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 8.2 – New Order (part two)

The Sci-Fi Channel definitely made the right choice in airing these two episodes as a single feature. Part two is far better than the first half, and illustrates just how badly the show needs Richard Dean Anderson’s wit and light touch. Somebody must have realized that if he ever were to leave the show, then they will have to radically rethink all the personal dynamics of the cast. Amazingly, they get it just about perfect in year nine, and it’s such a shame the program will eventually get bogged down with such unpleasant villains.

So anyway, we’re back on familiar ground, with Erector-set bug Replicators getting blasted into blocks and weird new weapons being developed to stop them. Unfortunately, there’s a Human-form Replicator who’s got Carter in what can only be described as a virtual reality prison, which seemed about ten years behind the times in 2004 and is so predictable that even our son wasn’t surprised when he starts looking like Carter’s boyfriend Pete, who was introduced in “Chimera” and has been offscreen since. Still, everybody else’s plot is interesting.

And back on Earth, there’s a really fascinating development which the show sadly doesn’t really use anywhere near as well as it might have. Three villains had come to Earth in part one, and that fellow in the middle, Camulus, played by Steve Basic, says he doesn’t want to go back with the rest. He asks for asylum on Earth. We’ve never had a Goa’uld switch sides like this before, but he knows that he’s lost and doesn’t have the resources to fight Baal.

We did give our son a big clue in that Torri Higginson’s character would be moving over to Atlantis, but the other predictable thing for him is the closing revelation that O’Neill, promoted to brigadier general, gets to be the new commander of the SGC, which will allow Richard Dean Anderson to take a regularly short workweek and not have to go out on location shoots as often. It’s a move that makes a lot of sense, apart from SG-1 not getting a fourth member to replace him. The program has shown us repeatedly that four is the ideal number for a unit. Until it becomes five, anyway.

Stargate SG-1 8.1 – New Order (part one)

July 9 and 16 2004 saw one of the biggest publicity blitzes that the Sci-Fi Channel had ever undertaken. They really pushed the debut of SG-1 season eight and the launch of Stargate Atlantis. For the previous seven years, I was only vaguely aware that a TV show based on that silly Stargate movie even existed at all, somewhere, but that summer, they penetrated my bubble and made sure that even I knew about it. I didn’t watch it, mind you, but I heard people talking about Atlantis. There was definitely buzz, probably more than the franchise ever had.

Unfortunately, I’d love to say that SG-1 took advantage of this buzz with a ground-level, action-packed, and viewer-friendly relaunch and a two-hour event to thrill new audiences. Instead, they carried on, business as usual, with an extremely dense continuation of everything that’s been seen before. The “previously on Stargate SG-1” montage covered two episodes, but many more than that were necessary to make any sense of this. Even stranger, the previous story had been shown as a two-parter over two weeks but the DVD presents it as a single movie-length episode. This was shown as a movie but the DVD splits it in two. Make up your mind, guys!

So the kid was kind of disappointed in this, because the amazing revelation of the Antarctic outpost station of the Ancients that we saw last time, with its underground super-cannon and stasis chamber, is only talked about. And talked about, a lot. The action is with a separate plot, as Sam and Teal’c deal with the return of one of the human-form Replicators that we met in season six. Back on Earth, Daniel and Dr. Weir, now played by Torri Higginson, get to talk endlessly about the outpost with three of the villains.

The peace treaty is actually the episode’s biggest surprise. I couldn’t resist; when the Gate is activated off-world, I told our son “You won’t believe who that is.” In the weeks since the previous episode and the apparent death of Anubis, all the System Lords were taken off-guard when Baal struck first against all of them, and now three of them – two new-to-us and the welcome return of Vince Crestejo as Yu the Great – have swallowed their pride and come to try to get Earth to use some of that underground super-cannon action to take out Baal. Even he’s offscreen! One great little touch, though, is that Yu’s First Prime must remain on-hand to cover his master’s ever-increasing senility. As we learned a year previously, this villain is dying.

This really does feel like a miscalculation on so many levels. This is all seen-it, done-it stuff for fans with long memories, and not the hundreds of thousands who tuned in for the first time that Friday night in ’04. We’ve even seen Yu the Great at the same conference table before, back at the beginning of season three. We’ll see how things go when we check out part two later tonight. I know it gets more exciting, but will our son manage to stay awake for it?

Stargate SG-1 7.1 – Fallen

One of the treasures of watching our kid grow as we’ve watched things together is seeing how he’s able to make connections at age ten that he couldn’t at age seven. I was reminded this morning of watching A Close Shave with him in 2018; he couldn’t quite connect that the “launch sequence” bit in that was a tip of the hat to Thunderbirds. But “Fallen” just pilfers its plan to beat the villain straight from the original Star Wars, even down to having the lights down low in the briefing room where they discuss the whole business of shooting missiles into a convenient exhaust port. It took our son no time at all to start singing the Star Wars theme, figuring it out even before Jack protests that he wanted to be called “Red Leader” on this mission.

Anyway, in non-space battle news, Michael Shanks is back as a regular starting with this episode, with Corin Nemec knocked down to guest star for this installment and the next. I’ve never read much about the behind-the-scenes stuff; I’ve always assumed there was some contract stuff in play here. At least Nemec gets an entertaining cliffhanger for his last story. Our heroes have crippled Anubis’s super-weapon so that Lord Yu’s forces can destroy Anubis… but weirdly, Yu betrays everyone and sends his fleet away. Jonas is captured and the episode ends with Anubis ready to use his ugly, spiky mind-probe ball on Jonas. “That thing!” our son said, loudly, when Anubis revealed his gadget. “Oh, I hate that thing!” Then he growled that we were going to make him wait several hours for the next part.

Stargate SG-1 6.22 – Full Circle

Apt name. “Full Circle” sees the team going back to the planet Abydos, site of the original film, for a final time, to finish out the season. This week, Anubis, the most powerful of the current crop of baddies, has set his sights on a Macguffin that Ra, that first villain from that first film, left behind. And so there’s more to learn about Anubis and the ascended beings and more shootouts in the desert. Vince Crestejo makes another small appearance this week as Yu the Great rallies some of the remaining villains to defeat Anubis, but they’re too late. Our son enjoyed this one a whole lot, but his biggest smile probably came from seeing that credit, “Yu the Great,” in the end titles.

As I mentioned when we first started dealing with Oma Desala and the ascended types three seasons previously, the rules for the higher planes of existence are really arbitrary. There’s supposed to be a general rule against intervention, which Oma keeps breaking, slyly, and which Daniel’s ready to start breaking as well. We’ve seen him bend the rules a couple of times this season, to give Michael Shanks a little screen time, but in this story, he makes a deal with Anubis to spare everybody on the planet below. Anubis decides against keeping his end of the bargain and Daniel is about to finally use his powers to just flat out wipe the villain from existence… and then those arbitrary rules kick in.

It looks like Oma Desala has the moxie among her crew to be the one to decide who ascends and who just dies, but she doesn’t like anybody she does bring to their plane to draw attention to themselves by wiping villains from existence. It’s more important for her to save the entire planet’s population from Anubis – in fairness, lots of these planets have extremely small populations, but still – than it is for Daniel to strike him down. Anubis and his forces are going to rack up a mighty body count over the next two seasons. Is Oma going to save all of the innocents he’s yet to kill? Gods work in arbitrary ways.

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 5.16 – Last Stand

Sadly, this episode is Morrigan’s second and final appearance. She gets maybe three lines across both parts. So why do I say sadly? Because the actress is freaking gorgeous and I love that outfit. She could’ve come back two or three times a year and I’d have been just fine with that.

Anyway, no, the second half of the story is not as good as the first half, because what seemed like a promising introduction to a bunch of new villains takes a distant back seat to Osiris dominating the story by telling the other seven System Lords that s/he’s joined the service of a villain so vile that all the assembled System Lords deposed him and banished him to a distant corner of the galaxy a thousand years ago. He’s called Anubis, and though he doesn’t show up in this story, a solid majority of this bunch votes to allow him back in. Anubis will become the dominant villain over the next three seasons, as the show becomes consistently solid and watchable every single week.

(Actually, the promising “Mardi Gras” of colorful villains takes such a distant back seat that one of them, Svarog, not only doesn’t get any lines but the actor is uncredited. Apparently, Stargate‘s fandom has not uncovered the identity of the actor who plays him. Somehow, it reminds me of that Batman episode with six master villains played in long-shot by stand-ins.)

This is the last onscreen appearance of Kevin Durand’s character Zipacna, although he’ll be mentioned from time to time after this. Courtenay J. Stevens makes a last appearance this week as well, since he gets killed off along with a huge swath of the humans’ allies the Tok’ra. If all this wasn’t bad enough, Anubis sends word that just because there’s a treaty between Earth and the System Lords keeping the planet off-limits, Anubis is not a System Lord – yet – and is not bound by it. Yeesh.

I enjoyed this story overall because of the dense world-building and the huge blows that the heroes take. Our son was less taken with it, since just about all the action and the shooting was in part one. It’s a downbeat story, as the series really needs from time to time, but I think this one ended on such a low note that he rolled his eyes and curled his lips. “It had a few good moments,” he shrugged.

Stargate SG-1 5.15 – Summit

First things first: “Summit” features the first appearance of Cliff Simon as a new recurring villain, Ba’al, and he is freaking fantastic. He is by far my favorite of this show’s many enemies. If they gave me the reins of Doctor Who tomorrow, I wouldn’t use the Master very much at all, but I’d offer the part to Cliff Simon. Ba’al is malevolent and smart and has a cunning that far outstrips the blunt-object idolatry of the System Lords, and Simon is completely amazing in the role. There’s another Goa’uld that I also like quite a lot, but we won’t meet him for quite some time, and he’s still no Ba’al.

“Summit” is a major episode in developing the System Lords. Three of the villains we’ve met before – Yu, Osiris, and Zipacna – are all reintroduced, and we meet five others, who are mostly one-offs*, and everybody’s getting together because somebody’s been wiping out their armies. So Vince Crestejo, who we haven’t seen in more than two years, is back, along with Anna-Louise Plowman and Kevin Durand. There are lots more speaking parts in this story than we normally see. Coordinating everybody’s schedule for this one must have been a joy.

Another reason I really enjoy this one and its follow-up: the heroes get themselves well and truly thrashed. While Daniel is infiltrating the System Lords’ summit with our old pal Jacob, Zipacna leads his armies against the Tok’ra. We saw the humans’ powerful allies the Tollan wiped out earlier this year, and now the Tok’ra are decimated. Even more surprising: just two episodes ago, we met Courtenay J. Stevens’ character of Lt. Elliot, newly assigned to SG-17. They all get killed as well. Elliot’s going to survive into part two, barely, but could this situation possibly get any worse? Tune in tomorrow night…

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.