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Sanctuary premier: Yawn. October 5, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Sanctuary.
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Unfortunately, I didn’t get into this at all. In fact, I had to struggle to stay awake.

Sci-Fi had been hyping it for a while, and even shuffled up their regular Friday night schedule to put the two-hour premier into a prime spot, but frankly, I didn’t think it was worth all that effort.

It’s a show about monsters. Yeah, monsters. Interesting, no?

Well, no, actually, it doesn’t turn out to be all that interesting.

It’s not that the “monsters are actually real!” idea is inherantly worthless, because it’s not (check out True Blood if you don’t believe me). The problem with Sanctuary is that all it seems to offer the viewer is a long sequence of “oohs” and “ahhs” over the monster effects. That’s not enough to base a show on. I mean, what are they going to do in subsequent episodes? Just hunt monsters and put them in their big, secret monster zoo? Is that all?

Actually, it’s clear that the main hook on the show is intended to be Dr. Magnus (played by the fabulous Amanda Tapping). Problem is, not only was a lot of the mystery about her given away in this first double episode, but she is only one character. The male lead, whose name I can’t even remember at the moment, is virtually devoid of interest, and the daughter is about the same. One semi-interesting character and two cardboard cutouts are not enough to base a good show on, especially when most of the mysteries for Dr. Magnus are already revealed. Where else can they go? There are questions left open relating to Dr. Magnus’s longevity, as well as the story of how she got to where she currently is. Will that be enough? For myself, I can already tell the answer is “no.” (There are some wildcards, namely some of the more sentient creatures inhabiting the sanctuary. Will they play a role? Take the mermaid, for instance. Will they do anything interesting with her, or is she just intended for decoration?)

As for the story itself, there were actually two of them sandwiched together. One involved a boy with a prehensile tentacle growing out of his rib cage. The tentacle featured a mouthlike thing on the end that looked a lot like the mouth of a larval Goa’uld, only with four jaws instead of three. As a fan of Stargate: SG-1 and Amanda Tapping’s role on that show, I thought this was amusingly ironic. (What’s sad was that this moment of irony turned out to be the most interesting thing about the show.)

The other story centers around a villian, who turns out to be someone that Dr. Magnus had an affair with over 100 years ago. The affair led to a pregnancy, and even though this was over 100 years ago, Dr. Magnus, being brilliant and cutting edge, managed to extract the embryo, freeze it for close to 100 years, and then implant it (in herself, presumably), resulting in her now having a fully grown daughter. The girl’s father is evil with a capital “E”, though, and has to be done away with. Oh, and he’s got super-speed. Whoopee.

I don’t know about you, but I just wasn’t all that taken in with either of these ideas, especially when Daddy Evil turned out to be Jack the Ripper, an idea which felt like a totally gratuitous throw-in. Jack the Ripper references tend to annoy me anyway, because everyone knows that the Jack the Ripper mystery was already solved on the original Star Trek series over 40 years ago, in the episode “Wolf in the Fold.” ;)

In any case, I’m not going to belabor this anymore. I almost fell asleep at least a couple of times while watching, which means the interest level really wasn’t there for me. Why spend any more time on it?

Unless I end up hearing some real raves about subsequent developments on this show, I’m done.

Thor! Buddy! March 6, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Stargate: SG-1.
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I remember O’Neill greeting the loveable alien Thor with those words, a few seasons down the line. I’m not sure if the memory is accurate, but it sure seems like something O’Neill would say if he hadn’t seen his friend in a while.

The first episode tonight is “Thor’s Hammer”, which is also the very first Thor episode. We don’t actually encounter the real Thor this time around, just some pleasant and suspiciously timed thunderbolts, and an imposing Norse-looking simulacrum.

There’s a lot to like in this episode. Jackson correctly guesses that the Goa’uld did not, in fact, build the Stargate system, and that the Norse gods must be friendly to humans. He also learns of a way to save his beloved wife, a way taken from him at the end. It’s a cruelty to him, obviously, but at the same time, his act of voluntarily destroying Thor’s Hammer so that Teal’c can escape unharmed shows Teal’c once and for all that the members of SG-1 are truly his friends. I got a real kick out of the dialog right after this—Jackson remarks after his destruction of Thor’s Hammer, an act which casts a heavy pall of improbability on his hopes for saving his wife, “Well, at least we know it can be done.” Teal’c looks at him, understanding fully the depth of his sacrifice, and says nothing. But, if you listen very, very carefully, you can almost hear the word, “Indeed.”

In the realm of trivia, I notice that the characters are now starting to refer to the Goa’uld in the aggregate plural rather than ordinary plural, i.e. “Goa’uld” instead of “Goa’ulds.” In fact, the first character (other than Teal’c) I noticed doing this was the blue crystal alien in the form of O’Neill’s dead son in “Cold Lazarus.” All of the team now appear to be sporting the finalized SG-1 insignia, the familiar one with a solid colored “1” in the center instead of a black “1”. And they’re still stumbling through the Stargate some of the time, barely managing to keep their footing on the other side.

Regarding the order of the episodes, this continues to be different from the original broadcast order. According to the GateWorld episode guide for Season One, the correct order is as follows: “The Broca Divide”, “The First Commandment”, “Cold Lazarus”, “The Nox”, “Brief Candle” and “Thor’s Hammer”, while the DVD puts them in this order (listing those on Disc 2 only): “The Broca Divide”, “The First Commandment”, “Brief Candle”, “Cold Lazarus” and “Thor’s Hammer”. “The Nox” ends up being the fourth episode on Disc 3. I wonder why they ordered the episodes so differently. Not that I’m complaining—I do like them this way.

Nutjob commanders, alien hotties, brilliant blue crystalline entities—what’s not to love? March 6, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Stargate: SG-1.
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The next three episodes in my SG-1 marathon (all watched last night after “The Broca Divide”) were “The First Commandment”, “Brief Candle” and “Cold Lazarus”. This is the order in which they appear on the second DVD in the box set. I’ve noticed on GateWorld’s series index that the order there is different. GateWorld’s listing is ordered by broadcast date—I’m not sure why the DVD episodes are in a different order, but it seems perfectly fine to me. I’m not sure if it would make much difference to watch them in one order or the other.

“The First Commandment” features SG-9 going native (and nuts) when their CO loses his mind and decides he actually is the god the locals believe him to be. This isn’t the most memorable episode, but enjoyable enough. It contrasts with “Emancipation” in being more morally relativistic, instead of casting things in such black-and-white terms: Captain Hanson is obviously a whacko, viewing himself as a god, but at the same time, it’s apparent that he genuinely loves “his” people, in his own twisted, megalomaniacal way. In spite of the fact that a lot of them will be killed because of his madness, there is some element of altruism in his motivation.

Another thing that interested me in this episode was noticing the difference between Carter’s and Jackson’s reactions to the situation of a man getting beaten. Initially it’s Carter who goes against O’Neill’s implicit orders and gets involved, not Jackson, meaning they are both doing the unexpected. Carter’s military background makes her quick willingness to mess up O’Neill’s plan surprising, while Jackson’s opposition to helping out seems to go directly against his idealist tendencies. I’m guessing Jackson’s motivation is simply the fear of getting tied to a stake and left out in the bright sun to die, because it’s hard to imagine the Jackson of season ten hesitating like that. He probably wants to help, but at this early point in the series, he hasn’t yet developed the level of confidence in his own abilities which would allow him to risk injury or death to do so. Carter’s motivation is easier to understand—she just needs to help. In both cases, their actions serve very well to help us see them as more complex people, rather than uninteresting two-dimensional stereotypes. I think it’s this sort of thing which, over time, made viewers really care about this series.

Does SG-9 ever appear again? I’m sure they must be mentioned in passing, but we’ll see. By the way, this is the only time I can recall hearing about an SG team being led by a Captain—in all other cases, it was either Majors or Colonels (and I vaguely recall from my first time watching the series that there were never any Lieutenant Colonels at all, until Carter herself became one).

“Brief Candle” was very enjoyable. I have two favorite things about this episode. One of them is pretty obvious: The gorgeous Bobbie Phillips as Kynthia. What a hottie, and a sweetheart, too :) The character was interesting—one of the other “Chosen” people states her age at “31 days”, which I assume would correspond physiologically to a normal human age of 31 years. However, she plays the character as quite naive and innocent, knowing full well that no matter how much nanotechnology is thrown at someone to age them quickly, she’s not going to develop the maturity of a normal 31-year-old woman in only 31 days. Careful observers may also notice the appearance of crow’s feet around her eyes in the later scenes, by which time she would be much older, physiologically—like a woman in her 40’s.

The other aspect of this episode that I really enjoyed is how Kynthia’s brief relationship with O’Neill, coupled with his rapid and extreme aging, serves to round out the O’Neill character. There’s a side of him visible here that we don’t get to see very much. What starts out as an almost Captain-Kirk-like tryst between the two of them ends up taking a totally different path, especially as O’Neill ages. I absolutely love the tenderness he shows her in the later scenes.

There are some other things too. One is right at the beginning—the team discovers a young woman in labor, and Daniel Jackson gets stuck delivering the baby. Very amusing. :) Another is Teal’c’s “parting message” to O’Neill, which really touches me: “Colonel…I’ve learned very much from you. Thank you.” This is a nice little bit of foreshadowing of the great character Teal’c will eventually become, although I wonder how much of that the writers had worked out at this point.

Finally, it was getting late, but I really wanted to watch “Cold Lazarus” before I turned in for the night, because I always loved those nifty blue crystalline aliens. :) This is another really good Richard Dean Anderson episode, even though he mostly plays an alien instead of his normal character.

It’s no wonder I got hooked on this show so easily—this whole season is actually pretty excellent. It exhibits very little of the “rough-around-the-edges” quality that so many good series show in their first seasons. Plus, a lot of these episodes prove to be pivotal for the entire series—I just finished watching Season 10 recently, and there were two explicit references to these early episodes, one to O’Neill’s temporary aging experience, and the other to the crystalline aliens. Also, the concept of the Goa’uld using people as lab rats will continue to be important for quite some time. Obviously the writers realized early on that, if they were going to keep the series going for more than a season, it needed to amount to much more than just “four people having random adventures on a bunch of weird planets.” There’s a lot of real meat here in this first season.