Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Shadow Play"

Out of all the films Stargate SG-1 could do an homage of, A Beautiful Mind never crossed my mind. The story mirrors John Nash’s Cold War paranoia experience that on a lesser show, I would count the similarities as a cheap rip off. Fortunately, “Shadow Play” does two things right. One, it takes the lifted elements of A Beautiful Mind and makes theme distinctly Stargate SG-1 and two, it cats Dean Stockwell in the Nasj role.

Stargate Command is contacted by the Kelowna’s, Jonas’ people who were building a naquadria bomb in anticipation of a Cold war suddenly heating up. The Kelowdan’s neighboring countries on on the verge of signing a non-aggression pact. Such an agreement would leave Kelowdan vulnerable to attack from superior forces. They want SGC to give them defensive weaponry in exchange for all the naquaria they can use.

This part of the plot revisit’s a running theme of weighing the moral responsibility of offering technology to other races. Earth has often been on the receiving end of no--from the Nox, Tollan, and Asgard--because humanity’s perceived moral immaturity. In this case, the tables are turned and surprising turned by Jack. Jack has grown since his experience genocidal Eurondans from ”The Other Side” when he was ready to give them weapons no questions asked in exchange for what he wanted until realizing the atrocities the Eurondans had committed. Jack has grown as a character to adopt more of Daniel’s way of thinking.

Speaking of Jack, since he will not come up specifically again in this review, he is noticeably subdued. He still has his own forceful moral code, mind you, but he is quieter, less fidgety, and more willing to let others--even Jonas--take point when one of his colleagues has a clear advantage over him. Jack has rarely let others dominate in any given situation. It appears his traumatic experience in the previous episode has affecting his way of thinking.

Everyone is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Kelownans either get weapons from SGC or they use the aquaria bomb. The SG-1 team needs aquaria for its own defensive purposes, but cannot be a party to handing off weapons likely to be used offensively. The heart of the episode’s conflict belongs to Jonas and his relationship with his former professor, colleague, and mentor, Dr. Keiran. Keiran is stock well’s character. Keiran claims to be part of a resistance movement that nearly has the capacity to overthrow the current government in order to install one un-inclined to wage war. He needs time and some assistance from SGC. Jonas wants to believe in him, but as already noted, Kieran is suffering from mental illness due to long exposure to aquaria radiation. The resistance is only a figment of his deranged imagination.

As with A Beautiful Mind, we do not realize we are witnessing delusions of Kieran’s mind until late in the story. In retrospect, only one of his three encounters alone with jonas--the one in which he reveals the existence of the resistance--actually was with Jonas. As difficult as it is to create an emotional bond with a one off character, Kieran got to me. Again, it is probably because of my previous attachments to Stockwel because of Quantum Leap and Battlestar Galactica, but he hit all the right marks. Kieran is a pacifist who enjoyed the scientific research, but was horrified by the potential consequences of the bomb he helped build. He created this whole fantasy of a coup that would lead to a lasting peace for his world.

The truly sad part is that war does come Kelowna and without SGC help, they probably use the aquaria bomb. As Jonas hinted, the bomb’s use could likely attract Goa’uld attention. But inn spite of all that, Jonas indulges his mentor, who is now going to be institutionalized for the rest of his life, and takes him he has heroically saved his world by preventing the naquadria bomb’s use.

It is no secret I am not a huge Jonas fan. The character has been trying to be another Daniel rather than come into his own. Aside from a running gag about his fondness for junk food, there has not been much offered up in the way of distinguishing his character. “Shadow Play” comes close. We finally see some real emotion in Jonas. He is conflicted over his status as a traitor even though he believes he did the moral ting. He also clearly has a strong bond with his old professor/mentor, enough of one he is willing to tell the man he is a hero rather than explain the tragedy that has most likely befallen his people by that point. It is very oving, and certainly more so because Stockwell is playing Kieran.

While I doubt “Shadow Play” will go down as one of my favorite episodes, it is an above average effort that is far better than it ought to be considering much more of it is a carbon copy of A Beautiful Mind. . Pretty much every Gater considers the Jonas stuff an afterthought, no?

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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