Prodigy

Review

Summary | Analysis | Notes | Characters | Questions | Production | Review

Carter must help keep a promising young cadet from throwing away a future at the S.G.C. O'Neill and Teal'c encounter a dangerous life form at an offworld research base.

EPISODE #419
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 02.02.01
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 04.22.02
DVD DISC: Season 4, Disc 5
DIRECTED BY: Peter DeLuise
STORY BY: Brad Wright, Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie
TELEPLAY BY: Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie
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By Debra Kraft

"Prodigy" offers some significant character development on the part of Sam Carter, and introduces an interesting alien swarm of energy beings. Unfortunately, the storyline behind the energy beings is an old one: a scientist captures one of the beings to study it, and the rest of the aliens go on a rampage. However, I still found this episode to be a good one.

We are finally given the opportunity to examine some interesting aspects of Sam Carter that are not ordinarily shown. We see her here in a leadership role, and not simply in a military capacity. She is also portrayed as a leader in her field, something we are often reminded of, but for which we rarely get a true feel.

When Sam returns to the Air Force Academy to give a lecture on astrophysics, we see her basking in the glow of her own legend. Amanda Tapping gives a wonderful performance in this regard, as she manages to present us with a character who is obviously proud of her achievements and even a touch vain about them -- but not overly so.

Further, this episode clarifies my view that Carter's vanity seems due less to her expertise than to her image. She smiles coyly under the praise of her former professor and General Kerrigan, indicating something that's been a staple of her character for a long time now. Samantha Carter is eager to please her superiors. Her love of science might sometimes be considered secondary to this trait. I'm not belittling this aspect of her character, however. It simply makes her more real, more human.

Cadet Hailey poses a potential threat to the legend of Samantha Carter, coming into the same academy with even higher S.A.T. scores than Carter. However, Hailey is the opposite of Carter. This cadet takes such pride in her knowledge that she has developed a severe superiority complex, one that could ruin her career before it has even begun.

I like that Sam not only recognizes Hailey's potential, but also appreciates it to the extent that she risks her own vanity in the eyes of General Hammond. She can see beyond herself enough to accept that Hailey's proven intuitive capabilities could be an incredible asset to the Stargate program.

Carter subsequently gambles her own career, or at least Hammond's respect for her, on the potential of a cadet who might never come to accept the requirements of a military chain of command. Granted, she first tests Hailey in General Kerrigan's office. Given an opportunity to quit, Hailey refuses. This inspires Carter to believe in the cadet's motivation to succeed, and thus to take her under her wing. Nonetheless, I'm not sure that Carter's decision to introduce Hailey to the Stargate program would be the wisest course.

I like Hailey's distinctly unlikable character. She has good traits, such as her defense of another cadet who is ridiculed by an upperclassman. Primarily, however, she is an irritating know-it-all who might never be able to stand back and say, "Yes, sir!" to any direct command. She has an intense need not only to be right all the time, but to be acknowledged as being right. She wants to be the one giving the orders. Yet she'll never make it to that point if she can't first learn to follow orders, whether she agrees with them or not.

When Carter takes her through the Stargate, Cadet Hailey learns something about risk. There is less risk to the colonel's acceptance of Carter's theory than there is to his acceptance of Hailey's. Perhaps seeing O'Neill risk his life will help Hailey to learn the importance of making assumptions based on hard evidence, rather than on other assumptions.

In addition, she has undoubtedly learn that matter can only travel in one direction through a wormhole, rather than both ways, as one of her theories assumes.) In order to get a better grasp of her character and Carter's gamble on mentoring her, I would have liked to have seen Hailey's reaction to being proved wrong in that particular intuitive leap.

I did have a problem with Carter's insistence that their theories about the energy beings' behavior are mutually exclusive. My guess would be that both are right. The energy beings likely would be affected by the polar alignment, as well as by a sense of anger resulting from the capture of one of their own. Perhaps their aggressiveness is made stronger by the combination of these two events. Why wouldn't Carter accept this as a possibility?

Nonetheless, I thought this story was well told and believable. I would like to see what becomes of Cadet Hailey. I expect she would always be somewhat of a wild card; but if she could learn a greater sense of duty, a significant sense of restraint, and an acceptance of the opinions and ideas of others -- no small task, that -- she could become an interesting "sparring partner" for Carter, and someone to bounce theories off.

Rating: * * *