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)

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