Friday, March 16, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Beneath the Surface"

I had some nasty flashbacks to Star Trek: Voyager’s ”Workforce” while watching “Beneath the Surface.” After a little time delousing in my happy place, I am okay with writing a review. “Beneath the Surface” owes more to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis than VOY, so there is a bonus.

Before any sticklers show up, yes, “Beneath the Surface" aired months prior to “Workforce.” However, “workforce” was filmed for the sixth season of VOY, but was moved to the seventh so the final season could have a two part episode.. While I am not inclined to call plagiarism, the premise of ’workforce” had been circling fandom on the internet for months prior to the time “Beneath the Surface” would have been produced. There is no need to compare and contrast the two episodes, but they are remarkably similar.

The episode opens with SG-1 wiped of their memories and given new identities in order to work as miners. They are given different names, but I am going to stick with their real ones for the sake of simplicity. Shippers take note that Jack sam appear to have a romantic relationship in their new identities. Otherwise, they do not know or hang out with Daniel and Teal’c. they are part of a labor force which is powering a luxurious, high tech domed city which is the only oasis on the planet otherwise enduring an ice age.

Teal’c is the first one to begin realizing who he is, probably because of his symbiote. He is taken off to the infirmary quickly to keep his memories repressed. Daniel and sam begin having dreams about the stargate. Jack makes some references to a past life which sound suspiciously like a couple episodes of MacGyver. at one poin the references either Hammond or Homer Simpson. Take your pick.

The most significant point is that Sam retains much of her physics genius. She devises improvements in worker technology they may eventually eliminate the need for human labor altogether. Brenna, the sympathetic supervisor, takes the idea to Calder, the administrator. He nixes the idea. He is in power as long as the status quo remains. It looks like the SG-1 team is going to be a pain with their memories slowly returning, so he orders Brenna to dump them outside the domed city to freeze to death. Brenna tries to help them escape instead, but they are all captured by Calder. Fortunately, everyone’s memories return at this very convenient moment. Jack reveals the truth to the workers and offers to take them to a new planet. Calder and company will have to shovel their own coal for the foreseeable future. No Prime Directive to worry about. Cool.

I am puzzled how poignant “Beneath the Surface’ is supposed to be, which is not a good sign. A lot of the technical details are glossed over. The city is not even named, for one thing. How did the people build such a city in the middle of an ice age nothing could survive in? It does not matter, because we are supposed to dwell on the relationships between SG-1 members. Their wiped memories cannot keep the connections from surfacing. However, the Jack/sam romance is toned down to the point it cannot even be called teasing. The bond between Teal’c and Daniel is not particularly strong, either. If the emotional connections between the main characters are going to be the main focus of the straight, they should have been done more poignantly. Jack should kiss Sam. Daniel should feel some pangs that Teal’c is not well. But there is much of nothing until calder’s men shoot Brenna and the SG-1 team suddenly remembers they are the good guys.

There is one nice touch of subtle continuity. After their memories return, Jack suggests making their way to the stargate. Daniel stops him and suggests they cannot leave without freeing the workers by telling them the truth. Jack immediately agrees. Jack has learned to trust daniel’s sense of idealism more rather than self-interest. In fact, Jack takes the exact opposite position right off the bat than he did with the Erondans a few episodes back. He refuses to trade for their higher technology because of their slave labor force. Of, course he subsequently winds up part it, but he has learned from his previous mistake.

‘Beneath the Surface" is decent, but could have been much more. One thing I have not mentioned is Daniel’s friend Tegan, whom might have been a love interest, but is not developed, either. These issues make me wonder if “Beneath the Surface” wa intended as a two part episode, but got condensed into one. Had it played out like “Workforce” with part one establishing the crew’s new lives and part two featuring the action oriented escape, a lot of the problems could have been eliminated by having room to develop in the same. Alas, ’twas not to be. Still, I give it a decent score. The episode is anemic, but watchable.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment