Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Babylon"

“Babylon” is described by fans as The Last Samurai meets TOS’ “Amok Time.” The timely reference to Tom Cruise--Katie Holmes has recently filed to divorce him--is apt not only for the similarities between the Japanese samurai in his aforementioned film and the Sodan Jaffa in “Babylon,“ but the dangerous religion presented by the false belief of scientology and that of Origin being spread to the Sodan. Somewhere in the mix is a Cam-centric story elaborating on his character.

The SG-1 team goes looking for a group of rebel Jaffa called the Sodan, whose defection predates Teal’c’s by thousands of years. They are ambushed by the Sodan. In the skirmish, Cam appears to kill one in self-defense. The Sodan flee using Ancient technology in order to disappear out of thin air. They take cam with them. The Sodan he supposed killed is revived by the surgical work of Dr. Lam. The Sgc spend a couple weeks interrogating him on about where to find Cam and, when they discover a Prior has visited the Sodan, tryin to convince him not to follow the Ori.

Simultaneously, Cam is in the Sodan village being trained for a ritualistic fighting match to the death in order to pay for the blood he shed. During his grueling training, Cam bonds with his trainer enough to convince hi m to question the Ori. Cam eventually learns his trainer is the brother of the Sodan he killed. Well, that is kind of hokey. It gets worse when the trainer helps poison cam during the duel so that he appears dead, thereby satisfying the rules of the match. He helps cam escape back to the stargate without knowing his brother is still alive until cam is back in touch with SGC.

William B. Davies, of Cigarette Smoking Man fame, makes his first appearance as a prior. He is given no dialogue, so one wonders if we are not just supposed to be surprised to see Davis in the role. I do not recall “Babylon” in first run, but I cannot imagine Davis was not in the promo Sci Fi used to run the heck out of during the week of a new episode. Oh, well. Davis’ sudden appearance is a neat surprise when one is relatively spoiler free.

The first appearance of the Sodan this late in the series is hihly awkward. Does it not seem strange of a group of rebel Jaffa that has existed for thousands of years might might have inspired Jaffa rebellion for a long time? Why did no one ever seek them out before now? The Sodan would have been invaluable in the final battle against the Goa’uld? Why seek them out now? Teal’c says he knew about the Sondan as a child. I understand the Sodan have just be created for the series, but their existence causes some retroactive issues.

I was not expecting much out of “Babylon.” The Sodan sounded like a bunch of Klingons, and that is pretty much what they wound up being. One of them was even played by TNG/DS9’s Kurn actor Tony Todd. Call me jaded, but this warrior code, fight to the death to honor a blood debt out of honor thing has become awfully cliché. There has not been anything new or exciting added to the concept within science fiction since the Klingons were converted from Soviet allegory to Japanese shoguns in the late ’80’s-early ’90’s. The “Amk Time” ending, complete with Star Trek joke, does not help “Babylon”’s lack of originality.

Cam needed an episode all about him, but they could have done much better than this. Some flashbacks to his injury rehab after the Battle of Antarctica would have been more interesting. Still, I cannot fauly “Babylon” for much more than it lack of originality. It is not a bad episode, but just abour anyone could have written it oif given nothing but the general plot with which to work.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Ex Deus Machina"

The title is not a typo. “Ex Deus Machina” is a play on deus ex machina, or “god in the machine.” The reordering of words is a reference to Ba’al’s new staus as an ex-god hiding out on Earth. I quipped after yesterday’s big budget special effects heavy episodes we were bound to see some low key earthbound adventures. I was bracing myself to be disappointed as my prediction appeared to be coming true sooner rather than later. But I am pleasantly surprised with the episode. It does not feel small at all, mostly due to some key moments.

One of Yu’s former Jaffa, now loyal to Gerak, is found dead of a hit and run accident in Virginia. I lived in Virginia for three years. It was probably suicide just to get away from the place. When teal’c and Cam go to Dakara to uncover why Gerak has Jaffa on Earth, it becomes apparent that Ba’al has escaped to earth and is hiding out there. Gerak plans to capture and execute Ba’al in order to solidify his political position. Cam reassembles the SG-1 team in order to find Ba’al first.

The task turns out to be quite easy. Ba’al has assumed control of Hammel Technologies, a corporation that fell under Goa’uld control when they forced symbiotes upon the Trust. Ba’al is noe a public figure. He sends a warning to SGC that he wishes to be left alone to live out his days in peace. In he is not, he plans to detonate a naquadah bomb in a major US city if anyone attempts to capture him. Allowing him to go free is not an option, so both the SG-1 team and Gerak’s Jaffa are in a race to capture him.

Scans cannot find the naquadah bomb, so SGC decides to use the symbiote poison developed by the Tok’ra and hope it takes effect before ba’al can set off the bomb. Unfortunately, the Jaffa raid his headquarters, so Ba’al reveals he is going to set off the bomb in downtown Seattle. It is a bit convenient Ba’al tells our heroes exactly where the bomb is, but that is Goa’uld arrogance for you. It turns out the bomb is not in Hammel’s corporate headquarters, but is Hammel’s corporate headquarters. The building was constructed using naquadah as the main building material. Prometheus beams the entire building into space where it can explode safely.

On Dakara, Ba’al is brought before the Jaffa High Council by Gerak and executed right there. As expected, the capture and execution of Ba’al solidifies his position as leader of the Free Jaffa Nation. A Dejected teal’c travels back to earth only to learn Ba’al has been using Hammel to research cloning technology. He has cloned himself any number of times. Geral most likely executed a Ba’al clone. The damage has been done. Gerak, a hardliner with no regard for non-Jaffa,, is in power and ba’al is free to roam as he pleases, secure in the knowledge no one can be sure they have caught or killed the real McCoy.

There are some really nifty moments in “Ex Deus Machina.” The biggest is when Cam offers SG-1 patches to Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c before they go off hunting Ba’al, and each of them accepts. It took seven episodes to reassemble the SG-1 team, but they are back. For the shippers, there is the moment when NID Agent Barrett asks Sam if she is single. She implies that she is not married, but is dating someone. Most likely Jack. For the more eagle-eyed, the reporter covering the disappearance of hammel headquarters is Julia Donnovan. I do not believe we have seen her since the sixth season.

“Ex Deus Machina” is a far better episode than you might think at first glance. It does not look like a budget saving filler episode. In fact, the shot of Hammel hadquarters floating in space, then exploding with Prometheus is the foreground is impressive. Ba’al winding up the CEO of a technology company than him in hiding on some backwater planet. Heck, Louis Gossett, Jr. can even make the Jaffa interesting. “Ex Deus Machina” is not divine, but it is a winner.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Beachhead"

“Beachhead” is an exciting, special effects laden battle against the Ori which also swaps Claudia Black for Amanda Tapping as the female lead. I expect to see some low budget, Earthbound episodes down the pike, because it looks like they busted the budget on this one. No complaints, mind you. In fact, the impressive effects have me anticipating Stargate Atlantis a little more. I have been told there are some impressive space battles and such to be found on the show.

A Prior, ironically played by an actor named Ian Butcher, returns to the Jaffa planet Kallana to make good on his origin or sword threat. The Jaffa choose sword, so the prior kills them all, then establishes a force field around Kallana’s stargate. A minor Goa’uld named Nerus approaches Sgc with word of what has happened. He offers to aid them in preventing the Ori from gaining a foothold in the Milky Way. Nerus is adamant Kallana needs to be nuked, but Kandry chalks that up to his Goa’uld sensibilities and hopes for a a more peaceful solution. Prometheus packs a nuke, anyway.

Cam gets his wish to have the SG-1 team assembled again when Sam joins the mission. The director does all sorts of tricks to hide her baby weight. There are weird camera angles. She wears an oversized uniform. She is often sitting down or block by a computer console. Nevertheless, it is still obvious she recently gave birth. It is all right. I am just glad to have her back. It is surprising how much I have grown to like her character. For the longest time, Sam was the weak link who had nothing interesting to do other than serve as the token female. Blow up a sun, and all that changes.

The remainder of the episode is a fantastic mix of atmosphere and action. A personal favorite is the scene in which the SG-1 team has beamed onto the planet through a weak point in the expanding force field. The prior has altered Kallana’s environment to a toxic atmosphere, so they have to wear spacesuits. They set the nuke to thirty minutes, then warn the Prior the nuke will destroy everything in the force field when it detonates. The Prior shrugs and nonchalantly goes back to reading Origin while the SG-1 team stands around the nuke chatting nervously about the impending kaboom. Maybe it is the slow realization our heroes have just threatened to kill a religious fanatic who believes death means eternal enlightenment dwelling with the Ori that makes the scene so absurdly funny.

Gerac and the Free Jaffa show up to attack the force field, which gives our heroes a chance to escape. The nuke goes off, but it becomes quickly apparent that was the plan all along. Not for spiritual, eternal bliss reasons, but as a power source to expand the force field around the entire planet. Nerus, now a follower of origin, tricked them. Gerac is not much of a fan of humans anyway, so the established Ori stronghold thanks to an Earth nuke does not help matters. Things get even worse as the Ori establish a giant stargate capable of transporting an armada. Vala has an idea how to destroy it, but since no one is paying her any attention, she slinks off to put the plan in action herself. It works, but she disappears, most likely transported to the ori galaxy. At least she goes out a hero.

I have only a couple minor complaints about plot points that are a matter of convenience. One, Teal’c is staying at SGC as though he lives there. I am beginning to think there must have been an episode planned centering on Jaffa palace intrigue on Dakara that ultimately convinced Teal’c to return to Earth. It is obvious tensions with the Jaffa are increasing, and Teal’c does not appear to have much status within Gerac’s government. Could there have been an elaborating episode about the Jaffa that was scrapped in order to further utilize Claudia Black? If so, that might explain why the previous episode felt like a rush job. The other matter is how the bond between Vala and Daniel has conveniently worn off so her disappearance does not kill him. Nice timing.

“Beachhead” is the most interesting episode the ninth season has presented so far. There is an emotional satisfaction to seeing the cast reunited, too. The story is fast paced and action oriented. The special effects are extremely impressive. Not just in an eye candy sort of way, but properly establish atmosphere. The dark, poisoned atmosphere of Kallana, the expanding force field under attack, and the enormous ori stargate are all great. So id “Beachhead.” ,/p>Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Powers That Be"

“The Powers That Be” is yet another Vala-centric episode. It takes a surprising turn from a light-hearted “It’s Good to Be King” clone with Vala in the Maybourne role to a dark ending in which the Ori have won a major victory. There is a strange, thrown together feel to the story which makes one suspect the writers were hoping for Amanda tapping back but had to come up with something quickly when they could not, but it is still an interesting effort.

The Prior have been appearing on numerous different worlds as missionaries for the Ori. Vala recognizes one planet as having inhabitants who trust her. Sensing they must have a serious gullibility problem, what now passes for the SG-1 team heads to the planet. They discover Vala once ruled over it as the Goa’uld Qetesh, the Chaldean sex goddess. It figures. She returned after her symbiote was removed and continued to be worshiped as Qetesh while robbing the villagers of their resources. It figures. Now she just tricked SG-1 into helping her take the treasure. Yes, it also figures. Daniel convinces her to come clean about not being a goddess in the hope her confession will make them skeptical of the Ori. Instead, the villagers arrest and put vala on trial for her crimes against them.

Vala’s trial is interrupted by a visit by a Prior. The affair turns into a debate between the Prior and Daniel, who was serving a Vala’s advocate. He and the prior retread much of the ground from the opening trilogy.; free will v. servitude, faith v. reason, and faith v. science. The debate is not as one-sided as you might think. If you were not aware the Ori were deceiving their followers, you could be convinced daniel is grasping at straws solely because he does not like Origin. In response, the ori cause a plague to befall the villagers. It kills many of them and Cam for good measure. The Prior returns to heal the sick and bring the dead back to life, so the villagers are convinced to practice origin.

“The Powers That Be” fells not so much like filler, but thrown together at the last minute for lack of anything better. Hemce, I quipped about Tapping’s maternity leave. At first it feels like a comedy episode similar to “It’s Good to Be King.” then it turns into another exposition heavy debate between Daniel and a Prior over whether the Ori are worthy of worshipful devotion because of their actions. Cam falls ill to the plague for no apparent reason other than the shock value of the audience realizing he is dead. Teal’c is inexplicably part of the team even though he left at the end of the previous episode. There is no explanation why. He is once again relegated to wallpaper. The strangest part is Dr. Carolyn Lam is given a major role in the off world adventure, but for the second time winds up with another patient dying and brought back to life through no actions of her own. Come on, guys. Lexa Doig is Michael Shanks’ wife. Throw her a bone!

Many of the villagers in “The Powers that Be” are named after characters in German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. The play involves a dispute between a group of fruit growers and a group of goat herders in the post-World War II Soviet Union as how to best utilize a plot of land after Nazi occupiers have left. I do not see any deeper meaning than the Stargate SG-1 writers showing off they still remember The Caucasian Chalk Circle from a class back in college. Vala’s fate at the hands of the villagers is only marginally similar if you have to squeeze out a term paper for a Communications class.

“The Powers That Be’ has its flaws. Why do a fifth episode centered around Vala? She is still a guest star! I know Claudia Black is a fan favorite. I like her, too. But no television show does this sort of thing unless a big movie star has agreed to do a story arc. Even then, it is odd. We have already heard the Ori’s spiel and Daniel’s response before. We have already seen Maybourne play the Vala role, for that matter. The saving graces are the humorous first half and the ending with the mass conversion to show how dangerous the Ori can be. I am still going to award “The Powers That Be” a decent score, but there are no stars awarded for originality.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Ties That Bind"

Anyone else get the impression Stargate SG-1 is treading water until Amanda tapping is back from maternity leave? We certainly need a frivolous bather after the intense trilogy that began the ninth season. It is also a good idea to explore the status quo after the fall of the Goa’uld. Putting it all together in a Firefly homage centered around Vala would be a bit much if Claudia Black did not prominently cavort about in her underwear in one scene.

The emphasis is on the absurd comedy, the fred and Ethel relationship between Daniel and Vala, and loads of sexual innuendo, so the plot is straight ford--it is quest to recover items stolen by Vala from various individuals in order for the scientist she stole the connecting bracelets from to break the lingering bond between Daniel and Vala. Among those our heroes meet along the way are a ex-Jaffa soldier struggling as a salesman, a former smuggler hiding out as a monk, and the two pirates Daniel eencountered in Prometheus Unbound.” other than a slight detour before the senate Appropriations Committee where Vala implies the chairman wants to build weapons to compensate for his shortcomings, the adventure is done Firefly style complete with brown coats and side arms.

Scapers claim the weapon Vala was packing is a of the same design her character used on Farscape. I can neither confirm nor deny, but considering Cam, Daniel, and Teal’c allowed her to carry a weapon at all implies there must have been something special about it. Assuming it is a Farscape reference for the audience to catch makes more sense than out heroes sudden lapse in judgment of allowing someone like Vala to have a gun on her. Unless she swiped it from someone while they were not looking. If so, I did not catch that being the case.

“The Ties That Bind” is the type o fun, off world adventure I had expressed desire to see this season. It is mostly devoid of any overall story arc bogging down the action. The story has its plot holes. Why was Vala armed or allowed into the Senate Committee meeting? Given her reputation, neither of tjose should happen. There is also the feeling the show it dragging its feet until the real story starts. Cam has not yet chosen his team. We know he is eventually going to get the band back together, but we are getting tired of waiting. there are plenty of scenes in which our heroes are together, but they are not really a team. It is becoming frustrating. Nevertheless, “The Ties That Bind” is funny enough to overcome these issues, as well as offer an enjoyable breather after the hellfire and brimstone introduction of the Ori. But they really, really, need to get the show on the road.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Origin"

I may have to reassess my previous notion the Ori are carbon copies of the Goa’uld. There appears to be a genuine hellfire and brimstone aspect to the ori rather than the thugs with symbiotes the Goa’uld were. “Origin” is genuinely chilling in its spelling out who the ori are and what they have planned. I mean, geez--the ori choose Julian sands and a bunch of albinos to spread the word. How disturbing is that?

“Origin” relies even more heavily on exposition than the previous episode, but thr origins and intentions of the Ori are spelled out in such ominous tones, none of it feels like a lecture. The Ori believe lower beings should worship them because of their power. They genuinely believe the Ancients are evil for not sharing their enlightenment with lower races even if they do not see their methods as enslavement. The Ancients have been protecting the people of our galaxy against the power of the Ori, but they will not do anything about the ori’s followers with heir origin or sword technique of evangelism. Now that they are aware of the Milky way thanks to Daniel and Vala, it is only a matter of time before the true believers begin an allout effort to convert or destroy.

“Origin” is all about atmosphere. The Ori’s priors are creepy as all get out. Julian Sands as their leader, Doci, is inspired casting. He is able to deliver over the top super villain dialogue without making it sound hammy. The ori themselves are eternal dlames from a pit meant to resemble hell. Quite effective, as is the Gregorian chant background music whenever a prior appears on screen to do his thing. The ori have definitely been set up as intriguing villains. Perhaps the final two seasons dealing with them will not feel as tacked on to the rest of the series as I once feared.

Does anyone else think it was a bit much for daniel and vala to escape back to earth leaving their two hosts to be burned at the stake? There certainly needed to be a dramatic moment for their escape, and leaving ijust before being engulfed in flames is definitely as narrow an escape as it gets, but their poor hosts have no chance. One can only hope their going up in smoke is too quick to be very painful. What a cruel twist of fate.

Jack showing up at the end is a real surprise. I figured Richard dean Anderson would have headed for the hills as soon as possible. Of course, his three scenes over these episode were probably all filmed on the same day with his car running outside.

‘Origin’ is a very scary beginning to the Ori story arc. I have more faith in it now than ever before even if I am still wary of the Arthurian legend aspect and the anti-Christian overtones. While the Ori and Priors have take their controlling methods from the dark Ages, there is still a hint modern Christianity is going to take some hits as the arc progresses. The feeling brings me back to my apologetics days encountering angry atheists who believe the dark Ages have not ended yet. Heh.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Avalon, Part II"

“Avalon, Part II” is the bridging episode of a trilogy introducing the Ori. It is a strange, but often compelling animal. The story switches from a goofy swordfight between cam and a holographic night to Vala literally being burnt to a cinder on a altar to purge her “possession.” In between, there is plenty of exposition explaining the Ori which sounds uncreative similar to the Goa’uld. Regardless of the here we go again similarities between the Ori and the Goa’uld, it is difficult to find much disappointing.

Even the cliffhanger is resolved well. Stargate SG-1 has a frequent habit of a bait and switch in such resolutions. Remember the last season premiere when a Goa’uld ship was headed to earth at the to be continued mark, then nothing happened? Ouch. Here, Daniel and cam figure out the puzzles before the lowering ceiling turns them into pancakes. I could be nitpicker here and point out the heavy stone blocks upon which the puzzles are situated are high and sturdy enough to brace the falling ceiling and that cam’s puzzle--arranging mirror images of Arabic numbers--would have been set up four hundred years before those numbers arrived in England, but what the heck. They would still be trapped even if becoming grease stains and who else but a major history nerd would know about the number system’s age?

The end of the discovery of the hidden treasure involves cam playing action hero by crossing swords with a holographic knight. You just have to roll with something so odd. Among the treasure is a book that explains some ascended beings built a home for themselves on a planet called Avalon. Using a device that works with the communication stones taken from Joe spencer, Daniel and vala inhabit the bodies of two people on Avalon in order to explore the place.

There we learn about the Ori. Their story is pretty much the Goa’uld’s. The Ori set themselves up as gods to be worshiped. They forbid any of their subjects from researching true history. Every now and then, they perform a “miracle” to prove their divinity. In this case, it is returning Vala rom the dead in the public square after she has been burned at the stake for demon possession.

Speaking of Vala burned at the stake, it is the most gruesome scene in the series since daniel died from radiation poisoning. In many ways, it is worse. We see the whole deal, from the lighting of the fire to the flames consuming Vala to daniel cradling her charred corpse afterwards. I am a jaded soul nearly impervious to shock from anthing in popular entertainment, but Vala’s excruciating graphic death pushes the envelop for a relatively family friendly show. It is also a stark contrast to the beginning high adventure and Cam’s swordsmanship.

A few scenes cut away to Dakara where the Jaffa are creating a new government not as open to their hard fought freedom as Teal’c would like. Teal’c is given some really good, highly emotional scenes in an episode in which he would otherwise play very little part if history is any indication. Is the series finally going to step up and make him a major player after all this time? Except for episodes written by Christopher judge himself, Teal’c blends in with the scenery except for the moments in which he speaks irrelevant dialogue that could have come from anyone.

‘Avalon, Part II” runs the gamut from funny and weird to cringingly painful. I am a bit disappointed by the unoriginality of the ori and their similarity to stereotypically oppressive medieval Christianity. Avaon and its people are right out of the European Dark Ages. It is also strange to split the team up in the second episode when the working dynamic ought to be established instead. It is not a big distraction, however, from an otherwise entertaining episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Avalon, Part I"

“Avalon, Part I” is the ninth season premiere. We have many changes to which we must adjust. Cast changes are the most prominent. Ben Browder, Beau Bridges, and Claudia Black join as Cam, Landry, and Vala respectively. Vala is only a recurring character for now in order to fill the gap left by Amanda Tapping maternity leave. Disappointing if you ask me. I have been looking forward to writing Cam and Sam in the same sentence. The changes all add up to the feeling this is a completely different show from what has gone before.

I have only seen four or five scattered episodes of Farscape. a couple of those have been on one of those daily rerun marathons SyFy aired years after the series ended. Browder and black are pretty much a mystery to me. Their stint on Stargate SG-1 will be my first major impression of them. I have already sensed an in joke from when vala first sees cam and remarks she has never met him before. She would remember that. Presumably there is going to be quite a few of those that pass me by. Their addition to the cast also makes me wonder if the proverbial knife in the back left by SyFy’s cancellation of Farscape to allegedly free up production cash for more Stargate SG-1 burns Scapers in any way. Just a thought.

Gen. Henry Landry has been placed in charge of SGC. Jack, who has been promoted to Hammond’s job in Washington, has not appointed him, but given lt. Col. Cameron “Cam” Mitchell command of the SG-1 team. Cam lead the defense of the SG-1 team at the Battle of Antarctica. His ship went down, severely wounding him. In flashbacks, we see the battle and Cam’s Cam’s crash, as well as his apparently long stint recovering in the hospital. The battle itself is one long homage to the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. His valor earns him his choice of post upon his recovery, so he winds up with the SG-1 team.

The thrill is shot lived. The team has disbanded. Jack is in Washington, Sam works at Area 51, Teal’c is aiding the free Jaffa Nation on Dakara, and Daniel plans to go to Atlantis. Cam cannot convince the band to get back together even when he claims to be on a mission from God. Yes, two Blues Brothers references. We are going to hit the film geek trifecta when the Indians Jones and the Last Crusade stuff emerges in a moment.

Everything changes when Vala shows up, escorted by SG-7, with an Ancient table which allegedly shows the location of ancient treasure. She traps Daniel with a Goa’uld bracelet that will keep them from separating to ensure he helps her find it. Poor Daniel. There is always something in the way of his trip to Atlantis. Teal’c shows up to offer his expertise on the bracelets, which is none. So Cam, Teal’c, Daniel, and Vala all wind up in a cave deep underground in merry old England chasing after a treasure left by Merlin after he fled Atlantis during a Wraith attack centuries ago. The treasure may be the Holy Grail. The team splits up only too find themselves trapped in rooms with a puzzle to solve and a very tight time limit when the ceilings begin lowering. To be continued..

I have mixed emotions about the numerous changes introduced. I am cautiously optimistic about Browder and Black. They have enough devout fans for me to have faith I will enjoy their characters. Arthurian legend has been done to death in science fiction and fantasy. I have already mentioned numerous times my aversion to fantasy, but even at its best, a Holy Grail quest with Sword in the stone bits and some semi-Christian overtones is not treading new ground. I also note a heavier reliance on the comedy factor. Daniel and Vala’s sexual tension banter in particular reminds me of how the writer’s try way to hard to make Rodney McKay a fan favorite by going overboard with his obnoxious behavior. I will concede Browder is a natural comedic actor, though. Perhaps he ought to consider a sitcom role. We shall see how it all plays on.

Speaking of Daniel and Vala’s sexual tension, I will let your dirty minds dwell on this photo: Make of it what you will.

“Avalon, Part I” does not feel like a very epic beginning to a new era of the series, but it is enjoyable if you are willing to give the changes a chance. In spite of some skepticism, I am. Frankly, there is a feeling of patched together material that screams the creative team was caught by surprise over the show’s renewal and had to come up with something fast. If that is the case, one hopes for a quick adjustment. I would like to see some old fashioned through the stargate adventure without a lot of bogging down in a massive story arc as has happened in the last few seasons.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Moebius, Part II"

“Moebius, Part II” is not only the eighth season finale, but the end of a era. It is the last time we will ever seen the Fab Four in action in the series. I definitely want to like it for sentimental reasons. It is fortunate part II is faster paced and more enjoyable than “Moebius, Part I“, but it is unfortunate the execution does not feel as epic as one would hope.

If there is one really good aspect to “Moebius, Part II,” it is the nod to fans who have hung with the series from the beginning. Maybe even fans who have been there since the original film. There has to be a few. There is the return of old characters like Kowalski, whose participation in traveling through th stargate for the first time is the plausible reason a reluctant Jack decides to give up his Jimmy Buffett routine and join the mission. Kowalski is killed on Chulak, in a nod to his Goa’uld implantation in the premiere episode. Apophis returns as the major villain for the first time since he was killed a few seasons ago. There are nods to running gags, such as Alternate Daniel being killed on Chulak, but the real Daniel being the only surviving member of the SG-1 team in 3000 BC. Alt Sam and Alt Jack make the beast with two backs at the star of the rebellion that overthrows Ra, so the shippers get their moment. In a nod to new fans, Rodney McKay makes an appearance as his usual obnoxious self.

There is one bit that has me puzzled. Alt Jack expresses surprise upon hearing Alt Sam speak technical jargon because he is not used to hearing such things from someone so hot. She blushes and says guys like Alt Daniel are more her type. That I understand. Daniel/Sam shipping is not as popular as Jack/Sam, but it has been around. Even I am inclined to think the knots in Daniel’s head fit the grooves in Sam’s. Alt Jack’s response is to insinuate Alt Daniel is gay. Maybe that is just the quick response of a guy trying to get into Alt Sam’s pants, but considering the winks to themes from the show’s past, is there a segment of the fan base who think Daniel is gay? If so, I have missed it beyond the occasional stay Jack/Daniel shipper on one of websites, blogs, and forums I have visited since beginning these reviews. Danirl has frequently brought bad luck to the women he has fallen for, but I do not think that makes him gay.

The story itself is fairly straightforward. Alt Jack returns to lead a team through the stargate to Chulak. He is convinced to allow alt Daniel and Alt Sam go along out of an unexplained sense of destiny. They are captured by Apophis. While imprisoned, Daniel is secretly implanted with a symbiote and the rest are about to convince teal’c to help them escape by showing him the video in which his true self reveals the Jaffa are free in the real timeline. As mentioned above, both Daniel and Kowalski are killed. In order to escape recapture, our alt heroes use the time travel mode to go back to 3000BC Egypt. There they discover Jack and Teal’c plotted a rebellion against ra which failed. Daniel is the only one to survive. He is plotting another rebellion--the one that will succeed--but Ra will take the stargate with him when he flees. Alt SG-1’s arrival makes a difference in the timeline, causing the rebellion to succeed, but Ra leaving the stargate behind.

If there is any big issue with “Moebius, Part II,” aside from why the Alt SG-1 team left through the Antarctica stargate, but returned to Earth through the Giza stargate, is how abruptly the episode ends. The rebellion begins earlier than originally planned in order to save Alt Jack and Alt Sam from the Jaffa . Once they are safe and safely nodding and gendering like frogs in a cistern while the slaves rise up, we cut to the present day wherein we learn everything just turned out all right. The real Daniel packed away the ZPM, so they never had to travel to the past in the first place--*cough* Grandfather Paradox *cough*--so none of these events should have actually happened, but apparently they did since Jack’s pond now has fish in it. What is worse, the final scene is a repeat, dialogue and all, of the ending to “Threads,” which makes one wonder if that really happened before. What is the point to casting doubt on pivotal events in the series’ history?

Th bottom line is the episode has many issues, both in logic and scope. Considering the episode is the major send off for the team as it has been for years, the latter is more disappointing. Nevertheless, sentimentality wins out over problems. We are never going to se the original team in action again in a good or bad story, so this adventure has to be graded on a curve. The curve is still not enough to merit four or five stars, but “Moebius, Part II’ is still a cannot miss. It constitutes the end of an era. The episodes from here on out feel more like a spin off than part of the series as it has been for the last eight years.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Moebius, Part I"


Two things come to mind upon watching “Moebius, Part I.” The first is a sense fans are correct in claiming the preceding trilogy is would be a more fitting end for the reign of the original four SG-1 members. The second is the finale should have been two hours. I am not certain without having seen the conclusion yet, but the payoff could even be an average episode and still elevate the anemic first part. There ain’t much going on here, folks, other than the main cast hamming it up either sneaking around ancient Egypt incognito or playing alternate versions of themselves.

Daniel gets word that Catherine Langford has died. He is approached at the funeral by Catherine’s niece, whom he appears to develop a quick crush on. While it is a cad for taking an obvious shine to her before her aunt’s body is even in the ground, she resembles Sarah Gardner. The similarity is a nice touch, not to mention a reminder Sarah was supposedly someone Daniel deeply cared for before she was dropped from the series like a bad habit. Langford left Daniel her entire archeological collection. As Daniel shifts through it, he makes an incredible discovery. There is a ZPM in Ra’s old temple in 3,000BC. This ZPM can power earth’s defenses, contact Atlantis, and probably get free HBO. The SG-1 team needs to recover it.

Efforts to find it now come up short. Ra took his digs with him, so the ZPM could be anywhere. But they know the ZPM was there in 3000BC. With the ancient time machine, they can retrieve it strangely enough, Sam thinks traveling back through time is worth the risk if they can keep a low profile. Since the ZPM remained a secret, taking it should not cause any problems. This what could go wrong attitude ought to give you pause, particularly when Sam herself makes reference to Ray Bradbury’s short story ’A Sound of Thunder” in which a man travels to prehistoric times and alters the future by stepping on a butterfly. Small changes can have huge, unpredictable consequences. Sure enough, something bad happens. Our heroes snatch the ZPM without any problems, but Ra’s Jaffa capture the Ancient time ship. They become stranded in 3,000 BC.

Traveling back in time and tip toeing through ancient Egypt trying to not screw up the timeline is one thing, but Daniel brings a camcorder with him in order to record a message in the hopes it will be recovered in the future. Otherwise, our heroes decide to live out the rest of their lives in ancient Egypt. Presumably because they really did not think this whole plan through. An alternate timeline is created in which the stargate is never discovered because ra took it with him after the human rebellion, so our heroes never come together. They are living their lives as different kinds of people.

Okay, let us get the Grandfather Paradox problem out of the way. If the SG-1 team travels to ancient Egypt and alters the future to where there is no SGC, then they could never have gone back to ancient Egypt in the first place. There is no starting point, so how can all this be happening? Any time travel story has to be taken with a certain grain of salt, but some problems with the concept are harder to tolerate than others.

The intention is for us to go with it unquestioned because of how absurdly the rest of the episode plays out. Daniel is a disgraced archeologist teaching English as a second language while wearing a hairpiece worse than Adam Sandler’s from The Wedding Singer . Sam is a secretary with a Ph D in astrophysics because she lacks moxy. Jack is Jimmy Buffett with a thic Minnesotan accent. Michael Shanks and Amanda Tapping are clearly having a ball playing the nebbish alternate versions of their characters. I am all but certain they are lightly mocking some fans they have encountered at past conventions. Working together, sans Jack, they discover thet discover the location of the other stargate in Antarctica, but are not going to be allowed on the mission through it. Too be continued.

“Moebius, Part I” has its heart in the right place. It wants to be a bookend not juat for the series, but the original film that spawned it. It has been years since I have seen the original film, but I do not recall it being so…goofy. ’Moebius, Part I” is funny and entertaining, but it feels more like a two part episode that should have come in the middle of a random season, not as the sign off for the series as it has been for the last eight years. Maybe part Ii will surprise me. I already have a hint rom Jack’s renewed anger towards Ra that the SG-1 team probably plays a big part in the rebellion that topples Ra. If so, I may change my mind about the story. As it is, events do not feel all that epic.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Threads"

Full disclosure; there are two versions of “Threads.” One is the 63 minute version originally aired on the Sci fi Channel. The othe is a 44 minute version edited down for syndication. The boxed DVD set that I am watching has the latter. By all accounts, the extended episode as originally aired is superior. I get the impression by how quickly events happen without much elaboration the deleted scenes help with the pacing of the story as well as filling in some gaps. There are some of these scenes on YouTube--Anubis berating Ba’al for betraying him, Bra’tac and Teal’c being knighted, more scenes with Pete and Sam, Sam waiting in the car outside Jack’s house, and the impression Jack and Kerry slept together--but watching these scenes after the fact do not enhance the narrative flow. I do not feel as though I have seen the 63 minute version properly even if all the deleted scenes are on YouTube, so this review is for the 44 minute version.

In Mny ways, “Threads” feels like an epilogue to the major defeat of a powerful enemy in the same way TNG’s “Family” deals with the aftermath of the Borg’s defeat. The emphasis is on personal issues even though it is set against the rather important backdrop of Anubis planning to destroy all life in the galaxy in order to reestablish it to his twisted liking. More specifically, we have Daniel involved in yet another existential debate with more powerful beings while everyone else come to terms with their futures. The combination is strange, yet compelling.

After RepliCarter’s ship is destroyed, Daniel finds himself in Der Waffle Haus on the set of Dead Like Me and sits at the Reapers’ favorite booth. I am only marginally familiar with Dead Like Me, but I think that is cool. By way of explanation, Daniel is viewing the Ascended Plane as something to which he can relate--the diner his grandfather took him to at after his parent’s funeral. Oma is the waitress serving Daniel and there is a friendly guy named Jim, but all the other customers ignore him completely. The dialogue between Daniel, Oma, and Jim runs towards the obtuse, but it eventually reveals that Jim is Anubis. He tricked Oma into believing he was good so she would help him ascend. As punishment for her mistake, her cohorts allowed Anubis to only half ascend so he could still wreak havoc on the galaxy. For higher beings, the ascended certainly are petty. Anubis is preparing to assault Dakara in order to take the Ancient weapon away from the Jaffa . He keeps reurning to the diner in order to gloat in front of Oma over his impending victory.

Anubis’ plan leads to one of the oddest points of the episode. The Jaffa have made Dakara the center of their new nation. They refose to destroy the Ancient weapon. Supposedly because it is a symbol of their newfound freedom, but it is really because of the power it affords them. Slaves overturn false gods in order to become gods themselves. I do not criticise the notion too much, but it would be better if Bra’tac and teal’c were not going along with the idea. I can better see the hubris of those who have been enslaved their entire lives and just now have the taste of power. What is worse is that Bra’tac and Teal’c also go along with the idea of killing Anubis, something no one is certain can even be done, so the Jaffa can safely keep the Ancient weapon. It is Anubis’ slaughtering of the Jaffa on Dakara that he keeps returning to the diner to brag about. At least the Jaffa sre learning a costly lesson about the cost of avarice.

Daniel attempts to destroy Anubis, but cannot. He is not powerful enough. Oma finally steps up with Anubis’ finger on the button of the Ancient weapon, ready to use it. The two are both equally powerful, but locked in combat for all eternity, Anubis cannot do anything else but battle her. The universe is safe, and Stargate SG-1 does a better job of two beings in an eternal battle to prevent the destruction of reality better than TOS’ “Alternative Factor.” the end makes one wonder if the ascended really were jerks for allowing Anubis to do his thing all this time, or if Oma was for not stepping up to take responsibility for her mistake in attempting to ascend him in the first place. Of course, they could just all be jackasses, Oma included.

The rest of ’Threads” has to do with Sam getting smacked around emotionally. Shippers should take note how the stars align. First, Sam sees jack hanging out with CIA agent Kerry Johnson and gets jealous. Pete cannot compete with old Jack. But taking a page from pete’s stalker handbook, she sits outside jack’s house for a while working up the nerve to tell him how she really feels about him. When she finally works up the nerve, she runs right into him and Kerry having a cookout. She has an out, though--her father is dying. His last words to her are a nudge to begin a relationship with Jack. She takes the advice to heart, because she dumps pete on the ront steps of the house he just pit a down payment on before her father’s corpse is even cold. Kerry comes into Jack’s office to dump him because she senses he has a thing for Sam,. Sam and jack do not really have a moment that can be interpreted as the beginning of a romance. They just sort of snap at each other as Anubis’ weapon fires up. Does that mean they are already an old married couple? Discuss amongst yourselves, shippers.

The Ori are kinda sorta mention, though not by name, when jim reveals the Ancient weapon was built to recreate life in the galaxy after a plague. It was the same plague that infected jack back in the sixth season, so this is not really the first int of the Ori, but it is interesting nevertheless. Speaking of the Ori and their pseudo-Christian motif, when Jim re=enters the diner just before the Anubis version of himself is about to use the weapon, he is whistling “Amazing Grace.” The hymn is a strange choice of music. I have no theory why Jim choose it save for irony.

“Threads” is quite engaging even in its abbreviated 44 form. Events happen a bit too quickly without the extended scenes, but that is only a minor gripe. As I am not a Jack/sam shipper, I do not feel as though all things need to fall in line for the two of them to get together, so some things do not resonate for me as muh as are probably intended. Sam stomps all over pete’s heart, and we are supposed to cheer about it. Kerry ecides way too quickly tp punt Jack’s heart, too. Far be it from me to question how and why people fall in and out of relationships, but wow. That is some colf decision making there. There is some heady dialogue in the diner scenes, too. You have to be a geek to appreciate it. I do not think as highly of “Threads” as other fans appear to, but it is still a fine wrap up to the eighth season story arc.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Reckoning, Part II"

“Reckoning, Part II’ is a worthy conclusion to all of the set up from the first part. I anticipated a letdown before watching, and while watching I further feared clutter from too many storylines running concurrently. But I am happy to say the episode turned out to be one of the best of the series.

Dakara continues to be the focal point of everyone’s plans, dastardly or otherwise. Ba’al, who is ostensibly still working for Anubis, is taking the scenic route there in order to give the Jaffa time to locate the Ancient weapon that can destroy every living thing other than the Ancients themselves. The Jaffa are bracing themselves for the likely hopeless battle with ba’al’s forces after they fail to locate the ancient weapon. Sam and Jacob/Selmak arrive, discover the weapon, and struggle with the reluctant help of Ba’al to reprogram it to destroy only Replicators. Speaking of, the Replicators invade SGC. Meanwhile, Daniel learns to use his dormant Ancient knowledge to peer into RepliCarter’s mind to look for a way to stop them as she probes his mind for secrets. The RepliCators begin an all out assault on every paryy but Daniel. He has his hands full, so he appreciates the small blessing.

There is still a prevalent doomsday feel to “Reckoning, Part Ii,” but there is far less Biblical allegory. My apprehensions fell more that the episode was going to make the George Lucas mistake of forcing the audience to keep track of four stories at the same time. Overkill is one of the many things that killed The Phantom Menace,. the audience had to keep track of the light saber duel with Darth Maul, the Gungan v. Battle droids, Amidala’s entourage taking the palace, and Anakin’s space battle. It is too much for a person to become immersed in all of it. ’Reckoning, Part Ii” comes eerily close. There is the daniel v. RepliCarter duel, Jack defending SGC against a Replicator siege, Sam and Jacob/Selmak adapting the Ancient weapon, and the Jaffa/Ba’al/Replicator space battle. It is not wise to attempt so much going on at once, but the episode pulls it off well by making the events very different, yet connected by the same resolution--Daniel uses secrets from RepliCarter’s mind to freeze the replicator’s long enough for Sam and Jacob/Selmak to set the weapon correctly, bit at the cost of his life. That is right. Daniel dies. Again.

A stand out point is right before the ancient weapon is fired. We get to see a no dialogue montage in which we get up close and personal with the SG-1 team member at the most desperate moment of his or her situation. Daniel lay dying on RepliCarter’s ship. Teal’c is stoi as his ship is being destroyed around him. Sam is at the temple door about to be overrun by Replicators. Jack is in the same spot, but he is on the verge of calling for a nuclear strike that will irradiate a large chunk of Colorado. The montage is very quick, but it is just enough to elicit the ominous feeling from each that this is the end. When the ancient weapon activates every stargate in the Milky Way in order to shatter every Replicator into powder, it is such a contrast the previous montage, you want to stand up and cheer.

I enjoy the humor interspersed within to break the tension. Sam gets needled to come up with a miracle because she once blew up a sun. The Ancient language on the temple wall is gibberish until the stones are turned upside down. Daniel’s sly smile when RepliCarter discovers he can read her mind. Ba’al’s arrogance. Jack’s sarcasm about placing two explosives on the blast door to a room Siler is trapped within because…it is a blast door. Even the Replicators have a moment. When Daniel manages to freeze them, we shoot to a scene with Jack at SGC commenting on their sudden dead stop. In the background, you can hear a Replicator fall off a wall to punctuate Jack’s statement of surprise. Of course, the coolest Replicator moment is them storming en masse out into the gate room.

If I have any criticism, it is the implausibility that every Jaffa switches allegiance to the rebellion once the Replicators are defeated. It is doubly strange since Ba’al is pivotal to getting the weapon to work. The expressed fear from part one is Ba’al will look like a god if he can destroy the Replicators--end the divine plague, as it were. The g Goa’uld have to be defeated somehow, so I am not complaining. I am too absorbed in the Replicator defeat to fret over the anticlimactic final defeat of the Goa’uld after eight years of fighting.

“Reckoning, Part Ii” has everything but Jonas Quinn and the Furlings. I do not miss either one. You will not, either. The episode is the best of the season so far, and if what little buzz I have heard is true about the wrap up story for the Old Guard, that makes it the best of the season period. I do not doubt it, but I still anxious to see the aftermath in tomorrow’s epilogue episode.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Reckoning, Part I"

“Reckoning, Part I” looks to be the first of a two part and an epilogue “trilogy” that will spell the defeat of the Goa’uld and Replicators Obviously, that means a lot has to happen in a relatively short period of time. This being being the first part, the episode is mostly set up that has to convince a viwer to come back for more. It does so with an apocalyptic undertones. I use the term apocalyptic deliberately due to some thinly veiled biblical allegory.

The Replicators enter our galaxy and launch an all out assault on the Goa’uld. RepliCarter, renamed from Replicator Sam at the suggestion of Blog of the Nightfly, personally kills Yu, which leaves Ba’al as supposedly the last Goa’uld standing. But ba’al will not be standing for long. He does not know how to fight the Replicators. They are rapidly defeating his forces and absorbed the technology. The defeat of the Goa’uld is certain within a few weeks. Then the Replicators will turn their attention to the human populations.

The Replicators only have one obstacle in their way. Thanks to RepliCart’s ruse a few episodes back, the replicators have an immunity to the Ancient weapon that nearly destroyed them earlier, but RepliCarter fears another may be out there. She stages an ambush out in space in order to kidnap Daniel so she can pick his brain for Ancient knowledge buried in his noggin for the time he was ascended. So yes, Daniel is probably going to die. Again.

Jacob/Selmak arrives to offer Jack the lowdown on the situation. With the rRplicators looking unstoppable, many of the rebel Jaffa are considering them a plague sent to punish them from turning away from their Goa’uld gods and so are Repledging their loyalty to Ba’al. what is left of the rebellion is completely demoralized. They will be of no use unless Thor, with the help of Sam, can develop a new weapon that can defeat the Replicators. They do, but it only works once before the Replicators adapt. Conventional warfare appears doomed to failure.

I said above there are biblical undertones in much of the plot for “Reckoning, Part I.” Let me clarify that this is not Left Behind, but more of a college junior who set through a Comparative Religions class as an elective. I have already mentioned the Replicators a divine plague. It is no coincidence some of the mechanical Replicators look like flies and locusts, two of the plagues brought on Egypt in the book of Exodus. Bra’tac suggests focusing what is left of the Jaffa rebellion on conquering the holy site of Dakara. It is allegedly the planet upon which Anubis rose from the dead. No Jaffa has ever been there and survived, but with Ba’al’s forces fighting Replicators, the rebels can and do take Dakara. Meanwhile, it is revealed Anubis has ’resurrected’ into a new host. His plan is an assault on Dakara to finish off the rebel once and for all . Once that is done, Anubis will tear Dakara aprt looking for an Ancient weapon hidden there that can defeat the replicators. Daniel has inadvertently revealed the location of the weapon to RepliCarter while she posed as Oma in his mind. Daniel is the Christ figure here. He is being tortured before his inevitable death. RepliCarter is tempting him as Satan did during jesus Forty days and nights of fasting.

The big question here is who represents Satan// it is pointless to delve too deeply into the issue since the next episode should clarify the matter. I am going to call it Anubis representing Satan leading his forces in the battle of Armageddon because he wants to use the hidden Ancient weapon to destroy all life other than his own, which gels with the idea satan knows he is doomed and wants to take as many people into damnation with him as possible. RepliCarter has hints of eve as temptress hoping to lead men astray to suit her own desires. Ultimately, it look like daniel and Anubis confronting each other on a spiritual level for the final battle. All parties are converging on Dakara for the Final Battle.

If you really want to dig into Pre-Millennialist theology, The Gog and Magog of Ezekial and Revelations have been theorized as China throughout various poinrs in history. The theory gained much popularity among Christian scholars as the Mongols wreaked havoc, but has fallen out of favor by most any theologian who is not clinging to cold war paranoia. Regardless, Gog and Magog are said to be the agressors in one of the end times battles of good and evil. Draw your own conclusions about Yu’s involvement in “Reckoning, Part I.” The book of Ezekial was written centuries after the Yellow Emperor ruled China. But who is counting?

How about three lighter points of interest? One, I made a list of famous guests stars this season in the previous review without knowing Isaac Hayes was going to show up as a rebel Jaffa leader insisting the Goa’uld suck on his Chocolate Salty Balls. A inadvertent oversight on my part. Two not only do Amanda Tapping and Michael Shanks play dual roles, but they play off each other in both. Daniel is held captive by RepliCarter and Sam teams up with Thor is develop a weapon against the Replicators. Finally, this is the first time Earth, the Tok’ra, the Jaffa, and the Asgard all appear together.

“Reckoning, Part I’ does a very good job of establishing the gloom and doom of an impending hopeless battle. The powers that be managed to pack in a lot of stuff while still juggling it well. The episode stands well on its own, too. In particular, it revisits sam’s guilt over RepliCarter’s actions representing a dark, suppressed part of her own personality.

I have rambled on enough. I am on a sugar high at the moment, folks. Sugar cookies. good snacking at four AM. “Reckoning, PartI’ is one of the most intense episodes of the season. The anticipation it builds up for the conclusion is unbearably tense. I just hope the conclusion lives up to its screw tightening set up.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Citizen Joe"

“Citizen Joe” is the last clip show I will have to suffer through for Stargate SG-1. It probably is not the last blatant lift of a movie plot, but the story of an ordinary guy from Indiana alienating his family because of strange, other worldly visions is pretty much Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I do not want to sound down on “Citizen Joe.” It is much better than one might suspect at first glance. The enjoyment is largely due to Dan “Homer Simpson” Castellaneta as Joe Spencer.

Seven years ago, Jow was dragged to a yard sale by his wife where he found a stone that allegedly originated In Egypt. It is actually a goa’uld device which inadvertently connects Joe’s mind with Jack’s. Joe begins seeing visions of the SG-1 team’s adventures through jack’s eyes. He begins telling these stories, which he at first claims he has made up, to amuse family and friends, but as he shifts from telling the stories to his friends to attempting to publish them, he becomes more obsessed with them being real. During seven years of suffering these experiences, he loses his family and business. The losses put him over the edge until he feels compelled to confront the real Jack. As it turns out, both have been in proximity of Goa’uld stones, which are communication devices, and have been sharing each other’s memories. Jack offers to help patch up Joe’s fractured family by telling them the truth--Joe is not crazy.

“Citizen Joe” is a direct answer to many fan gripes over the years. Weak past episodes are mocked. Dangling plot threads like who killed Armin Selig and is Laira pregnant with jack’s child? Jonas Quinn is killed with faint praise while gushing over Daniel my favorite is the complaint by Joe‘s wife that his stories are becoming stale because the SG-1 team does not work as well together now as they once did.. Someone had spent some time reading blogs and the gate world forum before banging out the script for “Citizen Joe.”

Castellaneta’s performance makes “Citizen Joe.” There are not many shades of homer Simpson in Joe, save for a brief scene in which he is wearing a white shirt and jeans that hint at homer’s usual attire, but Castellaneta has lots of comedic talent beyond playing Homer. Joe is a likeable guy even at his most hapless and/or crazy. I suppose there is one similarity between Joe and Homer: As I said above, “Citizen Joe’ is more enjoyable than it has any right to be. I am never thrilled to see a clip show. I am usually not thrilled to see the main cast take a backseat to a bunch of one off guest characters, either, but Castellaneta soothes that irritation in a hurry. The eighth season has had an unusual number of guest stars--Steve Bacic, Erica Durance, Charles Shaughnessy, Jolene Blalock, Brandy Ledford, Claudia Black, Wayne Brady, and now Castellaneta. They have been a mied bag, and one that feels strange for what was assumed for the longest time to be the final season. At least the guest stars part of the season ends on a high note. As high as can be expected for an episode so out of place, at any rate.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Full Alert"

Ah, “Full Alert.” You are so ambiguous, yet cannot quite pull off all that you aspire to be. At least robert Kinsey earns his much deserved fate. Oh, and Heineken earns it prominent spot in product placement. It is the first one I have noticed since Krispey crème donuts were namedropped ten or so episodes back.

Disgraced former Vice President Kinsey shows up at Jack’s house to warn him the Trust, whom Kinsey with has now fallen out of favor, have a plan to use him to contact Gen. Kiseley, the head of the Russian military, through Kinsey for some nefarious purpose. Kinsey offers Jack a chance to take down the Trust. Reluctantly, Jack agrees to eavesdrop on the meeting between Kinsey and the Trust to uncover their plan, but it gets wrong when the trust kidnap Kinsey and disappear on the stolen Goa’uld ship.

In what is assumed to be a related event, the Russian military begind mobilizing. Jack sends Daniel to Russia to soothe over any ruffled feathers. He arrives to discover Kinsey has been arrested for attempting to assassinate Kiselev. He has also been implanted with a Goa’uld in order to convince the Russians the American government has been taken over by the aliens. Hence, the heightened military alert. The American respond in kind.

What is really going on here is the Trust encountered Goa’uld after they fled capture by the SG-1 team a few episodes back. The Goa’uld were not too happy about those millions of casualties from the symbiote poison the trust administered. They implanted symbiotes in every member of the trust and hatched a plan to spark off a war between the United Sates and Russia. Once the war had devastated the planet, they would take the Ancient weapon from Antarctica and use it to defeat Ba’al.

The twist is that Kiselev is a Goa’uld, too, so they only needed Kinsey to legitimize the plan, not to actually start the war. With Kinsey in Russian custody for attempted assassination. “Kiselev” has his excuse to launch a preemptive strike against the United States. The war is averted when sam notes Kiselev’s glaucoma has been cured, and that is enough to convince the Russian president he is a Goa’uld. Kiselev is apprehended, so no nukes are launched. Goa’uld Kinsey winds is blown up on the Goa’uld ship by the Prometheus, so that is that.

Seriously, that is that. The whole affair ends so abruptly, one wonders if the writing staff just gave up on it. We spend the entire episode with out heroes attempting to avoid a MAD nuclear missile attack only to have the entire matter resolved over the radio when the Russian president is convinced Kiselev is a Goa’uld because he no longer wears his glasses due to glaucoma. Naturally, a missile launch cannot happen because of that whole MAD thing, so there has to be a peaceful resolution. But the absolute last minute saving of the day, not to mention the glaucoma rationale, feels anticlimactic.

Another issue causing the episode to seem smaller than it should is that, like Ares in the previous episode, pivotal characters like Kiselev and the Russian president are never seen. Even that might not be so bad if there were minor characters who could have been cut out, such as Daniel’s interrogator, in favor of hiring an actor to play Kiselev or the prez even if it is merely to put a face with the name. Stargate SG-1 is a television show, not a stage play. The powers that be cannot just imply all sorts of actions by major players and never show any of it. Television is a visual medium.

I kind of get the feel the powers that be also wanted to give Kinsey a send off prior to wrapping up the season/series arc, but were not entirely certain how to do so. It does seem fitting that, since many of his actions against Sgc would have resulted in a Goa’uld takeover of Earth if successful he should become a host, but just blowing him up along with the Goa’uld ship is not particularly inspired. Oh, well. His character arc was going downhill anyway.

“Full alert” tries to do a lot with very little. Dangling plot threads are resolved way too quickly and conveniently. So much so that any tension built up with the looming threat of nuclear annihilation fizzles. The result pains me. I am a sucker for big doomsday stories, but this one does not deliver.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"It's Good to Be King"

Maybourne appears for the final time in an episode that feels very much like it belongs in one of the earlier seasons. A welcome feel, that. Jack rejoins the SG-1 team for an off world adventure for the first time since his promotion to general. I think “it’s Good to Be King” is the first time our heroes have battled a full-fledged System Lord off world in a while, too. At the very least, it is the first time in a while they have killed one. Like I said, it seems like old times.

The Tok’ra, whom the Sgc have apparently reconnected with sometime between episodes, have intelligence that says minor System Lords are having a difficult time battling Ba’al’s Kull army acquired from Anubis, so they are retaking minor planets once abandoned in order to regroup. One of these planets is the retirement home of Maybourne. To prevent his capture and torture, Jack reluctantly orders the SG-1 team to retrieve him. When they arrive, they discover Maybourne does not want to leave. He has used some ancient writings on ruins to predict the future. In so doing, he has set himself up as a prophet/king. He has a sweet deal going.

Daniel in particular is intrigued by the Ancient writings. They appear to be only a few hundred years old and do tell of the future, which implies the Ancient had developed time travel. After searching, they find the time travel ship. Deciding the best thing to do is take it with them, they ask Jack to come to the planet to use his ancient knowledge to fly it.

Complicating matters is Maybourne. Not only does he not want to leave, he believes in a prophecy that visitors from another world are going to defeat the Goa’uld invaders. Surely that refers to the SG-1 team. To his credit, Maybourne reconsiders when it is brought to his attention there might still be casualties. As part of convincing his people to flee, he reveals the truth about his prophecies. However, the people appreciate his other accomplishments, so they declare loyalty and willingness to fight the Goa’uld anyway.

The SG-1 team shrugs, and decides to take the time jumper while leaving Maybourne and his people to their fate. Unfortunately, system lord ares’ First Prime, Trelak, arrives before they can depart. A battle insues, which is quite exciting, with Jack using the same weapon he used on Anubis to destroy Ares’ mothership nefore we even get a look at him. Interesting that the series has gone from introducing a replicator, but giving him no lines so the actor can be paid as an extra and talking about/killing a villain no one bothers to hire an actor to play. Now that is how you handle a tight budget, no?

So where does the money go? Towards Trelak. Trelak is played by Wayne Brady. Wayne Brady does not have to choke a b*tch, but he does threaten to kill a woman for resisting to declare allegiance to Ares. I suppose that counts.

When Jack steps through the stargate, he is greeted by Maybourne and some musicians. I am quite confident the musicians play the beginning of the Macgyver theme until Jack urges Maybourne to get them to knock it off. Gooling to make certain I heard right, I discover there is some dispute. The dispute is generally because the tune is short and played on flutes. However, it looks as though most fan agree it is the MacGyver theme. Including the theme and Jack’s annoyed reaction upon hearing fit in with the general humorous tone of the episode, so I am sticking with the idea that is what is being played.

When the title of an episode references a Mel Brooks film, it is safe to say it is not to be taken too seriously. It is good advice considering some issues. It is generally assumed Maybourne will be anxious to leave the primitive world, which makes one wonder why the Tok’ra dumped him there. Perhaps they do not like him, either. What happened to the Ancient who flew the time jumper? It is doubtful he was stranded since Sam go the time jumper powered up with her Macbook and Jack could fly it. Did he retire there himself? Why write about the future events? Were the events of this episode really that big a deal? I have heard time travel plays a part in the final episodes of the season, so maybe the significance will become more obvious, but for now, one has to gloss over some stuff to get into the plot.

I can do that, however. I appreciate the classic feel to “It’s Good to be King.” They actually got all four main characters in one place at the same time! On another planet after traveling through the stargate, no less! You would almost suspect this show is still called Stargate SG-1 or something. Early on, I did not care much for Maybourne, but he has grown on me since leaving the NID. He is an amusing character who has grown in a warped sort of why. I lament this is his final appearance, but at least it is a highly entertaining send off.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Prometheus Unbound"

One of the most amusing aspects of Stargate SG-1 is that the show does not take itself too seriously. The general light hearted atmosphere works well within the universe it has created. It also makes the truly dramatic moments more poignant. With tis general feel in mind, deliberately humorous episodes tend to go overboard to the oint of obnoxious absurdity. Witness “Wormhole X-Treme” as an example of a comedic episode I could do without. But when it is done right, it is done well.

Prometheus Unbound” features the first appearance of Claudia Black as Vala. My familiarity with Black’s more famous Farscape is limited to about half a dozen episodes, so my impressions of both her and Ben Browder come mostly from Stargate SG-1 I am certainly that will make reviewing Farscape, if and when I do, an awkward experience. I get the impression Black is such a fan favorite that this episode was written specifically for her to indulge her antics. At least I hope so. If true, she will make Farscape an enjoyable view. I can see both why Vala is eventually added to the cast and there are daniel/Vala shippers out there. The two have a fun chemistry together.

Vala is a thief, liar, and manipulator who is willing to do anything thing to get what she wants. In this case, anything includes hijacking the Prometheus while stranding its crew, save for Daniel, and using it to complete a mission to acquire weapons grade naquadah from some smugglers. The plot is quite straightforward. Vala lures the Prometheus with a distress call to her stolen Goa’uld ship, transports the crew over without knowing she missed daniel, and then locks the controls for the journey to meet her thieving buddies.

The trip is full of sparring between Daniel and Vala, both verbal and physical, and with a load of sexual tension. I believe things went a little overboard on the slapstick when the two literally duke it out. The slapstick make the fight more Austin Powers and Mini Me than Teal’c and Replicator Sam from the previous episode. I am not complaining too much, mind you. Some of the shots were hilarious. It is clear Daniel and Vala’s sparring is aimed at those horny fourteen year olds dreaming of Black. At one point, she is sitting on his shoulders squeezing his head with her legs. Once he has her captured and unconscious, he changes her clothes in order to check for weapons. A bit overboard, that. At one point, Daniel carries Vala over his shoulder and runs towards the camera for a gratuitous butt shot. Again, not complaining too much, but dude. Blatant tantalizing.

The comedy is not with only the two of them. It is from every character from the beginning. Jack and Daniel have a rare for these days humorous exchange about daniel begging to go to Atlantis with jack adamantly denying him. I had all but forgotten these two were even friends any longer. Hammond shows up to not only grant daniel’s request, but have his old office chair shipped to Washington. Speaking of Hammond, there is a bit after he has risked his life to get the dead in the water Goa’uld ship his crew is stranded on operational in which he may need mouth to mouth, but the colonel near him is reluctant to perform it. His reluctance plays so much against the expected do anything necessary to save the day attitude I laughed out loud at it. I also figured it if had been vala, every man would be colliding with one another to be the one. I would probably shove a 180lb air force colonel out of the way myself for a shot at it. If there is anything I could have done without, it is Novak’s constant hiccups. I am not sure what is aimed for with that, but the constant hiccups are more annoying than funny.

I believe this is the only episode thus far that has not featured Teal’c. Christopher judge has been given far more to do this season than in seasons past. He is due a break. With all the regulars absent for the action save Daniel, “Prometheus Unbound” is yet another episode in which the team dynamic suffers. There is no stargate, either.

Overall, “Prometheus Unbound” is a good mix of comedy and drama. The two crews are in desperate danger and trying hard to rescue one another, and no matter what emphasis is put on the laughs, the urgency of the situation is not lost. Which is fortunate, since we know from the beginning the mission to reach Atlantis has to run into some obstacle or another because in cannot succeed. When you know the end is doomed to failure, the journey has to become the worthwhile aspect. With “Prometheus Unbound,” it is.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Gemini"

“Gemini” is our first look at Replicator Sam in action. You will have to excuse the Replicator Sam moniker. Fans generally call her Replicator Carter, but I have established referencing the characters by their first names. It does not feel right to stop now. What does feel right is turning Replicator Sam into the villainous driving force behind the Replicators. The development not only introduces a fearsome new antagonist, but offers a chance to explore some of the negative aspects of Sam’s nature she keeps under control.

Replicator sam makes contact with SGC claiming she has escaped from fifth, because she is so much like the real Sam, and wants to help them destroy his plan to take over the galaxy. Replicator Sam says fifth has developed an immunity to the Ancient weapon that can destroy Human Replicators Fifth, allegedly sensing her betrayal, did not make her immune, too. She wants to be destroyed rather than watch fifth be victorious. The real Sam believes she has enough of a connection to Replicator Sam to work with her in modifying the Ancient weapon against Fifth’s new defense. Nevertheless, they meet and work at the Alpha site out of mistrust and to have an excuse for Richard Dean Anderson to not appear much outside of the first act.

The twists in the plot are what truly make “Gemini” good. It is very plausible Replicator Sam is telling the truth from the beginning. She is exactly like the real Sam, and the real Sam rejected Fifth. Later, it is revealed Replicator Sam is still loyal to Fifth. He has not developed an immunity to the Ancient weapon. He wants Replicator Sam to work with her real counterpart to come up with one. There are twinges of doubt during Replicator Sam’s ruse that imply the moral aspects she possesses from the real Sam are causing her to doubt her actions. In the end, we get the ultimate twist--Replicator Sam betras fifth and SGC by developing the immunity and then killing fifth in order to take over the Replicators herself.

I will confess I did not see the final twist coming. I was expecting Replicator Sam to have a change of heart and make a noble sacrifice of herself in order to defeat Fifth. It is a relief such a corny turn of events did not come about. Replicator Sam is not only an inspired antagonist, but I like the implications for Sam. Replicator Sam is her unrestrained id. Replicator Sam does everything the real Sam wishes she could, except the real Sam does not even know these are her desires. Replicator sam knows deceit, betrayal, and desire for power without any concern or remorse. Sam realizes these negative aspects must reside within her for Replicator Sam to revel in them, and the realization troubles her. Predictably, Sam retreats into science for comfort after catching a glimpse of herself in the dark mirror.

It is interesting how we have now seen the dark side of three of the four main characters. When Daniel was given the Goa’uls genetic secrets in a dream sequence, he took over the world with them. When teal’c was revived by apophis, he took his place as Apophis’ First Prime and was prepared to commit atrocities in his name. Now Replicator Sam shows us what the real Sam would be like without a conscience. We have never seen Jack get a similar treatment. One wonders if that is because Jack allows his dark side to roam on a long leash. Considering many of the extreme, often immoral acts he has taken in the past under the rationale of the greater good as he saw it or even just following orders, the idea is a valid one. Jack is Chaotic Good, in the role playing lingo

But I digress. “Gemini” is a highly entertaining episode. In hindsight, it corrects the problem of Fifth shortcomings as a villain. Certainly, one motivated by the anger of betrayal can be a dangerous foe, but not necessarily a mastermind. Fifth is a little boy mad because an adult woman will not love him back. Replicator Sam fixes all that while demonstrating the real Sam has some extremely dark desires buried within her. Comics fans might note this storyline is similar to and is correcting the major flaw in the Onslaught storyline from the X-Men. That storyline supposedly featured Professor X’s darkest thoughts manifesting themselves in an evil being called Onslaught when it turned out to be the mind wiped Magneto returning. The fact the true villain was Magneto took away what could have been a fascinating look into the psychological make up of the “good” Professor x and turned it into a cheap super villain romp. I prefer the idea we can really explore what makes sam tick here. I hope the powers that be do not blow it.

Peter DeLuise has totally redeemed himself rom his last couple of feeble scripting efforts. “Gemini” is quite a start to the latter half of the eighth season.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Endgame"

“Endgame” is the midseason finale for the eighth season. It is the first since the series switched from Showtime to the Sci Fi Channel to not end on a cliffhanger. At first glance, one might think that adds to the lower budgeted, just limping along feel that has often cursed these first nine episodes, but there is a lot of engaging stuff in “Endgame.” some of it is for shock value, mind you, and Jack’s part had me scratching my head, but overall, ’Endgame” is an exciting, action oriented ride The episode is also jammed packed with references from past episodes from years ago.

Put on your geek hats, folks, and take a deep breath…

The stargate is beamed away in the middle of the night by technology similar to the Asgard. Assuming the Asgard would not swipe it, SGC begin looking for other clues under the assumption it was Anubis’ beaming technology that took it. Anubis’ tech needs targeting in order to work, so a review of security cameras shows a technician fiddling with the stargate days prior to its disappearance. He came from Area 51. Daniel and Sam eventually discover the Trust has paid of a scientist at Area 51 who has used Osiris’ personal transporter to locate her cloaked ship in earth’s orbit. Unfortunately, the command codes are in Ancient, because Anubis trusted no one, so the trust blackmailed Daniel into translating the codes a few episodes back. With Osiris’ ship under trust control, they swiped the Tok’ra symbiote poison and the stargate onboard the ship in order to launch the poison on numerous Goa’uld planets, killing both Goa’uld and Jaffa alike before they are stopped by the SG-1 team.

Whew. You got all that? Some of that stuff references episodes that aired four or five years prior to ‘Endgame.” Talk about geek nirvana. It reminds me of many of those marvel comics roy Thomas used to write wherein he would weave events in unrelated stories written by writers decades before into what looked like a cohesive plan decades in the making. Comics fans know what I am talking about. A dozen asterix every issues to point out comics from all over the place and calendar. Thomas made comic book store visits for back issues a very expensive prospect. But I digress.

So the heavy reliance on continuity makes my inner comic book nerd happy. What else is there? There is a lot of old fashioned action, for one. An armed raid on a warehouse full of vials of rok’ra symbiote piison, snaking aboard Osiris’ ship, a mini-chase scene with the Prometheus, and a fistfight1 when was the last time we saw one of those? Not only a fistfight, but Sam passes the most licks even with her hands tied. Can anyone explain how Daniel gets shot once and punched twice, falling to the ground each time, but his glasses never fall off? Is it his charm?

I mentioned some aspects appear there for shock value. The Trust use the stargate to send the symbiote poison to nineteen different planets before they are stopped. The deaths are said to be in the millions. The numer of casualties is dropped in such a matter of fact manner, I did a double take. An early scene in which teal‘c comes across an entire planet of dead Jaffa is the most gruesome thing I have seen in quite a while. I am hoping--an odd choice of emotion--there are realistic consequences for this action. A major plot point is Jaffa suspect the tok‘ra and want to hunt them down to extinction, but the truth of Earth’s responsibility, even if it is a rogue faction perpetrating the genocide, ought to make the planet a target. I am curious whether there will be repercussions. Without a cliffhanger ending, I have a nagging suspicion the story will slide into the background.

I also mentioned Jack’s actions are puzzling. It is his call to order the Prometheus to destroy the Trust ship. He does not want to pull the trigger because Daniel and Sam are onboard. For drama’s sake, I can appreciate his hesitance. He does not want to sacrifice his friends. But the Trust has used stolen technology to kill millions and are promising to kill millions more. Earth is quite likely to catch the blame. An Air Force general ought to make the decision to destroy the enemy ship very quickly under those circumstances. Jack cannot bring himself to do it at all. Only Teal’c’s unexpected intervention saves the day. Maybe Jack’s indecisiveness should not bug me so much, but it does. His personal feelings are clouding his better judgment.

“Endgame” is entertaining. I suspect a cliffhanger would make it more exciting first run viewing, but since nothing has to hold my attention for four months like it did back then, there is no reason to complain now. There is a lot of action finally, and even some comic relief to ease the sight of a planet wide mass grave. I particularly enjoyed watching Sam kick rear end while still tied up and she and Daniel glancing at each other smiling when they are both captured, as if to say “It is going about the same as always.” Usually, these midseason and season beginning/ending episodes kick it up enough notches to merit four or five stars. Not “Endgame,” but it is still one of the best so far in the eighth season.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Sacrifices"

Christopher Judge pens his fourth and final script for Stargate SG-1 with “sacrifices,” aka “My Big fat Jaffa Wedding.” As with other Judge scripts, it is heavy on Jaffa drama, which is the weakest aspect of the series as far as I am concerned. Nevertheless, I have generally found Judge’s treatment of the subject more engaging than the other writers. ’sacrifices” is the weakest of Judge’s efforts, but has the redemptive factor of adding some much needed action to what has frequently been a very slow season.

Teal’c and Bra’tac return from visiting the Hak’tyl Rebellion with two bits of bad news: one, the rebellion may have been compromised, and two, Rya’c is getting married to a Hak’tyl. The common element between the two is that Teal’c best advice is being ignored in both matters. Ishta, played again by Jolene Blalock believes the rebellion has grown to large to remain a secret, so the time to begin a full scale war with the Goa’uld is now. Teal’c says no, because Ba’al and his Kull warriors are still out there and unmoved by any talk of rebellion. The rebel Jaffa will eventually be slaughtered. Teal’c also believes Rya’c is too young to be married and is angry he was not consulted on the matter. Just to throw in the mind of a woman aspect, ishta is also mad teal’c is angry about the wedding because she assumes he thinks the Hak’tyl bride to be is not good enough for rya’c and that is an insult to her.

Thankfully, the drama surrounding the wedding is played for comic relief. The real story involves the Hak’tyl Rebellion being exposed to Moloc, the Goa'uld in charge, and the subsequent battle to prevent him from eliminating the Hak’tyl. The battle ends in a particularly glorious death by missile launched through the stargate which I found a particularly amusing end. Whether it is or not, I take the method as a wink to drone strikes against real terrorists by US forces. I am all for that.

What I am not all for is the Jaffa plight, particularly when it comes on the personal level of Teal’c’s family. Rya’c has never resonated with me. The teal’c/Rya’c relationship reminds me too much of Worf/Alexander, I suppose. It is not fair, but that is the way it is. I can appreciate some of the sitcom-esque issues that come up surrounding the wedding, but if had been a larger focus of the episode, ‘Sacrifices” would have been a real clunker. But we got a lot of cool fight scenes, including moloc getting blowed up good, blowed up real good, so it winds up a guy episode after all.

“sacrifices” falls under the good, but not great heading. As with Judge’s other three scripts, there are many personal indulgences wherein the cast gets to ham it up like a bunch of old friends goofing around. I am okay with that, but I do note “sacrifices’ is the least interesting of Judge’s efforts. It is still worth seeing even for one who cares naught for the Jaffa.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Covenant"

I mentioned yesterday "Covenant,” which is supposed to introduce the Trust, is aired out of order with the "second’ appearance of the trust in syndication and on DVD. I decided to go along with the syndication and DVD order since the powers that be have made no effort to correct the sequencing aside from dropping in an expository scene in “Covenant.” After watching “covenant,’ it become painfully clear someone needed to correct the sequence order somewhere down the line. Not because it makes the trusy story arc clearer, but because the trust is the only interesting part in “Covenant.” I use the term interesting in the loosest possible meaning of the term.

Alec Colson is a brilliant engineer but a bad businessman. The government has been sending his company alien technology since the SGC became operational without revealing where the tech originated. Clever fellow that he is, Colson eventually put two and two together and discovered the truth. The government really blew it when they gave him Asgard DNA to sequence to help with their cloning problem. Colson uses the DNA to create a cloned Asgard.

The clone is not the big deal. It is about two fries short a Happy Meal, so Colson allows minimal media contact so it will not droll on reporters’ shoes during an interview. In fact, with the help of Thor, Sam goes on television to discredit Colson with her own “fake” Asgard. The real problem is Colson has photos of Anubis’ attack on Earth, the Prometheus etc. neither the government, who wages a public relations war, nor the trust, who wage an actual war, want him to reveal what he knows for their own reasons. Colson is finally sent to the Alpha site for his own protection.

Does all that sound boring? It should, because it is. There is no purpose to “Covenant” other than to introduce the Trust, and their introduction has already happen thanks to network scheduling. I will grant an effort is made to present Colson--the focal point of the episode--a sympathetic chater, but I do not buy into it. He was motivated to become an aerospace engineer because his wife and daughter died in a plane crash, but he is also on a holy crusade to reveal the existence of aliens even after he is warned other planets have descended into civil war once they learned what the stargate is. How do those two points combine to tell you anything about the guy? I do not know, but they are apparently supposed to do so. I could not even find my heartstrings tugged when his best friend committed suicide out of fear the Trust would kill him and his family in their vendetta against Colson.

In an episode that is devoid of action, one needs to become immerse in the drama. That just does not happen here. There is potential. What if the SGC was forced to kill Colson in order to keep him silent? They would have to struggle with the dilemma of committing an immoral act in for the greater good. For a moment, I thought sich what come to pass after sam introduced Colson to thor, the stargate, and the Alpha site without moving him at all towards the value of keeping all of it a secret from the public. Alas, they take him off world and that is the end of the problem. It is very unsatisfying.

I spent most of the episode attempting to come up with parallels between Alec Colson and Richard Branson, who I assume the character is loosely based upon. Both were born in England, both naturalized citizens of the united states, and bother have airlines. I had no choice but to come up with a game to amuse myself. “covenant’ is heavy on rambling dialogue and low on points of interest. Even the Teal’c wallpaper moment in which he comes in, speaks a line of dialogue that could have spoken by anyone or not all at, and disappears is even more conspicuous than usual.

“Covenant” is very unsatisfying. Those folks in the writers room are just phoning it in this season. The cast looks every bit as bored as I must. They must know this episode is not working from the get go.

Rating: * (out of 5)