Stargate SG-1 7.21-22 – Lost City (parts one and two)

The existing sources for information about Stargate, while scattered, feel fascinating but a little incomplete to me. I think that the story of everything that happened between 2003-04 to bring this phase of SG-1‘s production to and end and launch Stargate Atlantis is incredibly neat and full of stops and starts and course changes, and I really would like to read a thorough and deep dive into things like we can enjoy with the production of classic Doctor Who. It seemed for a time that SG-1 would end in March 2004, to be replaced by Atlantis. When SG-1 was renewed, I think a few people were very surprised, especially since they were going to have to find new things for both Richard Dean Anderson and Don S. Davis to do, as both actors were ready to move on from their regular commitments.

And of course, they needed to end the threat of the Big Bad, Anubis, and set up Atlantis, and resolve the story of Ronny Cox’s recurring irritant, Robert Kinsey, and introduce a new character who would become one of the major players of Atlantis, and here, they decided that they’d unfortunately moved ahead with the wrong actress for the role. But remarkably, none of this messiness is onscreen in “Lost City.” The show feels confident and relaxed and it looks like it’s going to go out in style. The first hour has some slow moments of very nice character interplay, especially with the gang just sitting around Jack’s house drinking Guinness, and the second is just on fire with action and desperate situations as Anubis attacks Earth.

So joining Cox in this story, it’s Jessica Steen as Dr. Elizabeth Weir. She would be recast before moving on, just one of those little weird things that feels to me – with no real evidence, I admit – like it happens in television to women more than men. At least Steen got two episodes aired. The original actresses who were cast as Sarah Jane Smith, Emma Peel, and Kathryn Janeway didn’t. Tough business. (Well, okay, there’s Marty McFly.)

There are really only two things in this story I don’t like. First, there’s a traitor who’s so obviously going to betray Teal’c and Bra’tac that he might as well be wearing a “Bad Guy” T-shirt. And second, well, we skipped the clip show that preceded this, but it did have a frame story that introduces William Devane as the new US president, and briefly brings back Robert Picardo as Woolsey, who explains to him that Robert Kinsey can’t be trusted. The new president actually fires VP Kinsey, which… would be a stunning development in the world of this show. Okay, so technically it isn’t “fired” so much as “blackmailed to resign.” Still, I know we’ve got four more hours of setup and new characters and enemies to meet to launch season eight and start up Atlantis, but I really want to read the Atlantic and the Huffington Post of this show’s Washington instead.

Stargate SG-1 6.14 – Smoke and Mirrors

This is another Anderson-lite episode. I thought about using an illustration from the very end, with O’Neill in dress uniform forced to shake hands with his nemesis, Ronny Cox’s Senator Kinsey, but really this is another conspiracy story with everybody driving around Vancouver neighborhoods looking for a committee of assassins and international CEOs that’s using some alien tech that was introduced three seasons previously, in “Foothold”.

It’s a good adventure, but it suffers in the same way that The X Files suffered whenever it got too involved with the weird and sinister conspiracy of multinational greedheads. There’s something about the idea of these kinds of broadly-drawn caricatures of capitalism suddenly going off the radar to meet in dark rooms to talk about their evil plans that is even more fanciful than having alien parasite-beings in colorful costumes having similar meetings on distant space stations.

Stargate SG-1 5.10 – 2001

There’s not an explosion or a gunfight and there’s only a single flying tackle without a punch thrown, but the kid really enjoyed this one, as well he should. It’s a terrific follow-up to the previous season’s “2010”. That story was set nine years in the future, when Earth’s alliance with a powerful race called the Aschen goes terribly wrong. It ended with some timey-wimey hocus pocus to cut off access to the Aschen homeworld in the present, stopping that rotten future from happening. But now, our heroes meet the Aschen on some other planet and have no idea that they’re villains.

There are a couple of things in the story that I wasn’t completely sold on. Ronny Cox is back as the recurring pain-in-the-rear Senator Kinsey, and he’s written in too broad strokes: rushed and hurried, bent on signing a treaty with the Aschen far more quickly than any politician or diplomat would ever dare. But Richard Dean Anderson is completely flawless this week, very believably getting an increasingly bad feeling about the situation, and I love the way that he calmly tells the ambassador who comes with them that he’s not dressed for the mission, and that his shoes will be ruined. I also really like the way that they move Daniel right into his element, researching the Aschen and finding evidence that Jack’s bad feeling is right on the money.

I think what works best for me is the feeling of impending doom. How are they going to discover the truth about the Aschen in time, since it took their timey-wimey counterparts more than nine years to figure it out? And once they do, how are they going to convince their dimwit superiors that they really need to look this gift horse in the mouth very, very closely? It’s an episode to watch with a sinking feeling for the whole hour. They never brought back the Aschen for a third go-round. They’d have had a lot to live up to if they tried.

Stargate SG-1 4.16 – 2010

Tonight’s episode is a really amusing change of pace, again featuring Ronny Cox in a very small part as Kinsey, only this time it’s nine years in the future and he’s the president. I’d say that’s no good, but there are worse problems: the Goa’uld have been resoundingly defeated by a technologically-advanced super-race called the Aschen, who have brought peace to the galaxy and allied with Earth to give us new tech and teleportation and cure all diseases, but the human race is about to find out that they should’ve listened to Jack O’Neill and stuck with the devil they knew.

I think this is the only occasion where Stargate and Doctor Who filmed at the same location. The big public Stargate terminal is in the Plaza of Nations, which everything that shoots in Vancouver uses at least once. In the 1996 Who TV movie, it was the site of that New Year’s Eve party to unveil the atomic clock. I know that because a few years ago, I completely misremembered what this building looked like, and wondered, quite incorrectly, if it was the same place that MacGyver had used in an episode called “Ma Dalton”. They don’t look even remotely the same, but I always enjoy learning a little behind-the-scenes stuff about TV production.

Stargate SG-1 4.15 – Chain Reaction

The “chain reaction” of the title refers to this episode’s B-plot, which illustrates what happens without the command structure in place at the SGC. Not that our heroes don’t screw up often, but without General Hammond in place, other people make terrible decisions. People die and risky experiments threaten the planet again.

This was a good episode for this kind of B-plot, because it really held our son’s interest a lot more than the A-story. Back in season one, we skipped the first appearance of Ronny Cox as Senator Kinsey. He returns this time for the first of about a dozen appearances across seasons four through eight, trying to either shut the Stargate program down or misuse it. Also returning, it’s Tom McBeath’s slimy Colonel Maybourne, who has been tried for treason after the events of “Watergate” and is on death row. Jack gets him out of prison to work a black op against Kinsey and the Area 51 / NID people and get Hammond reinstated. The kid was much less interested in the conspiracy stuff. He hasn’t grumbled and pointed his finger guns at the villains on TV in ages, but he certainly did today while waiting for the action to go back to the SGC.

Some of the dialogue in the A-story doesn’t quite work for me. The episode tries to balance Jack and Maybourne working together as though Col. Jack Freaking O’Neill had never, ever “got his hands dirty” before now. Well, no, maybe he’d never pointed a gun at a US Senator before today, but the man’s had decades of deeply dirty missions in trouble spots around our planet and plenty of others. Hero, yes, angel, uh-uh. It’s told with TV simplicity, but it’s an interesting story, and it sets McBeath’s character up to have new opportunities to screw with things in future episodes.