Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Lost City, Part II"

“Lost City, Part II” serves as the seventh season finale. It is the largest finale we have seen in Stargate SG-1 thus far. For me, it has capped off a rise in quality for a season that seemed rather small up until the last half dozen or so episodes. There is a lot to like here, from poignant character moments to slam bang action full of fantatic CGI work.

As Jack further loses himself to the Ancient knowledge taking over his mind, he inadvertently offers up the stargate address of the Lost City location in the crossword puzzle Sam bet him he could not finish. Teal’c and Bra’tac borrow a ship under the condition the owner be allowed to come along and they head off to the planet as president Henry Hayes braces for an attack from Anubis’ assembled fleet.

What stands out is how the SG-1 team is not really the center of the action until the final act, yet “Lost City, Part II” is riveting anyway. Minor characters step to the challenge. I think watching William Devane play the cowboy President Hayes taunting the Anubis hologram in the Oval Office will wind up one of my favorite scenes of the series, if not the favorite. Maybe it is the absurdity of the moment that hooks me. Elizabeth weir finally grows a backbone and realizes there are enemies at the literal gate. That is the Weir with whom I am familiar I hope Torri Higginson assumes the role immediately. Hammond goes out as a regular character with a bang as the captain of the Prometheus ready to ram Anubis’ ship in a last ditch effort to save Earth. If there is any steady complaint I have about this show, it is that Hammond is underutilized as an proactive character.

While secondary characters take center stage, the SG-1 team is no slouch. There are some really good character moments between them, like Daniel expressing regret he did not download the Ancient knowledge into his brain, Jack flippantly resigning from the Air force so Sam can say she loves him, and a further gone Jack silently expressing his camaraderie for Teal’c were all great. They came in the midst of classic Stargate SG-1 adventure of exploring an exotic planet for alien technology to save Earth.

My favorite running bit is Jack’s demeanor as he further loses himself. It is funny that in a season in which we have seen less and less of him, it is the diminishing Jack that is interesting here. He goes about much of the episode knowing exactly what to do in every situation, but not undrstanding any of it. It has a nifty MacGyver vibe, actually, as he jerry rigs a way to make the ship go faster, takes the power generator from the planet’s Ancient device to use on the real device buried under the ice of Antarctica, and uses it to destroy Anubis’ fleet with a nifty energy weapon. Wholigans will no doubt compare the scenario to Rose Tyler’s destruction of the Dalek fleet in the first series finale of the revived Doctor Who. jack has her beat by over a year, so take that, Ms. Tyler.

Speaking of the destruction of Anubis’ fleet, it is one of many great CGI sequences. The most impressive is the battle between the US Air Force and Anubis fighters over Antarctica. The battle is done just right with a couple shots of armadas firing at each other to get a sense of the intensity rather than the George Lucas tendency to fill every inch of the screen with too much kinetic energy going on far too long. Oftentimes, less truly is more. The set design of the Ancient devices and the brief battle with Kull Warriors to buy Jack time to do his thing were impressive, too.

If there is any disappointing aspect, it is that certain scenes teleraph they were rewritten because of an impending eighth season. Bra’tac is mortally wounded in a fight with the ship’s owner when he turns out to be loyal to Anubis. Jack suddenly has healing powers to restore him to full health. As there is virtually no reason for Bra’tac to be in the rest of the episode, it is clear he was supposed to die. Jack’s healing him is awfully contrived. The overall confrontation with Anubis comes across as subdued because Earth’s population must remain unaware of the existence of aliens. Ergo, Anubis does not attack New York and London as you would expect in an epic adventure, but concentrates on Antarctica where no one will ever know there was a battle between humans and aliens it is kind of cheap, as is Anubis destroying an entire naval carrier fleet off screen. .Seeing that would have emphasized theutter destruction Earth faces. The biggie is, of course, Jack surely would have died a hero rather than be placed in stasis for a cliffhanger instead. But, hey--we get more Stargate SG-1 because of these changes, so who is complaining?

A couple of trivia points to mention. The real Air Force Gen. John J. Jumper srs as himself in the episode. He gets several lines of dialogue and also reacts when the Anubis hologram shows up in the Oval Office. Jumper is clearly not a trained actor, but he does not detract from the scenes at all. He looks like he is having a good time taking the battle to the aliens. The military does love this show, do they not? The other point is a bit of retroactive continuity--Lt. Col. Cam Mitchell, who joins the SG-1 team in the ninth and tenth seasons, lead the Air Force armada against Anubis’ forces in Antarctica, although that is not established unil the ninth season.

“Lost City, Part II" deserves high praise all around. The script is tight, the characters spot on, the ction is exciting, and the cliffhanger, which let us face it, is Han Solo frozen in carbonite with a heartbroken Sam standing in for Princess Leia vowing to free Jack, compels one to come back for more every bit as much as we waite impatiently for Return of the JedI all those years ago.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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