Stargate SG-1

Season 11 Episode 1

Stargate SG-1: The Ark of Truth

Aired Friday 8:00 PM Mar 11, 2008 on Syfy

Episode Fan Reviews (16)

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  • A weak subplot undermines a strong conclusion to the Ori arc

    It has been quite some time since the series finale for "Stargate SG-1". Since then, an entire season of "Stargate: Atlantis" has aired, a writers' strike has come and gone, and several new fall shows have been sampled and cancelled. The point is very simply this: only the most devoted fans will come into this DVD with a solid memory of the plot threads leading into the story. This will no doubt limit the mass appeal of the release.

    "The Ark of Truth" is the grand finale of the Ori plot arc, which began in the ninth season premiere and ran over the course of two full seasons. The DVD comes with a short but sweet "prelude" covering all the salient points from the series itself, but it covers just enough to remind fans of what they've forgotten and thoroughly confuse the uninitiated. I had to watch it twice just to feel prepared for the actual film, and I like to think that I have a fairly good internal geek memory.

    The film itself feels like what it is: Season 11 with all the filler taken out, compressed into just under two hours of content. It takes very little time for the story to unfold, and quite often, events seem to happen without much setup, just to make sure the plot dots are connected. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because the desire to see a good ending to the Ori arc overrides most of the annoyances.

    I've always been a fan of the Ori arc, and when the series finale chose to focus on a stand-alone story instead of a grand resolution, I was disappointed. It's a credit to the writers that they managed to take one of the few key continuity elements of the series finale (the acceptance of the Asgard memory core) and link it into the film script.

    The story itself is straightforward enough. SG-1 discovers that the perfect anti-Ori weapon, naturally called the Ark of Truth, may still exist. It is designed to "program", for lack of a better word, someone into believing whatever the programmer wants someone to believe. The Ancients, losing their battle against the Ori millions of years earlier, conceived of the Ark as a weapon of last resort. They chose not to use it in the end, and thought it destroyed.

    While the Ark serves as a rather convenient plot device (because that's exactly what it is), the writers don't skimp on the ramifications of its purpose. Daniel in particular has some moral misgivings about resolving the Ori problem by essentially overriding free will. It's a great question to ask, and the film would have been a bit better if more time had been spent on the debate. Instead, it was a light shading over the bulk of the action.

    The writers do show, based on previous continuity, how hearts and minds can be influenced without the use of the Ark. Tomin, Vala's erstwhile husband from the Ori's home galaxy, decides to defect and help SG-1 end the war. He helps them track down the likely location of the Ark, which is (of course) the central Ori planet. Thus a mission is prepared to send SG-1 through the Supergate into Ori space.

    This brings up two nice bits of continuity. First, there's the open question of whether or not the Ori survived the anti-Ascended weapon that was tossed through the Supergate in an earlier episode (as seen in the prelude). The answer, surprisingly, is that the weapon was successful; the continued power held by the Priors suggested otherwise. Unfortunately, because the Orisi Adria was allowed to Ascend (again, covered during the series and in the prelude), she gained the full power of all the Ori as accumulated by their worshippers. This is, as one would imagine, not a good thing.

    Second, since the end of the war with the System Lords (the end of the eighth season of the series), the IOA had been exerting more and more control over Stargate Command. They assign one of their more forthright agents to the mission. Agent Marrick is the typical IOA pain in the neck, with an agenda all his own, and his true purpose complicates the mission tremendously (and, in effect, takes something away from the focus on the Ori War).

    Once arriving at the location of the Ark, the team is split into two intersecting plot threads. Daniel, Teal'c, Vala, and Tomin all hunt down the Ark on the surface, while Carter, Mitchell, and Marrick remain on the Odyssey in orbit. The writers clearly wanted to isolate the ground team to ramp up the tension, so the remaining characters are given quite an ordeal on the Odyssey. The time, however, might have been better spent.

    If there is one concept that has been overused within the Stargate franchise, it's the Replicators. The writers for "Stargate: Atlantis" gave them a new twist as the Asurans, but most of the episodes devoted to the Replicators boil down to the same thing: blow up tinker toys before they kill everyone. It's a bit tedious by now. While the IOA's plan to use SG-1's mission as a pretext for introducing the Replicators as their own anti-Ori weapon was certainly interesting, it was ultimately a distraction.

    Not only that, but it was a poorly conceived distraction. RepliMarrick was inconsistently depicted and the idea of a human controlled by a Replicator seemed like something out of a bad Saturday night Sci-Fi Channel production. The faux-Terminator moment at the end of the nigh-interminable fight was not at all impressive, and it's hard to imagine that Mitchell could take that kind of punishment and live.

    The same applies to Teal'c and his injury, though his tenacity has been seen on several occasions. His survival, however, relies on Morgan LeFey, who becomes (like the Ark itself) a story convenience. She also helps Daniel through his torture at the hands of the Priors, and takes on Adria when her power source is broken. Thankfully her involvement in the situation was already established, or her intervention would have been even more unusual.

    With a bit more time (perhaps a mini-series), the writers could have developed a resolution to the Ori arc that relied less on convenience and familiar trappings. There might also have been more time for the delicate morality of the Ark's intended use to be explored. Most of the characters get sufficient screen time, in keeping with their strengths, but the Replicator plot thread took something away from Mitchell's overall portion.

    Now that the Ori arc is complete, however, the "SG-1" DVD films can move on to cover other dangling plot elements, such as the Lucien Alliance or Ba'al's control of the Trust. For that matter, given time, a strong stand-alone concept could be developed. The trick will be making it all seem distinct and necessary, especially with "Stargate: Atlantis" still on the air. On the other hand, given the longevity of the franchise, it shouldn't be too much of a challenge.
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