Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"2001"

"2001" is a sequel/prequel to "2010," which ranks as one of my favorite episodes of Stargate SG-1 thus far. I cannot decide whether to call it a sequel or prequel because, while it involves meeting the forbidden Aschen, the encounter is not exactly what the alternate future of ’2010.” had in store. A couple things I can tell. One, Brad Wright makes every effort to capture the foreboding mood of “2010” and two, since we already know everything our heroes do not, something compelling is going to have to occur to make the ’mystery” more exciting to watch unfold. I think the key moment is brilliantly funny. But you know what? The episode’s airing sequence counts against it badly.

The SG-1 team is visiting the agrarian planet Volia when they meet the technologically advanced alien race that has been supplying them with sophisticated farming equipment along with medication and the like. These aliens, the Aschen, are eager to offer Earth all the same advantages in exchange for a map of the stargates. Since the Aschen have weapons that can effectively wipe the Goa’uld out, everyone from the president on down is eager to form an alliance.

Ambassador Joseph Faxon, who Sam married in the alternate future, is sent to serve as America’s representative in negotiations. He and Sam flirt with each other immediately. Faxon finds his job fantastically easy. The Aschen are prepared to give him far more than he is asking in exchange for the stargate map and the revelation of the stargate’s existence to everyone on Earth. The only snag is the concern the Aschen have for Earth’s unsustainable population growth. A quick query on whether the Americans use military force to control the rate of growth raises an eyebrow for Jack.

He sends Daniel and Teal’c to find out more about the relationship between the Aschen and the Volians. Simultaneously, the crew left at SGC begins to suspect the coordinates of the unknown to them Aschen home world may be the address blocked because of the bloody note received from the alternate future. The mystery deepens as Daniel and Teal’c discovered a centuries old, but far more advanced city buried under farmland the population is unaware. Newspaper archives, which Daniel can conveniently translate all but one word, reveals the Aschen life extending vaccine causes…something..that compelled the people to riot. Daniel does not know what, and Sen. Kinsey makes an odd appearance to curtail any further investigation. He wants the treaty to go forward in the hopes his part in it will help him cruise to the White House.

But here is the brilliant part. When the negotiations begin again, Sam hands an Aschen negotiator a slip of paper upon which the untranslatable word is written. He absentmindedly reads it for her. The word is “sterilization.” Crap hit’s the fan as the aschen plan to use a biological doomsday device to sterilize Earth in one swoop. She is able to escape and close the stargate’s iris safely behind her before the bomb comes through, but only because Faxon sacrificed himself to buy her time to escape. The only stargate locations the Aschen were able to get open a wormhole, so they are royally screwed.

Above I said the episode sequence counts against “2001.” that is because its plot is virtually identical to the previous episode’s. The Aschen, like the Tollan, are willing to give far more technology to Earth than is being asked because they plan to secretly kill off humans. When the conspiracy is uncovered, Faxon and Narim, respectively--two men who love Sam--sacrifice themselves for the sake of Earth. These two episodes desperately needed to be spaced out.

Nevertheless, “2001” is an entertaining episode. Prequels are dangerous things to create. Witness the Star Wars debacles and ENT to see how even storied, cash cow franchises cannot handle the concept. There is the tension of watching an inevitable car crash throughout the episode that makes the viewer anxious for the moment of relief that will change the tragic outcome of which we are aware to a better resolution. That it came with a humorous slip up by the fellow inadvertently translating “sterilization” is icing on the cake for my sensibilities.

While I like “2001,” it does not quite measure up to “2010.” there is a foreboding factor to hearing familiar words like Aschen, Mollem, and Faxon. We already know the word Daniel cannot translate, too. It is just a matter of waiting for the characters to catch up with us. But Faxon’s sacrifice to save Earth does not resonate quite like the future SG-1 team’s suicide mission to send the note back in time, even when I know he and sam were destined to marry.

It is also cool to see Sam get in some action hero time outside of serving as the brains of the outfit. She repels down to the horizontal stargate in order to escape and shut the iris behind her so the biological weapon cannot come through. The weird thing is she comes in hard, rolling down the ramp of the embarking room, and apparently seriously injuring herself in the process. Everyone at the SGC other than a medic tending to her is joking about how angry Kinsey is going to be while Sam is writhing in pain at their feet. Geez, that is cold. I am all but certain Richard Dean Anderson, with his noriety for addlibbing, tossed in an unscripted, “Carter, are you all right?” right before the closing credits so the scene does not end with sam’s colleagues acting so callous towards her ploght.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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