate SG-1 9.13 – Ripple Effect

Once you get past the episode being written, in part, for the slowest possible member of the audience, they had a lot of fun making this parallel universe story. I’m sure anybody reading this was exposed to the concept at a very young age. We take it for granted now, at last, but when this was first shown 15 years ago, MGM must have figured that it’s just possible somebody tuning into the Sci-Fi Channel to watch this might just be a newbie, meaning poor Beau Bridges had to play General Landry as twelve steps behind everyone else while they catch him up. It does result in a funny line about the SGC becoming the Grand Central Station of the Multiverse, but really, he should have said “Okay, parallel universe scenario, Carter, get to work,” and saved a minute. With the constant references to older, similar weird situations in earlier episodes (including two non-faves), they should probably already have a code name for this and a battleplan laid out.

What they did with this story was playful and amusing and pretty smart, and brought back some familiar faces like Teryl Rotherty and J.R. Bourne, whose characters had died in our continuity, but with (at least) eighteen different SG-1 teams in the base, they really didn’t do nearly enough. Amanda Tapping has to deliver a gigantic load of technobabble, even for this show, and I swear they could have cut almost all of it to give us more silliness.

So there are all these new SG-1s at play, and we only meet two and glimpse a couple of others, apart from the Room Full of Sams, and that feels like a missed opportunity. By chance, we came to this episode the same weekend as Spider-Man: No Way Home, which doesn’t waste a minute with explanations of things the audience has understood for many years, but I thought that was also a missed opportunity. Only two guest universes? With Maguire and Garfield only mentioning characters we’d already seen? I wish both productions had gone a little bit bigger.

Stargate SG-1 4.5 – Divide and Conquer

Hmmm. Another hole in my memory. Last month, we ran into a third season episode of SG-1 called “A Hundred Days” and I swear I didn’t remember a frame of it. That’s happened again. It’s not just Vanessa Angel’s character of Freya that I had completely forgotten; this entire hour felt brand-new to me. And let’s be clear and let’s be honest: a costume like that and a viewer like me, that’s not the sort of thing I’m prone to forgetting.

And it’s not that the episode’s at all bad, either. It’s about our heroes and their allies trying to get to the bottom of an alien scheme to brainwash people and turn them into Manchurian Candidates for assassinations, and addresses the increasing romantic feelings that Jack and Samantha have for each other but can’t do anything about, what with them being a colonel and a captain in the same unit. They got really close to admitting it on their last action against the Goa’uld, and now the situation forces them to quietly admit it in front of witnesses. How’d I forget this?

But here’s the really weird part: J.R. Bourne’s recurring character, Martouf, gets killed. Because with Stargate, I’m reading a little ahead to see what’s coming and remind myself of these old installments, this was a big surprise. It’s not as though, having been reintroduced to Martouf last month, I’ve lost any time or sleep trying to recall his fate or his character arc, but I was still surprised to read this happening. I remember some of these recurring characters’ dramatic exits very, very well – the gut-punch that Stargate Atlantis pulled toward the end of season three most of all – but poor Martouf going down like Sonny at the tollbooth was all new to me.

Marie admitted that she didn’t recall it at all either. She didn’t enjoy it, but she says that she must have seen it twice – once to decide she didn’t like it and once when she showed to me and my older kids. But maybe she didn’t. Maybe she just discreetly skipped it in our last run so we could get to the genius of episode six.

Stargate SG-1 3.13 – The Devil You Know (part two of two)

I mentioned a splendid cliffhanger last time, and it really is a delightful, nasty one. Apophis is still alive. The producers did such a good job with this, spending the first half of the season moving on from Apophis, even devoting an entire episode to convincing his brainwashed acolytes that he was dead. And he isn’t just alive, he’s in charge. He was disguised as the second-in-command to Sokar’s second-in-command, hidden under armor and a helmet, looking like a medieval Boba Fett or something.

Actually, I adore the backstory that we couldn’t have seen without spoiling the reveal. Our heroes’ allies had warned them that Sokar was likely to restore Apophis to life with the slimy bug technology of the sarcophagus, just to keep torturing him for years and years. Somehow, Apophis got the upper hand at some point, disguised himself, and has been slowly getting things ready to strike… and then these damn Earthmen show up again. Of all the luck!

Anyway, the episode finds reason to focus on the damn Earthmen and their allies, but the machinations of the villains is the really fun part. Apophis kills the next guy up in the pecking order, consolidates power, puts a gang together, gets a secret weapon and some intel – or so he thinks – from J.R. Bourne’s recurring guest character, who’s more wily than Apophis figures, and goes to meet Sokar under the guise of being penitent and loyal. Of course, Sokar doesn’t buy this for a minute, and it looks to all come crashing down around Apophis’s ears.

Sokar proves to be a disappointment in the end. If there’s a misfire at all, it’s building up Sokar through other characters’ discussion of him for months and months and not giving him the center stage we might have enjoyed for a while. The episode ends with Sokar’s mothership and his hell moon blown to pebbles and dust and our son was loving every second of the climax… until the inevitable “escape pod” moment, showing that one of the baddies had made it to safety. The final shot reveals that it’s Apophis who somehow made it out, and is presumably taking power and stamping out resistance among Sokar’s army.

Apophis is by no means anywhere near my favorite villain. Like too many of the Goa’uld, he’s only got one note and it isn’t played with any nuance. But structurally, this story is great, and it’s occasionally very entertaining to let the overall storyline disappoint you when it’s told so well. I’ll be fed up with his crap again in no time at all, but I assured our son that his eventual demise will be worth all the aggravation getting there.

Stargate SG-1 3.12 – Jolinar’s Memories (part one of two)

Earlier this evening, I wrote about the peculiar ability our son swears he possesses: to wipe the memories of TV shows he didn’t enjoy or was scared by. I joked that tonight’s installment of Stargate will certainly go in that pile. He hated this episode.

In this story, the Tok’ra need our help because Carter’s father has been captured on a mission behind enemy lines. We finally get to meet Sokar, the villain who’s been making all the other villains quake in their boots for about the last year offscreen. Sokar poses as Satan, and has a hell moon full of screaming souls, because the villains in this show are evil for evil’s sake. It doesn’t make any sense to willingly live like this, but it makes for some ominous and unpleasant visuals.

The visuals were so unpleasant that our son put up barriers immediately. Everything from the red and the smoke to the far-distant sound of screaming got under his skin and he watched with a scowl, when he watched at all. Things picked up a bit at the end, when it looks like everybody’s rushing to a thrilling escape right before the credits roll. But then, victory is snatched away in a downright splendid cliffhanger that had him completely furious. I’ll talk about it more tomorrow, because it really is a thunderously satisfying little knife twist, but the kid’s not looking forward to it at all…

Stargate SG-1 2.17 – Serpent’s Song

Can we take a moment to appreciate just how good of a job the makeup team did in making Peter Williams age several decades over the course of this episode? Round of applause; it’s a great job.

I paused the episode after the first mission gets back to Earth to remind our son of the old saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I cautioned that probably wouldn’t be the case in this series, where, since the bloodthirsty and power-mad System Lords are involved, it’s more like the enemy of my enemy is a really pissed off enemy. It’s an interesting setup. What we learn as the show goes on is that offstage, the System Lords have been infighting and waging their wars, and the show’s principal enemy, Apophis, has been losing ground on every front. His main rival for power is Heru’ur, who we’ve met briefly a couple of times. However, he’s been captured by a new-to-the-show villain, Sokar, and has spent weeks or months being tortured. Apophis somehow gets free, sends a message to Earth with coordinates of where he can be found, and makes a break for that planet.

So the humans find a great intelligence victory: their main adversary is broken and beaten, and both his legs are shattered, and he can be brought back to Earth for interrogation and imprisonment. Except that’s a terrible idea. Their new allies the Tok’ra send one of their agents, Martouf, who we met a couple of episodes previously, to tell them no, send Apophis back. Sokar, who we don’t meet in the flesh this time, wasn’t done with him yet and is prepared to destroy Earth to recover him. Meanwhile, Apophis is dying and cannot be returned to full health without a Goa’uld sarcophagus.

Even though it isn’t an action-packed episode, the combination of the setup and the drama, once Sokar starts screwing with the Earth Stargate, kept our son fascinated by where this one was going. For me, there’s a real low moment that weighs over the whole episode. Debating their options, Jack says that they should “beat whatever information we can out of old Snake Boy.” That’s an ugly sentiment from any hero, but since we know that Colonel O’Neill has been tortured for information before, both in the show and prior to it (in episode 15, we learned that he had been captured during an operation in Iraq [Desert Storm?] and held for four months), I think it’s out of character. O’Neill should know perfectly well that Apophis isn’t going to give up information under duress. After all, Jack didn’t. What would be the point, therefore, other than cruelty?

Stargate SG-1 2.12 – The Tok’ra (part two)

Last time, I mentioned that the big solution – letting Carter’s dying father become the host to the dying alien – completely eluded me when I first watched this story. Our kid figured it out before the credits tonight. You can take this as evidence that our kid may be really clever, or you can take this as evidence that I’m behind most everybody else.

I think it’s a pretty disappointing production, and not just because other viewers are more insightful than I am. I think Christopher Judge and Michael Shanks are completely sidelined for far too long, and Richard Dean Anderson is abnormally crabby, and I kind of wish the other three fellows in SG-3 had been given lines or names. And as much as I enjoy Carmen Argenziano in the role of Sam’s father, the way he keeps forgetting new words and phrases that he’s been provided, like a doddering old chump instead of a very intelligent Air Force general, undermined what could have been a much stronger scene as he learns what his new life as a Tok’ra might be like. I didn’t even like that the older actors didn’t get to lock lips, so that a special effect could be drawn between them.

On the other hand, the “big picture” side of me did find something that I liked. I’m kind of torn about how we’re not told which of the evil System Lords launches the attack on the rebel base. Part of me wants to know which of the villains – remember, we’ve only met three active ones at this point – was behind it, and part of me kind of enjoys how it feels like we don’t need to know. I think that we’re told later on, when we start meeting lots of the bad guys, but I don’t really remember. As for now, the series, very sensibly, isn’t firmly answering with exact numbers as to how many there are, and it really doesn’t matter. The Tok’ra have pissed off everybody.

Stargate SG-1 2.11 – The Tok’ra (part one)

Talk talk talk talk talk. Stargate is far from the only program to make a two-part story from what barely feels like enough material for one, but this is an important tale, even if nobody raises their voices or shoots anything. Sarah Douglas guest-stars in this one, which also introduces J.R. Bourne as another recurring character, Martouf.

I do like the way that it hides a solution in plain sight. On Earth, Captain Carter’s father is dying from cancer, and on a distant planet, one of the Tok’ra resistance fighters is dying after a couple of hundred years because finding new humans to agree to symbiosis is not very easy. When you write it like that, it’s obvious, but the plot strands are kept so far apart that I certainly didn’t spot the solution first time around. Carmen Argenziano, who plays Jacob Carter, just gets to cough and whisper in a hospital room in this hour. He’ll be up and on his feet again tomorrow night.