Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Classics: SG1 6:12 - Unnatural Selection

Overall Rating: 9.0

The second part of this disjointed two-part "cliffhanger" that I so readily mocked last week turns out to be a fantastic stand-alone episode because it is truly unique and surprising.

Plot Synopsis:

The stargate Wiki has the details here

The Skinny:

This episode does two things very right:

  1. It puts a real face on the Replicator menace - one of the biggest complaints in fandom is that the Replicators, while ominous, don't really represent anything in humanity because they have no personality at all.  Even the Borg have a personality and a core philosophy whose roots can be traced in human culture.  The Replicators are just technological locusts...they tell us nothing about the human condition - which is the primary reason to have a "bad guy" in the first place.  To give us something to think about.  They started the process of humanizing the bugs in the fourth season episode "Menace" (in which it turns out a flawed cybernetic life form created the problem in the first place).  But here, the Replicators invade the Asgard home world, find the android Reese, and assume that her personality is correct.  Now we have a bunch of deeply flawed Reese clones composed of replicator cells walking around...and that...well that does give us the opportunity to say something about human nature.
  2. When they get a chance to put a human spin on the replicators, they turn the old trope about the better parts of our natures being our salvation on its' head and force SG-1 to use the one compassionate (albeit immature) humanoid Replicator's humanity to entrap the Replicators.  Now, I would find this annoying if the take-home message were "morality is a human weakness that makes us uniquely vulnerable"...but that's not what I get out of this.  What I get out of it is that soldiers in a war for survival are sometimes forced to make ethically questionable choices when the alternative is worse.  While Daniel's stand-in (Jonas) struggles with the morality of using a potential ally's humanity against him, Jack has to make the tough call, and once again, he makes it.  He owns that action, of course, and the writers allow him to show a bit of remorse as they're escaping, but you're left knowing full well that it was the right decision.  That kind of battlefield clarity is what makes O'Neill a great leader - the writers of Gate always did seem to understand leadership.  I wish they would teach it to Washington.
On top of the thematic victories in this episode, we also have the fact that it was cinematic and well directed.  The Replicator-altered Asgard home world was a thing of beauty and set the mood very well...this hasn't always been a strong suit for Gate....but they get it very right here and that deserves mention.

Writing: 9.0

Good decision making yields an entertaining and introspective story.

Acting: 9.0

The human-form Replicators all do an above average job on the acting front as well, with the possible exception of "fifth"...who comes across a little more creepily than he should have to allow for the abusing of his humanity to be an emotionally effective bit of drama.

Message: 9.0

Knowing when to own a hard choice and choose the lesser of two evils in a crisis is lost on modern progressives, but not on us at RightFans.  And not on Jack O'Neill.

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