Stargate SG-1 Season 10
Executive producers: Robert C. Cooper, Brad Wright, Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie
Original air dates: July 14, 2006 – June 22, 2007
Mission briefing. There are now four Ori warships in the Milky Way, which make incredibly short work of the fleet at the supergate. The Korolev and most of the Lucian Alliance ships are destroyed, and the Odyssey is badly damaged. On one of those warships, Vala gives birth to a daughter whom she names Adria, after her awful stepmother. However, the Ori used Vala as a vehicle to sneak one of their own into the corporeal world, so Adria grows to adulthood in a few days and takes command of Ori forces in the Milky Way, starting with invading Chulak.
SG-1 searches for the Sangraal (the Holy Grail), a weapon created by Merlin that can wipe out ascended beings. Thanks to its great power, it’s very well hidden, and the search takes the team to Vagonbrei (where the inhabitants have been killed by a sleeping sickness) and Atlantis (where they are also able to open the supergate permanently, thus keeping the Ori from bringing more ships in). When they do find it, they have to go through a series of trials, and they have to deal with both Ba’al (and his clones) and Adria along the way. However, the Sangraal is not complete, and Jackson has to shove his head into an Ancient repository in order to finish it—which puts Merlin in Jackson’s head, in essence. Adria captures Jackson and turns him into a Prior, but Merlin’s influence is enough to keep him as himself, and they send the Sangraal to the Ori’s galaxy—but they have no way of knowing if it worked. And Adria’s still in the Milky Way with the intention of ascending—though a Ba’al clone tries to take over her armies by implanting his symbiote into her.
The team acquires another of Merlin’s anti-Ori weapons: Arthur’s Mantle, which can put people and things out of phase. They attempt to save a village from the Ori by cloaking it—which doesn’t go according to plan—and Carter is able to use the Mantle on a planetary scale in an alternate timeline she stumbles into. Despite the life lesson of Gerak’s abortive time as a Prior, some Jaffa embrace Origin, and SG-1’s use of Sodan Invisibility Cloaks has unintended side effects.
While dealing with the Ori, SG-1 also has to contend with the Lucian Alliance (who kidnap the members of SG-1 and later put bounties out on them), the Trust (who kidnap Vala and try to interrogate her), and Vala’s Dad. They also get stuck on a planet that has their Stargate in a museum without a working DHD.
Finally, the season and the series ends as the Asgard commit mass suicide, bequeathing the Tau’ri a mess of their technology. Unfortunately, the Odyssey gets stuck in a time dilation field and it takes SG-1 five decades to figure a way out of it, one that costs Teal’c fifty years of life.
Best episode: “The Pegasus Project.” A textbook example of how to do a crossover episode properly. This manages to work both as an SG-1 episode and as an Atlantis episode, which is its strength. Plus you’ve got McKay/Carter snark, you’ve got Mitchell showing no patience with McKay’s bullshit, you’ve got Teal’c being awesome, you’ve got the Vala-Jackson double act at its most hilarious (with Weir as their straight man), and best of all, you’ve got a magnificent rant by Jackson at Morgan Le Fay on the subject of the way the ascended folks either don’t help or, when they do help, they half-ass it.
Runners up: “200” is a tremendously fun romp as long as you consider it an out-of-continuity tribute to the show. Worth it for the Farscape, Star Trek, and Wizard of Oz riffs alone, plus Willie Garson’s Martin Lloyd is always a treat. “Line in the Sand” is a suspenseful episode with a magnificent guest turn by Aisha Hinds and treats the situation with a fitting level of desperation. “The Road Not Taken” should feel like a retread (going all the way back to season 1‘s “There But for the Grace of God”), but it actually works quite well as a what-if story. It includes some great work by Beau Bridges as a fascist; an always-welcome return by Don S. Davis; and solid performances by Bill Dow, Kavan Smith, and particularly Ben Browder in one scene as a very-down-on-his-luck Mitchell.
“Family Ties” is a surprisingly effective episode, due partly to a magnificent guest turn by the perfectly cast Fred Willard, and partly to a nicely human performance by Bridges, as well as a radiant cameo by Lillianne Lee as his ex-wife (and Lam’s mother). And “Unending” is a quiet, elegiac, hauntingly effective (if unexpectedly low-key) series finale: The whole episode is in essence summed up by the shot of Carter playing the cello, which stirs the heartstrings.
Worst episode: So hard to narrow it down, as this season is littered with blah episodes, from the weak-tea horror stories “Morpheus” and “Uninvited” to the cliché-ridden “Company of Thieves” to the impossible-to-take-seriously “Bounty” (hit by a bus? really? though I will give them credit for some excellent ’80s-style incidental music for the reunion scenes) to the anticlimactic “The Shroud” to the utter slog (and utter waste of Joshua Malina) of “Bad Guys” to the tiresome “Talion.”
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Merlin (or Myrddin or Moros or whatever his name is) built a whole mess of things to stop the Ori, including something that wipes out ascended folks and something that puts people and things out of phase. He was stopped by Morgan Le Fay (who had a change of heart a few thousand years later when the Ori actually showed up in the Milky Way) before he could complete the Sangraal.
It might work, sir. It takes Carter fifty years to figure out how to get out of the time dilation field in “Unending.” Obviously, she’s slipping…
Indeed. Denied even a significant Free Jaffa Nation storyline like he was last season, Teal’c is even more of a fifth wheel this year. Having said that, he gets the funniest line of the year in “Talion” when, after revealing that he’s put an explosive in Bak’al’s symbiote pouch, he starts to walk away. Bak’al asks where he’s going, and Teal’c says in that magnificent deadpan: “I am leaving. You are about to explode.”
I speak 23 different languages—pick one. Jackson shares his head with Merlin, becomes a Prior, finds the Holy Grail, and also finally has it out with Vala… though that conversation is negated by Carter’s time-travel trickery, which is kinda too bad, as it’s a great conversation, and I wish the two characters remembered it.
The man doesn’t even have a decent pie crust. Mitchell attends his 20th high school reunion and gets back together with the one who got away (whom he previously mentioned in “Ripple Effect“).
You can go ahead and burst into flames now. In an alternate timeline, Landry was elected president. He also found himself forced to declare martial law and move the presidential office to Cheyenne Mountain. In the mainline timeline, Landry takes some glee in President Hayes being a bit nonplussed that he wasn’t president in the other universe Carter went to.
Let’s make babies! Vala tries on several occasions to use her maternal relationship with Adria to influence her, with variable results. We also meet her father, who’s an even bigger jackass than she is.
You have a go. We see an alternate Hammond in “The Road Not Taken,” which also establishes that the mainline Hammond is now retired. Additionally, we get a marionette version of Hammond in “200.” Yes, really.
For cryin’ out loud! In addition to his surreal cameo in the equally surreal “200,” O’Neill also appears to interrogate Jackson when he’s changed into a Prior and captured in “The Shroud.”
These are not the decisions I imagined making. Weir aids Jackson and Vala in their search through the Atlantis database for the location of the planets that might contain the Sangraal. She also makes significant contributions to the conversation with Morgan Le Fay.
Yes, but I’m also incredibly lazy. Sheppard aids SG-1 in managing McKay, including offering to shoot him if he talks, offering to let SG-1 keep him permanently, and giving Mitchell a lemon to threaten the citrus-allergic McKay with if he gets out of line.
I know everything about everything. McKay rather stupidly tells Carter about his experience in Atlantis‘ “Grace Under Pressure,” including the part where his hallucination of Carter is in her underwear. Carter is, understandably, disgusted. In addition, we meet an alternate McKay in the “The Road Not Taken,” who in that timeline was married to Carter.
Wayward home for out-of-work genre actors. Morena Baccarin of Firefly fame (one of three of that cast to show up on Stargate) commences the recurring role of Adria, which she’ll continue in the movie The Ark of Truth. Ranma 1/2 voice actor Sarah Strange plays Morgan Le Fay in “The Pegasus Project” (she, too, will return in The Ark of Truth). Invasion‘s Aisha Hinds (one of the more underrated actors of our time) appears in “Line in the Sand.” Jonathan Walker, one of the few bright spots in Syfy’s dreary attempt at a Flash Gordon series, appears in “Dominion.” We also get veteran character actors Ron Canada (“Bad Guys”), Fulvio Cecere (“Family Ties” and “Dominion”), Joshua Malina (“Bad Guys”), Sonya Salomaa (“Memento Mori”), Keegan Connor Tracy (“Uninvited”), and the great Fred Willard (“Family Ties”). Star Trek: Voyager‘s Robert Picardo and Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda‘s Lexa Doig continue their recurring roles of Woolsey and Lam, respectively.
Trivial matters. Claudia Black is added to the opening credits as Vala. The character is made a probationary member of SG-1 in “Morpheus,” a probation that concludes at the end of “Memento Mori,” when she’s given an SG-1 patch for her fatigues. In the following episode, “Company of Thieves,” she’s added to the team-walks-through-the-gate sequence at the end of the credits.
Several Atlantis regulars show up this season, including Kavan Smith as Lorne (a role he originated on SG-1‘s “Enemy Mine“) and David Hewlett as McKay (a role he originated on SG-1‘s “48 Hours“) in “The Road Not Taken.” Plus, of course, Hewlett, Torri Higginson (Weir), Joe Flanigan (Sheppard), David Nykl (Zelenka), and Chuck Campbell (Chuck) all appear in “The Pegasus Project.” SG-1 regulars Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping, Beau Bridges, Gary Jones, Bill Dow, and Robert Picardo (who will eventually become a regular on Atlantis) all appear in various episodes of Atlantis‘s third season, aired at the same time.
“The Road Not Taken” gives us one of two alternate McKays in this TV season, the other being in Atlantis‘s “McKay and Mrs. Miller.” Tapping appears as Carter in both episodes.
After being absent from the previous season (aside from “Avalon,” the season premiere), Anderson returns to Stargate several times, not only appearing in both “200” and “The Shroud,” but also thrice on Atlantis.
In Atlantis season 2, the episode “Critical Mass” had the only appearance on that show of the Goa’uld, the Trust, and the NID. SG-1 returned the favor this season with “The Pegasus Project,” the only SG-1 appearance of Atlantis (hilarious, given that the search for the city dominated season 7) and the Wraith.
The show’s cancellation was announced shortly after they wrapped their 200th episode (appropriately called “200”). This after expecting virtually every season since the sixth to actually be the last one. However, MGM did commit to a series of direct-to-DVD films (only two of which were actually produced before the studio’s financial difficulties skotched any further ones), the first of which was The Ark of Truth, which did conclude the Ori storyline (and which we’ll cover in two weeks after Atlantis season 3).
Lexa Doig’s role was reduced due to her being pregnant with her and Michael Shanks’ kid. Shanks also took three episodes off to be there for the birth. For those keeping track at home, that’s four regulars whose pregnancies have had an impact on the series, the others being Vaitare Bandera’s in season 2, and Tapping’s and Black’s in season 9. Only Bandera’s and Black’s were written into the show.
This season marks the final appearances of Lam and Bra’tac. It’s the final TV appearances of Mitchell, Vala, and Landry—they’ll all be in both The Ark of Truth and Continuum, but they make no further appearances on Atlantis or Universe. O’Neill will appear six more times on TV in Universe‘s first season. Carter becomes a regular on Atlantis for season 4, and appears in two episodes each of Atlantis season 5 and Universe season 1. Jackson appears in two episodes of Atlantis season 5 and four episodes of Universe season 1. Teal’c appears in two episodes of Atlantis season 4. In addition, recurring characters Lee, Barrett, and Harriman will continue to appear on the spinoffs here and there.
Chevron seven locked. This is a remarkable comp for seasons 7 and 8: There’s a whole lotta filler here. At this point, the show has embraced an overarching story arc, as the fight against the Ori has led to a much heavier serialization than before, because the threat is so immediate. This is used to good effect several times, most especially in “Line in the Sand,” but it also makes dopey stuff like “Uninvited” and “Talion” really hard to take.
Plus, we get the most unthreatening threat in the history of the universe, the Lucian Alliance. Seriously, our heroes took out the Goa’uld and the replicators—we’re supposed to believe that they have trouble with a bunch of barely competent pirates in salvaged Goa’uld ships? Give to me the break. (This problem will haunt Universe as well, which will try desperately to make us believe the alliance is a threat, mostly by casting Robert Knepper as one of them. It’s not enough.)
But the biggest problem with this season is that the only person for whom the events have personal stakes is Vala. Mind you, it’s great for Claudia Black. The presence of Adria, and later of her father, not to mention her amnesia episode in “Memento Mori,” all work very nicely to flesh her out and make her a delightfully complex character.
Unfortunately, she’s the only one. Nobody else has a personal stake in the battle, and that’s a problem. With the Goa’uld, everyone had something. For O’Neill and Jackson, it was Skarra and Sha’re being taken by Apophis. For Carter, it was her unwilling bonding with Jolinar and her father becoming a Tok’ra. For Teal’c, it was a fight for his people’s freedom. Even Mitchell had his personal desire to bring SG-1 together and learn from them, but at this point that’s played out and he’s settled in. The closest we come to a personal stake for a non-Vala character is Jackson’s (completely justified) frustration with how little interest most of the ascended Ancients have in actually getting involved in the fight against the Ori.
And then the Sangraal is finally loosed on the Ori’s home galaxy at the end of “The Shroud”—off-camera. And we don’t even find out if it worked or not until the movie The Ark of Truth. That’s hugely anticlimactic, especially since “Dominion” gave the opportunity to give some kind of resolution, and they didn’t take it. (Of course, “Dominion” is totally worth it for once again putting Morena Baccarin and Cliff Simon together, as those two bounce evil off each other magnificently, with the added bonus of Baccarin doing a perfect impersonation of Simon when Ba’al is implanted into Adria.)
The season has some great moments—”The Pegasus Project” is a superb crossover, “The Quest” is a delightful two-parter that has great performances not just from the regulars but also Simon and Baccarin (and a dragon!), “The Road Not Taken” is far better than you would expect from so hoary a plot, “200” is a great deal of fun—but ultimately the whole of the twenty episodes have in macrocosm what “The Shroud” has in microcosm: an anticlimax. Even “Unending,” for all that I found it be hauntingly effective, feels like the least worthy of all the we-thought-this-was-the-last-episode stories (“Full Circle,” “Lost City,” “Moebius“). Of course, they knew they were going to have a movie, so…
Either way, this is much like Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s final season, which also had the writers knowing they would continue with movies. It’s a series that definitely was starting to run out of steam, but still had some great episodes up their sleeve before they went out.
Keith R.A. DeCandido will never be your beast of burden.