Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Other Side"

I want to like “The Other Side.” it features all the elements I would normally enjoy. There is historical allegory, discussion on the morality of war, morality v. self-interest, and certainly not least Rene “Odo” Auberjonois as the leader of a secretly eugenicist besieged faction in a war. But there are other factors which bring ‘The Other Side” down a notch or two. The most glaring is the mischaracterization of Jack. The character is so our of whack, I was surprised to learn Brad Wright penned the script rather than a freelancer.

The SGC is contacted by the Eurondans, a advanced race who claim to be descended from Earth. Their leader, alar, requests help in defending his people from annihilation. Alar offers every bit of technology the Eurondans have in exchange for aid. O’Neill is authorized to negotiate for the technology. He can offer up anything man manpower to the Eurondans.

The erodes live in a constantly under fire bunker below the surface. The above atmosphere has been poisoned to the point they cannot live above ground until long after the war is over regardless. They have chosen not to relocate because they have thousands of people with them in stasis. None of this is the whole truth, and that fact is obvious to the audience. What is also obvious is Alar’s thinly veiled contempt for teal’c because of his skin color and disregard for brain damaged pilots who have been fending off aerial bombardments through neural interface that controls armed drones. The truth comes out, but not before a rift is formed in SG-1.

I have spoken recently of the philosophical divide between Jack and Daniel. Life experiences have made jack painfully cynical. There is an idealist lurking within him, but it takes something not normally present in his life to pull it out of him--a kid, a woman, a friend who demonstrates unusual loyalty. Without that something, he does not much notice the bad consequences that might come from getting the job done at all costs. Daniel is an idealist. I think it comes from his lack of family and friends. People like that tended to get emotional satisfaction they lack from those close relationships through embracing a rigid moral code. It is a way of trying to matter in a big way. Jack and Daniel are extremes in both of their cases. To put it bluntly, Jack is a lunkhead and Daniel is a whiny goody two shoes.

The conflict between the two has never been quite as pronounced as in ’The Other Side.” While jack is certainly not a natural idealist, he does often allow Daniel to be his moral compass. Likewise, Daniel has been willing has been willing to go to some far extremes when the right thing to do has not always been the moral thing. Jack may often be in tense conflict with one another, but they recognize their own flaws in order to make it all work. So it is jarring to see in “The Other side” Jack ain’t interested in daniel’s viewpoint.

Jack pursues an ignorance is bliss attitude about trading with the Eurondans. They want a steady supply of heavy water in exchange for every bit of technology they have, but no questions are to be asked why they want the heavy water. That is good enough for jack. Apophis is rebuilding his forces for an inevitable attack on Earth. Acquiring advanced technology is more important than who is fighting whom on a distant planet. It is not good enough for Daniel. The Eurondans will not even identify their enemies or explain what the war is all about. Jack forcefully shushes Daniel at every turn in what is nearly a relationship destroying act.

Jack does ignore obvious sings--the lavish bunker, facilities built to hold thousands of people in stasis, brain damaged pilots, and zero explanation about why the war is being fought, all because the technology is essential. It is not until alar makes an overtly racist statement about Teal’c that jack apologizes to Daniel and allows him to dig for intel. It turns out the erodes started the war because the other side breeds without regard to genetic purity. They poisoned the atmosphere in order to exterminate the breeders. The heavy water is needed to deal a final, genocidal blow. Jack turns the tables by piloting a drone in order to take out the bunker’s defenses. As SG-1 flees without an agreement to share technology, jack orders the iris closed before alar can escape with them, killing him splat. Even in the end, jack never stops being a darker character than usual.

‘The Other Side" is not a fun ride, but it is a compelling one. If not for the direct contradictions in jack’s characterization, I might have awarded four stars. But this just is not Jack. He has specifically been against taking advanced technology from aliens without any moral concerns. The real irony is he refused to sacrifice daniel specifically in order to gain machello’s technology designed for the express purpose of fighting the Goa’uld because the good guys don’t do that” sort of thing. Where is that jack/ why is there such a radical change in him in “The Other Side?” The issue is not enough to kill the episode, but is does give me pause.

Oh, there is one fun point. I do like how alar keeps addressing Sam as major in the same frustrated way he used to address Kira when her stubborn attitude irritated him. It is a nice homage to DS9.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment