Monday, April 23, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Frozen"

“Frozen” is an apt description for this episode. The story is paced so glacially slow with reams of exposition setting up the season long story arc and little else in the way of emotion. It is, however, a 45 minute commercial for North Face jackets and Polaris snowmobiles, so I guess that is something. There is also an underlying X-Files vibe with heavy similarities to ”Ice” and ”Gethsemane.” Considering one of the guest roles is played by Lone Gunman Bruce Harwood, the homage may not be a coincidence.

A research team has been searching in and around the area of Antarctica where the second stargate was discovered. When they discover a woman frozen in the ice, the SG-1 team is summoned. Originally, the woman is considered an anthropological coup, but soon realize she is alive. They thaw her out, and she quickly recovers. The women, whom we soon learn is named Ayiana, is fifty million years old. She could be either an advanced stage of human evolution or an Ancient.

A virus was frozen along with ayiana which causes those at the research facility to fall ill. Ayiana somehow managed to heal herself in the distant past, but does not remember how until she conveniently performs a laying on of hands to fully heal one of the scientists who had been lost outside after collapsing from the illness. Ayiana heals three of the sick, but it is discovered doing so devastates her white blood cell count. Not only can she no longer heal anyone else, she is dying from the past exertion. Which is unfortunate, as Jack has fallen deathly ill. The SGC contact the Tok’ra. They plan to heal jack by temporarily blending with a symbiote who has vital intelligence but needs a host in order to communicate. Jack reluctantly agrees even though he has strong feelings about anyone becoming a host.

So how is “Frozen” similar to The X-Files episodes I mentioned above? “Ice” features Mulder and Scully visiting a remote research facility in northern Alaska at which a frozen alien parasite is discovered which causes virtually everyone to fall ill. “Gethsemane’ is about an alien discovered in the Canadian snowy wilderness that may hold the key to human origin, but turns out to be a manufactured hoax. The similarities are enough to remind me of those episodes. Bruce Harwood playing a minor character in "Frozen” cements the nod to one of my all time favorite television series.

But “Frozen” on its own merit is very bland. There is surprisingly little drama. You have a claustrophobic and isolated setting with nine people stuck in a small biodome in Antarctica with the added tension of them falling deathly ill with no medical help in reach, but it is all wasted. The characters show hardly any emotion at all in their plight. Heck, one would think cabin fever would get to them even if a lingering death from an incurable virus is not enough to cause emotions to boil over.

The only character who displays any real emotion is Jonas. He spends the episode bonding with Ayiana. He is the only one who mourns her loss when she finally succumbs to the strain of using her healing abilities. There is a definite feel here that Jonas is directly taking over Daniel’s job of sympathizing with the guest star of the week, particularly when no one else appears to care, and serving as his or her adamant advocate. That is not a bad thing, but the impression I get is there is not going to be much effort made in creating a unique persona for Jonas. Not only does he act like Daniel, he quotes Daniel’s research chapter and verse. One might consider he is doing this on purpose to better fit in--the SG-1 team still misses Daniel--but from a production perspective, Corin Nemec is playing a copy of Michael Shanks, either because the production, fans, or both are wishing he never left.

I am not really sure how to rate “Frozen.” There are some incredibly good technical tricks which create a spooky atmosphere. When Ayiana is discovered, half her face is submerged in a block of ice. There are long sequences at the Antarctic research facility with no musical accompaniment, just the sound of wind of harsh blowing outside in order to emphasize isolation. Jack being carried in an isolation bed through the stargate by his friends is eerrily similar to pallbearers carrying a casket. Such touches are a lot of window dressing that cannot save a weak story. The entire purpose of the episode is to set up future storylines and get jack to the poin the becomes a Tok’ra. It works to that end, but not with a whole lot of thrills. Even the Jack/Sam shippers do not care much about the moment when Sam begs Jack to accept the Tok’ra offer. When even the the most devoted shippers are not buying it, you are in trouble.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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