Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Within the Serpent's Grasp

August is over, and that means season 1 is done too. This finale episode is the first of a two-part story, which is concluded in the premiere episode of season 2 (The Serpent's Lair). Because Showtime ordered two seasons of SG-1 right off the bat (does stuff like that ever happen any more?), it gave the writers the opportunity to make a real cliffhanger knowing it'd be resolved, bringing back lots of viewers the next year.

The story does serve as a kind of full-circle for the season by bringing back Alexis Cruz as Klorel-in-Skaara. If you recall, Skaara is an Abydonian who was kidnapped by Apophis in the pilot episode, Children of the Gods, along with his sister, Daniel's wife Sha're. Both were taken as goa'uld hosts, and this is the first time we see either of them return. It's a nice reveal, Apophis introducing his 'son', who then arises from the sarcophagus, and turns to the camera to show his face. He's later killed by O'Neill to save Daniel's life, but of course there's a sarcophagus on board so this is no biggie. They don't even make that big a deal of it, cutting quickly from the grieving Jack to showing Earth out of the window (Interesting sidenote: Today the NASA probe Juno, headed for Jupiter, sent back a photograph of the Earth-Moon system from about 9.5 million kilometres - isn't she pretty?).

The ship arriving at Earth heralds the destruction that Daniel saw in the alternate timeline, but with the Stargate Programme being shut down, and only SG-1 to try and stop it, will the same fate befall our Earth? You'll have to continue watching to find out!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011


Despite being a clip show, this episode has a story of its own when senator Kinsey, chairman of the appropriations committee, comes to see if he thinks the Stargate programme is worth keeping. It's actually 15 minutes before we see a clip, and only a handful of scenes (including one from the 1994 film) are shown - well, there hadn't been many episodes to show clips of by this point. The episode also helps set up the situation for the finale, continuing (loosely) from the previous episode, There But For the Grace of God.

Ronny Cox makes his first appearance as senator Kinsey, and does a great job of making such an unlikeable, hateful character. From what I've read and heard on audio commentaries, Ronny is actually a really nice man, and good guitarist. It must be difficult to put on a totally different persona like that - I know acting's all about that, but I think actors probably usually have experience or something they can draw on to get the role right.

There's not a lot to say about this episode, it being a clip show and largely being confined to one room on set. I'm looking forward to the season finale and moving onto season 2, though.

There But For the Grace of God

This episode sets up the season finale, and is the first of three linked episodes. Daniel touches a mirror-like device and travels to an alternate reality, one where he is not a member of the SGC and Teal'c, still first prime to Apophis, is sporting a ridiculous ponytail and leading the goa'uld attack on Earth. These alternate-people ultimately let Daniel travel back to the planet with the mirror so he can warn his Earth about the imminent attack, dooming themselves in the process.

This is something that struck me as odd. If an alternate team had come through to our Earth as it was under attack, I doubt we would have given up our hopes of winning so quickly and sent them off to save their friends we'd never met. Granted, alternate-Earth was completely boned by that point, and basically everybody was dead, but they still go for saving Daniel pretty quickly.

It never really made sense to me that the mirror-owning aliens would have known the address for Apophis' base of operations against Earth, either - it's stated at the beginning of the episode that the battle on that planet seems like it was some time ago, and how do they know it was Apophis who destroyed them too? This was an action-packed episode, probably to make up for the following episode, Politics, which is all talk, and so the writers probably weren't too concerned with these plot holes.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Tin Man

I watched this episode twice - once for enjoyment, and once to listen to the GateWorld fan commentary, which I'll get to at the end of the post.

This is a really interesting episode, and I wish I could remember exactly how I felt when watching it the first time around. When visiting an alien planet, the team are knocked out and then awake to find that a strange local, Harlan, the only one left of his race, has made them 'better', but won't say how. On returning to Earth they discover that he's made robot copies of them and transferred their consciousnesses. After being kept in confinement by the suspicious SGC staff, they suddenly start to run out of power and are sent back through the gate to Harlan's planet, where they immediately begin to recover. Harlan, for vague reasons, won't transfer their minds back into their organic bodies, and it's not until the end of the episode that they discover (along with the audience) that their minds weren't transferred - they were copied. This presents a problem - the robots are just as 'real' as the originals, and as far as they're concerned are the same people who came through the gate. They have to accept the facts that they're going to live for thousands of years (based on Harlan's age of over 11,000 years) and the whole time is going to be spent maintaining the failing facility they were created in. That's exactly the same as the 'real' team coming to terms with this. Could you do that? I couldn't.

The action of the episode mainly comes from robot-Teal'c - Harlan clearly didn't understand how Jaffa worked when me made the robot, and copied both Teal'c's and his larval goa'uld's consciousnesses into it. Eventually the goa'uld manages to take over from Teal'c's mind and attacks O'Neill. Harlan has to destroy the robot, and creates a new one with the understanding that he must only copy teal'c's personality this time. There's still an issue that isn't brought up properly - Teal'c will have to get used to living without his symbiote. The physical superiority of the robots to humans negates the need for a replacement immune system, and he's probably stronger than he was when he was a jaffa too. But he can never kel'no'reem again, something he's been doing almost all his life. In this aspect, it's kind of a precursor to the jaffa uptake of tretonin in later seasons of the show.

Now, a few words about the fan commentary. It took me a while to get it synched up properly, often pausing the wrong thing to try and let the other catch up, but I got there eventually. It was an interesting idea, but it didn't hold my attention too well. I felt the 2 commenters just didn't have enough to say about what was happening, and it wasn't as interesting as cast or crew commentaries. I'll listen to the season 2 commentary too when it comes around and if I don't enjoy it, I'll skip them from then on.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


This is the big Sam-Jack bonding episode. Trapped alone in freezing conditions, and with Jack gravely injured, the two get very close, and it's probably the real beginning of their series-spanning not-quite-relationship. They learn about each other - well, we learn about Jack's past anyway, in particular the time he was on a black operation in the middle East some years back - and huddle together for warmth, which gives a great opportunity for a one-liner from Jack.

Despite the team being split apart for the entire episode, it still gives Daniel and Teal'c a chance to show their devotion to their comrades, losing sleep and exhausting themselves in the search operation, bringing the team emotionally closer.

Another pretty big thing about this episode is that it introduces the Earth's second stargate, which will be used in future storylines. It's a very interesting idea, as it opens up a lot of ideas for new stories, but it's never really made clear in the episode what caused the gate to send two of the team here, or why it was suddenly available in the stargate network when it apparently wasn't for the past couple of thousand years.

Despite the small plot holes, this is a great episode for all the character dynamics. It also has Dan Shea's first appearance as master sergeant Siler. Dan's been in previous episodes but only as Richard Dean Anderson's stunt double, and behind the scenes as the stunt coordinator for the show. Siler's a great character, and it's great to see Dan Shea for more than a second at a time, or from the back only.

Only a few episodes of season 1 to go, and for the next episode - Tin Man - I have the added pleasure of a brand new fan-commentary from the guys at GateWorld.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011



Ahem, sorry. Not sure where that came from.

When SG-1 rescue a group of technologically advanced aliens from a massive volcanic eruption on their world, it creates problems both for the offworlders - the Tollans - and the SGC. Because of their obviously powerful technology, the NID (National Intelligence Department) send colonel Harry Maybourne to take the Tollans from the SGC to a similarly secret facility elsewhere in the Rockies to learn what they can from them. General Hammond and SG-1 do their best to stop this from happening and while Sam and the Tollan Narim are busy fluttering their eyelashes at each other, Daniel helps their leader Omoc send a signal across (or perhaps through?) space to the Nox, who come to their aid.

In this, his first episode, col. Maybourne is basically just a replacement for colonel Kennedy (who appeared in The Enemy Within) and is just shown as a bit of a tool. Throughout the years he'll be brought back a number of the times and - as you may have guessed by my outburst above - becomes one of my favourite recurring characters.

The Tollans also come back a couple of times in the future, along with Narim's new pet cat, Schroedinger. There's obviously a mutual attraction between Narim and Sam in this episode, but due to them having to part ways at the end of the episode, not much happens. Narim does give Sam a 'recording' of his emotions and feelings about her, and then they kiss a couple of times before being interrupted by Daniel (which is hilarious). It's the first relationship-stuff we've seen for Sam since her ex-fiancé was killed in The First Commandment, but we'll see more soon enough - in the next episode, in fact (Solitudes).

P.S. As an update to the note in Singularity, I noticed in this episode that gen. Hammond started wearing his trademark short-sleeved dress shirt. Now he's really general Hammond!


Now this is the kind of stuff I like to see. Teal'c, while he is a 'good guy' now, is still technically a hardened war criminal, having committed many atrocities in the name of his former master Apophis. In this episode he is held accountable for one of these war crimes by the son of a victim, and put into 'cor-ai', which is their form of trial - the sentence being death.

Initially, Jack, Sam and Daniel try to argue Teal'c's case by finding out why he did it (to try and save as many of the other villagers as possible), but then - and this is something that still doesn't sit right with me - Jack decides to go back to Earth to bring reinforcements back to forcibly break Teal'c out. Teal'c objects to this, as do Sam and Daniel at first, but then those two change their minds and want to break Teal'c out too. Fortunately, general Hammond has his head still firmly screwed on and refuses to go through with this. It really bugs me that Jack would go to this length to free Teal'c - even after Teal'c has told him that he won't go in this manner. I certainly wouldn't like to see Teal'c die, but I definitely don't want to see the villagers' lives, and those of the SGC reinforcements, put at risk in order to free him from what is after all a legitimate justice system.

In a couple of O'Neill's scenes we see references to things he may have been ordered to do by the US government. This has never really been touched on before, but it paves the way for future episodes that will confirm he was involved in what are known as 'black ops' - highly clandestine military operations which may go against the military's code of conduct or even against laws. He mentions to general Hammond that he has been ordered to do some "damn distasteful things" in his years of service, and his eagerness to break Teal'c out suggests that maybe Jack's not ready to face the consequences of what he's done, or is still in conflict with his conscience. It's something that gets a little more development in the future, but not much that I can recall.

You just know he loved shouting OBJECTION! during the cor-ai though!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Just in case you forgot that the goa'uld were evil, this episode shows just how evil. It also introduces Cassandra, the little girl who'll reappear a few times in future episodes. As a result of Cassandra being the only survivor of a plague on her home planet, Sam gets to showcase her maternal instincts (and even Teal'c and Jack get to show their soft sides!). I'm not sure if it was deliberate or not, but this does seem to take away some of the 'strong female character' vibe she had going in the previous episode, Hathor.

The goa'uld Nirrti is mentioned in this episode, as an enemy of Apophis, but still trying to destroy Earth (or at least our Stargate) for some reason. Hintings of a larger goa'uld conspiracy (i.e. the System Lords) perhaps? Nirrti is also referred to as a man, though in future episodes she will appear in a female host (and showing a female personality). It's entirely possible that the symbiote switched since Teal'c heard about it, or that he was just misinformed or made the wrong assumption.

Something I've noticed over the past few episodes is that general Hammond has stopped wearing his dress coat. Still long sleeves on his shirt, though. Without the coat, you can tell he's chubby, but it makes him look more casual and somehow more relatable. Perhaps it's because you see more of the person behind the rank, insignia and ribbons. I've also noticed that we're seeing a LOT of dr. Frasier in these early episodes - she's become as important and regularly appearing as general Hammond, despite having been introduced once the show had already commenced. Of course, I'm not complaining - Janet is one of my favourite supporting characters, and I wish they'd put her in even more.

Friday, 19 August 2011


This is a pretty old sci-fi standard - a femme fatale is seducing men left, right and centre, and has to be stopped. In this case, said femme is Hathor, ancient Egyptian fertility godess and, of course, goa'uld. However, the writers do manage to switch things up from the standard by making this quite a female-empowering episode. Sam and Janet [Fraisier], along with some other women on the base, manage to get their own way and eventually overcome Hathor's power. They do enlist the help of the de-brainwashed O'Neill, but he's the star of the show so it's forgivable, and besides, Sam and Janet still do most of the cool stuff.

While it's quite funny to see some of the men on base so infatuated with Hathor (in particular, general Hammond), there are some more serious moments such as her trying to turn Jack into a jaffa, and taking advantage of the drugged Daniel to 'acquire' some human DNA (surely she could have just done a cheek-swab?) to make some human-compatible symbiotes - she is, as it turns out, a goa'uld queen, and the first one seen or spoken of. Also in this episode we see a goa'uld healing sarcophagus, like the one that brought Daniel and Sha'uri back from the dead in the movie. Obviously, this is a hugely powerful device and as such it had to be destroyed before the end of the episode, which is a shame, but sarcophagi do crop up every now and again in future episodes (presumably because the set piece cost a lot to build!). Hathor, too, will return - at the end of the episode she's seen escaping through the stargate to Chulak, though it's not really clear how friendly she ever was with Apophis. They both disliked Ra, though, and they now both hate Earth, so maybe they'll bond over that.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Fire and Water

Ah, the first of Daniel's many, many funerals and memorial services. This episode mostly seems to serve as a way for the team to develop stronger feelings for Daniel by being brainwashed into thinking he's dead. It also serves to remind us that Daniel's a scholar more than he is a soldier, by having him translate from cuneiform and remember historical accounts for Nem, an Oannes (the species is named for a mythological Babylonian figure).

The Oannes are clearly an advanced race (although the only one we ever see is Nem), and Nem says that "perhaps, in time" they could become allies of Earth, but we never see or hear of them again. There is, of course, a problem from a writing standpoint of introducing too many powerful allies, in that especially this close to the start of the show it would make for a very short defeat of the enemy and thus a very short series. However, I think it wouldn't have been too hard to make a similar episode with slightly less advanced aliens. But, what's done is done, and now we'll never hear from the Oannes again.

The team do not handle what they think is Daniel's death well. All three have flashbacks (a flaw with the memory-changing device, it would seem) and Jack even goes so far as to smash the window of general Hammond's car out of frustration. Even so, he manages to sneak in a bit of light-heartedness on learning whose car it was, telling the general "You ought to get that window fixed...". There's an odd (to me) moment after Carter's hypotic session, where she and Jack embrace in a somewhat too-friendly way, which seems out of character for them as USAF officers - the show was always very strict about not letting the two of them do anything the real Air Force wouldn't let them. Speaking of the real air force, they do appear in this episode - that's a genuine colour guard at Daniel's memorial service.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


In this Teal'c-centric episode, the team travel back to Chulak, officially to try and retrieve a larval goa'uld symbiote, unofficially so Teal'c can see his son Rya'c and stop him from being implanted with one of said symbiotes. We learn a lot about Teal'c, and I think Christopher Judge was probably pleased to be allowed to do anything other than raise his eyebrow, cock his head, and say "Indeed". He does a very good job of showing Teal'c's love for his family and his urgency to stop his son becoming a slave to the false gods that abuse his people. As well as his son and wife, Drey'auc (played by Salli Richardson, currently of Eureka fame), we're introduced to master Bra'tac (Tony Amendola), who over the years would become a fan favourite - I know I was always pleased to see his name pop up in opening credits.

My least favourite part of this episode was when Daniel kills the symbiotes in the tank. It seemed like it was done more for immediate story purposes than character development purposes (to get rid of all the other symbiotes on Chulak so there was only the one left to stick into Teal'c), and it feels so out of character. There are no repercussions either, aside from a dirty look from Carter.

Overall this was a strong episode and one that I enjoyed because it brought more humanity and depth to Teal'c, and paved the way for some great episodes and stories to come in future seasons.

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Torment of Tantalus

The first episode where we learn of the ancient alliance of four races - although the only one identified in this episode is the Asgard that we learned about in the last episode, Thor's Hammer. Ernest Littlefield, who went through the gate in early experiments in the 1940s, and who was Catherine Langford's fiancé, has been living alone on the planet Heliopolis for the past fifty years. During this time he hypothesised that the place was a meeting point for four peoples, and found a display showing 146 chemical elements (Catherine states that 111 were known to Earth scientists, but by this point Copernicum, the 112th had actually been discovered. The current periodic table shows 118 elements). Daniel realises that this was a 'universal language' used between the 'four great races'. Unfortunately they have to leave before he can study it in detail, but Capt. Carter is said to be building a computer model of it based on Dr. Littlefield's notes.

This is quite a nice episode because it brings back Catherine Langford, who first brought Daniel into the Stargate programme in the movie. And, the keen-eyed amongst you may have noticed the young Ernest Littlefield was played by Paul McGillion (Dr. Carson Beckett in Stargate Atlantis). His 'death', as she knew it (actually his disappearance through the stargate) was the reason she pushed so hard for the stargate programme to be revived. It's nice to see the two characters reunited even though we barely know either of them. As far as plot goes, though, this mostly just sets the story for future arcs and episodes.

Thor's Hammer

This is the first time the Asgard are mentioned in the show, as Daniel has been researching gods throughout history and discovered polar opposites to the goa'uld - helping humans using 'magic', which of course refers to advanced technology (see Arthur C. Clarke's famous quote). Teal'c offers a gate address taught to all jaffa to stop any goa'uld traveling there, and the team go to explore the planet Cimmeria (alas, Conan doesn't seem to live there). Upon arrival the team are scanned by a large hammer-shaped device and Teal'c, after appearing to climax, is transported somewhere with O'Neill who tries to save him. The two meet an Unas (who, as a species, also get their first mention) while Daniel and Sam meet a former goa'uld host, Kendra.

Hardly anything is revealed about the Asgard or Unas - only that the former are a spacefaring race of aliens who oppose the goa'uld and have similarly advanced technology, and the latter are another species of very robust aliens that the goa'uld sometimes infected in the past. I think it's actually left a little ambiguous whether they were a species or just one being - this goa'uld refers to itself as "Unas, the first one". Sadly after the symbiote is killed by Thor's Hammer, the host's body is too injured by the Earth weapons to survive, so we can't find out anything else for the time being. The only glimpse we get of the Asgard is a hologram (played by Mark Gibbon, who also appears as a jaffa in much later seasons) and some of their technology. I'm not sure why the name 'Asgard' was chosen over 'AEsir' (in Norse mythology, Asgard refers to the home of the AEsir gods) but these aliens inspired the Norse gods of ancient and medieval Europe.

The biggest plot point of this episode is that everything, not just something, of a goa'uld host survives, as evidenced by Kendra. This gives hope for Sha're and Skaara, who were taken as hosts in Children of the Gods. Unfortunately, to save his friend Teal'c, Daniel has to destroy Thor's Hammer, but as he points out, "at least we know it can be done." I actually think he makes this choice far too fast, especially as he and Teal'c haven't really been shown bonding yet, but it was important that they had him do it rather than resent another team member for doing it.

The audience don't know it yet, but there is a link between the aliens from a few episodes ago, the Nox, and the Asgard, which will be shown in the next episode, The Torment of Tantalus.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Brief Candle

Well, it took eight episodes, but O'Neill finally got his Captain Kirk moment. On a trip to the planet Argos, a beautiful woman gives him some space cake and an exotic dance, and takes him to bed. Unfortunately the bodily contact transmits nano-scale machines into O'Neill's blood which then begin aging him rapidly. The team have to figure out a way to stop this before he dies.

The makeup department did a really good job of making Jack look old, and I think had Richard Dean Anderson not gotten really fat lately, he'd have looked quite similar to the way they made him up here.

There's not much character development on this planet-of-the-week - all we see from Jack is the start of a letter to Sara, his ex-wife (a letter he never takes further than 'Dear Sara') and the promise to treasure every day in the rest of his life. The rest of the team barely do anything, it seems. Daniel delivers a baby, him and Teal'c translate some obscure archaic goa'uld (which, it turns out, is what Linear A script is), and Carter does some sciencey stuff with Dr. Frasier. All in all, quite a weak episode, but still an enjoyable one to watch. My favourite part is Alekos realising that, with a lifespan of thousands of days, he could go out and explore the uncharted parts of his world, then return and share his knowledge with others, who could build on that knowledge. It's like watching him discover history and science.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Nox

This is a planet-of-the-week episode, but contains elements that will later become part of the larger stargate mythos. We see the Nox for the first time, a race of beings with superior technology to the goa'uld, but who are a peaceful, enigmatic people. They are able to hide themselves and other things, to the point that even the goa'uld, who have been coming to the planet for over 400 years, do not know of their existence. They also have amazing healing powers, and can bring people back from death. The team go to their planet in search of a flying creature with the power of invisibility and run into their old pal Apophis and his small personal guard. It's the first time the show's primary antagonists have shown up since The enemy Within and despite seeming quite weak (only 3 jaffa following Apophis) they still manage to kill the human members of SG-1, who are then reanimated by the Nox.

In my mind, the Nox are one of the most cryptic groups of aliens to feature in the stargate world, as we never find much out about them other than that they're incredibly advanced compared to us. It's nice to see an advanced race of pacifists, too - often in science fiction, advanced races are shown either as aggressive towards us or as benefactors. The Nox, on the other hand, just want to be left alone.

Not much else happens in the episode - the dangers of 'meddling' with other cultures and the naïveté of children are shown - the Nox had gone undetected for hundreds of years before SG-1 visited their planet and started a fight (yes, Han Teal'c shot first) and then because of a talk with Jack, the young nox Nafrayu confronts Apophis and is injured or killed (but returned to life by his fellows). At the end of the episode Jack repeats what the old nox told him - "The very young do not always do as they are told," referring to both Nafrayu and the human race.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Cold Lazarus

At first glance this seems like an episode for O'Neill's character to develop, but it's actually more about the characters around him, and also sheds light on his backstory for viewers who hadn't seen the film. It's a great showcase, too, for Richard Dean Anderson's acting talent. He plays both O'Neill and an alien impersonating him, learning about his past, and has some really emotional scenes.

This is the first planet-of-the-week that I really enjoyed a lot, due to the totally alien nature of the crystal life, and the heart-wrenching recaps of Jack's pre-stargate life. Sam learns for the first time about O'Neill's ex-wife and the fate of his son, and Teal'c takes an opportunity to watch the TV news and learn about the "strange place" that is the planet Earth. Meanwhile, the alien-O'Neill helps Sarah O'Neill (Jack's ex-wife) move past Jack and the loss of their son Charlie.

It's a shame these crystal aliens never returned as it was refreshing to see extraterrestrial life that wasn't a dude in prosthetics. It all helps to flesh out the world of stargate though, and even if they were just a tool for character development, it was a pretty cool way to do it. The early seasons had a few episodes like this - just to show cool aspects of the universe that were out there, without necessarily bringing back the characters, races, or stories. Some of them that may have been better received or easier to integrate into future episodes did return - the Nox showed up a few times, as did the Tollans, and the Tok'ra became a fairly major character group. Other times, such as this, or the episode with the Re'tu, races were introduced and wrapped up within the episode, never to be seen again. I suppose it was a consequence of the show still 'finding its feet' - an excuse I seem to have made several times already.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The First Commandment

This is an interesting episode - it explores one of the main themes of Stargate - the goa'uld as false gods - without using any goa'uld characters. The leader of another SG team has gone mad with power while on a mission to another planet, and proclaimed himself the god of the native people. He also happens to be Captain Carter's former fiancé. He believes he is saving the native people but in fact he is working them to death in the planet's intense heat and UV radiation.

Captain Hanson argues at one point that because the people believe in him, it doesn't matter that he's not actually a god - although later in the episode he's shown as genuinely believing that he is the god of the Abrahamic tradition, and thinks that by having the natives build him a temple they are being saved when in fact they are dying from exposure and exhaustion. Two of his team tried to depose him and as a result, one was killed and the other almost killed, along with Col. O'Neill. Ultimately though, he's exposed as a fraud, and attacked and killed by his former subjects.

Hanson's belief is in contrast with those of the goa'uld, who see humans as no better than cattle, but both use religion as a tool of oppression and both routes lead to the same outcome - slavery and tyranny. This is something I love about science fiction as a genre - it's often used as a way to explore the world we live in by going to extremes and situations that would be impossible in the real world. This episode begins to explore the theme of what a 'god' really is, and if gods are necessary. This is the main theme of the goa'uld (and in later seasons the ori), but interestingly other Earth characters are shown as still remaining faithful to their own gods despite these questions.

One part of this episode that I didn't like so much was the scene where Hanson talks capt. Carter out of shooting him, and is able to take the gun away from her. She has the opportunity to shoot him but lets her personal feelings get in the way (despite the two not being together any more). She does talk about this to Col. O'Neill, though, who tells her that "Killing a man is no badge of honour". I think the Sam of later seasons would have put her personal feelings aside and fired, perhaps not lethally, for the greater good, and maybe this was an important step for the development of that character.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Broca Divide

Another planet-of-the-week episode (although it does use a line at the start to remind us of the overarching plot), this time to a world based on the Minoan civilisation of ancient Crete. The world appears to be tidally locked to its star, having a 'light side' and 'dark side', housing the main civilisation and the 'touched', respectively. The touched are a seemingly sub-human race of people, believed to be cursed, who occasionally kidnap the untouched - who may then transform into touched. After an attack by the touched, SG's -1 and -3 return to Earth and inadvertently bring the 'curse' (actually a highly contagious disease) back with them. It's up to the newly introduced Dr. Janet Frasier (Teryl Rothery) to find a cure, which is then also distributed to the 'touched' on the planet.

The Broca Divide doesn't offer much in the way of character development - it does introduce Dr. Frasier though, who will return to the show many times and become a much-loved supporting character. It also expands on Emancipation's establishment of the Sam/Jack relationship by having Carter pounce on O'Neill in the changing rooms. I'm not a 'shipper so I see this mainly as a funny anecdote and strengthening of their friendship, but bear in mind their friendship does develop to something much more powerful in the future.

Despite Daniel's protests that the team should stay on/return to the planet in order to study the culture, the episode doesn't actually reveal much about the small civilisation, its relationship with the touched and their disease, or the relationship to the goa'uld who have apparently been absent for at least a generation. Nor does the episode use its story as a way to explore what makes a person human, despite it being a big plot point. I think the show was still finding its feet at this point and as such created a few weak episodes in its attempts. They're all still enjoyable though, and all add to the background of the world of Stargate.

Friday, 5 August 2011


This episode marks one or two 'firsts' that I think are worth mentioning. It's the first episode in what I like to call the 'planet-of-the-week' format - that is, a self-enclosed episode not following the overarching storyline of the series. It's also the first episode where the characters express reluctance to interfere with another culture (although not the first episode to bring up a moral dilemma - that was done in The Enemy Within where Col. Kennedy pointed out that, evil or not, and dangerous or not, the symbiote inside Maj. Kawalsky was still a living, sentient being). And, as I'm sure all the Sam/Jack 'shippers out there have noticed, it's the first episode with 'chemistry' between those two characters - they share a moment alone when Carter has changed into her new dress, and later in the episode O'Neill has a wry smile on his lips as he remembers the time on another planet when Carter "drank that stuff that made you take off your..."

Its departure from the goa'uld storyline means the episode can try out what would become its trademark tongue-in-cheek humour, expertly executed by Richard Dean Anderson. This is only evidenced in a couple of scenes, mostly through his interactions with Major Carter, but it's the start of what turns out to be a huge part of the show. Despite being a stand-alone episode it still has room for character development - Captain Doctor Samantha Carter gets to show off her captain side, by helping out the subjugated women of the planet, and in a knife fight with a powerful chieftain. Sadly this is it and the other characters stay firmly in the roles they've already been given - indeed*, Teal'c only has about three lines in the whole episode.

This episode tends to get a lot of hate in the fan community, which I don't think it deserves. Sure, it's a weak episode, but I've never hated an episode. If I was channel-flicking and Emancipation was playing, I'd stop and watch it. Even when I watch through my DVDs for fun, I still watch this episode. So, if you've not seen the episode but have heard bad things - please ignore them, watch it anyway and form your own opinion.

*Sorry, I couldn't resist

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Enemy Within

The main themes presented in the second episode of SG-1 are Teal'c's acceptance by the SGC and his appointment to SG-1, and the knowledge gained about the goa'uld themselves. These are presented as two side-by-side stories which resolve together at the climax of the episode. In one story Teal'c is being held prisoner by the USAF for questioning and study, with O'Neill being the only one who trusts him completely. During interrogation he reveals the knowledge that the goa'uld control hundreds if not thousands of worlds in the galaxy by posing as gods to humans and jaffa. It is also revealed that Earth is the legendary Tau'ri, the homeworld of the human form from where the original people were taken by the goa'uld and used as hosts, modified into the jaffa, and kept as slaves.

The second story follows Major Kawalsky as the characters realise he has been infected with a goa'uld symbiote. The symbiote at various points takes control of Kawalsky, killing one man and hurting several other people. The doctors on base attempt to cut it out of him but ultimately fail, and the episode culminates in a battle between Kawalsky, who is trying to return to Chulak through the stargate and destroy the SGC in his wake, and Teal'c, who affirms to General Hammond that he has truly forsaken his former masters by killing the goa'uld (and , sadly, Major Kawalsky in the process).

It's a shame to see Maj. Kawalsky killed off so early in the show as he was a strong character, and a carryover from the film. He does return for one or two cameos in future episodes but as far as the main storyline is concerned, he's dead for good. His death, though, brings around something good - Teal'c as a member of SG-1. The final shot of the episode confirms this as we see the team march, in matching fatigues, up the ramp and through the stargate on the first of their many missions.

A smaller story which is easy to miss is that of General Hammond becoming less of a hardass than in Children of the Gods - he still retains the quality in his first scene of the episode, but throughout the course of the show he sees how badly other members of the US Government are willing to treat Teal'c who is still (almost) a human being and decides to be more trusting of O'Neill's judgement of the man, as well as letting his actions speak for themselves. It's important that the General is seen to be 'one of the good guys', as he is after all Jack's boss and will be giving many of the orders throughout the show.

Tomorrow's episode, Emancipation, is a rather weak one, but is the first planet-of-the-week style episode, a format that I really enjoyed through the early seasons of SG-1.

P. S. Did you notice the scenes in this episode where Teal'c's forehead emblem was upside-down? In these early days, it was applied in three parts rather than one, and the makeup crew were still getting to grips with spending an hour applying it to him every morning.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Children of the Gods (Parts 1 & 2)

Note: There is also a re-cut straight-to-DVD 'feature' version of this double episode but, to be consistent, I watched the original version, as included in my DVD box set.

In 1997, Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner created Stargate: SG-1, a TV spinoff of the 1994 film. Richard Dean Anderson (of MacGyver fame) was cast in the lead role as Colonel Jack O'Neill of the U.S. Air Force (played by Kurt Russell in the movie), and Michael Shanks, Christopher Judge and Amanda tapping were cast in supporting roles as the team SG-1. This would be the start of a 14-year television franchise, ending with 354 episodes and even some TV movies.

In this hour-and-a-half we are introduced to the central ideas of the show - that the stargate can travel to places other than Abydos, that Ra's race (the Goa'uld) are still a scourge on the galaxy, and that Earth is starting its own stargate programme, run in secret by the U.S. Air Force. After a small-scale goa'uld attack through the stargate, Col. O'Neill is called in by Major General Hammond (veteran actor and renaissance man Don S. Davis) to discuss his mission through the stargate and the new threat. This culminates in two more missions through the gate: to bring Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks, previously James Spader) back from Abydos; then, after another attack on Abydos, to the planet Chulak to rescue Skaara and Sha're (both Abydonian characters from the film).

Looking back, it's obvious that the show was still finding its feet and trying to make a name for itself at this stage. It is the only episode to feature nudity (full-frontal nudity, at that) and is very much military science fiction, lacking the humour and joviality it would gain later. Some elements of the show's mythology are also in contrast to later episodes, such as the Greco-Roman style of Chulak, the goa'uld ship that seems to be a cross between a tel'tak and death glider, and the sheer power of the jaffa - this episode sees bullets bouncing off their armour and staff weapons blasting holes through solid stone walls!

The characters are introduced/reintroduced quite well for the most part - O'Neill is first seen stargazing from his roof, perhaps searching for Abydos, and throughout the episode shows a lot of loyalty to those he likes and trusts. Michael Shanks essentially does his best impersonation of James Spader for the role, and is given his motivation by the kidnap and enslavement of his wife. Samantha Carter is given perhaps one of the worst lines ever to appear on television, but develops from the defensive, cold person she's initially presented as into a trustworthy member of the team, also showcasing her scientific curiosity and wonder. Teal'c is shown as a reluctant servant to the enemy who sees his opportunity to turn against them and grabs it, earning O'Neill's trust instantly. Also showcased is General Hammond, who starts off as a by-the-book tough general but is shown to soften up and truly care about those under his command. We even get to see Walter "Chevron seven locked" Harriman, here known only as one of several gate technicians.

The episode does a good job of setting up the workings for the show by inventing the idea that there is a huge stargate network, by setting up an entire species of villains with one prominent bad guy, and by providing the beginnings of both long- and short-term story arcs (the kidnapping and implantation of Sha're and Skaara and the implantation of Kawalsky, respectively). Because of this it gained ten seasons, two spin-off series (three if you count the short-lived awful cartoon Stargate Infinity), some straight-to-DVD movies and an enormous international fanbase, which itself led to this re-watch and this blog. Stay tuned for tomorrow's entry, on The Enemy Within!

Monday, 1 August 2011


1994 was the year that started the Stargate franchise with Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's film Stargate. It's in this film that, despite a few minor plot holes and differences to the series (which have surely been discussed to death elsewhere), we see the genesis of a fully-formed, fleshed-out universe for the story to take place in. Many aspects of this universe will later be reused as central tenets of the TV show, such as Goa'uld posession of humans, their impersonation of (or perhaps inspiration for) the gods of antiquity, and most importantly the use of a Stargate to create a wormhole to travel vast distances through space. We are also introduced to characters, settings, and technology that will become familiar (or at least recurring) in later years.

Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is presented as a crackpot Egyptologist with unorthodox theories about the builders of the Great Pyramids. Much of his behaviour in the movie would continue into the series (where he's portrayed by Michael Shanks), most obviously at the outset before Shanks began to take more control of the character.
Conversely, the Colonel O'Neil of the film (Kurt Russell) is a stoic, humourless opposite to the wry, joking O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) we would come to love in the series. Despite this, we do see the beginnings of his emotional healing - after losing his son to a gun accident before the events of the film, he begins to see Skaara as a kind of son, most notably when Skaara picks up O'Neil's gun, sending O'Neil into a protective rage - he doesn't want to see anybody else hurt themselves because of him (at least in his eyes, his son's death was his own fault). This theme is continued into the series, notably in the pilot episode, Children of the Gods, where, upon arriving on Abydos, O'Neill walks right past Daniel to embrace Skaara.

The film also offers the first glimpses of Anubis and Horus guards, staff weapons, death gliders, ring transporters, glowing goa'uld eyes, the Cheyenne Mountain complex housing the Stargate Program (called the Creek Mountain complex in the film), the MALP, and even the star map that's in the background of many SGC scenes in the TV show. At the time they all just seemed like cool elements padding out the stargate world, but they were integrated almost seamlessly into the series, elements such as the staff weapon being used every week by ex-enemy combatant Teal'c.

Nobody save the film's writers can say how the original 2 sequels planned would have been, but in my opinion Stargate is a great film that laid the foundations for an even greater TV series. Check back tomorrow when I'll have watched the Stargate: SG-1 series pilot, Children of the Gods!