by Darren Sumner
After the premiere of Stargate Infinity on Fox, the network may not be quite ready to take the show to prime-time. But what "Decision" may lack in its ability to entertain adults, it certainly makes up for in the kid arena. The new animated Stargate spin-off is full of exaggerated villains, young heroes, bright colors, and lots of combat action.
In short, Infinity is exactly what it's suppose to be.
After the shortest opening teaser in the history of television (comprised of three short lines of dialogue and a gasp), "Decision" tells the origin story for the Infinity team (or at least the first part of it). The team will now travel from planet to planet "on a mission to get back to Earth," and to protect a mysterious alien creature. The series' premise is an interesting one, though "Decision" does not get around to fully setting it up.
The show's characters are well-written and well-acted in the premiere episode, and are already unique enough to stand out from one another. Viewers will have to commit the time and energy to get to know them, of course -- and with B-movie names like "Seattle Montoya," some may not think this team worth the effort.
There's plenty of action and intrigue in the episode, though it greatly lacks some elements that made Stargate SG-1 a series worth spinning off. There's some measure of humor and sarcasm between the cadets, for example, but it seems more tacked on here, rather than an integral part of anyone's character (as with Jack O'Neill). There's a definite concern for moral goodness here (Bonner's duty to his fellow officers, and the team's concern for protecting the alien creature), though it's more taken for granted than used as an element of the story.
The focus of this episode is less on the characters and more on the story -- and it's a good one. A shape-shifting alien has framed Major Gus Bonner and infiltrated Stargate Command, and is apparently there to stay for a while. Nephestis is certainly a more interesting villain than his Tlak'kahn cohort Da'kyll here, though a pink glob of goo does not exactly inspire terror.
More interesting is his ability to do just about whatever he wants and get other people blamed for it -- something that may not work for too long, if officers continue to be arrested but proclaim their innocence and confusion. This baddie can only do so much before someone starts to suspect that there's something more going on than a giant discipline problem. After "Decision," though, we're still left wondering what his motivations are, and why he's chosen to remain on Earth.
Perhaps the show's most interesting character, at least on an emotional level, is young Stacey Bonner. She's forced not only to deal with a pesky alien invasion and the court martial of her uncle, but must then decide whether or not to trust him when the base is overrun -- particularly when one of her friends gives first-hand testimony that he's a traitor. The other cadets seem to defer to her, as if she has some authority over them.
Stacey's personal conflict, and her willingness to give Gus another chance, is what makes "Decision" ultimately about something more than a weird alien and a climactic battle sequence. For that, it deserves high marks.
The show's animation is pretty standard fare for Saturday morning cartoons. Animation aficionados will not be impressed, but the show does look noticeably better than many of its peers. While a lot of cartoons employ shortcuts like cutting to the person being spoken to instead of the person speaking (so that mouths have to be animated less often), or holding on a stationary frame for several seconds, or panning the camera across a still image, Infinity doesn't feel the need to stoop to this.
The plot and characterization are accessible for kids, but also do not speak down to adults. "Decision" is not a typical origins story; viewers are not sequentially introduced to each main character, followed by a few lines of dialogue running down their background, specialty and personality quirks. ("This is Stacey. She's 5'3, and likes horseback riding and kicking Tlak'kahn butt.") The story is well constructed, doesn't take detours for unnecessary exposition, and leaves the viewer wanting to see the next chapter.
The opening theme music is quite good, although the voiceover lyrics leave much to be desired. It's here that the show stumbles, and for a moment reveals a 40-year-old man trying to write something memorable for a 6-year-old kid. The song is so simplistic as to come across as out of touch.
All-in-all, "Decision" is a solid start for Stargate Infinity. The characters and story have a lot of potential, and hopefully the writers are smart enough not to pander to the lowest common denominator and demote the show to a freaky alien shoot-'em-up.
Adult fans of the Stargate universe may find nothing at all appealing about it -- and that's okay, since it's not made for them. It is what it is. At least the show's writers treat their characters (and viewers) with respect, and have not created a show that is so unlike its predecessor that it comes across like Barney with a Stargate.
Rating: * * *