Friday, February 24, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Past and Present"

The actress in the above scene is Megan Leitch, who played the adult Samantha Mulder on The X-Files. I am filled with geeky goodness to see her again. More of you should be X-Philes, darn it!

“Past and Present” features an intriguing premise which brings back a recurring villain in a highly creative way, but the episode’s many flaws nearly kill it. We are talking about an unethical solution to the plot complication, an unintentionally dark ending, and in a technical aspect, the episode airing to closely to the previous one for Daniel’s emotional response to not feel cheap and out of place so soon after his wife’s death.

The SG-1 team travels to Vyan. There they discover the population suffered a mass amnesia over a year ago. They remember nothing prior to the incident, noe can they figure out why there are no children or old people around. They have photos of older people, but none of children, just to deepen the mystery. When SG-1 does some digging in the local library with the help of a scientist named Ke’ra, they figure out the incident was the result of experiments by Linea, an old enemy whom they inadvertently helped escape prison and gave a list of stargate addresses.

Feeling responsible for the population’s memory loss, SG-1 recruits Frasier to help find a cure. What ensues is a convoluted plot involving a pesticide called dargol used years ago which rendered the population sterile, but after Linea fiddled with it, became a fountain of youth. A side effect of the fountain of youth being amnesia. The whole population cannot have kids. So that explains why there are no photos of children. The photos of older people which they do have are not missing people, but themselves as they were before the fountain of youth drug. Oh, yeah--Ke’ra is actually linea and daniel has fallen in love with her.

The revelations surrounding the effects of Dargol before and after Linea experimented with it are not the main thrust of the plot. The plot centers around Ke’ra inadvertently using Linea’s genius in chemistry to solve the amnesia and Daniel serving as her advocate when everyone else believes she needs to pay for Linea’s crimes even if she is a different person now.

Or is she? The climactic scene has Ke’ra taking the antidote to the amnesia to find out if the suspicions she is Linea are true. I am no expert on memory or abnormal psychology, but is it plausible Ke’ra could retain Linea’s genius as a chemist but not her antisocial tendencies? I have doubts, and some of Ke’ra’s behavior bares that out. She is very manipulative of Daniel’s emotions. She zeroes in on him after she learns his wife has recently died making him particularly vulnerable. She is also completely ambivalent to the seizure her first failed antidote causes for a patient. That is not how a sympathetic healer would act. Yet when her memories of Linea do return, Ke’ra wants to commit suicide over the guilt of acts she once committed as though nothing of linea’s personality had been present before ingesting the antidote. So which is it? Was the essence of Linea there all along or not?

That is an important question to explore because Daniel’s solution for her suicidal tendencies is to take Dargol again to induce amnesia and keep on being ke’ra. In other words, let Linea start a new life on another planet as an entirely new person. never mind that traces of Linea were evident in Ke’ra’s personality. never mind that ke’ra is a curious scientist who would probably keep on working with Dargol and eventually figure out the truth. never mind the entire population is going to know she is still suffering from the amnesia. Someone will suggest using the antidote. Or are they all going to conspire to keep Josephine Mengele’s identity a secret from her out of gratitude for curing their amnesia? Not likely. There are a number of logical problems with letting Ke’ra go free. So many, in fact, that you almost forget the population is sterile due to pesticide use and is going to go extinct once the current generation dies off. Not that anyone mentions that after the beginning of the third act. Oops.

Am I really down on “Past and Present?” Significant aspects, most certainly. There are plot holes one could drive a truck through. On an entire planet, no one can piece together any clues about the past? If everyone de-aged forty years, could no one find a forty year old photograph and recognize himself? No one wrote down anything ever? No one seems upset in the slightest to learn they are all sterile. I could go on, but I will end the criticism with the statement Daniel should not fall in love with another woman so soon after Sha’re has died. It is not clear enough Ke’ra is manipulating him into a romance even if she is. Very bad story idea. The only praise I can offer for ‘past and Present” is the creative way it brought back a past villain. Too bad the execution of linea’s return was so poorly thought out beyond the basic premise.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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