Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Classics: SG1 1:8 - Thor's Hammer

Overall Rating: 7.2

An episode that, while still lacking in massive amounts of depth in its story concept, is filled with depth by the actors - especially Michael Shanks - and was thus a very solid effort.

Plot Synopsis:

Daniel has done enough research in mythology to conclude that more than one advanced alien race may have visited Earth. The goa'uld - taking the form of power-hungry Gods who demanded sacrifice and obedience on the one side (the Goa'uld) and cultural icons and champions who defended early man from his enemies (we eventually discover these to be the Asgard). He finds, in particular, the Norse God Thor to be a compelling candidate to seek out in search of an alliance against the Goa'uld. Teal'c immediately recognizes the hammer which was said to be Thor's weapon against the ettons. It's a symbol that comes attached to a gate address which is taught to all Jaffa - an address to a planet that is off limits to all Goa'uld. SG1 is dispatched to this planet (Cimmeria) where they immediately encounter an Asgard probe which locks on to Teal'c's symbiont and beams him (and an unfortunately proximate Jack) to a Goa'uld trap whose only exit is marked by a hammer-shaped passage which contains an Asgard device designed to destroy any Goa'uld.

While O'Neill and Teal'c find their way to the hammer (and do battle with an Unas - a physically powerful early host to the Goa'uld), Daniel and Sam speak to Gairwyn (the leader of the village closest to the gate) about where their comrades may have been sent. She leads them to a former Goa'uld named Kendra who reluctantly agrees to show them the way to Thor's Hammer. Daniel is excited about the promise of a device that may rid Sha're and Skaara of their parasites, only to have his hopes crushingly dashed by the realization once they find the hammer that the only way to get Teal'c out is to destroy it.

Writing: 6

I'm not sure the Gate writers' understand of Norse mythology and culture was all that precise, and the script itself is nothing outrageously inventive or deep, but the personal history of Kendra was interesting and Daniel's part in the episode was well written - not only his way of diplomatically coaxing and understandably traumatized Kendra to help them find their friends, but also his personal anguish at having to destroy the one thing he knows for certain could bring back his wife. The show would score better on the writing front if the unas was written more convincingly or if they'd taken advantage of Teal'c and Jack trapped together for some witty repartee. Ultimately, the show lacks dialogue that crackles - perhaps I'm spoiled by DS9 among other very snappily-written franchises I've seen in my life, but the first season of Stargate SG1 is chronically lacking in memorable character-building dialogue. I was also kind of off put by the depiction of Thor's presence in Kendra's life. It strikes me as kind of childish to insert a rumble of thunder every time you need Kendra to make up her mind about something.

Acting: 9

Michael Shanks' best performance of the series to date, he conveys very deep emotion without chewing scenery...just a subtle reaction here and a glimmer of something across his face there and you are literally feeling what it might be like if someone you cared about had been taken from you by a parasitical bad guy. It's hard to put a finger on exactly what it was about his performance that was the most striking, but that's usually how it is with a great acting performance. Galyn Gorg (Kendra) did a nice job as well, as did Chris Judge.

Message: 6.5

I find it troubling that the Asgard feel the need to pose as Gods, even when their purpose is noble (safeguarding human lives in whatever small ways they can against the Goa'uld). Why spoon feed a race of people that we later find out the Asgard believe show great potential to be a galactic force for good with false idols? Why not let them develop naturally in an environment where they are safe from Goa'uld oppression the way you did on Earth? A false God is a false God...all you're doing is setting people you claim to want to protect back in the evolution of their spiritual and cultural identity with this fake religion. This score would be lower, but it's saved by the message once again being delivered that all lives are sacred (in this case, a sacrifice has to be made to save Teal'c, and not even the man doing the sacrificing hesitates).


This episode suffers from a weird absence of memorable dialogue...for a show that is of decent quality, the key to it seems not to be the lines...but the acting between the lines. As such, there are no highlights this time around.

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