Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Meridian"

The many deaths of Daniel Jackson remains a running joke about Gaters, but “Meridian” still holds a place in many hearts for being the most poignant, not to mention closest to permanent, onscreen death for the character. This is my first viewing of “Meridian,” so I cannot relate to the emotions felt in its original airing. Michael shanks was leaving the series, so the episode was meant to be a dual goodbye. Now that we know he eventually returned in the seventh series to finish out the series run, I was curious whether that knowledge would lessen the emotional impact of the episode. It did not.

The SG-1 team travels to the planet Langara. The Langaran civilization is on par with roughly 1940’s and in the midst of a Cold War among countries. Kelowna, the country in which the team finds itself, has discovered an element know as aquaria, which is even more powerful than naquadah. Naturally, they are using some to build a weapon of mass destruction. They hope the mere threat of it potential use will be enough to ensure peace. Daniel warns against the idea. The Goa’uld attempted to build a weapon out of aquaria and destroyed the ancient civilization. Jonas Quinn, who is in charge of the project, dismisses the idea the ancient civilization’s destruction was anything other than an asteroid crash.

Something goes wrong with the building of the aquaria bomb. All of the scientists within the safely sealed room die immediately of radiation exposure. Everyone else is frozen in fear, so Daniel breaks through the window into the room and disables the bomb. His actions saves millions of lives, but he is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. He has about sixteen hours left to live.

The rest of the episode is packed with some really great character moments from the main cast and main cast member to be Corin Nemec. The Kelowna decide to cover their incompetence by claiming Daniel tried to sabotage the bomb development program rather than admit they screwed up. The SG-1 team’s reaction to the situation provides a stark role reversal. Jack will not stand for Daniel’s good name to be sullied, but Sam, without dismissing Daniel’s fate or good name, takes the position they need to be more conciliatory to the Kelowna because the aquaria they can share might provide a defensive shield for Earth. Jack is not only not open to the idea under the circumstances, but warns Jonas the only way a WND is an effective deterrent Oh, and hopefully they will blow themselves straight to hell.

Could you have expected that sort of thing from Jack even just a year or two ago/ This is the guy who sneaked a nuke to Abydos in the film and has been adamant that gaining further destructive technology to kill off the Goa’uld en masse is imperative. The character has grown a lot due to his exposure to other cultures with all its ethical implications through stargate travel.

Jack and Daniel’s scenes together offer interesting insight into their relationship. I still say their working relationship is the only thing that keeps their personality clash from erupting into full blown , open conflict. Their last in the flesh conversation involves Jack awkwardly trying to express his feelings for Daniel, to which Daniel pointedly responds, “Why do you care?” His question reveals the two do not have a solid emotional connection. Indeed, the best Jack can muster is that even though Daniel has been an annoying pain over the years, he has grown to respect him. Jack’s long military career has made him very cold emotionally. While he does not come right oyt and say it, what he appreciates about Daniel is the moral compass he has provided for him. The recognition Daniel is a highly moral person is what convinces him to stop Jacob/Selmak from using the healing device on him so Daniel can ascend for his higher purpose--to do more good.

Sam and Teal’c are far closer friends with Daniel, and their vigils at his bedside are just as moving. Teal’c in particular. I have made no secret he is not my favorite character. I do not want to trash Christopher Judge as an actor, but he has not done as good a job as one would hope at shining Teal’c’s personality through his stoicism. Seeing him cry here as his friend nears death is about the only time I have witnessed him pull it off to great effect. Of course, Judge and Shanks were and still are best friends, so his tears were probably real.

Daniel ascends to a higher plain thanks to Oma, the Ancient One who took the hacissus child a couple seasons ago. You have to be on your toes with continuity when watching this show. The final scene emphasizes Jack’s sorrow at seeing Daniel go.

Daniel’s act of sacrifice is based on a real event. A Canadian physicist named Louis Slotin manually dismantled two half spheres of plutonium after a mishap caused a radiation leak. His actions saved the lives of his colleagues, but he quickly perished from radiation poisoning. Many americans, myself included, know diddly squat about Canadian history, so there is a point for all of us to learn.

“Meridian” features the first appearance of Nemec as Jonas. Out of the twenty or so episodes I had watched before beginning these reviews, none featured Jonas. He is a blank slate to me, and I have not heard many fans talk about the character. Considering he only sticks arounsd for one season, I am curious to discover whether he is a solid character or an error the powrrs that be were eager to correct as soon as Shanks could be convinced to return. So far, he possess many shades of daniel--nerdy with an idealistic a conscience. It is interesting how Jack is the one who tweaks him to do the right thing by giving Earth nquadria for a peaceful purpose.

“Meridian” ia a highly emotional episode. The main reason is the most obvious--this is goodbye to Daniel/Michael Shanks. Daniel’s descent towards death is horrifically disturbing as he is literally mummified in bandages as his body disintegrates. There may be worse ways to go, but I cannot think of any right off hand. But what may be more poignant is that daniel does not realize what a good guy he is. He just sacrificed himself to save millions of lives, yet he thinks his life is a failure because of past mistakes. He wants to ascend because he believes his flesh is too weak to ever gain redemption. How many people beat themselves up this way on their deathbeds? It is question I am not thrilled to ponder.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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