Stargate SG-1 8.18 – Threads

“Threads” is an extra-length episode that was originally broadcast in a 90-minute slot, and our kid really hated it. Their goal was to wrap up absolutely everything, all the outstanding continuity, clearing the decks for a big, fun two-part finale without all the weight of loose ends. This one even introduces a whole new loose end: O’Neill has been seeing a CIA agent named Kerry for a few weeks, but that gets wrapped up as well, so that he and Carter can finally begin a relationship. But wait, you say, wasn’t she engaged to Pete? The guy who’s been barely mentioned and not seen since “Affinity”? Yeah, she breaks off their engagement. And her father dies, so it’s farewell this time to both Carmen Argenziano and David DeLuise, making their final appearances in the series.

Okay, so technically O’Neill and Carter don’t actually formalize anything onscreen. Then there’s the fact that the series continued with occasional guest appearances from Richard Dean Anderson showing that his character does not actually retire from the USAF as it is strongly hinted here. But I’m pretty sure that “I can’t believe we didn’t do this years ago” is all the meat that fans of that ship needed. It works, offscreen, from here if you’re willing to let it.

Our son was very, very bored with this one. It’s all talking, with the action offscreen. On Earth, it’s deaths and breakups, in space, all the money for big battles needed to be spent in the next story, and then there’s the Astral Diner. Happily, mercifully, this story also mostly wraps up all the business with the higher planes of existence, and finally answers the problem posed two years previously why Oma Desala never stopped the supervillain Anubis.

But it’s all so dopey! Daniel is trapped in a diner whose appearance was pulled from his memories, and populated by Ascended Beings who ignore him while he and Oma Desala and a mysterious loudmouth argue about free will and death and good and evil and coffee. It all plays out precisely like those deeply bizarre tangents that Steve Gerber would write in 1970s Marvel comics like Man-Thing and Omega the Unknown, where you thought you were buying a comic with a monster or a superhero and you got people on roller coasters having a mid-life crisis and talking directly to the reader. That fine character actor George Dzundza plays the loudmouth in the diner, and his identity is a nice surprise, but I’ve said before that the higher plane of existence business has been the weakest thing about Stargate and they were determined to wrap it up as goofily as possible, weren’t they?

Stargate SG-1 8.16-17 – Reckoning (parts one and two)

So, the final five episodes of the series, or at least that’s what they planned. You might could read it as a three-parter followed by a two-parter, but I kind of see it as a pair of two-parters with a interesting loose-ends story between them. It begins with one of our favorite villains, Yu the Great, being killed, and ends with every Replicator in this galaxy wiped out, their threat finally destroyed. And in between, the Goa’uld Empire falls. Big event TV, in other words.

Naturally, Tony Amendola and Carmen Argenziano return for all the chaos, because it makes sense to bring back recurring players at a time like this. We also get a surprising guest star for the first three hours of this farewell tour: Isaac Hayes. Plus we get some explosions and other visuals from previous stories and the return of the great big stone prop from “Window of Opportunity” because that thing probably wasn’t cheap. Well, when you go bigger than the budget, you cut corners where you can!

It’s a shame to see Yu go, but my absolute favorite villain on this series, Cliff Simon’s Baal, just owns this one. These are among his worst days. Baal is inches away from complete domination over all the System Lords when the Replicators make their move and start wiping out his fleet. In the end, he’s still sneering but he has to form an alliance with the humans and the Tok’ra to stop the erector-set bugs from spreading everywhere. Simon is just a joy to watch. He’s like a volcano in this one.

All told, this is a very fun story. Hats off to everybody involved; they separated our heroes into four places of action and the stakes get higher and higher and things get worse and worse. Our son was in heaven. He was so excited by everything that happened in this one, with great dialogue to outer space visuals to lots of gunfire and explosions, paced just perfectly. It’s a really thrilling story, directed extremely well. You might could make the argument that it’s all sizzle and no steak, but that’s okay. It sizzles really nicely and we’ll get the steak next time.

Stargate SG-1 8.9 – Sacrifices

I think I’ve figured out our kid’s preferred tempo for an hour show. He really enjoyed “Sacrifices” a lot. It starts with some good comedy, details a problem that isn’t too complex, and builds to a very big on-location shootout. It helps that the shootout climaxes with the villain having an amusing reaction to his impending doom. This villain is Moloc, who we’ve heard about previously but never seen, and he realizes too late that a laser pointer sight on his chest is not some strange alien bug, but a “painting” for missiles to target. Our son does like it when the villains learn they’re “screwed.” Tsk. Where’d he learn language like that?

Anyway, “Sacrifices” is another episode scripted by actor Christopher Judge, and it brings back Teal’c’s space girlfriend Ishta, who we met last year in “Birthright”, along with Tony Amendola making another welcome return as Master Bra’tac. This time, her tribe of rebel warriors needs to be evacuated to a new planet when their cover is blown, and one of their number is getting married to Teal’c’s son. In three days. These rebels are stubborn; of course the wedding can’t be postponed.

Every once in a while, I remember something just perfectly and can pause at just the right point for a quick discussion. Just before the rehearsal falls apart, I figured we could have a little chat about how this ancient, ancient ceremony is so mired in sexism, and how Teal’c himself is still having trouble seeing Jaffa women – although not women from other cultures – as the equals of Jaffa men. We resumed just in time for the ceremony to fall apart, because the bride-to-be evidently didn’t look at the book beforehand and didn’t know there was a bit where she’s meant to kneel in respect to her husband. And the groom-to-be is every bit as outraged as you might fear.

I’d like to think that the meat is the good fight stuff, and it’s quite exciting and very well directed. Teal’c and Ishta and one other dude are cut off and outnumbered. It all turns out okay in the end, with Moloc dead, but interestingly, everybody who’s been urging caution before rising up and killing Moloc is proven correct. Within a couple of days, they get word that Ba’al, who is really overdue for an in-person appearance, has simply absorbed Moloc’s forces and grown more powerful. From this point, things are going to start moving very quickly offscreen. Seems amazing that we’re this close to the end of the Goa’uld arc.

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.)