Our son doesn’t normally rank what we’ve watched on a scale of ten, but he said that he gave this one a four, and that sounds about right. It’s the big midseason cliffhanger, shown in September 2005 and January 2006, and they pulled in many of the recurring actors for appearances as the Ori and their Priors launch a plague attack on Earth. But it is talk, talk, and more talk, with padding around this one character, played by a twelve year-old, that almost had me falling asleep.
Don S. Davis and Tony Amendola are back for the big event, as they often are, and we say goodbye to Louis Gossett Jr. and William S. Davis, who make their final appearances here as their characters are killed off. Part one ends with the downbeat cliffhanger that Gossett’s character has joined the baddies. Later, Teal’c convinces him he made the wrong choice, and the Ori kill him for it. Weirdly – and I mean very, very weirdly – Julian Sands makes another appearance as the villain who turns Gossett, and he gets a big “guest starring” credit, but it’s only repurposed footage from his previous appearance. Heck of an agent the man has for his repeats to get a new special credit.
But while the narrative is disappointing with all its talk and padding, I do think that it’s still interesting to watch Earth’s media and governments start panicking about a virus that ends up killing about 3000 people. That’s not a small number, but with COVID’s omicron variant picking up, it looks like the sort of ugly result we’d just wish for today. And it seems to bring this season’s running subplot about the Jaffa learning to govern themselves without interference from some so-called god or other to a close.
In fact, it does a very good job making most of these eleven episodes feel like an ongoing narrative, with the plague introduced in episode five, the planet with Tony Todd and his samurai-like warriors from episode eight, and resolution to the ongoing family issues between General Landry and his daughter. It even brings back the character played by Sean Patrick Flanery in a godawful episode that we skipped back in season five, now played by a much, much younger actor. But as interesting as the writing is, and tying all these things together, it certainly isn’t very fun.
“Ex Deus Machina” begins with a fabulous cold open. We see a Jaffa soldier running through a dark forest, and naturally assume that we’re on some alien planet somewhere. Then he gets hit by a Nissan Pathfinder or something. He’s on Earth!
The bigger surprise is that the Trust is still active. They were last seen midway through the previous season, and now we’re back for more tales of extraterrestrial conspiracy. This feels very strange in relation to what’s happened since. There’s been all the massive wrapping things up that brought season eight to an end, then all the new normal and the Ori and Priors this year, never mind all the huge events happening on Atlantis, and suddenly our heroes are again working with government agents from the back of surveillance trucks, getting gossip in diners, and spying on limousines with binoculars.
And it’s not just great because – hooray! – Cliff Simon is back because Ba’al has decided to come live on Earth and has picked up a pretty blonde girlfriend. Given the choice of having the conspiracy be the new big bads or the Ori, I’m sorry, but the fellows in suits win every time. The kid really enjoyed this one, from all the twists to a big shootout in an office cube farm to Cam hearing a description of the ruffians blowing up cubicles and remarking “It’s either Jaffa or KISS is back on tour.”
Of course, the big thing from a continuity perspective about “Beachhead” is that Amanda Tapping rejoins the cast starting with this episode. It’s also the Ori’s first attempt to build a gigantic “supergate” in space, through which they can fly an armada. So of course our son loved this one to pieces, because it’s a really special effects-heavy piece with lots of gunplay and hundred mile-wide explosions and planet-crushing force fields. Louis Gossett Jr. returns as Gerak, and at one point one of Earth’s flying battleships is raining missiles down on the planet alongside three of his big pyramid battle cruisers, and I can imagine our kid jerry-rigging some Lego constructions to recreate it.
It’s also goodbye – for now – for Claudia Black as Vala Mal Doran, but she’ll be back before too long. And happily, we meet a really great new villain. Nerus is a minor System Lord played by Maury Chaykin and he is so incredibly fun. He’s apparently a very clever technician who came up with all sorts of advancements while in the service of one powerful Goa’uld or another, and he knows on what side his bread’s buttered, because he figures getting in the Ori’s good graces is the right move. So he promises the stars with his intel, in exchange for a gigantic meal that might make Chaykin’s best-known character, Nero Wolfe, proud, planning, of course, to stab everybody in the back, because he’s a Goa’uld and that’s what they do.
Before he gets marched to his cell in Area 51, Nerus gets to enjoy chicken for the first time and thinks it’s completely amazing. Our son couldn’t help but comment that Nerus should try it fried. I’m glad that Nerus enjoyed the chicken, because there probably isn’t any saucisse minuit or anchovy fritters where he’s going.
“Origin” is effectively the third part of a three-parter, and it goes into detail about the new bunch of big bads, the Ori and their superpowered human Priors. Our son got a little grouchy about these guys and the convert-or-die policy of their religion. The Priors believe that humans have free will, and would naturally use that freedom to freely worship. Otherwise, they have been corrupted by evil and must be destroyed. And there lies the structural flaw with having this kind of a villain. Their sort shows up in the real world enough as it is, and it’s always depressing and annoying. I really wish they’d have come up with some interesting and challenging additional threats rather than just the religious bores.
On the other hand, our son did enjoy the really fast pace and exciting resolution to this story. And there’s an interesting observation about why this is absolutely the worst possible time for religious fanatics to start a crusade. Our heroes’ allies, the Jaffa, have only just been freed from generations of enslavement to the false gods, the Goa’uld. It’s only natural that charlatans and opportunists would try to step into the power vacuum. It’s just our bad luck that these particular opportunists can back it up. Oh, and our kid enjoyed a great little Buckaroo Banzai reference as Mitchell exchanges meaningless phrases with a Prior. He probably enjoyed the reference more than he did the movie, to be honest.
Joining the recurring cast this time, we’ve got two new faces. Julian Sands makes the first of three appearances as the Doci, the leader of the Priors. Surprised there were so few; I wrongly remembered that he’s in more. Plus there’s Louis Gossett Jr., a powerful leader among the Jaffa who is going to show up in four of the next eight episodes as the big political machinations of Teal’c’s people rumbles in the show’s background. The actors will briefly get some screen time together in the big midseason finale, which I remember as being really stunning. I’m looking forward to that.