Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Rules of Engagement"

The third season has been strong thus far. As we approached the halfway point, I started to think there might not be a dud in the bunch. It is dangerous to think that way. “Rules of Engagement’ has an intriguing premise, but the devil is in the details. A couple of aspects do not make a whole lot of sense, and I get the impression the impressive battle sequences are meant to be a distraction from those shortcomings.

The SG-1 team just happens to be exploring a planet upon which Apophis has established a training camp for young men to pose as SG team members in order to infiltrate Earth. At first, SG-1 assumes a pitched battle between the faux SG teams and the Jaffa is real and intervene even though no SG teams ought to be out here in the first place. They are hit by stun guns during the battle and knocked out.

When they awaken at the training camp, they are mistaken for recruits who have stumbled onto the battlefield through incompetence. Sizing up the situation, Teal’c uses his connections with apophis to take command of the camp and find out exactly what is going on.

Apophis established his own Khmer Rouge here to serve as an army in an impending invasion of earth. The kids are actually in the 18-20 year old ranger rather than child soldiers/ I have a hunch younger kids were the original idea, but some of the violent aspects of the episode made the prospect a little too dicey. Apophis set up the camp after his failed attack on Earth, so the impression is he is recruiting young teens because he is desperate to hold unto power with whatever his fading fortunes can muster.

The complication is that SG-1’s real weapons were mixed in with the stun gun training versions. The kids are going to inadvertently use real arms in an afternoon war games exercise. Teal’c fails to convince them apophis is dead--they think his claim is a test of loyalty--and their leader, kyle Rogers, is shot with a real bullet during the war games. He is taken back to SGC for treatment and shown video of apophis’ death, which convinces him of the truth.

Unfortunately, the kids are planning to battle each other to the death with real weapons now in order to determine which of them will become apophis’ personal guards. Kyle and SG-1 travel back to the planet in the middle of a spectacular battle scene for a cable television series. They use stun guns to buy time while Sam sets up the video feed of apophis’ death in order to convince everyone an invasion is not coming. It works, and all the kids go home.

As I am about to smack “Rules of Engagement’ around for a continuity issue, I will offer up one bit of praise--the reason apophis knows all about SGC weapons, paraphernalia, and battle tactics is that he captured SG-11, the team that has been missing since early in the second season, and tortured them for it all. It is mentioned they did not talk before dying under torture, so they were heroic about it. Ah, but the big issue Why do the kids accept Teal’c as a loyal servant of Apophis? One would assume Teal’c is famous for betraying Apophis. At the very least, if the kids are learning all about the SGC, they ought to know Teal’c is a part of them. Perhaps I am nitpicking here, since that seems like too obvious a continuity error to make. Maybe apophis wants to keep the kids as in the dark as possible, so here does not care if they know about Teal’c.

Consider it a case of me protesting too much, but Teal’c’s status being unknown bugs me a lot. There is no much else in the episode beyond the climactic battle sequence which elevates “Rules of Engagement” beyond the bland. While I think Apophis creating his own youth army is an intriguing one, it comes across as pathetic under the circumstances. These kids are bumbling doofuses playing army, and they are all Apophis has left--to invade Earth, no less. What could have been a sinister plot is terribly deflated in its execution. If he were not already dead, Apophis’ status as a major villain would be laughable at this point.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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