Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Fifth Race"

The Asgard, my favorite aliens from the Stargate mythology, appear in the flesh in “The Fifth Race.” You have to be really geeky to appreciate this one. Fortunately, I am an uber-science fiction geek, so it is right up my alley. It remains unspoken, perhaps not even established by the writers yet, but Jack is an extremely important person when it comes to humanity stepping up to join the Four Races. The asgard in particular gain a high respect for him.

The SG-1 team visit’s a planet which is believed to be the home of an ally of the Asgard. They wind up in an empty room wherein Jack stumbles onto a device which downloads the knowledge of the Ancients, the race who built the stargates, into his mind. Back at SGC, Jack begins exhibiting strange behavior. He replaces common terms with unrecognizable words, devises a complex mathematical formula, creates a strange new device which no one can identify, and programs the central computer with the previously unknown to anyone addresses of far off stargates. This new knowledge comes at a price--Jack’s brain cannot handle all the advanced knowledge. His mind will soon be overwhelmed and shut down.

Thinking some of these new addresses might hold the key to helping jack, a cobbled together SG-1 minus Jack and daniel travel to one of the new stargates, but get stuck when the dial home device freezes. Worse yet, the planet has an extremely hot sun which will rise in a few hours. The SG-1 team will not survive the extreme heat. Jack is tapped to use his new knowledge to come up with a way to the dial home device, which is sent to the planet and works. The whole sequence is blatantly thrown in the episode as filler to add some drama to an otherwise heavy on exposition and foreshadowing episode. I am not complaining, mind you. The SG-1 team’s plight is not without merit, but it is extraneous.

Everything jack has done otherwise--the math formula, the computer reprogramming, and the device creation--was to allow him to travel to the Asgard homeworld in another galaxy to seek their help. He makes contact, and they do remove the Ancients’ knowledge from his mind. They tell him mankind will one day take its place as the Fifth Race. The Asgard send jack back to earth safely with only a sense of faith in humanity remaining from his visit.

We learn the four great races are the Ancients, the Asgard, the Nox, and the Furlings. We also learn for the first time stargates can be used to travel to other galaxies by way of an eighth symbol, but to do so requires a major power source . The device Jack constructed gave the needed boost to make it to the Asgard homeworld this time around.

As I said above, I am geeky enough to like “The Fifth Race.” I am beginning to realize the stargate franchise has a complex mythology of which is difficult to jump right in the middle. That may explain why I never much got into it after watching twenty or so scattered episodes, but find it much more interesting when going straight through from the beginning. “The Fifth Race” is an heavy heavy on the story arc with some heady elements. It is very engrossing stuff. I lament that not many television shows would do an episode like this these days for fear the audience would wander off and never return because of the sheer nerdiness of it. For that, I have to award four stars.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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