Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Sight Unseen"

“Sight Unseen” is a strange concoction. I am tempted to call it a strange creature, but given the subject matter, the pun would be too much to swallow. The episode is definitely filler, yet not a bottle episode. One frets over the prospect of there perhaps being another budget-saving bottle show ready to pounce before the end of the season. If so, could it possibly be worse than “Sight Unseen?”

The SG-1 team returns from a former planet of the Ancients carrying a device they discovered in some underground ruins. The device switched on after Jonas touched it. They had absolutely no clue what the device does, so they naturally decided to bring it back to SGC and worry about the consequences later. The consequences, however, are immediate. Jonas begins hallucinating giant insects flying and/or crawling about.

“Sight Unseen” is not ultimately a Jonas-centric episode, but I am amused by how he is treated. Jonas is the only one who can see these insects for the entire first act. While it is reasonable for SG-1 to assume he is suffering from the early stages of aquaria poisoning, he is not given any sympathy even after Frasier gives him a clean bill of health.

The rest of SG-1 is given downtime in case the problem is stress. Jack invites everyone to go fishing--except Jonas. Sam declines to work on the device--without Jonas’ help even though there is Ancient language on it to be translated. Teal’c has his own plans during the break. He does not invite Jonas to join him until after Jonas has unintentionally given him a sob story about how alienated he feels from the rest of SG-1. Teal’c finally sees one of the insects. Everyone else begins seeing them, too, so the focus shifts away from Jonas. Aside from Sam apologizing to him hate in hand because, as she says, he is a full-fledged member of the team and ought to be respected, that is the end of it. Even within the context of the show, Jonas is the odd man out until Daniel returns.

For whatever reason, it does not occur to anyone to shut the device off until the penultimate act. When that does not work, SG-1, sans Jack, take it back to the planet. When that does not work, they bring it back to SGC, fiddle with some doohickeys on the thing, and that finally works. The device was emitting some sort of radiation that allowed people to we creatures that inhabit another dimension. It is like watching a nature documentary in 3D. The creatures pose no threat, but anyone who sees them, panics at the sight.

The radiation passes from person to person like a contagion, so jack has inadvertently spread it throughout Colorado Springs. The military creates a cover story about a toxic chemical spill that may cause hallucinations in order to quarantine the city and administer the cure. However, a gas station attendant named Vernon Sharpe whom Jack came in contact with who believes the government experimented on him during the Gulf War does not buy the cover story and flees under the belief the government is going to kill him. Jack eventually catches up with Sharpe at the airport and convinces him he is really seeing aliens. Sharpe buys the story--and why not?--agreeing to keep the revelation top secret.

The lack of dramatic focus kills “Sight Unseen.” the insects are in another dimension, so they pose no threat whatsoever. While there is the possibility of citizens around Colorado Springs might panic at the sight of them, it is made clear no accident occur throughout the incident. The only real drama is Sharpe. I cannot decide if we are supposed to sympathize with him because he is a mentally or emotionally disturbed man or if the government really did experiment on him. It is left up to the audience as to whether they believe Gulf War Syndrome exists and if so, whether it is due to military experiments or chemical weapons exposure.

I do not want to get into the issue of Gulf War Syndrome right now. Regardless, I have a tough time accepting Sharpe’s plight as the focus of “Sight Unseen.” He is not particularly prominent until the final act, so there is very little time to get to know him or care about what happens to him. He is really an marginal guy you would generally avoid. He is not written as a compelling character.

“Sight Unseen” is not very good even by filler standards. Where is the tension? There are CGI bugs that do no harm and a nutty conspiracy theorist on the loose. Neither of those items of interests is compelling. I am personally amused by Jonas’ treatment, but that is because I have his and Corin Nemec’s redheaded stepchild among cast, crew, and fans in mind while watching. I do find the final scene amusing. When jack and Sharpe are walking off, Sharpe asks what planet the insects are from. Jack tells him Melmac. When sharpe notes that is the planet ALF is from, too, Jack says he has never heard of ALF. ALF used to air opposite Richard Dean Anderson’s MacGyver in the late ’80’s. a sly reference to end a mediocre episode.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment