Stargate SG-1 5.9 – Between Two Fires

No exaggeration, I really, really like this episode a lot, even if it does have the same name as a Paul Young record for some reason and now I’ve got the title track stuck in my head. We go back to the planet of Tollana, and the campus of Simon Fraser University, for what turns out to be the final time, so this is Garwin Sanford’s last appearance as Carter’s admirer-from-space Narim. The Tollan have always been depicted as fiercely isolationist, but for some reason, they’ve decided to negotiate with Earth. It’s a deal that could bring them some easily-mined minerals, and could bring Earth some powerful new weapons to defend us from any attacks from space… and it doesn’t make any sense whatever. The Tollan are hiding something, and our heroes have to figure out what it is, quickly.

So one reason I like this one is that it toys with the idea of introducing some major game-changing technology to Earth. If the United States gets an ion cannon, it’s not going to be a secret. This is precisely why the Tollan are isolationist in the first place, because centuries ago, they did interfere in the advancement of a more primitive planet, and watched them destroy themselves. And the other big reason I like this one is that the conspiracy of what the Tollan are doing is incredibly well done. It’s about as taut a political thriller as a fanciful program like this can do in an hour, with another culture breaking all the rules for what turns out to be something really unpleasant: they’re ready to sacrifice Earth to save their own skins.

Of course, their pal Narim is on their side and horrified, but there’s not a lot he can do when Tanith, the mid-level villain played by Peter Wingfield and introduced last season, shows up. Turns out he did the old sci-fi baddie trick of using an escape pod when we last saw him, and he’s found a new lord and master, and has done what none of his other rogues’ gallery has ever been able to manage and put the frighteners into the Tollan. Our son enjoyed this one despite it being a lot more political than action-packed, and speculated – bafflingly and wrongly – that Tanith was working for Apophis. No, we reminded him, Apophis is dead (we promise), and whoever he’s working for now, he won’t name.

The other thing that I really like is that the episode ends with the revelation that Tanith and his boss wipe out the Tollan entirely. This is a pretty big and daring game-changer because these guys have been one of Earth’s most powerful allies, and even though the show is quiet about it, this is honestly the biggest defeat that the heroes have suffered in the war against the Goa’uld. I do kind of wish they’d have talked about this a little bit more. You get so used to the good guys making advances and taking major villains off the table that a setback this enormous needs a little more room to breathe.

Stargate SG-1 4.22 & 5.1 – Exodus / Enemies

This afternoon and this evening, we watched the split season finale / season premiere of Stargate SG-1‘s fourth and fifth seasons, originally shown in February and June 2001. The first part’s not bad. It features Teal’c trying to get even with his old enemy Tanith, who we met earlier in the season. Tanith escapes – it’s set up in a line of dialogue in the second half and it unfolds a few episodes down the line – not long after what looks like the real problem shows up.

So our old enemy Apophis arrives with his entire fleet to wipe out Earth’s allies, the Tok’ra, once and for all. But he’s walked into a great big trap, unlikely and “ambitious,” and part one of the story ends with his fleet completely wiped out. Part two takes the story into an entirely different galaxy – it’s unlikely, but we’re playing with hyperdrives and supernovae, so we’ll run with it – and Apophis suddenly has a great big problem. His bunch of alien baddies have never met the Replicators before, and suddenly the whole notion of him being a god falls down around his big dumb ears.

When we watched the previous story, “Double Jeopardy”, I made sure to point out that the Goa’uld have no imagination and no interest in new technology. The Replicators don’t care about anything else but new technology. Guess who’s going to come out on top?

So no, part one’s not bad, but part two is a completely entertaining and delightful spectacle. The Replicators have only been seen once before, but bringing them back and turning them into implacable Goa’uld killers is a great idea, and it’s revealed so casually. The director of this episode gives the audience a little glimpse of an erector-set leg and then calmly shows off the writers’ masterstroke.

But honestly, the hour is really the actors running around the spaceship set having gunfights without a lot of heart to it. It’s entertaining but hollow, except for Peter Williams’ performance as Apophis. I’ve grumbled about the quality of the villains on this show before and won’t indulge again, because Williams has often been much better than the limitations of his character. And he completely shines here. Apophis doesn’t get to go down in a blaze of glory, his master scheme doesn’t come this close to succeeding, and he doesn’t even get a final standoff against our heroes. Instead, he is completely out of his element, has no idea whatsoever how to get out of this mess, and I just love this scene where Apophis looks around his new throne room and realizes just how screwed he is. In the end, Apophis dies like a chump. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

So the final tally at this point is that Apophis has killed Sokar and Heru’ur, and SG-1 has killed Ra, Hathor, Seth, Cronus, and Apophis. Lotsa villains down for the count, but Anubis is right around the corner…

That’s all from SG-1 for now. We cycle things in and out to keep things fresh, but we’ll pick back up with season five in about three weeks. Stay tuned!

Stargate SG-1 4.4 – Crossroads

This is as lousy as Stargate gets, honestly. Musetta Vander guest stars as an old flame of Teal’c’s with some intel for the humans and their allies. It’s most notable for introducing Peter Wingfield as a new recurring villain, Tanith, but he plays him so incredibly wrongly this time out. Go back to what I was saying two episodes ago about the character within the narrative not necessarily being a good actor. Tanith is full of crap and instantly obviously lying through his teeth, but nobody within the narrative picks up on it. His betrayal could have been much more interesting if we’d have believed him; instead it is boringly obvious and inevitable. Jack’s even angrier at his allies – who, in fairness, really are a bunch of jerks – than the guy who’s clearly about to do the heel turn.