Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Changeling"

Christopher Judge penned the surreal “The Changeling.” The script proves Judge is not only a talented writer--assuming we accept the word there was no ghostwriter as true--but he can accomplish the nearly impossible task of making Teal’c an interesting character.

“The Changeling” bounces between what appears to be reality in which Teal’c is a part of the SG-1 team and another in which he is a fireman preparing to donate a kidney to his save his stepfather’s life. All of his friends from reality are in the fireman scenario. His stepfather, for instance, is Bra’tac. The teal’c in each scenario considers the other to be a dream. That is until he is approached by daniel in the fireman scenario and told that if both seem equally real, then neither probably is.

The realization turns out to be key. Neither scenario is real. Teal’c went off to a meeting of rebel Jaffa when they were ambushed and nearly wiped out. Teal’c had been sharing his symbiote with Bra’tac--symbolic of the donated kidney--for three days. By this point, all three of them are near death. When they are rescued and brought back to SGC, Jacob/Selmak offers Teal’c and Bra’tac an experimental drug that simulates the benefits of blending with a symbiote. The drug saves the lives of Teal’c and Bra’tac. I assume Junior bit’s the dust.

At first glance I thought “The Changeling” was going to be a blatant clone of Deep Space Nine’s “Far Beyond the Stars,” but it stands well on its on merit. The twist that even Teal’c’s Sgc reality was a fevered dream while he is dying on a remote battlefield was a clever idea I did not see coming. Even bringing back characters like Teal’c wife and Apophis, neither of whom I have been a big fan, was a nice touch. The absence of Teal’c’s son is conspicuous.

A subtle point that is well worth mentioning is Jonas and second class status at SGC. In the fireman scenario, he is a probationary fireman whom the other look down to as a plebe. His status there is not a heck of a lot different than his less than welcome status as a member of the SG-1 team. When the story becomes firmly established in reality, Jonas is by Teal’c’s beside begging him to hold on for Jacob/Selmak to arrive because teal’c is the only one who really made him feel like part of the team. The more scenes like this occur, the more I wonder what a pariah Jonas is. His character’s status obviously translates to Corin Nemec’s subsequent less than enthusiastic attitude about the franchise.

Does anyone remember the short lived television series The Firehouse which starred Richard Dean Anderson? Neither do I.

“The Changeling” is an engaging episode. I am not certain it comes across as poignant as it is likely intended. Teal’c’s dreams emphasize his closest relationships with Bra’tac, and Daniel. It is telling he considers Bra’tac his surrogate father and Daniel his moral guidance. It is a bit hard to swallow Teal’c would be stranded for three days before anyone went looking for him, but that is a minor gripe. “The Changeling” is otherwise a thoughtful, engaging episode with unpredictable twists that makes an interesting character out of Teal’c.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

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