Monday, May 14, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Fragile Balance"

Oh, no! That is Mike Welch, Bella’s classmate in Twilight, playing Mini jack. Stargate SG-1 has been forever blighted by fan girl claptrap Twilight. However shall it recover?

Now that we have that necessary fretting out the way, it is time to fret over this oddity of an episode. Stargate SG-1 has a habit of taking on old concepts and adding series elements in order to make them unique. The results are often mixed. “Fragile Balance” takes on the standard alien abduction story, cloning, and the comedy gold of age reversing a main character. It winds up an awkward affair with enough comedic moments to keep the story from being a complete disaster.

The episode begins with a fifteen year old kid being caught trying to enter Sgc using jack’s ID. He claims to be Jack, and after some required incredulity on the part of his colleagues--because nothing weird like rapid aging or body switching has ever happened to them before--it is confirmed the kid is Jack. Much of the episode is split between zit jokes and an SG-1 investigating what occurred to Jack. A ticking clock is added when it is discovered Mini jack is a clone suffering from fatal cellular decay.

The heart of the matter is a rogue Asgard scientist named Loki is the alien behind all the abduction stories you here. He has been taking humans and experimenting on them in order to cure the Asgard’s reproductive problem. He was caught and booted out of whatever science organization the Asgard have for his actions, but has recently taken advantage of the war with the Replicators to start back up again. Loki kidnaps people and replaces them with a clone while he experiments with the real deal. There is something special about Jack, so things did not go according to plan with him.

The SG-1 team plots to catch Loki when he comes to retrieve Mini Jack. They do, and wind up on his ship. Thor arrives to apprehend Loki. He stabilizes Mini Jack, who decides to stay in Colorado as a normal teenager.

Fan buzz is “Fragile Balance” was meant to be an episode for an earlier season, but no one could get the script quite right. There is an unfocused feel to the story which confirms there were issues. For one, the title does not fit the story at all. Was there a different intention at some point/ I do not know, but many aspects of the episode are pointless. Mini Jack insists on giving a lecture in front of fighter pilots to prove he is still Jack. He tries to buy beer as Mini Jack, but fails because of his age. Jacob/selmak shows up for two scenes that do not amount to much of anything. I would almost swear huge chunks of plot elements were taken out and replaced by scenes like those in order to completely change the story. Not being able to shake that assumption impacts my enjoyment.

As does Mini Jack’s attitude. Do not get me wrong--Welch has Jack’s attitude and mannerisms down pat. Even his body language echoes Richard Dean Anderson’s portrayal of the character. But he likes Jack’s sense of wounded idealism. Old Jack may be surly and sarcastic, but he is a good guy. Mini Jack’s snark is absolutely grating. He treats his colleagues like garbage even while they are trying to help him. He deserves a swirlie, quite frankly. Some scenes are funny, and I am impressed with how well Welch pulls off the imitation, but mercy is he unpleasant. Even the trauma of his circumstance hardly justifies his attitude.

That said, I also find it strange that when the SG-1 team discovers jack is a clone, they literally no longer care he is dying. Their only concern is recovering the real Jack and capturing Loki. Granted, their ambivalence may be due to what I described above--Mini Jack is a little jerk--but their sudden cold shoulder is jarring. It is the real Jack, after joking he might let Mini Jack die to shut him up, who urges Thor to repair his cellular damage. The real Jack drops Mini Jack off at high school in the final scene after agreeing the two will never speak to each other again. I suppose that is a better way of getting Mini Jack out of the picture permanently rather than killing him off, but again--very cold. Mini Jack has the real Jack’s mind. Would he really abandon his duties to fight the Goa’uld so easily? Creepier question--there is a kid out there with a fifty year old’s mind chasing after teenage girls. I am just wondering if that can qualify as a happy ending.

Blatant product placement--Mini Jack is playing Garn Turismo II on Playstation 2 at one point. That is worse than our heroes pigging out on Ben & Jerry’s while getting a lot of exposition out the way a few episodes back.

I have a tough time finding the point to “Fragile Balance.” is it a comedy episode? If so, there are some very funny moments which elevate some of the wmore uneasy bits. Is it a commentary of the ethics of cloning? Loki has no remorse for his actions because he believes the end justifies the means. I do not take away much from that other than that Asgard arrogance can cause some serious problems. I do not see much applicable to the real ethical issues of cloning we face. In all, “Fragile Balance” has some funny moments which can hopefully help you overcome the more numerous questionable ones. Watch at your own risk.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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