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Stargate SG-1: Origin (2005)
The Spread of a Militant Religion
It's like a disease, which in fact SG-1 compares to in a later 9th season episode.
Daniel and Vala's minds are trapped in the bodies of two heretics in the Ori Galaxy, while at the same time the religion of "Origin" begins infecting the Milky Way.
Somehow the Ori can send Priors all the way from their galaxy to ours. This is never explained, but it is still frightening.
The Jaffa have finally freed themselves from thousands of years of oppression by The Goa'Uld, only to have the leader of the Free Jaffa Nation (Lou Gossett, Jr.) fall under the spell of yet another set of False Gods.
It's like jumping from one boiling pot to another, SG-1 can't seem to get a break. So settle back and watch how they dig themselves out of this new hole, because this is just the beginning.
Stargate SG-1: Avalon: Part 2 (2005)
"Hallowed are the Ori"
There are two concepts that seem related, but are not, that people struggle with. FAITH and Religion.
Ironically, the gist of SG-1 for 8 years had been the concept of what Teal'c refers to as "False Gods - Dead False Gods". The Goa'Uld had built themselves an idyllic infrastructure based on slavery and a false religion. Many episodes explored characters who had Faith - they find out that Faith itself is what's important, not really what god or religion it is being directed at.
Daniel and Vala stumble upon a whole galaxy of conservatives, who believe faith is not enough, but that the whole galaxy, universe even, ought to believe exactly what they believe. This sounds like my years growing up in the Catholic Church, where dissension was not allowed and I was required to believe bible passages as fact, even when proved scientifically impossible. In which case, science itself is Daemonized as being "evil"- Simply because it proves that particular verses cannot be taken at face value. But I have found that there is always room for both Faith and Science. Being a long time fan of science fiction and of science in general, "I want to believe" that Stargates can be made, along with Warp Drives and Transporters. And I would have no trouble using those devices while having Faith. But some hard-liners would deny me that - If they had the power to prevent it.
The frightening thing is that our new bad guys "The Ori" can enforce their conservatism with god-like powers. Think of what would happen if Tele-Evangelists were given this power, imagine it. The Ori punish everyone who does not follow a rigid creed.
Having Faith is one thing, rigidly adhering to a religion's creed is another, especially when it requires that you convert everyone you know and meet. True Faith does not require anything but the Faith itself, there are no additional tasks that need to be done. But a Religion is nothing but a set of beliefs you have to strictly adhere to, and anyone who does not agree with you is going to hell. But real Faith has shown that there is room for other belief-sets. And all that is required with Faith is that you have it. Ironically, most religions have passages that negate the need for works, yet those are ignored by most religions' followers.
This is what makes The Ori the most Frightening of all of SG-1's foes: Because they are given the power to kill everyone who does not agree with their rulebook. And the extent of that power is vast. Do we really need a religion like that? I don't.
SG-1 fearlessly explored militant religions in seasons 9 and 10 and I salute the courage it took to do those stories. But what I enjoyed most was that they never seemed to be able to beat a subject to death, the previous bad guys could always show up with a few more new twists.
Stargate SG-1: Avalon: Part 1 (2005)
Grail Quest for new bad guys.
First we had Ra. Ra was big, Ra was powerful, until his ship was blown up with him inside of it by Daniel Jackson and Jack O'Neil (Only One "L" originally).
The one thing that was established in the Stargate Film that was passed into the series, was that Ra, while being powerful and big, and possibly even intelligent, was also fairly stupid. At least, stupid as far as Homo Sapiens are concerned- Humans who blew him to atom-sized smithereens in that film's too-easy conclusion.
Then in 1997 "Children of the Gods" debuted on Showtime, and it became known that Ra was only one of many parasitic Alien "Gods" (named "The Goa'Uld"), and from there Stargate SG-1 was a series of by-the-skin-of-the-teeth escapes from extinction, while the bad guys escalated until SG-1 and their allies faced Anubis and Replicators at the same time. Remember that The Goa'Uld were easily defeated by "The Asgard" and that The Asgard were getting their Pale Skinny Lil Arses beat by The Replicators, who in turn were susceptible to the technology of "The Ancients" (aka, The Alterrans)- Making the Alterrans (Ancients) the most powerful god-like aliens of SG-1.
The story of the Ancients had been woven in to the series since the first season, finally it appears we will get to see them. That was why I was excited about these next three episodes. And at first it seems like we are to be rewarded our 8 years of waiting by finally meeting "The Ancients".
The show had more shocks added, SG-1 had been broken up, Daniel on his way to Atlantis, Teal'c occupied with the Free Jaffa Nation on Dakara, and Carter burying herself in Technobabble.
But thanks to the cancellation of Farscape and the re-assignment of it's two principle actors Ben Browder and Claudia Black, SG-1 is saved from retirement, thanks to Colonel Cameron Mitchell (Browder) and Vala Mal Daran (Ms. Black). We remember Vala from "Prometheus Unbound" when she kind of claimed Daniel forever, here she returns to Stargate Command to enforce that claim. Mitchell's introduction is a series of "Flashbacks" which kind of insert him into the story during the last part of "Lost City".
At the end of Season 8 all of the bad guys had been beaten. Hooray, the show could have ended when Richard Dean Andersen semi-retired. But what we have here is Richard's role reduced to special guest appearances, a slight change in production, and of course they had to create a brand new Wormhole Effect. And, least but not Last, they had to come up with Bad Guys that were worse than Replicators + Goa'Uld combined. But this first part merely hints at such things, yea verily: In a way, this first part is Arthurian Misdirection, to get us off balance when the new bad guys are revealed. "And then there's cake".
This second part was written by Jeri, who captured the essence of the first part. Of course, she had to wrangle a part for her son (Who would later become Vorick in Voyager) as the young reporter Twain is talking to in the teaser.
In fact, this teaser threw me for a loop, I had been expecting Twain to react differently. I had thought he was more of a progressive gent, but then again, he was acting on a perceived threat. And that is what made the characterization great.
Of course, Picard's away team is also acting on the same perceived threat, but with Landladies and crooked policemen (Played by William Boyett of "The Big Goodbye") interfering, it was harder for their little Shakespearean Acting Troop. But the meat of this story is all laid out here, where Data's history coincides with the Away Team's history, and both coincide to 1893's "Cholera Epidemic". This part of the story moves a lot more rapidly, as it is less Discovery and more Solution. And of course, includes Picard's very first meeting with Guinan.
Meanwhile, Twain is investigating Data, so eventually all blazes get let loose when all parties involved including the Dividia-II aliens meet up in the Mining Shaft. It's kind of an Er, "Explosive" situation. Which gives Twain a unique opportunity to meet a "were-Worf" I think such "time shifts" would drive normal people mad.
But the idea was to solve this conundrum and have fun at the same time, and it was a success in that respect. As a Fan of both Twain and Trek I was tickled. These two episodes speak for themselves, this is again the Heart of Trek- Prevent Alien Incursions, and Have Fun with Historical Figures.
Best Portrayal of Mark Twain, Best Two-Parter
I take GREAT Offense to those who pan this episode and particularly when they pan the great job Jerry Hardin ("Deep Throat" from The X-Files) did with Mark Twain. I've heard recordings of Mark Twain impersonators who knew him in his lifetime, and I've seen the rare footage Edison did of him, this marries the two. So we can literally SEE Mark Twain speak and walk and it is just done SO well, even compared to Hal Holbrook's great work.
In fact, I believe this episode happened. These two episode are so well written, and the concept is so odd, that I have to ask, which alternate universe did it come from? It's not the usual Time Travel gimmickry. As usual my formula for great Time episodes are when it's accidental, and I would say Data stumbling from Dividia II in the 24th Century to Market Street in 1893 San Fransisco is one great bumble.
And he does not lose a beat, he immediately picks up a newspaper and starts getting his bearings - AND a Poker Game with Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) and Mr Mott in human form, who says "Go to Blazes" to Joe Fallinghawk, the other card shark.
But what is of great importance here is Guinan's role in this, we finally get some great background of the character, and to see her with Mark Twain and Data just tickles me.
These Dividia II Aliens were so strange, so bizarre, and what they were doing so Insidious that my skin crawled. And that "Ophidian"... Shudder.
Data has to inspect his own 500-year old head, which is another creepy thing. "It has happened, it Will happen" - Only Data sees this logically without any fear.
But Mark Twain gets more than he bargains for when he eavesdrops on Guinan and Data. And why is that kid "Jack" at the Hotel so familiar? When I say I believe this story happened, well, "it has happened, it will happen..."
Star Trek: Voyager: The Fight (1999)
Once again the Heart of Trek, and it is dismissed and panned
Trek is supposed to be about meeting life that is so different, ideas that are so strange that there is no way to make a connection to it - It must make a connection to you. That is what happens here. In some ways this reminds me of the 3rd Season Original Series episode "Spectre of the Gun" - Trek's 1966 statement of the film "Hour of the Gun" starring James Garner, also about the "OK Corral" incident - Probably the darkest film ever made about the Earp brothers, and one of the darkest Original Series episodes. But that was 1966. this was 1996 or so, 20 years later - New Trek premises, new Crew members. So where the Original Series used The Melkosians to get into Kirk's mind and dredge up The Old West, this episode gets into Chakotay's mind and uses - BOXING, of all things - to get ideas across, mainly to get ONE idea across to Chakotay.
The only connection is in Chakotay's Genes, who had a relative that could see different planes of existence. The only problem was that said relative, Chakotay's Great-Grandfather (Played by the also great first nation actor Ned Romero in Chakotay's Flashbacks) was considered insane.
It takes a while for us to start understanding what's happening, as this episode starts at the end and then goes back to the beginning. Chakotay was using his Holodeck Boxing program, at the same time Voyager because exposed to what 7-of-69 calls "Chaotic Space". so in an odd series of flashbacks, the story jumps backward to The Doctor having Chakotay also going back over the last few days to find out just when everything started going odd.
This experiment in Disjointed Storytelling worked well with the story that was being told, because it mirrored what was happening from Chakotay's point of view. But what I enjoyed in this, it was a Boxing story, and Robert Beltran appears to have had experience with Boxing, it seems like he's doing all of his own stunts.
And this show also includes Boothby, the beloved Groundskeeper of the Academy, who has been involved with just about every cadet who visited those hallowed halls. And Ray Walston was doing his best Burgess Meredith impression the day they were doing this, it's perfect.
Ideas like this are what made Trek in The Original Series, what kept it alive in the Films, and what Next Generation cut it's teeth with. I feel this is a return to true form for Trek. The concept was so odd that they had to create a metaphor for it, because ideas like "Rentrillic Trajectory" don't translate into English well. The concept that was in Chakotay's mind was so different it could only be understood from his viewpoint with his Boxing metaphor. and it's a successful marriage of ideas, including Chakotay's Native American gadget that starts his Dream Quests.
Therefore writer Michael Taylor succeeded with the concept and it was polished by TNG veteran Joe Menosky, to give us a startling and unusual story of Voyager's wanderings through the Delta Quadrant. Robert Beltran's gruff style was great for the Boxing angle.
And the very last few frames are perfect. I believe Chakotay was the great under appreciated character of Voyager, and it was only in the last two seasons, they gave him some great shows, and even a relationship with 7-of-69 - He deserved it.
Introducing Jean Grey
I think this was Fammke Jansen's first noticeable role.
The Character "Kamala" is very similar to that X-Men character she took on in 2000, and Patrick Stewart was there in that as well.
Both characters got into the heads of characters played by Patrick, but she did it here first. But Kamala was most unusual, able to get a rise even out of Worf who is usually immune to women. She was probably frustrated by Data, but so is everyone else so that's nothing new. Thanks to Data, who tries to protect her from the attentions of Three Miners who try to turn her into a Party Girl. One Growl from Worf and they run. Too Bad. But it was interesting to see the depiction of a woman whose personality changes according to the men she is around, we just WISH there were a real woman that was like this. But I'll bet there are women who would not mind a man who could do it too. But the concept is a form of cheating, negating the work it takes to achieve a real relationship. Oh, we'd LIKE it to be as easy as she makes it seem. But it is not.
Unforeseen Circumstances put her side by side with Picard, who is also usually immune to women. But as boring as he tries to be, he fails. Too late! It could have only been Picard. If it had been anyone else, Riker, she would have called the whole ceremony off and continued the war that was started by a woman like her in the first place. Or Kirk! What if it had been Kirk, the Dolman of Elaas was nothing compared to Kamala! We see Max Grodénchik as yet another Ferengi, but not "Rom" yet. And of course, the Ferengi's nosy snooping cause a lot of problems for Picard: as usual.
The resolution of this tale is the only way it could have happened, but the only other one who knows it is Ambassador Briam (Tim O'Connor), who was chosen for one reason: He was 200 years old! Kamala's Makeup became the Trill Facelift makeup in Deep Space 9. But only because the original Trill makeup did not look so hot on Terry Farrell, but Terry could have been yet another Female Metamorph.
Luwaxana and Alexander, two unlikely cronies
And this episode had me in stitches as it had Worf and Troi and Third Minister Campio in convulsions and knots.
Worf is having difficulties getting Alexander to start taking life seriously, therein lies the problem. Where Worf is great at planning Battle Tactics or Photon Torpedo configurations, he cannot handle one small Klingon/Human Boy, he never expected to have to. And he would not have had to, had Kehy'Ler lived. But Alexander is Worf's responsibility now, and where they both hurt from the loss of Keyh'Ler, the have to learn how to take solace in each other. But it is difficult, Worf is such a Party-Pooper. Even Guinan says so, she's seen other Klingons laugh, just not Worf.
So this episode is important for that developing story of Worf and Alexander- Luwaxana just happens to show up right when Alexander needs her the most.
And I have to admit something also, I also did not like the Luwaxana character that much - Until this episode.
I had to realize, this was Gene's wife, who had been part of this show ever since she was the original "Number One" in the first Star Trek Pilot "The Cage". So - WHY was she driving me nuts in every Next Generation episode? I think it was because, she was not acting, she was playing herself. And that was it. I am honored to have communicated to her in several emails in the 90's, when I was discussing her "Earth: Final Conflict" show that she created from one of Gene's old ideas. Luwaxana is who Majel is, so once I accepted that, I was able to accept Troi's eccentric but talented Mother. Even when she showed up chasing Odo on Deep Space 9.
This episode has Luwaxana times three, pulling out all of the stops. The wackiness and audacity of commandeering the Enterprise D to hold her Wedding to a Stuffed-Shirt nobility figure Tony Jay ("The Supreme Being" from 'Time Bandits') as Third Minister Campio, which was obnoxious enough! She had nothing in common with that guy, no disrespect to his position intended! But then she steps right in and commandeers Alexander. And that they both had fun despite Worf and Campio's interference, or even our interference.
Meanwhile, there is some Conundrum-Goop eating the electrical components of the ship, that adds a bit of tension.
But what makes it is the final scene, where Luwaxana shows up in the "traditional" Betazoid "garb" for weddings. As Picard said in "Up The Long Ladder": "Sometimes you just have to bow to the absurd".
This is another Episode that bothered me
But not because it was a bad episode.
It is because, for the first time in Next Generation, Wesley Crusher is shown to be simply Human, and is put into a spot where he has to decide, "Do I keep my mouth shut and support my Leader Tom Paris... Er, I mean 'Nick Locarno'... and Picard will never trust me again in this lifetime, or do I tell the TRUTH right from the start?" I think this episode, despite my personal discomfort watching it, hits at the core of what Star Trek is all about. Our FIRST DUTY is to The Truth, however painful it might be to tell it, regardless of our feelings toward our crew mates and class mates, we MUST tell the Truth. That does not mean that there are not some times to withhold truth, that's called basic "tact" - But there are times to tell it right away. This idea even rises out of our TV sets and DVD players or SmartPhones, whatever we are using to watch this series, into our real lives. I think many of us might have had something similar happen to us. That is what makes this an episode to not pan or pass on.
I can accept Ensign/Cadet Crusher being ambivalent about this, he had developed a pattern of successes on The Enterprise that was leading toward an opportunity for command, which at this point in the series, was what the character wanted.
And we finally get to meet "Boothby" for the first time, portrayed by the great Ray Walston of "South Pacific", "Kiss Me Stupid", and "My Favorite Martian". And it is Boothby who states it: "Nick Locarno is leader, mentor, best friend and even surrogate father to those kids - He would do anything for them and they would do anything to support him, even if it requires jumping off a cliff".
This type of Cadet/Leader is even mirrored in the Deep Space Nine episode "Valiant" where a personality much like Locarno had been put in charge of a Defiant-Class Starship. "Captain" Tim Watters might have been the same to his "Red Squad" cadets as Locarno was to his "Nova Squadron" - But that DS9 episode shows the worst case scenario. Here, Picard is able to intervene before it gets to that point.
Locarno's "Nova Squadron" was not as large as Watter's Red Squad, so we get to see more of each member as they have to decide if they are going to tell the Truth or not. And they all would have lied to save their skins, had not Picard confronted Crusher.
And Picard knew how to Fine-Tune Crusher to get him to comply, by dangling Crusher's own values over a precipice. We know that what Picard thinks is what concerns Wesley the most, and therein lies the answer.
Look for Shannon Fill reprise Ensign Sito Jaxa in the Season 7 episode "Lower Decks" along with Jeri Taylor's son Alex Engberg as "Taurik" - Who may be Vorick's identical twin brother from Voyager. I only started understanding recently why they can't use these names - Tom Paris was supposed to be Locarno and Vorick was supposed to be Taurik - But they would have had to pay Jeri Taylor or Ronald D Moore for every episode those characters appear in. It's an unfortunate truth about TV shows and why characters get their names changed occasionally.
When a planet blows up, don't visit it the day before
I hear a lot of complaints about time stories. I'm tired of seeing them actually, cos lots of shows have dealt with aspects of time. Quantum Leap, Time Trax, Time Tunnel, Voyagers. But Trek is the proper place to have stores about time.
But this episode is more or less about an aspect of Kes' abilities. To tell us about it, there has to be a story "that never happened". This is probably the first Voyager episode where the whole crew is acting like a crew.
As far as the conundrum used, it surprised me. This is also one of the first Voyager Planet Based Eps, and Tom Paris and Janeway get caught up in a planet's politics.
Some new energy source was created by Andre Bormanis, with brand new backward-flowing Time Radiation. So that's how this story is told. How to get the Principles into the Past? We've seen all kinds of gimmicks in Trek, a malfunctioning Romulan Cloaking Device, a Neutron Star, a Regular Star, a bad Injector on a Runabout Nacelle, and even a good Ole Bajoran "Orb of Time" But here, we basically have holes in the continuum, which Paris gets sucked into. The thing we get shown is that Tom Paris, faulty as he is, is good with Children, even one he scares the Bejesus out of by "appearing out of nowhere"- And he is not above risking himself to save someone. And we get reminded that Janeway is a scientist. Picard was the Diplomat, Kirk used Fisticuffs, The Sisko had The Prophets. Here, we have Janeway's scientific Method, and probably the best 1st Season example of it in action.
The question is, how to get what Janeway figures out 24 hours into the Future? If it can't be done, it's "Future's End" once again.
This was my favorite 1st Season Voyager Offering. It is a cyclic episode, exploring Time's circular Arrow. As O'Brien would say: "I Hate Temporal Mechanics!" Here, we have Kes in the Future working with Janeway in the past to find the solution, and the payoff is, they do not have to get vaporized, and Voyager gets to continue on hiding from the Kazon Nistrum and Oogla and Viidians until season 3 or so.