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 7.11-12 – Evolution (parts one and two)

After several entertaining one-offs, SG-1 reached a big midseason split with this epic two-parter. The first half was shown in August 2003, the second almost five months later in January 2004. It brings back three of the recurring good guys, played by Tony Amendola, Carmen Argenziano, and Bill Dow, introduces Enrico Colantoni as an old black ops buddy of Jack’s, and gives Anubis a new army of unthinking zombie-like drones in indestructible armor called Kull Warriors.

Like I was mentioning when the season started, the show has perfected keeping two big set pieces going on, so while half of our heroes are sneaking around an enemy base, the other half is dealing with an unexpectedly real-world problem on Earth. Looking into the origins of the Kulls, Daniel unfurls a plot thread that goes back four seasons, to his grandfather’s research into alien skullduggery with the Mayans. So he and Dr. Lee head off to Honduras to find a secret temple, and are kidnapped by anti-Honduran terrorists who have a camp in Nicaragua.

I thought this was a really good adventure, and interestingly it ends with three of our heroes having had the daylights knocked out of them and bound for a few weeks off the active duty roster. Our son liked it a lot, too, and we talked a little bit afterward about zombie lore. We also paused midway though the story to discuss what black ops are, because it suddenly struck me that the show’s occasionally mentioned O’Neill’s background a time or two and he had no idea what that meant. Maybe one day we’ll show him some Mission: Impossible, even if nobody’s hands really get dirty in that program’s fanciful kind of black ops.

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 6.19 – The Changeling

Hmmm. Think we may have found out why episode 17 was a clip show! “The Changeling,” which was written by one of the stars, Christopher Judge, features several recurring actors, Peter Williams, Michael Shanks, Tony Amendola, and Carmen Argenziano, multiple locations, including the same bridge that was later used in the first episode of Batwoman, where young Kate and Alice and their mother went into the river, and a whole passel of extras. True, they went a little light on the special effects and gunfights this week, but there’s just so much more going on in this episode than a typical one that it sure looks like they needed to cut a corner somewhere else.

A Doctor Who story that was made seven years after this episode, “Amy’s Choice”, had a somewhat similar premise of two competing realities, each of which seems like a dream to the people who wake up in the other one. Our son did not like that Who, and he didn’t like this either, struggling to come up with a tortuous analogy that understanding this was like holding on to a very high set of monkey bars with grease on the metal. The kid likes television better when he’s on surer footing.

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 6.1-2 – Redemption (parts one and two)

And now back to the summer of 2002 and the sixth season of Stargate SG-1. Corin Nemec has joined the cast full-time as Jonas Quinn, who was introduced two episodes previously, one of the villains has a new weapon of mass destruction, Tony Amendola is back as Master Bra’tac, as indeed he often is when things are getting terrible, and David Hewlett makes a second appearance as Dr. Rodney McKay, with some of his rough, mansplaining edges sanded down. And the writers gave the story a title of some randomly-chosen word that has close to nothing to do with the script, as they often do.

So it’s business as usual as the series begins the second half of its life on its new home of the Sci-Fi Channel, but by now the show is a well-oiled and perfectly entertaining machine that builds on old continuity and plot points extremely well. The episode is largely a follow-up to season four’s “Tangent”, which our son loved and which also had a title with next to nothing to do with the story, and this also has lots of action and countdowns in futuristic sci-fi fighter jets. He really liked this story a heck of a lot as well, but he had a suggestion for how to improve the ending. Since the new weapon of mass destruction destroyed the USAF’s Stargate, they have to ask the Russians for theirs. They agree, in exchange for a sizable rental fee, plans for the current and the next generation sci-fi fighter jets, and something else… the kid thinks that the Russians should have demanded that they run the base cafeteria. I don’t know why. I just report it, folks, I don’t write it.

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 3.20 – Maternal Instinct

Well, Tony Amendola’s in it, and Richard Dean Anderson starts the episode with a perfectly-delivered “Son of a bitch!” when they learn that their enemy Apophis is still alive, and that’s really all that’s worth remembering about this long, long, boring episode. It introduces Oma Desala, who is effectively “Mother Nature,” the first of the Ancients / Ascended Beings, a race that will often become very, very tedious. Hours of the episode are spent with Daniel and a monk reciting Zen koans at each other with their boots off. Our son got even more restless than everybody waiting outside for Daniel to get finished and put his boots back on.

Besides, everybody knows Mother Nature looks like this. (Source: Reddit.)

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 2.8 – Family

Drat, I thought I remembered this one as being okay, but it’s probably even more idiotic than the episodes from this period that we’re skipping. Tony Amendola’s in it, which is nice, and there’s some good continuity about Teal’c’s family and Apophis still being alive. Peter Williams is here for a short scene, being as nasty as usual. But the story’s a complete turkey, with SG-1’s battlefield tactics being even more boneheaded than usual. They still haven’t learned to either kill or imprison the guards they stun when they travel into a known hostile environment, and they should definitely know by now not to trust anybody.

The bits where Teal’c’s son reveals himself to be brainwashed by Apophis are suitably frightening to his parents, but “years of therapy and a daily gallon of Zoloft” not being a reasonable way for an hour-long action teevee show to wrap up, they had to come up with something else. It had been far too long since I’d seen this for me to remember ECT even being proposed as a solution, nor the quickie sci-fi substitute for electroshocking that they come up with. It’s not only a stupid ending, it’s a dishonest one.

At the very least, it did give us a good opportunity to talk with our son about Teal’c’s family situation. In his absence, his wife had married somebody else, an old friend who offered her a life outside the squalid refugee camps. Teal’c handles this horribly, with violence and anger. We took turns discussing the decisions that both Teal’c and Drey’auc made, and the consequences of their actions. I think it made for a good talk. We can give Teal’c a little leeway, because he’s a sci-fi warrior who’s had all the “showing compassion” business beat out of him through decades of training, but at the end of the day, he’s a man who should have known this would happen, and shouldn’t act like an unmitigated ass when it does.

Stargate SG-1 2.1 – The Serpent’s Lair

Eh, the kid liked it. Lots of shooting, big explosions. I liked it better than the previous part, because Tony Amendola shows up again as Master Bra’tac. After Vala, who we won’t get to for quite a while yet, Bra’tac is probably my favorite character in the series. Peter Williams does his sneery bad guy turn as Apophis, only ever managing to sneer at his henchmen because the humans, quite sensibly, never stick around long enough for a conversation. This is the first of what will be a comical number of times where the narrative tells us that Apophis has bought it, but we learn later on that he got out via an escape pod or something. You know, like bad guys do.

And with that, Stargate SG-1 goes back on the shelf for a few weeks to keep things fresh while we rotate something else in. We’ll be back for more in early April. Season two won’t be much better, but it’ll get there. Stay tuned!