What an intriguing change of pace! I thoroughly enjoyed this little diversion away from what we might consider the status quo for Stargate SG-1. While you've heard me state that I prefer planetary excursions to Earth-bound episodes, you won't find me complaining that no one actually stepped through the Stargate in "The Curse."
My interest was immediately piqued when this episode opened with a scene involving two unknown characters in a museum office filled with ancient artifacts. The mystery of who they were, why the younger character seemed to steal an amulet, and what significance that theft might have, captured my attention completely. I was reminded of those quiet, rainy Saturday afternoons as a child, when I used to curl up in front of the TV to watch old horror movies.
I enjoyed those old movies; and I enjoyed this new take on them. I'm also happy to report that there was nothing sappy or corny about this "remake." Though zombi-fied mummies could frighten me as a child, I would have been disappointed had one made an appearance here. Of course, the writers of Stargate SG-1 have consistently provided intelligent scripts, and I expected (and happily found) nothing less with "The Curse."
Daniel Jackson's return to his academic past was a welcome detour. I have often wondered how his relative "disappearance" from the academic community might have impacted both him, and that community. When he bumps into two old classmates, Steven and Sarah, we begin to catch a glimpse of just that -- though it is a glimpse only.
The varying perspectives of Steven and Sarah leave us unsure how Daniel's disappearance truly affected Dr. Jordan, his former mentor. If Steven is to be believed, Daniel was a "bitter disappointment" to Dr. Jordan. If Sarah is to be believed, the professor had remained hopeful that Daniel would one day find proof to substantiate his unorthodox opinions about the origins of Egypt's ancient pyramids.
We later learn that Sarah had been taken as a host by the Goa'uld Osiris. Presumably, she had already been under Osiris' influence from the moment we are first introduced to her as he greets Daniel at Dr. Jordan's funeral. Still, I was initially of a mind to believe her explanation over Steven's. On giving this more thought, however, I now think both were right, to some degree.
I liked Steven's character, and would be happy to see him again. I would love to see him become involved in the Stargate program, to perhaps take the place of poor Dr. Rothman. His subsequent interactions with Daniel could provide interesting fodder for future episodes. Would his jealousy increase, or would he grow to respect the man he associated with Dr. Jordan's most bitter disappointment?
Steven is atypical from what we are accustomed to seeing on television. He is not a completely horrible person, driven solely by jealousy and hatred. He is far more real than that, more complex. He is far more three-dimensional.
Steven's theft of the amulet provided the audience with another piece of the mystery to solve. At first, we wonder why he stole the amulet. Later, as evidence mounts against him, we are led to conclude that he is the one whom Osiris has taken as a host. The writers followed a typical path in mysteries, in that they pointed us in the direction of one suspect, then tried to surprise us with the real villain at the very end. I'm glad Steven wasn't the villain. That would have been too obvious. Yet I'm not convinced I like Sarah as the villain, either.
I'm not as fond of Sarah's character as I am of Steven's. She has less depth than him. Here we have a beautiful woman with a lilting, romantic English accent, who seems the epitome of perfection. Perfectly innocent, and perfectly accepting of Daniel's return. We are even given hints suggesting that she may have been a former love interest of our favorite archeologist, yet she exhibits no discomfort at seeing him, and harbors no ill feelings against him at all. There is nothing to suggest why they stopped seeing each other.
But "The Curse" provided some fabulous moments for character development. Daniel is seen by Steven as the Prodigal Son returning. He has lost all respect in the archeological community, yet he holds his head high. He has pride in himself, even if no one else does; and he is willing to face ridicule, if such is to occur, in order to pay his last respects to a favorite mentor.
Once again we see that the quiet archeologist is far more than the geek Kurt Russell's Jack O'Neil first met in the original "Stargate" movie. Dr. Daniel Jackson is strong and courageous by nature. He always has been. After all, it had to take "guts" to stand up in a room full of his colleagues and tell them their deeply ingrained beliefs about ancient Egypt were false. Yet his courage is subtle, and can easily be overlooked by writers and viewers, alike. Fortunately, the folks behind Stargate SG-1 have never allowed the writers to overlook it; but viewers sometimes can. I don't think anyone could have ignored his courage in "The Curse," however.
Daniel's strength never wavers in this episode. He faces down Steven's contempt as easily as he faces down the Goa'uld Osiris, even fighting his way through Osiris' use of a ribbon device to reach into his pocket, pull out a dart, and stab the Goa'uld with it.
We also see some interesting development in the rest of SG-1. Instead of playing around with a naquadah reactor or some other new, alien technology, I was pleasantly surprised to see Sam working on a motorcycle in her office. I also liked her squeamish reaction to Dr. Fraiser's autopsy of the dead Goa'uld, Isis. Further, it was good to see Dr. Frasier go along on the mission to find Steven in Egypt. Last but not least, Jack finally manages to go fishing; and Teal'c quickly learns that fishing is far from the fabulous experience Jack has described it to be for so long. The fishing trip, complete with hungry mosquitoes, provided what we might see as the requisite amount of humor.
There were some minor flaws to this episode. In addition to Sarah's lack of depth, and Jack's and Teal'c's failure to key in on the importance of Daniel's phone call, I was also a bit disappointed in the setting used to depict the Egyptian desert. I have seen American sand dunes in person, and I have often seen deserts on TV and in the movies. To me, the tomb to which Daniel, Sam and Dr. Frasier tracked Steven seemed to be set among sand dunes rather than in a desert -- there was far too much green brush interspersed among the sandy hills, and some of the sand itself seemed less dry than it should, as though Lake Michigan might not be too far away.
Finally, at the very end of the episode, Osiris mentions the "Stargate" rather than the "Chaapa'ai," despite the fact that "he" would never have heard the term "Stargate" before.
Nonetheless, "The Curse" was a terrific episode. I thoroughly enjoyed it.Rating: * * * 1/2