After the premiere, I was left wondering if this season would continue to pave new ground or fall back into familiar patterns. In particular, I wondered if Merlin’s weapon would become something like the “Lost City”: something that would be the focus of a season-long search, with the solution being found in the season finale. While this is not automatically a bad thing, it is repetitive. And for that matter, so are episodes built around a virus or condition encountered on a planet, forcing the team to race against time.
So this episode was somewhat disturbing, because it fell into those familiar patterns. The virus itself is hardly unique, nor does it serve to reveal anything particularly meaningful about the characters. Is it such a surprise that Teal’c would struggle to the bitter end, the last to fall to the effects of the virus? Nor is it surprising that the parasite had no long-term effects on the team. By episode’s end, they’re back to normal, no worse for the wear. Even a couple weeks of lag time can’t account for that!
But, there are some interesting twists. If the Goa’uld gave the writers an excuse to mine Egyptian mythology for story concepts, then the Ancients War is the perfect chance to play with Arthurian/Celtic mythology. Arthurian concepts are often fun, and in this case, the idea of Merlin being an Ancient is a nice touch. Equally fun is the idea of Morgan LeFay running around, making things difficult, and a connection to Atlantis, furthering the deeply interwoven nature of the franchise.
It remains to be seen how far the writers choose to take this Arthurian conceptual connection. It could be taken to extremes, and then the fun new direction becomes trite. If the writers try to cast Mitchell as the new “Arthur” figure, that would be the immediate effect. (I can hear the screaming from the fandom now, cascading from that possible future timeline!)
To make another reference to “Babylon 5”, those Arthurian comparisons have been made before, and they’ve worked. So long as those references are metaphorical, played out visually and thematically, it can be subtle enough to avoid the worst excesses. It remains to be seen whether or not the writers will be able to pull it off in the “Stargate” universe.
For all the familiar elements, the virus plot thread is at least a solid (if uninteresting) storyline. Vala’s psychological evaluation doesn’t pass the same muster. In fact, while revealing some measure of progress in Vala’s moral development, it doesn’t go nearly far enough to justify the outcome. Vala doesn’t really prove that she can be trusted. I would have felt better if the end scene played out, and then Landry pulled Mitchell or Daniel to the side, making it clear that they should deal with her if she poses a problem. But that kind of dark territory is out of the question, despite the moral ambiguity at play on “SGA”.
For me, Vala’s plot thread kept the episode from succeeding. With the rest of the episode being average at best, it was really a matter of how well they dealt with a tricky situation. I, for one, was left unimpressed and disappointed. Hopefully this is just a minor blip for the tenth season.
(As a sidenote: I also have a podcast associated with my various reviews called “Dispatches from Tuzenor”. Future episodes will highlight “Stargate SG-1”, so it might be something of interest . Go to http://entil2001.libsyn.com if you want to listen!)