Generally speaking, I’m the type that will embrace a new character, especially when the older cast members show definite signs of waning interest. It’s largely the reason why I found myself looking forward to Robert Patrick joining “X-Files” in the wake of Duchovny’s exit, and why Ben Browder’s arrival on “SG-1” was something I enjoyed. While it’s not always the case, the arrival of a new character can sometimes jump-start a writing staff, especially if they have fallen into patterns with existing characters with established plot connections.
So when Vala was introduced and then brought back as a semi-regular, I was somewhat pleased, though concerned by the inevitable backlash. After all, Claudia Black was the second ex-“Farscape” cast member to join the series, and that led to a number of comments that the show was changing irreparably. That wasn’t the case, from my point of view, but I was a little worried over the character’s liability. She was great as a guest star, but would she work as a regular?
For me, it was akin to the addition of Annabeth Gish to “X-Files”. Patrick brought a vitality and intensity to his role, but it was almost as if the writers used up all their creative energy on the character of Doggett. There were few episodes focusing on Gish’s character Monica Reyes, and in the end, her character never had the same presence.
I mention this analogy because the writers have been working (some would say inconsistently) to make Mitchell a strong member of the team, while Vala has been featured in some big moments without outgrowing her origins as a fairly one-note guest star. This episode is all about giving Vala an episode of her own, to show what kind of person Vala is at the core, but the story is fairly mundane and ultimately feels forced.
So we find out that Vala is the kind of person who would rather run away from her problems than face them directly, but we knew that already. And despite all of that, we learn that Vala is fundamentally a good person, but the writers have already reinforced that notion as well. So what did we really learn about Vala in this episode? The slight advancement of the possible Daniel/Vala relationship was nothing new, either.
Contrast this with the “SGA” episode “The Real World”, which thrust the character of Weir into an unusual psychological space, thus revealing much about her and how she deals with adversity. This episode was trying to do something similar with Vala, but in the end, it didn’t have the same level of impact. Granted, Weir is a lead character on “SGA” and so the audience is more familiar with her, but the principles are the same.
One other problem with this episode was the stunt coordination. I noticed a similar problem on a recent episode of “SGA”. I know that there are issues with the fight choreography all the time, but it was a lot more noticeable in this episode. There were people with semi-automatic machine guns shooting at people a few feet away, missing entirely, while the “good guys” ducked the bullets!
(As a sidenote: I also have a podcast associated with my various reviews called “Dispatches from Tuzenor”. Recent episodes cover the “Stargate SG-1”, so it might be something of interest. Go to http://entil2001.libsyn.com if you want to listen!)