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)

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