The Stargate Rewatch: Thor’s Hammer

stargate thor tealc

Stargate SG-1 Review: Thor’s Hammer

Synopsis

Whilst exploring Cimmeria, Teal’c and Colonel Jack O’Neill are transported to a labyrinth where any Goa’uld will die if they try to escape, leaving the host free. The two nevertheless attempt to find a way out, but are found by an unwanted visitor who will stop at nothing in killing them as it attempts to escape. Meanwhile, Captain Samantha Carter and Dr. Daniel Jackson use Kendra, a former Goa’uld host, to guide them to the labyrinth.

Review

Good episode this! I forgot that we get (kind of) introduced to the Asgard this early on in the shows run. It’s actually great fun to see what they started out as in the franchise, giant Norse Gods with booming voices and a tendency to lean towards the dramatic. It’s ever so amusing considering what we know they actually look like. The importance of the Asgard is apparent right from the off to with the clearly impressive technology they have at their disposal. The Government kept saying that it was important to find a race with tech that can help them- they were on the right track here.

stargate thor hologram

Onto Teal’c then as this is very much an episode that puts him in the spotlight. Christopher Judge does great work here and gets to show new sides to the character that we haven’t seen before. He actually looked scared at one point when he first saw the Unas and that’s not something we see very often. Through Teal’c we also learn more about the Goa’uld and in particular these first hosts. We go on to see the Unas several more times over the course of the show, but it’s interesting to note that for a long time they were considered to be nothing but a myth.  I also appreciated that Teal’c’s actions as a first prime continue to haunt him. He points out that Daniel’s wife was taken with some help from him and he still feels as though he should pay the price for that. It must have been quite the relief for both Jack and Daniel to show that they don’t blame him. As for the Unas himself, he was actually quite effective. I loved the shadow he cast on the wall as he first appeared and he was a different type of foe to those we have seen thus far. It was always obvious how they were going to defeat him, but the predictable ending didn’t detract from how great it was. 

stargate thor hammer tealc

Interesting one for Daniel too. He and Carter are searching for the others, but he wastes no time in finding out all he can about Kendra and how she was able to free herself from the Gao’uld.  I actually really appreciated Daniel’s fixation on this. Quite often, it comes across like Shar’e is a mere afterthought, but here we see that she is still very much the main thing on his mind and he isn’t close to giving up on her. That makes his gesture to destroy the device that could save her even more impactful. It’s a clear indicator that he holds no resentment with Teal’c as to what happened and that he considers him to be a vital member of the team. We haven’t had a great deal of Teal’c and Daniel one on one moments yet, but this told me all I need to know about the respect between them. 

So a good episode, but there are some things that didn’t make it quite as good as it could have been. Kendra was an interesting character but on the whole, she felt a bit flat. I was really waiting for this part of the story to spring to life and it never really did. The villagers of this world were a bit bland too and it really felt like I was just watching a bunch of extras rather than a new civilisation. Still, when the rest of the episode is so strong, small things like this can be easily forgiven. 

stargate thor hammer

Oh, side note. This episode was written by the same person who wrote Emancipation. Imagine my shock when I figured that out. 

I Know That Face!

Well, actually it’s voice this time. The Unas is voiced by none other than James Earl Jones. He provided the voice of Darth Vader in a small series of movies called Star Wars. 

Quotes

Thor: This is your prison. Your technology will not function here. There are no luxuries, no worshipers, no slaves to do your bidding.
Jack: Teal’c, I think we just got the answering machine.
Thor: Only basic sustenance, and time.
Jack: Yeah, well, great. Thanks – thanks for the chat.

Jack: Water. Give it enough time and it’ll bring down walls, even walls just like them. So in a couple of hundred years, we’ll be free.

Jack: Teal’c’s here now.
Teal’c: And here I will remain. I was with those who took the ones you love.
Jack: No. You’re part of this family now. We’re not leaving you behind.

Verdict

The best episode of the first season so far. It may not have seemed it at the time, but this is the most important one yet since the pilot. It also has a fascinating story and some brilliant character development for Teal’c and Daniel.

The Stargate Rewatch: Brief Candle

Stargate SG-1 Review: Brief Candle

Synopsis

SG-1 goes to a planet called Argos, and Daniel even helps deliver a baby. Then the team is invited to one of their celebrations. All was well, up until to the moment they find out that something isn’t quite as it seems; the Argosians age faster than the normal humans, and it isn’t a natural phenomenon. To make matters worse, Colonel O’Neill starts to suffer from this fast ageing himself.

Review

Let’s address the elephant on Argos here and get that out the way. Whichever way you look at this, Jack was drugged and then had sexual relations with that woman; in short, he was date raped. It’s a glaring issue that overshadows the episode and to make it worse, the rest of the team don’t even give that issue a second thought! What if Carter had been in Jack’s position here? Would it have been the same kind of reaction if this was her? I highly doubt it, but because it’s Jack- apparently it’s no big deal. It’s hugely irresponsible writing from Kathryn Powers who despite these two missteps (the other being Emancipation) does go on to write some decent episodes in the future (including the following one). Something like this could be pushed to the back of your mind somewhat if the rest of the episode was good enough to be a distraction, but sadly for Brief Candle it isn’t the case; despite the best efforts of Richard Dean Anderson who does all he can with an ageing Jack O’Neill.

stargate brief candle jack

It has to be said that the resolution to all this was muddled at best too. The deus ex machina that he was never ageing at all just made no sense and was hastily rushed over at the end of the episode. It was frustrating seeing as Jack’s plight was the driving force of the whole story. As a concept though, it was a good one. The Goa’uld are exactly the sort to mess about with a culture in this way for an experiment and there was something quite touching about the Argosians and the way in which they are just happy with what they have. That being said though, it is a shame that (from memory) we don’t really get the chance to catch up with how they are doing, I’m sure they are referenced, but there has to be a story in the fact that SG-1 have come along and essentially changed an entire civilization; it feels like a missed opportunity.

sg1 brief candle

Also, a little clarification on how this ageing process worked would have been nice. The bodies ageing at a rapid rate is one thing. Back to Richard Dean Anderson though and he does keep the episode watchable, even if he doesn’t have the best of scripts to work with. Despite the issues I have with the plot, there is some amusement to be had in his embarrassed hangover scene; I loved his beeline for the pond to ease the pain and he gives a good old man impression. He’s let down however by horrible dialogue including the “sweet Kynthia” moment, which for an old man is fine but while he looked old, it had only been a few days; something that seemed to have been forgotten in the writer’s room. Instead, he was portrayed as if he had genuinely lived 80 something years. What Brief Candle does have going for it though is SG-1 themselves. The banter and camaraderie between them is growing by the episode and already just a few episodes in the central four are able to elevate an otherwise lacklustre story.

Random Thoughts

  • When Jack is being led into Kynthia’s room, it didn’t take much to distract the rest of SG-1 from going to check if he’s alright. They’re about to go after him and all it took was them being handed something to drink to decide against it. It’s very odd, especially given that Jack went from acting fine to plastered in about two minutes. 

I Know That Face

If you recognise Bobbie Phillips (Kynthia) then it’s not from anything recent. She seems to have stopped acting years ago but you may know the face from an excellent third season episode of The X Files where she played Dr Bambi Berenbaum in War Of The Coprophages.

The Stargate Costume Of The Episode Award

stargate brief candle
Can’t say I’m against this one!

Quotes

Daniel :  A hundred day celebration? I guess we should pace ourselves

Sam : How many babies have you delivered?
Daniel : Uh…two. Counting today

Daniel : Are you kidding? It’s a paradise!
Jack : Oh, sure. Have an apple, what could happen?

Verdict

Richard Dean Anderson tries his best but this another weak spot for the early episodes of the show.

The Stargate Rewatch: The Nox

stargate jack nox

Stargate SG-1 Review: The Nox

Synopsis

Teal’c tells SG-1 that he knows of a planet where there is a creature that has the power of invisibility. SG-1 decides to go to that planet to capture that creature to take it back to the SGC to be studied. The only problem is that they run into Apophis.

Review

Well, this is much more like it! This feels much more like the Stargate I love and despite a few flaws that we’ll get too in a moment, it’s the strongest entry after the pilot. Bureaucracy is something that veers its ugly head many many times over the course of the shows run with differing political organisations weighing in on the action, but it has to be said that the point made at the start of the episode that they haven’t found anything to help them is well made. From their point of view, they’ve brought a possessed soldier home, nearly got Carter killed, came home with a disease that nearly wiped everyone out, allowed a member of the SGC to die after he tried ruling a planet, and had a doppelganger of a high ranking member roam the streets. And that’s just the adventures that we’ve seen! When you look at the track record, I don’t think its wrong to start asking questions.

stargate jack nox

The Nox themselves are an interesting race and it’s shame that we don’t get much more from them over the course of the series. Admittedly, the look of them may have been a factor in that but personally, I don’t mind it and it’s nice they didn’t make them look too human. It’s quite refreshing to see a race that is just content with their lot. There’s not much tension or hostility from them as per the norm and it’s great that it’s this aspect of them that seems to rile Jack up so much. Due to the Nox, this episode actually fares better on a rewatch as the initial view of them is that they are nice- if a little dumb. Not heeding advice that they are in danger despite the fact that it becomes more and more clear that they are is frustrating when you see them for the first time. it’s only when the quite brilliant reveal occurs at the end that it all begins to make sense. Of course even with the invisible floating city they still nearly lost one of their own so perhaps, powers accepted, they still should have played it a little safer. Great to see Armin Shimerman here too, he plays a much more subdued character (and far nicer) than he is best known for but he has a nice presence here.

stargate nox apophis

We also got to see Apophis make his first appearance since the pilot and he is every bit as menacing here as he was then. But I can’t go any further without discussing his takedown of SG-1, which was unwittingly hysterical. Jack’s was fine, but the subsequent ‘demise’ of Carter and Daniel was like something out of a comedy sketch show as each of them stood up and completely exposed themselves (ahem) as the other was shot. Watch the scene and imagine a laugh track playing over the top of it and you’ll get the point. But while the show was never going to wipe the team out, it was a great shock moment when Jack was hit and the stakes were instantly raised; it’s just a shame the rest of the sequence was so poorly handled until Teal’c stepped up to heroically die free. It was however great to see Apophis in what was largely a stand-alone episode instead of him just being saved for the traditional big installments of the show. Speaking of Teal’c, I enjoyed getting to see him deal with a Jaffa that he used to train. It’s always welcome to see snippets of his past come back to haunt him. 

sg1-nox

Our main characters were mostly on fine form here and I did love the fact that in trying to help, they were completely missing the point that the Nox were trying to tell them. They were so eager to protect them that they didn’t realise they weren’t really in any need. As I say, the reveal that the new race was not the helpless people they were believed to be was a nice touch, but it does raise the question of why they weren’t really used again other than the odd fleeting appearance. If they didn’t want to get involved in things as they are here then it explains why they don’t intervene for a while, but when the Ori rock up it’s a little hard to take. Having this being such an enjoyable entry to the first season Stargate it is easy to overlook things that wouldn’t hold up too well to scrutiny. Such as how the ritual of life works in the first place. It doesn’t stand out as a problem as such, but had we gotten more time to know these guys it would have been nice to get at least an idea as it’s all just left rather vague. What would have helped the episode too is a follow up on the opener where the Nox story is told back at the SGC, but we didn’t get the chance sadly. Still this a great episode and one that feels like true Stargate. The return of Apophis was a welcome one and while from memory the next episode isn’t an especially great one, I think the less than impressive run of episodes is at an end for now.

The Stargate Costume Of The Episode Award

stargate nox
Not bad as such,, certainly interesting though

I know That Face

Armin Shimerman is a face you’ll be sure to recognise. He’s best known for playing Quark in Star Trek : Deep Space Nine which oddly enough I am in the process of watching for the first time, no reviews for that here though as there is an exceptional one going on here. You may also know him as the brilliantly horrible Principle Snyder on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

The “Oh Dear, Daniel Just Died” count

Fans of Stargate will be well aware that Daniel Jackson has a habit of dying/appearing to have died. I thought it would be fun to keep count of how many times this happens. So here we are with the first instance in which Daniel is shot with a staff weapon and killed, only to be resurrected by the Nox.

Quotes

Jack : Wasn’t I just…?
Daniel : Killed.
Jack : Killed as in…
Daniel : Dead.
Jack : Dead.
Carter : Yeah, we know. We saw it happen. Same thing happened to us.
Jack : Well, this is a surprise, then.

Daniel : And now they’re going to bury the Stargate and we can never come back. We should have listened.
Jack : “The very young do not always do as they’re told.” It’s a little something the Nox told me one time. Something worth taking home.

Verdict

This feels like the Stargate I remember. A great episode that despite some flaws and a hilariously fatal mishap by the team, is constantly entertaining and a solid early entry for the franchise.

The Stargate Rewatch: Lazarus Rising

stargate cold lazarus jack

Stargate SG-1 Review: Lazarus Rising

Synopsis

SG-1 goes to a planet that has many blue crystals. Most are broken, but Jack finds a whole one. He touches it and passes out. The crystal transforms itself into an exact duplicate of Jack who goes back to Earth in his place.

Review

This is possibly the most un Stargate like Stargate has ever been. Having the locations be where they are for pivotal parts of the story certainly gives this one a different feel. There are certain scenes that if you were to view them out of context really don’t feel as though they are in an episode of this show. Not that that’s a bad thing though, just something I thought was worth mentioning. For the most part, this is a marked improvement over the previous few episodes. It really focuses on Jack and his painful past, even if it isn’t Jack himself who is there for the real emotional parts until the ending. Knowing the history of what happened to Jack’s son, Charlie, is bad enough, but here we are taken back to the moment where the young boy stumbled upon the gun. It’s a pretty effective and chilling moment when the shot is heard. It’s also much more personal than we tend to get with Stargate. Every character does get a chance to take centre stage at some point in the shows mammoth run, but rarely is it ever quite so intimate at delving into events of the past.

stargate cold lazarus jack

It’s a shame then that while the flashbacks do what they need to do, they feel far more dated than they need to. That’s largely due to the whimsical score and slightly blurred filter used each time they happen. This one does also suffer from the fact that it is purely a standalone episode when it shouldn’t be. This should be visited again in depth but instead, it is rarely mentioned and as far as I’m aware, this is the last time we even get a mention of Sara- let alone see her again. Granted this is more the fault of Stargate as a whole rather than this episode in particular, but it is a shame. Thankfully, Charlie is referenced several times just through Jack’s actions as the series progresses; Skara is a prime example of this. Richard Dean Anderson does a fine job of portraying this crystal version of Jack as almost an infant like persona and is able to convincingly add layers as the figure becomes more aware of what happened.

stargate sg1 cold lazarus

What this episode lacks, Anderson more than makes up for in his performance and adds real conviction to a plot that in lesser hands could have been shaky at best. He also adds good value as the real Jack who is understandably frustrated at being left behind and instantly locked up upon his return to the SGC. His best work here though is saved for the episodes end when he see’s ‘Charlie’, it’s just a powerful moment and beautifully executed. The effects of the alien planet were visually great too and added to the feel of this being a different kind of episode. There were no primitive tribes or forest dwelling locals here, this was a bright, and importantly alien, looking planet- great work with that. There are some comical moments scattered throughout too. Teal’c, in particular, stealing the best with his bewildered experience watching television and deciding that Earth is a place that is unsafe to be around without his staff weapon. It’s a fair point Teal’c, one that hasn’t changed in the 21 years since.

stargate charlie

I loved Daniel and Carter lying that he had permission to fire the staff in the gate room too; watching the trademark humour that this show is known for slowly coming into play is fun. The crystal life forms themselves were an interesting idea, but they feel a little underdeveloped. I was left wanting to know more about the history there and all we really had was the one exposition scene. The scene itself was good though and watching the crystal take Carter’s form partially was an interesting moment. But how irresponsible do Carter and Daniel come across when the entity reveals it will die unless it gets home? They just discuss it and how important a discovery it is while the poor thing sits there dying. You’re trying to make friends here SGC- sitting around chatting while something is dying is not going to help with that goal.

Star Turn

stargate jack

A great episode for Richard Dean Anderson this. Comparing the two different versions of Jack here really shows what a fine job he did.

Quotes

Sam : I’d love to get this into the spectrometer at Stanford
Teal’c : What is a Stanford?

Teal’c : You received permission for me to fire my staff weapon in the gate room?
Carter : Oh Yeah
Daniel : Absolutely

Teal’c : Yours is a strange world.
Daniel : So’s yours

Connor: Kill me.
Jack: You sure? I’ve come all this way.

Verdict

Not perfect but a largely more enjoyable instalment than the previous few with a fantastic dual performance from Richard Dean Anderson.

The Stargate Rewatch: The First Commandment

stargate first commandment carter

Stargate SG-1 Review: The First Commandment

Synopsis

SG-9 is missing. General Hammond sends SG-1 to go look for them, and they find them. The only problem is that the leader of SG-9 thinks he’s a god and is now ruling that planet

Review

Man, these first few episodes really are a bit of a struggle aren’t they? After the pilot and The Enemy Within, it’s been downhill from there and this one doesn’t really up the game- despite a solid premise and some notable guest stars. What could have been a pretty deep episode focusing on what it means to be a God just falls flat. Instead it chooses to focus on the concept that Jonas (not that one) is crazy. I can’t even say William Russ plays the role that well, despite being a fine actor (who didn’t love him on Boy Meets World?). What exactly were his motives? Carter says that he was a manipulative and controlling man? Okay fine. But he was the sort of person who would travel off-world and try to rule the natives through fear and murder? How did this dude even close to the Stargate? Surely there would be a stringent look at who the SGC employees. I know that Carter knew him personally, but she doesn’t even look surprised when she hears what he’s been doing; he must have been pretty unhinged for quite some time.

stargate first commandment carter

Whoever is doing the psych reports at the SGC needs to be replaced pronto, because they less a whopper of a mistake through the cracks with this one. The thing that makes this even more difficult to accept is that members of his team just went along with it! Russ, unfortunately, hams up the role a great deal. It’s hard to take him seriously when he’s hissing “you’ll see” to people and rambling about being the planets saviour. It’s like the writers have just lifted him out of a ‘standard maniacal villain’ textbook and added nothing else to him to show nuance. The episode doesn’t serve Carter particularly well either. She has the opportunity to take Jonas down, even with just a leg shot, but instead, she stands there with the gun pointed at him and just lets him take it from her. No fight or anything. I hope she starts to become a better-written character soon. She was admittedly the best thing about Emancipation, but there were issues with how the character was treated there, and in the previous episode, The Broca Divide. This now makes three in a row and it’s a shame to see it. At least I have the knowledge of how brilliant she would go on to become. Luckily, the others are keeping the show going. Jack continues to be a great character with Richard Dean Anderson proving that even with the weaker material, he is a natural leading man. Michael Shanks’ understated performance also continues to impress. Teal’c even gets a chance to shine here, providing some much needed light relief from all that is going on with his hideously awkward smile. I also enjoyed him sharing his wisdom on what it is like to betray those who claim to be Gods.

stargate william russ

The addition of the Goa’uld presence, felt but not seen, is welcome and the device to combat the suns rays is a relatively good part of the episode; at least when it doesn’t focus on Jonas spouting his hideous “I am God speeches”. It’s just, unfortunately, an aspect that isn’t fully explored. It feels as though it is there as an afterthought rather than an integral part of the plot. And then there’s the troublesome end to the episode. It starts well enough with Daniel effectively selling the fact that Jonas is just a nut job, but it descends into a farce with him grabbing Carter to die with him. Why did he do this? Who knows. Jack, of course, saves the day and the team then sit and watch as he is killed in front of them. Now the guy had it coming sure, but would they really do that? Would they not be more interested in getting him home to be committed/given a court-martial than allowing him to be murdered? It just comes across as the writers assuming the audience would want him dead, and not really allowing themselves the time to consider what the SG team would really do in that kind of situation. I would have been interested to hear them explain the events to Hammond. Oh, and in that final scene where Jack and Carter are talking, is it just me or is that almost note for note the score from Independence Day that’s playing?

 

I Know That Face!

William Russ has appeared in numerous shows over the years, most recently in two episodes of Colony. He is best remembered though as Alan Matthews in Boy Meets World, a show that he was actually on around the time he filmed this episode. He returned to the role of Alan in its recent spin-off, Girl Meets World.

Roger Cross also appears in this one as Connor. To list everything notable this guy has been in would take up a lot of time. He’s perhaps best known as Curtis in 24, and as Six in the unfairly cancelled Dark Matter. A few other shows that he has been in: The X-Files in multiple roles (including one in its most recent season), Star Trek: Enterprise, Sliders, Fringe, Chuck, Arrow, The 100 and many many more. If you love TV, chances are you’ve seen him more than once.

Quotes

Daniel : This tastes like chicken.
Sam : So what’s wrong with it?
Daniel : It’s macaroni and cheese

Jack : Hey, how ya doing? You know, we’d love to stick around, but some brain-dead sycophant left my buddy out here to die- so we’re outta here.

Verdict

It’s lucky I know how good this show gets as these early standalone episodes haven’t done a lot for me so far. This one is no Emancipation, thankfully, and the premise is solid. It’s the execution leaves a lot to be desired. To add some positivity to the mix, the next one is much better!

Ready Player One: Review

ready player one

Loading: Nostalgia Mode

Written by: Zak Penn, Ernest Cline. Directed by: Steven Spielberg.
Starring: Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts/Perzival, Olivia Cooke as Artemis, Ben Mendelsohn as Sorrento, T. J. Miller as i-R0k, Simon Pegg as Ogden Morrow and Mark Rylance as James Halliday.

Synopsis

When James Halliday, creator of the massive online virtual reality system called “The Oasis” dies, he leaves behind a challenge to win his entire fortune. Teenager Wade Watts finds the first key in the game and faces a race against time to find the others. Hot on his heels are the IOI, who will stop at nothing to win and destroy everything good about The Oasis in the process.

Review

Full disclosure, I’m a fan of the book and it’s quite possible that it’s swayed my opinion somewhat on the movie. In fact, I’m sure it has. I’ll actually do a separate post I think about the differences and the ones I think worked and didn’t. If I did it here, there would be no way to avoid spoilers. So, the movie then. How is it? It’s fine. I was worried going in. I just had a feeling that it would be one of those movies that winds up being disappointing. I know the trailers weren’t that well received, but I loved them. Hell, I even liked those posters they used for the advertising campaign that got a lot of people’s backs up. And yet, when it comes to the movie itself, I came out of it feeling a little underwhelmed. I enjoyed it and I’m definitely glad I saw it, but on the whole I found it to be oddly a little empty.

Ready player one wade

Let’s start with what worked then. This is a gorgeous looking film and there were many moments that blew me away in terms of pure spectacle. This is an easy day one purchase on UHD just so I can pause it at various moments to see all the Easter eggs that were impossible to catch the first time around. It’s got a great score too. It very much plays on nostalgia as much as the visuals do and almost every song choice works perfectly.

Then there’s the cast. The main roles here are cast well enough. Tye Sheridan is a likeable lead who’s quest is one that’s easy to get behind. I always love Mark Rylance and Ready Player One does nothing to change that. His Halliday is a nervous man with a clear lack of social skills and he’s played here in a way that makes him seem extremely endearing. Simon Pegg is fun too in a much more understated role than I’m used to seeing him. Perhaps the standout for me though is Olivia Cooke. She really impressed me in The Limehouse Golem (do check that film out) and she does again here. It’s nice to see that her star is rising. It’s only really Ben Mendelsohn that doesn’t come out of this brilliantly, but that’s not really his fault. Sorrento is a bit of a nothing villain on the whole and as such, he isn’t really given anything decent to work with. I understand his goals and desires, but there’s nothing about him that elevates him beyond being just a generic villain.

Ready player one dolorean

As for the plot itself, it’s a bit of a cookie-cutter version of the source material in a lot of ways. Take the first key for example (mild spoilers for this bit). In the book, it’s a brilliant moment when Wade works out where it is and the challenge to obtain is fun and wonderfully nerdy. Here, it’s just a race. I mean sure, it’s a race that includes a T-Rex and Kong, but by going for spectacle it loses a lot of the charm. Its like that throughout really. The actual game itself doesn’t seem all that hard and as a result it’s not all that impactful when players progress to the next stage. Finding Halliday’s easter egg is supposed to be the biggest game the world has ever seen and yet, aside from a climactic final act, it doesn’t feel like it.

A lot of that is down to world building. There’s not much in the way of showing us how the world is reacting to someone finally getting onto the leaderboard, or how the general population is following what Parzival and co are doing. Ready Player One needed that to really enforce what a huge deal it is and how much is at stake. At times, it comes across as if Spielberg is more interested in showing us what is cool in The Oasis rather than how important it is to the people that are so absorbed by it.

That being said, there are moments when the film just comes to life. The second key for example features a trip into something that I didn’t see coming and it’s one of the best parts of the movie. There’s actually a few moments that made me laugh that I won’t mention for fear of spoilers. One in particular comes right around the time the film drops its only F bomb. On the whole, Ready Player One isn’t a classic, but it is a fun adventure movie that is certainly worth checking out.

Verdict

I’d be curious to know how much I would have enjoyed this if I weren’t such a fan of the book. Certain key changes here made things feel a little hollow and some of the heart the book had has been lost a little. That being said, there’s a lot to like here. Ready Player One is a visually engaging movie that begs for a UHD rewatch with the pause button at hand. It’s well acted and has some fantastic moments, both adapted and original. Fans of pop culture from the 80’s to now will find a lot to enjoy, and those that aren’t fans should still get something out of what is an enjoyable action popcorn flick.

The Stargate Rewatch: The Broca Divide

stargate broca divide hat

Stargate SG-1 Review: The Broca Divide

Synopsis

SG-1 its a planet that has two different sides; the light and the dark. In the light side they meet a very civilized civilization, and in the dark side they find what seems to be primitive and violent people. Soon after their return from that planet, some members of SG-1 begin to change their behaviour and act as if they are primitive. Soon those symptoms spread through the SGC.

Review

A bizarre episode this. On the one hand, it’s a good science fiction tale with some interesting ideas and a somewhat tense outbreak situation (I do love outbreak situations on TV), But on the other, it’s one of those episodes that if you were watching with a non Stargate fan, you may be a little embarrassed by. It’s not that the actors here don’t give as good a performance as they can, they do commit to the story extremely well. It’s just that whenever you have an actor go caveman- it invariably comes across as a little silly rather than effective television. Buffy’s Beer Bad is another example that shows it’s not such a great idea to do this sort of plot. The only one who comes out of the infected shtick looking alright is Richard Dean Anderson, who despite the less than stellar wails he gave throughout, got the chance to show that he was fighting the infection. The scene where he tried to communicate to Janet was the highlight of the episode. As I say, the other actors do fine with what they’re given, it’s just that they aren’t given all that much.

stargate broca divide jack

Speaking of Janet I had forgotten we met Dr Frasier this early on and she is instantly likeable here. She fits in so well that it’s like she had been around since the pilot; it’s little wonder that she became the doctor of choice for the next 7 seasons as she has an instant rapport with the cast. As for the infection itself, the way in which it spreads is equal part amusing as it is threatening. The decision to have Carter to jump Jack is a little off (especially after the last episode), but then shortly after we get Jack himself attacking Daniel. The change in tone here is quite jarring, despite it being pretty shocking seeing Jack acting so violently. This all seems to be a way of telling us that the Jack and Carter have feelings for each other. It feels a little too soon to be going here. Also, in my mind, the relationship aspect is something that the show (and the franchise really) was never really able to handle all that well. Jack and Carter are only ever really alluded to when it comes to the two of them and the feelings they have. It’s an aspect of the show that I wish had been explored in my more detail. Luckily we don’t spend too much time on the symptoms, finding the cure takes centre stage and so the episode doesn’t veer too far into bad territory. That’s not to say all of the scenes showing the symptoms are bad. I enjoyed seeing Johnson attack Teal’c for example; mainly for seeing Teal’c stop him just by grabbing his fist. It was also interesting to see that there are those at the SGC who still have issues with having one of their enemies working alongside them. It would have been nice to have seen more of this in the shows early days.

stargate daniel broca divide
I’m not sure this is supposed to look as funny as it does

The planet has an interesting set up with the whole land of the light/dark scenario. I like the idea that it was the Goa’uld that caused all these problems in the first place; it’s a much better explanation than it randomly occurring. Something that doesn’t help the episode is the tribe’s people of the other world they visit. There’s some questionable acting going on here with the extras that really cheapens things. The bizarre costume choices (see below) weren’t great either. The extravagant outfits that are seen a lot in the shows early days always bothered me. Admittedly, this is the kind of problem that is subjective. I’m sure there are many who enjoy seeing them. And even though he wasn’t himself, there is the small matter of it being heavily implied that Daniel had his way with a cavewoman. It would have been nice to have the fact he cheated on Shar’e at least brought up. Yes, he was isn’t in control of his actions, but surely it would have been something that he would have felt awful about. A line of dialogue at least would have done here. There’s also the small matter of Teal’c taking someone’s blood without their consent. It was a questionable thing to do certainly and it would have been nice to see that addressed. That being said, it was a pretty badass moment, right?

This is still a better instalment that then last, despite all the criticisms. SG-1 actually making an ally and doing something good is kind of the mission statement with this show.

The Stargate Costume Of The Episode Award

stargate broca divide hat
That hat. Man, that hat.

I Know That Face!

Teryl Rothery makes her debut here as Janet Frasier, a role she will continue in for the first seven seasons of the show. Rothery is a face you may well recognise from elsewhere as she’s popped up in a lot of things. Most recently she has been seen in Arrow, playing Oliver Queen’s lawyer, Jean Loring. She’s also guest-starred on shows including Supernatural, The X-Files, Wayward Pines and The Good Doctor.

This is also the first appearance of Steve Makaj as Makepeace. He’ll appear a few times until the third season. The actor has appeared in shows including Once Upon a Time.

Star Turn

stargate broca divide tealc

It’s no coincidence that the leading character who doesn’t get affected wins the award for this episode. It was nearly Richard Dean Anderson, but Teal’s understated performance here wins out.

Quotes

Janet : So, the question is, why haven’t you and Mr Teal’c come down with the symptoms?
Daniel : Ah, Mr. Teal’c…Teal’c’s symbiote probably protects him.
Teal’c : That would be likely.
Janet : What about you, Dr. Jackson?
Daniel : That beats me. You’re the doctor, Doctor. Ah, maybe I have a natural immunity.
Teal’c : Perhaps you will develop symptoms later.
Daniel : Thank you for the moral support

Jack : Lucy! I’m home!
Teal’c : I cannot be certain you are back to being your old self. You referred to me as Lucy

Verdict

The Broca Divide does some things right and does deliver an at times fascinating story. There’s an interesting concept at work here that is let down somewhat by the execution. No TV show should try the revert to caveman idea, it’s seldom a success. Does anyone have an example of a show that has pulled it off?

The Editing Process

Urgh. I love writing, I genuinely do. The satisfaction of coming up with an idea and writing a story to completion gives me a buzz that spurs me on to start the next one. I’ve got a few books at various stages of completion now, but they’ve all had to go on hold while I tackle the only part of the process that I hate- editing. 

With Forces, I had an editor. He’s a great editor and if anyone wants to have him edit their work, I’ll happily point you in his direction. As editors go, his rates are pretty good. Unfortunately, those rates have gone up for me since we last worked together. The price is still very fair. But with a wedding to pay for, and a business in start-up, I can’t afford to hand over the amount right now when making a profit on a book as a writer isn’t even close to guaranteed. So I’m doing it myself and hoping for the best. 

I’d argue that it’s impossible for you to be able to look at your own work and find every spelling mistake in there. Believe me, I tried. My mind just corrects the mistakes for me in a lot of cases so the errors just pass me by- no matter how hard I’m looking for them.  So, I’m using two sites. One that checks spelling, and the other that looks at grammar and sentence structures. It’s a slow and painstaking task. 

It’s one that has to be done though. Obviously, I’d love to be able to afford an editor to do it for me, but I think I’ll still use this too even if I ever can. The sentence structure part has been more beneficial than I thought it would be. It’s allowed me to see where things can be written better, and it’s caused me to expand on certain details that I only briefly touched upon before. I’ve already added around 2500 words to The Cottage at the Bottom of the Hill and I’m only at the halfway point of going through it. It isn’t even added words for the sake of it. I’ve already expanded what is known about one key character in ways I wasn’t expecting. That’s the great thing about doing this. It’s made me look at my own work in a new way and in turn, the work improves.

I wish I had done this with Forces now. Forces was my first book and as such, I know now that it isn’t as great as it could have been. The more I write, the more I learn. The more I read, the more I learn. In hindsight, I wish I could go back and amend that story. But as it’s out there and it’s been read by quite a few people, it would seem like a cheat to change it now. I already know what issues need ironing out for the sequel. That book, by the way, is in the midst of a heavy rewrite- more about that in another post. 

Editing is also why this site has turned into a bit of a Stargate fest of late. I’ve made sure that I don’t go back to writing anything new until Cottage is fully edited and ready to be published. It’s up for pre-order now here and so I have a self-imposed deadline that I need to be ready for. Thet cover, by the way, is just a holding one. But editing is something I need to take a break from every now and then, otherwise, the work will suffer. So these Stargate reviews are my downtime. I started doing them once before for a site called Idiotbox (there could be a fun post about what happened with that site in the future- it would involve Bryan Cranston, Joss Whedon and the cast of Neighbours), but I never finished. It’s always something I meant to go back to and I’m glad that I have. It’s one of those that I never tire of. Even the episodes I don’t care for are still ones that I can happily sit and watch. It’s great fun going back over them from a critical standpoint and there’s many episoes I’m excite to go back and revisit. If I’m a bit quiet on the writing front with posts, it’s because there’s not a lot new to say until Cottage is complete.

And hey, while I’m here, here’s the synopsis for The Cottage at the Bottom of the Hill. 

“Eleven-year-old Sally has just learned she is adopted. The revelation has put a strain on the whole family, including her brother, Ben. They have also just moved away from their home to begin a new life in a small village called Greatchurch. Shortly after arriving, they make friends with the boy who lives next door, Martin. He tells them of his favourite place to play- a cottage at the bottom of a hill in the local woods. When he takes them to see it, they find that this is no ordinary cottage. It transports them to another world that is run by an evil Queen and her army. If they are to have any chance at getting back, they must survive the perilous obstacles that this strange new land presents them with. New friends must be made and new foes must be thwarted. Along the way, Sally comes to learn that the notion of family is not always a straightforward one.”

Right back to editing. A new Stargate review will be up later today.

The Stargate Rewatch: Emancipation

stargate carter emancipation

Stargate SG-1 Review: Emancipation

Synopsis

SG-1 goes to a planet designated P3X-593. On that planet the women are treated as second-class citizens. Carter has to deal with that the best she can, but somehow is caught in the middle of the traditions of that planet and sold to a warlord named Moughal.

Review

Yeesh. When I first decided to go back and review Stargate from the beginning of the TV run, there were certain episodes I was less than enthusiastic about. ‘Space Race’ is one of them. This is most certainly another and whilst it fares a little better upon a rewatch, it’s certainly one I’m in no rush to go back and watch again. What is particularly frustrating about this one is the timing of it. This is the first time we see the team head off-world for a stand-alone adventure and it’s a wonder anybody tuned in to watch the second as there is almost nothing redeemable about this one. Did the writers really think it was a good idea to have the first episode to focus on Carter be about her gender? After all the fuss about her being a woman in the pilot? It’s almost as if they thought the viewer needed proof that a woman can handle herself in the team. There were any number of ways to show how badass she is without having to resort to her gender being the driving force of the story.

stargate carter emancipation

The problem is though this was 1997 and I don’t think there were many out there who assumed that she couldn’t cut it based on the fact she’s a female. It’s borderline offensive. Interestingly this is a level of bad reserved for first season episodes of Star Trek : The Next Generation; a show that is renowned for having a rocky start and there are a lot of similarities with that show’s early beginnings here. Thankfully we aren’t quite in racist territory as happened with TNG but it certainly isn’t difficult to compare this to them with the way in which this tribe is portrayed. And the other members of SG-1 aren’t much better here either. They have no issues with sticking Carter in a tent with the other women and having a laugh at her expense as she is forced to wear a dress that makes her look ridiculous. That whole scene where she first wears it is so awkward thanks to the reactions of Jack and Daniel. Daniel stares at her like he’s never seen a female before, while Jack behaves in the exact way a commanding officer shouldn’t. At least Teal’c didn’t say a word.

sg1 emancipation

Would it not have been a better idea to send her back to the SGC out of harm’s way? It is addressed, but her reasons for sticking around are flimsy. She’s confined to a tent and all she can do is have an early night, surely she would better off just going home? The only reason I can see that she didn’t is that she had to stay to give us a plot. It’s a plot that I could have done without though as it isn’t given anywhere near enough attention to detail as it should. Carter is put through the ringer here in more ways than one. You wouldn’t know it by the ending though. SG-1 laugh and joke about the whole thing as they head back to the gate because apparently Carter being forced to fight to the death and experiencing mental, physical and sexual abuse is a laugh riot for the early SG-1 team. There’s just too much awful here. The guest cast is fine for the most part, that’s a plus but they are hardly a memorable bunch. If there is any positive to find again it’s that there was some nice banter between the team early on and the show (from memory) never gets quite misses the mark like this again. And hey now it’s reviewed on the site I don’t have to watch it again!

But, it isn’t as awful as I remember and that’s largely down to Amanda Tapping. I can only imagine what she must have been thinking when acting all this out, yet she commits to the material and elevates everything as a result. The awful script comes to life at times purely because there’s a capable actress on hand to make the best of it. But yeah, it’s a lousy script that squanders what could have been an interesting tale. I still have no idea why the boy at the start was being chased by some random dogs for example. Who’s dogs were these? It’s a sign of a poor episode when a little detail like this is more intriguing than the actual plot.

The Stargate Costume Of The Episode Award

stargate carter dress

There are no words…

Star Turn

stargate carter

Amanda Tapping. All credit to her for making the best of a bad situation. I would love to hear her thoughts about this episode as they surely can’t be positive. Yet, she gives her all to it and it becomes just about watchable as a result.

Quotes

Jack : The hell with culture – a member of my team has been neutralised. That’s a hostile act.
Daniel :
How is it that you always come up with the worst case scenario?
Jack :
I practice

Native : That one is a woman.
Jack :
Observant bunch.

Carter: Daniel, find me an anthropologist that dresses like this and I will eat this headdress

Verdict

Despite Amanda Tapping’s best efforts, this is an early clunker of an episode. If you are trying to get someone into the world of Stargate, I’d advise skipping this. And if you’re a fan of Emancipation, please tell me why in the comments, I’d love to know!

Stargate Origins: Review

stargate origins

Stargate Origins

I’d held off watching any of Stargate: Origins and there’s a couple of reasons why. The first was that I didn’t fancy seeing just 10 minutes of it at a time. It made more sense to wait until all 10 episodes were released so I could see them back to back. The second, well I just wasn’t that interested in it. As you can probably tell from other posts here, I love the franchise. But, the thought of going back to the past to see an adventure years before it even began just didn’t appeal. In saying that though, I was happy to watch it with an open mind. I haven’t seen any reviews of the show to bias my opinion so for all I knew, it could have been great. Was it? Well…

Stargate Origins- Review

No. No, it’s definitely not great. In fact, Stargate’s return to the screen after 6 years is average at best. Questions have to be asked as to why this story was chosen as the one to bring the franchise back. It’s a story set just after the gate was discovered that features Catherine Langford, her father, and a bunch of Nazi’s seeking weapons to help out Hitler. It’s an odd bunch of things to throw into the pot and the resulting story is one that fails to come to life.

stargate origins catherine james

Let’s start with what I liked. Ellie Gall is one of the bright spots here. Catherine isn’t brilliantly written, yet she is able to bring something to the character that I could get behind. She helps to create a fiesty character that at times is great fun to watch. If Stargate comes back with a fourth run, I’d be happy to have Gall recast as someone else in a leading role. It’s also brilliant to see and hear some classic Stargate things again. The noise the gate makes, the sound of the rings teleporting down; it provides some nice nostalgia that, along with the classic music, made me smile

But that’s it for the most part of what I enjoyed. Sure it was nice to see Connor Trinneer again, but he doesn’t get a huge amount to work with other than some fun trickery with ancient Egyptian language. It’s also amusing that he is called an elderly man when he looks no older than Trinneer’s actual age of almost 50. The main problem here is the story. It really isn’t all that interesting. I didn’t feel any wonder at going back through the gate and I certainly didn’t care about any of the characters who were at various degrees of danger.

stargate paul nazi

Actually, let’s talk about the characters for a second. Catherine and her father, Paul, were fine. The rest? Not so much. If anything, what we have here is a collection of some of the most frustrating characters the franchise has seen. James, Catherine’s boyfriend, is just as bland as they come. There’s nothing to like about him, he shows no real personality and it’s actually odd that someone like Catherine would even give him the time of day. Dr. Wilhelm Brücke is a laughable villain- as are all the Nazi’s here actually. Other than one moment late on, he shows no menace and no signs that he should be taken seriously as a villain. And then there’s the comic relief. Wasif is, for the most part, a chore to watch. He’s there to be amusing but fails at every moment. He does improve slightly as things go on, but he grated on me every time he appeared on screen. The worst though? Some Nazi officer who is there seemingly just to provide awful slapstick comedy. The problem is, it’s just embarrassing as opposed to funny. He pops up after the first episode in a couple of post-credit sequences that those writing it must have felt were hilarious. Whereas Stargate of old was usually great at giving us comedic moments, these scenes give the impression that the writers have no idea what nuance is- nor do they understand the type of comedy this franchise needs. I fact, I woud go as far as to say that all these characters who I couldn;t stand were the fault of the writers, not the people playing them. 

stargate catherine

The writing, on the whole, is pretty sloppy really. Take Catherine and James. In the first scene, we see the two of them sharing a sweet moment that shows they are clearly in love. Fast forward to them going through the gate and they’re bickering like a typical will they/won’t they couple. It comes from nowhere and just indicates that the writers don’t have a handle on these characters or who they are. The show lacks any kind of structure and fails to craft a story that’s compelling or in any way intriguing. The overall plot doesn’t help either. We know Hitler didn’t get his hands on technology like the ones they are after- so where is the jeopardy? It’s certainly not with any of these characters and the risks they are taking. The only one who mattered to me was Catherine and it’s already established that she lives to meet the likes of Daniel Jackson. This is a prime example of why going backward to tell stories is rarely the right way to go. The Stargate universe is ripe for storytelling possibilities in the present day- did we really need to learn anything else about the old days? Apparently not, because Stargate Origins didn’t really give us anything. Even with Kasuf. Yeah, it was nice to see a younger version of him, but couldn’t he have just been anyone?

Production standards range from good to poor. There are some instances where the show looks great and yet other times it looks cheap. The final episode is a perfect example of this. I spent a lot of it thinking it was looking great, only for an explosion at the climax to make me laugh. Oh and the spinning camera that’s used to close out each episode? I never want to see anything like that again. Stargate Origins was already seeming like a below average fan project, weird gimmicks like this definitely don’t help.

Quotes

Catherine: You’re a dead man.
Brücke: I would watch what you say lest you find yourself standing behind your fathers grave. Remember, he’s the only thing you have left.
Catherine: If he’s all I have left then I’ll stop at nothing to find him.

That’s genuinely the only line of dialogue I felt was good enough to highlight.

Star Turn

ellie gall stargate

Ellie Gall does a great job with the crummy material she has been given. As I said earlier in the review, I’d be happy to see this actress pop back up in a future version of Stargate as someone else. 

Verdict

As nice as it is to see Stargate back on the screen, this wasn’t the way to do it. Poor writing, poor direction and some questionable acting make this seem like a bad fan fiction- far below the standards we’ve come to expect from Stargate. It’s not all bad and there are some bright spots, they are few and far between though. Let’s hope that the next time it returns, it has some writers working on it who know how to handle something of this calibre.