Wow, what a ride! "Small Victories," the first episode of Stargate SG-1's fourth season, has everything you could hope for in a blockbuster movie -- tense drama, seat-gripping action, strong plotting and exquisite cinematography -- as well as the humorous touches that are so uniquely SG-1. This episode also brought us some interesting new looks.
The pacing for "Small Victories" was perfectly balanced for both of two temporarily divergent story threads, one with Carter assisting the Asgard, the other with the rest of SG-1 attempting to save Earth yet again. In contrast with its predecessor, "Nemesis," there were no dull moments. This time, when Daniel was not only waiting for word, but actually watching the threat to his teammates' lives, I could truly empathize with his concern.
The use of mini-cams on the helmets of those given the task of boarding the Replicator-infested submarine was a great touch. We, the viewers, were given the opportunity to feel more a part of the action, even to sense something of the tension experienced by Daniel, Major Davis and the others who were left behind to watch the monitors and make the final, and potentially even fatal decisions. The drama throughout Jack's and Teal'c's two separate treks into a veritable nest of Replicators was everything it needed to be, and was neither forced nor lacking.
In contrast, the "brain-storming" sessions with Carter and Thor (a potentially boring scenario) kept me engaged with its humor. It was an amusing irony to watch Carter taking Jack's place not only in helping the Asgard, but also in her inability to comprehend their highly advanced technologies. Her echo of Jack's "yeah, sure, you betcha" as she enters the Stargate with Thor emphasizes her own awareness of the changing roles. Yet this heavy dose of humility was appropriately countered by the victorious outcome of the "stupid" idea she managed to develop for the apparently too-sophisticated Asgard.
It was also comical to hear Thor saying "I like the yellow ones" -- referring to small,geometrically shaped food particles. I was briefly reminded of E.T. and the Reeses Pieces(TM) that character enjoyed so well. Thor's food, however, was obviously a far cry from those colorful candies, as proved out by Carter's gagging on the foul taste when she followed Thor's advice.
From the opening scene, where the camera takes us on a crashing dive into the ocean and boards a Russian submarine, to the climactic moment when the cavalry (in the guise of Thor and his new Asgard ship) makes a nick-of-time rescue, barely preventing the imminent deaths of both Teal'c and O'Neill, I was thoroughly hooked. Everything "Nemesis" left me wanting, "Small Victories" provided tenfold.
I could still puzzle over some unanswered questions, particularly with regard to the utter lack of any reference to the potentially catastrophic effects of the Beliskner's fiery crash at the conclusion of "Nemesis," but "Small Victories" was such a success I won't quibble over these minor points.
Some new looks greeted us with this season's opener. Most notably, Teal'c is now sporting a bit of yellow fuzz on his chin. While the writers have acknowledged the change, they refuse to explain it. Even Daniel is left guessing. Upon greeting his teammates, who have returned to Earth one week following the events of "Nemesis," Daniel's effort to inform the Jaffa that something is on his chin is cut short when Jack shakes his head, as though to silently say "don't go there."
Carter, too has made a change. She's sporting a new "do." At first, it was fitting to see her with an unkempt, "bed-head" hair style. After all, the team had been off-world for over a week, and had been driven hard even before that. The general ordering Jack to take a shower was a rich testament to what can happen to a person after a week without such little pleasantries as a bath and a change of clothes. Yet after the showers were taken and things appeared to be back to normal, Sam's hair was not. She wore the same "hair in her eyes"look throughout the episode. This may well be the latest trend in Hollywood, but the look does not seem fitting for a major in any branch of the armed services. I expect the general's next command regarding personal hygiene to be "Major, get a hair cut."
I couldn't possibly end this review without commenting on the "O'Neill." What greater honor could a military man receive than a ship with his name? And what a great irony that the "O'Neill" is the most technologically advanced Asgard ship ever built. It was unfortunate "she" was launched to complete her maiden voyage before she was ready, and that voyage had to be a suicide mission. Perhaps this was a subtle reminder that the living O'Neill and the rest of humanity aren't quite ready to deal with the Asgard's ways.
All in all, "Small Victories" is a victory in itself. How fortunate it was for us to get a project worthy of summer-time's blockbuster big screen bonanza beamed right into our own living rooms.
Well, Jack, I hope you eventually made it to the lake in Minnesota. Yeah, sure, you betcha!Rating: * * * *