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)

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