Saturday, September 26, 2009

Classics: SG1 1:1 – Children of the Gods

(And with this, we launch another series!)

Plot Synopsis:

When a “Ra look-alike” and his entourage storm into Cheyenne Mountain, murder four airmen, and kidnap another, Colonel Jack O’Neill is called out of his retirement and forced to admit that the original Abydos mission did not quite go according to his orders – that Dr. Daniel Jackson and the people of Abydos were left behind, alive. General Hammond, concerned about the safety of Earth, at first prepares to send another tactical nuke through the Stargate, but after Jack registers his strong objection, he reconsiders and allows Jack to send a personal “message” through the gate to confirm that Daniel is still on Abydos. When Daniel sends a reply, Jack obtains permission to take a team back to Abydos to discover where the new “Ra” came from. Those who accompany him include Kawalski and Ferretti, members of the original team, and Captain Samantha Carter, an astrophysicist and the Air Force’s foremost expert on the gate.

On Abydos, Jack reunites with Skaara, a young Abydonian who connected with Jack during the original mission, and Daniel, who denies that the new “Ra” came from Abydos and shows the team a large chamber, on the walls of which a set of coordinates has been engraved. He suggests that the Stargates on Earth and Abydos are in fact part of a huge network of Stargates that spans the entire galaxy and that the alien who attacked the SGC could’ve come from anywhere. Meanwhile, the base camp at the gate is attacked by the same alien, and Skaara and Sha’re, Daniel’s wife, are kidnapped – but fortunately, an injured Ferretti sees the coordinates that were dialed by the alien before he loses consciousness. After an emotional goodbye, Jack takes a horrified and reluctant Daniel back to the SGC to regroup.

On Earth, General Hammond announces that the president has decided to resurrect the Stargate program. Daniel pleads to be assigned to the flagship team so that he may rescue his wife, and Hammond takes it under advisement. Then Ferretti regains consciousness in sickbay and, with effort, types out the coordinates he saw. Jack, Daniel, Sam, and the others go back through the gate to the new destination, Chulak, with strict orders to return within a certain time limit. Unfortunately, they do not do so quickly enough to save Sha’re from being forcibly infected with a Goa’uld parasite – our new “Ra,” Apophis, has claimed Sha’re as his bride. When Daniel sees the transformed Sha’re, he rashly attempts to rescue her, and he and the rest of the team are thrown into Apophis’ holding chamber with the other prisoners. There, Teal’c, Apophis’ highest ranked Jaffa, grabs Jack’s wrist and demands to know where he got his watch. Daniel draws the gate symbol for Earth.

Back at base camp, as the deadline draws near, Kawalski refuses to leave Chulak without Jack. Meanwhile, in Apophis’ holding room, the Goa’uld have begun selecting prisoners to become Goa’uld hosts. Daniel is prepared to offer himself up, but the passing Goa’uld select Skaara instead, and Skaara is dragged away shouting for Jack. Then Apophis orders the Jaffa to begin slaughtering the remaining prisoners. Jack pleads with Teal’c to help him rescue these innocent people, and Teal’c, now convinced that he has found humans capable of challenging the Goa’uld, turns on the other Jaffa and helps Jack and the others to escape with the refugees. At the gate, Jack discovers that Skaara has already been transformed. A pitched battle ensues between the Goa’uld forces and the SG teams. Everyone makes it back to the SGC in the nick of time – but not before Kawalski is infected with a larval Goa’uld.

The Ratings:

Overall: 7.2 – Clunky in parts, but a serviceable reboot of a mediocre movie.

Writing: 6

A lot of exposition was delivered in this episode, and not all of it was done so effectively. It does not make sense, for example, for Teal’c to stop in the middle of their flight from Apophis’ palace and explain his symbiote to Jack; the more appropriate way to handle that bit of information would have been to save it for a quieter moment. I also doubt that Daniel would realistically be in the mood to talk to Sam about how he came to be married to Sha’re at the particular moment they have that conversation – or that Sam would break her concentration to start said conversation in the first place; that bit of exposition probably should’ve been dealt with before the attack on Abydos.

There is also the matter of the wince-worthy introduction of Sam Carter. Fellas – they started fully integrating women into the military in the 1970’s. Trust me on this – my mother was in the Class of 1980 at the Naval Academy. I’m pretty sure the men have adjusted by this point. (I’ll give the writers credit, though, for acknowledging just how bad Sam’s first scene is in a later episode.)

Moreover, I don’t think the writers spend a sufficient amount of time highlighting Teal’c’s doubt. Even with what they did provide, Teal’c’s shift in loyalties still strikes me as awfully abrupt. And the writers didn’t really explain why the military elected not to bury the gate after the first Abydos mission; after all, at the time, they believed the gate only went to one place - and as far as they knew, that place was destroyed by Jack’s nuke.

Acting: 7.5

Most of the time, I found the acting in this episode respectable – sometimes even quite good. Michael Shanks did a beautiful job with Daniel’s tearful goodbye on Abydos, for example. I do think, though, that Chris Judge seemed uncertain in his portrayal of Teal’c and sometimes erred too far on the side of stoicism – which means important information about Teal’c’s thought process was lost.

Message: 8

There is a belief prevalent in many political circles today that if we simply avoid “provoking” our enemies, they will not feel inclined to attack us. This episode’s greatest strength is that it confidently shoots down this premise; indeed, we even see genuine contempt displayed for those who propose such an isolationist approach. In reality, says this episode, there is a certain class of enemy that will see retreat as a sign of weakness – a class of enemy that is inexorably determined to conquer you – and with such an enemy, the best defense is a good offense.


“You didn’t like Daniel Jackson, did you?”
“Daniel was a scientist. He sneezed a lot. Basically, he was a geek, sir.”
“So you didn’t have a lot of time for him.”
“I didn’t say that. He also saved my life and found a way home for my men and me – a little thing like that kinda makes a person grow on ya.”

(After Jack tosses the tissue box through the Stargate:)
“Now we wait. If Daniel’s still around, he’ll know what the message means.”
“What if the aliens get it?”
“Well, they could be blowing their noses right now.” – The tissue box is a very cute way to get Daniel’s attention. The episode is strongest when Jack and Daniel, the more established characters, are the focus.

(Skaara hands Jack a bowl.)
(Jack sniffs it.)
“Moon… shine?”
“Yeah, moonshine, as in booze… Daniel, what have you been teaching these kids?”
“Try it.”
“All right. Skaara’s moonshine. I’ll give it a little shot.”
(Jack drinks it and immediately chokes. :) )

“After we go through the Chappa'ai, you have to bury it like we did before and then leave this place.”
“You come back?”
“No, I can't. Nobody can. That's what I'm telling you. Not for a…long time. Now as soon as we're gone, I want you to close it, bury it, put a big, heavy cover stone over it—nothing good can ever come through this 'gate. Do you understand me?”
“You came through, Daniel.”
“Do you remember the story I told you? How the ancient Egyptians back on Earth cut themselves off from Ra? Well that is exactly what you have to do. Then in one year…one year from this day you take the cover stone away. I will try to bring Sha're home with me on that day. But if I don't make it back, if I don't return then you must bury the 'gate again forever, joa qua? You tell Sha're's father—in one year…” – As I said, this particular scene was very well performed.

“This is going straight to my head. What time is it anyway? I must have 'gate lag or something.”
“Daniel, for crying out loud, you've had one beer. You're a cheaper date then my wife was.” – Hee!

“I hate to throw a damper on your enthusiasm, but I still say the safest, most logical way to deal with this is to bury the Stargate, just like the ancient Egyptians did, and make it impossible for the aliens to return. It's the only way to eliminate the threat.”
“Except it won't work.”
“It worked before.”
“They know what we are now. They know how far we've come. We're a threat to them. They've got ships, General. Ra had one as big as the great pyramids. They don't need the Stargate to get here. They can do it the old fashioned way. Now with all due respect to Mister Glass-is-half-empty over here, don't you think maybe we should use the Stargate to do a little reconnaissance before they decide to come back…again?” – Jack shooting down Samuels. Awesome.

“How much would I remember if you chose me?”
“Daniel, what are you doing?”
“Something of the host must survive.” – Another scene I like a lot.

“Hey, c'mon!”
“I have nowhere to go.”
“For this you can stay at my place. Let's go.” – Jack adopting Teal’c.

1 comment:

  1. The original pilot is still the best, even with the awful scene where Sam is introduced and the totally unnecessary nude scene of Sha're. If you have watched the "new" director's cut of the pilot, I think you will see that this version, the original, is the quite good maybe bordering on brilliant. I would give it a 9.7. I deducted points only for the 2 scenes I mentioned.