Monday, February 6, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"A Matter of Time"

“A Matter of Time” presents a unique plot element compared to the tons of Star Trek episodes I have reviewed over the last several years--real, albeit theoretical, science at the heart of the plot. No warp drive, no Borg nanotech, and no anti-time particles. The episode is all about the effects of a wormhole’s gravitational pull if one were opened on Earth. I do not pretend to grasp it all, as I am one of those dreaed sci fi geeks into the humanities instead of science, but I appreciate the real science in the place of techno babble.

The SG-10 team, under the command of Jack’s friend Maj. Henry Bord, is sent to a planet to investigate why all indigenous life has been exterminated. The team discovers a black hole has formed nearby. The planet is being slowly pulled in. boyd attempts to get his men back to the stargate, but as time moves slower with the increased gravity of a black hole, they never make. As far as the recon images sent back to SGC through the open stargate are concerned, Boyd and his men are dying in slow motion. Their deaths essentially frozen in time as far as SGC is concerned.

There is a more immediate problem--the stargate will not close. Even shutting off all the power does nothing, because the stargate draws energy from the black hole. Time begins moving slower within the facility than without,. Hours, then days pass outside while only minutes pass inside. A rescue team under the command of Col. Frank Cromwell is sent in under the assumption there has been an alien incursion. It is evident there is bad blood between Jack and Cromwell.

With no way to shut the stargate down, the decision is made to blow SGC and hope for the best. Jack and Cromwell volenteer to stay behind to activate the self-destruct. When the two are alone post-evacuation, we learn of the trouble between them. Jack was wounded and presumed dead on a mission inside Iraq during the brief post-gulf War uprising. Cromwell left him behind in order to get the rest of his men out safely. Jack spent four months in an Iraqi prison. Jack resents Cromwell violated the ‘leave no one behind’ oath. Cromwell, still eaten up with guilt, asks for Jack’s forgiveness, but is refused. Cromwell points out that what jack is doing not to Boyd is the same thing, but before the matter can go further, sam interrupts ye olde self-destruct with a new plan.

They are going to divert the stargate to another world’s stargate with the sudden surge of an explosive device. (Legitimate science and continuity, folks. All in one episode, no less.) Because of the time differential, Jack and Cromwell have to rappel towards the stargate to set the explosive timer relative to how time is passing closest to the stargate. Things go wrong, naturall, as a glass shard slices part of the rope. Knowing it will not hold them both, Cromwell lets go so jack can set the bomb and escape. Debt repaid. Sam’s plan works, and all is well. Save for the five deaths, but who is counting?

Cromwell is played by Marshall Teague. Teague has appeared numerous times throughout these television and movie reviews already. If and when Babylon 5 shows up at the Eye, will we see him in a couple different roles. Michael Shanks has only a cameo towards the end o the episode because his wife, the actress who plays Sha’re, gave birth during filming of the previous episode. Maj. Paul Davis, who first appears here, will become a recurring character of some degree.

Some of the theoretical science makes my head spin, but I enjoyed ‘A Matter of Time” nevertheless. I particularly thought it was funny that anytime sam tries to explain what is going on, no one wants to hear the technical details. I took that as a nod to the complaints of VOY fans in particular that plots of the show are too often resolved with meaningless techno babble no one cares to hear. In the midst of it all, there is the human element of Cromwell’s need for forgiveness over a cotly mistake and Jack’s refusal because of his devotion to loyalty. We have seen Jack ready to sacrifice everything out of loyalty. I appreciate the character continuity. Cromwell knows only a big sacrifice of himself is going to placate Jack. That is most certainly the reason he wanted to be on the rescue mission to SGC, why he volunteered to help set the self-destruct, and ultimately allowed himself to die to save Jack. Powerful stuff from a one-off guest star.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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