Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Icon"

“Icon” delves into an issue one would think should realistically be more prevalent--how does the arrival of SGC teams on a planet effect that planet’s people culturally? Consider also the moral dilemma, which is not dealt with a extensively in ‘Icon” as one might hope, of the responsibility SGC has if the effect is disastrous?

The SG-1 team arrives on Tegalus to discover the stargate is a museum piece which from ancient religion. Most people have long since abandoned the religion, but there is a group of fanatics lead by a true believer named Soren who have not. The SG-1 team’s arrival serves to confirm the fanatics’ beliefs and sell their numbers. The new situation adds to an already tense Cold War between the Rand Protectorate, where the stargate is located, and Caladonia.

Daniel spends a month attempting to broker a truce between all sides, but fails when Soren and his followers seize a missile site in the Rand Protectorate. Caladonia attacks the missile sites to keep them from firing, and a mutually assured destruction scenario is underway. Only a quarter of the planet’s population survives. Soren seizes control over what is left of the Rand Protectorate, including the stargate. In all the chaas, Daniel is severely wounded and goes missing for months. When Daniel finally makes contact, he devises a plan for a joint operation to retake the stargate while what is left of the Rand Protectorate’s forces defeat Soren.

The plot is quite straightforward. Almost to straightforward, actually. The themes of the morality of interfering in other cultures and the dangers of religious fanaticism are either glossed over or done so superficially as to be laughable. Daniel is naturally angst over the trouble the SG-1 team’s arrival has caused, and he is the only one. Jack in particular flippantly states this sort of thing can happen every time they step through the stargate. So does that mean the SGC’s mandate is more important than any other planet’s interests/ maybe, but the question is not really explored. All we do note is that Jack is willing to go along with daniel’s plan to attack Soren’s bunker knowing full well it will result in a change in political power on top of rescuing Daniel. This is a point which at least a tacit admission SGC needs to clean up the mess it inadvertently made, although Daniel is assured by his Rand Protectorate allies this war was inevitable. Ergo, our heroes are supposed to have a clean conscious.

The hardest part to swallow is how Soren’s religious fanaticism is portrayed. Most notably, his followrrs are reluctant to defend the bunker against the Sgc and Rand Protectorate army invasion. One assumes these people are Soren’s inner circle--the true believer elite. They have just been a party to genocide in the name of their gods. They were, two acts previous, requesting weapons in exchange for finding Daniel so they could purge the Caladonian heathen. That is religious fanaticism done plausibly--any act of brutality in the name of a god is justified. Suddenly going weak kneed is not. What it is is a convenient way to end the episode by leaving soren alone and helpless to be killed. Awfully convenient, methinks.

What “Icon” lacks in substance, it makes up for in style. Chalk it up to me being a world War II history buff, but the sets, costumes, and atmosphere give off a distinct vibe of the era. I like the feel established here better than the one on Langara and it was intended to actually be a society circa the 1940’s. “Icon’ does a lot with very little. The CGI missile attack which wounds Daniel is quite good for a low budget show. The isolated, serene country house he recovers in over the months adds to the feeling that civilization has been destroyed, so th few survivors have gone back to basics. The cramped, dark bunker says ominously the leadership is trapped. The end is coming soon. So “Icon” definitely has the setting done properly.

Your mileage may vary, but the moody atmosphere is enough to elevate “Icon” over some story flaws. The episode certainly is not a masterpiece, but its finer points keep it out of the gutter. What is interesting is how little of the episode involves the main characters. They are largely being buffeted by the drama from the guest characters who take center stage. I am certain not every Gater appreciates that, but it works pretty well, all things considered.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

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