By Tere Campbell
"Break out the fishin' gear, General -- our job here is done!"
Revisiting the Aschen storyline introduced in Season Four's "2010," Jack's surprising proclamation opens "2001," and Sam's announcement that the alien race with whom they've made contact are the Aschen instantly drops us into the seat-gripping territory of "2010."
"2010" left me with questions I wanted answers for in "2001." Did sending the note change the timeline? Does anyone agree on the pronunciation of "Aschen?" What did Carter see in Joe and, more important, what the heck was Joe's last name? "2001" addresses some of these questions, and maintains the suspense as to whether SG-1's efforts in "2010" were successful.
While Carter and O'Neill negotiate with the Aschen, Daniel and Teal'c work to uncover the truth about Earth's new best friends. Of the two missions, Daniel's and Teal'c's quest is by far the more interesting.
Daniel gets to use linguistic skills that have been underutilized thus far in the season, and Michael Shanks performs the role with relish. Under orders from General Hammond to find out from the Volians "if the Aschen are the good neighbors they seem to be," Daniel and Teal'c investigate the peaceful pastures of the farm world.
When they find an underground city, Daniel's suspicions that all isn't right pan out, and Shanks aptly shows Daniel's mixed feelings about what he may find. Daniel is in his element in the dust, dirt, and old newsprint, and it shows. Excited at his discoveries, horrified at what he translates, and frustrated at what he can't, Daniel doggedly pursues and solves the mystery of fate of the extinct city's inhabitants. He also pushes for discontinuing relations with the Aschen. In "2010" Daniel's note is dismissed by Jack. This time he comes up with the note that saves the day.
Christopher Cousins reprises his role of Joe Faxon -- yes, I said "Faxon" -- and anyone questioning Sam's attraction to the ambassador in "2010" will have no problems seeing his charm here. From his obvious interest in Carter to his affable acceptance of the ribbing from the team when he shows up in a suit and dress shoes for the off-world visit, Joe Faxon is a genuinely likable guy -- a sharp contrast to the man we met in "2010" who sold out the future of the human race. Instead of condemning the inhabitants of Earth to extinction, he selflessly acts to save the S.G.C. from a nasty bio-weapon and by tackling Borren to allow Carter's escape. The Joe of the present redeems the Joe of the future.
Ronny Cox's Senator Kinsey is irascible as ever, putting up every roadblock imaginable to ensure Earth's admission into the Aschen Confederation, including all but kidnapping O'Neill in Washington, D.C. to keep the colonel from conferencing with the President. (His best line, hands down, was, "Colonel Starsky? Or is it Hutch?")
Mollum, again played by Dion Luther, slickly sells the benefits of belonging to the Aschen Confederation in a performance that reminds me of a used-car dealer all too eager to pass off a lemon. Each question he poses reeks of the Aschen's ulterior motives, and heightened the threat of history repeating itself.
From Jack's eagerness to consider retirement to his reluctant admission to Kinsey that he was wrong about the Aschen, from Carter's open interest in the young ambassador to her angst about having no choice but to leave Joe behind, from Teal'c's unwillingness to let Daniel explore in obviously dangerous situations to his subtle dismay at their discovery, we are provided with a rich tapestry of character moments.
As usual, neat gate effects abound. Joe's walk through the gate is a very cool new take. We follow his face into the event horizon, where it dissolves into the wormhole effect, then rematerializes on the other side. Also great visuals are the Aschen's harvester and the mechanics that maneuvers the Stargate into a horizontal position. The special effects blended seamlessly with the farmland setting.
The special effects are a bit lacking, however, when Jack leans over the harvester's balcony. It was very apparent that the scene had been set up in front of a green screen. The motion of the ship indicated by the dipping of the filmed horizon and Jack's opposing movements seemed disconnected. Actually, dizzying might be more appropriate, as I found myself reaching for the seasickness medication.
My biggest complaint comes when Sam flies out of the gate and down the ramp. She's obviously injured and Jack, Teal'c, Daniel and Hammond just stand gaping at the Stargate, discussing the wonderfully dark gate addresses that the Aschen would discover in the laptop. Jack did ask if she was okay, as she grimaced in pain on the metal ramp, but I just wanted something more -- from any of them!
I also found myself wanting the answers to two big questions. First, what motivated the Aschen? We know they wanted gate coordinates for other worlds, presumably so they could conquer them. However, what was their motivation to wipe out the Volians and to want to do the same to the inhabitants of Earth?
Second, what drove the wedge between Jack of "2010" and his friends? We know they didn't support his reservations about the Aschen, but the scene between Sam and Jack in "2010" hinted at more, and I found myself wanting to see the team pushed to the brink. I wanted to see the team acknowledge that present-day Jack was right in his instincts. I wanted the high emotion quotient from "2010" be increased in "2001."
While "2001" has its moments of humor and tension, it's missing the heart of "2010." Sam's infertility, Janet's loss of identity, Hammond's death and the wall that Jack built between he and his friends following the still-unknown fallout from the original first contact with the Aschen all contributed to my edge-of-the-seat, gut-wrenching fascination with "2010."
"2001," on the other hand, had none of the high emotional content from the original and, in the one place in which emotional concern could have been infused ... well, let's just say I left entertained, but still wanting.
Rating: * * 1/2