Friday, May 4, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Paradise Lost"

“Paradise Lost,” as you might have guessed, shares some elements with John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Specifically, the Goa’uld “snakes” long ago destroyed a utopian paradise. Jack and Maybourne finds themselves stranded in the ruins for a couple weeks. The episode owes much to Apocalypse Now for its theme and atmosphere. Shippers should take note Sam’s distraught emotions over Jack’s disappearance are evidence she is becoming more romantically attached to him.

Maybourne shows up at Jack’s home with an offer to lead the SG-1 team to the cache of weapons frank Simmons was planning to look for in exchange for a presidential pardon. Jack does not trust maybourne enough to take him along to explore the planet with the stargate address he provided, but changes his mind when the weapons are allegedly behind a door only Maybourne knows how to open. It is a trick, of course. Maybourne opens the door and runs through with jack in pursuit. The door closes behind them, stranding them in parts unknown.

Maybourne lied about the weapons cache. The door is the portal to a smal settlement in which Maybourne planned to retire. He had not planned on jack following him, nor for the settlement to have been wiped out by the Goa’uld long ago. Jack and Maybourne have to struggle to survive. Until then, Maybourne keeps eating a certain plant that, unknown to him as yet, was introduced to the people by the goa’uld as a biological weapon. It increases a person’s paranoia to the point of using violence against others. The original inhabitants kept eating the plant and eventually killed each other.

Maybourne survives by eating the plant, and therefore begins feeling the effects early. Jack’s mindset is not altogether clear. He appears to survive by eating fish, but it feels odd he would not try the plant himself during the two week stay. He refuses to give Maybourne a gun, sleeps with one under his makeshift pillow, and winds up shooting Maybourne because of what may or may not have been an hallucination of a wild animal. Jack certainly has stopped eating the plant, if he ever did, by the time he has to confront a wild-eyed, crazy Maybourne who has stolen his P90.

In the interim, Sam is determined to locate Jack. She becomes increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress, eventually breaking down in tears in Teal’c’s arms. What is interesting here is Teal’c went looking for her. As friends with both Jack and Sam, Teal’c is very much in tune with how the two really feel about each other. Yet he does not embarrass Sam by bringing up his awareness when comforting her. For someone so stoic, Teal’c is adept at handling people overwhelmed by emotions even when they are trying to hide the true reason they are upset.

Sam eventually figures out Jack and Maybourne were sent to the planet’s moon--something Jonas was unable to decipher from the artifacts. Poor, hapless Jonas--and sends the Tok’ra to rescue them, but not before Jsck has to shoot Maybourne in order to save himself. In return, Jack promises to ask the tok’ra to find a planet on which Maybourne can retire.

There is a significant theme in Jack-centric episodes about him being stranded or otherwise left in harsh locales. They are meant to emphasize his sense of betrayal at being left behind in an Iraqi prison during the Gulf War and its effect on him. Namely, Jack does not leave anyone behind. Some of these episodes play better than others. “Paradise Lost” is one of the best. I like it because the story is very tense, yet does not take itself too seriously. Maybourne is going violently crazy, but the effects of the plant on him are still funny in a macabre sort of way as he smears mud all over his face and stalks Jack. All the while, their confrontations take place in the erry dawn hours amind skeletal corpses. It is difficult to describe. You have to see it to get the full effect, but it is fantastically creepy.

I am not a shipper, but I can appreciate how well Sam and Teal’c were handled. Those of you pining for a Jack/Sam hook up will be happy.

“Paradise Lost” is one of the best episodes of the season. There has not been a pairing of Jack and Maybourne I did not like. I am not certain this one will wind up my favorite, but it is a contender. According to IMDb, “Paradise Lost” is the penultimate maybourne appearance. Too bad. The character has grown on me since his first few less than thrilling appearances.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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