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)

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