Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Scorched Earth"

“Scorched Earth” brings us back to the philosophical confict between Jack and Daniel when it comes to moral decisions regarding civilizations. In a refreshing twist, Jack has the better argument, yet Daniel wins out yet again. Funny how that works out. The episode also features Alessandro Juliani four years before his more famous role as Felix Gaeta on Battlestar Galactica.

The SG-1 team is part of a celebration thrown by the Enkarans, a race taken from their home world by the Goa’uld to one in which the radiation levels are damaging, to honor their relocation to a planet with heavy ozone. A giant ship arrives and begins terraforming the planet from suitable for carbon based life forms to sulfur based. Attempts to communicate with the ship result in it creating a life form based on Enkaran physiology named Lotan to inform the SG-1 team the ship was built by the last of the Gadmeer, an ancient race, this planet is the only place suitable for their rebuilt civilization, and the Enkarans are out of luck.

The options are weighed. Jack wants to blow the ship up. The Gadmeer are long since dead while the Enkarans are a thriving people who have every right to live on their new planet. Daniel insists they try to compromise with Lotan. He is based on the Enkarans, so perhaps they can appeal to his empathy. Hammond will not authorize a military strike, so it is compromise or nothing. Jack will not settle for that and disobeys orders to force Sam to jury rig a bomb to blow the ship up anyway.

Jack does have the stronger argument, which is probably why the writers added the complication of him disobeying orders in order to muddy the moral waters. The Gameer are a long dead race. Only genetic samples of them remain. There is no logical argument the Enkarans should be killed off so the Garmeer can return. To his credit, Daniel is not saying they should, either, but his idealism on seeking a compromise between Lotan and the Enkarans feels like he is chasing rainbows on the off chance he can study the Gadmeer civilization.

To put the situation in real world terms, no one would allow the Dutch to be exterminated in order to bring the Hittites back. Not much is known about the Hittites,. A chance to learn about their civilization would be enlightening. But the Hittites have been dead and gone for thousands of years. The Dutch are here and thriving as much as they can with Europe crumbling economically and socially. Whatever genetic material is left of a long dead people is not worth a currently living civilization. Blow ’em up!

Daniel sneaks off to the ship in order to appeal to Lotan’s sense of empathy. It should be noted Teal’c and Sam agree with his actions, but is more of a nothing left to lose by trying rationale. Jack cannot bring himself to blow the ship up with Daniel on board. Good thing, too, because Daniel not only succeeds, but helps Lotan find the Enkarans original home world. Both the Enkarans and the gadmeer can have their ideal living environment needs met. Well, there you go. A happy ending that does not result in court martial.

I did not become engrossed in the conflict in “Scorched Earth.” Jack was right up until he decides disobeying orders is the best solution. Only in television could pursuing such an idealistic notion as Daniel’s result in such a completely perfect ending. There is nothing wrong with the episode at all. It is quite good, particularly in terms of special effects. But that sweet ending might cause cavities, so brush after viewing.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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