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The Nox, Hathor, Cor-Ai March 8, 2008

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Friday night, I continued my SG-1 marathon with three more episodes.

The first of these was “The Nox,” a truly fascinating episode, and one of the best in the entire ten-year run of SG-1. Aside from being brilliant and very enjoyable, it lays some groundwork for a lot of what happens in the remainder of the series. Although the SG-1 team members don’t know it yet, this is their first face-to-face encounter with one of the four ancient races, who will play (to varying degrees) such an important role in their mission in the years to come. It’s also the first indication we have that the U.S. government isn’t entirely satisfied with the performance of the SG-C, a fact which will lead to all sorts of interference, oversight and outright shennanigans by a variety of other people, continuing even to this day on Atlantis. We also begin to get a sense in this episode of just how wily and challenging an opponent Apophis will be, when SG-1’s straightforward and simple plan to capture him ends up with O’Neill, Carter and Jackson all getting killed. If it wasn’t for the extremely sophisticated healing abilities of the Nox, the series would have ended about ten minutes into this episode.

Of course the Nox are the main point of this episode, so let’s talk about them a little. There are four of them shown, and their leader is played by none other than Armin Shimerman, of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. Casting him in this episode was a stroke of genius, because the character Anteaus is such a marked contrast to Shimerman’s well-known roles in the other two series, and it’s always a pleasure to see a good actor do something different from what he’s done before. He’s just delightful here, managing to quietly eclipse much of his more well-known work in what must be only fifteen or twenty minutes of screen time.

The other Nox character to play a major role is Nafrayu, the cute little Nox kid, played by Addison Ridge. Observe Carter’s expression when she looks at him, as if she’s never seen anything so adorable in her entire life. Can you blame her? My favorte of the other Nox, though, would have to be Lya, played by Frida Betrani. She’s a sweetie. Pretty, too. :) I am quite infatuated with her, I admit—this is why I’m saying such totally unprofessional things. ;) She is the only one of the Nox ever to appear on the series again, after this episode. I had high hopes that they would play an important role in the series, but only Lya comes back a couple of times, very briefly. This is very disappointing, because the Nox are an uncommon thing: an advanced alien species who actually seem advanced and alien. This makes them extremely interesting.

Apophis also plays a major role in this episode. In fact, is there any other episode in the series where he is “in play” as much as he is here? Not very many of them, that’s for sure. Peter Williams is still starting to get into the Apophis character at this point—later on, he gets better and better at it, until, eventually, the very sight of him makes a person want to scream in frustration. He’s the second best of all the Goa-uld to ever appear in the series, I think, bested only slightly by Cliff Simon’s hilarious, frustrating and brilliant portrayal of Ba’al, much later in the series.

In other matters, I must point out how much I enjoyed the musical score in this episode. I’ve noticed that, in general, the quality of the incidental music this season is pretty high. This is important to me, personally, so I thank the composer(s) for their efforts in these episodes, as well as the people who had the sense to hire decent composers in the first place.

In the realm of trivia, we see SG-5 briefly at the beginning of the episode, and I noticed that all of the Jaffa in Apophis’s personal guard are sporting gold forehead tattoos identical to Teal’c’s. This once again contradicts the idea that only first primes have gold emblems. I suppose it’s realistic to assume that different system lords would have different, um….systems to their Jaffa insignia, since they certainly would not be interested in trying to standardize something as trivial as this. After all, they have much more important concerns, such as how to kill all their rivals, live forever, and achieve domination of the galaxy. :P

I mentioned I watched two other episodes Friday: “Hathor” and “Cor-Ai.”

“Hathor” was better than I had remembered. I believe there are some inconsistencies between what’s presented in this episode and what comes later on, both with respect to the creation of the Jaffa, and to Goa-uld reproduction. It’s been a long time, though, so I will have to wait and see. The most enjoyable thing about this episode to me was Suanne Braun’s portrayal of the “goddess of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll”, Hathor. She’s just plain hot, in a beautiful, sensual, sultry and full-hipped way. I love it. :) It must also be said that Carter and Dr. Fraiser both kick a lot of ass in this episode. Indeed, this episode is all about the girls, since the boys end up spending most of their time in pheromone-induced thrall to Hathor.

“Cor-Ai” is a really good Teal’c episode, and pretty excellent in general. I really enjoy how it deals with questions relating to guilt, innocence, forgiveness, redemption, victim’s rights, the burden of punishment of a criminal, and so on. It’s quite fascinating. Briefly, some background: During the 1990’s, a hot political issue in the U.S. was the question of victim’s rights, namely the belief that the rights of the accused were being accorded too much weight by our legal system, and that this needed to be corrected in favor of victims of crimes. This episode hypothesizes a rather extreme solution to the problem, namely a legal system where the trial itself is controlled by the victim, who is also responsible for determining and carrying out the sentence. On the surface, it seems like a hopelessly barbaric way of doing things (at least it does to me, civil libertarian that I am), but the episode is written intelligently enough so we see that it wouldn’t really be that simple…although I still much prefer the American way of doing things. This episode is what science fiction is all about: using the story in a way that’s not only relevant to the complexities of the real world, but doing so thoughtfully, so that the viewer is actually drawn into thinking about an issue in a new way.

Thor! Buddy! March 6, 2008

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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

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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.

This is fun! March 5, 2008

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The SG-1 marathon is going very well—I’m three episodes past the pilot now, and I’m surprised how much I’m enjoying this. Last night, after writing out a draft of the previous entry about the pilot story, I then watched “The Enemy Within” and “Emancipation”.

The first of these is the story where Kawalski, who got infected with a Goa’uld symbiote at the end of the pilot, ends up dead at the end, after wreaking a lot of havoc in the SG-C. This is actually a pretty good ep, even though they never leave the confines of the base. It’s the first good Teal’c episode, too, unlike the couple which follow this, where he is more flat and two-dimensional. In this story, we see a lot of the character that Teal’c becomes later on in the series. This episode is also, by my guess, the last we’ll ever see of SG-2. I’ll be keeping an eye out for that unit in future episodes, but I don’t recall ever seeing them again. My guess is O’Neill had the number retired after Kowalski’s death. But that’s just a guess.

The next ep is the one I typically dread whenever I consider the possibility of watching early SG-1 episodes: “Emancipation.” Yes, it was just about as bad as I had remembered. The political content of the story is way over the top considering when this was first aired (seriously, a story like this would have played better in 1967 than 1997), but beyond that, some of the dialog was like a bad parody of a classic Star Trek episode, and performances by a couple of the supporting cast were fairly painful to watch.

Soon-Tek Oh as Moughal On the other hand, there were some bright spots. One was the performance by guest actor Sooh-Tek Oh, as the elderly tribal chieftain Moughal. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed him in this small but sympathetic role. The main benefit of watching this episode, however, is that it throws down some building blocks for the development of the SG-1 team. Right at the beginning, the dialog gives away the fact that this isn’t their first offworld mission after the pilot episode, that in fact, they seem to have been on at least several missions in the interim since “The Enemy Within.” More important is the way the team reacts to Carter’s plight in this episode. At first they joke about it, and tease her about it, but when things turn ugly and she is abducted, O’Neill wastes not one second in taking action. It’s also the first big Samantha Carter episode, obviously.

Tonight, I started things out with “The Broca Divide.” I won’t say too much about this one other than that I enjoyed it, especially the happy ending. A couple of interesting trivia bits: This was the first SG-3 episode, the first episode with Colonel Makepeace, and most importantly, the first episode with Teryl Rothery as Dr. Frasier!! She saves the day too. :)

Now I’m about to go on to the next episode: “The First Commandment.” I actually don’t remember what this one is about, although I’m sure it’ll come back to me pretty quickly.