Stargate SG-1 3.10 – Forever in a Day

I’ve never done a deep dive into Stargate fandom and any essays about it, but revisiting “Forever in a Day,” I found myself wondering whether this episode, and the character of Sha’re generally, has attracted much comment from a feminist perspective. She suddenly strikes me as being somewhat problematic. I hadn’t really noticed it before, but I also misremembered the character as having appeared more than she did as well.

Sha’re first appeared in the Stargate film, where she is property to be given away. Recast, she returned in the first episode of the series, having been married to Daniel for about a year. Infamously, she gets the only nude rape scene in the series. Sure, arguably, the takeover of any human character by one of these alien bugs could be construed as a rape, but Sha’re is the only character whose possession is depicted as a sexual act. From there, the character appears twice more: once to have a baby, and once, here, to die. Her only purpose in the narrative is to drive the male character: first to find her, and, after her death, to follow a final message and begin a new search, for her child. Looking back on it, this really wasn’t right. Sha’re should have survived and been afforded some agency and a supporting role in the show.

I have read that “Forever in a Day” is very popular with some fans, and it’s easy to see why. I liked it more the first time around. Michael Shanks gets to play Daniel as grief-stricken but numb, unable to mourn, and the script’s imaginative use of dreams is very clever. I do think that from a broader continuity standpoint, there is a big flaw: they drop an important bombshell here which surely should have been mentioned earlier. This episode tells us that the hosts of Goa’uld are forbidden by System Lord law to have a child together, because the human offspring (a “harcesis”) will be born with all the knowledge of the alien bugs. This is a huge plot point that’s going to drive several episodes over the course of the next year and a half. So you think they’d have mentioned it when Sha’re actually had that baby last season. I guess the producers just hadn’t figured that part out when they made “Secrets.” I bet if they could, they’d have gone back and inserted a shot where Teal’c says “The child will be a harcesis. I am surprised that Apophis would do something so reckless.”

I think I made a mistake in telling our son about the popularity of “Forever in a Day.” From my blinkered perspective, getting around the problematic issue of Sha’re, it’s a good, imaginatively-crafted hour, but it leads with the only explosions and gunfights it wants to give us. The poor kid thought he was getting forty-five minutes of wall-to-wall shootouts, and he got an action-packed pre-credits scene followed by a long, slow meditation on loss. We bought him a wristwatch earlier today. Press one button and you get eight seconds of colored lights dancing around the watch face. He was restless enough to “accidentally” press the button a time or ten. Can’t really blame him, can you?

Stargate SG-1 3.9 -Rules of Engagement

We skipped over an episode I really dislike and landed on this story, which introduces a really neat problem. It’s sort of the SG-1 equivalent of those stories of Japanese pilots and soldiers holding out on Pacific islands throughout the 1950s and 1960s and refusing to surrender. Our heroes find a training camp where young soldiers, dressed in USAF SG-team fatigues, are waging war games against pretend Jaffa soldiers and everybody is using stun weapons.

They learn that these are slaves of Apophis, who eventually abandoned them and withdrew his forces but left them shooting it out while he battles against Heru’ur and Sokar. Previously, Apophis’s plan had been to send these “soldiers” to Earth as an invasion, but getting killed by Sokar put paid to that. So how do you convince a mob of heavily-armed acolytes that their all-powerful “god” is dead and they can go home, because they’re free?

I enjoy episodes that force the heroes to think way outside the box. To be fair, some of this is handled really conveniently, and it ends too suddenly for my liking. The biggest flaw is that a critical part of the setup is that one of their units, SG-11, has been MIA for months, and that’s the sort of thing they really should have addressed previously, instead of in passing as the situation unfolds. But putting too much in an hour’s better than padding out something that’s too slight, isn’t it?

Stargate SG-1 3.7 – Deadman Switch

I enjoyed “Deadman Switch” the first time around, and then I started thinking about it from a production standpoint and admired it even more. It’s a good enough story – SG-1 gets captured by a bounty hunter played by Sam J. Jones and press-ganged into helping him hunt down a dangerous enemy – but they did it so remarkably efficiently that I didn’t even notice the comparative lack of props, sets, visual effects or speaking parts when I first saw it.

So tonight, I laid it out for our son before we got started and pointed out that a typical Stargate installment has about six or seven speaking parts outside the main cast, plus costumed extras. Sam Jones, the star of Flash Gordon and lots of movies about tough guys with machine guns, almost certainly charged a bit more per day than many of the actors in British Columbia, so you hire him for an episode with only two additional speaking parts. And since the story’s tight enough, full of cat-and-mouse attempts to get the upper hand on the bounty hunter and moral arguments about how he could be fighting against the Goa’uld instead of working for them, viewers won’t miss the crowds we usually see in this show.

Our son still needed to have some of these cost-savers underlined as we talked about it afterward. For example, he swore there were two escape pods at the end. The narrative says that there are two, but they only took one prop to the location, and he didn’t catch it until I rewound, paused on the sight of one pod, and asked him again. I admire the producers’ ability to make an inexpensive episode and keep anybody from noticing. That they did it with an entertaining story is just icing on the cake.

Stargate SG-1 3.6 – Point of View

Another parallel universe episode, “Point of View” helps establish that in a lot of these realities, Earth gets invaded and the SGC gets overrun by Apophis’s troops sometime around 1998-99. The Black Mirror had been introduced toward the end of season one. In that adventure, the Daniel from our world gets stuck in another universe where the Goa’uld are invading. In this episode, the Samantha and Major Kawalsky escape from their overrun world into ours. I like that they brought back Kawalsky, who had been in the original movie and the first two TV stories before getting killed off. Nice continuity touch.

When I was writing about the previous story, I mentioned its structural similarities to the Doctor Who serial “Inferno,” but of course, the template for “bad parallel worlds” in American TV sci-fi is Star Trek‘s “Mirror, Mirror,” where Evil Spock wears a sinister mustache and beard. In the world that SG-1 needs to rescue, Apophis also wears some ugly facial hair. I guess that means this one is really, really evil.

Stargate SG-1 3.5 – Learning Curve

I figured correctly that our son would enjoy tonight’s episode of Stargate, because it’s about kids. A portion of this culture’s children are given nanites as infants and spend their first eleven or twelve years speed-learning specific technologies or whatever, then their nanites – and everything they know – are spread to the rest of the population, leaving the children effectively brainwashed and stunted, because the nanites stepped in where natural brain development should have been happening as toddlers. Our kid found the situation unusual, but he didn’t focus on the awfulness of it because the show was going for the mild comedy of having the smartest person in the base an eleven year-old girl.

I enjoyed the idea that Jack would be willing to risk a court-martial for leaving the base with the alien girl. After his son was killed, he’s sensitive to the needs of children, and this world’s hideous way of “teaching” was going to upset him, and so he would want to show the girl that there’s a better way. It all ends well, of course… except General Hammond probably didn’t plan for all the crates of Crayola crayons that will need to be added to the USAF’s annual budget. I may hate the military-industrial complex, but I can get behind them closing an overseas base or two to pay for shipping crayons to other planets for alien kids.

Stargate SG-1 3.4 – Legacy

“Legacy” is a follow-up to an episode from season two that we skipped, “Holiday.” That illustrates the difficulty in navigating through a continuity-heavy show like this one when many of the installments are forgettable; I’d completely forgotten there was a follow-up at all. A character from that story had built some booby traps that kill Goa’ulds inside their hosts. Unfortunately, if, like Dr. Jackson, you don’t have a Goa’uld inside you, it gives you horrible hallucinations. The inventor just did not think this thing through.

Best moment: passing the time with Daniel and helping him relax, Jack quips that he has a calming effect on people. Our son piped up “Yeah, right.”

Stargate SG-1 3.3 – Fair Game

One reason I started liking Stargate more with its third season is the number of recurring villains ramps up, and they’re quite entertaining. This time, the System Lords have decided that since the humans have killed Hathor, blew up two of Apophis’s mother ships, and pissed off Sokar something fierce, we’ve become too much of a threat. The little grey Asgardians offer Earth the security of the Protected Planets Treaty, so three new-to-us baddies come to Earth to negotiate: Yu, Cronus, and Nirrti. I enjoy Yu the Great a lot. He is one of my favorites among the baddies, a tactician who has other problems besides Earth and often doesn’t involve himself in the same squabbles as the rest of the gang.

But negotiations go downhill when Cronus is found beaten nearly to death in his quarters, and our friend Teal’c is unconscious and bloodied next to him. The revelation of what the heck happened left our son really confused. Just because these three System Lords present an allied front, it doesn’t mean that they are allies. Their lust for power and need to stab each other in the back sometimes leads the villains to make some pretty stupid moves, which is what happens here. It’s extremely illogical, but it’s also very much in character. Nirrti leaves as a prisoner of the other two, and Cronus drops a cold warning that just because Earth is protected, it doesn’t mean any humans who leave the planet are.

Stargate SG-1 3.2 – Seth

RECAP: We only watched the continuity-important episodes from Stargate SG-1‘s first two seasons. I really didn’t enjoy those two years when I first watched them, although I did appreciate a pair of the episodes a good deal more this time around, making about three of forty-four hours worth a darn.

Things start improving dramatically with season three. There are still turkeys to come, but I think the show’s entertaining more often than not. From here until the end of the blog, we’ll be watching almost the whole show, skipping just the clip shows and one two I really disliked. And so first up, an episode that reintroduces Carmen Argenziano as Jacob Carter. His comrades in the Tok’ra have been working on a census of the System Lords – there are “several dozen” – but have realized that one of them, known as Setesh or Seth, has not been seen in several centuries. The Tok’ra think it’s possible that Seth never left Earth. Research turns up several Cults of Seth throughout history, and the FBI has a file on a dude by that name who’s got an encampment in upstate Washington with some heavily-armed followers.

When this was first shown in 1999, I think that our culture remembered the 1993 standoff between the ATF and the Branch Davidians a little more clearly than we do today. This is clearly meant to evoke that (Setesh, Koresh, come on), and I like the way that it drops our heroes into a civilian operation. The ATF already has a base of operations not far from the cult compound, and they quite naturally want to know why the heck the US Air Force wants to get involved. President Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, got raked over the coals by the right-wing media for her handling of the David Koresh incident. Clinton is also the president in this phase of the Stargate universe; to me, it feels only natural that he should get on the phone to order the ATF to let Colonel O’Neill take charge. Later in the series, actor William Devane will play a president outside of the real-world timeline. He somehow takes office in March 2004, suggesting that whoever followed Clinton as president died on the job.

Anyway, I liked the small scale of this story, but in a weird way it also reminds me of a Doctor Who serial called “The King’s Demons,” where the Master’s scheme is so unlike his usual grandiose shenanigans that the show actually comments on it, labeling the affair “small-time villainy by his standards.” As the schemes of System Lords go, running a cult, stockpiling Uzis, and keeping a few slave girls as a harem in the forests near the Canadian border is awfully low-key. Marie said that Seth is just plain lazy. Our son added that Daniel had called this guy the Egyptian god of chaos, but he’s really the god of laziness.

Captain Carter ends up killing Seth as he tries to escape. That’s two System Lords they’ve killed in subsequent episodes. I hinted to our son that I wonder whether the several dozen others of their kind are going to sit up and take notice.

Stargate SG-1 2.22 & 3.1 – Out of Mind / Into the Fire

Hey! This is our 2000th post! We sure do watch a lotta telemabission!

We wrapped up this chunk of Stargate with a one-and-a-half parter over the last two nights. It’s not quite a two-parter because most of part one is a clip show. Three of our heroes got captured by Hathor, one of their old enemies played by Suanne Braun, who makes a second and final appearance in this story. I’m sure the writers didn’t like clip shows; this one compounds the cheapness by setting it in a mockup of the heroes’ headquarters as the villain uses her “previously seen footage” technology to gain intel about all the other aliens in the show.

Our son offered that he really hates Hathor, growling that she’s about as aggravating to him as the Cybermen in Doctor Who. So lucky for him she gets a liquid nitrogen bath in the second half. Also, this part was an all-action shootout with lots of explosions, several other SG teams joining the fight, and Tony Amendola’s Master Bra’tac comes along for the ride because they usually call on him for part two of these things, so he had a lot to enjoy. This episode also introduces an older-style enemy ship called a Needle Threader which is used to fly through Stargates. That certainly caught his imagination.

The episode ends with Hathor dead, but three of their Goa’uld enemies are still out there: Sokar has Apophis as his prisoner, and Heru’ur – who is Hathor’s child – still has a formidable army. Unfortunately for our heroes, their rogues’ gallery is about to get a lot bigger, which means the show’s about to get more fun. Sadly, their next opponent will be a one-off. I say sadly because he’s really entertaining and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

That’s where we’ll leave Stargate SG-1 for now, because we like to shuffle things around to keep them fresh. We’ll watch all of season three this summer, starting in June. Stay tuned!

Stargate SG-1 2.21 – 1969

I honestly enjoy putting the schedule for our blog together, because I enjoy seeing happy accidents form. Why did we start watching Star Trek when we did? So that we’d have a chance to watch “The City on the Edge of Forever” shortly before watching “1969,” of course. Mind you, in a perfect world, we’d watch the Doctor Who story “Father’s Day” for the first time this week, but you can’t have everything. All three have the heroes traveling eighteen or thirty or thirty-seven years back in time, where they’re supposed to try very hard not to screw with history. Maybe Rose Tyler should’ve watched Star Trek or Stargate instead of whatever she watched; she’d have known better than to save her father’s life in 1987.

It’s hard to find any fault with “1969.” Everything lined up perfectly for our son to understand the various pop culture references in the episode, although we did need to pause and explain that Michael and Jenny, the hippie couple who drive our heroes from Colorado to Washington, are then headed to Canada because Michael is a draft dodger. I’d forgotten this plot point; it’s very minor and revealed right at the end of their involvement in the story. I wonder whether an earlier draft of the script had Jack responding to this more. He raises his voice in response, which is natural. Surely in his own history, 1969 – give or take a couple of years – must have been about the time that Jack joined the US Air Force, and now he’s learned that the guy who’s been giving them shelter and transportation for a week is a dodger.

My favorite part of the story is learning that this whole time, General Hammond has been keeping the events of what happened in 1969 to himself. Before we got started, I asked our son how long he can keep a secret. In Hammond’s case, it’s thirty years. I think that’s delightful. When George Hammond first met each of our heroes, he had to have smiled to himself. Every time Earth’s been in danger, he must have thought “We’ll get through this. Captain Carter hasn’t injured her hand yet, and I haven’t sent my note back in time to my younger self.” Every time. He reminds Jack of an old debt at the end of the story and we all had a fine laugh. (Also of note: “Where there’s a will, there’s an or.”) Certainly there would not have been a “1969” without a “City on the Edge of Forever,” but it’s so much more entertaining.