Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Urgo"

I have noticed two trends within Stargate SG-1 which are well exemplified in “Urgo.” One, episodes feature much movie homage and parody. It can be anything from frequent Wizard of Oz jokes to the outright lifting of a plot as with The Andromeda Strain. Two, the comedy oriented episodes exaggerate the basic personality traits of the main characters to the point of absurdity. Neither of these themes has been particularly bad because they have been done in small doses. Put them together in one episode with dom DeLuise adlibbing his lines for forty-four minutes and you have what could be incredibly annoying if it did not come in the middle of a season that has thus far brutalized our heroes.

I am not trying to be a stick in the mud here. It is enjoyable to watch the cast obviously having a good time. Christopher Judge in particular appears to be having a difficult time maintaining Teal’c’s normally stoic demeanor. Clearly, the powers that be behind Stargate SG-1 do not take themselves too seriously, and as far as I am concerned, that is a welcome change from the pretentious “intellectualism” of even the worst Star Trek offerings. If nothing else, the episode demonstrates just how comfortable the cast has become with their characters that they can make fun of them in an endearing way. There is nothing wrong with any of it. But a little goes a long way.

“Urgo’ is based very loosely on Carl Sagan’s Contact. I enjoyed both the novel and the 2008 film, but I think it is safe to say “Urgo” is based more on the latter. The SG-1 team travels to a planet that the MALP recon says is a beach. As far as they are concerned, they return as soon as they left even though they have been gone sixteen hours. In Contact Jodie Foster experiences missing time when she travels through and alien device and meets what passes for God in Sagan’s mind on a beach. The SG-1 team meets dom DeLuise instead.

DeLuise plays Togar, a scientist who secretly implants devices in the brains of SG-1 in order to gather information about their travels like the way we tag animals for research. The implants generate a wireless computer network that has inadvertently evolved into an artificial intelligence named Urgo, also played by DeLuise. Urgo is outgoing and goofy with a curiosity that gets everyone into trouble. It is under his influence the over the top characterizations emerge. Teal’c gulps an entire pot of steaming coffee, jack gushes over commissary offerings like Jello, Sam cannot help but explain everything urgo does not understand, and Daniel…uh, yeah. Not much there. Perhaps his lack of color helped motivate Michael Shanks to leave a couple seasons later. The others are enough to be highly amusing.

There is no serious complication in the plot. The SG-1 team returns to the planet to have Togar remove Urgo. They talk him into implanting Urgo in his own mind rather than destroying him since Urgo is not technically a sentient life form. Said conclusion is drawn without any hints of Trekian self-importance a valuable lesson has just been taught to all humanity. The episode begins with humor, and it ends that way, too.

I am amused by “Urgo.” It is a welcome breather in a season that has featured the death of Daniel’s wife and the team literally going to hell and back. It might seem like a frivolous episode were it not placed among such deep company. A little of DeLuise goes a very long way, however. I can see why the Urgo for the rest of their lives or death merited serious contemplation. A fun episode. Not one of the best, but still well-worth seeing for the normal characterizations dialed up to eleven. Watch “Urgo” on a sugar or caffeine high.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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