Saturday, August 11, 2012

Classics: SG1 8:7 - Covenant

Overall Rating: 8.3

Whip-smart and necessary self-examination is something I'm always ready for.  This episode does that quite nicely.

Plot Synopsis:

This carefully choreographed mental waltz is chronicled by the Stargate Wiki.

The Skinny:

Y'know - Stargate has only once-before noticed that its' core plot concept (a secret military organization defending the planet from hostile aliens) has a potential flaw.  In the magnum opus "Heroes," they managed to point out that secrecy has major drawbacks, including that as long as something remains hidden, nefarious actors may be able to twist it to selfish purposes without scrutiny.  The Trust, the Rogue NID, the shakier parts of the IOA in later seasons - none of that would be possible without secrecy.  But even that brilliant episode missed the first question someone might ask if they found out their supposedly democratic government was representing them in the heavens without their knowledge.  "Don't we have a right to know?"

Here they give this question a very sympathetic face - a cocksure and brilliant CEO of an avionics and computer technology company who discovers evidence of an alien attack on Earth and decides that the world has a right to know it's in trouble.  You can appreciate why a man like him would feel that such information should be made public.  He's an optimist like many Gate fans, he seems to believe that people should have the right to choose how to spend days that could be their last, like most people of faith, and he believes in the free exchange of ideas, like most Americans.  How you view him would be considered a Rohrshack test for your political and philosophical viewpoint.  They not only give their basic premise an opponent who is genuinely likable, they give his position fully 30 minutes of on-air debate with a person who finds it hard to disagree with him.

But the reminder comes quickly that humanity cannot be blindly trusted with world-changing information when the Trust tries to kill Colson and Vogler and threatens Vogler's family until he helps them destroy Colson's company and stop him from publicizing the gate.  We are left wondering how to resolve our desire to trust people and to favor freedom and transparency with the reality that some things, once learned, could forever change the state of man and the risks associated with those changes are enormous.  Man is fallen and imperfect, and prone to fear when they have no control over their fate.  To learn that they have been lied to for almost a decade and that aliens with the power to wipe them out could show up at any time might be too much for them to take.  Though Colson capitulates and agrees to disappear, there's nothing in this story to dissuade you from choosing to believe that some day, we will be ready.  It's a fair-minded and honest self-critique, and frankly, their star critic has me wondering.  That's massively cool.

Writing: 9.0

The strength of this episode is the smart writing and the feeling of "specialness" they gave it with the unique new sets and the off-world excursion.  They obviously put a lot of hard work and thought into this one and it paid off.

Acting: 8.5

Charles Shaughnessy is a fairly big name for them to pull for a guest appearance and plays his part pretty darned well, but I actually thought little-known Tom O'Brien's Vogler was the strong point for the guest cast.  Amanda Tapping played the roll of of tortured and conflicted secret-keeper with style.

Message: 7.5

As I said, I don't think they went out of their way to have a big message, other than, perhaps, that humanity's shortcomings are enough to make you question whether we should be careful what we wish for when we imagine discovering that we are not alone in the universe.  Still, I'm giving it credit for taking a balanced perspective, rather than becoming preachy the way that Farscape sometimes did.

No comments:

Post a Comment