Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Off the Grid"

What can be said about ‘Off the grid” other than speculation you guys must have been snickering at the generally positive reviews I have been giving the ninth season in anticipation of me reaching this one. One cannot help but feel the tone of the episode--extremely corny--is a deliberate play on the catalyst for the action--the SG-1 team investigating the Lucian Alliance plan of growing an addictive corn-like vegetable called Nassa. The episode does shift to a more menacing plot of Ba’al stealing stargates in order to rebuild his empire, but the damage is done.

Said damage is considerable, however. I will actually cut some slack about the addictive corn bit. It makes sense to attempt to hook populations on an addictive food staple. Somehow, that seems less sinister than narcotics as you would think an organized crime syndicate might get into. It should not seem less sinister, but it does. As mentioned above, nassa has to be a corn substitute as a play on the general corniness of the episode.

Seriously, the SG-1 first appears to the farmers by popping up from the cornstalks like they are on Hee Haw. I almost expected Waylon Jennings to tell an awful joke to straight man Teal’c before cam introduced an Oak Ridge Boys musical number. Those leather outfits they were wearing as undercover disguises were straight out of Mad Max. There is one virtue. Amanda Tapping has lost her baby weight and has a nice figure accentuated by a tight vest. Tapping claims in interviews to only have an average body. She is selling herself short.

Cam takes it upon himself to pose as a potential nassa dealer. The funniest scene in the episode is when he knocks the other members for not being able to play a convincing drug dealer like he can. He goes so far as to call sam mary poppins, to which she takes offense. I am certain I would not have thought that was as funny as I do now after the same joke was done on an episode of How I Met Your Mother when it was pointed out after Poppins gave the children medicine in a spoonful of sugar, they jumped into a painting and chased an animated fox for fifteen minutes. Spoonful of sugar, my scrawny rear end. Cam blows it because he cannot play a good drug dealer, and the team has to fight their way to the stargate. The stargate is subsequently stolen right out from under them The team is forced to surrender to the Lucian Alliance.

The next comes a bit which renders “Off the Grid” irredeemable. The Lucian Alliance believes the SG-1 has stolen the stargate and begins beating each member as torture until they reveal where they have beamed it away. The scene of Can and daniel being punched shifts to another played for laughs in which Landry trades a full meal and cupcakes to the imprisoned Nerus in order to get his help in finding Ba’al, who he now knows via the Tok’ra has stolen a dozen other stargates. When we go back to the scene with the SG-1 team being tortured, Sam’s face is bloodied. I am not particularly prudish when it comes to villainy in fiction. The bad guys take candy from babies and slap women around for the sake of the story. But seeing a woman beaten still gnaws at the chivalrous southerner in me. It is even worse when the tone of the episode has been funny thus far and increased to absurdity with nerus gorging himself in the previous scene. The contrast is meant to be jarring, but it takes me completely out of the story when I am already barely buying into it.

The tone does radically shift afterwards. The SG-1 team is rescued by Odyssey. They pursue Nerus via a tracking device to Ba’al’s ship, transport aboard, and engage in a firefight with Ba’al’s Jaffa while they prepare to beam all the stolen stargates onto the Odyssey. in the interim, Ba’al murders Nerus in cold blood for his perceived betrayal. The SG-1 team uses one of the stolen stargates to escape before a Lucian Alliance fleet destroys Ba’al’s ship. The nassa plot is mercifully forgotten.

I want to like “Off the Grid.” It is funny in places. I even liked some of the inside jokes, such as when Daniel who says he is going to find the doctor when the team splits up in the end. Dr. Carolyn lam is played by Lex Doig, who is Michael Shanks’ wife. The action scenes on Ba’al’s ship are great, too. There is nothing like finishing off an episode with a firefight. But the absurd elements are hard to accept considering the dark shifting of gears. It is tough to reconcile the first half of the episode with the latter, especially when the former is not really that great. There are some saving graces, but so far, “Off the Grid” is the worst of the season.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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