Monday, December 26, 2011

Classics: SG1 6:20 - Memento

Overall Rating: 7.2

The plot is pretty standard fare for Stargate, but that's actually a good thing - we haven't done a classic first contact with aliens story with a happy ending in a while, and this one speaks well of the gate as a uniter, rather than a divider.

Plot Synopsis:

The details can be found at the Stargate Wiki (here).

The Skinny:

If you like the general format of a typical SG1 episode, this will make you pretty happy.  Although they don't step through the gate to make first contact (they actually blow up a fusion reactor and seriously damage an entire planet's power grid...much better!), they make that first contact all the same, and then the story becomes one of discovery.  Normally, they would be helping a new race to discover the use of the gate network...this one becomes a story about helping a race rediscovery their history.  The Tegreans erased all records of their ancient history (before the recent three hundred years or so) and lost all common knowledge that their planet once possessed a working Stargate.  Jonas, playing the role of Daniel oh so blandly, combs through their history to discovery where the gate was buried and, with the help of some wide-eyed intellectuals, finds it in the desert outside their capital.  They work together to dig it up (SG1 needs it to get the parts they need to fix their hyperdrive engines and go home) but the chief antagonist of the story - a hot headed security minister who sees his latest bug bite as an imminent threat to national security, let alone digging up a ring that can send people to other worlds (!) gets into a stand-off with the planet's leader, who has come to our aid, and he (the leader) must convince his own military not to kill SG1 and re-bury the gate.

I guess there are three major flaws with this script that keep it from being a fantastic call to the explorers and historians in our midst.

  1. The security minister is never properly explained.  Why would he ASSUME that every alien he meets is out to blow up his capital city?  Granted, we didn't get off to the greatest start with Tegrea, but he goes apoplectic over the notion of allowing Jonas access to their historical library!  Why would a conquering race care about Tegrean history?  A better villain - one who, perhaps, was less pig-headed and more motivated by realistic concerns would have helped this story along.
  2. The theme of the episode could have been made a little more clear.  It seems to change every five minutes.  When they pitched this script...they should have said something like "this is a story about..."  As I understand it, that's how most pitch-sessions work.  You give a quick synopsis of your plot concept and explain why you want to do this story.  But it seems confused over whether it's primarily about the process of discovery - one race reawakening to the thrill of the frontier (us)...another race discovering as if for the first time, that they are not alone.  The next minute, it's a story about the need to preserve one's entire history, rather than systematically erasing bits that are too painful.  Then it changes again and is about the need to have a little faith in the goodness of your fellow men.  Pick a theme...any theme...and tell a story about it.  The hodgepodge feel here doesn't add to the power of the confuses things and makes the story feel slapped together.
  3. The dialogue  EXCEPT for the prime minister's speech at the end, which is actually very nice.
But, having raised those complaints, I don't think this is a bad episode.  I think it misses some opportunities to be great, but even with the disorganized nature of the script, it still recalls the basic thing that draws us to the gate - we haven't done a real "wonder of discovery" episode in some time and it's a nice throwback to earlier seasons.

Writing: 6.5

Higher marks for that lovely speech at the end of the episode and for reminding us why we liked the Stargate concept enough to stick around through many changes in the show's formula and feel.

Acting: 8.5

The performances are actually very good all around except for the security minister, who sometimes comes across a little stiffly.  I think the college professor and gate-lore collector is a pretty amusing character mostly because he's welll acted.

Message: 6.5

As I said, this episode missed a chance to really hit home with a strong message at least three different ways, but we'll give it a little bonus for giving us a few warm fuzzies at the end.

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