By Morjana Coffman
"The function of the shadow play is to educate as well as amuse, by portraying good and evil, with good always triumphing, although evil is never destroyed. In Hindu thought, good and evil are necessary parts of the whole and must exist in equilibrium."
"Shadow Play" continues the plot elements introduced in Season Five's "Meridian," and in effect, is a reverse image of that episode -- or a shadow play in itself.
In "Meridian" it was the death of their friend Daniel Jackson's physical body (his spirit ascended) that Jack, Sam, Teal'c and the S.G.C. had to confront, and are still coming to terms with. In "Shadow Play," it is the irreparably damaged mind of Dr. Kieran, Jonas Quinn's former teacher and colleague (and possible mentor), which Jonas must learn to accept.
The political situation between the three major nations on P2S-4C3 -- Kelowna, Tirania, and the Andari Federation -- has deteriorated in the four months that have elapsed since the events of "Meridian." The Tiranians and the Andarians are expected to sign a non-aggression pact, leaving the Kelownans vulnerable to attack. The Kelownans have successfully tested a naquadria bomb.
The S.G.C. now finds itself in that proverbial position -- between a rock and a hard place. On several occasions, the S.G.C. has been denied advanced technology by friendly allies -- the Tollan, the Nox, and the Asgard -- because Earth was deemed too primitive a planet. The S.G.C. in turn has denied Earth's advance technology to other planets for somewhat similar reasons -- the events that occurred on Euronda ("The Other Side") are referenced in this episode.
Jonas Quinn is equally placed between the rock and a hard place. His discussions with Daniel Jackson during "Meridian" opened his eyes to what a threat the Goa'uld were, and still could be to Kelowna. Now that Jonas has been aboard a Goa'uld mothership ("Descent") and has seen for himself the level of technology that the Goa'uld have at their possession, he's afraid that any further use of naquadria by the Kelownans will alert the Goa'uld to their presence again.
In this shadow play, the naquadria is the element that is both inherently good and evil. The naquadria may be able to provide the power to create defense shields and hyperspace windows; it also has the power to destroy (as it nearly destroyed P2S-4C3 10,000 years ago when the Goa'uld experimented with it). And even latently, it has the power to damage brain tissue, creating a schizophrenic type condition -- as it did with Drs. Kieran, Leed and Silas.
Veteran character actor Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap) gave a strong performance as Dr. Kieran. Was it only his paranoid schizophrenia that induced his anti-government actions, or was it truly the pacifist nature of the man so disturbed that the pursuit of knowledge in the study of the naquadria had led to the creation and testing of the destructive naquadria bomb?
Also in shadow in this episode were the performances by series regulars Richard Dean Anderson (Jack O'Neill) and Corin Nemec (Jonas Quinn).
A subdued, quiet Jack O'Neill is obviously still recovering from the events from "Abyss." When seated at the briefing room table, both at the S.G.C. and on Kelowna, his normally busy hands (usually playing with a pen, scribbling on a notepad, etc.) are either clasped, lying on the table, or in his lap. Jack lets Sam and Teal'c lead the majority of the discussion on Kelowna.
Interestingly enough, Jack is last one to arrive in the S.G.C. Gate Room when the team leaves for Kelowna. I've been racking my memory, trying to remember the last time Jack was the last to arrive in the S.G.C. Gate Room, and haven't been able to come up with an episode.
Corin Nemec played two versions of Jonas in this episode -- the real animated, concerned Jonas Quinn, and the very restrained, passive Jonas Quinn that was part of Dr. Kieran's hallucinations. Dr. Kieran had three scenes with Jonas that were really only part of Dr. Kieran's schizophrenic hallucinations.
The first scene of Dr. Kieran alone in his lab with Jonas, the scene of Dr. Kieran and Jonas in the Kelownan alleyway, and the first scene of Dr. Kieran and Jonas in the S.G.C. infirmary were all part of Dr. Kieran's fantasies.
What made the Kelownan alleyway scene so interesting was Dr. Kieran had Jonas armed with an intar -- that non-lethal weapon that the S.G.C. acquired in "Rules of Engagement." Dr. Kieran was such a pacifist at heart, that even in his fantasy, he had his protector defend him with a non-lethal weapon.
Although it is the mandate of the S.G.C. to seek new allies, and procure technologies to aid in the defense against the Goa'uld -- the S.G.C. may want to be careful for what they wish for in the future. They thought they had found an answer with the naquadria, but instead it appears they have opened another Pandora's Box.
Rating: * * 1/2