Stargate SG-1
Volume 15

Starring: Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks & Amanda Tapping
Certificate: PG
Available now

During a meeting with the Tok'ra high council, Major Graham of the SGC, begins firing upon the Tok'ra before taking his own life. The SGC discovers that Graham was a Zatarc, the victim of Goa'uld mind control technology. According to Anise - a Tok'ra scientist - its victims are subconsciously programmed to kill, their recollection of the procedure covered by false memories. Anyone who has come into contact with the Goa'uld could well be a Zatarc and not know. Using an experimental device, Anise sets out to discover whom, at the SGC, has been affected. The test uncovers a second Zatarc - Lieutenant Astor, who also goes berserk, shooting wildly before turning the gun on herself. Horrifyingly, subsequent testing uncovers false memories in two more members of the SGC: Colonel Jack O'Neill and Major Samantha Carter.

From shock opening to shock ending, Divide & Conquer is riveting viewing, not least of all due to the eye-popping leather top worn by the actress who plays Anise. If the previous volume and this one are anything to go by, season four is making a serious effort to up the babe count!

Anyway - my hormones aside - this episode is an excellent example of why SG-1 is one of the best sci-fi dramas around today. The level of suspense never relaxes and the pace is just perfect, the tension increasing steadily until the stunning climax, that while both brutal and shocking is also very moving. Further more, I was impressed by the novel way in which the script delivered a revelation concerning O'Neill and Carter.

While exploring planet P4X 639, the SG-1 team meets Malikai, an explorer from another world who shares Daniel's interest in an alien device covered in a strange Latin-like script. As solar flares erupt overhead, Malikai warns Daniel that the resultant geomagnetic disturbance may be dangerous to the SG-1 team and tells him to leave. When Daniel ignores the warning, Malikai shoots him and begins to operate the alien device. O'Neill and Teal'c try to help Daniel but are caught, with Malikai, in a mysterious energy generated by the device. Abruptly, O'Neill and Teal'c find themselves back at Stargate command, ten hours earlier, preparing to leave for the mission from which they've just returned. And then it happens again. And again. And again. As O'Neill repeatedly returns to eat the same bowl of Fruit Loops, it becomes clear that they've been caught in a time loop and that only he and Teal'c retain their memories through each ten-hour cycle. It's up to them to decode the script on the alien machine and discover a way to break the loop.

If Divide & Conquer was sublime, then Window of Opportunity is ridiculous - you really couldn't have two more contrasting episodes. Humour to the point of slapstick is the order of the day, making this episode a riot from beginning to end.

The gradual revealing of Malikai's tragic past are the only serious moments, so in the main, the somewhat unoriginal story merely serves as a narrative backbone, or shall we say excuse, for Richard Dean Anderson (O'Neill) and Christopher Judge (Teal'c) to goof around. They do it well too, having my fellow viewer and I in fits of laughter.

At the end of the day, Window of Opportunity is just utilising the same premise as the film Groundhog Day (and even gives it a mention), but who cares when it's done this well?

When the Stargate won't open, trapping teams offworld, the SG-1 team investigates and discover that the Russians have their own Stargate. The Russian Stargate, apparently recovered from the sea after Thor's ship crashed on earth, is locked open, maintaining a perpetual wormhole. At the request of Russian scientist Dr. Svetlana Markov, the SG-1 travel to the Russian Stargate facility. There they find all the soldiers and scientists dead and the Stargate locked open, connected to a water-covered planet. Svetlana explains that the Russians had retrieved a sample of the water, and realised it emits significant levels of energy. That same water, however, seems to have disabled the investigative drone sent by the Russians, leaving it inoperable and sending transmissions that are keeping the gate open. Daniel, Carter and Svetlana head through the wormhole in a miniature submarine in an attempt to recover the drone, but the water halts the sub and begins to crush it. Meanwhile, back at the Russian facility, O'Neill and Teal'c are surprised to find in a freezer the body of Col. Maybourne, who, once thawed, comes back to life, coughing up gallons of water. It may look like H20, but it is actually alive.

Watergate is an impressive CGI showcase, the majority of the episode taking place underwater, but only in the virtual realm of SFX guys' computers. Particularly impressive is the submersible, being a convincing blend of live action interior and CGI exterior.

It's a joy to have the sneaky Maybourne back, and Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation) makes a guest appearance as Svetlana. The story is nothing to write home about, but it's intriguing that the Russians now have a Stargate and Maybourne is involved in the project.

I expect we haven't seen the last of the Russian Stargate, and I hope that its presence promises for some interesting future episodes.

While on an archeological dig on planet P3X 888, Daniel discovers the ancient remains of a primordial Goa'uld symbiote. Before he can bring back his sample however, his team is attacked by an Unas and Daniel is dragged off by the giant primitive creature. Learning of Daniel's disappearance, O'Neill leads a rescue mission to the planet. Upon his arrival, he discovers that SG-11 has been almost wiped out - only Hawkins survived - and the planet's water supply is teeming with Goa'uld symbiotes. Now O'Neill and Teal'c have to face the possibility that a Goa'uld may have invaded one of the team. Meanwhile, Daniel begins to understand a few words of his captor's language. The Unas, a juvenile whose name seems to be Chaka, saves Daniel's life when he's attacked by a symbiote. As the rescue team struggles to catch up, however, the question remains: has Daniel become the Unas' newest friend or is he simply being brought home for dinner.?

The First Ones is not the most thrilling of Stargate episodes, the pace being quite slow and the ending leaves one feeling completely unmoved by the experience. Of concern is O'Neill and Teal'c's solution to the problem of the team members who are host to a Goa'uld. The method of discovering who is a host is logical, but the way the victims are shot down without hesitation seems gratuitous. Couldn't they have been incapacitated, and the help of the Tok'ra enlisted to remove the symbiotes?

Jeff Watson

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