Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sci-Fi Friday round up--Black Market & Red Shirts

Stargate SG-1-- Stronghold

The upshot: Teal’c is abducted by Bal as part of his plan to brainwash members of the Jaffa council and short-circuit their first step toward freedom and democracy so he can reassume his leadership post and direct them to fight The Ori, prompting SG-1 to mount a rescue mission.

The upshot says it all. Of course Teal'c is rescued and democracy is secured. The episode’s secondary story is more interesting, if somewhat superficial. Mitchell pulls some strings to get his buddy and fellow Air Force pilot Major Bruce Fergusson, who is dying, into a military hospital with access to alien healing technology.

It turns out the Fergusson had taken a wound meant for Mitchell allowing Mitchell to take his slot in the Stargate program. Ultimately there’s nothing to be done but as a favor to a dying friend, Mitchell shares his experiences as SG-1’s leader via the Galaran memory device introduced a couple episodes ago (See our review of SG-1 Collateral Damage, Jan. 15).

A touching act of kindness but then the writers go and spoil it by doing something stupid—Mitchell has to leave his friend to join Teal’c’s rescue mission and leaves the top secret alien memory device with him unsecured.

I can suspend my disbelief only to a certain point…I can imagine a memory transfer device or outer space travel, but I can’t believe this little plot boner—most people won’t even leave their watch or wallet in their room during a hospital stay (shaking my head). All in all, an amusing waste of time.

Stargate Atlantis--Grace Under Pressure

The Upshot: McKay crash lands a puddle jumper into the ocean, trapped as it sinks deeper and deeper as the Atlantis teams races to the rescue before it’s too late.

Everyone’s favorite wacky Canadian scientist Dr. McKay is the focus of this episode and does a good job of carrying it. At the episode’s start whatever was a standard sci-fi cliché which I call the “Star Trek Red Shirt” named for all of those nameless extras on the original Star Trek who portrayed security guards who die quickly and with little fanfare other than to advance the plot.

The latest Red Shirt was the jumper pilot Griffin (no first name provided). He at least got in a few lines of dialogue and a hit of some personality before he sacrificed himself by sealing McKay in the back of the jumper before the ocean broke the windshield and flooded the cockpit.

Alone, in the dark and sinking 20 feet per minute, McKay is near panic as his events are out of his control. As he works for figure out a way to free himself from his watery grave, SG-1’s Lt. Col. Samantha Carter (special guest star Amanda Tapping) appears from out of nowhere.
It’s soon clear she is a projection of his subconscious giving a whole new meaning to the term wet dream (yes, I really did say it).

Sheppard and Zelenka modify another jumper, find and rescue McKay and figure out a way to convert the jumper’s cloak into a shield..something that will no doubt come in handy in a future episode. Good episode.

Battlestar Galactica--Black Market

The Upshot: Newly cured from her cancer, President Roslin sees the fleet’s supply lines strained and the black market out of control and tasks Admiral Adama and Captain Adama/Apollo to stop it.

Halfway through its second season and some six months in the show’s timeline since the Cylon attack, BSG continues to keep raising the stakes and blur the lines between sci-fi and reality, as in how humans would really act in post-Armageddon civilization—some good, others not so good.

Following Roslin’s order to clamp down on the black market, Col. Fisk, the new commander of the Battlestar Pegasus, is murdered by henchmen of the fleet’s own Tony Soprano, Phelan, played effortlessly by Bill Duke.

Turns out Col. Fisk was part of the black market and got greedy and got whacked. Apollo is charged with heading the murder investigation. It becomes clear that the black market is rampant and widespread.

Making another guest appearance is Richard Hatch as Councilman and former terrorist Tom Zarek. Brought on initially as a peace offering and gimmick, the Apollo from the original BSG and the current Apollo have developed a good on screen rapport.

“Did you really expect some utopian fantasy to rise from the ashes,” Zerek asks Apollo, explaining how the desperate things have become in the fleet.

Meanwhile, tension between Roslin and Dr. Baltar, who is also the Vice President of the Colonies, mounts. During her near-death delirium, Roslin remembered seeing Baltar on Caprica with the Cylon Number Six. She doesn’t know what we know—that Baltar, unwittingly is responsible for the Cylon genocide—but it confirms what she’s knows in the gut...he’s no good.

Roslin offers Baltar a “one time only offer” to resign as vice president and a “second chance” in exchange for his saving her life. He refuses. The confrontation is all about what’s NOT said...and what is yet come.

The black market investigation becomes personal for Apollo when a gang of black-market thugs kidnaps Shevon — a prostitute with whom he has developed an intimate relationship — and her young daughter, Paya. The gangsters threaten to kill Shevon unless Apollo abandons his investigation.

It comes to a head when Apollo confronts Phalan aboard his ship...and to everyone’s surprise, including Phalan, Apollo shoots him dead. Apollo strikes a deal with the smugglers to keep essential supplies moving but to cease and desist the trafficking of children and in return he’ll leave them be.

It’s hard to find the moral high ground when we’re all standing in the mud,” says Phalan before he gets shot. Even as the last dregs of human civilization fight to survive, it turns out the worst threat to humanity comes where there isn’t a single Cylon in sight. --CW


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