Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Message in a Bottle"

“Message in a Bottle,’ an ironically titled bottle show, can also justifiably be called Sttargate Meets The Andromeda Strain. I will be generous and call it an homage, but one wonders if writer Brad Wright was hoping no one watching the episode has ever seen the movie or read the novel. I will grant some originality in the episode and a creative, non-violent resolution, so thumbs up for SG-1 not shooting its way out of a problem.

The SG-1 team encounters an orb on a dead planet resembling Earth’s moon. They find an orb that dates back from an advanced civilization 100,000 years ago. They debate whether it is dangerous to take the orb back to earth, but conclude any power source than can keep it running for such a long period of time must be studied and hopefully utilized. Back at SGC, Daniel and Sam attempt to decipher microscopic writings on the ord to no avail. When it begins emitting high levels of radiation, Jack orders the stargate opened to send the orb back to the planet. The orb instead locks itself in place with extended “arms,” one of which spears Jack through his left shoulder.

The arm infects Jack with a glowing pathogen that soon infects everyone and everything else in SGC. The whole facility is put on lockdown quarantine and an auto-self-destruct countdown called Wildfire is begun to destroy the pathogen rather than allow it to spread beyond SGC. Efforts to destroy the orb by shooting it with Teal’c’s staff weapon and depriving it off oxygen fail until it dawns on Daniel they have been going about this all wrong. They have been treating it like a disease when it is actually an intelligent alien that trying to communicate. Once they feed it more energy, the alien reveals through Jack that it has no desire to harm anyone, but will not go back to the dead world on which iyt was found. Hammond compromises with the aliens, because when SGC blows, it will release enough energy to cause infection across the entire planet, to send the aliens to a primordial world in exchange for regaining control of SGC. It is a deal folks.

“Message in a Bottle” is pretty much The Andromeda Strain. In the novel/film, there is an alien pathogen that feeds off energy introduced to earth. There is a quarantine similar ro Wildfire. The heroes have to prevent a nuclear explosion that will give off enough energy for the pathogen to infect the entire Earth. I have never read the novel, and I could take or leave the film, so I am not all that bothered by the similarities with “Message in a Bottle.” If there are fans out there who consider the episode a rip off, so be it. On its own merit, it is an exciting episode that creatively gets around what could feel like a throwaway budget-saving story. The story instead emphasizes the skills of the main characters to resolve the conflict. Of note is the loyalty teal’c demonstrates to jack as he spends the entire episode pinned to the wall through his shoulder. Ouch. If there is any real detriment, it is the self-destruct sequence being stopped with exactly one second left to go. Come on--is that not a little too cliché at this point?

Rating; *** (out of 5)

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