By Debra Kraft
With the end of its third season, Stargate SG-1 continues a tradition of cliffhanger finales. "Nemesis," the latest installment, at first glance seems reminiscent of Season One's finale, with the team once again on a ship that is threatening Earth.
But the similarities end there. As we have also come to expect with this brilliant series,"Nemesis" offers some interesting surprises along with the usual tantalizing pieces of character development. I was thrilled to find a "human" imperfection within the superior Asgard, and equally delighted to be introduced to the unassuming nature of that race's formidable enemy.
Nonetheless, I cannot claim this episode among my favorites. It certainly ends in a bang, though not an entirely surprising one; but the story begins with somewhat of a whimper.
"Fair Game" introduced us to the concept of an enemy worse than the Goa'uld, against which the Asgard were allocating most of their resources. Here, in "Nemesis," we meet that enemy. Yet rather than some monstrous foe with gargantuan ships and morals to make even a Goa'uld quiver, we're confronted with crab-sized purple Lego(TM) bugs. I found the entire scenario to be refreshing.
Thor admits his race fell victim to what I'll call "curiosity killed the cat syndrome" by taking some of the purple techno-bugs (called "Replicators") aboard their ships for study and becoming subsequently over-run.
The Asgard have effectively opened Pandora's Box. Now it's up to humankind, represented by SG-1, to clean up the mess. Suddenly this higher race of beings has become more "real;" and they are further brought down to size with Jack's quip, "Expected more from you guys."
On the adventure front, this episode provides plenty of gripping action -- starting with our favorite colonel reacting with a shudder familiar to anyone with a revulsion for creepy, crawly things: a spider-like Replicator flitters across his chest. The episode builds to what could be a nail-biting moment when it appears Teal'c may end up lost in space, and climaxes with a big-bang, double-whammy-boom with the disappearance of the Stargate, a massive swarm of replicators and a fire-ball crashing into the Pacific.
It's unfortunate these events weren't further monopolized with added drama and suspense. With the time constraints of a television series, it may be understandable why such drama might be cut back to ensure the rest of the story gets told. Still, I'm not completely convinced the story as it occurs down at Stargate Command required the amount of airtime it received.
The scenes at the S.G.C. did, however, provide us with the requisite dose of character and relationship development. I'll admit to some disappointment at finding Daniel out of action before the action even presents itself, yet his ill-timed appendectomy allows for some intriguing interplay between Sam and Jack which otherwise might not have been possible, and which will surely both torment and entice viewers who have been interested in the possibilities of a Sam and Jack relationship. Sam is obviously taken aback, even flattered that Jack would think to invite her on his fishing trip to Minnesota. And though she refuses him twice, she appears interested. Is she or isn't she? We are left hanging.
General Hammond provides further insight into his character as well, first when he alone acknowledges Colonel O'Neill's "order" to wish him luck. It might be argued that the colonel's order had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with Major Carter remaining on base rather than transporting up to the Beliskner, a command the general later overrides. But from the way the words were spoken it might also be implied that Jack had commanded his people to, in fact, wish him luck. That the general subsequently did so emphasizes Hammond's accepted role of proud, father figure as opposed to the stern commanding officer his rank entitles him to.
A second demonstration of this is the scene between Hammond and Daniel, when the general admits to feeling a sense of helplessness and a desire to be "there" with his teams every time he sends them through the Stargate.
In terms of plot development and overall story line, "Nemesis" works. Still, there were a couple of potential flaws. First, while it becomes evident pretty quickly that the Replicators can reintegrate themselves after being blown to bits by gunfire, the team continues to plan and implement the destruction of Thor's ship using S.G.C. explosives. Knowing full well that the Beliskner would ultimately crash into Earth, that seemed to be a huge gamble, and indeed it paid off for the Replicators in the end. Perhaps there truly were no other options. Viewers couldn't know that, however, as we were not privy to such discussions.
I'll be curious to see how the writers handle the fireball of Thor's ship crashing into the ocean when Season Four opens. With news shows and movie productions galore describing the after effects of asteroids hitting the Earth, I can't help but wonder what damage might result from the impact of the Beliskner's remains. Thor's ship was massive. (We're given an interesting perspective when a camera zooms in on a tiny spec of white against the ship's side, and we come to see it to be Teal'c in a space suit.) Not that I expect to see a tidal wave drenching the California coast, but I do hope the ship's impact is not entirely overlooked in the conclusion to this story.
Though I did find it somewhat lacking in drama, "Nemesis" works as a cliffhanger finale. We are left with several questions to ponder: Where have Daniel's teammates escaped to? How well did each of them fare through the getaway? Could the Stargate have survived, sinking to the bottom of the ocean but intact? And of course, how are they going to exterminate those pesky, purple bugs?
Tune in next time for the thrilling conclusion. I know I will.
Rating: * *