Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Point of No Return"

“Point of No Return” is an odd duck. It is mostly a lighthearted, humorous episodes with a tragic ending that should hit the audience between the eyes, but is not played quite well enough to accomplish it. Instead, the episode winds up being a fun ride through all but the final three or four minutes. I actually feel sorry for the episode so pitifully running out of steam.

A nebbish little guy named martin Lloyd contacts SGC asking for Jack. Martin is a conspiracy nut who happens to know an extraordinarily large amount of information about the stargate. He wants to meet jack one on one, so SG-1 plays along in order to discover how he knows anything about the top secret program. Jack meets with martin at a diner while the others, who have tracked down martin’s address, search his house.

Martin tells Jack he is an alien. His memory is flawed, but he feels an urge to go home through the stargate and wants Jack to take him. He is afraid shadowy government elements are after him on earth. While Jack jeeps him talking, the others discover martin is a heavily medicated psychiatric patient. Big surprise.

The story keeps us going for as long as possible believing martin is an insignificant person who has created a fantasy world in which he is the center of a conspiracy in order to make himself feel important. The feeling is complemented by funny, sometimes subtle character moments. There is a scene in which Teal’c bums a quarter off Jack to indulge in a vibrating motel bed and another in which Daniel is inadvertently posing as The Thinker beside a mini-replica of the famous statue. Perhaps the most telling bit is Jack watching The Day the Earth Stood Still. it is one of my favorite films. It also happens to be about an alien hiding on earth as a human.

Which is exactly what Martin is. He really is being stalked, but not by the government. It is three other aliens like him. They were soldiers who escaped to Earth when the Goa’uld attacked their home planet. When they discovered humans could not help in the war effort, they decided to stay in hiding rather than go back to face certain death. Martin had second thoughts, so they began drugging him to repress his memory. The psychiatrist Daniel and Sam visited was one of the aliens. In the end, they disappear, leaving martin to go with jack to his home planet to learn the truth--their people have been wiped out by the Goa’uld.

What a strange combination of comedy with a tragic ending. The mix has been done well before. The X-File’s “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” comes to mind immediately. But Bruckman’s journey from a comedic character at the center of a brutal crime investigation to his suicide when the case is solved is done with all proper emotion. Martin is a goofy geek right up until he learns he and his compatriots are the only survivors of his planet--and he shrugs that off. Worse yet, now that he has alienated his fellow survivors, he is completely alone. The final scene should have an air of tragedy it misses because Martin takes the news with all the negative emotion of a guy who just missed his bus and has to wait another fifteen minutes for the next.

There are a few picks to nit, as well. How can martin know so much about the SGC, down to Jack being a part of it, but his buddies spying on him know nothing? When they scan Teal’c and see his symbiote, why do they not recognize him as one of the Goa’uld attacking their planet instead of an unknown alien? Why are the aliens tall, tough, and menacing like soldiers when martin, who is also a slodier, is a short, nerdy guy? I understand it is in order to sell the initial idea he is a mentally ill conspiracy nut, but Martin’s appearance makes his true nature laughably implausible.

I cannot consider any of these issues a huge problem, but they are enough to make the episode one that can be skipped in good conscience. The episode does not take itself seriously, so neither do I. “Point of No Return” is a frivolously entertaining episode with flaws the viewer is almost too embarrassed to critique because of the lightness of the overall content.

Rating; ** (out of 5)

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