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)

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