Monday, January 2, 2012

Stargate SG-1, Season 5, Episode 7

"Beast of Burden"
images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Overall Rating:  Fair

Commentary by:
Martin Wood -- Director
Jim Menard -- Director of Photography
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.

The Unas named Chaka (“The First Ones”) is captured on his home world by non-Earth humans.  Daniel later sees video of the capture, taken by one of the cameras he placed near the stargate on Chaka’s home world.  The gate address used by the humans is also on the video.

Daniel wants to find Chaka.  O’Neill is not enthusiastic about the idea.  However, the human abductors possessed Goa’uld weaponry, which does spark his interest.  SG-1 heads to the humans’ planet, intent on learning why they have Goa’uld weapons.  Daniel also wants to rescue Chaka.  Arriving on the humans’ planet, the team makes their way from the stargate.  O’Neill and Daniel head into a nearby village.  There, they encounter Unas being auctioned off by a man named Burrock.  Carter and Teal’c remain hidden in the surrounding woods.

Burrock relates how, in the past, the humans on the planet were ruled by a Goa’uld who used Unas as cronies.  The Goa’uld left the planet, and never returned.  The humans overthrew the Unas during a long ago war.  Since then, the humans use Unas as slaves.  Burrock wants to keep Chaka, in order to introduce new blood into the inbred Unas population on that world.

Daniel is willing to do almost anything to free Chaka.  O’Neill, eh, not so much.  A failed attempt to save Chaka leads to Burrock capturing Daniel and O’Neill.  Outnumbered, with half the team imprisoned, and the stargate under heavy guard, SG-1 must find a way to regain their freedom, and get back home.

Dion Johnstone (“The Fifth Man”) is Chaka, and does a masterful job conveying emotion through the Unas costume, and makeup.  The rest of the actors’ performances are fine.

There are missed, and ignored, opportunities in this episode.

The story demonstrates an interesting question, but does little else.  The question is: how intelligent must a species be before domestication turns into enslavement?  Daniel perceives Chaka’s intelligence to be at a level where his captivity is enslavement.  Burrock does not hold the same view.  The specifics of why the two men hold their disparate views are not fully addressed.  They both believe what they believe because that is what they believe.  This adds nothing to the story.  O’Neill seems to be riding the fence on the question, unsure about whether or not the Unas are actually intelligent.  And, he's still holding a grudge about the SG team members' deaths caused by Chaka (and, possibly other Unas) in “The First Ones.”  “Beast of Burden” was a chance to explore the fuzzy line between domestication and enslavement of a different species.  Ultimately, the story restates existing questions, without providing anything fresh.

Burrock is a missed opportunity.  Rather than a three-dimensional, fully rounded character -- one having redeeming qualities, as well as tremendous faults -- Burrock is just sadistic, greedy, and psychotic.  An appropriate analogy for slavery, but not the way to present a believable character.

For someone who earns his keep breeding and selling Unas, Burrock literally kills a lot of his trade with actions based on whims, and rapid mood swings.

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