Review by Lex
"Origin" is terrific. There, it's said.
In any television show, there are those episodes that come along every so often and knock your socks off, but even with my favourite shows such episodes have been rare. "Reckoning, Part 2" was one such episode, and it was so recent that I was in no way expecting another gem so soon, let alone more than one.
With three great episodes in a row, there is one drawback: it actually gets harder to write a review. Will any be interested in yet more comments about excellent acting and great storytelling? Will it still be nice to hear that the effects, the costumes, and the sets are again fabulous? Let's take it as read that "Origin" has all those things, and move on to other themes.
The Goa'uld grip on our galaxy is gone, along with the Replicator threat. While "Avalon, Part 1" and "Part 2" gave us an inkling that all might not be happy and settled out there in the greater universe, "Origin" brings the message home with a bang. This is Stargate for grown-ups.
There has been a slow and steady build-up of tension to the revelations about the Ori, with the revelations that there are yet more beings claiming to be gods, that people aren't allowed to learn about their own history, that a Prior is capable of bringing a person back to life. The representatives of these gods walk among their worshipers, leaving miracles in their wake.
Daniel, not one to be easily impressed, sees these miracles and they are nothing new to him. The day is the same as many others he has had, until he is taken somewhere to meet the Ori, and learns the Ori's intentions. These are powerful beings, ascended beings. These are incarnations of the threat Anubis could have been to humanity had he not been thrown out of the ascended club.
"Origin" is finally an adult treatment of themes that the show has been tiptoeing around for years. We've seen many Goa'uld out there claiming to be gods, but they've had armies and plundered technology to back them up. The Goa'uld were an enemy that could be defeated with enough time, resources, and insane plans. But the Ori are that potential power brought to life -- incomprehensible, seemingly unbeatable, and chilling. Many Earth people will see the Ori's party-tricks and believe they are gods.
It's nigh on impossible to fight an ideal, a belief, rather than a person. It's no wonder Daniel is afraid.
In a story with such depth, it's a little frustrating that there isn't quite the courage to take the story to its limit and trust that it can stand alone without adding in some kind of reassurance for the audience. The Ori and the other ascended might be on a higher plane of existence, we're told, they might seem all powerful, but there's still the likelihood that there are higher planes of existence beyond these ascended -- that a genuine "god" can still be out there. To a multi-cultural, multi-faithed (and non-faithed) audience such commentary diminishes the impact of the new danger.
However, while the threat is frightening, there are still nits to pick. If the Ori are gods, why do they need spaceships and armies? And how does worship benefit them? The Goa'uld were on our plane of existence and gained many things from worship: power, shiny toys, nice food, pretty hosts ... all sorts of things that were as a result of having a massive workforce that mined and built and worshiped and feared. The Ori don't need any material things, but they apparently have a desire for species on lower planes of existence to become "enlightened" (which would surely be easy to do without invoking compulsory worship). I'm just not completely convinced there is a coherent motivation and purpose for the Ori as yet.
While a lot of the story is taken up by the revelations of new bad guys, there is still plenty happening character-wise. Colonel Mitchell fits naturally in his role as a leader, and I love his ability to bring a quote for all occasions. Daniel was brilliant, standing his ground despite his terror at what will be facing Earth. I had such pity for Sallis and Harrid and their fate.
It was nice that Vala took something of a back seat this time, as she's only around for a few episodes. However, there is still the feeling that things are not quite settled, and that comes from knowing that the team we have at the moment is not the one we will be seeing for the majority of the season.
Strange as it is to see such famous actors on SG-1, I'm having no trouble getting used to the consistently high-quality acting from the new folks and the regulars. Gerak (Louis Gossett Jr.), the new Jaffa leader, is given personality and gravitas not only through the presence and ability of a great actor but through Teal'c's reaction to him. It is also a relief to see the Jaffa story take on some life of its own rather than remaining a series of reports from Teal'c or Rak'nor.
Well done, Robert Cooper, for writing three fascinating episodes in a row. If there were more than four stars to award an episode, I'd hand them over without hesitation.
Rating: * * * *