The Ties That Bind
Review by Lex
Following hot on the heels of three excellent episodes comes something that can always split viewer opinion right down the middle -- a comedy episode. The obvious question can be answered immediately: is "The Ties That Bind" funny? I found it hilarious. Does it feel like Stargate? Not so much.
We have been here before. Stargate has had some superb comedy episodes, and some not so good, but that's par for the course. There is a fine line, though, between writing generic comedy and writing a Stargate story that happens to be funny. In this case, a writer wouldn't need to change too much before we are watching, say, a Firefly episode.
For those who turned the television on to watch SG-1, it was another week without any real team feeling, and that's starting to get a little frustrating. We are given lots of Vala with Daniel, some Daniel with Mitchell, some Teal'c with Mitchell, plenty of Daniel and Mitchell watching Vala's antics, and the odd scene where all four of the temporary team are in the same place but not really working together. Mitchell even asks Daniel again if he'll rejoin SG-1 officially, and Daniel inconveniently chooses that moment to pass out. Again.
This delay in getting at least some of the team back together was interesting at the start of the season, but we've reached the point now where there's no reason for Daniel to still say "no." Teal'c does at least have an excuse, as evidenced by the amount of time he spent simply not present. Instead of SG-1 it is still SG-Mitchell, and there is an impression that we are marking time while we wait for the real story to get going again.
My main issue with this episode is that it revolves around Vala. While the character does make me laugh, and I find Claudia Black to be an impressive actress, Vala is not going to be around for much longer. Mitchell will be here all season, and look at how little we know about him compared to how much we now know about Vala. Even though Mitchell and Daniel spend time together there doesn't appear to be any more of a connection between the two of them than there was when we first saw the two of them together. The character focus is unbalanced.
What we do learn in this episode are details about the current situation out there in the galaxy, but some of those details are almost sneaked in. There's a new alliance of smugglers; newly unemployed Jaffa are finding other ways to put food on the table; ordinary people who once believed the Goa'uld were gods no longer do so; it appears easier to travel from world to world to trade.
The variety of people and places seen in this one episode is a broad view of day-to-day existence away from Earth, and it turns out people really are the same all over the galaxy.
There are a couple of things that are going to cause me low-level irritation every time I see or hear them. The first is Mitchell calling Daniel "Jackson." We went through the "Call me Cameron" / "Call me Daniel" moment in "Avalon Part 1," yet we're still stuck with "Jackson." Daniel rarely addresses Mitchell by name or title, which is also a little peculiar.
Also ... will whoever stole the wormhole please bring it back? I'm sure you thought we wouldn't notice that the Pegasus Galaxy wormhole has replaced our classic, but we did. Just leave it on the doorstep during the night and we promise not to call the authorities. Thanks awfully.
The news that's of import to the S.G.C. and the future of SG-1 -- that the budget is being cut to 30 percent and the S.G.C. will now serve primarily a support function -- is merely touched on here. That's big news. Huge. Will we see some kind of impact next week?
At the end of the day, "The Ties That Bind" is all about the humour. It depends both on snappy writing and some subtle but spot-on acting choices. Chris Judge has few lines, but each one is perfectly Teal'c. Vala's reaction to the Senator-of-little-brain was beautiful to behold (though I'll never understand why anyone let her meet with the Senator in the first place). Daniel's discomfort in those tight leather trousers is precisely what I'd expect from him. And ... hold on, let's take a moment and contemplate the pure aesthetics of the cast decked out in leather trousers.
I'm sorry, where were we?
"The Ties That Bind" has its holes, and it's not quite Stargate, but the package comes together to be riotously funny. Will it hold up to re-watching over and over again? Absolutely.
Rating: * * *