Life as an Extreme Sport

Stargate SG-1: Beachhead

Sam’s back! Sam’s back! VALA’S LEAVING! Sam’s back! Sam’s back! YAY! Really, what more does an episode need?

Oh, okay, fine…

Let me start out by saying that the Ori have the best badguy music ever: gregorian chant. It’s momentous, large, stirring. And it just highlights how religious they are; I’d really love to know how the music goes over in non-Christian-influenced countries. Does it still sound high holy to them? …but that’s really not much to do with the show either, eh? Fine…

Not your fight? You engineered the downfall of the goauld… this is a galaxy of your own making, and you have responsibilities.

Nerus says this to guilt Stargate Command to action against the Ori; it’s interesting logic, similar to the you break it you buy it philosophy. Does it actually hold up, though? Are we actually responsible for the aftermath of your actions indefinitely, or does there become a point at which we throw up our hands and say “no longer our responsibility”? It’ll be interesting to see how Stargate reacts to this policy; will humans become the new, docile overlords, by virtue of their power and technology?

Sam! Sam! Hey, wait – that’s a clever way to keep Jack in the show. SAM!

Oh, the “let’s do this” march with them all walking in tandem was very nice and moving. Yay. (Seriously, it was, but they’d better not pull too many of those “let’s all be teammates!” moments, or it’ll get cloying soon.)

Mmm. Interesting use of the goa’uld, and in a twisted way, very sensible. Goa’uld society developed around a hierarchical pack mentality, so it makes sense that many, if not all, would bow to the power of the Ori, and even join with them. After all the Ori promise their Prior’s ascention upon death, and ascention was largely a goal of the goa’uld. (Should that be Goa’uld, since it’s Ori? Interesting…)

This was not an episode riff with startling new things. Using an enemies weapons against them, splitting allies, establishing badguy alliances – all common themes. One of the joys of Stargate (both SG-1 and Atlantis) is that they take these common plots and turn them on their side, do something new an interesting. It was clever to use the break it/buy it philosophy to guilt Stargate Command into action, but not so clever to be novel. Sadly, this episode lacked the creativity that has become expected.

…of course, typing that 12 minutes before the end of the show just shows me. That was completely unexpected and damned clever, even if Vala turned into a hero. (My dislike of the character aside, it was a fitting completion of the transformation started in the prior episode.) Well, that just shows me.

And, I’ve just to say, Daniel’s response to where Vala just might be… *snerk* Fitting.

To just complete the theme of this post, SAM!

Atlantis: Condemned

Again, Atlantis reuses a plot from SG-1: the team gets trapped with a penal colony; in the original episode, it was a one way gate (that they eventually used manually). This time, the gate is in the middle of an Alcatraz-like island, used as a dumping ground for criminals and a Wraith-offering/feeding ground. The ship is shot down and they’re taken hostage, during which time McKay is told to fix the downed ship or else. (“Who do you think I am, MacGuyver?!”)

The leader of the penal coloney takes McKay on (more David Hewlett airtime!), claiming that he’s a Scotty-figure, claiming he can’t do it so that he can be heroic when he does succeed. He also realizes that McKay is not motivated by personal threat of violence, but of violence on his friends, and thus threatens the lives of everyone else on the ship. (Amusing sidenote: Sheppard’s nickname for Ronan? Chewie. I like.)

The team eventually discovers that the penalty of being sent to the island is such a deterrant that crime rates are too low to keep the island populated for Wraiths. People end up being sent there for the smallest crime.

And whoa, major spoiler that I won’t reveal here, but I did NOT see that coming. The Wraith, however, are terribly interesting. Reptilian and Asian, with a weird Vampire Hunter D quality thanks to the hand-mouth.

So although the major ideas of the plot are recycled, the writers manage to pull an original story out of it anyhow, and one filled with amusing dialogue and character interaction. It’s nice to see Sheppard doing a bit more; although I love the focus on the scientists, this is supposed to also be military. That Sheppard admitted he doesn’t fight because he’s lazy was just precious, and endearing.

I do have one complaint: it appears that they sped up the film when Teyla and Ronan are fighting hand to hand; whatever they did, it’s a visible effect that ended up looking cheesy and not at all good.

Okay, I take that back. Two complains – while I praise SG-1 for its literal morals debate, I have to wonder at the ethics of what the team did, and how the episode ended. I’m not entirely certain I like their sanctioning of the cull.

SG-1: The Powers That Be

This episode started off as the rest have, not terribly holding my attention. Yesyes, Mitchell being sassy, Daniel annoyed at Vala, Vala did something stupid and Teal’c just stands around. Four episodes, and it’s already dull. Oh dear – is this what SG-1 is going to be now? Such potential wasted…

…and then suddenly I sat up. It was nearly 25 minutes into the show, but I sat up, and ended up on the edge of the couch, intently ignoring everything else for the television. For Daniel and the Prior. Discussing religion, belief, technology, knowledge. You see, the team has gone to a planet where Vala reigned, imitating a goa’uld. The Prior has arrived, challenging that the Ori are the one true gods. Daniel convinces Vala to admit she’s not a goddess, which doesn’t go over well.

Just because you don’t understand something at first doesn’t mean it’s the magic of the gods.

And then the religious discussion starts. In the middle of Vala’s trial. A fabulous, moralistic dialogue between two strong characters, Daniel and the Prior. What is religion? What is power? What does ascention, a higher plane of existance, knowledge, magic, technolgy and more all mean? Is it truly a religion if it seems magical and mystical, or is it just the unknown to be learned, taught? It was nearly 10 minutes of theological and philosophical dialogue, and I can only heartily applaud the writers for such an engaging, gripping, and brave choice.

Vala had her changing-point, too, which I sort of suspected was coming. Doing good feels good, it’s hard to be a nice person, etc. It was a kind of a predictable point in the arc of the character, and although it was nice to see a non-irritating Vala, I suspect it will go away too soon.

The episode also included more backstory on Lam and Landry; I guessed that one right. Guess if you’ve (kind of) been there, you recognize the signs.

Overall, if this is the way SG-1 is going to go, with a continuing dialogue on what is religion, what is technology, what is magic and knowledge, I will be happy.


No Stargate detailed reviews this week, largely because SG-1 largely didn’t catch my attention, and I find that sort of dual-person/same body device used in Atlantis to be painful to watch. Kudos, however, to David Hewlett, who actually appeared to have a chance to let his acting muscles stretch. And yeah, what the producers said about more chances to embarass him? Well, I just hear fingers hitting keyboards as the slash fic flies.

Atlantis: Runner

95% of deadly is still deadly.

First, the catty:
– Am I the only one who hears Tayla and hears Teila? Mkay, didn’t think so, and really needed to get that off my chest.
– So. Ronan Dex. We trade one black man for another? Hrm, okay. Hard not to be cynical, but the reason for Francks leaving has never been explained.
– Dr. Beckett? Change the accent from Scottish to Irish, and you’d have a decent clone of my pulminologist. No wonder I like him (either him).

Okay, catty aside, I liked this episode. It had a good mix of humour and drama, and I thought that the introduction of Ronan Dex was, overall, interesting. I do hope they get the character to enunciate a bit clearer, though – I had a hard time understanding some of the lines. The interaction between McKay and Ford was also interesting to watch, but I’d like to know what happened to the rather self confident and assured McKay that could handle a gun and understood military hand signals; he’d emerged out of the sniveling hulk of Rodney at the end of last season, and was a very interesting character growth. Hiatus seems to have reversed that trend, and he’s back to sniveling and largely being unable to handle a gun.

The dialogue was witty and seemed to snap, and reading the Mallozi blog has made me appreciate certain things, like hanging Hewlett upside down, quite a lot more. (Apparently the season is loaded with “beat up on McKay and otherwise put him in stupid, uncomfortable, and revealing positions”. I’m okay with this, especially that last bit.) The cats were sort of puzzled why I found that particular scene so funny; it was largely because I knew what drove its inclusion in the script.

The change in Ford – I like how so much of it is driven of his need for Sheppard’s approval. It was an underlying theme of their relationship last year, and seeing it blossom in this manner is creative, and an interesting force behind the madness.

Mitch Peloggi’s character – commander of the Daedalus – he’s going to get irritating quickly if he doesn’t drop his attitude towards Sheppard. Yes, he didn’t get the post he wanted, boohoo, he’s commanding the spiffiest fucking ship in, uhm, two galaxies. Perhaps he should drop the attitude and work on getting along with the people he’s apparently going to be working with.

I’m getting catty again, aren’t I? I suppose that’s a sign of the fact that I’ve basically covered the plot of this particular episode: introduce Ronan Dex, further establish Ford’s off his rocker in his own special way. A simple plot, so the rest becomes commentary. I do wonder what the Wraith will think of/do with Ford.

Atlantis does still show having the touch of some established SG-1 writers, and continues being relatively well directed and acted. If it continues improving on itself at this steady pace, it’s going to consistently outshine SG-1 in very short order.