Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 5, Episode 3


"Ascension"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Overall Rating:  Fair

Commentary by:
Martin Wood -- Director
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Producer
Amanda Tapping -- “Carter”

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
SG-1 is off-world, exploring ruins.  One structure is different from the others.  Daniel studies writing located outside of the building.  Carter studies alien technology located inside the building.  O’Neill wants to go, leaving the study to a specialized SG team.

An unseen presence floats down to the area near Carter.  Cue a flash of light, and Carter is unconscious.  Back at SGC’s infirmary, Dr. Frasier checks out the now awake Carter.  SG-16, lead by Colonel Reynolds (Major Reynolds in “Touchstone”) is assigned the task of researching the off-world site.  Daniel will go with them to try to decipher the alien language.  The rest of SG-1 is given time off.  Carter wants to go with SG-16, however Dr. Frasier nixes that idea.  Carter is forced to go home, and relax.  We learn that: Carter has a very nice house; her car is a sweet ride; and that she has no life outside of SGC.

Back home, Carter discovers she has a stalker, whose name is Orlin.  Orlin can suddenly appear and disappear, as well as walk through kitchen counters.  A ghost?  Nah.  This is Stargate SG-1.  It is an alien in human form, because he is crushing on Carter, big time.  She hightails it away from Orlin, and contacts SGC.  Carter’s house is thoroughly checked out, but no sign of her visitor is found.  Orlin eventually returns to Carter’s house, and she interacts with him.  Since no one else has seen Orlin, folks at SGC are a bit worried about Carter’s seemingly imaginary friend.  Meanwhile, SG-16 continues to research the alien tech off-world.  Unknown to SGC, or Carter, another government faction wants to capture Orlin, and study him.

Everyone’s’ performance is fine.  A new, delightfully nasty villain is introduced.

Failures:
There are many interesting aspects of the story.  But, I dislike the science fiction insta-love plot device, which I think taints the entire episode.  This is not the first time insta-love is used on Stargate SG-1, and Carter has previously been the object of instantaneous alien affection.  In this episode, I think the insta-love plot device is a cheap ploy.  I think it would be far more interesting, and tell me more about Carter’s character, if her motivation did not involve her falling in love within seconds.

Stargate SG-1, Season 5, Episode 2


"Threshold"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Overall Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Peter DeLuise -- Director
Christopher Judge -- “Teal’c”
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Producer

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.  Having Mr. Judge on the commentary is a welcomed addition.  A nice pairing with two excellent commentators, Mr. DeLuise, and Mr. Tichenor.

Review:
At the end of “Enemies” Teal’c is captured by O’Neill.  Now, Teal’c is under guard at SGC, and Apophis’ brainwashing is overcome with time, and psychological therapy.  Nice … if it were true.  Teal’c is only pretending he is no longer under Apophis’ influence.  Bra’tac ("Maternal Instinct"), who recently arrived at SGC from off world, removes Teal’c’s symbiote, commencing the Jaffa ritual of Malshuraan.  The ritual takes a Jaffa to death’s door.  Once a Goa’uld symbiote is first implanted, a Jaffa cannot survive for long without one.  Bra’tac hopes that as Teal’c’s life flashes before him, he will remember the truth about Apophis, and negate the brainwashing.  There is one problem with Malshuraan.  A Jaffa doing the ritual always dies at the end of it.

Dr. Frasier is against performing the ritual on Teal'c, however she is over-ruled by General Hammond.  SG-1, and General Hammond, are not happy about the pain, and mortality rate, of Malshuraan.  However, they understand that Teal’c would prefer death to remaining under the influence of Apophis.  Also, a brainwashed Teal’c will be a prisoner, and a lab rat, dying in a few years when the Goa’uld symbiote he carries matures.

During Malshuraan, Teal’c relives past events of his life.  The memories cover some of the time when Teal’c believed the Goa’uld are gods, to when he became Apophis’ First Prime, and realizes that they are not gods.  With such a strong likelihood of death, the question is whether Teal’c will die with the mind of a free Jaffa, or as a twisted slave to a dead Goa’uld.

This well written episode shows formative events in Teal’c’s life that were previously only hinted at in passing.  There is also a chance to see the average Jaffas’ perspective of life under the rule of Apophis.  A very interesting, and exciting, episode.

Tony Amendola returns as Bra’tac.  Mr. Amendola is an excellent actor, and his portrayal of Bra’tac makes me wish Bra’tac appeared in more episodes.  All of the regular cast members provide very good performances.  Teryl Rothery is great as Dr. Frasier.  Ms. Rothery’s acting is always good, however sometimes Frasier’s dialog is out of character for an Air Force officer, and doctor.  In this episode, Frasier’s dialog matches the high quality level of Ms. Rothery’s performance.  Watch for General Hammond’s facial expression near the end of the show.  His look is very poignant, and speaks volumes without the use of words.  I think this is the hallmark of an excellent actor.  Brook Parker returns as Drey’auc, and performs very well.

The special effect sequences are done well, and visually rich.  The scene of Teal’c standing on a planet after a great battle with Ra’s Jaffa is beautiful.

Failures:
Apophis’ brainwashing of Ry’ac in “Family” was overcome with a ‘zat gun blast.  This method does not work on Teal’c.  Why it doesn’t work is not addressed, nor explained.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 5, Episode 1


"Enemies"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Martin Wood -- Director
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Producer

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
This episode picks up immediately after the final events in “Exodus.”  Teal’c is presumed dead on Vorash (the name of the Tok’ra’s planet).  The rest of SG-1, and Jacob/Selmak, escape the artificially induced supernova by using the Earth’s recently acquired Goa’uld mothership.  However, as they enter a hyperspace window, the ship is hit with a blast wave from the supernova.  Damaged, the mothership drops out of hyperspace, off course, and in an uncharted part of the universe.  Three-quarters of SG-1, and Jacob/Selmak, do not have the means to return home in their lifetimes, but at least they are safe.

Characters in safe Stargate SG-1 situations can be boring.  How about Apophis’ much larger ship showing up, having been knocked out of hyperspace by the blast wave, too?  On the only ship in his attack fleet to survive the supernova blast, Apophis is in an incredibly foul mood.  He spots the mothership, and he is mighty furious, so much so that he is going for the direct kill, instead of the drawn out, tortuous death Goa'ulds often relish dishing out.  Apophis does not even do an evil 'Goa’uld with the upper hand' riff.  Now, that is one very angry Goa'uld.

But, wait.  How about another ship joining the fray, just as Apophis is about to destroy the mothership?  The newcomer is of an unknown design.  SG-1, and Jacob/Selmak, do not know if the new arrival is a friend, or a foe.  All of this happens with the first five minutes of the show.  And, the action is just beginning.

On board the damaged mothership, the remaining members of SG-1 work with Jacob/Selmak to avoid being destroyed by Apophis.  If successful, they must also learn who, or what, is piloting the alien ship, and their intentions.  Most importantly, the team must find a way to get back home in their lifetimes.

This is an exciting story, with a lot of suspense, and some surprises.  The lulls in the action are interesting, forming bridges to other scenes without slowing down the story’s pace.  That is not easy to accomplish.  The dialog is lively, and informative while at the same time entertaining.  Kudos to the writers.  All of the actors provide top performances, rounding out this thrilling introduction to Stargate SG-1, season five.

Failures:
Apophis’ ship ending up so close to the team’s mothership seems sketchy.  Apophis’ ship opened a separate hyperspace window, yet wound up (in astronomical terms) within throwing distance of the mothership.  Then, there are space battles, and desperate escapes, and action, and clever dialog, … and I forget all about questioning how Apophis’s ship got where it was.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SG-1 Season Five DVD Set -- Content

I will rate each season’s DVD set before reviewing the season’s individual episodes.  My rating in this post solely reflects the DVD content, options, & extras (or lack thereof), not episodes.


Overall Rating for the Set:  Good

Audio commentary on each episode.

No "play all" option.
The only audio language is English.

Subtitles: None

This is a five-disc set, with 22 episodes.
Each episode is approximately 44 minutes long.

All episodes are anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1.

Sound: 5.1 (Dolby Digital)

The special features are not rated.

Although there are no subtitles, the episodes are close captioned. You can use the close caption option on your television to view the episodes' dialog.

The special features are not closed captioned.

There is not a “play all” option.  Episodes have to be accessed for viewing one at a time.

Special Features:

Disc 2: “SG-1 Video Diary -- Amanda Tapping”
Disc 2: “Inside the Tomb” Featurette
Disc 3: “SG-1 Video Diary -- Christopher Judge”
Disc 4: “SG-1 Video Diary -- Michael Shanks”
Disc 5: “Dr. Daniel Jackson -- A Tribute” Featurette

I rate this set Good because it has all of the season’s episodes in their entirety, and in broadcast order, and there is audio commentary for each episode.  Slim cases, and nice artwork.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

SG-1 Season 4 At a Glance

My rating for each episode in season four.

Episode 1: Small Victories -- Excellent
Episode 2: The Other Side -- Fair
Episode 3: Upgrades -- Excellent
Episode 4: Crossroads -- Fair
Episode 5: Divide and Conquer -- Good
Episode 6: Window of Opportunity -- Excellent
Episode 7: Watergate -- Excellent
Episode 8: The First Ones -- Very Good
Episode 9: Scorched Earth -- Excellent
Episode 10: Beneath the Surface -- Fair
Episode 11: Point of No Return -- Excellent
Episode 12: Tangent -- Excellent
Episode 13: The Curse -- Very Good
Episode 14: The Serpent's Venom -- Excellent
Episode 15: Chain Reaction -- Excellent
Episode 16: 2010 -- Good
Episode 17: Absolute Power -- Very Good
Episode 18: The Light -- Poor
Episode 19: Prodigy -- Fair
Episode 20: Entity -- Good
Episode 21: Double Jeopardy -- Excellent
Episode 22: Exodus -- Excellent

Season four is very emotionally diverse, with quite a lot of humor, as well as a bit of sorrow.  The action remains strong, with some amazing special effects.

Although the Goa'uld threat is ongoing in the Stargate SG-1 universe, there are few actual appearances by Goa'uld in this season's episodes.  However, their threat is not diminished, as the Goa'uld factor in, or directly influence, what happens in a significant number of stories this season.

The known situation with the Goa'ulds is little changed from the events of season 3, episode 13, "The Devil You Know."  Apophis is in charge of Sokar's forces, and he is a potential threat to the System Lords, although he never quite crosses from potential to severe threat.  Still, the realm of Stargate SG-1 does not feel stagnant; it still feels as though it is growing, and expanding, encompassing even more of the mysteries in the galaxy.

The theme that ties this season together is a more mature, and experienced, SGC and SG-1, learning about other life in the galaxy, while continuing with their mission to keep Earth safe from extraterrestrial threats.   I think this is a result of the cast meshing together, and having a firm grasp of their characters, combined with some very good writing choices.

Season four is a tough act to follow, with some amazing episodes.  However, season five holds on to the high quality level of performances, and stories, as well as providing some great adventures, and more.

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 22


"Exodus"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Joseph Mallozzi -- co-Writer
Jim Menard -- Director of Photography
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The three commentators are very engaging, however, sometimes this session drifts away from what is on screen, leaving scenes without any relevant commentary.  David Warry-Smith directed this episode, however he did not participate in this commentary.  Although it is not always pertinent to what is on screen, the commentary is very informative, and interesting.

Review:
Up in space, a Goa’uld mothership makes its way towards a planet.  Beneath the surface of that planet there is a flurry of Tok’ra activity.  The planet is the current home base for the Tok’ra.  Tanith (“Crossroads”) is still with the Tok’ra, but working for the Goa’uld.  He learns about the mothership after it arrives at the planet, and questions why the Tok’ra are not evacuating the location.  At that moment, SG-1 rings down from the ship, to the underground Tok’ra base.  The mothership previously belonged to Cronus, who is now dead (“Double Jeopardy”).  SG-1, representing Earth, now owns the mothership.

Shortly after SG-1 arrives, Tanith learns that the Tok’ra, and SG-1, knew that he had not stopped his Goa’uldish ways, and have known this since Shau’nac died (“Crossroads”).  The Tok’ra have used Tanith to feed false information to the Goa’uld.  After being told his perfidy failed, Tanith is confined, sentenced to be removed from his human host, and left in the desert.

The Tok’ra intend to borrow the mothership from Earth, and use it to move themselves, and their stargate, to another planet.  The new location will be a planet whose location is unknown to the Goa’uld, and one that does not have a stargate.  O’Neill is not happy about loaning the mothership to the Tok’ra.  However, orders are orders.  The Tok’ra think that Earth is not ready for the level of technology within the mothership, and the Tok’ra want the ship left with them.  No way that is going to happen.

Just as things are going well, Tanith escapes from the Tok’ra, and gets a message to Apophis about the Tok’ra’s intent to move to a secret location.  Teal’c joins the Tok’ra in searching for Tanith.  It is a “Jaffa revenge thing.”  After hours of searching, they still cannot locate Tanith.

Meanwhile, an operative embedded with Apophis gets word to the Tok’ra that Apophis is getting together an attack fleet, and plans to head to the Tok’ra’s current home world.  There is not much time left to get the Tok’ra on the mothership, and get away.  However, Jacob and Carter devise a new plan that will still allow the Tok’ra to escape, and in addition, the large fleet Apophis is sending their way can be destroyed, significantly crippling Apophis.  It is a bold, crazy plan that should work.

Apophis’ desire to destroy the Tok’ra is challenged by Selmak and the Carters’ plan to destroy many of his ships.  The Tok’ra plan is met with something less than rousing approval from O’Neill, although he eventually agrees to go along with the strategy.  Teal’c is focused on one thing: finding Tanith and then killing him.  Daniel is in the vicinity.  I do not think it is a spoiler to tell you that things do not go exactly as planned for anyone.

The episode begins with exposition, and the uncovering of truths; continues with some super-charged action; and ends in another galaxy.  And, this show is a cliffhanger.  A breath-taking end to season four.

Carmen Argenziano returns as Jacob/Selmak, Peter Wingfield returns as Tanith, and Peter Williams returns as Apophis.  The guest stars, and the regular cast, perform very well in this highly entertaining episode.  The special effects are fantastic.  Kudos to everyone involved in their creation.

A grand ending that whets the appetite for season five.

Failures:
Tanith’s escape from his prison is ridiculously easy, and completely unbelievable.  Not only does he easily escape from three Tok’ras (at least two of whom are armed), he then eludes every other Tok’ra at the base, and makes it to the planet’s surface.  He's like some sort of Goa'uld version of Rambo's evil twin.  I don' t buy it.  For me, credibility has left the moment.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 21


"Double Jeopardy"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Michael Shanks -- Director
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
SG-1 uses the stargate to travel to an alien world, called Juna by its residents.  Teal’c discovers evidence of recent Jaffa activity nearby.  Despite being on the alert, SG-1 is ambushed, and taken captive, by human residents of the planet.  There is a Jaffa amongst the humans.  The human Junans were snatched from Earth long ago by Goa’uld.  One of the Junans, named Darian, recognizes SG-1 from a previous visit of theirs to the planet.  However, SG-1 team members do not recognize Darian, and have never before traveled to this world.  Stifle that groan.  I promise that this is not another ‘SG-1 has amnesia’ story.

Darian says that during their previous visit SG-1 helped the Junans rebel against the Goa’uld Heru’ur’s Jaffa.  After the successful rebellion, SG-1 told the Junans to bury their stargate, and the Goa’uld would not return.  Great plan, except that it completely disregards the fact that Goa’uld have ships capable of intergalactic travel.  Oops.  Cronus (“Crossroads”) arrived on the planet after the rebellion, and claimed the world for himself.  With Heru’ur dead (“The Serpent's Venom”), the other Goa’ulds divvy up his empire.  Back then, Cronus severely punished Darian’s people for their uprising against Heru’ur’s Jaffa.

Now, Cronus is back on the planet, thrilled by the chance to torture, and eventually kill, SG-1.  Darian is ordered to kill Daniel, which he reluctantly does.  This causes a cascade of activity involving Darian’s people; three planets; and a visit by a previous acquaintance of SG-1 to SGC.  A fast-paced, action-packed, very fun episode, with a lot of charm, and a bittersweet ending.

Ron Halder returns as Cronus.  Everyone performs well, however Anderson is the standout.

Failures:
None.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 20


"Entity"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Good

Commentary by:
Allan Lee  -- Director
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
At SGC, a MALP is sent to a gate address retrieved from the repository of the Ancients (“The Fifth Race”).  The visuals of the planet, sent back by the MALP, reveal alien architecture and seemingly advanced technology, unlike any seen before by an SG team, or Teal’c.  Suddenly, the MALP begins to fly through the air, something it cannot do on its own.  While SGC is trying to run a diagnosis on the MALP, the visual feed degrades, and an energy surge from the planet comes through the stargate, affecting the base.  Some SGC personnel suffer burns, and the base computer system is overloaded.

Carter discovers that it was an alien signal that came through the stargate, and it was scanning the SGC computers, accessing information.  Shutting down the stargate interrupted the probing signal.  However, enough of it got through to eventually manifest as an artificial intelligence in the base’s recovering computer systems.  Daniel thinks the A. I. may be sentient, and he wants to try to chat it up.  General Hammond thinks it may be a threat, and he wants it removed.  SGC is under quarantine until the situation is resolved, and that includes a ban on any gate travel.

After a seemingly successful purge the alien A. I. from the base systems, a pocket of the alien program is found, proliferating in secret.  While trying to communicate with the now isolated entity, Carter gets knocked unconscious by a flow of energy from the A.I.  Cut off from Earth, and off-world allies, SGC personnel attempt to save Carter, and prevent the destruction of the base.

A more interesting take on the scientific inquiry versus military action argument than “Prodigy,” with Carter as the nexus.  Carter is a combination of both science, and military, giving her a unique perspective, compared to O’Neill or Daniel’s views.  Tapping is the star of this episode, and performs well.  The rest of the cast is in very good form, staying true to their characters.

Failures:
None, in particular.  This episode is a good story, with good performances.  No more, no less.

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 19


"Prodigy"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Fair

Commentary by:
Peter DeLuise -- Director
Paul Mullie -- co-Producer, and Writer
Joseph Mallozzi -- co-Producer, and Writer

The commentary is very informative, interesting, and entertaining.  Lots of behind the scene information.  Mr. DeLuise keeps the commentary on point with what is on screen.

Review:
O’Neill and Teal’c are sent off-world to determine if the location is suitable for a permanent research station.  Carter is giving a lecture at the Air Force Academy.  Daniel is off-world with SG-11.  O’Neill is not excited by his assignment because he has to interact with a group of civilian scientists.  Carter is intrigued by a female cadet, name Hailey, who is very intelligent, and perpetually seems on the verge of beating the crap out of everyone she meets.  O’Neill tries to ignore the scientists.  Carter mentors the sour cadet.  Daniel is absent from this episode.

Eventually, O’Neill and Carter’s stories cross paths.  O’Neill’s plotline is military versus scientists, without anything fresh in the presentation.  It is pretty much the cliche of the high school jocks and nerds disrespecting each other, but without swirlies.

Back on Earth, Carter tries to break through Hailey's belligerence.  When the cadet is on the verge of being kicked out of the academy, Carter intercedes on her behalf, and takes her through the stargate to O’Neill’s location.  A previously undiscovered threat emerges at the off-world location.  O’Neill bickers with the scientists, while Carter and Hailey argue about scientific hypotheses.  Eventually, the episode ends.

General Ryan, then Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, appears as himself in this episode.  Tapping provides the best performance of the regular cast members in the episode.  Elisabeth Rosen portrays the cadet, Hailey.  Ms. Rosen’s acting is good, however her choices focus on the character’s crankiness, rather than her being the smartest person currently at the Air Force Academy.  Hailey is supposed to be a frustrated genius moreso than a bellicose pugilist.  Unfortunately, in this episode Hailey is all about being irritated and surly, which makes her an unsympathetic, rather annoying, character.

Failures:
Overall, an unremarkable take on the military versus science cliche.  Why Carter felt the need to stick her neck out for Hailey is never clear.  There was some insinuation in this episode that Carter acted the same as Hailey when Carter was a cadet.  However, nothing in Carter’s behavior up to now in the series hinted that she was so obnoxious, and belligerent, as a cadet.  So, I don’t buy that premise for Carter's actions.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 18


"The Light"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Poor

Commentary by:
Peter Woeste -- Director
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor
Andy Mikita -- Production Manager

The commentary is very informative, and interesting, far moreso than the episode.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen .

Review:
At SGC, Barber -- an SG-5 team member -- commits suicide by leaping into the ka-woosh.  (Ka-woosh is the effect that expands from the inner area of a stargate once the final gate address symbol is engaged.)  The rest of SG-5, and Daniel, are investigating a Goa’uld device on another planet.  The device creates a light show.  Everyone who sees the light show is mesmerized.  They act like junkies going through severe withdrawal when they leave the vicinity of the light show’s source.  SG-1 goes to the planet where the device is located; gets hooked on the light show; and tries to discover a cure for the pretty, sparkly monkey on their back.

An almost slightly interesting story, paired with many uninspired performances.  The episode’s flow seems jerky, as characters overlook the obvious for the sake of the story

Failures:
The story.  The dialog.  The acting.  This is the second episode in a row with Daniel acting un-Daniel like.  The third episode this season using a similar plot device on one, or more, of the main characters.  Enough with the characters acting out of character.

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 17


"Absolute Power"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Very Good

Commentary by:
Robert Cooper -- co-Executive Producer, Writer
Peter DeLuise -- Director

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.

Review:
SG-1 is on Abydos meeting with Kasuf (“Forever in a Day”), Sha’re’s father.  Strange things are happening in the desert.  Odd wind events, and the disembodied whispering of Sha’re’s name.  The source of the disturbances reveals itself to SG-1.  It is Shifu, the Harcesis born in “Secrets.”  At some point in his brief life, nanites like the ones that induced aging in “Brief Candle” were used in Shifu, so he now looks like a ten year old, instead of an enfant.  SG-1 takes him back to SGC.  Shifu was raised by the powerful alien Oma (“Maternal Instinct”).  He learned many things from Oma, including how to quash his Goa’uld memories.  SGC wants to access the Goa’uld knowledge that is part of Shifu.  However, that means Shifu would have to unlock the repressed Goa’uld evil tendencies, along with the knowledge.  Instead, he zaps the repressed Goa’uld knowledge into Daniel.

Knocked unconscious by the zap, Daniel awakens in the SGC infirmary, with the Goa’uld information unfolding in his mind.  Daniel creates marvelous new inventions to protect the Earth from the Goa’uld.  He also begins to show some unsavory behavior, and have very Goa’uld-ish thoughts.  As time passes, Daniel negotiates using the Goa’uld information zapped into his mind in exchange for a position allowing him to influence major decisions about Earth’s future.  Earth is safe from a Goa’uld attack, but at a terrifying cost.

The story is interesting, as Daniel changes but the rest of the Stargate SG-1 world remains the same.  Everything is done well, from acting, to sets, to dialog.  There is a twist ending, however it adds to the overall story arc of the episode, rather than detracting from it.

Failures:
When, and how, the nanites got into Shifu is sketchy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 16


"2010"
 images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

 Episode Rating:  Good

Commentary by:
Andy Mikita -- Director
Peter Woeste -- Director of Photography
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
The stargate is located in a public place, and used by everyday folks.  There is beaming technology in common use.  Carter is married to some guy in a suit.  Welcome to the land of “What is Going on Here?”  A place television series are known to visit.

Ten years before the time of this episode SG-1 encountered an alien race, the Aschen, during an off-world mission.  The Ashen look human.  They are one of the most technologically advanced races an SG team every encountered.  Unlike other techno-advanced cultures SG teams have interacted with, the Aschen are happy to share their knowledge with Earth.

The Aschen head a confederation of planets, and Earth eagerly joins the group.  There are many perks for Earth's humans as members of the confederation.  The elimination of the Goa’uld threat; advanced medicines which eliminate cancer, and extend ones life span; and much more.  Happiness, and prosperity, abound on Earth.  All is right with the world.  Yeah, right.  It is obvious how Earth benefits from the alliance, but what is in it for the Aschen?  Despite the incredible quality of life people on Earth enjoy, something still threatens the future of the planet’s civilizations.  The SG-1 team gets back together to uncover the mysterious threat, and save the world.

The episode steps out of the main time flow of Stargate SG-1, while staying true to the series’ canon.  There is little connection with most of the series’ storylines, the hazard of creating a bubble of future reality, set apart from the rest of the series.  The fact that the show is set in a future time frame is soon evident.

There’s nothing included about the reaction of the world to learning about the stargate program, nor the reaction to Earth forming an alliance with an advanced alien race.  The lack of all the messiness involved in getting to the peaceful start of the episode affects the believability of the story.  I understand the need for leaving most of that out -- time, and budget constraints, however, the resulting story is mostly sterile, and bland.

Failures:
Although most of the episode is set in the future, there isn’t much about the future presented in the episode.  In fairness, it would be difficult to relate all the changes to Earth brought on by contact with the Ashen in less than 44 minutes.  Instead, there are representations of the changes, and the viewer can extrapolate the ramifications.  The stargate is out in the open; the transporter is a sample of Aschen technology; and everyone’s wardrobe was hit with a grayscale button so no one wears bright colors.  I can venture guesses about everything, except the fashion choices, but I barely understand fashion.

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 15


"Chain Reaction"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Martin Wood -- Director
Jim Menard -- Director of Photography
James Tichenor -- a Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.  Mr. Tichenor is not the Visual Effects Supervisor of this episode.

Review:
SGC receives SG-1’s IDC.  The team is under fire, battling to make their way back to Earth.  After General Hammond orders the stargate iris opened, weapons fire from the other planet strikes inside the gate room.  It is a close call, but SG-1 makes it back to SGC.  During the team’s debriefing, General Hammond announces that he is stepping down as commander of SGC.  He says he no longer wants to be responsible for possibly sending SG teams to their deaths.  Everyone has a breaking point, and General Hammond states that he has reached his.

SGC staff is stunned, and saddened, by Hammond’s decision.  Major General Bauer is assigned as the new commander of SGC.  Bauer’s command style is very different from Hammond’s, as is his perception of how to accomplish SGC goals.  Two of Bauer’s early command decisions are: remove Carter from SG-1, and re-assign her to research; and to bar Daniel from being part of any SG team.  O’Neill takes these decisions poorly, and is essentially suspended after expressing his displeasure to Bauer.

O’Neill visits Hammond, and learns that the general was forced out.  Jack intends to help Hammond, and gets an unlikely ally -- Harry Maybourne (“Watergate”).  Their investigative efforts lead them to Senator Kinsey (“Politics”).  Back at SGC, Bauer’s changes result in a situation that could end all life on Earth.

Maybourne and Kinsey are deliciously bad.  Tom McBeath, and Ronny Cox, are superb in their portrayals of the morally ambiguous Maybourne, and the mightily obnoxious Kinsey.  The story is strong, combining suspense with action.

Failures:
Many post-Hammond SGC scenes are somewhat stodgy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 14


"The Serpent's Venom"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Martin Wood -- Director
Jim Menard -- Director of Photography
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
Teal’c is on Chulak recruiting Jaffa for the rebellion against the Goa’uld.  However, the meeting is a trap.  Teal’c is taken prisoner by Jaffa loyal to the Goa’uld.  Folks at SGC think that Teal’c is still attending a series of rebel Jaffa meetings, and are not aware of his predicament.

Back at SGC, the Tok’ra send a message to Jacob/Selmak ("Seth"), who is visiting folks on Earth.  Apophis (last seen in “The Devil You Know”) is persona non grata with the Goa’uld System Lords.  The Goa’uld Heru’ur  (“Secrets”) is aligned with the System Lords, however, he is making a backdoor deal with Apophis.  The two control the largest armies.  Together, they could overwhelm the System Lords.  Should that happen the Tok’ra think that Apophis would then destroy Heru’ur, leaving himself as the sole ruler of the Goa’uld empire -- a nightmare scenario for the Tok’ra, and the rest of the galaxy.  The Tok’ra intend to sabotage Heru’ur and Apophis’ meeting, eliminating the possibility of a merger between the two of them.  The plan requires Daniel’s expertise in ancient languages.  SG-1 accompanies Jacob/Selmak on the mission to stop the alliance.

While this is happening on Earth, Teal’c is taken to Heru’ur’s ship.  There, the Goa’uld Terok tortures Teal’c in order to break down, and humiliate, the figurehead of the Jaffa rebellion.  Terok is a nasty bit of work, who regularly gives in to the sadistic side of the Force.  Unaware of Teal’c’s plight, SG-1 takes a dangerous gamble to initiate a war between two very powerful Goa’ulds.

The story begins in a small tent, and ends in the vastness of space.  Teal’c and SG-1’s storylines are concurrent, intersecting with each other at the end.  This episode is an excellent combination of suspense, and action.  Carmen Argenziano returns as Jacob/Selmak.

Failures:
None.

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 13


"The Curse"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Very Good

Commentary by:
Andy Mikita -- Director
Peter Woeste -- Director of Photography
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
One of Daniel’s archeology professors is killed in an explosion.  At the professor’s funeral in Chicago, Daniel reunites with an old flame, and an old competitor.  While looking through the last artifacts the professor studied, Daniel finds a canopic jar with Goa’uld symbols on it.  According to a manifest of items from the same archaeological expedition, there is a second canopic jar.  Also, another item the professor studied is missing.  A seemingly accidental death, plus missing items with ties to the Goa’uld, is a cause for concern.  Daniel contacts SGC.

The jar with the Goa’uld symbols on it is sent to SGC for examination.  Something other than the expected preserved organ of an ancient Egyptian mummy is found inside of the canopic vessel.  Daniel, and SGC, head down a path strewn with mystery, and death, as they try to determine the significance of the missing items, and who took them.

The mystique of the story is maintained through out, as the viewer learns what is happening along with the characters.  There is some international travel, however the transition from one continent to another is very abrupt, and feels false.  I do not get a feel that the story has moved to another country, as much as I get the feeling the show has moved to a very nicely done set.  The deus ex machina ending is tolerable.

Failures:
Daniel mentions the Goa’uld during a call he makes from his workaday cell phone.  That seems very unsecure.  Not an ideal practice to keep the stargate program in strict secrecy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 12


"Tangent"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Peter Deluise -- Director
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
The two Goa’uld death gliders obtained in “The Serpent's Lair” have been scavenged, and Earth scientists retrofit a new craft from the parts.  The goal is to provide a fighter craft capable of flight in Earth’s atmosphere, and in space.  A new way to defend the Earth from the Goa’uld.  The craft, called the X-301 Interceptor, is a hybrid of human and Goa’uld technology.

Teal’c and O’Neill take the X-301 on a test flight.  During the test flight, the X-301’s controls stop responding, and the craft heads into space, leaving Earth far behind.  Some of the Goa’uld technology used in the X-301 included a recall device, and the vehicle is on its way back to the Goa’uld’s base.  At their current speed, the trip will take several hundred years.

O’Neill and Teal’c must survive in space, with few supplies and limited air, while folks on Earth try to formulate a plan to save the X-301’s occupants.

The story is reminiscent of the novel, and 1969 movie, Marooned.  Much of the strengths of Marooned translate well to this Stargate SG-1 episode.  There is a good division between time spent with the ship’s occupants, and with the folks on Earth.  Alternating between the two situations keeps the episode's pacing brisk, and engaging.  The situation allows a peek at O’Neill and Teal’c’s inner character.  Two warriors facing a lingering death in space.  The two are poignant, without getting maudlin, about their impending demise.  Those scenes are an excellent counterpoint to the controlled, yet frantic, activity on Earth by those attempting to save them.

Failures:
Regardless of the X-301’s stealth technology, it seems that someone would have seen the ship’s daytime maneuvers.

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 11


"Point of No Return"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
William Gereghty -- Director
Jim Menard -- Director of Photography
Joseph Mallozzi -- Co-Writer
Paul Mullie -- Co-Writer

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
At SGC, General Hammond calls a meeting with SG-1.  He plays an audio recording of a telephone call made to the SGC base switchboard.  The caller, whose name is Martin, knows O’Neill’s name, and after an amusing diatribe about various conspiracy theories, Martin displays knowledge about the stargate program.  He wants to meet with O’Neill.  General Hammond assigns SG-1 the task of discovering who Martin is, and how he knows about the stargate.  Thus begins one of the most entertaining episodes of Stargate SG-1.

O’Neill meets with Martin.  Martin is a hard-core conspiracy theorist.  He is delightfully earnest in his beliefs, and delightfully inept in his attempts to avoid detection.  Martin also believes he is from outer space, and wants to go through the stargate in order to return to his home world.  So far, the evidence supports Martin being a little nutty, and of Earth origin.  However, there is still the question of how he knows about the stargate.

Initially, the only proof is that Martin is a neurotic nerd, with a penchant for drama.  Before SG-1's investigation can shift to finding an information leak at SGC, mysterious men begin to run interference on the investigation.  Martin may be living in a world of make believe, but the men trying to throw SG-1 off the trail are real, and dangerous.  SG-1 must decipher facts from fictions, and find out who the unidentified men are, and how Martin knows of the stargate.

Willie Garson is Martin, and presents a completely wonderful portrayal.  Martin carries the episode.  O’Neill and Teal’c are the primary characters interacting with Martin.  Anderson and Judge are fantastic in their parts.  The episode is rife with humor.  There are dramatic aspects to the story, however those parts are secondary to the humor.

Failures:
None.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 10


"Beneath the Surface"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Fair

Commentary by:
Peter DeLuise -- Director
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is interesting, and more entertaining than the episode.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
The episode opens in a dimly lit, windowless location, with a claustrophobic feel.  One skylight high above provides a distant glow.  Many people are sleeping in an open dormitory.  They are living and working in gritty conditions.  SG-1 is amongst those people.  O’Neill, Carter, and Daniel are unaware of their true identities.  Teal’c is there as well, and attempts to get the rest of SG-1 to remember who they truly are, however he fails.  Teal’c is then forcibly taken out of the area.

The viewer learns the gist of what is happening before any of the regular characters have a clue.  SGC attempts to locate the team, while SG-1 remains where they are, continuing to suffer from amnesia.  The pacing of the episode is tortuously slow, as SG-1 regains their memories in bits and pieces.  Much of the show involves waiting for SGC, and SG-1, to figure things out.

“Beneath the Surface” is similar in tone to an episode of the 1995 to 2002 television series The Outer Limits.  A bleak society with people working to create a bright future.  However, something else is going on -- dare I say it? -- beneath the surface.  The formula does not work for Stargate SG-1.

Failures:
Rather than being an adventure, this episode is like sitting on a bench at the mall, waiting for someone else to finish shopping.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 9


"Scorched Earth"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Martin Wood -- Director
Jim Menard -- Director of Photography
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.  I gained a new perspective, and appreciation, for the art of lighting sets well, thanks to Mr. Menard’s commentary on this, and other, episodes.

Review:
SG-1 is off world, participating in a celebration at an Enkaran village.  There are hundreds of similar villages on this, the new Enkaran home world.  The people are humanoids who were snatched from their home world long ago by the Goa’uld, and left on a planet that is no longer habitable.  The location of the Enkarans original home world is unknown.  SG-1, and SGC, found a new home planet for the Enkarans.  This was a difficult task, as the Enkarans are very sensitive to radiation, and few planets have the necessary low radiation level.  Even Earth's radiation level would kill them.

A man disrupts the festivities, declaring his village was destroyed, and that everyone is in danger.  He leads SG-1 to a viewpoint near the planet’s stargate.  In the distance, an enormous alien spaceship dwarfs the surrounding mountain range, and is moving slowly in the air.  A wall of energy is emanating from the spaceship, and systematically burning every thing in its path, leaving only scorched earth in its wake.

Back at SGC, SG-1 and General Hammond discuss the alien ship, and its path of destruction.  In less than 26 hours the wall of energy will reach the stargate, and the nearby Enkaran village.  Because of their sensitivity to radiation, no known planet is a safe refuge for Enkaran evacuees.  Even if a suitable planet could be quickly found, not every Enkaran is close enough to the stargate to escape before the alien ship's wall of destruction arrives.  The ones who could evacuate to a temporary refuge will not, unwilling to leave other Enkarans behind.

SG-1 must discover who, or what, controls the spaceship, and try to stop the destruction, and the deaths of all Enkaran people.

The Enkarans relocated to the planet only about a month earlier, so they do not have a long established presence.  Initially, there is no indication that whoever, or whatever, is piloting the spaceship is native to that planet.  This episode examines what happens when two species want the same planet for their own purposes.  The story is not another tale of displacing an indigenous culture, and does not beat the viewer over the head with a heavy-handed moral lesson.  The question to use force, or reasoning, is addressed without getting cliche about either.  The story does not lean on the obvious by solely basing the outcome on who has the biggest guns.  A well-written episode, with excellent performances by all the actors.

Failures:
Not so much a failure, as a fact: Teal’c has nothing to do in this episode, other than being present.

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 8


"The First Ones"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Very Good

Commentary by:
Peter DeLuise -- Director, Writer

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
While working on an off world archaeological dig, Daniel is attacked, and taken away, by an Unas.  Rothman, last seen in “The Crystal Skull,” returns to SGC to alert them about the attack, as the other SG team members on the planet search for Daniel.  The remaining members of SG-1, and numerous other SG teams, gate to the planet, hopeful to be a rescue, rather than a recovery, mission.  O’Neill, Carter, Teal’c and the SG teams race to find Daniel, tracking him in a rough environment, on the probable home world of the Goa’uld symbiotes.

Inspired by the movie Enemy Mine, much of this episode explores the evolution of the captive/captor relationship between Daniel and Chaka -- the name of the Unas who took him.

Jason Schombing returns as Dr. Rothman, a bumbling, neurotic, but enjoyable character.  Dion Johnstone is Chaka.  Although his face is covered, Mr. Johnstone provides an expressive, and emotive, performance.  Michael Shanks is very good as Daniel, believable as the prisoner who gradually realizes the depth of his captor’s abilities.  O’Neill, Carter, and Teal’c are peripherally important for most of the story.  The spotlight is primarily on Daniel, and Chaka.

This episode sustains interest throughout, combining mystery, adventure, and discovery.

Failures:
The end of the episode is a bit contrived.  Also, the pacing of the show slows down occasionally.  However, these two things don’t impair the enjoyment of the story.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 7


"Watergate"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Peter DeLuise -- Director
Jim Menard -- Director of Photography
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting. Lots of behind the scene information. The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
SG-1 is in the gate room, ready to head out on a mission.  However, the attempt to dial an address on the stargate fails.  The seventh chevron will not engage.  Researching why the stargate is not working properly, readings very similar to those generated by the second stargate in “Solitudes” are detected, emanating from Siberia.  The most likely conclusion: the Russians have a stargate.

Specifically, they have the stargate SG-1 beamed onto Thor’s ship in “Nemesis,” before the ship crashed into the ocean on Earth.  Stargates are difficult to destroy.  Not only do the Russians have a stargate, they have been using it to travel off world.  Also, having illicitly garnered copies of Stargate Command files, the Russians use SGC’s experience to operate the stargate in Siberia.  SGC’s stargate will not lock onto a gate address because the Russian’s stargate has an active wormhole, one they cannot shut down.  The stargate did not automatically shut down after being active for 38 minutes.  Only one stargate can be active at a given set of coordinates.  As long as the Russian gate is active, there will be no incoming, nor outgoing, gate travel on Earth.

SG-1 meets with a Russian scientist, Dr. Svetlana Markov, and they all head to Siberia.  SG-1 jumps into an unknown situation in a foreign land.  Shutting down the Russian stargate is vital.  Also important is learning why the stargate remains active longer than 38 minutes, and why the staff at the Siberia gate location have not been heard from during this time.

Marina Sirtis is wonderful as Dr. Markov.  Ms. Sirtis gives the character depth, and acknowledges the opposing stance Markov must have with SG-1.  All without devolving into cliche.  The regular cast performs well.  O’Neill is extremely hostile at the mention of anything Russian, a behavior he exhibits before knowing the full story about the second stargate in Siberia.  Other Air Force personnel are not overtly antagonistic towards the Russians.  What happened to cause O’Neill’s intense dislike of Russia is never mentioned.  For the most part, Anderson’s harsh reactions to Markov come across as being over the top

The story is an exciting mystery with a fair mix of action and intrigue.  The off world scenes are fantastic.  Kudos to everyone involved in bringing those scenes to life.  A top-notch episode.

Failures:
Before heading to Siberia, Carter says that the Russian stargate isn’t connected to a black hole because instruments at (or connected to) SGC would sense it.  Why didn’t similar instruments in other countries register anomalous readings when SGC was connected to a black hole (“A Matter of Time")?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 6


"Window of Opportunity"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Peter DeLuise -- Director
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting. Lots of behind the scene information. The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
On the planet P4X 639, in the midst of some ruins, SG-1 studies a massive solar flare.  Daniel interacts with a human archaeologist, named Malakai, who is not from Earth.  Malakai attacks Daniel, and then turns on some ancient machinery in the ruins.  While attempting to physically restrain Malakai, O’Neill and Teal’c are enveloped by an energy disturbance.  The flare of the energy washes out the scene.  Fade to the next scene.

O’Neill is having breakfast with Carter and Daniel.  Daniel is waiting for O’Neill’s response to a question.  Not so strange.  Except, O’Neill experienced the exact same moment the day before, prior to SG-1 gating to P4X 639.  The exact same spoonful of cereal being raised to his mouth.  Daniel saying the exact same words as the day before.  Teal’c is also experiencing a repeat of events from the day before.  In an homage to Groundhog Day, the same day (actually, a ten hour segment of a day, I think) is repeated over and over.  Only O’Neill and Teal’c are aware of being stuck in a repeating time loop.  O’Neill and Teal’c must solve the mystery with fragmented help from the oblivious SGC staff, or forever repeat the same segment of time.

Episodes that are homages to films can be sketchy.  This episode hits all the right notes.  A wonderful blend of the pertinent aspects of Groundhog Day, with the wonders of Stargate SG-1.  This is a fun episode.  Anderson and Judge excel as the frustrated O’Neill and Teal’c.  All of the cast provides enjoyable performances.  Robin Mossley portrays Malakai.

The writing is superb.  If I had a higher rating than “Excellent” I would give it to this episode because of the deft handling of the emotional range the characters experience during the events of the episode.  It is not easy to smoothly transition from humor to despair, or absurdity to determination.  However, these things are done, and done well, in this episode.

Failures:
None.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 5


"Divide and Conquer"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Good

Commentary by:
Martin Wood -- Director
Jim Menard -- Director of Photography
James Tichenor -- a Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting. Lots of behind the scene information. The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
On the Tok’ra’s current home planet, O’Neill, Jackson, and two men from another SG team, work on a treaty between Earth and the Tok’ra.  Again with the super-secret SGC making deals for the entire planet.  Per’sus, the Tok’ra High Councilor, enters the room.  Major Graham, one of the SG men with O’Neill, tries to kill Per’sus using a technologically advanced weapon.  Unsuccessful with his assassination attempt, Graham kills himself.

The weapon appears to be Goa’uld in origin.  The Tok’ra Freia/Anise (“Upgrades") posits that Goa’uld are programming individuals, against their will, as sleeper assassins.  Freia/Anise calls such people za'tarcs, thereby identifying the affected, and continuing to support the rampant use of names with apostrophes on Stargate SG-1.  Za'tarcs are unaware of their status, or their missions, until a particular sight or phrase triggers their programming.

Freia/Anise developed a machine to test someone for za'tarc programming.  The detector cannot expose a za'tarc’s mission.  It only uncovers that someone’s memories have been tampered with, meaning that individual is likely a za'tarc.  SGC personnel are tested, and the detector indicates that there are za'tarcs on base, including members of SG-1.  The future prospects are bleak for the uncovered SG za'tarcs.  Lifetime imprisonment while under a suicide watch, or an experimental treatment that may result in the za'tarc’s death.

Vanessa Angel returns as Freia/Anise.  Freia/Anise never caught on with some Stargate SG-1 fans, myself included.  I think the problem is that Anise is cold, distant, arrogant, and often disrespectful towards Earth humans.  Freia is rarely portrayed, and has a particularly weird appearance in this episode.  Anise is off putting, and Freia is seldom around.  The character not building a huge fan base does not surprise me.  JR Bourne returns as Martouf/Lantesh, last seen in “The Devil You Know”.  The regular cast is good.  Nice quality of performance from them, although nothing outstanding.  The best performance is the brief appearance by Kirsten Robek who portrays Lieutenant Astor, an SG team member who is a za'tarc. 

Failures:
There are two failures in the episode, however, they are both spoilers, and so I won’t post them.

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 4


"Crossroads"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating: Fair

Commentary by:
Peter DeLuise -- Director
James Tichenor -- a Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting. Lots of behind the scene information. The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
At SGC, there is an incoming wormhole.  Bra’tac’s IDC is received; however, it is not Bra’tac who exits the wormhole.  The traveler is Shau’nac, a Jaffa priestess who knows Teal’c.  Possibly knowing him in a biblical sense, based on their steamy reaction to seeing each other.  Bra’tac could not accompany Shau’nac to SGC, and gave her his IDC because Shau’nac thinks she has discovered a way to defeat the Goa’uld.  She can mentally chat up her symbiote, and has convinced it to turn against the Goa’uld.  Yeah, no one is buying what she is selling.  This does not dent Shau’nac’s conviction.  She is confident in her belief, and since the Goa’uld symbiote she is toting around in her belly pouch is mature, and ready for a host, the truth will literally come out very soon.

With the help of the Tok’ra, a host is found for Shau’nac’s Goa’uld symbiote.  Apparently, she was correct.  The symbiote, whose name is Tanith, has rejected the badness that is Goa’uld-dom, and switched teams, willing to fight with the good guys.  Teal’c and Shau’nac plan to teach other Jaffa to chat up their symbiotes, in an effort to lure the baby Goa’ulds away from the dark side.  Having a chance to foment a new aspect of rebelling against the Goa’uld -- and being with Shau’nac, the smoking hot girlfriend -- convinces Teal’c that it is time to quit SGC.  The bright future for the Jaffa is dimmed by events impacting the new path of Goa’uld symbiote enlightenment, as well as Teal’c and Shau’nac’s happily ever after.

Musetta Vander is Shau’nac, and she does a good job portraying the Jaffa priestess.  The actor and part are a perfect fit.  I fully believe that Shau’nac and Teal’c are more than just acquaintances.  Everyone’s performances are okay.  The problem with the episode is that the story is not strong enough to sustain interest from the beginning through the end.  The characters debating about changing the minds of Goa’uld larva, and Teal’c making goo-goo eyes with Shau’nac, are the bases for the entire episode.  That is just not enough.

The story’s framework is not very believable, either.  The Jaffa who discovers a way to sway the minds of Goa’uld larva just happens to be the only Jaffa, other than Bra’tac, who has any chance of convincing Teal’c.  The difficult to contact Tok’ra just happen to quickly respond this time.  The ever short of hosts Tok’ra managed to wrangle up a host for Shau’nac’s symbiote.  Too many fortunate coincidences piled one after another.

Failures:
A lot of time is spent playing up Teal’c and Shau’nac’s romance.  I think their relationship is more confusing, than engaging.  “Family” established that Teal’c is no longer married to Dray’auc, so he is single.  However, that same episode had Teal’c getting crazy angry about being divorced, and he and Dray’auc declare how much they still love each other.  Their feelings for each other is a major turning point for events in “Family.”  Yet, now Teal’c is okay with being a swinging single.

Maybe it’s an unexplored aspect of Jaffa society.  Maybe Teal’c is a horny-dawg, going for whichever woman is closest to his loins, rather than closest in his heart.  I don’t know, and that bugs me.  I don’t like it when a character’s behavior is inexplicable, especially when it negates events of a previous episode.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 3


"Upgrades"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating:  Excellent

Commentary by:
Martin Wood -- Director
Jim Menard -- Director of Photography
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene information.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
Anise, a Tok’ra, visits SGC.  With the blessing of the Tok’ra High Council, Anise brings three artifacts with her -- armbands, from an extinct civilization known as the Antonieks.  The armbands are supposed to increase the wearer’s existing abilities, such as strength and speed.  The artifacts will not work on anyone carrying a Goa’uld symbiote, for example the Tok’ra, and Teal’c.  O’Neill, Carter, and Daniel agree to put on the armbands, and become guinea pigs for the Tok’ra.  Wearing artifacts they know nothing about, provided by a snippy Tok'ra who does not want to answer questions about the armbands.  [sarcasm font]  Gee, what could go wrong doing that?  [/sarcasm font]

SG-1, minus Teal’c, is exhilarated as they experience changes induced by the Antoniek armbands.  Anise is monitoring the physiological effects the devices have on the team, however, she is not sharing the results with Dr. Frasier.  Doc Frasier conducts her own medical tests on the team, discovering some disturbing results.  Frasier is the only SGC personnel who is able to more than hold her own when verbally sparring with the Tok’ra, Anise.  Concerned about the side effects brought to his attention by Dr. Frasier, General Hammond orders SG-1 to remove the alien armbands.  Problem is, the armbands will not come off.

O’Neill, Carter, and Daniel are under the influence of alien technology, and therefore not allowed to function as an SG team.  Meanwhile, an enemy of the Tok’ra, who is also a threat to almost everyone in the galaxy, is once again active, and up to no good.  The lone active SG-1 team member, Teal’c, contemplates a strategy to deal with the enemy, while the rest of SG-1 exhibit more and more odd behavior instigated by the effects of the alien armbands.

Vanessa Angel is the cold, distant, unlikeable Tok'ra, Anise.  The human host, Freia, does not appear much in this episode. Don S. Davis as General Hammond has many great moments in this episode.  Actually, all of the regular, and recurring, cast members deliver memorable moments in the show.  Overall, an interesting story that smoothly flows from dramatic, to humorous, to action, and delivers on all aspects.

Failures:
While I thoroughly enjoy this episode, the spark that gets the story going is not particularly believable.  Some aliens (the Tok’ra) -- whose history of interacting with Earth is heavy with condescension, and light on respect -- waltz into SGC, and get an okay to use some Earth humans as guinea pigs.  I don’t buy it.  Spending a lot of time showing General Hammond’s, and the Pentagon’s, reticence to use SG-1 for experiments would bog down the episode.  I understand why such scenes are omitted, but it still gives the episode a surreal, kind of creaky beginning.  Once the team puts on the armbands, the story is so interesting, fast paced, and fun, I forget my questioning the beginning.

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 2


"The Other Side"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating: Fair

Commentary by:
Peter DeLuise -- Director
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

Peter DeLuise’s commentary is sprinkled with a fair amount of humor, and lots of interesting information.  James Tichenor also provides interesting information.  Individually, DeLuise and Tichenor are both excellent commentators.  Together, they seem just slightly out of sync with each other.  The two men come across as liking, and respecting each other, so do not start rumors.  The best way I can describe it is that there is no chemistry between their commentary styles.  The commentary itself stays on point with what is on screen.  Also, there is the opportunity to hear Peter DeLuise sing lyrics to the opening sequence music as the view pans over the giant pharaoh’s head, with its seemingly crossed eyes.

Review:
SGC is contacted, via the stargate. by an off world, human society that is more technologically advanced than any society on Earth.  The people, who call themselves Eurondans, are at war with other humans on their planet.  The Eurondans want, and need, supplies from Earth.  Alar, the Eurondan leader, is willing to trade some of their advanced tech for supplies.  Military leaders, and politicians aware of the stargate program, are thrilled to finally encounter a technologically advanced society that is willing to share its knowledge.

SGC, and SG-1, are all about supporting Alar, and his people, against the Eurondan’s enemies.  Except Daniel.  Daniel wants to know more about the conflict in general, and the Eurondan enemy, in particular.  Alar is slow to provide specific details to Daniel, but great at delivering very grand, very vague, monologues about himself.  O’Neill does not want to spoil the trade deal with Alar, and tells Daniel to stifle himself.  Earth is so anxious to get access to advanced technology that many questions are not being answered about the people providing the advanced tech.

The acting is well done.  Rene Auberjonois portrays Alar, and it is delightful to see him on the show.  Mr. Auberjonois’ performance is very good, more nuanced than overt.  The episode’s premises are thought provoking.  I rated this episode “Fair” because once the final premise is uncovered, the story delivery becomes heavy-handed.  The mode switches from encouraging the viewer to think, to smacking the viewer upside the head with a moral lesson.

Failures:
O’Neill takes sides with the Eurondans, without questioning much of anything.  I can buy the Pentagon not asking probing questions about the Eurondans, but O’Neill’s behavior seems out of character.  Especially when he tries to shutdown Daniel’s questioning of the Eurondans.  Except for near the end of the episode, much of O'Neill's behavior does not ring true.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 1


"Small Victories"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Episode Rating: Excellent

Commentary by:
Martin Wood -- Director
Jim Menard -- a Director of Photography on the series
James Tichenor -- Visual Effects Supervisor

The commentary is very informative, and interesting.  Lots of behind the scene tidbits.  The commentary stays on point with what is on screen.

Review:
Thor’s ship was destroyed at the end of “Nemesis.” However, the last shot showed that one of the Replicators survived the crash.  A Russian sub is in the vicinity of the spaceship crash site.  The Replicator manages to board the sub, and overwhelm the crew.  The Replicators have a toehold on Earth.

Back at SGC, it has been two weeks since the events in “Nemesis.”  The second stargate is finally set up.  The absent three-quarters of SG-1 returns to Earth, via the stargate.  Daniel still has another week of rest in order to recover from his appendectomy.  So, the team once again prepares for R & R.  And, once again, their plans are interrupted.  The Replicators on the Russian sub have been discovered.  As the only people on Earth who have any experience with Replicators, three-quarters of SG-1 are called on as consultants about the situation.  While SGC, and the Pentagon, co-ordinate a plan to deal with the infested sub, the stargate activates.  It is the Asgard, Thor!  Earth is saved!  Eh, not so much.

The Asgard rescued Thor from the planet SG-1 gated to before destroying Thor’s ship.  O’Neill wants Thor to help Earth destroy the Replicators in the sub.  Wishful thinking on O’Neill’s part.  Thor is looking for help from Earth in fighting the Replicators.  The Asgard home world is about to be invaded by Replicator infested spaceships, and the Asgard cannot spare any of their defenses to help Earth.  SG-1’s success in destroying Thor’s ship convinces the Asgard that a new way to fight the Replicators is to use less sophisticated, and less technologically advanced, tactics -- think dumber.  The Asgard are way too smart to think dumbly, so they want Earth humans to provide some dumb ideas for fighting off the Replicators.  Oh, burn!  Carter goes with Thor back to the Asgard home world.  O'Neill and Teal'c head to the location of the Russian sub.  Daniel is out of the action, but still has screen time.

The Asgard are facing the destruction of their civilization, after years of battling the Replicators.  Earth humans are facing the destruction of their civilizations, due to the incursion of the Replicators on the planet.  Two battle fronts.  Two levels of weapons technology.  Two civilizations on the brink of destruction.  One awesomely excellent episode.

This episode is a fantastic mix of action, and suspense.  The music is wonderful, as usual, with the added dimension of the threatening, very creepy, Replicator theme music.  All of the regular cast provides strong performances, something that is, at this point in the series, the norm.

Failures:
Carter’s hair, specifically, her bangs.  They are long enough to hang into her eyes.  I’ve had hair in my eyes, and it is uncomfortable, and distracting.  I don’t buy that an Air Force officer in a situation where combat is an ever-present possibility keeps a hairstyle that partially obscures her vision.

Weighing in on Teal’c’s soul patch:
I like it.  I think it looks fine.  The only thing I’d change is the blond dye job.  That screams Earth human fad, not Jaffa warrior.

Wormhole! is Active Again -- December 2011

Hello!  Yes, I am still here, although it has been a while since my last blog update.  Thank you for being patient.

I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November.  I finished the NaNoWriMo goal of writing 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.  I climbed to new heights of achievement.  I sank to new depths of whining.  I ended November 2011, with a new sense of accomplishment; a 55,000 word rough draft of the first half of my novel; and the discovery that I could not get my DVD player to properly function.

I did not watch any DVDs during November.  My DVD player had been acting wonky towards the end of October 2011.  When I discovered after NaNoWriMo that it was not working right, I did my usually maintenance routine to keep the DVD player going for a bit longer.  My routine is chanting, “Please keep working,” over and over, with the occasional expletive interjected at random.

Despite my efforts, the DVD player only produced audio, no visual.  During an intense, two minute research session on the web, I learned that bad cables could be the reason for sound, no picture.  I bought new cables.  Just in time to experience my DVD player's last gasp, with visuals thanks to the new cable.  The DVD player made crazy grinding sounds when I put a disc in it.  (Resident Evil: Extinction was the guinea pig. -- the disc I'd mourn the least if the DVD player chewed it up.)  It refused to recognize any disc.  I eventually scraped together enough pennies to get another DVD player.

The new DVD player despised my VCR.  I had to move the wires around, and hook the DVD player directly to the television.  Easy.  When done, I had no sound, nor picture, although the DVD player was merrily playing the disc, according to the cheerful message in blue LED lights on the front of the DVD player.  I eventually found the magic techno-button on the television that would allow the display of the DVD player’s output.  So, I’m now able to view Stargate episodes again.

I’m a full season behind in reviews.  What am I going to do?  Well, I am going to write reviews of all the episodes, including season four.  It will take me some time to catch up, but I will catch up.  Writing the reviews will not be an issue.  Heck, I just learned that I can write over 50,000 words in 30 days.  I can certainly write 22 reviews in a reasonable amount of time.  I think what will determine how long it takes me to catch up is Blogger.  Too many posts in a short period of time can get a blog flagged for spam, and then shut down until it is determined that the blog isn’t about spam.  I’ve already experienced the lack of joy that is discovering my blog is gone (for reasons that have never been explained to me), and then have it reappear once TPTB deemed it okay.  So, I will write reviews until I am caught up, but I’m chucking out any ideas about posting ten reviews in a day.

I truly appreciate your patience, and I thoroughly appreciate your sticking with Wormhole!