Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sundays through the Stargate - Stargate SG1 Season 2

Sundays through the Stargate is a weekly series that I am doing on Stargate SG1 which you can learn more about in The Beginning post. It is mostly for my own dorky edification but if there are any other fans out there I'd love to hear your thoughts!
I am really happy that I first experienced SG1 in one big fell obsessive swoop where I mainlined all the episodes and seasons without pause.  Why am I happy about this? Because SG1 loves their cliffhangers and the season 1 finale was their first big one.  As a result, SG1 begins season 2 in a whole heap of trouble and they have only a short time to figure out how to save the world and themselves.  They will end up saving the world many times but this is their inaugural world saving so, you know, it's special.

There are of course many other significant happenings.  Earth gains two new allies; the Tok'ra and the Asgard though those relationships are still pretty shaky in season 2. Their original nemesis Apophis "dies" almost immediately but then re-appears and brings along a few other of his Goa'uld friends before "dying" again. 

Sam has a big season.  She is the first member of SG1 to be blended with a symbiote and the experience leaves her profoundly changed.  Also her father becomes a Tok'ra and her relationship with him dramatically alters.  She also gets a new alien stalker though for me he is the most palatable of the bunch.

The team dynamic is now firmly in place.  They've saved the world together.  In the first two episodes Daniel and Sam almost die.  They have some screw ups (Linnea, Cimmeria in Ep. 2.6 only one of which they can fix).  Basically they have completely bonded and have learned to trust each other with their lives and they (mostly) tackle their missions like a well-oiled machine.

Season two has what I would also call the first truly shippy episode - the last episode of the season Out of Mind.  In season two, Sam still has a good bit of the eager-to-please junior officer vibe from season one but she is notably a bit more relaxed with her commanding officer.  Basically, Sam is still an impeccable officer but she is no longer as desperate to prove herself and win Jack's approval.  The ice has been broken (punnily in an episode that takes place in Antarctica:) and they get to know each other a little more personally and not just professionally.  I think by the end of season two Jack knows he has a bit of a thing for Sam but because he's her commanding officer and it's against the regulations he does a good job burying it and keeping it to himself.  He, I think, realizes that SG1 is special and it would be detrimental to Earth's security to break it up.  Sam may also be feeling the pull of Jack as this is the season where you can start noticing her laughing at all of the Colonel's jokes.  He makes a lot of them and Daniel and Teal'c are more likely to roll their eyes but Sam usually has a big old goofy grin on her face.  Otherwise it is kind of hard to know how she feels about Jack on a personal level.  Her big revelatory episode is in season three.

What are Daniel and Teal'c up to?   Not a whole heck of a lot.  Daniel who is supposedly only on SG1 so that he can be in a position to search for his wife Sha're, discovers that she's been on Abydos for several weeks with no one bothering to let him know.  Oh and she's pregnant with Apophis' kid.  Daniel acts obsessive and crazy only to recover quickly by the next episode.  Also during this season he unwittingly switches bodies with an inventor and almost dies.  About mid-season Teal'c has to deal with his son Rayac having been brainwashed by Apophis.  He also has to deal with his wife having taken up with another man because Teal'c has abandoned them and she and Rayac were outcasts and starving.  Despite Teal'c being a HUGE jerkwad about this, his wife decides she just can't resist his aloof manliness and falls back into his arms.  Rayac's experience in this episode has ramifications further down the line on the relationship with his father. 


✮ = Episode has significance in the Stargate universe.  Important episodes.
☺ = A favorite episode of mine
♥ = Episode that has some significance to the 'ship (Sam and Jack of course!)

✮Episode 2.1 The Serpent's Lair

Continuation of episode 1.21 Within the Serpent's Grasp. SG1 is trapped on a mother ship that is part of Apophis' invasion fleet and they must figure out how to stop the invasion and stay alive.  Things initially go badly for SG1 as a second mother ship arrives and they are captured.  Thankfully that old coot Bra'tac shows up and saves them though he is grumpy because they messed up his plans to attack Apophis in Klorel's (Apophis' son, inhabits Skaara) name which would then cause the two Goa'uld to destroy each other.  Daniel is mortally wounded during their revised plan but crawls into a sarcophagus and saves his own life.  SG1, with the help of Bra'tac, successfully blows up both ships (though unbeknownst to them Apophis and Klorel survive), escape in gliders and then are picked up by a space shuttle!  Daniel emerges from the Sarcophagus and gates through the ring at the last minute.  Phew!  It is the first of many rescues of the planet Earth by SG1.
THOUGHTS:  SG1 is pretty great at coming up with creative and often preposterously brilliant last minute saves for its heroes and this episode has two of them with Daniel and the team needing to save themselves separately.  Alexis Cruz who plays Klorel/Skaara has gotten quite good at playing the dual character and is fun to watch.  He's a good side character, carried over from the movie.  The episode highlights Daniel's heroic nature and bravery.
✮☺♥Episode 2.2 In the Line of Duty

While on a mission, Captain Carter is invaded by a symbiote who claims not to be a Goa'uld but a member of a resistance called the Tok'ra.  So, no surprise that I love this episode - it features Carter, it introduces the Tok'ra, and it's arguably just ever so slightly shippy.  It's a significant episode because it has all kinds of implications - the Tok'ra eventually become a new ally, Carter has a number of residual strange abilities even though Jolinar (the invading symbiote) dies while saving Carter's life, and Carter also develops a rather strange and confusing relationship with one of the Tok'ra because of her "blending".  The shippiness in the episode is definitely a little weak and possibly non-existent.  Jack is very upset about having to interrogate the alien possessing Carter and has to psyche himself up to go in with her.  He also refuses to leave Carter's side while she fights for her life, even when an alert sounds.  It's not particularly shippy because a big part of Jack's distress is that he watched one of his other close friends die horribly of this same scenario in episode 1.2.  In fact this episode is a nice mirror to that original episode and Jack's reaction to things is pretty spot on and cognizant of Kawalski's experience.  It is likely that Jack would have been equally upset etc... if Daniel had been the one taken over. However, the show is often brought up in shipper circles as a significant early shipper episode so there you have it.    In the end, the symbiote, Jolinar, sacrifices itself to save Sam's life and leaves Sam feeling incredibly depressed and upset.  It's an unusual state for Carter and Amanda Tapping plays it well.  Cassie from episode 1.14 Singularity makes an appearance and plays an important role in the episode which is a nice use of her character and of continuity.
THOUGHTS:  I kind of love the Tok'ra y'all and think this episode marks the start of when SG1 takes it up another notch into awesomeness.  Season one was good and entertaining but the this episode brings a lot of complexity to the storyline, to Carter's character, to her relationships with the rest of the team.  It's the start of the SG1 Golden Age as far as I'm concerned;).

NOTE:  As I get into season 2, I am starting to realize just how good Stargate SG1 was at building in context and continuity to its episodes.  It wasn't perfect by any means but while being distinctly episodic, events that happen or characters that are introduced in one episode are likely to have repercussions in future episodes.  It's built in more casually and naturally then most shows.  Basically the show focuses on this military group and their adventures and each episode is a different adventure but just as in life, elements of the past pop up again or at least have repercussions.  I bring this up not only to point it out but to say that while I was listing all the episodes that had some future implications, I think that is going to become too unwieldy because almost every episode has some connections to future episodes.  For some episodes that have something key happen but which I don't want to discuss in detail I may just list the episode and the key thing and move on. 

Episode 2.3 Prisoners -  The enigmatic character of Linnea is introduced when SG1 is sent to an alien prison.  She shows up in a future episode that I think is more interesting than this one and which I really like.

Episode 2.6 Thor's Chariot -  In a return visit to Cimmeria (Ep 1.9 Thor's Hammer) SG1 encounter the Asgard "in person" for the first time and they look remarkably like the aliens we think of as Roswell Grays.  Also Sam can use Goa'uld technology and the SGC acquires a Goa'uld healing and weapon hand devices.

♥☺Episode 2.7 Message in a Bottle

SG1 brings back a strange device that has Carter and Daniel nerding out hardcore but then it starts emitting huge amounts of energy and when they try to send it back through the Stargate it skewers Colonel O'Neill to the wall in the gate room.   I like the creativity of this episode and also tend to enjoy episodes where the SGC has been invaded or is otherwise in trouble. I also like episodes where members of SG1 are taken over by alien entities:0).   The alien entity here is unique, like a virus, and the imagery with the black lights is pretty cool.  I call it a shipper episode because Sam is pretty upset about Jack's situation and works her tail off to try and fix things but calling this shippiness is pretty weak.  The 'ship most present in the episode is between Teal'c and Jack.  Teal'c stays with Jack throughout the ordeal, keeping him company and watching over him.  It's a nice team episode.  THOUGHTS: Jack is one seriously tough dude.  RDA does a pretty fantastic job of portraying Jack in pain or sick (as in Solitudes) and he does a great job here.

Episode 2.8 Family and 2.9 Secrets -A jaffa episode followed by a Sha're episode - major Ugh.  Unfortunately both episodes have implications in the future.  In Family, Teal'c's son Ray'ac is kidnapped and brainwashed by Apophis.  This experience has effects on Ray'ac way down the road in season 6.  The less said about Teal'c's relationship with his wife the better. In Secrets, there is a dual narrative with Daniel and Teal'c going to Abydos and finding a pregnant Sha're/Amonet.  Apparently it is an extremely rare situation for a Goa'uld to be pregnant and the child Sha're will have will be important in later seasons.  In the second storyline, Jack and Sam travel to Washington D.C. to get an award and we meet Sam's dad, an overbearing retired Air Force General.  He is apparently very sick but pretends he doesn't want his daughter around.  We get more acquainted with him in Episode 2.12.

✮☺Episode 2.11 The Tok'ra Part 1 

Sam is experiencing what she thinks are Jolinar's memories and it leads SG1 to their first meeting with the Tok'ra, a Goa'uld rebel force. I loves me some Tok'ra.  I love how they're essentially a community of super spies, how cranky they make Jack,  and how they occasionally show up to treat the silly humans as guinea pigs.  Basically, I just really like all the storylines involving the Tok'ra and this is the episode where it all begins. The Tok'ra are different from the Goa'uld in that they only blend with willing hosts. Right off the bat it is clear that the symbiote who invaded Sam, Jolinar, was a pretty important Tok'ra operative.  She also had a very close connection to one of the other Tok'ra, Martouf (host)/Lantash (symbiote) and the scenes between him and Sam are interesting - Sam can feel Jolinar's feelings which is confusing to say the least.  It also means she is inclined to like and trust the Tok'ra right off the bat which annoys Jack.  He becomes more annoyed when the Tok'ra indicate that any alliance would require some of the humans to be willing to become hosts an idea he finds repugnant.  Things go from bad to worse when SG3 shows up to extract Carter because her dad's health has severely declined but the Tok'ra will not let the humans leave because they are too much of a security risk.  Part 1 ends.
THOUGHTS:  This episode is really the perfect introduction to the Tok'ra as throughout the show's run they remain good but somewhat frustrating allies.  Secretive and bureaucratic and a little too logical to suit most humans, particularly Jack.  Martouf is also my favorite of Sam's alien suitors.  Sure he pushes a little too hard at times for her to talk to him of Jolinar but he's not nearly so creepy as the other fellows that become smitten with her.

✮☺Episode 2.12 The Tok'ra Part II

The Tok'ra end up being betrayed to the Goa'uld which frees the humans and gives Carter a desperate idea to save her father.  The Tok'ra have a spy in their midst and Jack helps them catch the person. This goes a long way to improving the Tok'ra's friendliness to the humans.  Also Carter convinces Colonel O'Neill to help her convince her dying father to accept one of the Tok'ra symbiotes (Selmak) whose host is dying.  This seems like a terrible idea but Jack goes along with it and it ends up being a spectacular idea for the show as a whole.  It helps create a bond between the two races and Jacob the Tok'ra is one of my favorite characters - I always love when he shows up.  There's a lot of suspense as the Tok'ra base is falling down around Sam and Martouf who stand vigil while the Tok'ra symbiote Selmak works to heal Jacob of his cancer. Everybody escapes to Earth in the end however.
THOUGHTS:  Jacob blending with Selmak was probably the best thing to ever happen to Sam and her Father's relationship.  We don't get to see too much of Jacob before this happens but it is clear that he is overbearing, brusque, and not terribly in touch with his or anybody else's feelings.  The show does a good job of moderating his character to reflect how blending with Selmak would have affected him.  He's still Jacob but a lot more perceptive and wise and a much better father to Sam. Jacob/Selmak ends up being the only Tok'ra Jack really likes. 

Episode 2.14 Touchstone - This episode deals with a theme that comes up over and over in the show - the proper use of the Stargate.  The stated mission of the Stargate program is to acquire technology to help in the fight against the Goa'uld but there is an ethical and unethical way to do this.  This episode demonstrates the unethical way and sets up a couple of future episodes.

✮☺Episode 2.15 The Fifth Race

Jack unwittingly has an alien library downloaded into his head which makes him act strangely and may be killing him.  So both Sam and Daniel would undoubtedly LOVE to have all the knowledge of the Ancients downloaded into their brain but of course it happens to Jack.  Jack's feeling about having all this knowledge and ability to do things is best described as supreme irritation.  It starts with him replacing English words with Alien words which he's not even aware he is doing. It leads to some  fun "did not", "did so" arguments between he and Daniel.  Nothing much really happens in the episode though Jack's abilities steadily increase, his ability to communicate steadily decreases and Doctor Frasier becomes concerned that his brain is being overrun and he is dying.  In the end Jack saves himself by rigging up an extra power source and dialing an 8 symbol address (they are normally only seven) which takes him to an Asgard ship in another galaxy.  They are able to remove the knowledge from Jack's brain, saving his life because they indicate that human physiology is not yet advanced enough to hold that amount of information.  This encounter increases the Asgard interest in humans, particularly Jack though they warn him that humans are not yet ready for all they are encountering.  Jack's response is pretty great, something along the lines of that may be so but we're curious and we're out there so deal with it.  It ends with the Asgard saying that Human's have the potential to join the other 4 great races (Asgard, Nox, the Ancients, Furrlings [whom we never meet]) to become the Fifth race.
THOUGHTS:  It can't be overstated how fun it is to watch Colonel O'Neill in a state of supreme irritation.  For it being mostly an episode of Jack wandering around shocking everyone with the amazing things he can do, it's a particularly significant episode for the show's development.

Episode 2.16 A Matter of Time

When Stargate Command opens the gate to a planet right next to a black hole it gets sucked into the gravitational pull and time dilation being created and can't get out. For some reason I really like episodes where the SGC is in trouble.  I also like to think the first few minutes of this ep are shippy because we all know that Jack is not that stupid - i.e. much of his apparent stupidity is an act to throw people off.  But he is asking Carter all sorts of dumb questions clearly just so that she'll science babble at him.  He pretends to be annoyed by the science babble but secretly he loves it:).  Of course a few minutes later he gives her a dressing down for getting too excited about the scientific implications of the  black hole and forgetting that they are watching an SG team on the planet next to the black hole being killed in slow motion.  This gives us another aspect of Carter's character.  While usually she is very compassionate, she does very occasionally let a passion for scientific discovery get in the way of the compassion.  Basically, this is a favorite episode of mine because the threat is unique and intriguing, the solution is hard to figure out and accomplish and in the end takes a heroic act by Jack.  It also requires him to put his trust utterly in Sam and her brain which he does to an increasing degree as the show continues.
THOUGHTS:  Basically this is a suspense-filled episode with an interesting problem to solve and some cool science stuff.   It is also a good partner episode for Jack and Sam and shows how far he has come in appreciating her as a scientist and nerd.  He initially distrusted her because of it, now he trusts her and her ideas implicitly.

☺Episode 2.17 Holiday

Using an alien device, Daniel unwittingly switches bodies with an old dying man who invented the machine.  This episode is worth watching just for the entertainment value of O'Neill and Teal'c also switching bodies. RDA and Chris Judge have a good time with it.  Ma'Chello's (the old man inventor) inventions show up in a later episode as well.
THOUGHTS: Basically nothing really profound or particularly significant here.  I just like it.

✮☺Episode 2.18 Serpent's Song

Apophis shows up again and shockingly asks Earth for sanctuary against a new Goa'uld threat named Sokar.  This episode has all kinds of stuff going on.  Apophis dies (but not for the last time).  A new bigger badder Goa'uld, Sokar,  starts menacing Earth (but at this point only to get at Apophis).  He represents what we might think of as Satan - he is god of the damned.  The Tok'ra show back up with Martouf leading a delegation to convince Earth to hand over Apophis.  If they don't, Sokar will blow up the stargate and the planet.  Each of the members of SG1 get to face and talk to their enemy (Apophis) as he lays dying in the infirmary and each has their own way of dealing with him. Teal'c is gloating, Carter is repulsed, Daniel is compassionate towards the host, O'Neill is good riddance.  In the end they send Apophis' corpse to Sokar which stops the attack against Earth and ensures, though they don't realize it,  that Apophis will be back because Sokar will likely revive him in a sarcophagus.
THOUGHTS:  Apophis really is a tough dude and they keep him coming back as the principal bad guy for a goodly many seasons.  In another of SG1's brilliant uses of continuity, the video of Apophis' death in the infirmary in this episode will come into play in a future episode.

♥✮☺Episode 2.22 Out of Mind

SG1 wake up in a futuristic version of the SGC each being told separately that they have been cryogenically preserved and that the rest of SG1 are dead.  This is the first of a two parter which concludes in episode one of season 3.  This and its partner are two of my favorite episodes of the entire show.  I like the deception being used and how Jack figures it out because he's a suspicious so and so, and how in the end it all plays out.  And Hathor's back!  She's one of my favorite Goa'uld and I love her campy plan to gather intelligence - convince the human members of SG1 they're in the future and then try to get them to tell their story with a Tok'ra memory device.  It is also, I think, the first official shippy episode.  First, when Jack rescues Carter he seems a little undecided as to whether he wants her to get dressed or not.
This actually doesn't do Jack's shifty-eyed, half lechery/half discomfort face during this scene justice.
As he and Carter escape, Carter's memory device "fires" which cause a commotion that might lead to their discovery.  Jack pulls her around a corner and up against him to keep her from flailing but then he doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry to let her go.

And there's more in the follow-up episode!  So basically this episode has all the things I require - A fun premise, a daring suspense filled escape, a fun Goa'uld, and awesome Sam/Jack teamwork and shippiness.
THOUGHTS:  So obviously I love this episode and it's follow up that starts season 3.  It's a great episode for Sam and Jack on all counts.   Despite the circumstances Jack seems to be crushing on Sam hard here and it's not entirely clear why and where it goes after the episode.  Maybe the memory chip is futzing with his inhibitions a little bit?  I think by this time he is aware of having less than appropriate feelings for Carter but he's pretty good at keeping them buried.  You could make an argument that the scenes depicted above are not shippy.  Jack may just be uncomfortable that his subordinate female officer is naked in front of him but his face doesn't just contain discomfort.  In the second scene I highlight, it is of tactical importance to restrain Carter and hide them when she starts to have a memory but they stay snuggled up together perhaps a little longer than necessary and for me the scene had a whole lot of sexual tension in it - intended or not.  Onto season 3!

Thus the season ends.  The Goa'uld as a whole are still a threat but they think they have rid themselves of Apophis at least.  They do definitely eliminate Hathor.  The ending episode is more about saving themselves then it is about saving the world but it's fun nonetheless.

Daniel is not really any closer to rescuing Sha're but he has proven his worth to SG1 not just as an archeologist but as a full fledged team member who will cover their backs and give his life if need be. Teal'c is fully integrated into SG1 and the SGC so much so that they do not balk at bringing his son back to Earth in order to help him defeat Apophis' brainwashing.  As mentioned Sam has had a big emotional year and continues to prove herself invaluable through her military prowess and her super smarts.  Jack has become extremely dependent on his team and realizes that they represent the Earth's best hope of defense.  By the end of this season it is also pretty apparent that he has some inappropriately affectionate feelings towards his subordinate officer which he is trying hard to keep in check.

Season two is a step up from season one in the quality of the episodes.  The chemistry of the team which was strong from the start just continues to gel and almost every episode has some teamy goodness.  It becomes clear that the show is unique in trying create a cohesive universe where episodes are connected in a logical way.  They really do better then most shows in embracing continuity.  It is also early enough in the show that there are still a lot of unknowns and things to discover.  It is still a show mostly about exploration and adventure.

Top Five Episodes from this Season:
1) Episode 2.22 Out of Mind
2) Episode 2.2 In the Line of Duty
3) Episode 2.11/2.12 The Tok'ra parts I and II
4) Episode 2.15 The Fifth Race
5) Episode 2.16 A Matter of Time

The Rabbit Hole 

The rabbit hole is where I point out other places on the web where you can waste spend a lot of time reading about Stargate SG1.

Stairway to the Stars  - If you don't want to re-watch or watch SG1 after viewing this video than I suspect you might hate fun.  Or you know, don't like action/adventure Sci fi which, you know, is fine.

FAN FICTION: SG1 is pretty much the only show where I have extensively turned to fan fiction to try and deal with the frustration about how the actual writers of the show handled/"resolved" Jack and Sam's relationship.  I definitely have two favorite authors: Rachel500 and Annerb.  Both of them are talented writers whose stories could easily be imagined as actual SG1 episodes. They both write the characters spot on.   Also on a personal preference level - the things they imagine are exactly how I would have liked for things to go down and they both have an admiration and reverence for the character of Sam in particular.  I'm sure there are other good writers out there but after wading through a lot these two are my reliable go tos.   Basically, give them both a shot! Below is a recommendation for seasons 1 and 2. 

Aftershocks I (Season's 1 and 2) by Rachel500:  This is a collection of TAGS or missing scenes from season's one and two of SG1.  It's what happened with SG1 in between their missions and adventures.  
Season 1

Well that's it for the Stargate this week.  Next week season three...

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