Monday, March 26, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Entity"

We have a couple things firmly established in regards to the writers’ room influences--they are fans of comics and Michael Crichton. “Entity’ shares some similarities with Crichton’s novel Sphere, including the alien referencing itself as the Entity and communicating via computer with the message “I am here” on screen. At least the episode has no similarities to the novel The Entity in which an invisible demon repeatedly sexually assaults a woman. Thank heaven for small blessings, no? I could not have watched sam experience that.

“Entity” is one of those bottle shows that come towards the end of a season when the production budget is running low. I view those with trepidation. When the creative team has limited resources with which to work, they often get limited results. As far as bottle shows go, “Entity” works decently in spite of its limited scope by emphasizing the differing philosophies and priorities of the main characters as they face a crisis in their own ways. There are some definite flaws that strain credibility, but they are not enough to kill the episode.

The SGC sends a MALP to a planet from the Ancients’ address listing. Upon arrival on the planet, the MALP is taken over and literally flown around until crashing. An electric surge between the MALP and the SGC shorts out much of the Cheyenne Mountain base. The surge was an alien entity making its way to the SGC. It remains hidden in a part of the base for 36 hours while it builds a nest out of the computer system in order to sustain itself. The entity reads through everyone’s file in order to learn about them. Sam and Daniel suggest this proves intelligence, so it ought to be communicated with. Jack suggests blowing the nest up. Hence we have the Jack/Daniel philosophical conflict back in full dust up with sam on Daniel’s side this time for good measure.

When Sam attempt to communicate with the entity via keyboard, it takes over her mind. While in Sam, the entity reveals radio waves from the MALP severely damaged its planet’s environment, so it was sent to Earth in order to destroy those who sent the MALP. Daniel apologizes for the error and promises it will never happen again, but that is not good enough. Jack pipes up and promises they will send one MALP right after another to destroy the planet entirely if sam is not freed. The entity forces sam into sam sort of spectacle light show before jack shoots her twice with a zat weapon, apparently leaving her brain dead. In fact, she is still in the nest, and once Frasier establishes a conduit between the nest and sam’s body, is restored.

Shippers should take note of the strong Jack loves Sam oundertones. Some of them work, but others do not. What works is Hammond pulling Jack aside and asking how he is going to handle the tough decisions that may have to be made in order to keep the entity from using sam to kill everyone. The other is that jack never leaves Sam’s bedside, even when her mind has apparently been completely replaced by the entity. What does not work is sam was specifically chosen as the host because she is cared about too much to be killed solely to stop the entity’s plan. It is specifically implied it knows Jack will not let her be killed because of something in his personnel file. Like what? Surely his file would not say he has some romantic interest in Sam. If such was enough of a liability in needed to mentioned in his personnel file, she would not be under his command. I doubt the military would risk any potential problems. I am not aware enough of how the military deals with potential romantic relationships within the ranks to know how they deal with it, but I am skeptical jack love Sam is specifically written in his personnel file in the first place. If one of my active duty ort veteran buddies can weigh in the comments section, it would be much appreciated.

The best point that I take away from “Entity” is that Jack’s point of view of blowing up the alien before it can cause more trouble is correct while the Daniel position of trying to communicate with it set in motion not only Sam’s predicament, but the potential death of everyone. So far, Daniel has won out twice thus far this season with jack looking extremely bad both times. Specifically, Jack was tacitly in cahoots with the Nazi-like Eurondans and risking court-martial by blowing up the Gadmeer ship, thereby destroying their civilization. So it is good to see Daniel making a mistake here, albeit with good intentions, and jack having the right idea. Not just having the right idea, but not by accident. The entity is hostile from the get go. Defending the SGC by destroying it first is perfectly reasonable. In the grand scheme of things, it is great to see that daniel’s idealism is sometimes flawed rather than it constantly teaching jack to be less cynical about situations. The occasional reversal keeps the show from becoming too preachy like that other franchise which shall remain nameless.

One a note of personal taste, the series continued its tradition of a main cast member voicing aliens. Michael Shanks voices Thor. Christopher Judger has voiced an Unas. Amanda Tapping voices the entity through a Stephen Hawkings computer filter which is incredibly grating. It does not enunciate anywhere near as well as Hawkings or the one roger Ebert now uses, if you have heard it before. I am not certain if the voice was purposefully altered to make it less obvious it was tapping’s, which makes no sense when you think about it, or to make it more otherworldly. Whichever the case, I was on the verge of needing subtitles to understand what is going on.

Overall, “Entity” is a decent use of low budget in spite of its flaws. There are still a couple I have not mentioned, such as why the SGC do not appear all that concerned when they are on lockdown with the computer systems damaged and why Sam does not disintegrate when she is shot a second time with the zat. For the former, our heroes give off the demeanor of folks sit around playing cards until the IT folks get there rather than on edge that an alien just attacked. For the latter, has it not been established one shot from a zat stuns, two completely destroys? Has that now changed? I will not mind as long as the rule does not switch back and forth based on story convenience. But all that is not a huge deal. ‘Entity” is in the good, but not great category when rated against the bottle shows that have come before. Shippers may rate it higher. At least it is not a clip show.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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