Saturday, April 14, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Fail Safe"

If Stargate SG-1 had to do an homage to a Michael Bay film, at least the episode came ten years or so before alien ninja turtles. The bay film in question is 1998’s Armageddon--a loud, highly kinetic film known more for its Aerosmith theme song than anything else. Don’t wanna miss a thing? Do not worry. If you have not seen it, you have not missed a thing. “Fail Safe” corrects a lot of problems I have with Armageddon with it being more a tense thriller than an overblown popcorn munching blockbuster.

An asteroid is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth. It appears to have come from out of nowhere, so it is a fluke anyone saw it in time. The SGC has a shade under twelve days to destroy the asteroid or all life on Earth will be wiped out. Efforts to raise any of the scattered Tok’ra for help are unsuccessful and the Asgard refuse to intervene in a natural disaster even if it means Earth will be destroyed. The SGC is on its own.

The plan is to repair the cargo ship Jacob/Selmak and Daniel crashed on Sevanna, land on the asteroid, and planet a naquadah bomb set to shatter the rock apart before it passes the fail safe point at which it can no longer safely explode. After setting the bomb and surviving a meteor shower, the SG-1 team discovers the core of the asteroid is loaded with naquadah--enough to cause an explosion that would destroy Earth. The reason no one knew about the asteroid is because it is a Goa’uld booby trap dragged out of place in order to look like a natural disaster.

So the SG-1 team to disarm the bomb and instead send the ship and asteroid into hyperspace so it can pass through the Earth. The plan works, and our heroes are rescued by the late arriving to the party Tok’ra.

“Fail Safe” is fun to watch. It is set at a far less frenetic pace than Armageddon-I cannot help but make comparisons--that allow the screws to tighten effectively. The Cgi work on the surface of the asteroid, particularly when earth is on the horizon, is extremely impressive. I especially appreciated the unpredictable ending in which another creative solution had to be found besides blowing up the asteroid.

If there is any weak point, aside from sound traveling through airless space and rocks bouncing in airless space-it is that early on, SGC assumes the ship carrying the SG-1 team has crashed onto the asteroid with presumably no survivors. Obviously, we know that cannot be true, but the scene at the Sgc occurs after we have seen the ship safely land. There is not even a hint of concern among the audience, so it is difficult to genuinely feel the hopelessness of the situation as the SGC begins evacuating off world because Earth is doomed. Don S. Davis and Teryl Rothery in particular do a fine job convincing us this is the end, but I think the subplot of everyone believing the SG-1 team is dead should have been done another way.

But I am being hypercritical here. “Fail Safe” is a fun, action oriented thriller that delivers on just about ever level. There is no heady moral debate. The story does not get bogged down in the politics of the various alien races. The story is a straight forward action yarn.. I like it. I even get a humorous Macgyver flashback at the scene in which jack has to disarm the bomb after the deactivation code will not work, and he has no clue what to do without Sam advising him every step of the way on cutting the proper wires.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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