Sunday, April 8, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Desperate Measures"

The Starsky and Hutch duo of Jack and Matbourne is back to investigate the kidnapping of Sam and a Jaffa from Russian custody by forces unknown. If I may beat the dead horse I frequently drag out the barn, “Desperate Measures” has a pronounced X-Files vibe to it. Ergo, I am quite fond of it even though it does not fit into the usual motif of Stargate SG-1.

The teaser features two action sequences. One in which Sam is kidnapped by masked men and thrown into a van while leaving a fitness club. The other is the paramilitary extraction of a Jaffa prisoner from Russian custody. Both events are perpetrated at the behest of Adrian Conrad, an overnight internet/tech billionaire how has contracted a rare disease which is destroying his immune system. Conrad wants to implant the Jaffa symbiote inside him long enough to heal his illness, but remove it safely afterwards. He is hoping Sam’s safe removal of Jolinar can help him to that end.

Suspecting NID involvement, Jack gets in contact with Maybourne. It is not the NID, but Maybourne is the one who informed Conrad about the Russian Jaffa prisoner, the stargate, etc for a price. He had not considered Sam would be part of anything Conrad was planning, so to his credit--he is risking imprisonment and execution as a traitor-- Maybourne agrees to help rescue. Not that jack is interested in his aid, mind you.

Sparing you the details, Conrad, Sam, and the Jaffa are holed up in a closed down hospital that Conrad has turned into his private research facility. After he takes a turn for the worse, the symbiote is implanted without a plan to safely remove it. Conrad’s assistant, who we quickly learn cares about him for more than his money, orders sam dissected in order to study the effects of Jolinar’s removal more closely. Sam is rescued by Jack and Maybourne before that can happen, but Conrad’s Goa’uld helps him get free, only to be captured by Frank Simmons and the NID. So those guys do eventually get in on the action.

Conrad could have made for a more interesting character. He is supposed to be a bit of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Howard Hughes all rolled into one, but he is not played eccentric enough to pull it off. Michael Shanks played a better nutty megalomaniacal genius last season. Maybe they should have put a wig and mustache on him for a dual role instead of hiring Bill Marchant. More believable is the idea his unscrupulous girlfriend would have bullied conrad this operation in order to save his life. Honestly, that may be what is implied, but the story is not written well enough for that to come across. It is difficult to tell who is in charge and/or most willing to go through with the desperate measures.

I say poorly written because the vibe of the episode having gone through numerous drafts permeates. There are entire scenes in which major characters like Teal’c and Frasier, but have no dialogue. It is a sacred rule in television and movie production to not make an actor sit in silence for long stretches of time, much less not give them anything in a scene to do at all. One assumes those scenes were altered from the first draft. I suspect a fictitious disease was created so as not to say Conrad had AIDS. The result of his disease is the same, but less politically charged and does not raise some sticky questions about his relationship with his girlfriend. I have already mentioned their characterizations as villains are off the mark.

Still, I cannot blast “Desperate Measures” too much. It is appealing on a personal level in spite of its flaws. I like the X-Files vibe, which stretches from the opening sequence in which one of the operatives about to kill the Russians holding the Jaffa captive is conspicuously drawing on a cigarette like the Cigarette Smoking Man to Jack contacting maybourne secretly for help like Mulder used to contact Mr. X to Conrad/Goa’uld being held secretly by shadowy elements of the government Heck, I even got a Mulder/Scully vibe when jack and Sam went off hunting Conrad/Goa’uld at the end only to be secret outmaneuvered by Frank Simmons. If I am being too much of a giddy X-Phile here, know that since Sam 98% of her action scenes in her pajamas, I kept joking to myself the entire episode how very Arthur Dent her role was.

There is a good character moment, too. A homeless man witnesses Sam’s kidnapping. Jack comes around to ask him questions. The poor guy clearly has some mental issues. He offers jack information in exchange for the National Geographic magazine collection in his closet. Jack agrees, and the homeless guy says Sam was taken by ninjas. To be honest, they were in black masks and outfits, so the homeless is answering the best he can, but Jack clearly gets the impression the guy was imagining things. Nevertheless, in a later scene, Jack drives up to the homeless man’s trash filled nest to drop off the National Geographic collection. Jack honors his agreements, no? Seeing him do that is a nice touch.

I have a hunch “Desperate Measures” is not popular with fans. It does not feel much like Stargate SG-1. maybe the Jck/sam shippers get into it. The bottom line is I can understand why Gaters might hope for more. The villains in particular are not up to par. But I take some personal pleasures with the episode, so I am awarding it a solid score.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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