Monday, April 16, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Menace"

I have to confess this is the second effort at writing a review for “Menace.” the more thoughts about the episode I put down, the more I realized my initial reaction was completely wrong. ‘Menace’ toys with the base emotions to the point I had to sit back a moment and let maturity take over. Tough thing to do in my case, no? what follows is a far better analysis than the knee jerk, emotionally charged reaction I had before.

The problem with my initial review is that I interpreted the characters, particularly Jack, to be written off kilter. Jack hit two extremes--very childlike at times and rigidly cold at others. Certainly, Jack does not take anything too seriously. He is a cynic who recognizes absurdity in just about everything. I can appreciare that. I am a borderline nihilist myself when it comes reacting to how people are going to react to any given situation. In the end, he switches attitude in order to commit an act seemingly so brutal, I was taken aback. Yet the more I think about it, the more I realize how in character he actually was in both his actions and the after math.

Well, that is all terribly cryptic without explaining the story. The SG-1 team is exploring a planet on which a highly advanced civilization appears to have been destroyed in the distant past with no indication of how it was destroyed. They discover a robot in stasis. Sam wants to bring it back to the SGC for study. Jack is wary, but they do so. The robot, whom we learn is named Reese, is reactivated successfully.

Reese is played by Danielle Nicolette. Nicolette is an inspired choice for the role. She was nearly thirty years old at the time, but looked far younger. Reese looks to be a teenager at the oldest, but has the mind of a child. Like a child, she has the dire need for everyone to like her, can get highly petulant when she does not feel as though she is winning people over, and yet posses that innocent apathy for the well-being of others. Reese is treated with suspicion by all of the SG-1 team, save Daniel, because no one is quite certain how she is the only survivor of whatever catastrophe that befell her planet. How did she survive? Was the catastrophe her fault? Is she a threat to Earth?

Daniel is her advocate from the very beginning, and he continues to be even after Reese’s secret is discovered--her creator did not mean for her to be such a child emotionally, and when she felt rejected by everyone, she created playmates for herself--the Replicators. She did not mean for them to be destructive. She simply lost control of them. They spread to other planets causing wanton destruction.
Daniel goes above and beyond the extra mile for Reese. He is even trying to help her after she seriously injures him twice. Ultimately, he fails. Reese creates a new army of replicators and insists on escaping through the stargate. She begins to lose Whern it comes down to it, the choice is to either self-destruct SGC or destroy Reese in order to prevent the Replicators from spreading across Earth. Jack opts to shoot Reese in order to destroy her beyond repair. Her destruction successfully neutralizes the Replicators.

So we are back to my cryptic comments about Jack odd characterization. My initial revieew was negative. “Menace” came across as a off kilter freelancer script to fill out the episode order. The main cast were nothing more than caricatures of their actual selves acting in too far extremes. Then I stopped and realize they were not. The characterizations were instead brilliant.

The first thing I had to cast aside was the thought Reese was a child. No, she was a robot, and a potential menace who turned out to be a true one. Jack, who often thinks in absolutes, is fully in defensive mode the entire episode. He does not want to take Reese back to SGC. He thinks she should be deactivated because no one knows anything about her connection to her planet’s devastation. When it comes down it his final act, Jack has no choice but to coldly shoot Reese because her Replicators are beginning to act independently, the self-destruct timer is counting down, and Daniel is trapped with her. Daniel angrily reacts, even calling jack a stupid SOB, for shooting Reese, because he believed she was stopping the Replicators. I initially sympathized with Daniel. He is an idealist who wants to give everyone every possible chance. But Jack was right this time. There was nothing else to do. I give him props for taking Daniel’s insult in stride our of his respect for Daniel’s idealism in such matters. But reality is a dark place in which to live. Sometimes, nasty things have to be done.

“Menace’ is full of many interesting elements. I am a fan of the Replicators, so their return is great. I am satisfied with their origin, surprisingly enough for a nitpicker like me. The scene in which she creates one for Daniel in order to make up for injuring him in anger is one of the creepiest I have seen on the series. Hammond gets in on the action when the Replicators begin taking over SGC. He does not get to see much action, so it is cool on the rare occasions he gets to cut loose. These are all highlights which I weighed positively against what I considered poor characterization in my first review. Upon further reflection, it is all good. That being said, “Menace” is absorbing, but unpleasant viewing. It is definitely a must see, but not something I would get the urge to put in the Dvd player and watch again on a whim. The story is too draining.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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