Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Tomb"

“The Tomb” finally shows us some results of the treaty of cooperation regarding the use of the stargate agreement between the United States and Russia. The story, like The Curse” from last season, features a tone similar to the old Universal horror films to decent effect, with a misstep or two, as two teams search an alien ziggurat for a missing Russian team and are stalked by a carnivorous creature in the shadows.

The SG-1 team is attempting to open the entrance to an alien ziggurat when sam finds a pack of Russian cigarettes. Back on Earth, they learn a rogue team of Russian military officers assigned to steal alien technology were caught off world when the Russians were forced to stop using their stargate. In the spirit of cooperation, there will be a joint American/Russian operation to enter the ziggurat and rescue the rogue team.

What ensues is the old story of claustrophobia and paranoia as the reswcue team becomes trapped inside the ziggurat because of a booby trap tripped cave in with a mysterious creature hunting them. The results are predictable, but still entertaining because of the gruesome tactics of the creature--it picks its victims’ bones clean--the dark, cramped quarters, and the natural animosity the Americans and Russians feel for one another. Through in the creature has eaten a Goa’uld and had a symbiote that is now inside one of the humans, and you have a liberal helping of paranoia thrown in.

The atmosphere is generally spooky. One suspects the lighting is dark to disguise a relatively small, cheap set, but it works here to great effect considering the mood it is supposed to set. I am also fond of the Grumpy Old Men aspect of the animosity between jack and his Russian counterpoint. They are not only two Cold War relics who cannot quite make peace with one another, their conflict feels far outdated because of the length of time the Cold War has been over. I do not want to sell anything short here. The Russians have a secret mission to steal artifacts while there and are more callous regarding loss of life in the process, so they are clearly villains. But the humor adds some appropriate relief. Just how long were Jack and Kukov in an armed stand off when each suspected the other of being a Goa’uld? Heh.

There are two disappointing issues.

One, once the creature is finally killed, we get a good look at it. The thing looks like a hairless opossum. Now look, we had peach trees in my backyard when I was growing up. Opoossums flock to peach trees, so I have seen a n army of the critters. Any idea you may have they play dead when they see a human is poppycock. The hiss, bare their fangs, and dare you to stop them from stealing a peach. They are vicious animals. But an opossum does not work here. I was hoping for a giant scarab or a swarm of carnivorous insects that devoured bodies to the bones in a matter of minutes or seconds. Yes, they would have been swiping shtick from The Mummy, but Stargate SG-1 has never been shy about borrowing from popular movies. The creature’s reveal should have been far scarier.

Two, the creature only killed members of the Russian team. I was hoping there was a reason for that other than people have to be killed for the sake of tension and the main characters are, of course, exempt. But there is not other reason for the character deaths other than they are guest stars. I am not saying I want an SG-1 member to be killed. I just think the creature should have maybe been one of the rogue Russians seeking revenge on those who sent them off to die. Some explanation so the selected deaths would make sense. To make matters worse, the symbiote winds up in a Russian, as well. Only one of the team members survives.

Those two flaws are not enough to kill ‘The Tomb,” however. I am a fan of Universal and Hammer Horror films, so I appreciate the homage. The story is also high adventure without any heady moral issues to explore. One definitely needs that relief every now and ting. Speaking of relief, the comic relief hits all the right marks, as well. “the tomb’ is a fun episode which could have been better if more imagination had been utilized in writing it, but it is not bad at all.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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