Review by Alli Snow
In the hours preceding Stargate's seventh season premiere, we fans found ourselves under assault from "professional" reviews of the episodes by a mélange of papers and magazines. Some complained that the upcoming two-parter was "boring." Some damaged their own credibility by insinuating that Stargate is to blame for Farscape's downfall, thereby transforming themselves from skilled television critics into winy, bitter fanboys and girls.
Did the sprays of acid from some reviewers give me concern over that evening's episodes? Did I fret that I might nod off during the middle of a scene, or find the plot so hackneyed and stale that it was only a step up from outright plagiarism? Well, no.
Part one, "Fallen," gets right down to the business with the unceremonious dumping of Daniel Jackson on an unnamed, ex-Ancient planet. The less said about his lack of clothing, the better -- I'll let stand director Martin Wood's comments from "The Lowdown" special -- but I will say this: it could have been worse.
Post-credits, we're teased with the notion that the Ancient's Lost City -- which Jonas translates as actually the "City of the Lost" -- has been located, which is enough to confuse any spoiler-savvy person who knows that the search for the city is supposed to be a centerpiece of the season. As it turns out, the team finds no weapons or technology ... but they do find Daniel. Although currently clothed, he has no memories of the others and no idea who he is, other than what Jack and Sam tell him.
He expresses concerns that he may not want to know who he used to be, that he may remember mistakes made of which he cannot repent. One has to wonder if this is some kind of subconscious guilt over the fate of Abydos in "Full Circle," for which he was indirectly responsible.
Once Daniel gets over his initial moodiness, Amnesiac-Daniel possesses a surprisingly endearing vulnerability that's a refreshing change after his aggravating piousness in Season Six. His "razor sharp wit," as Jonas puts it, is also welcome, something that was faltering in the character as early as Season Five.
Jack is in fine form in this episode, reveling in clichés and playing off the other characters -- even measly guest characters -- with great aplomb. He's convinced from the beginning that Daniel can remember his past, that it's all in there somewhere if he looks hard enough. That faith does pay off when Daniel remembers Sha're, although it is moving that one of his first recovered memories is simultaneously so wonderful and so painful.
Another gem of the episode was the interplay between Jonas and Daniel; for two characters that supposedly fill the same role in the series, they are obviously very different men who are nevertheless able to relate to one another. It really does bring home a sense of sadness that the idea of a five-man team, especially with Richard Dean Anderson's extra time off, wasn't considered viable for the series.
Daniel manages to remember that his translations, which Jonas used to find what he thought was the Lost City, were incorrect, and miraculously retains the ability to read the Ancient tablet found in "Full Circle." The City still remains very much lost, but Jonas realizes that they may be able to use what they do know to their advantage, in order to devise a trap for Anubis. With the help of the Tok'ra, and a little inspiration from "Star Wars" and "Independence Day," a plan is developed that could allow SG-1 to destroy Anubis' super-weapon and leave him to the dubious mercy of the Goa'uld System Lords' fleet. Unfortunately, Yu mysteriously pulls the fleet out at the last moment, and Teal'c is imprisoned by his diminutive First Prime ...
The visual effects team pulls off some scenes during the space battle that are enough to impress someone like me, who doesn't even notice visual effects half the time. Anubis' ships and Sam and Jack's F-302 are rendered in amazing detail, with twists and turns and dips that give it the feeling of a real dogfight among the stars. It makes you realize how important the quality of such things truly is: if done well, computer- and model-created scenes such as these can tremendously expand the scope and feel of an episode, making it something of a mini-movie. If not done well, cheesy effects can completely throw you out of the believability of the episode. Luckily for everyone, the crew comes through here in spades.
Although this episode leads directly into its sequel, "Homecoming," the end of Fallen has the trademarks of a good cliffhanger: while Anubis' super-weapon is out of commission, the Goa'uld fleet SG-1 was expecting is conspicuously missing; Daniel is still crawling through the bowels of the vessel ... and Jonas is Anubis' prisoner. Many thanks to whoever decided to show both episodes on the same night, or else this episode would no doubt be tinged with a great deal of frustration.
What's great about this episode: The feeling of teamwork: everyone has something to do, a role to play, a contribution to make. The humor: although sometimes it's a dark humor, there is a sense of levity in the way the characters interact with each other and their situation. The production values: although it shouldn't still be impressive after six great years, it is.
What's not so great: Now and then there is the feeling of contrivance, even when we're supposed to assume that a coincidence more than just a coincidence. How did Oma Desala know that SG-1 would be exploring, in the near future, the world to which Daniel was sent? How was she able to get away with bending the rules in the matter of his amnesia? How much has Daniel remembered, exactly, and how do we reconcile the gaps in his memory with his quick slide into "combat mode" on board the ship?
Rating: * * 1/2
Review by Lex
After a long wait, the curtain rises on Stargate SG-1's seventh season. Enter new characters stage left, traipsing through ruins. There's a blinding flash. The camera zooms in from above on a naked body curled fetus-like in a field. For those of the audience who somehow managed to miss the pre-show and the blast of advertising that accompanied the show's return, both in the U.S. and the U.K., the next shot -- of Daniel Jackson's confused and frightened face -- was a huge surprise. For many of us, however, the return of the absent archaeologist was well worth the wait.
On a rather shallow note, hearts beat faster in homes from London to L.A. at the sight of, er, well ... an indubitably fine example of the male form.
In fact, "Fallen" is a visual feast from the very beginning. From the details of the ruins where Daniel is found, through the colorful costuming, to the space battles, and the luscious lighting on the mothership, the attention to detail is pure bliss. Each year the production quality of the show manages to improve, despite the heights attained the previous year.
So, Daniel is back, and all is well? Of course not. This being Stargate, events cannot run smoothly. The angst-factor of Daniel's lost memory is balanced beautifully. Sam's dismay as she reaches for Daniel and is rebuffed is palpable. The earnest and passionate way in which both she and Jack try to convince Daniel to come home is just the kind of caring that is a welcome return to the good old days of SG-1.
The most poignant moment, however, was Daniel's talk with Teal'c. Daniel's impatience to find whichever of his friends are around to share the great news that he remembers something -- a name -- is tempered by audience knowledge. We know more than he does; we know about Sha're. As Daniel realizes the truth, there's a perceptible change in his attitude: he's no longer afraid to learn, nor is he willing to let the memories come on their own. Feisty Dr. Jackson is back.
Despite the character depth and strength of the first half of "Fallen," Jack wavers between being a competent leader, a caring friend, and a joke. His response to a question about Teal'c being a Jaffa being that "he plays one on TV" shredded my suspension of disbelief. With a show based on travel to other planets via a stable wormhole, that suspension is a delicate thing that should only be toyed with in rare circumstances. In addition, the disrespect Jack shows for his second-in-command in the group briefing was a bit of a shock. If, as Sam said, Jack already knew the details of the trench run plan, then he would also have already brought up his arguments. Why air those views again, if not to have fun at Sam's expense? The change from caring to thoughtless in such a short space of time is jarring.
The episode, rather like soccer, is a game of two halves. The transition in Teal'c's quarters marks not just a change in Daniel, but a change in focus of the episode. Daniel has returned to the fold, and while some allowances are made for his lack of memory, he's a vital member of the team once again. Cue Stargate's version of the Great Star Wars Trench Run. Yes, another homage. Yes, it's well done. But is it so hard to be a little more original?
Another of my quibbles was the choice of sending Jonas and Daniel to the mothership alone. Daniel doesn't remember much of anything and Jonas isn't exactly the leader he'd need to be in that instance. I think an explanation was needed for this to be believable.
In general, the threads of the plot weave together well. The idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend isn't quite the road taken here, but in the Yu subplot the enemy of my enemy can apparently be my temporary ally. Teal'c goes alone on this important mission, which is a good choice. I'm in two minds about Yu's fallibility. It's interesting to see that even the sarcophagus can't cure everything, but the loss of yet another complex bad guy isn't something I'm all that fond of, especially when we're being left with Anubis, who even Jack doesn't take seriously.
Once the pace begins to build, the drama intensifies rapidly. The build-up is tightly plotted, easily enough to hold the audience's attention several times over. Yes, there are unanswered questions: we don't actually know what happened between last season's "Full Circle" and Daniel's descension. How much time passed between Jonas' idea and realizing the new plan? Has anyone told Daniel about what happened to his family and the rest of the Abydonians? But these just add to the anticipation for part two, "Homecoming."
At the end of the episode, yet again one line manages to take my suspension of disbelief and drop it off the nearest cliff. "I won't tell you anything," a captured yet defiant Jonas says to Anubis. "Oh yes, you will." Oh yes, he will? Oh no, he won't. Oh yes, he ... okay, perhaps pantomimes aren't quite as prevalent in the U.S. or Canada as they are here in the U.K. Even so, at times I just wish the wardrobe department would issue Anubis with a mustache he can twirl -- why try to hide such clichés?
Cringe-worthy as it may have been, that final line accompanied a great threat. Anubis can access all the knowledge in Jonas's head with his spiky little brain-ball. One can only hope that the S.G.C. never told Jonas anything really important.
Overall, this was a cracking start to the new season.
Rating: * * * 1/2