Stargate SG-1 9.1-2 – Avalon (parts one and two)

So with season nine of SG-1, they had to move on from Richard Dean Anderson, who appears, briefly, to pass the torch, and, at least initially, from Amanda Tapping, who also makes a short cameo. This story is also the final appearance of Obi Ndefo as one of our heroes’ allies in space. But there’s a pile of new faces, including Ben Browder as the new action lead, Cam Mitchell, Beau Bridges as General Landry, and Lexa Doig as Landry’s daughter, the new chief medical officer at Stargate Command. Cam has to put the team back together because even though the System Lords were defeated, there’s still a lot more exploring that needs doing.

I don’t like season nine as much as I’d hoped because the new baddies this year are so dull that they make me miss the System Lords. For all their conceptual faults, they were at least played by a variety of interesting actors and had colorful costumes. Occasionally they’d get to let a fun, malevolent personality shine through. The Ori and their Priors are overpowered, joyless, old dudes with AARP cards. At least one that I remember we get to will be played by an actor everybody likes, but these guys are out to conquer the universe taking as little pleasure from the experience as possible.

So thank God, basically, that Claudia Black gets to return for a six-week engagement while Amanda Tapping was on maternity leave. I think the producers rewatched her performance in last year’s “Prometheus Unbound” and decided that since she was going to steal the show for six weeks anyway, they’d just give her all the best lines and let Vala be as flirtatious, fun, and obnoxious as possible. Season nine will suffer a little after she leaves, because as much as everybody likes Ben Browder, he doesn’t have that lightness of touch that Richard Dean Anderson brought to make this show relaxed and light. Claudia Black gets the job of keeping the viewers smiling while the situation gets dark. Is Vala my favorite character in the show? By a mile. And we’ll meet my second favorite alien villain in a few weeks, too!

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 6.9 – Allegiances

This makes two in a row. This season’s finally looking up for our unsatisfied kid. “Allegiances” is a really good episode that rounds up three of the show’s recurring players, Tony Amendola, Carmen Argenziano, and Obi Ndefo, for a location-based story full of extras and lots of anger. The story reminds us that the humans and one bunch of their allies have been sharing an alpha site whose location is unknown to the villains. Suddenly, they have to provide refuge for another bunch of allies, but there’s very bad blood between these two gangs. Almost immediately, there’s sabotage and murder.

The kid suggested that it was a bit like a game of Clue as they tried to determine where everybody was at the time of the first killing. Then the fellow they were holding for it also turns up dead in his cell. Lots of location stuff, lots of fighting, lots of gunplay, big desperate situation in the end, and a villain everybody sincerely hopes they will never run into again. I enjoyed this one a lot, and I’m glad the kid did as well.

Stargate SG-1 5.18 – The Warrior

Before we got started with tonight’s episode, I reminded our son that we had met Obi Ndefo’s character, Rak’nor, last season. In the past year, he’d been looking to spread the word that the alien enemies are false gods, and has fallen in with a powerful and charismatic rebel who is building a strong army to war against their oppressors. In time, our old pal Master Bra’tac checks them out and likes what he sees, and calls Teal’c in. They’re all convinced that this guy’s the real deal and believe that Earth should strike an alliance with him. But all the humans see is a cult leader no better than the oppressors he’d replace.

I think this is a very intelligent episode that makes some good points about bringing some skepticism along when somebody promises the moon. The villain of the piece turns out to be one of those false gods in disguise, a minor Goa’uld called Imhotep. It’s a little unclear, because a key scene is kept offscreen and left to our imagination, but it seems that Imhotep had staged all this to get a big kill together for one of the more powerful villains, Lord Yu, but evidently he got too big for his britches and ticked Yu off instead.

Teal’c ends up killing Imhotep, which is especially amusing since early in the story, the cult leader greets our heroes with a list of the villains they’ve killed. Vince Crestejo returns in this episode as Yu for a very small scene and just a couple of lines, but I like how he’s played. I’ve written many times here how I’ve been disappointed with how the villains in this show, in its earlier seasons, are often all bluster and bludgeons, but Yu – with whom we spent some valuable screen time in episodes 15 and 16 – is more subtle and intelligent. He’s not really interested in killing all the rebels. He mainly just wants Imhotep to know exactly how badly he screwed up in his lust for power. I can get behind that.

Stargate SG-1 4.14 – The Serpent’s Venom

The bulk of this episode deals with a race against time to reprogram a floating space mine. During a quiet moment of visual effects navigating the minefield, our son observed “Based on what I’ve learned from movies and TV, I think there is going to be a near miss.” Good. He’s paying attention.

He really enjoyed this one, and even liked the machinations of the bad guys. Two of the biggest threats have been the regular main baddie Apophis, and Heru’ur, who’s been mostly offscreen and talked about, and hasn’t actually appeared in the flesh for more than two years. The mine’s needed to disrupt their impending alliance, but Apophis was predicting trouble, and instead of the two stomping off from the negotiating table and rousing their armies, Apophis just kills Heru’ur outright, so he can stomp off and absorb his army.

Kind of an ignoble end to one of the space baddies. This was Douglas Arthurs’ final appearance in the show, but it introduces a new recurring character, Rak’nor, played by Obi Ndefo. He’s one of the villains’ underlings who joins the rebellion against them. Kind of the nature of this show that we won’t see him again for a really long time either, but his next appearance, in season five, sure is a good one.