Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Prodigy"

Sam gets few episodes centered on her, and those that are have been rather lackluster. The problem has improved much since the first season when she started as a harem girl for a Hun and ended locking a little girl in a reinforced room so she could explode safely to graduating as the brains of the operation from then until now. At least now stories centering on her deal with her superb scientific mind. ‘Prodigy’ is a case in point. Sam sees herself in a promising, but arrogant young cadet and mentors her down the right path. Does the story work/ not as well as one would hope.

Sam is brought in to give a lecture on astrophysics at the Air Force Academy. She is a legend there for having been a top student. Sam obviously basks in the attention she earns there, so she feels burnt when a young Cadet Jennifer Haley corrects one of her equations and turns out to be correct even after the professor scolds her for accusing Sam of a mistake. Haley is brilliant to the point she feels no need to follow rules or care what anyone else thinks. She is also on the verge of expulsion from the Academy for breaking the nose of an upper classmen who was taunting another cadet. Sam takes Haley under her wing to keep her from throwing her career away.

To clarify an important point, Haley privately told Sam her calculations were wrong and was right on the matter, but apologized to Sam when her professor wrongly scolded her for the accusation. That is the only decent, proper thing Haley does the entire episode. She is not Sheldon cooper, a socially awkward genius whose rudeness you overlook because of his childlike innocence. Haley is an arrogant brat you want to to whom you want to hold by the ankles and give a swirlie. The writers could have made her a sympathetic character, but chose otherwise, and it is an interesting choice.

The thing is, I do not think Sam sees a lot of herself in Haley. Sam has always been humble about her intelligence. Her battle has been more of a woman in this man’s military. Yes, she takes pride in her accomplishments, but not in an abrasive manner. Haley does not seem to care about the battle of the sexes. In her arrogance, she thinks such a petty conflict is beneath her. Everything is beneath her, for that matter. The two do not share much of an emotional connection at all. Haley resents living in the shadow of Sam’s academic accomplishments, even. They butt heads throughout the entire episode until Haley learns not everyone is going to do what she wants just because she is the smartest person in the room.

The question of why Sam wants to help this brat is not as big as why she takes her to Sgc, shows her the stargate, and allows her to travel to a moon upon which jack and teal’c are guarding a scientific survey team. It does not matter how promising a cadrt is, letting her in on the best kept secret in the world is not plausible.

Nor is the incidental conflict on the moon. The science team encounters some tiny energy beings that appear friendly until one is captured for study. The others become enraged and act as a swarm. Only electricity appears to stop them, so everyone holds up in a building that is converted into a giant bug zapper. Ebergy from the stargate can repel the critters, but someone has to get there. Sam suggestion wins out over Haley’s, so Jack is shot with Teal’c energy weapon and runs for the stargate with the critters reluctant to attack.

Much more work probably went into creating the critters than I am allowing, but tiny energy do not feel all that creative. I was distracted by the similarities between the resolution on the MacGyver episode “Trumbo’s world’ and the film The Naked Jungle, both of which dealt with saving a plantation from an invasion of army ants. “Trumbo’s world” borrowed lots of footage from The Naked Jungle which did not match up to the episode’s story, so I may be lumping everything together as cheap. Your mileage may vary. All this stuff stretches back 58 years. Sixty-four, if you count the short story on which The Naked Jungle was based.

Further proof the United states military love Stargate SG-1; Gen. Michael E. Ryan, the real Air Force Chief of Staff at the time of filming, puts in a cameo as himself. Richard Dean Anderson famously asked Ryan if the Air Force had colonels who act as insubordinate as Jack. Ryan assured him it does and worse.

“Prodigy” does not feel well thought out. Sam and Haley did not make much of an emotional connection, so you really have to stretch to find any meaning there. Perhaps if they had worked together to tackle a big problem rather than a bunch of angry bugs that haley turns out to be wrong about. Not that I do not get some satisfaction from seeing her wrong. She is a highly unappealing character. But that is not enough to make ’Prodigy’ feel like anything more than filler. Watchable filler, but nothing particularly interesting.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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