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Friday, 23 June 2017

Stargate SG-1 1-01: Children of the Gods, Part 2

This is the second and final part of my Children of the Gods article. You can go to part one by clicking the text that says 'part one' here: Part one.

Beware of SPOILERS for both this episode and the movie.


Previously on Stargate SG-1:

Stargate Command was invaded by a man with glowing eyes and his snake squad who kidnapped a female Air Force airman! Colonel Jack O'Neill, Doctor Captain Samantha Carter, Kawalsky and Ferretti went through the stargate to Eygptworld from the movie to see what was up with that, only to find that the sinister snakemen weren't there! Doctor Daniel Jackson was though and he showed them a wall of stargate addresses, revealing that the gates will take them to other places too! But while that was happening Jackson's wife Sha'uri Sha're got swiped by the snake squad and only a severely injured Ferretti knows the address to the planet they took her.

After a beautiful crane shot that brings the camera through and above the inactive stargate, our heroes return home, dragging their injured. Hey they weren't frosted up or thrown out on the return trip! Seems that the problem's with their homemade dialling computer not the stargates themselves. Though our heroes are more surprised to find that their stargate's a lot spikier than it used to be.

Hammond explains that this is an impenetrable titanium iris that they've fitted to stop anyone else they don't like from sneaking into their base. They apparently came up with the idea, manufactured some titanium blades, found a space to slot them inside the gate itself (along with a mechanism to move them), and got it all working in time to surprise O'Neill and friends when they came back from Abydos. I can accept people with glowing eyes, laser staves and mechanical snake costumes coming from across the galaxy through a wormhole on a mission to kidnap women, but this iris seems pretty damn far-fetched.

Then we cut to an episode of Hercules or something, with a medieval looking fortress on a planet with two suns. It's not Tatooine though; they've already done the desert planet.

Children of the Gods: Final Cut
This is another establishing shot that got remade for the Final Cut, though with more success than the pyramid shot from earlier I reckon. It looks like the exact same building, except we've got a better idea of what it looks like from this angle. Plus they threw in a flyby by one of those ugly Tel'tak cargo ships introduced in season 3 as a bonus.

On the other side of the wall is a dungeon where Sha're and Skaara are being held captive, along with other people dressed in a variety of fancy alien costumes. Seems that most of the other places on snake guy's tour of the galaxy have been a little better off than Miserable Ancient Egypt World; he found a lot well-dressed people hanging around next to stargates.

Not enough of them to fill this massive prison set though. The filmmakers realised that the set they'd built was too big for the number of extras they had and moved the back wall forward to make it smaller.

Teal'c comes down the stairs with his mechanical snake mask closed, which is damn impressive considering how hard it must be to see out of that thing, and then takes Sha're away. Skaara's not all that happy about this, but Teal'c points out that he's not going to be helping anyone if he gets shot dead here trying to stop them.

Meanwhile Jackson doesn't know what to do with himself now that he's back on Earth, so he's just haunting the curvy concrete hallways of Stargate Command moping about his missing wife until O'Neill takes pity on him and invites him back to his house for a beer.

One cut later and Jackson's sneezing in his living room! I know that showing them ride the lifts, get into his car and drive all the way back to his house in the dark wouldn't have improved the episode's pacing, but I feel like they should've shown something here so that it doesn't feel like this is just a cosy room under Cheyenne Mountain.

The two of them chat about what happened after the movie for them, and we learn that O'Neill's wife has left him. In fact she walked out on him during the movie while he was on Abydos! It's no wonder he seems more miserable now than he did at the end of the film.

Back on Medieval World, Teal'c drops by a harem to collect Weterings, who's changed into a non-regulation outfit in the meantime. Sha're's here too, though she's doing a little better as she's found a comfy couch to lie on as she watches Weterings get dragged away. She's the only actual character left here now so it's only a matter of time before they come for her next.

Okay so Teal'c follows his boss to a planet, picks one or two people there and drags them to a dungeon. Then he goes to the dungeon, picks one of these prisoners he's been accumulating and drags them to the harem. Then he comes here to the harem and chooses again. Seems like there must be a more efficient way of doing this.

Teal'c eventually runs out of rooms to put her in and brings Weterings before the guy with the glowing eyes, who dazes her with his hand device again and has her stripped. Seems a bit weird that he'd go to the trouble of giving her new clothes only to immediately take them away again, but I get the impression that this one's a bit weird in general (the Ming the Merciless outfit's a clue). There's no real nudity here by the way, they're working up to that.

The guy informs her that she could be the vessel for his future queen, which isn't what you really want to hear before you get paralysed and placed on a table, while someone's coming at you with a snake fish creature crawling out of her gut.

In the movie, the villain Ra was said to be a parasite living in a human host. Now we're getting to see what the parasite itself looks like. I guess the people back at Stargate Command would've seen them too if they'd bothered to look inside the pouches of the dead Jaffa they've got lying around.

The snake puppet is pretty realistic and all kinds of gross, but it can't talk, so it indicates its dislike of Weterings by disappearing back into its pouch once it's had a look at her. I suppose I can't blame it for being fussy when its choosing the body it'll be stuck with for decades. Glowing eye guy understands and then melts Wetering's brain with his hand device while she's still too dazed to resist. So that was pretty dark.

The Final Cut moves this scene all the way back into to the first half of the story, to before the snake crew attack Abydos. In the new version the guy with the glowing eyes only goes after Sha're when Weterings doesn't work out, allowing them to drop the harem scenes altogether. So they did find a more efficient way of doing it!

Meanwhile the Stargate team, plus Jackson, minus Ferretti, are back in sensible briefing room discussing what they've learned about their enemy with the glowing eyes. They've learned approximately nothing. Though Jackson believes that Ra may not have been the last of his kind after all, and there's another parasite out there enslaving people by hijacking their religion and playing the role of a god.

They've got no other leads right now, but Carter tells the that they're feeding the revised coordinates into the targeting computer right now and their system should be spitting out two or three destinations a month. Hey that's exactly enough for them to start a TV series, with weeks off for cash-saving bottle episodes set entirely inside the base!

General Hammond would rather just bury the gate and forget about it, but The President has seen the potential in this series premise and has ordered the formation of 9 covert teams whose duties will be to perform reconnaissance, determine threats, and make peaceful contact with other worlds, Whoa, they're really rushing through the set up all of a sudden.

Jackson strongly volunteers to join O'Neill and Carter in SG-1 to help them rescue his wife, while Kawalsky gets to lead SG-2! Ferretti gets nothing, as he's still recovering. Though the briefing comes to an abrupt end when they get a note that he's conscious now and everyone rushes out to see him.

Whoa, that thing's chunky even by 1997 standards.

Turns out that Ferretti saw all seven symbols that the snake squad dialled into the gate back on Abydos and he's remembered the address this whole time! Man I wish I had the memory of a TV character, especially a character from SG-1 as people actually remember past episodes, new technogies and successful tactics in this series.

Fun Ferretti fact: the actor playing him here, Brent Stait, went on to be a regular on Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, suffering under a ton of makeup to play an alien called Rev Bem. Meanwhile Movie Feretti, French Stewart, was busy playing Harry in 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Now that they have the coordinates to the snake squad's planet they can go confront them and hopefully get Sha're and Skaara back! But Hammond needs to know who he's letting back in, so the teams have been given transmitters so they can send a code through the gate ahead of them. If the code checks out they'll open the iris and no one has to get splattered against a titanium shield. Though to add some extra drama the iris will be sealed permanently if they're not back within 24 hours exactly. Because Hammond's a real dick in this episode sometimes.

And it turns out that the snakes are living on Canadaworld! One of the many thousand Canadaworlds in our galaxy. In fact we'll later learn from the spin-offs that it's Canada Planets from here to the very edge of the universe.

We get a long pullback here to show off the massive stargate set up that they built out on location and I'm suitably impressed. It took six people a full day just to set up the portable stargate prop at the centre. I've no idea how many vans they needed to carry all those styrofoam stones here though.

Everyone comes rolling out of the gate just as frosty as they were on Abydos, so I guess they haven't fixed their computer yet. This time though they've brought their mate F.R.E.D. with them. It's a remote controlled buggy loaded with equipment, like claymores for Carter to set up at 10 meter intervals across the ridge.

Back at the harem it's Sha're's turn to be taken away and they have to drag her away screaming as she correctly assumes that she's being taken nowhere good. Though the last time she was moved she ended up on a comfy bed in the sexy dresses and fruit room so maybe shouldn't be so quick to judge!

I've chosen this screencap at random to demonstrate what the original framing could looked like when the episode first aired... also there may have been a woman sitting topless on the right side of the shot that I needed to crop out. I try to keep this shit family friendly.

Which is why I'm not showing Sha-re's nakedness either. You can have the frame where the villain stands in the way instead.

It's funny how this is the only episode with nudity like this in the whole run, despite the series continuing on Showtime for five seasons. Co-creator Brad Wright would've preferred to have avoided it here too and I can see his point as this single episode raises the rating of the entire DVD set. He wanted people to be able to buy the season box set and watch it with their kids without worrying about surprise full-frontal nudity. It took a while but he finally got his way with the Final Cut, which has the camera zoomed in on her face the whole time.

Sha're gets paralysed, stripped and studied by a snake just like Weterings, but this time she gets the snake's approval and is turned around so that the parasite can burrow into her spine and take over her mind. I wouldn't have thought there'd be room in there for snakes, but that shows what I know.

So our heroes already have lost two of the three people they came here to rescue and they're still on the 'unpacking the gear' phase of the operation. Interesting way to tell a story, but okay.

With 20 hours left before they're locked out, SG-1 heads down the path leading from the gate and runs into a bunch of druids coming the other way. Well actually O'Neill and Carter were observing them from the bushes, it was Jackson who decided to step out into the open and walk right up to them.

They've got snakehead staves and the same symbol on their heads as Teal'c, which probably isn't a great sign, but Dan soon has them kneeling and bowing down to him just like the folks in the movie did when he said hi to them. He's cursed to be worshipped everywhere he goes it seems.

Speaking of symbols, the SG-1 team have their own patches now, with Earth's point of origin on one arm and a stargate chevron on the other. Hammond sure got those designed and stitched in a hurry.

But their patches have a slightly different design to the ones used for the rest of the series, with a chunky black '1' on them, so I guess Hammond wasn't entirely happy with how the first batch turned out.

Against all odds SG-1 has ended up on the only other planet in the universe where the inhabitants don't speak English, but Jackson's able to figure out that the druids want to know if they're here to choose, and soon the team's being led to the city of Chulak, where choosing generally takes place.

Jackson does have a good idea what language the locals are speaking, but O'Neill cuts him off before he can say too much. He cut him off back at the stargate as well when he was trying to describe how he was going to get them back home. You'd think that'd be important information considering that it was their biggest problem for half the movie, but O'Neill's reached his limit for exposition. He tolerated Jackson's long chat with Carter about planetary drift during the first half but now he's not willing to allow one more dull and expository line out of anyone's mouth. Man where was he when I needed him during the Star Trek spin-offs?

Here's a shot of the same city from closer up! It looks like stock footage nicked from an old movie from the 60s.

These establishing shots of Chulak were colour corrected for the Final Cut version to tint the buildings brown and get rid of that patch of green they're walking in. It's not a huge improvement and it makes SG-1 look even more brown, but it does make the shot seem less like a collage made from faded photos of Washington D.C. so I'm calling it a win.

Huh, they brought SG-1 to the harem? Oh hang on, these women all have the snake symbol on their foreheads so it must be a different room.

So the worshippers of the alien parasite pretending to be a god seem to think that our heroes are also gods and have invited them to a feast in their city. This episode doesn't know whether it wants to be a sequel to the movie or a remake! By the way, that head in the middle of the table belongs to a mastidge from the film. It appears in the Stargate: Atlantis's pilot as well as part of someone else's alien feast, so the thing gets around.

Jackson feels that when you're in a place that looks like Rome you should do what the pseudo-Roman folks are doing, so they sit down at the table and bow like the others. And then their nemesis walks in with Dan's wife, now fully en-snaked. The jig is pretty much up at this point seeing as the guy knows what soldiers from Earth look like, so Jackson walks over and tries to talk his wife into not being an evil alien.

This gets him thrown across the redressed harem set for his trouble by the glowing eye guy's hand device, and when O'Neill makes a move he's knocked out too. So that was an embarrassing first mission for SG-1.

Cut to Stargate Command where we learn that there's just 2 hours left before they seal the gate forever. Then it cuts to the dungeon, where O'Neill reveals to the others that they only have 90 minutes left now! A couple more cuts like that and they'll be out of time.

Suddenly Teal'c's comes out of nowhere and grabs O'Neill's arm. He finds his Casio G-Shock DW-8300 intriguing and wants a closer look at this advanced alien technology. It says 1:57 on it, so the stargate shuts at half three.

He asks them where they're from, which is interesting as he's kind of speaking fluent English right now so you'd think he'd know. Jackson draws Earth's point of origin symbol on the ground just like in the movie and he immediately erases it just like in the movie. You've probably noticed by now that there's a lot of things going on that are just like in the movie.

It's left ambiguous why Teal'c wipes the symbol away and walks off, but personally I think it's because he realised that he's an idiot for not noticing that it's on the patch they're all wearing on their arms. For a super secret covert recon group they're sure keen to advertise their planet to everyone they meet.

Soon their nemesis shows up with his new queen again, though fortunately O'Neill and Carter are quick enough this time to catch Jackson before he does something stupid. Also Jackson's figured out by now that the wife-stealing son of a bitch is role playing as the Egyptian serpent god Apophis, so now I finally have a name to call him!

Teal'c's stopped speaking English now so Skaara translates his announcement for them, explaining that they're here to choose who will be the children of the gods. Title drop!

Unfortunately Skaara's one of the ones dragged away to be en-snaked. Even worse, the rest of them are to be executed.

Teal'c strolls over to join the firing squad, but he's interrupted when O'Neill yells that he can save these people. I guess he noticed Teal'c quietly shaking his head earlier and realised he's not entirely into what's going on here. O'Neill's hasn't exactly been demonstrating his people saving skills, considering he's lost literally everyone he came here to save, and was immediately caught and thrown in a cell, but Teal'c has noticed his machine guns and digital watch and knows that anyone with technology like that may just be a match for the gods.

So he turns around and murders one of his friends, then throws his staff to O'Neill!

And then we get the best display of Stormtrooper marksmanship I've seen since Star Wars. Well that's not entirely true as the Serpent guards have no problems hitting what they're aiming at. They just don't seem to be interested in aiming at the two people shooting at them.

They blast a hole in the wall to escape (I guess the staff weapons are super effective against bricks) and O'Neill talks Teal'c into coming with them. O'Neill really forms an instant bond with this guy; probably because he's not a dirty scientist like the other two.

Now that Teal'c's on their side he has a chance to drop some exposition, telling them that he's a Jaffa and showing them that he's got an X-shaped snake pouch just like the other folks we've seen working for Apophis (it doesn't get a great reaction from his audience). All Jaffa carry an infant Goa'uld parasite inside them, getting perfect health and long life in exchange for bringing it to maturity. And if he gets rid of it he'll die.

Meanwhile a Goa'uld glider flies up to the stargate to drop off Apophis and his new children of the gods. It's probably CGI but it looks pretty good for 1997 I reckon. Especially considering how crap some of the effects in the movie looked. Plus they've added a subtle heat haze under it and leaves getting blown around, it's cool.

I had to really edit this clip down to get it within my time limit but it gets the point across I think.

They beam down using using the same transport rings as in the movie (though there's five instead of nine) and then their transport ship inexplicably transforms into a Death Glider! The same type as in the movie!

The Final Cut changes this so that Apophis flies over to the gate in the Tel'tak cargo transport shown earlier and no bizarre transformation is necessary because it's being escorted by two Death Gliders.

You can see here in this heavily edited clip that Death Glider pilots still can't aim for shit, and that O'Neill and Teal'c have no chance against it until SG-2 shows up with a rocket launcher. So the kill goes to some unnamed SG-2 guy and our heroes are once again useless.

The Final Cut gives them a break by letting them shoot down the second Death Glider, so they don't seem quite so rubbish. Though whatever version you watch you still get this awesome explosion. I've heard people say that Children of the Gods looks cheap compared to modern TV but it looks plenty expensive to me right now.

Our heroes are way too slow to catch what address Apophis dialled this time, though O'Neill does arrive in time to get shoved over by the Goa'uld inhabiting Skaara. And then they're gone, and its SG-1's time to dial out before they're locked out forever.

Unfortunately Jackson hasn't memorised the address so he has to quickly flick through his notes to figure out what to press! C'mon Daniel, I know you got knocked out earlier, but so did Ferretti and he still managed to memorise the other address. And Carter's got the iris code memorised. Funny thing is that they've actually ran out of time, Hammond's just dragging his heels because he really doesn't want to lock them out, so Jackson's forgetfulness very nearly got them all killed here.

Though they may get killed yet, as a whole army of Jaffa is coming out of the trees to shoot them. Fortunately it seems that SG-2's guns have magic bullets that can shoot through their armour just fine, so they've got a nice pile of bodies forming at the bottom of the hill. Why isn't this called Stargate SG-2? They seem to be the competent ones.

Man look at the size of that multi-storey gate room set they've got. You could fit houses in this place. Or a 6.7 meter tall stargate prop.

The iris opens and Carter comes rolling out. The plan was for Jackson to wait a few seconds before sending people through but they come in right behind her and she barely has enough time to tell the guards not to shoot them.

I always love shots of people walking through a portal from side view. Also I didn't quite realise until now just how thick these stargates are.

Well the claymores definitely came in useful. Those Jaffa heard them go off and immediately threw themselves down the hill.

They sure are murdering a lot of stuntmen here and they're making it look good. These are some really high production values for a 90s TV series. Even if that stone that O'Neill's behind keeps wobbling whenever he accidentally brushes against it.

They've managed to get most of the prisoners through the gate at this point so now they're waiting on O'Neill, Teal'c and SG-2.

I love that they've got a missile launcher set up in the gate room just in case they need it. Also those hats are amazing. If every hat is from a different planet then they'll be getting a fair few gate address  out of this. Assuming that they're smarter than Jackson and can remember where they live.

Oh damn, this scene goes straight from the best O'Neill kill to Kawalsky getting taken over by a Goa'uld. I liked Kawalsky too! Most people would yell when a snake creature burrowed into their spine, but he just looks a little confused by it.

That's three survivors from the movie that have been taken over by snake parasites now. Ferretti actually got off lightly.

O'Neill's the last one through the gate, then they close the iris behind him and listen to the thuds of Jaffa Serpent guards bouncing off titanium before they can even rematerialise. So the iris works then.

And everyone from the DVD box cover makes it back alive in time to pose in front of the stargate! There's the genius who helped create a computer interface for an ancient alien artefact, the genius who figured out how to dial it, the soldier who single-handedly nuked a Goa'uld system lord on his first trip through the gate, and Darth Vader. Yet somehow they're still the plucky underdogs.

Oh O'Neill quickly recommends that Teal'c joins SG-1 to make sure that everything's all set up for the series.

And then Kawalsky's eyes flash when no one's looking. Cliffhanger ending!

This shot was actually cut from the Final Cut, along with the one of Kawalsky getting infected, because they wanted it to be more of a standalone movie. This confuses me a little because why wouldn't you want your pilot story to lead into the rest of the series? Plus the pilot also ends with the villain getting away, and O'Neill and Jackson determined to save Skaara and Sha're, so it's not like this is the only unresolved plot line.


CONCLUSION

Sometimes when a writer comes up with a script they’ll choose a line of dialogue they like to use as its title. Sometimes this line of dialogue has basically nothing to do with anything, it just sounds cool... like Children of the Gods for instance. The children of the gods do make an appearance right at the end and the one infesting Skaara shoves O'Neill over, but that's their entire role in the story. Though I suppose the title might refer to the Goa'uld in general.

But this was a pretty decent episode I thought, considering that it’s main purpose was to extend the foundations put down by the Stargate movie so that they were strong enough to support an entire series. They could’ve just taken the name and basically done their own thing with it like Total Recall 2070 or Poltergeist: The Legacy, but this is actually a really faithful continuation, recasting aside. The changes are all very trivial, like Eygptworld has gone from the far end of the known universe to the closest planet in the network to Earth, O'Neill's gained an extra 'l', Stargate Command is under a different mountain... they're the kind of things you don't spot unless you're looking for them.

Personally I think it’s great that they hit the ground running instead of trying to reimagine everything. There’s no such thing as a clean slate when it comes to continuity because new takes on an older story will inevitably be compared with what came before, you can’t drop that baggage, so continuing on from the movie actually makes things less complicated. You just have to accept that when O’Neill’s wife left him she got his spiky hair and original personality in the divorce.

It’s not a huge shock that I was able to accept the new actors quickly, seeing as I’ve watched like 3 seasons of them, compared to 2 hours of the movie, but I thought they did good. Well, except for Sha’re, but in her defence she wasn’t given much to do. They could’ve replaced her with a terrified looking mannequin, seeing as what she’s wearing (or not wearing) says more about he situation than she's ever allowed to. It was nice to see they nailed Carter, Hammond and Apophis from the start though. Hammond’s like the Captain Picard who actually really honestly never goes on away missions, and he radiates competence and authority without stealing the show from the heroes.

I’d say they nailed Teal’c too, but the producer apparently didn’t think so as he got Christopher Judge to re-dub all his dialogue for the Final Cut. Plus he’s pretty much just Darth Vader for most of this episode, though that makes his face turn at the end more satisfying. Having the main villain’s lead henchman as one of the heroes was a great idea, and it was presumably a big surprise to someone somewhere who hadn’t already seen him in the SG-1 uniform in trailers or promo photos.

In fact recruiting Teal'c may have been SG-1's biggest win here considering that their rescue mission involved going to a party, immediately getting captured, and then rescuing exactly none of the people they went there to save. Not only did Sha're and Skaara get possessed by Goa'uld parasites, but they lost Kawalsky too. They didn't even make it back before their arbitrary deadline was up, Hammond just left the door open a little longer for them! But that's good, as it makes the well trained, well armed geniuses with the U.S. Air Force behind them feel like scrappy underdogs with a long way to go.

One thing I've always loved about Stargate is how the overall arc is about our heroes going out into the universe and figuring it out. In Star Wars the characters press the button and the thing works, in Star Trek they compensate for gravimetric distortions causing a misalignment in the tertiary phase buffer by pressing buttons and then the thing works, but in Stargate they've got no idea what they're doing at first. They don't even know how their own stargate works and that means we get scenes where Carter and Jackson use logic instead of nonsense technobabble to work out that they haven't been able to dial other gates because of 10,000 years of stellar drift. Well until O'Neill loses patience and starts cutting their exposition off at least. He doesn't appreciate watching smart people solving problems like I do.

I've never been the absolute biggest fan of Stargate SG-1, like I said I dropped out and lost interest after a few seasons only dipping back in for the occasional episode, but I've always been fond of it. When Star Trek: The Next Generation ended in 1994, Star Trek: Voyager was its natural successor, but to me this carries on the Star Trek tradition far better... despite the fact the military officers actually salute each other in this one and they occasionally even argue. The series has a team of scientists and soldiers (and an alien outsider) going to a different planet every week or so and trying to find a way out of the weird sci-fi situations they find themselves in while hopefully leaving the place better than when they found it. It's upbeat and hopeful and funny and often ends in someone getting punched or shot, and Children of the Gods sets that up quite adequately. So I liked it.



COMING SOON
Stargate will return with something at some point, I'm sure of it. But next on Sci-Fi Adventures there's going to be more Babylon 5, as I'm writing about The Long Dark.

Leave a comment if you feel like it!

3 comments:

  1. Whoa, that thing's chunky even by 1997 standards.

    It probably has a floppy drive and a CD-ROM drive. Rockin'!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Man, you have to write about that Groundhog Day episode from this...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd like to write about all the best Groundhog Day episodes from every sci-fi series, but I don't think I own any of them yet. I don't even own the movie Groundhog Day!

      Delete