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SciFi Friday: SG1, SGA (09-15-2006)

I have a new LJ layout. I’m still not sure if I like it. I would kind of like something **similar** to it, maybe, but this was the best of the choices I saw. I think. I don’t really know how to customize my graphics. (Geez, I still haven’t figured out **tags**.) I am not big on CHANGE, anyway, so maybe it’s just a matter of getting used to it. (Why change it, you ask, if you didn’t have to? Ehn, I thought it would be a good idea not to be stuck in a rut. I wanted to get with the times. Etc.)

And now, on to more TL;DR thinky stuff…

SG-1 10.09: Company of Thieves

I will admit that this ep had some interesting elements to it, but… ehn, a lot of it just made me cranky. That colors my review. Fair warning.

First: we thought the writing was especially poor and clunky. The Lucian Bad Guys were particular victims of this – most of their dialogue was painfully cliché-ridden, and the writers **still** do not write politics well, including the internal politics of a Space Mafia. I could **buy** the Lucians as the Space Mafia, that would be fine – it’s just, they weren’t written as a particularly plausible mafia, either. The way Netan runs them, you wonder how they managed to get anywhere.

So, Sam and Emerson and the Odyssey wind up the victims of an act of piracy, which, hey, at least that’s kind of new (leaving aside Vala trying to do it two years ago).

And… we tend to FF through the credits, so I’m glad people around my flist mentioned about the new end sequence with Vala, so I could watch it again – yeah, that was cute. Nice touch.

Teal’c confirms that the Jaffa have collapsed into infighting between various factions, which honestly they should have done long ago and it’s a miracle that the whole experiment in unity lasted as long as it did, really. I feel for him, though. Teal’c truly is one of those individuals of transcendant thought and understanding that comes along once in a blue moon, historically speaking. What I mean is that coming from the background he did, it **is** amazing that he became convinced that all Jaffa could have not only freedom, but unity. Realistic as it is, it must be counted as one of Stargate’s great tragedies that the Jaffa prove that if you give a people freedom, you cannot then tell them what to do with it. Giving them freedom also means allowing them the freedom to make terrible mistakes.

Teal’c originally wanted only freedom for the Jaffa, not unity. I have to wonder if he picked up the idea of unity during his time with the Tau’ri – but that would mean that he focused on the philosophical potentials of the Tau’ri, not the examples they provided on their own planet. telepresence and I discussed at one point that we would love to have seen Teal’c quizzing Daniel on the subject of experiments in unity on Earth – that if he truly wanted the Jaffa Nation to work, it would have been great to see him studying up on Earth historical examples, what they did to make it work, where they have gone wrong. What he came to desire for the Jaffa was something that Earth itself has simply not achieved – and it’s tragic that he expected too much of them too soon.

Meanwhile… after all that stuff last week about how far Vala has come (praise from Daniel, no less) and how much she wants to **belong** to SG-1, and now she does… what’s with Daniel’s digs about her help coming at a PRICE? And her “generously” offering to “waive her usual fee” (unless she was kidding; but Daniel didn’t seem to be). Is she part of SG-1 now, or is she still a mercenary who may or may not be connected with them? (Her still being out for personal gain – finding treasure, etc. – doesn’t bother me at all, but I think that’s different. That’s not her having to make a point that she is refraining from cheating the people who are now supposed to be her teammates.)

So… Avateo is hideously slimy and OTT and, we thought, poorly written – even his sleazy hitting on Sam initially just came off as cliché-ridden villain. In retrospect, it’s somewhat interesting, in the sense that that hasn’t happened to Sam in a long, long time, actually, and the episode left some lacunae in which it was not unreasonable to wonder if something worse happened to her offscreen – the show would never go there explicitly, no, but it seemed to want to let us wonder. But at the time we first encountered Avateo, he just didn’t come across to us as truly menacing in that regard. (Note: his name really sounded like “Anateo” to me, and on rewatch as I was writing this, it **still** did. But Gateworld has it as “Avateo”, so that’s what I’m going to use.)

As an aside: why do the Lucian Alliance guys even wear uniforms at all? They aren’t a military. They’re **businessmen**, or they’re pirates, or they’re mafia or what-have-you. What’s with the boring suits?

This isn’t just a snarky question – Avateo himself raises it. “Pathetic, isn’t it?” he says. “Pretending to be something we’re not.” Okay, so, he gets it. But that doesn’t really tell us why they’re pretending in the first place – what Netan (presuming he’s behind it) feels he gets out of the enforced dress code.

Avateo was more convincingly menacing to me when he grabbed Sam so suddenly and violently and dragged her over to the distress beacon. (Future note to shipbuilders? Hide it?) And then there’s the bit with Emerson -- **DAMN**. Just… damn.

Reactions to Sam’s actions in this episode seem to be fairly split. This time – completely differently from how I felt when she was threatened by Ba’al a few episodes ago – I didn’t actually have that much of a problem with what she did or how she reacted.

Emerson’s death was shockingly sudden and final. Sam wasn’t even given time to get into serious balking, nor did they wait to see if she would cave to their threatening him. Yes, she’d indicated an intention to balk once, but still. Threat was followed by actuation **very** quickly. Almost more frighteningly, it was a subordinate who shot Emerson, apparently on his own, without any overt sign from his commander. That’s suggestive – possibly of prior communication, or possibly just of how unpredictable and hair-trigger these bad-guys are (the multiple shots pumped into the poor guy after he’d fallen definitely underscored that: these guys are efficient and brutal, as well as not very patient).

The Lucians do not play by the rules of Bad Guys that Sam is used to after 10 years of SG-1. We have to leave aside for the moment the fact that Emerson can be executed summarily because he is a minor character – Sam doesn’t know that. In the past, people close to Sam – her teammates, in other words – have similarly been threatened to try to force her cooperation. But the old Bad Guys tended not to proceed directly to killing their hostages all that quickly, and that of course was lucky for her and for SG-1. Again, though, you have to leave aside the meta-reasons they didn’t, and just accept that in Sam’s experience, they did.

As others have already noted (and as janedavitt has already written about in an awesome, effective ficlet), Emerson was playing the role that usually, Jack, or lately, Cameron would be in. That has to color the way Sam looks at Emerson’s death – not just with regret for **his** death (though clearly, they were on warm terms, at least on a first-name basis some of the time), but for how it changes the rules of the game as she is used to it.

I have to wonder, in retrospect, if Emerson’s death was set up between Avateo and his underling before he and Sam were ever brought to the bridge. It very quickly and successfully established to Sam exactly how serious these guys were about their threats. For once, she wasn’t dealing with Stupid Evil Overlords who let the heroes live for way too long. I have to assume that that was the point all along, rather than shooting him being a spur-of-the-moment thing.

The choice that Sam was then faced with was fairly simple. She could continue to balk, and very clearly, Avateo would have no compunction against shooting successive members of the Daedalus crew until he ran out… which might stall for time but which would be an expensive way to wait for the cavalry to arrive. Or, she could cooperate and try to stall in other ways. Apparently, she chose the latter course, since she would say later in the ep, to Daniel and Vala, that she had been stalling. So she was playing her captors – and that, to me, isn’t caving, it’s strategizing.

Not least, because assessing the damage to the Odyssey and working on repairing bits of it in the background was something that was to **her** advantage as well, presuming she and the others could come up with a way to take back the ship at some point. Working towards escape/retaking the ship was the obvious course, and for that, she would need a working ship at some point. In the interim, there was no real reason for her not to cooperate at least somewhat with their captors, since not-cooperating had such clear-cut negative consequences.

Finally – Sam’s tears when she rejoins the crew. I wasn’t bothered by that. In the first place, Emerson’s death was horrible and shocking (as were its implications, as were the “what ifs” had it been Mitchell or, once upon a time, Jack in that position). In the second place, we’re told that “hours” have passed, and that along with her demeanor is the lacuna that most implies that something worse might have happened to her at Avateo’s sleazy hands in the interim.

As for whether Sam should have been tough and bottled-up, in order to put on a brave/strong face for the crew for whom she was now the ranking officer… well, I can see that point. They could have played Sam in many ways; they could have played her tough and angry (as well as crying), instead. But I’m going with the idea that Sam’s tears turn out to have been the main acknowledgement that the ep was going to give to the enormity of Emerson’s death, her shock and grief the main grief expressed over it.

For me – that’s too little. I’m sorry, but I think that should have colored the entire rest of the episode, and I was disturbed when it seemed like the gravity of it wasn’t being reflected in, say, Daniel’s or Vala’s or others’ reactions. I have now seen others suggesting other readings for Daniel’s reactions, and within that framework, I can accept them as yet another manifestation of the brittleness and weariness and sadness… but that’s not what I got out of it on first watching. At the time, it just felt like tonal dissonance to me.

So, speaking of tonal dissonance… yes, what we get **right** after the shocking and horribly summary execution of Emerson is… the somewhat light and funny scene on the clunker tel’tak that Vala has procured for the rest of SG-1. And indeed, there were some funny moments, there (Vala’s “I just disabled that annoying alarm”, and kicking the console to get the shield to work, chiefly… and That Thing Teal’c was wearing, what the HELL?, which looked like nothing so much as an old football perched on his head). And sure, the rest of SG-1 didn’t know what had just happened over on the Odyssey, but… it just felt **off**. (And again with Daniel’s mistrust of Vala and the eye-rolling and everything – which seemed fairly out of step with his heartfelt speeches to her in “Memento Mori”.)

Note to Sam: I cut you slack on the stuff up to now. But when your teammates are marched onto the bridge as prisoners, and they’re clearing wearing their Undercover Duds? Maybe you could NOT brightly call out their names? Maybe? Because maybe they’re working a plan and you just blew their cover? Not that this was actually the case, but at the moment she hopped up and called out she had no way of knowing that. (Tiny bit of slack cut for the fact that Avateo had already demonstrated that he knew **her** by sight, so it might have been reasonable to assume that he would know the rest of SG-1 by sight as well.)

Now, see… the moment Avateo said “Take care of him” you just KNEW that Chop-Shop Guy was toast… and that’s why the Lucians are a **really bad** mafia. Because you know, guys… what’s up with the killing of people who work for you? That’s just NO way to run a business, which, check me on this, is supposed to be what they’re doing. There was no reason to kill Borzon (or whatever his name was). He hadn’t really fucked up. The rest of SG-1 could conceivably **still** show up at his place looking for the beacon. He might be useful to you again later. Killing him really only scares off others from wanting to work with you. Unless… unless Vala’s little dig about what Borzon was skimming off the top was true **and** the Lucians knew about it, in which case killing him could be taken as the mafia sending a message to other small-fry: don’t try to cheat us, we **will** find out. But if that was why Avateo had him killed (and not just in a “you have failed me!” way), it would have been nice to make that clearer.

It’s nice to see a bit of past continuity, in the whole chemical thing that Daniel used to impersonate one of Lord Yu’s lo’taur from S5’s “The Summit”, a drug that was developed by the Tok’ra from the chemical used by the Ree’ol (in other words, “Lt. Tyler” from “The Fifth Man”). And they were… **fairly** careful about the way they had Cameron deploy the pointy-ring with the chemical on it in this ep.

There was even some indication – now that I watch it again – that Cam was using it and people were reacting to it in more or less the way continuity suggests they were supposed to. The shakiest bit was when Cam first came in and had to convinced Netan that he was Kefflin – ideally, Cam should have contrived to say Kefflin’s name (and thus plant the suggestion) right after sticking him and before Netan got any look at his face. As it was, he stuck Netan, and there were a few moments where Netan looked at him in a confused way, before Cam said that he was Kefflin. But this is somewhat in line with how the chemical had to have worked originally on SG-1 (it was clear from the way Tyler questioned Jack later that there was a “fuzzy” period in Jack’s memory surrounding how he first met up with Tyler, suggesting that initial exposure to the chemical does things to a subject’s memories as well as their recognition centers).

We did have a good laugh over how great it would be if they had established Kefflin as having an Australian-like accent, just so that we could get to hear Ben Browder having to struggle through that for an undercover role – for old times’ sake, you know.

And then… we get one of the worst exposition scenes we have seen since Damian Kindler’s writing hey-day – UGH! Is there anything more boring, clunkier, and less realistic-seeming than two guys on the same side standing in an empty room just so that the one can tell the other all of his plans and ambitions, which the other should already know, for the benefit of the audience? Meh.

We also got a laugh out of Netan’s line to Cameron: “It’s been a disappointing season, my friend.” Oh, the meta… (But that line would have been written and shot long before they knew about the cancellation, so it can’t have been intentional; just a coincidence.)

And – oh, look. Teal’c, whose main purpose in the plot up to this point has been to sit back on the tel’tak AGAIN, has now been captured, and his main purpose will clearly now be to be tortured… AGAIN. To say that this is getting old would be the drollest of understatements. **sigh**

Something that struck me after mulling the episode over for a bit – this scene reminds me of it – is that one of the things that bugs me about the Lucians is that they’re crazy and sadistic, but they’re just humans. I mean, the Goa’uld by design had reasons to be crazy and sadistic (and Stupid Evil Overlords), that was their charm. But the Lucians don’t, and really, being as crazy and sadistic as they are is actually bad for the business they’re supposed to be running. I mean, this is not to say that mafia dons aren’t violent and scary and brutal… but the ones in charge actually tend not to be quite that uncontrolled about it.

Needless to say, I would have preferred the Lucians, as villains, to be a lot more subtly drawn, more ambiguously bad rather than moustache-twirling evil. I remember being keenly disappointed in that ep from last season where Netan first got his hands on Teal’c and then got all enthusiastically torture-y about it, and it wasn’t just because I like the actor and think it’s nice that we’ve got a recurring Asian-looking character for once. No, it was because doing that with him removed the possibility of his being a complex villain, and turned him into something two-dimensional, and I was disappointed by that.

What struck me upon thinking about it was… you know, I’m now sort of wondering whether the Lucians, at least the higher-ups, are hopped up on the sarcophagus.

If they are, of course, then if would be nice if they would at least **show** us that they are – and if it did, I would kind of forgive them the heavy-handedness with which they have drawn the Lucians to this point. After all, what stands out about the Lucians is that they have ha’taks. And, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that there are all these ha’taks and other Goa’uld ships for the taking, but that we don’t see **other** salvaged Goa’uld technology. What would be more valuable than sarcophagi? There’s got to be some scattered around out there. You’d think these Lucian higher-ups would be totally into having those, and using them (not being aware of the down-side, perhaps).

Avateo, Netan, Kefflin – they aren’t as round-the-bend as Daniel was back in “Need”, but otherwise, they **are** acting basically like slightly-smarter Goa’ulds. Sarcophagus use would certainly explain that. And it would even make them into a slightly scarier and more chilling enemy.

But the show doesn’t seem to actually be going there. It’s just a thought I had.

It would have explained a lot about Netan’s behavior in that feast scene, though. I mean, yes – sometimes you have to lay the smackdown on one of your underlings who’s challenging you (and what an interesting character-actor that guy was, too!). But there are limits. When all the other guys got up from the table and trooped out, our observation was that it would serve Netan right if they all just kept walking and never came back… or went right out and just explained to Avateo that if he would only promise not to haul off and shoot them when they asked questions, they would gladly pledge their allegiance to him instead of to Netan. In other words, there is demonstrating that you are strong, and then there is just being dumb and inviting a coup.

The whole scene with Vala and Daniel trying to figure out the beaming thing reminds me of something – have we ever had it explained to us why the Daedalus gets an on-board Asgard, but the Odyssey doesn’t? I’m just wondering.

During this scene, we were actually discussing the fact that the smart thing to do would be to beam Avateo **out** -- out into space, that is. And that while we “know” Daniel wouldn’t do such a thing… we just don’t know that about Vala. In fact we’re pretty sure Vala **would**.

So, kudos to them for actually having her do it.

Vala’s reaction to the guy about to die a horrible death in the vacuum of space was also not out of character… but Daniel’s reaction was… well, weirdly flippant, for him. I mean, I get that Avateo was SCUM, and I have no trouble believing that Daniel had chosen to classify him in the same mental compartment as a lot of other villains over the years whose deaths Daniel has not shed a tear over. But DAMN, that was COLD.

Of course, this is Daniel. He can be… really cold, sometimes. That’s always been in him. Sometimes it’s closer to the surface than others. You know what that scene reminded me of, on rewatching, actually? “Maternal Instinct”, and Daniel’s really somewhat flippant “Bye” and wave to the squad of Jaffa about to get fried at the end. For a guy who is often portrayed as never wishing to kill if he doesn’t have to… he really does get to a point where he seems to have a “well, on your own head be it” attitude towards enemies who make their own choices to be assholes of their own free will. I wonder if this reaction of his to Avateo’s death was just part of that.

It’s just Cameron’s luck that the Alien Guy who shows up (I think the name was Tenat, which would agree with the name of the guy from “The Ties that Bind”, last season) just so happens to be one of the only two guys he has ever met of that race before. And then –Cam asks, “What about your loyalty to Netan?”, and Tenat replies, “He will kill me the instant I am no longer of use to him” – THAT, right there, is why if you are a smart mafia don, you **don’t** develop a reputation for hauling off and shooting people who can be of continuing use to you, so long as they don’t do something unforgiveable. Geez! Inviting a coup, indeed.

Okay – Teal’c going postal. I have read a lot of reactions from folks who really liked it. I didn’t like it – though at the time, we did make the comment that it seemed to us like Teal’c wanting to beat the hell out of the **writers** for the way they have completely fallen down on haivng any idea what to do with his character, resulting in him constantly being “the one left in the tel’tak” and “the one who gets captured and tortured”. In which case: fine, Teal’c. You go, dude.

I wasn’t bothered by Teal’c getting medieval on those guys’ asses, no. Of course not. I was bothered by his uncontrolled pummelling of the downed guy, and then his choke-hold on Cameron, and the desperation in his admission that he “grows weary of this torture”. Just because – Teal’c’s been through a lot worse and kept his dignity intact. No, Teal’c isn’t a robot – but look, he isn’t just human, either. It seems to me that in the past, maintaining his dignity under torture has been important to him. I didn’t buy that **this** is what would make his control crack.

Since seeing the ep, I’ve read some other perspectives on it. I’ve seen people suggest that it was the result not just of the (relatively minor, this time, thanks to Cam) torture this time out, but of the build-up of everything, not least the recent failure of the Jaffa Nation in which Teal’c has been so invested. And as a meta-reason and as a character-motivation – yes, perhaps I buy that. You can sell me on it. But I’m just not sure, even rewatching it, that the ep was trying to suggest that, or that it was doing so clearly. I think that’s something we the fans, who are more thoughtful about it, can read into it (as we do so very often), but I’m not sure I buy that’s what the writers intended. And on first watching, I didn’t get that out of the ep.

When “Netan” appeared on the bridge of Tenat’s ship, it became clear very quickly what Cam’s “plan” turned out to have been. And they had certainly tried to telegraph the possibility to the audience earlier, with Cam’s slap on Tenat’s arm (and Tenat’s double-take look at his own arm) during their first meeting. Again, they carefully staged it so that Cam sent an underling in to plant the “Netan” idea in Tenat’s head before he himself appeared. Now that I look at this scene again, though, other questions occur to me… given that Teal’c was hiding on the ship, where was he hiding? And Tenat’s crew… are we supposed to believe that THEY didn’t know what Netan looked like? That seems far-fetched – but Cam could not have dosed all of them with the chemical. (There were other guys on the bridge to whom he had no access.) Hmm. But, props to the Netan actor for playing Cam-being-Netan a little bit differently than real-Netan. (Oh – apparently, from the end of the later scene, plus Daniel's comments, we **were** supposed to believe that none of the other guys had ever seen Netan’s face before. Which I think is weird, but, whatever.)

I’m really not even sure what Daniel thought he was doing, sitting in the command chair. He had no business being there, as they made apparent. It was nice that they put in that put-down from Major Marks, to underscore that it’s not like the crew necessarily thought he belonged there, either. (And having Cam note it later was also good.)

On a more positive note, it was good to see the several instances of Vala and Sam working together on the guts of the ship.

You know, if the reason Teal’c “couldn’t be” in the final scene was because he was in the infirmary… then is there any darned reason they couldn’t have set the final scene in the infirmary, with his team all gathering to check up on him and see how he was? Sheesh! Poor Teal’c. I take it back. You didn't beat up that surrogate-writer **enough**. Have another go.

Oh, and Cam? You’re the USAF. I don’t think you’re **allowed** to DECLARE WAR. You can **provoke** war, sure. But your commander in chief requires an act of Congress to **declare** it. Just… wanting to note that.

SGA 3.09: Phantoms

Liked this episode pretty well, actually, with only a few small caveats.

The atmosphere was nicely creepy, especially once the varying hallucinations started getting going. I thought the most effective was what was going on with Rodney and especially with Carson. (Although, I have the same question this week that we’ve had in weeks past, which is: Carson, seriously, don’t you have any trained underlings who could go out in the field and take the risks FOR you? You really are supposed to be CMO, you shouldn’t be going offworld and getting stranded and stuff.)

Anyway, the whole thing with Carson was a real mind-fuck for the audience as well as him (and very, very angsty for him, too). I mean, with Ronon’s and John’s, it was overtly obvious what the unreal things were that they were seeing in contrast to what was real. And with Rodney, well… by that point, you were sort of taking on faith that if what he was seeing looked bad then it was probably his paranoid delusions. But with Carson, I thought there was some really effective mindfuckery going on, regarding what was real and what wasn’t.

In fact, I was confused about that, in the end. Specifically, I was confused by whether the black guy was actually alive, or dead, in the end. I’m assuming dead – which just made warranted our first reaction to his appearance at the start of the ep, which was, “Run, Black Man! RUN!” Poor guy.

We did have one question, about whether it wouldn’t have been effective just to blow up that damn… whatever the hell it was. You can’t tell me those away-teams don’t carry at least some C4 with them. (Certainly, they apparently carry grenades…)

Speaking of which – oh, man, BAD DEATH for poor Major Leonard. **Man**. (To be honest, though, John should have had a lot more than just leaves and ground debris blown onto him.)

John’s flashbacks-to-Afghanistan were clearly exactly what any big Sheppard-fan ordered. We thought they were pretty well-done, really. Some nice details in there – the downed Soviet helicopter that he and the other guy are hiding in, for example. (Even before they identified it, we were commenting, “*That’s* not a US helicopter”, and then noticing the red star on the side.) And then the A10 Thunderbolt as the substitute for the UAV – nice one. (telepresence called that one; apparently he has a thing for the A10s. Who knew?) You don't see those too often.

A question, though, for those more in the know about Atlantis canon: was John actually a Major back in Afghanistan? Because I noticed the subdued rank patch on the shoulder of his desert flightsuit immediately. (Nice touch that they put him in a flightsuit, rather than desert-cammo BDUs, too.) I guess it makes sense… given his subsequent doghouse assignment to Antarctica, it wouldn’t make sense that he’d been a Captain in Afghanistan and then got **promoted** after what went down there. (It’s surprising that he wasn’t demoted, actually, as well as assigned to the ass-end of nowhere.) I’m just wondering what other canon has told us about that.

Pretty much the only thing that bothered me about the ep was the tone of the ending. The exchanges between Rodney, John and Ronon – about who needed to apologize for shooting whom, and all, and Ronon’s ending smile and chuckle – it felt **really** out of place for me, considering that Major Leonard had very recently died in a very horrible way, and as far as we could tell, the young black lieutenant was also dead. (John only mentions that Keagan is out of the woods – no mention of the other guy, whose name I’m blanking on at the moment.)

But even if the only major casualty was Leonard – um, **bad death**, really bad, really senseless and terrible (and John should have been spattered with guts and brains). I really could have done with more of a sense that anyone **felt** that, you know? So while I appreciated the gravity of the final exchange between John and Teyla, her “well, we survived” rang hollow for me. No, not all of “you” did, unless you’re talking just about Sheppard’s team. But I want to believe that, the structure of the show aside, that team isn’t the only team that matters – that they would care more about losing Leonard and some of **his** team.

However, next week on SGA? SQUEEEE!!!!!!! JACK!!!!!

Finally – the Save SG-1 folks have a new survey up, for Characters & Story Contributions. It’s here:


(They also have the results of their previous survey up, for which they got a gratifying 4000+ replies, which makes for an interesting sampling of results.)

I actually found this survey less useful to take than the previous one, because I felt like the questions they were asking demanded nuance, and the survey didn’t really provide any way for me to give any.

What I mean is: it’s all very well to ask me to rate “the contribution of specific characters or story elements to the show”, but – if I rate Vala in a relatively low way, what will the survey take that to mean? That I think Vala sucks? Maybe. But what I actually **mean** is, “I like Vala and her concept but I feel she has been written in an extremely inconsistent way, and that is what I don’t like about her – I feel she **could** be worth a higher rating, because she has potential, but that she is flawed as-executed”.

And that is true for any number of characters/elements that I felt I had to give a lower rating to. I rated Teyla fairly low although I identified her as my favorite female Atlantis character – and my low rating is for the fact that I think they are **using** her very badly, not because I don’t think the character has a great deal more potential than what we are seeing on the screen.

Grr. It’s kind of frustrating.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 18th, 2006 01:53 am (UTC)
You know what that scene reminded me of, on rewatching, actually? “Maternal Instinct”, and Daniel’s really somewhat flippant “Bye” and wave to the squad of Jaffa about to get fried at the end.

Yeah, that's a good comparison. I dunno, once you're on Daniel's Big List of Bad People, he really doesn't have a whole lot of the kind of morals that kick in and say that you should be treated well. He's got a real eye-for-an-eye side.
Sep. 20th, 2006 01:02 am (UTC)
Yeah, he really does.

When I was rewatching the scene, too, I noticed that he didn't seem as light or flippant as he had to me on first viewing. It seemed to me like the whole time he was watching the guy dying in space, he was wearing a fairly severe, frowny expression that was at odds with his "light" reaction. So I don't think he was unmoved by what he was seeing, or even wholly undisturbed. Neither was he all that bothered by Avateo dying that way, though, no.

Yet, having seen Avateo in action, I can't disagree with him all that much.
Sep. 20th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
I had the same reaction to that scene -- after first viewing thought it had been played weirdly heavily for humor, and then watched it again and saw it as a lot more subdued.

My first reaction was to take it as more of the writer/ptb showing through the seams. I took Carter's tears to be the show using her as a vehicle to demonstrate that they weren't insensitive to the horror of Emerson's death (which made it hard for me to engage with as a response of the character, since I didn't think it was), and I took the Daniel-Vala flippancy in this scene to be either: (a) the ptb being so damn tickled with their cool effect of the guy shooting at the ship from outside and then bug-smearing against the 'windshield' that they just couldn't help writing some self-satisfied smirking into the characters' response; (b) the ptb being concerned that their effect was too disturbing for this show, and trying to offset it by having the characters show us by example that the guy was scum and deserves no pity, or trying to distract us from the intrinsic horrificness in order to make it feel less disturbing.

Now that I've watched it again, I'm not sure. But that scene was at the root of my feeling of what you (perfectly) called tonal dissonance. I mean, yeah, Emerson's death and then the humor on the cranky tel'tak ... but that's a kind of contrast they've used before. This one was the most jarring for me. Now I'm not sure what I make of it.

Except that it was Vala's little handwave that really reminded me of Daniel in 'Maternal Instinct.' I wondered if it was an intentional callback to that, then decided it probably wasn't but it worked as one anyway.
Sep. 21st, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah. Though, Vala being flippant about it, doesn't bother me at all (except storytelling-structure-wise). I mean it doesn't bother me in terms of her characterization. I don't think it's OOC for her, going by everything we know of her. (My doubting that it was an intentional shout-out is just because, sad as it is to say, I don't think the writers are that astute.)

With Daniel, though, what I think is interesting is that I would expect most people's first reaction to be that it was OOC for him to be so apparently unbothered by any human being, even a bad one, sentenced to an awful death before his eyes.

But... I think that's Fanon Daniel, not Canon Daniel. I think Fanon Daniel tends to ignore pieces of evidence (like S1's machine-gunning of the symbiote tank; or that bit in Maternal Instinct) to construct a softer version of Daniel than is really accurate. I think that Daniel *does* have that hard, cold core deep inside him; it's what "Absolute Power" tapped into.

So when I looked again, yeah -- I actually saw a more conflicted, or disturbed, reaction from Daniel than I had initially noticed. He wasn't unmoved by this guy's death. But I think you could also see him deciding that it was just desserts, which I think is totally in-character.
Sep. 18th, 2006 03:28 am (UTC)
It's funny--we came down kind of in opposite sides on two characterization issues--Sam and Teal'c. But I don't have a problem with that, since it's pretty much in both cases dependent on the viewer to handwave the characterization.

I'm more willing to cut slack for Teal'c than Sam, since I feel her characterization has been poor and rather erratic for a while, but I see your reasoning. I think I'd buy your argument better if we got any indication early on that she was planning to play for time. And if we hadn't just gone through this exact scenario with her not long ago. Still, I can see that argument. Good point on the stupidity of calling out Daniel and Vala's names, though. *g*

I just... I feel like the writers have lost their handle on the show. It's sprawling and messy and too full of cute little jokes and moments that, as you note, conflict with the asserted point of the episodes. And while I am still mostly enjoying the show, I am having a hard time respecting it.

SGA was better than I expected it to be, although again as you note, the ending scene was all wrong, particularly where they'd made such a point of bringing the dead back with them.

I wouldn't be an SG team leader (or Colonel in the spacefleet program) or member for love or money--these guys have way too high a death risk. Sigh.
Sep. 20th, 2006 01:11 am (UTC)
Yeah, I don't disagree. Despite still being critical of the show in a way that suggests holding it to the higher standards that I think it had earlier -- that's sort of reflexive for me -- I'm not particularly exercised by it. Especially now that I know this is it for the *show*, actually. In some ways I'm just mostly enjoying it and taking what I can, even while feeling compelled to point out its flaws. But the fact is that it will be over soon. The canon will more or less close, with perhaps a couple of last gasps. And the flaws of these later seasons, and the inconsistencies of character, are something that I don't think I'll remember for very long, or that will make any lasting impression on my regard for what I do love about the show.

I can totally understand people being extra annoyed by Sam in this ep *because* of the recent track record. I had to make an effort to get past that too and to decide that this had been a situation I thought was different and in which her reactions were actually justified.

Though, I think you're totally right that they could have written it a lot more strongly and clearly. In several respects. Because unlike, say, the Ba'al situation, I think this one *was* salvageable with explanation.

And I think I'm still trying to work through exactly why the Teal'c thing bugged me so much, when clearly it delighted so many people that I'm normally not that far off from, in terms of reaction.
Sep. 18th, 2006 04:22 am (UTC)
CoT made me cranky, too. I like the phrase tonal dissonance -- Avateo and psycho Lucian guy at the dinner table especially seemed OTT. I liked Sam's more subtle shock and later mourning at Emerson's death.

And I, too, found the threat of rape for Sam interesting and also realistic. It used to be a fairly common plot point in early seasons (for all of them), but hasn't really happened since The Devil You Know (unless you count Vala's leer at Daniel in Prometheus Unbound). Why do people think it was so unrealistic? Avateo's intent was psychological manipulation and shock. Rape or threat of rape is effective that way, and he might have pulled it out of his torture toolbox even if she looked like the hind end of a donkey. On top of that, she is attractive and female, and the LA is pretty much a boys club without an attached traveling harem. Rape and pillage I would expect to be par for the course.

I did find it funny that one English colloquialism Vala had picked up was chop-shop. Of course!

And I like the idea that the LA are sarc addicted. It would explain a lot. (But, yeah, why are they using projectile weapons instead of stolen goa'uld energy weapons -- a lot safer to use in tin cans in the vacuum of space?)

Teal'c being in such a red-haze was a little much for me, even wanked. Beat-down on the LA? Sure. Putting Cameron in a chokehold? Just a little much.

Re: the command chair, as I said at <lj user="janedavitt>'s -- I liked the way Daniel was about it -- he was reluctant even in the first place, but the chair was where all the comm equipment and other info was, and Sam was tied up in repairs. He's been on the front lines offworld longer than anyone else on that ship, so, uh, well... he was kind of it. Phantoms bothered me a lot, too. I liked the John flashbacks (nice ass in that desert uniform!), and Carson's hallucinations were great mindfuckery. Though I'm also not wild about Carson suddenly being Mr. Offworld. And I thought John was supposed to be naturally better at resisting mindfuckery -- like in that ep when the mist aliens mentally sent them back to Earth. He also seems to be good at distinguishing Wraith illusions, which is what this tech was. *handwave* No, what really, really bothered me was that one week after the entire SG-15 team got blown away, we had another ep in which every member of Leonard's team plus the "extra Marine unit" redshirts with John's team all died. Okay, except Keagan who was horrifically wounded. And we totally saw it coming. Yes, Teyla and Rodney also got shot -- and puh-leez, John wouldn't have nailed that close range shot at a Taliban? Lucky Rodney. And that's the problem. I know you can't kill of your main characters, but you also have to show the kind of peril that they're in. But between last week and this week, SG-1 and John's gate team + Carson are ridiculously lucky, at the expense of their anonymous (to us) co-workers. Killing off "just" Emerson in SG-1 this week seemed more restrained and effective in contrast.
Sep. 18th, 2006 04:31 am (UTC)
Bizarre -- LJ dropped half my comment...

Re: the command chair, as I said at janedavitt's -- I liked the way Daniel was about it -- he was reluctant even in the first place, but the chair was where all the comm equipment and other info was, and Sam was tied up in repairs. He's been on the front lines offworld longer than anyone else on that ship, so, uh, well... he was kind of it.

Phantoms bothered me a lot, too. I liked the John flashbacks (nice ass in that desert uniform!), and Carson's hallucinations were great mindfuckery. Though I'm also not wild about Carson suddenly being Mr. Offworld. And I thought John was supposed to be naturally better at resisting mindfuckery -- like in that ep when the mist aliens mentally sent them back to Earth. He also seems to be good at distinguishing Wraith illusions, which is what this tech was. *handwave*

No, what really, really bothered me was that one week after the entire SG-15 team got blown away, we had another ep in which every member of Leonard's team plus the "extra Marine unit" redshirts with John's team all died. Okay, except Keagan who was horrifically wounded. And we totally saw it coming. Yes, Teyla and Rodney also got shot -- and puh-leez, John wouldn't have nailed that close range shot at a Taliban? Lucky Rodney. And that's the problem. I know you can't kill of your main characters, but you also have to show the kind of peril that they're in. But between last week and this week, SG-1 and John's gate team + Carson are ridiculously lucky, at the expense of their anonymous (to us) co-workers. Killing off "just" Emerson in SG-1 this week seemed more restrained and effective in contrast.
Sep. 20th, 2006 01:33 am (UTC)
I think what bothered me about Daniel in the command chair... well, a couple of things.

First -- and this struck me again on rewatching it -- some odd combination of the lighting, MS's face, his make-up, his lack of glasses, and the way he chose to play the OTT-jaunty "stalling" with Netan... all gave me the *strangest* feeling that I could not recognize Daniel. I don't often get that feeling. Daniel has *changed*, sure, but... to me, that was a weird, weird version of Daniel, and it disturbed me. It was dissonant.

Second -- as I said, I was already bugged by the fact that Emerson's death was not being, IMO, properly reflected in others' reactions. I watched that scene and I could not tell by the behavior of anyone in it -- neither Daniel nor Major Marks, even -- that their *ship's captain*, for god's sake, had been KILLED, brutally, not long before. No, none of them saw it. Yes, they had to compartmentalize their grief over that because they had a crisis to deal with before they could relax and examine their feelings. But I didn't want them all to break down and be paralyzed by grief -- I just wanted to *feel* that *they* felt that Emerson was DEAD.

Because to them (if not necessarily to Daniel), Emerson is... Jack. Or, Emerson is... Kirk, or Picard. Of course, he *isn't*, but you know what I mean -- there was every evidence that Emerson was a fairly nice guy and a good captain and he was probably popular and well-loved by his crew. In other words -- Emerson *mattered* to someone, even if he was only a minor character to us. But that's the kind of thinking I don't always see the show doing, especially lately, and it does bug me.

Yes, there was a communicator in the chair, which Daniel was using. He could have used it standing *beside* the chair and leaning over the arm, though. They could have saved it for me if I'd gotten a more overt sense that Daniel felt something about sitting in the chair of a man recently and horribly dead, who meant something important to those crewmembers. I have heard people say that they thought Daniel *was* trying to be supportive of them -- I just didn't get that out of the scene, though.
Sep. 20th, 2006 02:51 am (UTC)
Daniel looked pretty uncomfortable and reticent about sitting in the chair to me, but definitely, he and Marks having a snarkfest with each other and with Netan didn't make it seem like they were feeling the pall. Similar to how Sheppard's team sort of blew off the loss of the other SGA teams. Contrast with any of Daniel's deaths, or Kawalsky's or Janet's. He had a fulltime crew, and had been on a lot of missions with SG-1 where he'd pulled them out of the fire. A little remembrance, please.
Sep. 20th, 2006 01:33 am (UTC)
And that's the problem. I know you can't kill of your main characters, but you also have to show the kind of peril that they're in.

I know what you mean. You have to do that, and you also kind of have to find ways to downplay and subvert the audience understanding that whoever's in the credits is very likely NOT to be killed and therefore it's the guest-characters who are. That's obvious to the audience. Thus you have to figure out some way around that.

I can't put my finger on it, but I swear, the shows used to be better at doing that. Certainly, I would argue that SG-1 was okay at it, earlier in their run. I don't know why, but they *did* used to be able to wring tension out of predicaments even though you knew damned well the people involved would survive -- and if I could figure out how they did that, it would be a really valuable lesson, I think.

Similarly, I think that the way you downplay the problem of main characters versus redshirts is... well, first, it's nice if you can characterize the redshirts. (Again, SG-1 used to do that, and still does to some extent although in a truncated way. They used to try to give some life to their minor characters, with some success. Think about Ferretti, or Griff - or today, Reynolds, although unfortunately not the rest of Reynolds' men.)

But, second, the way you do it is that you show that your main characters *care* about the redshirts. In this ep -- Carson cared about the two guys under him in a plausible way. And John cared at least a little about Leonard. But the ending totally undercut that groundwork, which is what annoyed me. The ending, I thought, reduced those casualties to plot-devices, not *people* whose deaths impacted the main characters.

Those redshirts of course WERE just plot devices to us, the audience. The only way to make us care about them is if we see the impact on the characters to whom we *are* connected. That's what the ending failed to do, I thought.

(I also meant to mention in my review that I could have bought it if there had been an air of "gallows humor" about the final scene -- an attempt to deal with the death and disaster of the mission through gallows-humor would have been realistic, too. But that was not the vibe I was getting. It truly felt too relaxed, to me. I don't know if that was what they thought they were going for, or not, though.)
Sep. 20th, 2006 03:02 am (UTC)
The only way to make us care about them is if we see the impact on the characters to whom we *are* connected.

Yes, exactly. We had a bit of a feel for the SG-11 guy and Rothman and Daniel working together on Chaka's planet before all hell broke loose. We even had a tiny bit of a feel for Barber before he walked into the kawoosh in The Light (and nice to see the impact on Hammond writing the letter, though it would have been nice to see Daniel a little more freaked about that whole team dying once he was more back to himself). We were devastated when Janet died, but were still happy that Airman Wells made it in Heroes.

Dammit, I know that some of these people are poker buddies, or maybe took Teal'c on a roadtrip, or Sam had trained them herself in X-302s or... you know, something.

It also just seems like too much when entire teams are wiped out and "our" team isn't. It's happened in the past, but somehow, two weeks in a row (different galaxies, but still), it became obvious.
Sep. 20th, 2006 01:15 am (UTC)
(But, yeah, why are they using projectile weapons instead of stolen goa'uld energy weapons -- a lot safer to use in tin cans in the vacuum of space?)

I saw someone talking about this -- trelkez, I think -- and I had a brief thought wondering about whether we were supposed to think that the Lucian guys having *guns*, Earth pistols in fact, was a case where they had obtained them from their Earth prisoners. Like, they don't have them themselves, but they took their captives' weapons and thought, "ooh, these are neat!"

But I'm not sure that actually works -- it would explain why Avateo and his men had them, taking them from the Odyssey crew and armory, but it wouldn't explain how Netan had one (unless his was one that he had taken off of captured SG-1 last season or something). And besides, if that were the case, you would think (perhaps you'd be wrong) that it was a detail they would point at by mentioning it in the script. You know: "Interesting weapons you have -- brutal, efficient; I think I'll keep it", etc.

It would have been a cool little thing for them to work in, though.
Sep. 18th, 2006 10:57 am (UTC)
i like your layout. and i agree it's hard...because there are aspects to the available choices....if only we could mix and match.

and i love what you've said about teal'c. also, good point about the lucian uniforms. ;)

sad about emerson, i liked him. and i love janedavitts story about the situation.

the "hours have passed" issue is fraught with so much, i wonder if they'll address that. perhaps not given their track record with these things...thankfully we'll always have fanfic.

as for teal'c's hat....jack talked him into buying it.

about daniel, and actually the rest of them..i'm especially struck this season about how they are compartmentalizing in order to survive....even though a lot of that is the 'writing'. and my fanfic filter. still, it feels as if the only way these characters can survive what's been happening is to step back from the impact. although as i type that i'm thinking short term survival, because in the long term it will break them if they don't deal. too bad the show doesn't have the time or format to address that. *sigh*

also had that glimpse of undercover peacekeeper with cameron. ah,farscape.

i love your reviews/recaps. you've given me lots of thinky thoughts to dash off to work with.

ps. loved vala beaming the bad guy out. and i quite agree about the cold layer in daniel. good example with maternal instinct. and it does make sense. he's a character that's always been very good at boxing up feelings as needed. kind of like jack in that way. ;)

and yes to having the last scene in the infirmary. ack.

as for sga, oh the scenes with carson and rodney were quite something.
Sep. 20th, 2006 01:41 am (UTC)
You know, I think I don't mind this layout, but I would love more choices for the top strip. I like the concept of the cities they offer, but I don't *want* the cities. And while these stylized hills are nice enough, I would like stylized landscape that is more "realistic" sort of like the cities are, except not urban, but nature-oriented. I think.

still, it feels as if the only way these characters can survive what's been happening is to step back from the impact. although as i type that i'm thinking short term survival, because in the long term it will break them if they don't deal.

Yes, that's true. The other thing is that... hmm... I think that while these may be realistic directions to take these characters who have now been dealing with things that are essentially too BIG to deal with properly for too long now... I'm not sure that it is taking them in directions that are comfortable for me. It's hard to explain, but... while it may make sense as one possible avenue for the evolution of Daniel's character this far into the series, I guess I just don't necessarily *like* it. Even if it's only natural. It's taking Daniel (and the others too) outside of and beyond the characterizations that made me fall in love with them in the first place.

If that makes sense. So I'm in two minds about it. Interesting, yeah, maybe. Inevitable, perhaps. Unavoidable. But not necessarily something that I am enjoying.
Sep. 20th, 2006 10:33 am (UTC)
it would be cool if we could upload a photo that would get morphed into the top strip.

i love your description of what it feels like to watch them all continuing to move in the direction their going. and i feel some of that too. i wonder if jack's presence would ameliorate that for me. i'm thinking it would, that there'd be a warmth and glue that jack would provide that would impact what's happening.

still....yay for all those early seasons on dvd. and fanfic. and our own imagination. reading janedavitt's episode tag for this episode makes me think that they leave enough gaps in the story for us to keep on filling in in a good way. er, hopefully that makes sense.
Sep. 21st, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC)
it would be cool if we could upload a photo that would get morphed into the top strip.

Well, clearly you can do that with other layouts. There's a bunch of people who have custom headers at the top of theirs. I just have never sat down to try to figure out how one would do that. (And I don't know if it's possible with *this* particular layout, either, but I'd certainly consider switching to a different one if I could come up with a custome header and also figure out how to get it up there.)
Sep. 21st, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
they seem pretty complicated....but that might be my residual nervousness from having my journal layout going south on me so much a while back. ;)
Sep. 18th, 2006 06:32 pm (UTC)
I have a small mechanical nitpick with the ending of Phantoms: once the device was shut down and Atlantis was back in clear contact, Weir should have sent a jumper with a trauma team. Instantly. Just because your dudes are "out of the woods" doesn't mean they're not wounded in an alien forest -- and a jumper has DHD capability, so it could return them to Atlantis.

Mutter mutter.

I also wish that, just once, when our heroes go to a new planet and find everybody dead, they would *start* with the question "How do we protect ourselves from this?" Fifteen minutes of wandering around followed by a Big Reveal of "we're in danger!" is getting very, very tired.
Sep. 19th, 2006 03:10 am (UTC)
and a jumper has DHD capability, so it could return them to Atlantis.

Right after the ep, a discussion about this got going over in miera_c's LJ. The consensus was that sending a jumper wouldn't have allowed them to come *back* because while a jumper has a dialing device, that dialing device does not power the Gate the way a real DHD does. So, because the DHD on that planet was toast, the jumper would not have helped with that.

(I brought up the question of how it works with the orbiting Gates, and someone pointed to an entry in the Gateworld Omnipedia that states that the space-Gates have "three power-nodes" attached to them to provide the power that a DHD normally would. So that's why a jumper can dial a space-Gate without a DHD. This still brings up uncomfortable questions regarding this "galactic bridge-network of Gates" they're trying to create, but...)

But yes, I agree -- regardless of whether a jumper could have brought them back, I was kind of shocked by Carson's insistence that he didn't need any further help or, it sounded like, supplies to care for the number of wounded they had.

(I'm uncertain, though, on the supplies issue. It did sort of sound like they sent some supplies through. But still. Also... the team sitting around at the end there wasn't acting like people who'd been given the necessary body-bags, let alone like people who had either had to go around putting remains in them -- and in the case of Leonard, you'd need a shovel -- or people who were trying to procrastinate that grim task.)

I also wish that, just once, when our heroes go to a new planet and find everybody dead, they would *start* with the question "How do we protect ourselves from this?"

Yeah, no freakin' kidding.
Sep. 20th, 2006 03:12 am (UTC)
Yeah, that was another thing that bothered me. Two things, actually. 1) Shouldn't John be concerned and Elizabeth notified about a missing check-in before six hours have passed? And 2) Okay, something made the Genii go cuckoo for cocoa puffs and kill each other. Something that it appears has done the same thing to Leonard and his team. Um, so we want to go slow and take our time solving the mystery? My first response would have been, "Let's get the hell out of here before it affects us, makes us go nuts and kill each other." They didn't even discuss the possibility of that happening or guesstimated timeline for it, when all indicators were that that was the likey outcome.

I so need to turn off my brain when I watch... *sigh*
Sep. 19th, 2006 04:08 am (UTC)
Ok, I hadn't known about the power nodes.

I was also thinking of Moebius, where a jumper fires up the Antarctic gate... but that's not definitive, since that was attached to either a (nearly-depleted) DHD or to the SGC power system.
Sep. 20th, 2006 12:59 am (UTC)
Yeah, I totally didn't know about the power nodes either. If I squint and try to remember what the space-Gates look like, I can kind of remember seeing them, I guess. If they were ever explained specifically within the show, I'm not really recalling it. But then, Atlantis canon just isn't my strong suit, I've admitted that before.

I can't quite remember the sequence of things in Moebius, either. But actually, it also wouldn't surprise me if Atlantis was happily going along with its own established canon that a later ep of SG-1 sort of contradicted without their realizing it.

Anyway... doesn't Atlantis have naquadah generators? Can't they dial their Gates manually? (Actually, I don't remember; the Atlantis Gates don't precisely spin, do they...) Because my thought was, send through a jumper with a medical team and also a naquadah generator to hook up and provide the power for the jumper to dial the Gate. Then have the Daedalus go pick up the generator at its leisure. Meh.
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