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Entropic cascade tremor ("Point of View")

SG-1 must free an alternate reality Earth from a Goa'uld invasion after duplicates of Samantha Carter and Charles Kawalsky come through the quantum mirror.

DVD DISC: Season 3, Disc 2
DIRECTED BY: Peter DeLuise
STORY BY: Jonathan Glassner, Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper and Tor Alexander Valenza
TELEPLAY BY: Jonathan Glassner & Brad Wright
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By Penfold

With a gripping plot and excellent acting, "Point of View" is one of my favorite episodes of this season. The alternative reality plot device is one of the oldest in science fiction. Though it can be a cheap and tired method of filling out a season, Stargate's second utilization of the device manages to catch much of the desperate, edge-of-your-seat feeling that made "There But For the Grace of God" one of the most popular episodes of the first season.

The lighting, music, and choice of camera angles build tension in the viewer. This is exemplified by the scene of the capture of Daniel, where the choice of angles seem to make the Goa'uld staff weapons pop out at you. I loved the expressions exchanged among Jack, Daniel, and Major Kawalsky in this scene. The desperation of the alternate reality also gives the characters a chance to ascend to a level of heroism not available in the average episode, for example, Colonel Hammond's torture and death at the hands of Apophis.

As exciting as the alternate universe scenes are, "Point of View" adds more by laying out philosophical questions posed by the alternate reality theory. As Teal'c asks in the briefing room, "Which reality is actually real?" Do the denizens of this reality have an obligation to the others? Daniel states that "in the grand scheme of things, we owe them." This is in line with his thinking in "There But For the Grace of God," where he convinced the members of the S.G.C. in that reality to give up their last chance to save themselves in order to save more people in his reality. He believes that there is a duty to help fellow humans, even outside of our reality.

On the other hand, General Hammond seems entirely uncomfortable with the whole idea, and reluctant even to allow Dr. Carter and Major Kawalsky to stay. No move is made to help Dr. Carter's universe until it becomes clear that she cannot remain here because of the entropic cascade failure induced by Major Carter's existence.

Teal'c seems to come to the opposite conclusion reached by Daniel when he proclaims, after killing his alternate self, "Ours is the only reality of consequence." The answers to these questions are left open to the viewer. I would enjoy further exploration of the many issues posed by the alternate universe theory.

From experiences in both alternate realities, Daniel's joining the Stargate project seems to be one of the key factors in keeping Earth from being conquered by the Goa'uld. "Point of View" neatly ties in "There But For the Grace of God" -- without Daniel stumbling into the first alternate reality, our Earth does not have the coordinates to send the peremptory strike to Apophis' ship, and probably would not have survived to help the denizens of Dr.Carter's reality.

The continuity of the show and interrelation of the universes makes for enjoyable viewing,and is more intelligent and believable than the "reset button" used in so many sci-fi shows. The idea that Earth's fate rests in the hands of seemingly small decisions lends a delicious sense of the precarious nature of the episode, and new import to the movie scene where a wet and bedraggled Daniel peers into Catherine Langford's car.

Dr. Carter's hair looks like the wig it is, but that's my only problem with the performance of Amanda Tapping, who pulls double duty as Dr. and Major Carter. Tapping ably demonstrates how their different choices have separated Dr. and Major Carter, yet their essential nature remains the same. This was particularly effective in the scene where Dr. Carter's entropic cascade failure is diagnosed and the two Sams go into a state of scientific synergy, finishing each others' sentences. Dr. Carter's use of Jack's trademark "fer cryin' out loud" is a humorous highlight of their differences, which are more seriously dealt with in a later scene, where Dr. Carter's snarkiness towards Major Carter is explained when Dr. Carter admits to her feelings of inadequacy at not being able to stop the Goa'uld attack in her universe.

It also raises the question of how much luck and circumstance is involved in Major Carter's career and how she might react to a more devastating failure than she has previously encountered. Dr. Carter's more open affection for her loved ones, such as the fond kiss she bestows on the cheek of Hammond and Teal'c, indicate that Major Carter might be more expressive of her caring for her teammates were she not bound by the expectations attached to her position. Tapping's ability to deliver the separate characters and to convey emotion without an overly wordy script is reminiscent of her powerful performances in "In the Line of Duty" and "Singularity."

Although the decision to bring in the Asgard to solve the problem seems at first to be a deus ex machina, this is a believable ending, as the Asgard have demonstrated a willingness to intervene when an entire civilization is threatened, such as on Cimmeria, and at least to take some measures to protect humans on their home planet, as in "Fair Game."

The Stargate crew seems to give a nod to the alternative universe stories of yore by giving alternate Apophis a goatee, a la the "evil" Spock of Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror." It is a delightful coincidence that SG-1 travels to the alternate realities through a mirror device.

Perhaps the alternate universe plot device is so satisfying because it addresses the universal human tendency to ask "what if" when we cannot possibly discover the answer. The various possibilities of our choices seem to lie all around us, just out of reach.

"Point of View's" choice of material, excellent writing and quality acting makes it one of the standouts of the season.

Rating: * * * 1/2