Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Dominion"

“Dominion” revisits both the Adria and Ba’al dangling plot threads in order to give them a sense of closure. Not that I completely does so. The resolution is open to interpretation, which leads one to suspect the powers that be were either uncertain there would be any subsequent movies or had no idea what they were going to do with the movies as this point and wanted to keep their options open. Whichever, the case, the result is “dominion” feeling anemic.

Our heroes hatch a plan to capture Adria by implanting false memories in Vala of her being booted from Sgc as a potential threat in order to convince her to go along with Vala’s plan to find this mythical treasure that everyone seems interested in finding. The SG-1 team has set up an ambush, but Ba’al’s forces get the drop on them. He kidnaps Adria and plans to put his symbiote within her in order to take over the ori forces.

Adria is rescued by the SG-1 team. When they discover Ba’al is within her, they hatch another plan to switch him out with a tok’ra and have her order the Ori forces to stand down. See, placing a symbiote into a person unwillingly in order to control her power is bad when the villain does it, but fantastic when the heroes do. Many shades of grey here, folks.

The procedure does not work. The symbiote fatally poisons adria as it is being removed. Our heroes decide to euthanize her, but she recovers enough to fight them off and ascend. To make matters worse, the symbiote may have escaped. Or maybe not. As I said above, no one knows what it means for adria to have ascended or the symbiote’s fate. The deal is if we never see them again, they are kaput. If movies are made featuring Adria and Ba’al, then they are fine. It is well known now they do reappear in the subsequent films, so what is the re-watch value of ‘Dominion.” There is definitely some entertaining elements, but a better sense of closure would have been advised. Just in case, you know?

“Dominion” is especially gruesome. Vala is given false memories of her friends betraying and threatening to lock her up in Area 51 forever. It is part of a plot to capture and kill Adria, whom I remind you is her daughter. When cam confronts Vala over how she feels about killing Adria, she expresses no emotions about killing her child. Indeed, Vala attempts to shoot her before she can ascend. Ba’al mass murders his clones and Jaffa before carrying out his plan to blend adria with his symbiote. Cam kills a Ba’al by shooting him multiple times in the chest. The blood splatter is unusually grotesque for this show. When the surgery fails, the Tok’ra symbiote dies without Adria as a host. Its death is almost an afterthought as far as the characters are concerned. “Dominion” takes Stargate SG-1 for a serious turn towards the dark side.

It is definitely a dark episode, but there are enough interesting twists, good action sequences, and occasional jokes to make it entertaining. Alex Levine drafted an extremely angry script, but at least the penultimate episode of the series is about something rather than filler before the final episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Family Ties"

If you wanted to cast an actor to play Vala’s smarmy, crooked con man father, who better than Fred Willard? It is ironic to review “Family Ties” only a few days after Willard was arrested for alleged lewd conduct in an adult theater. not to segue too much from the review or to condone Willard’s alleged actions, but the Pee Wee Herman question must be asked--what do you expect from adult theater patrons? It is nice to know crime is at such a low rate, cops have nothing better to do than sit in an adult theater and arrest viewers for 8ahem8 getting into it. Willard is 78 years old, too. Truly a dangerous man, no?

Moving passed the real world intrusion, Willard plays Jacek, Vala’s con man farher whom she has not seen in years. He contacts SGC with intel about a doomsday attack planned on earth by Arkad loyalists. They have four naquadah laden ships with whih they plan very large, nuclear bomb level explosions at targets on Earth. Jacek will reveal the ship’s location if he is given sanctuary on Earth. His intel checks out when one of the ships is right where he said it would be and its destruction results in a very large kaboom. Jacek is granted sanctuary, but cannot resist going back to his scamming ways. Nor can he reconnect with Vala.

The entire seeking sanctuary bit is a scam itself. He is in league with some of the Jaffa to steal the naquadah that is going to be used to destroy Sgc, sell it, and split the money with them. The SG-1 team scams Jacek instead so they can take the real ship carrying the naquadah and prevent the impending terrorist attack.

“Family Ties” certainly qualifies as filler. Not very good filler at that. While I have no complaints about Willard--he is perfect casting for Jacek--most of the episode is too weird and pointless to be enjoyable. It feels like the powers that be started with the novelty of Willard playing Vala’s father before coming up with a reason for that to happen. There are a few bittersweet moments, such as Vala opening her memory chest to put a necklace Jacek gave her along with the other gifts he has given her since childhood, but the bits like that are not enough to elevate “Family Ties” beyond frivolous filler.

I am disappointed by that. There is a running theme about absentee fathers reconciling with family as Landry does the same with his ex-wife and daughter, but it just does not resonate like it should. The episode would have been more sentimental if the tone had been a little more serious. I think the script is not good enough to hit the right tones. Too much emphasis on Jacek antics, maybe?

One cannot help but think because of the in jokes taking jabs at the Sci Fi Channel for cancelling the series, including mocking the network’s ingratitude and naming its replacement Eureka, the cast and crew are merely phoning it in at this point. Funny, I would think after ten years they would be relieved to move onto other jobs. Perhaps their emotional attachment to the series is greater than I think. Or maybe they are speaking out loud what the fans are thinking. Whichever the case, it is sad to see the end finally come.

It is not necessarily fair to mention a previous episode when judging the current one, but I must note that I was right about the events of the previous episode having no lasting impact. The SG-1 team maintains its strong bond even though Teal’c ran off last episode on a quest of torture and murder for revenge that lead him into physical combat with his friends. Not only is everything fine, but Tealc’s two largest scenes in “Family Ties”--taking a jab at Jacek and inadvertently attending The Vagina Monologues---are played for laughs. Strange, considering Arkad’s plot to attack Earth is a r reminder of the previous episode.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Talion"

“Talion,” which is a word derived from latin and means eye for an eye justice, is another in a fairly long strong of Teal’c seeking revenge episodes. In this case, he is hunting down a Jaffa named Arkad whom had Teal’c’s mother killed after Apophis’ army defeated his in battle. The subject matter is extremely unpleasant, as is the larger plot which puts Earth in potential jeopardy and the rest of the SG-1 team pitted against teal’c. all of this occurs within heavy handed post-9/11 allegory. In other words, pretty much everything Stargate SG-1 does badly.

The Illac Renin, a rebel faction of Jaffa devoted to Origin, plant several bombs at a Jaffa peace conference. The bombs kill 32 men, women, and children. Teal’c and Bra’tac are among the wounded. Teal’c suspects his old enemy Arkad, who has become a devout follower of origin, is behind the attack. He now has the perfect excuse to hunt down and murder Arkad. Teal’c has always suspecting Arkad of having his mother killed, but could never prove it. When Landry refuses to get SGC involved in the hunt without solid proof of Arkad’s responsibility, Teal’c goes off on his own.

His efforts to locate Arkad involve the gruesome torture and killing of various associates. Meanwhile, Arkad requests a meeting with SGC to discuss the matter of Illac Re nin stockpiling weapons fro a planned attack on Earth. Arkad says he can use his influence to stop the Illac Renin, but he wants SGC to stay out of Jaffa affairs, particularly when it comes to origin. It is well known Arkad is in charge of Illac Renin and is planning the attack on earth himself, but without proof, the SGC has to play along. Worse, the SG-1 team is ordered to retrieve teal’c before he can kill Arkad to avoid Earth being blamed for the murder.

The above plot outline may not be very clear in terms of post 9/11 allegory. Try this: The bombing of the summit is 9/11. The Illac Renin is the radical Islamic Taliban. Teal’c is using the attack by the Illac Renin to pursue a personal vendetta again Arkad without solid proof he is associated with the Illac renin. It is much like the assertion by Iraq War critics Bush 43 used 9/11 as an excuse to settle the ’family” vendetta” against Saddam Hussein. Hussein was even behind a plot to assassinate Bush 41 back in 1993 in similarity to Teal’c’s mother being killed. Teal’c abandons his general principles to torture and kill allies of arkad in the same way water boarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques are used against terror suspects at Gitmo. Mercy, at one point, cam even quips about planting WMD on Arkad to justify killing him before he and the Ullac Renin can attack Earth. The allegory to post-9/11 American foreign policy is glaring.

I am not certain that is even the worst of it. Seeing Teal’c battle his teammates when they block him from getting to Arkad is unsettling. I understand Teal’c is fired up about his mother, but he crossed the line way too far. The writers know it, too. The episode ends not only with cam lying to Landry about what really happened in order to make talc’s killing of Arkad heroic, but Bra’tac calls Teal’c the son he never had. The former is a way of burying the mess the episode made of Teal’c’s character and his relationhip with his friends. The latter let the episode end on a warm note in the hope we will forget all the unpleasant business we have just witnessed.

Neither does the trick. No one really gets off looking good here, but teal’c fares the worse. Not only does he murder in cold blood, he assaults his friends to whom he has loyally fought beside for a decade. You cannot just fix that by the next episode as though nothing happened. I do not care if cam is willing to lie to protect his friend. The emotional bonds have to be at least cracked. There is also the matter of Arkad killing Teal’c’s mother because a planetary bombardment lead by Teal’c killed his entire family. Teal’c was a military commander following orders when he committed the act while Arkad sent an assassin to murder his mother in cold blooded revenge, but neither has a good excuse for their actions and every reason to hate the other. All things considered, “Talion” is promoting the adage that an eye for an eye leaves us all blind. What a disturbing way to prove it true.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Bad Guys"

“Bad Guys” is one of Stargate Sg-1’s love it or hate it episodes. Our heroes get caught up in a comedy of errors which snowballs from bad to worse. In order to survive, they have t o play the bad guys, as the title suggests. Many of the out of character moments are a bit jarring, and the Die Hard homage goes overboard in places, but I laughed out loud at a couple gags. There is something to be said for that.

The SG-1 team, sans Sam, travel to a planet in search of the treasure Athena was seeking a few episodes back. They wind up in a museum rather than a pyramid like they were expecting. They decide to beat a hasty retreat when it is discovered there is a party full of people next door, but the Dhd device turns out to be a replica. They have to wait until SGC checks in six hours from now in order to receive a way to dial home.

Our heroes do not get to lay low as they planned. Two partygoers wander into the museum gallery and discover them. Assuming the intruders are up to no good, the partygoers scream, causing a panic that ends in a shootout. Our heroes inadvertently wind up taking hostages when they are mistaken for political reels. They have to play the part with the help of a museum employee named Cicero in order to stall for the time to either be contacted or figure out a way to power the stargate. Making matter worse is a gung ho security guard who acts like an overenthusiastic mall cop and a national leader willing to sacrifice the hostages in order to score a much needed victory over the rebellion.

The humor comes largely from Daniel, who is placed in charge of both the hostages and the negotiations. He is terribly out of his element, and it shows. The bumbling security guard predates Paul Blart: Mall Cop by two years, but the jokes are the same. Actor Alistair Abell even resembles a skinnier Kevin James. Is Paul Blart: Mall Cop screenwriter Nick Bakay a Gater, or is there nothing new under the sun? Of course, the movie is not all that great, and neither is “Bad Guys.” While I did laugh a couple times, most of the jokes are predictable. Our heroes acting out of character is very jarring. I cannot decide which is worse--Daniel screeching at hostages who have gotten on his nerves or Cam and Teal’c fitting into their bad guy rebel roles a bit too easily.

Do not take my word for it. No less than Michael shanks himself has publicly critiqued “Bad Guys” for it quality. Specifically, he was upset with how Daniel came across. The word is the episode is heavily edited. Up to 22 minutes hit the cutting room floor which might have made sense of certain twists in character personality. But I cannot rate what might have been. I can only judge what made it to the screen.

I am actually not too critical of “Bad Guys.” It is actually a great episode if you do not take it too seriously. I would rather watch it again than other comedy episodes like “Wormhole X-treme” or “200“. I chalk up the warped charascterizations to Ben Browder, who earns a story by credit. Often episodes written by the actors are more self-indulgent than consistent with what has gone before. The bottom line is I liked certain elements to not get uptight about the parts that miss the mark.

The West Wing fans should note regular cast members Josh Malina and Ron Canada makes appearances as Cicero, the museum employee who aids the SG-1 team, and Quartas, the head of security forces ready to storm the museum, respectively. The two play more interesting characters than the usual guest stars, so there is that.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Bounty"

“Bounty“ is Stargate SG-1 meets Gross Pointe Blank. I was expecting the episode to be such a silly, heavy-handed parody that I was not going to like it. It turns out to be a lot of fun. Goofy, yes, but we are nearing the end of the series. Everyone is bound to be a little loopy.

After the SG-1 team destroys a shipment of the highly addictive kassa kernels, Netan puts a bounty on their heads. Every bounty hunter worth his salt pursues the team as they go their separate ways for downtime. Daniel is hit on in a library by a female bounty hunter who is fatally struck by a bus before she can haul him in. Teal’c survives an attempt on his life while on Chulak and defeats his would be assassin. Sam kills a sniper who attempts to kill her at an expo at which she is demonstrating Chimera, the holographic technology used to project thor in “Covenant.’ It is dumb luck the sniper happened to aim for her holographic projection.

The bulk of the story centers on cam returning to Kansas for his twentieth high school reunion with Vala in tow as a favor to her. Bounty hunters converge on the reunion and cause mayhem until the rest of the SG-1 team shows up. They ’surrender,” but turn out to be holograms. When they capture the bounty hunter, they plant the seed in his head that Netan now looks pitifully weak since he has failed again. He is going to big a big prize to bag now. The episode ends with Netan being shot, so we have a plausible end to the Lucian Alliance threat as well, though they can continue on plausibly, too. This wrapping up loose ends is not a definite business, no?

“Bounty” is a light hearted episode best taken not too seriously. You are mostly supposed to enjoy Claudia Black in a midriff, Daisy Dukes, and a risqué formal dress. I do, by the way. The episode is like cotton candy. Enjoyable, but not much to it. Did I mention Black in a midriff, Daist Dukes, and a risqué formal dress? Because that is important.

I know these two points are picking nits, but that is what I do best. Cam is an Air force brat, so he has moved around a lot with his father’s job. I am going to assume the series is not implying he grew up in Kansas with that thick Southern accent. But why did they not set the episode in Tennessee where Ben Browder is from? It would not have made a big difference story wise, but the question of how an obviously Southern boy is from Kansas could have been avoided. The second point is the absence of popular music from 1987. I think rock and roll died about 1989, so I long for the music of the era. Color me disappointed the powers that be did not fork over the cash for Billy Vera’s “At This Moment” or Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t we Almost Have It All” instead of an 80’s twinged simple melody of the Stargate SG-1 theme. For the last dance of the evening. Oh, well. It is not a huge deal. Neither is “Bounty,” but it is fun enough to overcome its flaws.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Shroud"

I am not particularly familiar with all the behind the scenes lore involved in the making of Stargate SG-1, so I am merely going on intuition when I describe how I feel about the purpose of ‘The Shroud.” If anyone knows more, feel free to speak up in the comments to set me straight. I am not a big fan of speculating why certain episodes turn out the way they do, but I cannot help it with ’the shroud.”

Okay, all that is really obtuse. The deal is “The Shroud” feels like an anticlimactic rush job to make a satisfactory conclusion to the Ori story while still leaving iopen the possibility they are still out there as a potential menace. I am not certain of the correlation between the conception/creation of “The Shroud’ and the announcement there would be no eleventh season. Was ’the Shroud” thrown together to offer up some sense of closure after the cancellation announcement? Was it written because a movie or two to conclude the story was not carved in stone? Was ’the shroud” planned this way all along regardless? The only would help me decide how lenient I should be on it.

The SG-1 team finally finds Daniel. Adria has made him into a Prior under the assumption he can convert earth to Origin. His former teammates decide to kidnap him in order to gauge what has really happened to him. Once Daniel is in their hands, he reveals this was all part of his plan. He wanted to become a prior so he could steal the ship carrying the Sangraal into the Ori galaxy and use it to destroy them. But he needs the wormhole keeping the super gate open to be shut down. Daniel claims he can be trusted because Merlin’s essence has prevented the conversion to Prior from taking full effect, but his friends cannot bring themselves to trust him. Bringing down the wormhole could allow an entire fleet in.

Worse yet, Woolsey shows up to announce the International Oversight Committee wants Daniel executed while his new powers are under control. The IOC has the power to order executions. That is…uncomfortable. The irony hwar is the role reversal. Daniel wanted to execute Khalid, Anubis’ genetically engineered, half-ascended “son” while Woolsey wanted to keep him alive for study. As it turned out, Daniel was right, but Woolsey’s refusal cost the lives of a number of air force personnel when Khalid nearly escaped. The issue is pretty much glossed over here as Daniel is right yet again. He gets to be right because Michael Shanks is listed in the opening credits.

Daniel escapes at the same time the SG-1 team decides they are going to execute his plan without him so they can eliminate the possibility of his betrayal. He winds up stealing the ship with the Sangraal anyway and, upon convincing jack to order the wormhole shut down, sends the ship into the Ori galaxy. It is let open ended whether the Sangraal actually worked, so maybe the ori are dead, maybe they are not. Regardless, four more ships full of soldiers enter the Milky Way through the super gate.

“The Shroud” is supposed to be an epic conclusion to the Ori story in the same way the defeat of the Replicators and Anubis were back in the eighth season. Richard Dean Anderson even reprises his role as jack just for the same of having Jack in the episode. There is nothing he did here that could not have been done by Landry. I am not irritated Jack is in the episode, mind you. He is still my favorite character. But he is not given anything character specific to do. He is there just to mark the episode as monumental. Unfortunately, it is not as monumental as one would hope.

“The Shroud” is not bad, but it has a definite feel that the Ori storyline needs to end now, but wait…we may be able to make a movie with them as villains. What it boils down to is the feeling this will do as an ending, but I definitely wanted something more definitive. Why bring back Jack just to be a warm body? Sure, he spars with daniel a bit like old rimes, but there is nothing special about him showing up. There is not even a hin the and sam actually are an item to satishy the shippers. The bottom linne is what ought to be one of the best episodes of the season, if not series, is not much better than a decent arc episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Road Not Taken"

I am a sucker for alternate universe stories. Stargate SG-1 has done a good job with them in the past, so I was anticipating “The Road Not Taken.” Oh, well. It is easily the worst of these kind of episodes in the show’s run. So much for saving the best for last. There are a couple things that blow it. One is the heavy handed social commentary. If Stargate SG-1 has a major shortcoming, it is when the rare occasions when the show gets preachy. The other is the anticlimactic ending. I suspect the powrrs that be knew the episode was weak, because they put Amanda tapping’s cleavage on prominent display as a distraction.

Wen Sam performs an experiment with Arthur’s Mantle in an effort to boost it range to cover the entire planet, another Sam in a parallel universe is simultaneously performing an experiment to draw energy away from alternate realities. Our Sam is accidentally drawn into the alternate reality. Hey, it happens. The alternate reality diverged from ours at the point of Anubis’ invasion. The SG-1 team was not able to locate the ZPM before the rest of the world discovered the existence of the stargate program. More importantly, the ori are overrunning the Milky Way and are a direct threat to Earth. Sam agrees to continue alternate Sam’s work on a defense if SGC will help her get home. Sam is able to get Arthur’s Mantle to hide her in the face of an Ori invasion, and becomes a worldwide celebrity.

It is at this point the episode collapses. Landry is improbably the president of the United States. Since the revelation of the Stargate program, the public rioted and forced him to declare martial law. President Landry has continued his grip on the country, suppressing civil liberties and suspending elections to make himself president for life. He is even using alien technology to battle “terrorist” dissent around the world. He promotes sam’s heroism as a way of propping up his own power. Sam, who is an idealist, does everything she can to resist his plan to use her.

What we have here is some thinly veiled commentary on the united state’s reaction to 9/11 by way of the Patriot Act, indefinite detentions at Gitmo, Tsa pat downs and other usual suspects. The actions of the alternate United states are exaggerated for the sake of drama, but the message is clear--there will always be an enemy to protect the American people from, but trading fredom for security is unacceptable.

I agree with the sentiment, do not get me wrong. I am the guy who thinks everyone in Aurora, Colorado should have gone to the movies this weekend just to prove people like James Holmes cannot stop use from living our lives. But “The Road not Taken” presents the point with such a heavy hand that it ruins the episode. There is no drama outside of that message. The Ori attack on Earth is a brief scene with very little dramatic build up. Sam’s return to our reality is done off camera by Rodney McKay with such a nonchalant effort there is never any real fear Sam will never make it home. The message that the united states is sacrificing its freedoms for security while violently quelling enemies foreign and domestic is the entirety of the episode. It would have been an annoying jab against the Bush administration had “The Road Not Taken” aired in 2002 or 2003. But in 2007 when the election to replace Bush is in full swing, it is ridiculously late to the party as well.

It is neat to see Hammond back as a character for the final time in the series. I will admit it is chilling to see Cam channeling Ron Kovic as a paraplegic veteran who has suffered for opposing Landry. But those two elements do not save the episode. Neither does Tapping’s admittedly…assets, which are definitely on display. Blatantly, in fact. She she not be wearing a military dress uniform to the dinner party instead? A uniform would not show off her boobs, though, right? You can easily skip this one without missing a thing.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Line in the Sand"

“Line in the Sand’ is another winner of an episode in spite of some glaring flaws. I am most struck personally by the repudiation of Origin as the anti-Christian allegory it has been advertised--at least to me--to be. In fact, I have actually come to appreciate the message the powers that be are conveying with it.

The SG-1 team, sans Daniel, returns from a successful test run of Arthur’s Mantle to discover they need to put the device in action ahead of schedule. A Prior has visited a planet once ruled by the Goa’uld and given them two days to convert or else. The SG-1 team arrives ahead of the deadline to hide the village via Arthur’s Mantle by keeping it out of phase with its surroundings. The device to work for a time, but a power surge causes the village to reappear just as the Ori forces invade.

There is an impressive firefight between the villagers and Vala before the place is overrun. Sam suffers a staff weapon blow to the abdomen. In terrible pain, she is still able to direct cam to hook up Arthur’s Mantle enough to hide the building they are in. Tomin, who is in command of the army, takes Vala up to their ship in order to convert her to Origin. The rest of the episode becomes a race for cam to keep Sam alive long enough the Ori.

“Line in the Sand” presents the Ori as a combination of Islam and some of the twisted sects of Christianity like the Westboro Baptist Church. It is much like Islam with its Origin or destruction philosophy similar to the Koran or sword method of mass conversions said to historically be a miracle of enlightenment by Muslims, though reality is a wee bit different. The twisted Christian sects allegory is a bit more subtle. Tomin, for instance, is a good guy who genuinely believes Origin is a properly moral religion. There have been hints before the Book of Origin is a decent book of morals. It has only been perverted by religious leaders. For instance, Daniel attempted to sway the initial Ori invasion force by quoting a verse forbidding violence against your neighbor. In “Line in the Sand,” Tomin begins to separate the Book of Origin from the Prior’s false interpretation when he realizes the Prior is quoting verses about forgiving from straying from the path, but justifies destroying the village instead. So what we have is not quite the Bible is evil mantra that has been kinda sort hinted at before.

Just to reinforce the point, Sam is certain she has been mortally wounded. She begins to discuss with cam her beliefs about God. She has spent most of her adult life immersed in science, but now wonders not only if there if god exists, but will He find her worthy. It is a outside looking in view of Christianity that a belief in God is enough to enter heaven--even Satan believes God exists, folks--but I appreciate the effort. To his credit, Cam offers words of wisdom from his famously devout Christian grandmother. The notion that Christianity is not inherently evil, nor is it only for the ignorant, is at least entertained.

A past episode showed “RC” on Sam’s dog tag, which means she is officially Catholic. Jack’s says “RC” as well, but it is clear he believes the Bible to be myths and outright lies. I have always assumed Sam to be an agnostic. She seems like the true type who needs proof, but would be willing to accept god exists if cogent proof is offered. Daniel is probably an atheist, but one who tolerates religious belief as the biggest influence on cultural development. One assumes he has no objection to Christianity’s mark on the western world. Teal’c has spoken of the Christian god’s benevolence. It appears then that Jack is the only hostile main character, and he is an equal opportunity scoffer, so no big deal there.

All right. That was a weird tangent, but quite relevant considering the main theme of Stargate SG-1 is who or what is worthy of worship. Well, that and the United states military liberates people from tyranny on this planet and any other. You do not see that said much in popular entertainment these days.

I like “Line in the Sand,” but there are a couple issues. One, lines about daniel’s abduction were cut for time, so his ansence is barely noted. It is not a huge issues, since I do not expect the rest of the team to sit around moping about it, but it is still odd to gloss over it that much. Two, sam’s wound is presented terrible unrealistically. She gets shot by a laser in the left side of her lower abdomen. There is a exit wound through the small of her back. Since the beam forcibly tore through her like a projectile, she should have lost half her colon upon entry and her left kidney upon exit. As one who has lost half his colon due to a diverticulitis rupture that required such immediate surgery, I was in the operating room before anyone told me what was about to be operated on. Sam should have died instantly. Instead, she not only survives with colon and kidney intact, she is sampling a gift of macaroons presumably only days after returning to SGC. That is a Hollywood injury to a main character for you. It is sweet, though, how much Cam and sam are bonding emotionally.

In spite of sam’s miracle, I give “Line in the Sand’ high marks. It is an all around good episode. There is a lot of action. The philosophical discussion is stimulating. There is even a cool by the seat of your pants ending in which it appears the village has been destroyed, but sam got Arthur’s Mantle working in time. You knew she would, but…woo hoo for the good guys!

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Quest, Part II"

“The Quest, Part II” is the introduction to the latter half of the tenth and final season. Man, was I wrong to be skeptical of the cliffhanger resolution. I was braced for a cop out, but the confrontation between the dragon and our heroes is one of the best parts of the episode in every respect--special effects, action, and humor. The conquest of the dragon is only the beginning….

Our heroes are saved by Adria’s personal shield and escape to the outside, but they are followed by the dragon. The CGI on the dragon is impressive for a cable show, and it is all the more impressive by the personality it demonstrates such as when it swallows the C4 Teal’c throws into it mouth and gives the poor dragon a serious case of heartburn. I dig it. The dragon finally fades away when daniel figures out saying the name of its master, Morgan Le Fay, will do the trick.

When attempting to snatch the jewel believed to be the Sangraal again, all but Adria are transported to another planet where merlin is trapped in stasis. Reawakened, he uses one of those Ancient headsets to download the knowledge to build Sangraal, but it proves too much for him. Daniel, enjoying some Merlin modifications that will hopefully keep downloading the necessary knowledge from being fatal, uses the headset himself.

Meanwhile, the others figure out Morgan Le Fay set up a security system that transports Merlin’s lab along with everyone and everything in it through to another planet every few hours on a system of stargates not connected to the grid. Sam and Ba’al work to undo the modifications while Adria slowly but surely catches up with them. She finally does as our heroes figure a way to get the stargate working, but Adria kidnaps Daniel before he can build the Sangraal. Adria has big plans for him.

‘The Quest, Part II” is an exciting and humorous episode. The special effects jump out at me immediately. It is not just the dragon, although it is the best example, but Merlin’s lab, the various planets to which our heroes are transported, and the final conflict between them and the ori forces are all extremely impressive. Some subsequent episode is going to be done with shadow puppets to manage the budget, I can almost guarantee.

I also appreciate a couple of the personal moments. The episode features the famous sam punches Ba’al scene which comes across every bit as hilarious as I had been promised. The second bit is Vala’s reaction to Daniel putting himself at risk. First, she does not want him to download the ancient knowledge because she knows what happened to Jack. Second, she is distraught over his capture by Adria. Vala’s growth from a completely selfish, amoral person to one of empathy is going along nicely.

“The Quest, Part II” is a fantastic start to the end of the series. It is my favorite tenth season episode thus far. It is the most complete package we have been given this season, and the special effects and sets help put it over the top. It is a bit cliché for Daniel to be kidnapped/missing/presumed dead yet again, but that is Stargate SG-1 for you.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Quest, Part I"

“The Quest, Part I” sets up the midseason cliffhanger. Only ten episodes remain, folks. We are nearing the end of our own quest here. There are a couple unique points about this episode. One, it is good on its own merit and not just set up for the resolution. Two, the plot is a fantasy quest not unlike role playing games or those mountains of dime a dozen paperback novels clogging up the science fiction section of any given bookstore. Not to sound negative about the episode. It is actually quite amusing to stretch Stargate SG-1’s boundaries with the fantasy quest motif.

Daniel is frustrated the search on the planets he learned from his trip to Atlantis are a dead end until Vala has a sudden flash of inspiration. Her middle of the night epiphany leads the SG-1 team to a medieval planet that is actually the barely disguised Camelot village. The villagers inform them many have come seeking the Sangraal over the years, including a recent intrepid soul who sounds a lot like Ba’al. Osric, the local librarian, is not keen on helping them. But after the ori invade, he appears to change his mind and comes to them offering himself as a guide.

The ensuing quest involves five obstacles that test a virtue written on the Parchment of Virtues. Our heroes use Prudence to get through a time dilation maze, Charity in giving up objects of value to escape a prison, Kindness in helping a child escape a prison cell, Wisdom in solving several riddles, and faith by walking through a wall of fire under the assumption they will not be consumed by the flames. They reach the sangraal, but it turns out to be a hologram protected by a very real dragon. To be continued.

My experience with fantasy is mercifully limited, but I can appreciate the recreation of the motif here. Dare I say how much has it origins in mythology? I like Ba’al enough to excuse the fact he is thrown in here for the purpose of tying in his storyline. It is convenient he just happens to be on the quest at the same time as the SG-1 team considering they are being manipulated by Adria, who implanted the epiphany in Vala and is now posing as Osric, because Morgan Le Fay has it set up where she cannot use her powers during the quest. What happened to Ba’al’s Jaffa? We never find out. The reveal of osric’s true identity is a surprise even though Morena Baccarin is listed in the opening credits, so there is a bonus.

As far as midseason cliffhangers go, “The Quest, Part I” is near the top. Consider that high praise, because dragons, medieval quests, and magic does not usually float my boat. Maybe I am enough of an Indiana Jones fan, at least other than the final film in the series, to go for it. The prospect of battling a dragon is a cool cliffhanger, though the skeptic in me suspects all is not as it seems. There will be a cop out of some description.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Red Dwarf Series Ten Trailer

I will be happy to see new episodes of Red Dwarf again.

Stargate SG-1--"Company of Thieves"

“Company of Thieves’ is, well, it is kind of just there. The episode revisits the Lucian alliance subplot with an effort to make the Mafia-esque group more formidable after that whole addictive corn crop plot some episodes back. I suppose it does a better job, but I still could not care less about the Lucian Alliance, so what of it?

Netan, head of the Lucian Alliance, sends his largest rival for power, Anateo, on what he believes is a suicide mission to capture Odyssey. Much to everyone’s surprise, including Anateo’s, he succeeds. Odyssey is badly damaged in the effort, and while Anateo forces sam to make repairs, he plots to capture the rest of the SG-1 team as a sign he should replace Netan. He succeeds in capturing Daniel and Vala, but cam and Teal’c infiltrate Netan’s inner circle in order to find them.

Stargate SG-1 has been around so long at this point, the show appears to think repeating gags from the past will satisfy fan nostalgia. Something bad happens to Earth battle cruisers every time they go out into deep space. They get hijacked, damaged by an anomaly, or destroyed. Cam uses the drug that convinces people he is someone else in order to gain Netan’s trust. Teal’c is captured and--you guessed it--tortured largely for the heck of it. If you really want to stretch the point, Emerson becomes the third battle cruiser commander behind Pendergast and Chekov to be killed. Too bad, that. I liked Emerson. We never got to see enough of him, and being shot in cold blood by a thug is a terrible way for him to die. Pendergast and Chekov went out in battle. Emerson deserved better.

While undercover, cam manages to start an armed power struggle within the Lucian Alliance by posing as Netan. Meanwhile, the Odyssessy crew free themselves from their captors. The result is apparent open hostilities between the Lucian Alliance and Earth. It is quite a tragic turn of events considering the Jaffa Nation has fractured into warring groups that blame Earth for the destruction of Dakara. Our heroes certainly know how to ein friends and influence people.

As I said above, I do not much care for the Lucian Alliance. While I think the Ori are worthy main villain successors to the Goa’uld, the Lucian Alliance does not quite hold up as secondary villains the way the Replicators did. The Lucian alliance is not compelling, and the rehashed plot elements do not help much in elevating “Company of Thieves” to anything more than an average episode you have seen before.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Memento Mori"

I mentioned in yesterday’s review Daniel and Vala’s relationship has evolved from slapstick antagonism peppered with sexual innuendo into a friendship. “Memento Mori” is a vala-centric episode that demonstrates she is now a vital part of the SG-1 team and not just comic relief eye candy. The change is a definite improvement over her tiresome catty ways.

Vala is kidnapped by members of The Trust from an outing with Daniel. Athena, a Goa’uld who once had connections with Qetesh, uses one of those memory retrieving devices on Vala in order to discover the location of an alleged treasure map to a cache of Ancient riches. In truth, the treasure is a myth. For whatever reason, Qetesh was yanking Athena’s chain over it. The issue is a McGuffin anyway. It is only a catalyst to explore Vala’s importance to the SG-1 team. An accident occurs when they attempt to rescue her from Athena. The memory retrieving device is damaged in the attempt. Vala wanders off with a case of amnesia, Hollywood style.

She takes a job at a diner when the owner takes pity on her. Vala quietly works there for a couple weeks while suffering strange flashbacks until she forcibly stops a robbery by beating up the armed crooks. The incident attracts the attention of police, Athena, and SGC. The race is on to find her. The plot flirts with absurdity as Vala flows in and out of everyone’s custody, from the police to The trust’s, and finally Cam’s before she slips away from them all, only to be recovered by Daniel in a sweet shipper moment. In the end, Vala is welcomed back as a full fledged member of the SG-1 team.

The character moments highlighting “Memento Mori” make it a fun episode. Daniel does not want to admit to himself how much he has grown to like Vala, but he is the one who refuses to give up hope for her when everyone else assumes she died when the rescue attempt went bad. Cam, too, goes above and beyond the call of duty to rescue her in their second opportunity to do so. Chasing her captors on a motorcycle zipping through traffic is pure action movie macho drivel, but I am amused nevertheless. I am probably more amused by the street signs passed by during the chase which clearly indicate the setting is British Columbia, not Colorado. Cam’s attempt to convince Vala who she really is while handcuffed to the bed in a fleabag motel must bring back Farscape memories of the two for whom it may concern.

If there is anything that truly bugs me about the episode, it is the title. Memento mori is a latin phrase that roughly translates to remember your mortality. How does that relate to anything in the episode? There is no reason Vala is reminded of her mortality anywhere within. Indeed, she is trying to remember her life instead. My guess is the title is either an homage to the 2000 Christopher Nolan film Memento about a man with short term memory loss or the powers that be just wanted to use a latin phrase to sound intellectual. Memento mori is nicely alliterative, so they went with that. I do not know. Take your pick which option sounds best.

Do notes Vala mentions watching reruns of my beloved X-Files during her time as a waitress. One of my favorite episodes of the series is also entitled “Memento Mori.” The title is used more properly there, as the episode features scully’s cancer diagnosis. I just posted a Gillian Anderson photo today, too. See how this all ties in? I bet you thought I do all this stuff by the seat of my breeches, no?

It often feels strange when Stargate SG-1 goes earthbound with nary a stargate in sight. Indeed, “Memento Mori” feels much like X-Files meets NCIS in many ways. There is not much to complain about, however. Vala is necessarily growing as a character. As silly as some plot elements of ’Memento Mori” sound, the episode does a good job developing the character.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Counterstrike"

“Counterstrike” returns focus to the Ori conquest of the Milky Way and introduces the fully grown Adria. Adria is played by magnificently Firefly alum Morena Baccarin. Baccarin becomes the third Firefly cast member to make an appearance in the Stargate franchise. She joins Adam Baldwin and Jewel Staite. Aside from introducing a great new antagonist, “Counterstrike” gloriously brings on the doom and gloom. There are issues, but I will get to them in a moment.

An entire planet of humans who have converted to Origin is wiped out by what appears to be the Ancient weapon that wiped out the Replicators. The SG-1 team happened to be undercover at the time and are beamed out before the wave rolls over the planet, killing all biological organisms. I find this convenient beam out funny considering a big joke was made about that sort of thing in the previous episode. Then the concept devolves into self-parody when the SG-1 team is beamed out in the nick of time yet again during the climax. Seriously, folks. The same trick twice in one episode after mocking it in the previous?

Landry travels to Dakara with Bra’tac in order to address the use of the weapon against Ori converts. They were not only innocent people overwhelmed by the more powerful Ori, but were human instead of one of the Jaffa planets the Ori have conquered. Needless to say, tensions are rising between the Jaffa Nation and Earth There is a significant number of Jaffa who believe they could have defeated the Goa’uld without Earth’s help and do not feel any debt is owed. I think the deeper issue is the Jaffa have been repressed slaves for so long, they now have the power to become aggressors themselves and are using it to keep humans--the Fifth Race--from becoming dominant.

Meanwhile, the SG-1 team goes on a recon mission to salvage the Ori ship when they discover a platoon of Jaffa has the same idea. There is a stand off that is broken up by Adria, who survived the Ancient weapon because of a “holy” necklace she wears. Vala’s efforts to reason with her fail. Adria tortures a captured Jaffa into revealing the location of the weapon that destroyed all life on the planet. After learning it is on Dakara, she directs the ship there and razes the surface, killing all but the conveniently escaping Bar’tac and Landry, and destroying the Ancient weapon. As mentioned above, the SG-1 team is conveniently beamed off the ori ship by Odyssey just in the nick of time.

As a fan, I am relieved the powers that be finally got rid of the Ancient weapon. It has been a lingering bewilderment. The idea the Asgard, Tok’ra, and Earth would allow the Jaffa to keep the thing is absurd considering how unstable the Jaffa Nation is. Plus, both Anubis and Ba’al have hatched plots to use the Ancient weapon while it was in Jaffa possession, so there is good reason to fear the Jaffa cannot handle it. Naturally, there is no room in the story arc to go to war over it should the Jaffa not feel like relinquishing control, but letting the issue linger has been a bad thing. The ancient weapon’s destruction needed to happen, and bravo for it coming to pass.

Now for several character notes. One, Landry is a much more hands on leader than was Hammond. I must reiterate that I appreciate his being a biger part of these stories than was Hammond even if knocking on the old guy is blasphemy among longtime fans. Two, the relationship between Daniel and Vala is becoming more of a friendship than slapstick antagonism with underlying sexual innuendo. They create an emotional bond here when Vala suspects her daughter was killed by the Ancient weapon and Daniel expresses empathy because of his mised emotions over the death of Sha’re. He grieved for Sha’re’s death, but was in a way relieved she was no longer tormented by the Goa’uld. Nothing brings people together like shared a shared emotional experience, particularly when the emotions are so contradictory, they can only be understood by someone who has experienced them. Finally, Vala is maturing into a well-rounded character in general. I am glad to see she is shedding her vapid, amoral ways in favor of some positive character traits.

In case you were wondering if there is any lingering animosity for Jonas, rest assure there is. It is casually mentioned during the final scene Langara has fallen to the Ori. Sam says nothing has been heard from allies on the planet. She presumably means Jonas, but no one seems the slightest bit concerned for his safety. Fours years later, and still no one likes Jonas. Ouch. That is a cold way to treat a former team mate.

“Counterstrike” is a good mix of action and character moments that also effectively tightens the screws in the overall story arc. The powers that be are setting up the Ori onslaught as requiring a miracle to stop, but I am okay with that as long as it does not completely copy the destruction of the Rplicators. The episode has some uberconvenient last minute rescues, but its positive points more than make up for it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"200"

In case there are any pedants out there, yes, “200” is the 200th episode of Stargate SG-1, so it ought to be my 200th review. It is the 199th label because I reviewed the two hour “Children of the Gods” premiere as one episode instead of the two in which it is split in syndication. This means ’200” is still technically the 200th episode reviewed even if it is not the actual 200th review. Does that satisfy all parties who may have their panties in a wad over discrepancies? I have bore the brunt of “Trekkie Trauma” over this sort of thing in the past. There are no episodes missing, I assure you.

The episode is a sequel to ”Wormhole X-Treme,” an episode I consider near the bottom of the series in terms of entertainment value. The episode felt like a Hollywood insider circle jerk. I described it as watching other people have a party to which I was not invited. I did not think “200’ would be much better. Truth be told, it is not, but there are more laughs to be enjoyed because the in jokes are tweaking Stargate SG-1 and its fans instead of Hollywood in general, so there is more to which I can relate.

Martin Lloyd, the alien refugee turned television producer, comes to SGC to consult with our heroes on a film based on ’Wormhole X-Treme.” In a nod to Firefly, the series only lasted three episodes, but did well enough on Dvd to merit a film based on it. What ensues is a load of parodies, in jokes, and fan criticisms relating to Stargate SG-1 over the years.

There is no sense in running through all of them. A dry recap would not be funny. But some of my favorites are criticisms I have made. When the lead actor of Wormhole X-Treme holds out for too much money, Lloyd and our heroes brainstorm how to get along without him. Their ideas echo the seventh and eighth seasons when Richard Dean Anderson was barely a cast member. The ’sam” actress complaining the writers have no idea what to do with her character sounds like what I used to say about her through the first three seasons or so. Some of our heroes’ convenient escapes are addressed over an extremely convenient beaming away from the Cheyenne Mountain explosion at the last in the movie script. Furlings turn out to be Ewoks. I cringed, but kind of liked the idea anyway. There is a Wizard of oz reference. How long has it been since we had one of those? At one point, they were ubiquitous.

The most amusing bit is the never before mentioned incident of Jack becoming invisible. He humorously clowns around as much as you would expect. The joke of him peeking at Sam in the shower is not as funny as the powers that be were probably hoping. It is a crass enough thing to do normally, but to have a colonel gawking at a naked female captain/major under his command is even worse. I should be able to loosen up enough to laugh at the scene, but I cannot. At least there is a wedding scene between the two to snap any shippers out of their irritation over the shower bit. The rest of the sequence is hilarious. It brings back memories of the first four seasons when the team encountered all sorts of strange scenarios while saving earth from the Goa’uld. All that was only a few months ago for me. Old school fans watching “200” in its original airing must have felt some serious nostalgic rage.

Mention is made of SaveDanielJackson.com, a website which is still active after ten years, and the fan bought advertisement in Variety asking for Michael shanks’ return to the show. No wonder Corin Nemec felt like such a pariah with that sort of thing going on. Needless to say, Jonas Quinn is not even mentioned in “200” even though every character who has ever been officially a main cast member is in the episode. Geez, guys. Jonas was not that bad a character. Has anyone noticed that Shanks has been billed dead last in every season since his return, too? It is not like he has been given the star treatment since testing the acting waters outside the show and finding them chilly.

Cam and Vala are not left out. Llotyd constantly patronizes Cam when he forgets the main character is not based on him, but Jack. Cam once criticizes Lloyd for not respecting the intelligence of the science fiction audience, which echoes Ben Browder’s comments regarding the quality of Farscape. he never wanted there to be an incomprehensible techno babble solution to a problem or a reset button on the series. I cannot vouch as yet how well his desire played out, but I have heard him talk about his respect for fans in interviews and take him at his word he cares how they feel about the quality of his shows. There is a Farscape parody suggested by Vala. She is also the one to bring up the Wizard of Oz with her in the Dorthy role.

Martin Wood says in the DVD commentary this story is not canon. It is a gift to fans. As such, it is a little better than a sweater from your grandmother, but not much. In the spirit of not taking the episode too seriously, I will not critique it more than I already have. It is frivolous fun. Even if some jokes fall flat, many of the poking fun at the show’s flaws most often do not. I would have rather seen a big adventure for the anniversary episode instead of a detour, but this will do to mark the occasion.

Sad thing to not; the Sci Fi Channel announced Stargate SG-1 would not be renewed the day after “200” aired. I am skeptical the announcement came exactly the day after, since that would have been a Saturday, but it does not surprise me the announcement came soon after the big celebration. Oh, Bonnie Hammer. How many science fiction fanbases can one network executive possibly alienate/

Rating: *** (out of 5)

From the Department of Why the Heck Not?, Buck Owens:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Uninvited"

I was apprehensive, given Stargate SG-1’s habit of movie homage that borders on plagiarism, that “Uninvited’ would be a thinly veiled Predator clone. Our heroes hunting a mauling monster through the woods did not sound all that promising or original. I am now pleasantly surprised with the results. “Uninvited” is not great by a long shot, but it manages to amuse with some fun surprises.

Landry arranges for the SG-1 team to have a weekend retreat with him at Jack’s cabin as a chance for them to both unwind and bond. Cam is the first to arrive. Daniel is in the United Kingdom and will not be showing up, while Sam, Teal’c and Vala get caught up in an afford incident in which some creature mauls a couple of alien villagers. Cam gets stuck in the cabin overnight during a rainstorm and has to engage in that awkward friendship with his boss thing. They are being spied upon, of course.

Teal’c and Vala travel to the planet with a couple of SG teams and manage to kill the monster. These monsters begin appearing on other planets, all of which SG teams had visited using sodan cloaking technology. It is eventually discovered use of the technology that has been modified to eliminate emitted radiation attracts an one-dimensional parasite that invades a host and mutates it into an overly aggressive beast. The spy sneaking around Cam and Landry is a Trust operative using Sodan technology stolen from Area 51. Now there is a mutated bear on the loose in the woods.

Several Sg teams take over the hunt from the local sheriffs and hunt down the monster. The twist is there turns out to be two of them. Aside from a few civilian dismemberments, the story ends happily with the SG-1 team and Landry playing poker.

The biggest virtue of “Uninvited” is the increased focus on Landry. I have mentioned before I like the character more than I do Hammond. Blasphemy, I know. But landry is a more colorful, well-rounded character. We get to see his more humorous side--he is a bird fancier--as well as what makes him tick on a deeper level, such as his aversion to hunting because he was forced to evade the North Vietnamese for 58 days once after being shot down during the war.

‘uninvited has its bad points. Supposedly, the radiation emitted from the Sodan technology repels the parasite. The sodan never bothered to mention there was a reason the radiation was necessary? That seems like a vital thing to know considering the consequences. Does it not seem too coincidental a Trust operative just happens to have stolen the technology and is using it right time the other monsters are roaming about? Why is he spying on the SG-1 team on vacation, anyway? Sneaking around Sgc invisible sounds like a much better idea. The plot set up is a wee bit implausible.

Mercy, mercy me. When local hunters hear stories of the monster, they flock to the woods to bag it. They get a little trigger happy, and after a shooting accident, cam quips our heroes need to find the monster quickly before the woods turn into a vice-presidential bird hunt. The joke is a reference to Dick Cheney accidentally shooting his hunting partner during an expedition a few years ago. That is right, a Cheney joke on a show in which Cheney is not the vice president. I would call it a cheap shot, but the pun is beneath me.

We get a good look at the monster after the SG-1 team has killed it. The monster is a hideously mutated bear. While I assume it is a CGI creature, it is appearance and movements have more of a stop motion vibe. If the monster is CGI, I appreciate the throwback style in which it appears.

Beau Bridges says this is his favorite episode. I like it well enough in spite of some hard to swallow plot elements, but it is firmly in the good, but not great category. I can even imagine many fans might hate it, but it is too inconsequential an episode upon which to waste strong emotion.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Insiders"

“Insiders” features the return of Ba’al and/or his clones. In all honesty, I do not believe it is ever established the real Ba’al is in the episode. The episode is notable for Vala becoming an active part of the team rather than serving as Daniel’s shadow and a prominent, geeky reference to the second season episode “The Fifth Race” for all the continuity buffs among us.

A Goa’uld ship is shot down on it way to Cheyenne Mountain. The pilot, Ba’al, is captured relatively unharmed. He reveals his clones have gotten out of hand, so he wants the SG-1 team to help eliminate them. In exchange, he offers to help them narrow down their search for Merlin’s weapon. Since their efforts to find the weapon are at a dead end, they decide to go along with it at least until they can determine the real Ba’al game.

I am sorry about that one. I do not know what came over me.

“Insiders” takes a humorous turn as SG teams run a competition to see how many Ba’al clones each can capture. NID agent Malcolm Barrett shows up as the clones pile up with a request to take one himself for the investigation of what is left of The Trust. Landry refuses, claiming the search for Merlin’s weapon is more important. Barrett takes it upon himself to interrogate a Ba’al unauthorized, and his blunder allows the ba’al clones to all escape. Their plan all along was to download the download the stargate addresses placed into the computer the first time jack had all the ancient knowledge inplanted in his brain. With the addresses, ba’al hopes to find Merlin’s weapon himself. They all escape scot free.

You have to swallow a lot in order to buy Ba’al’s plan. He has to assume that his clone will survive being shot down. The SG-1 team has to agree to capture a bunch of ba’al clones. Barrett has been through the mind control device, but there is still the assumption the guard to Ba’al’s cell will let Barrett in. He does, but it is hard to imagine an airman would unquestionably allow a civilian NID agent in without clearing it with the chain of command first. There are clever plans that require lots of luck, and then there is this nearly impossible plan that works anyway.

The implausibility of Ba’al’s plan still being true, it really does not kill the episode. It is a fun, fast paced action story. The poison gas bit which ends the climactic shoot out by killing a whole bunch of Ba’al’s is committed so callously, it is almost funny. The casual mention Vala as qetesh has committed genocide is also dropped rather matter of factly. Sometimes it amazes how this show can drop some extremely dark elements into an otherwise lighthearted adventure and keep on trucking as though it means next to nothing. It is not a problem, mind you. It actually tickles my cynical nature.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Pegasus Project"

“The Pegasus Project” is the only Stargate SG-1/Stargate Atlantis crossover episode in the series. I am familiar enough with the latter series to know who the crossover characters are. I also get a few of the episode references, so I am not completely lost here. The episode would likely be a more geektastic experience if I was currently following SGA, but even as it is, the story is a fun ride one does not have to be a fan to enjoy.

Just to throw this note out there--it will be repeated again when the SGA reviews begin--I have generally referred to characters by his her or first name unless it feels unnatural. I cannot call General Hammond George, for instance. Stargate Atlantis feels like it is going to be even more inconsistent. Sheppard feels more natural than john, but Rodney sound better than McKay. There will be other cases. Surely you will get used to it. Unless something really does not feel right to a dedicated fan….

The SG-1 team travels to Atlantis in order to search for the Sangraal. While daniel and Vala access the computer database for information on the Ancients, the rest of the team hooks up with Rodney to execute a plan keeping the super gate open permantly by use of a stargate and a black hole. The idea is to keep ori reinforcements from dialing into the Milky Way. Daniel discovers the hologram with which he has been interacting is the real, ascended Morgan Le Fay he argues with her the Ancients must intervene because once every living thing has been subjugated by the ori, they will come for the ancients next. He convinces her, but her cohorts snatch her away before she can tell him anything valuable. Meanwhile, the plan with the black hole and stargate not only works, but manages to destroy both an Ori and Wraith ship. Booyah!

Both plot and execution are straightforward. The entertainment value of “The Pegasus Project” is in the personal moments for which fans have been clamoring. Daniel’s big grin at finally arriving on Atlantis. The weird infatuation Rodney has with Sam. Rodney’s arrogant, abrasive attitude causing problems with Cam. Our heroes defeating a wraith ship. I imagine there are other subtle ones I would recognize if I was more familiar with SGA. Has it been previously known Sheppard carries a lemon in his pocket with which to threaten the allergic Rodney? If so, that makes it even funnier when cam whips out the lemon Sheppard gave him before they left on the Odyssey?

I do not have any serious complaints about “The Pegasus Project.” it would have been interesting to see Teal’c and Rooan interact, but perhaps that would call attention to too many similarities between the characters. It is odd, too, that the final scene of the previous episode made a big deal out of noting that while Vala had become a member of the SGC, she was not a member of the SG-1 team and cam was not thrilled she was around period. Yet here she is, not only with the SG-1 team on a six week mission, but eating breakfast with and happily up Cam. I prefer that to happen, mind you, but it is weird how apparently quickly the situation changed. I want to see a Wraith, too. I have seen them on SGA before, but it would have been cool to see more than just their ship here.

“The Pegasus Project” is entertaining even for one not immersed in SGA mythology. It also furthers the ori story by blocking the super gate and taking the Ancients out of the picture as a potential cavalry. So the episode is not a complete diversion for the main arc just to have a bunch of references to a sister show. You can easily argue ’The Pegasus Project’ is a 45 commercial for SGA with running into much rebuttal, but there is nothing wrong with that.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Morpheus"

Call me harsh, but if the powers that be are going to make an episode about sleep, they should endeavor to not make it boring. It I also profoundly unwise to make a boring episode in which characters are frequently yawning. Watching someone else yawn, even a fictional character, compels others to yawn. I yawned. Maybe the powers that be thought the fan interaction would be clever. It is ill advised considered considering how the episode plays out.

The Ori armada has continued its onslaught by conquering six more planets. Daniel discovers the first stargate address in his attempt to find the three location the Knights of the Round table went off to search for the Sangraal. (Yes, that is how it is spelled.) the SG-1 team arrives on this dark, foggy planet upon which everyone appears to have died in their sleep all at once centuries ago. One of the red shirts along for the ride falls asleep and cannot be awakened, so everyone winds up stranded there under the assumption they have all contracted whatever the fatal sleeping sickness is.

Daniel finds reference to the illness as an alleged curse from Morgan Le Fay, but Sam and Dr. Reimer, whom we have never heard of, so we know he is going to die, eventually discover an insect that grows inside human bodies by gorging itself on melatonin and serotonin. Sam and reimer search for a cure while Cam and Teal’c search for something natural in the environment which may have resisted the ilness. Reimer falls over dead, so that sucks. Cam and teal’c find a lizard still alive and capture it under the assumption it possesses a natural immunity. All four of the SG-1 members fall into a deep sleep as haz mat teams arrive.

Vut to the next day when everyone is back at Sgc and fine. A cure was synthesized by using Sam’s research and the lizard’s blood. A little anticlimactic, but all righty then. As if the hunch “Morpheus” was not much, the episode ends on the promise of a visit to Atlantis as the next Knights of the round Table destination.

The B story involves Vala cheating on her psychiatric evaluation in order to join the SGC. She passes anyway after rejecting Woolsey’s offer to make her a spy in exchange for easing her path to admittance. The scenes are all played for laughs. Vala becomes an ’expert” in psychology overnight. One of the test questions she researches is from the test to identify Replicants in Blade Runner. The lie detector nearly explodes. You get the idea. The scenes are amusing enough.

“Morpheus” is not otherwise amusing, however. The story sort of plods along. Maybe it is because my expectations are not met. Morpheus is the Greek god of sleep and dreams. Upon learning of the title, I figured there would be something about dreams. Nope. Victims go to sleep and never wake up. Horrifying in concept, but disappointing to watch here. Cam and Teal’c chasing a lizard through a cave in full slapstick mode does not help build the tension level, either. The off screen curing of the illness is abrupt and anticlimactic.

There is another point I would excuse in a good episode, but cannot let go in a bad one. Reimer is played by robin Moseley. You may recall Moseley was also the tragic Malakai in the fourth season’s “Window of Opportunity.” Stargate SG-1 recycles character actors in nearly every episode because they generally play minor characters. It is no big deal. But “Window of Opportunity” is a fan favorite and Malakai is a fairly prominent one off antagonist. Moseley appearing as a different character snaps me right out of my suspension of disbelief. Your mileage may vary.

“Morpheus” is not a total loss. The atmosphere is great. Every scene on the planet is draped in a thick, grey fog. The place looks like a nightmare come to life. I was expecting to see something nightmarish come out of the fog, however, and it never does. Cam chases after a lizard he dubs Joe Bob. That is about it. It turns out Vancouver just suffers from some horribly dreary weather. Claudia Black’s clowning around is fun, neither she nor the spooky atmosphere save “Morpheus.”

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Stargate SG-1-"Flesh and Blood"

Well, Gaters, we are in the home stretch now. “Flesh and Blood’ is the premiere episode of the tenth and final season. The last time I reviewed an episode of a series other than Stargate SG-1, it was the final episode of Firefly, “Objects in Space,” back on New Year’s Day. Reviewing Stargate SG-1 has been the longest written project for The Eye. The finish line is now in sight!

While watching “Flesh and Blood,” I could not help but make comparisons with The Empire Strikes Back. The similarities are more than just the tone, although there is that. Our heroes are being soundly defeated by the Ori from beginning to end. Just as the Rebels were in ESB. The main emphasis of the episode is on the birth of Vala’s daughter, who turns out to be a genetically engineered human with as much of the knowledge of the Ori as her human brain can carry. She was created as a way of getting around the whole Ori are forbidden here by the Ancients bit. Adria’s interactions with Vala reminded me of the Dark side of the Force conflict between Luke and Darth Vader from ESB to ROTJ. I am trying to think about Anakin’s immaculate conception from TPM, thank you very much. It is bad enough Teal’c made a reference a couple episodes back. Speaking of, Teal’c is held prisoner by Lucian Alliance gangsters the same way Han Solo was held by Boba Fett on behalf of Jabba the Hutt, so there is that, too.

Alas, “Flesh and Blood” does not quite measure up to a potential ESB on the small screen. It ought to feel more epic, but somehow does not. One of the big problems is the lack of originality. For the first two acts, we believe Daniel is dead. Also for the first two acts, Teal’c is imprisoned and brutally tortured. Adria posses the secrets of the Ori the same way Apophis and Sha’re’s child knew the secrets of the Goa’uld. They both even aged rapidly. The powers that be have done this stuff so many time already, it has devolved from unoriginal to self parody. I am beginning to understand what joe Flanagan meant when he told fans back in April the writers reached a point at which they believed they could write anything, slap a stargate label on it, and fans would flock.

There is other stuff that is hard to swallow. Daniel survives the destruction of the Russian battle cruiser by using transporter rings to get to an Ori ship through a convenient techno babble shield issue. Cam escapes the ship by regaining conscious just in time to fly a fighter out of the docking bay. They both escape at the instant of the ship’s explosion. Looking back, I had said the subplot of the Russians wanting a hyper drive battle cruiser looked like something cooked up merely to provide breaks in the main story of the episode. It looks like I was right, because it was destroyed at the first available opportunity.

It may sound like I am down on “Flesh and Blood.’ I am not entirely. Sam’s rescue by lining up her floating body with the open docking bay is exciting and in keeping with cam’s reckless nature and thrilling to watch. So is the invasion of Chulak, which is a logical choice for a first strike. But the episode just does not have that epic feel one would want from a season premiere. There is a lot of exposition with action unrelated to the initial ori incursion. We are kind of limping out the stargate here.

Adria at age five is played by executive producer Robert C. Cooper’s daughter, Emma Rose. That is a nice touch. Robert Picardo has a brief appearance. This makes the second time he has appeared in an episode entitled “Flrsh and Blood.” There you go, folks. I have capped off a lukewarm review with a reference to that dark period when I had to review Star Trek: Voyager. Yeesh.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Camelot"

“Camelot” serves as the ninth season finale. There is a theme going here that, like “Reckoning, Part II,” places each of the SG-1 team members in a spot best suited to utilize his or her talents. In some ways, it is much weaker than the way “Reckoning, Part II” handled the cases, but the cliffhanger ending more than makes up for a bit of stumbling.

The SG-1 team arrives on the planet upon which Merlin’s weapon is supposedly hidden. Either the planet or the small city called Camelot. The townsfolk believe Arthurian legend is true. King Arthur is going to return soon after someone pulls the sword out of the large stone in the center of town, the Knights of the Round Table are on a quest for the Holy Grail, and Merlin left behind a black knight as a defender against any intruders into his workshop. Naturally, the SG-1 team finds the workshop and unleashes the Black Knight. The black knight appears in the middle of the city and murders the guy who helped the SG-1 team find Merlin’s workshop. They wind up no longer being welcome. Fancy that.

Here is the point at which the team members split up to do their thing. They are all beamed up unexpectedly to the Odyssey and told that even though they do not have the weapon yet, the Ori super gate has been found. An allied fleet is assembling. Daniel convinces Emerson to let him stay behind and work in Merlin‘s workshop to figure out how an Ancient device works.. Cam opts to stay with him in case the Black Knight shows up again. Teal’c runs off to recruit the Lucian alliance into the allied fleet. Sam begins working with Kvasir on figuring out the specs of this weapon should they find it.

This division of labor is hot and cold. Daniel is in his element reading Ancient. I go for that. Sam is being her usual genius self while Kvasir patronizes the heck out of her over it. Seriously, the little dude acts like he is teaching his puppy to play fetch. I love the Asgard. They are such arrogant little pricks. Anyway, Sam is great. Cam’s part is so contrived. He and Daniel know turning the Ancient device on is going to summon the Black Knight. The Black Knight is going to appear in the middle of the city and go on a rampage. They turn the thing on anyway, and wait for the screams from the outside before Cam rushes out to battle the Black Knight. Cam has made himself out to be the action hero this season, so it makes sense for him to duel with the Black Knight for a while. But really, reckless endangerment by releasing a being in such a flippant manner who has already killed? Geez, guys. Teal’c is the worst. How many times have we seen him run off to recruit the villains only to stand on the deck of their ship while it is blown to smithereens? Is there nothing original to be done with the character?

All these events lead us to a finale that tickles my cynical, black heart. Daniel and cam cannot find the ancient weapon, so they get picked up by the Russians in their new battle cruiser and head for the super gate. Sam takes a spacewalk in order to alter the super gate so the Ori armada cannot dial in, but she is too late. In fact, she loses her magnetic boot hold and drifts off while the ori armada comes through. All she can do is watch helplessly as the allied fleet is destroyed. Teal’c arrives with the Lucian Alliance in time to get smashed up, too. The final scene is Vala onboard an Ori vessel watching the Ori claim a brutal victory.

Several points of note to consider. One, I believe Col. Chekov dies in the first wave of the Ori attack, Perhaps it was not wise of him to insist on his country getting a hyper drive battle cruiser. Two, the allied fleet consists of asgard, Jaffa, Lucian alliance, Earth, and the Tok’ra. We still do not get to see or hear from any Tok’ra operatives. It is strange they are still frequently mentioned as allies, but we have seen none of them other than Jacob/Selmak since…when? The seventh season? Alternate Martouk a few episodes back does not count. Finally, John Noble of The Lord of the Rings fame appears as the poobah of Camelot.

I award “Camelot” high marks for the final three minutes of the episode. The story meandrs up until that point, and I can see why fans might find the aimless nature even worse when there is no direct payoff. The SG-1 team fails at every task. The Ori look to be claiming victory for the cliffhanger. It is a very exciting, gloom and doom ending that builds up much anticipation for the tenth season premiere.

Just a word here about the ninth season as a whole. I check out a few fan sites when looking for trivia items to spice up these reviews. I have noticed, while fans generally like the new set up, they are generally not as enthusiastic as I am. I have spent six months becoming attached to the original line up and story arc rather than eighth years. I have not experienced the months of waiting for cliffhangers to be resolved and such, so I can understand some fans are harder hit. I even assume there is some Farscape animosity going on for Ben Browder and Claudia Black being cast to which I cannot relate. But I must say, Cam is a welcome shot in the arm for a series being dragged down by Jack’s ferequent disappearances, Landry is a more interesting character than Hammond, and the Ori are better villains than many of the goa’uld who have shown up over the years. Black comes in as a welcome bonus with no comparable element prior to the ninth season. The series has been rejuvenated as far as I am concerned.

Now that I have said that, watch me dispise the tenth season. I certainly hope not.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Crusade"

Good news, Claudia Black fans. Not only is “Crusade” almost exclusively a Vala-centric episode, but she is featured in every subsequent episode. The bad news is that Michael Ironside has a role in “Crusade.’ as anyone who has followed science fiction over the last twenty-five or so years knows, anytime Ironside appears on your show--or worse, joins the cast--it is about to be cancelled. There remain only twenty-one episodes of Stargate SG-1 to review. The Ironside Curse continues.

“Crusade” features Vala’s adventures in the Ori galaxy when she switches bodies with Daniel in order to alert Sgc the Ori armies are ready to invade the Milky Way through a secret super gate. She is also pregnant even though she has not done the deed with a man. The episode consists of a lot of narration as Vala recounts her rescue by a crippled man named Tomyn, whom she eventually marries, her suspicion and torture as a nonbeliever by local Ori enforcer Seevis (Ironside), and the eventual revelation seevis is the leader of a small band of rebels who aim to prevent the armada from entering the super gate. The rest of the cast pretty much sits around and listens to her story.

There is a B story involving the Russians demanding their stargate back as a bargaining tactic for what they really want--the next hyper drive capable ship to come off the line. The Americans reluctantly agree. Could the Russian ship possibly be long for this galaxy? They did not do a very good job maintaining the stargate when they had it. This part of the episode comes across as throw togther filler solely to provide breaks in between segments of Vala’s story.

An important thing to note, aside from the overly obvious notion black is supposed to be an extremely popular character judging by the emphasis on her this season, is the maturing of Vala. She still has her moments of cattiness. Thankfully, the powers that be play down the obvious make Michael Shanks overly effeminate while he is “playing” Vala. Gender bending is not always comedy gold. I am glad the writers realized this. Vala genuinely comes to care for Tomiyn and frets for his safety as a prior heals his disability in order to convince him to join the innvasion force. She wants him to not go even after it is revealed she is not carrying his child. Mind you, she still lies about being part of the Anti-Ori in order to save her own skin, but vala is clearly becoming more than comic relief and eye candy.

In the end, the Asgard and Tok’ra are sweeping the Milky Way for the super gate while the SG-1 team prepares to travel to the stargate address discovered via Merlin’s device in order to find the weapon that can destroy asended beings. This adventure leads us into the ninth season finale.

“Crusade” is a lot of set up for the ninth season finale and presumably tenth season premiere. As such, it is difficult to judge without knowing how well the lead up pays off. Black fans should certainly be pleased. It is definitely her episode. She gets to be sexy, funny, and dramatic at various times. Any guy who is tempted by the fantasy of rescuing a pretty damsel in distress will have a field day by her chained up in public for days ordeal. Though I must say chaining up a pregnant woman with no food or water for days for the purpose of testing her animosity for the Ori makes me a touch squeamish. There should not be degrees of sadism, but in reality, there are. Sevvis’ Vala torture establishes that he is an ends justifies the means guy --he plans to destroy the invasion force of suped true believers--but he stoops extremely low when dealing with Vala. The bottom line is I am anxious to see what comes next, so “Crusade” does its job.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Arthur's Mantle"

Here is a nice change of pace. After several episodes that merely limped along to the finish line, “Arthur’s Mantle’ does something clever with the concept of cloaking devices in both the A and B stories while managing to eventually merge the two into an amusing conclusion. We have seen the concept before way back in “Crystal Skull,” but this one of those episodes that is entertaining enough to not fret over a repeated plot element. Speaking of, Daniel is sent to another dimension again like he was in “Crystal Skull.” If it was not a bigger deal that he has dierd several times, one would wonder how the same thing could happen to one unlucky shmuck twice?

Sam has been working on a device recovered from Merlin’s treasure when cam comes by her lab. By chance, she believes she has it figured out, but when she gives it a whirl, she and Cam wind up in another dimension in which they are intangible and invisible to athe real world. They find themselves completely unable to communicate until by chance Daniel recognizes Lee’s mention of emitted radiation upon use of the device similar to radiation emitted by his transportation to another dimension. Communication is established between Sam, Cam, and Daniel through the device in order to work out a solution.

Meanwhile, Sgc gets word the Sodan have been attacked. Teal’c heads off to investigate with a team and discovers all but Haikon have been slaughtered by an altered Volnek. Volnek was approached days ago by a prior who said the Sodan were due punishment for their rejection of Origin. The prior turned volnek into a crazed killing machine which death can not even stop. By the time teal’c is forced to confront him, volnek is a zombie whose body must be completely destroyed in order to defeat him.

Cam, concerned for teal’c and bored with the tedious translating of the device, sneaks away with the team headed for the Sondan home world. When using the Sodan invisibility cloaks, both Teal’c and Volnek can see and hear cam, but not touch him. With his invulnerability, Cam plans to lure Volnek into booby trapped explosives in the hopes that will blow him to smithereens. Unfortunately, due to a further accident, daniel has been transported to the other dimension. In desperation, Lee tries a plan that works, which is fine for sam and daniel, but makes cam vulnerable. He survives a fistfight, and eventually lures volnek into the booby trap anyway.

I think it is pretty cool how invisibility cloaks are used as both a detriment to Cam, Sam, and Daniel, who are permanently trapped in another dimension, but a virtue to Teal’c, who would not have survived the battle with Volnek without it. I knew as soon as cam reassured teal’c he could make volnek come after him while remaining unharmed he was going to be recovered from the other dimension at the worst time. Nevertheless, Ben Browder’s hamming it up, particularly his ensuing fistfight with the invisible Volnek, is hilarious, so all predictability is forgiven. Zombie Volnek is a sight to behold, too.

“Arthur’s Mantle” contributes to the overall Ori story arc. For one, it is discovered Merlin created a weapon that can destroy ascended beings. For the other, the doomsday the ori have been predicting is only a short time away. I would guess that means an invasion for the ninth season finale, but we shall see.

“Arthur’s Mantle” is the first episode in a mercifully short stretch that I have actually enjoyed. There is a macabre combo of the lighthearted humor involved with Cam and sam’s plight versus the genocide of the Sodan that we keep switching between that can be offputting, but overall, the episode works well. Not terriblt original, mind you, but works well.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Scourge"

Our heroes certainly have a difficult time with bugs. Whether it is vicious fireflies or the Replicators, entomology is a subject they desperately need to avoid. ‘The scourge” features a plot we have seen several times before. It does not add anything new, but the manner in which the P-75 bugs carry out their swarming, carnivorous ways is quite memorable.

The SG-1 team is assigned to escort members of the international oversight committee on a tour a the gamma Site, an off world plant and animal research facility. One of the species being studied is a insect, presumably engineered by the Ori to replace the plague as a punishment, that has destroyed crops on a number of planets. The bugs literally gorge themselves on plants. After a scientist gives them a bit of meatloaf, they develop a taste for meat, multiply rapidly, and escape confinement.

There are several scenes scattered throughout in which the bugs devour a human completely in a matter of seconds or crawl out the mouth and nose of another. Those are cringe worthy scenes that had me occasionally slapping at various tingling sensations that I was certain was a bug on me. Although it does not make sense for the bugs to eat everything down to the dog tags, the creep out is a mark of success for the episode.

But there is not much else about ‘the Scourge” worth noting. We have seen the plot several times before. After defeating the far more formidable Replicators, it seems like a bad idea to revisit insects as a villain. Some of the cost cutting measures diminish the episode, as well. The Gamma Site is a convenient replica of SGC and the vast majority of scenes involving P-75 traveling is them rumbling underground. Call it too nitpicky, but an overland swarm is far more effective. In a good episode, I could excuse the decision to have the bugs burrow, but in a bad episode, it is difficult to overlook elements that would have made the episode more memorable.

I did enjoy that the French IOC representative was the one constantly ready to give up when everyone was being stalked by the bugs. He was also completely flummoxed when cam gave him a gun in order to defend himself. Never cut those surrender frogs a break, I say.

Aside from some extremely disturbing scenes with the bugs attacking various victims, the only real virtue of “The Scourge” is that it is a low budget episode that is mercifully not one of those clip shows that often air around about this time in the season. The powrs that be are pretty much phoning it in here.

Rating: ** (out of 5).