Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Classics: SG1 1:7 – Cold Lazarus

Plot Synopsis:

On P3X-562, SG1 comes upon a valley full of broken blue crystals. Alone, Jack touches an intact crystal and is knocked unconscious by a blast of energy; shortly thereafter, a duplicate Jack (hereafter referred to as Crystal Jack) appears. Crystal Jack returns home through the Stargate with the unsuspecting team. After searching through Jack’s personal items, Crystal Jack seeks out Jack’s ex, Sara, and tries to find the couple's son, Charlie, who accidentally shot himself with Jack’s gun before the original Stargate mission. Sara is initially freaked out, but eventually finds herself drawn to what she sees as an unusual emotional openness in her husband. Meanwhile, the real Jack returns to the SGC and is rather perturbed to discover that he has been duplicated. Sam and Daniel, who have already discovered that the crystals from P3X-562 contain energy beings that can mimic faces and voices, then question the crystalline being in the SGC lab. The being tells them that its race was destroyed by the Goa’uld long ago after one of their number accidentally killed a Goa’uld. The being also informs them that its energy cannot survive in the Earth's intense electromagnetic field. When Crystal Jack indeed begins to decay, a frightened Sara takes him to the hospital; it is here that Jack and the rest of SG1 eventually find them both. As Crystal Jack dramatically denatures, he explains that he never meant to hurt Jack – that he was trying to heal him, but could not understand how to fix the emptiness in Jack’s soul. In the end, Crystal Jack takes the form of Charlie and tells Jack that his son will always live on in his memory.

The Ratings:

Overall: 8.5 - An inspired concept with a touching finish.

Writing: 9

This episode features the series’ first truly inspired alien – an alien so alien that for a good stretch of the episode, SG1 does not even realize that it is sentient. Indeed, this alien is so alien that it cannot recognize the difference between physical and psychic pain, as it has no biological body of its own. And yet – and here’s where much of the brilliance of this episode lies – we as viewers still come to feel for this alien. We can still imagine what it must be like for this being to be one of the last of a nearly dead race; its fear, its pain, and its fundamental kindness still manage to be conveyed.

In the meantime, we are treated to an emotionally genuine exploration of Jack’s personal tragedy. We are introduced to Sara O’Neill and come to sympathize with her sense of loss. From Sara, we learn more about the collapse of Jack’s marriage - and what gradually emerges is a very realistic, very true-to-character portrait of a relationship that could not survive the death of a child. And at the last, Jack comes to understand, poignantly, that he will always be connected in some unfathomable way to his son even if Charlie is no longer physically here.

Finally, after many false starts, the writers have come to the realization that the success of their show hinges upon the audience’s developing sympathy for the characters. Beautiful!

Acting: 7.5

Harley Jane Kozak did a fantastic job as Sara – and I was generally impressed with Richard Dean Anderson’s portrayal of Crystal Jack, although I’m not sure he adequately conveyed the struggle of the alien at the very end. I also didn’t really feel the emotional investment of Sara’s father – his delivery of “God help you, I’ll make you wish you never did” came off as rather flat.

Message: 9

The message of this episode is simple, yet moving: You can never truly lose someone you love; the memory will always live on inside of you.


(Teal’c has just watched a few minutes of television footage.)
“Teal’c! We need your help.”
“Your world is a strange place.”
(Daniel pauses, gives Teal’c a puzzled look.)
“So’s yours.” – Heh.

(After Teal’c shoots one of the crystals in the gate room, alarms sound.)
“What’s going on in there?”
“You received permission for me to fire my staff weapon in the gate room?”
(Clearly, Sam and Daniel have not.)
“Oh yeah.”
“Absolutely.” – Whoops!

“Tell you what, let me put it nicely: get me the HELL out of here!”
“If that isn’t O’Neill, I want to know who the hell we’re looking at.” – I love that General Hammond knows his man so well.

“You son of a bitch. You walked out on me back then because you thought I was mad at you? You trying to tell me it's my fault?”
“Why didn't you talk to me? Why didn't you ask?”
“I should have…but I didn't. So, you were angry?”
“No. Yes. What did you expect?” (Her voice rises in distress.) “It happened in our house. It was your gun.” (She stops, and calms herself.) “I know you blamed yourself. But if you just opened up for once and let me through that armor of yours…We could have helped each other. I needed you.”
“I know.”
“You know? And you can say it? Just like that? After all this time?”
“I'm sorry it took so long. It should've been said sooner.” – A very good, very realistic scene.

“One of the Goa'ulds was killed?”
“They gathered all the Unity in one place…and ended it.”
“We confirmed Goa'uld energy weapons did it.”
“Then that pit wasn't a ceremonial place at all. It was some kind of…mass grave?” – Sort of brings a chill, doesn’t it?

(Teal’c attempts to bring his staff weapon with him to the hospital.)
“Teal’c, you’ll have to leave that here.”
“I have seen your world. I will need it.” – Hee.

“When my energy hurt you…I tried…to heal you. But I did not understand your…injury. So I looked in…to your mind. I saw the mind…of a warrior. I feared it, as I feared those who destroyed my race. I tried to make you well…before my mistake was discovered; before the others returned to…destroy me. I understand now. Your deepest pain was not the physical…injury I had caused. Your pain was from an empty place in your heart where Charlie once was. I thought if I could bring Charlie to you, it would make you well. I did not understand his death meant he could no longer exist as flesh and blood. Physical death…does not have the same meaning…to us.”
“Are you dying now?”
“Yes. I could not bring Charlie to you.”
“Charlie's gone.”
“No…He's…in here.”
(Crystal Jack transforms into a copy of Charlie as he touches Jack’s chest.)
“You cannot change what happened that day, just as I cannot change the day that the Goa'uld destroyed my world. I am showing you what of Charlie is still there…inside you.” – When the intent of the alien becomes explicit, I start crying. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch this episode.

1 comment:

  1. I think the conclusion was a bit "on the nose" from a writing standpoint. "He lives on in here..."....that's ripped right out of E.T. and about 40 after school specials.

    The message is beautiful, but the first-season gate writers still display, IMHO, a lack of depth and creativity in their conveying the message. I had this episode as 7/7/9 (7.7)...Crystal Jack did a fine job until the concluding scene...then it got forced and weird, and that prevents me from giving it higher marks.

    Steph is right, however, that this is the first creative alien we've encountered...the first SG1 mission with a creative premise. And for that it deserves a lot of credit.