Stargate Rewatch

The Stargate Rewatch: Continuum

Stargate: Continuum
Written by Brad Wright
Directed by Martin Wood
Original release date: July 29, 2008

Mission briefing. The last Ba’al clone has been captured and brought to the Tok’ra homeworld for extraction. SG-1 has been invited to observe the ceremony, including O’Neill. Vala, who has been through this herself when Qetesh was extracted from her, wants to bring along an X-699, but Mitchell won’t let her. The ceremony itself is quite lengthy, as it includes a listing of Ba’al’s crimes, which go back millennia. (Jackson at one point says he knows it’s almost over because the crimes they’re listing are starting to sound familiar.)

Ba’al’s last words are ones of confidence. He insists that, while he’s the last clone, the original is still free.

Sure enough Ba’al and a few Jaffa are able to use solar flares to travel in time to 1939 when Earth’s Stargate (which had been discovered eleven years earlier in Giza) is being moved from Africa to the U.S. for safekeeping. It’s on the Achilles, a Merchant Marine ship taking a zigzag course through the North Atlantic to avoid German U-boats. Captain Mitchell (the grandfather of Cameron Mitchell) and his crew are killed, and Ba’al’s Jaffa leave an explosive behind to destroy the ship and the Stargate. However, with his dying breath, Mitchell manages to toss the bomb off the ship, but the Achilles is now adrift, and meanders into the ice.

Because of this, things start to change in 2008. In the middle of the extraction ceremony, people start disappearing: first Vala, then Teal’c, then the Tok’ra, then the Tok’ra buildings. O’Neill questions Ba’al about what’s happening, but Ba’al manages to stab O’Neill, killing him. Mitchell then shoots Ba’al with his P90; O’Neill’s dying words are to get to the gate, which Mitchell, Carter, and Jackson do.

Stargate: Continuum

But when they arrive on Earth, the Stargate is in a cold dark room—which the viewer recognizes as the frozen-over hold of the Achilles. The hole in the hull that had been made by the gate’s ka-woosh is completely covered in a thick layer of ice. Needing to get out before they freeze to death, Mitchell uses C-4 to blast a hole to the surface. Jackson steps in ice-cold water, which then freezes his foot. Forced to leave him behind, Mitchell and Carter move south and keep radioing for help.

Turns out Colonel Jack O’Neill of Air Force Special Forces was on a training run in the area and tracks them down. He calls in the USS Alexandria, which also rescues Jackson. O’Neill has no idea who the three of them are, though he recognizes Carter as an astronaut who died in a tragic accident. When Jackson tries to show that he knows O’Neill he mentions his son’s death, to which O’Neill angrily replies that Charlie is alive and well.

The team realizes that Ba’al somehow managed to change history. In their timeline, the Achilles brought the Stargate to the U.S. and it was installed in Cheyenne Mountain. In this new timeline, the Achilles sank and the Stargate Program never happened. Samantha Carter became an astronaut and died. Daniel Jackson moved to Egypt, having been ridiculed by the scientific community. Cameron Mitchell never existed, since his grandfather was the captain of the Achilles.

After a five-day debrief, in which they give the gory details of the SGC, they demand to see Landry. It turns out that in this timeline Landry is still happily married, and is also retired. He actually believes SG-1, but also explains that there’s no way in hell they’ll be allowed to “restore” the timeline, as it would affect billions of lives. (Just for starters, it would kill Charlie O’Neill…)

Stargate: Continuum

The three are given new identities and sent to different cities, Jackson to New York City, Mitchell to the Midwest, Carter to the Pacific Northwest. For a year, they live their lives as normal as they can—

—until an Al’kesh appears, flying over parts of the U.S.

President Hayes has set up shop in the bunker underneath Washington, and Mitchell, Carter, and Jackson are brought there to advise Hayes and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Hammond. Hayes actually read their five days of testimony, and so has some idea of what’s happening. They can’t retrieve the gate from the Achilles—Mitchell’s C-4 sank it further—but they have found the one in Antarctica and moved it to McMurdo, and they’re also digging for the Ancient base under Antarctica. The plan is for SG-1 to retrieve a ZPM from Taonas via the Antarctic gate and then use the chair against Ba’al’s forces.

Meanwhile, we have a look at Ba’al’s forces. Armed with knowledge he gained in the mainline timeline (and having presumably disposed of his counterpart in 1939), Ba’al has been able to take over the Goa’uld. He has taken Qetesh as his queen, and Cronus, Nirrti, Ra, Yu, and Camulus have all pledged their loyalty to him. All the other system lords have fallen before him, the last resistance coming from Apophis, who is brought before Ba’al by Ba’al’s First Prime, Teal’c.

Stargate: Continuum

After Ba’al kills Apophis, he turns to Earth, using a satellite phone he brought with him when he travelled back in time to call Hayes directly. Qetesh, however, is less than satisfied with Ba’al’s feeble explanations of how he knows so much about Earth, and kills him. She orders the Antarctic base destroyed.

SG-1’s plan is now kiboshed, but it turns out that the Russians salvaged the gate from the Achilles some time in the last year. They fly to Russia, their Air Force escort (and Russian fighters) taking out the Al’kesh that attack them.

When they arrive, there’s nobody to operate the Stargate except for one young soldier. Then Teal’c arrives, planning to avenge Ba’al. He reluctantly teams up with SG-1—mostly because they know so much about Jaffa customs in general and Teal’c in particular—and they travel to Praxyon.

This is Ba’al’s secret weapon. Praxyon monitors solar flares from all around the galaxy and uses them to affect the gate in the complex so that the user can travel through time. Carter tries to find a flare that will get them to 1939 Earth, but Qetesh’s forces then arrive. Teal’c, Mitchell, and Jackson take on Qetesh’s Jaffa. The best Carter can do is a wormhole to 1929—and then she’s killed, as are Jackson and Teal’c. Mitchell dives through the wormhole, and then Teal’c blows up the base (and Qetesh) with his dying breath.

Stargate: Continuum

Mitchell contrives to stow away on the Achilles (hey, he has ten years to plan it…) and shoots Ba’al in the head when he walks through the gate.

The timeline is restored. On the Tok’ra homeworld, O’Neill, Carter, Jackson, Teal’c, Mitchell, and Vala observe as Ba’al’s symbiote is removed and then killed. O’Neill offers to buy everyone lunch, which is eagerly accepted by all save Vala, who volunteers to remain behind and help Ba’al’s host reacclimate to normal life.

Back on Earth, Mitchell, Teal’c, and Jackson ponder what Ba’al meant by saying he had a failsafe, but they don’t stress about it as they go off to lunch on the general.

Stargate: Continuum

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? It’s not clear how the base on Praxyon uses the solar flares in question, since the wormhole would have to be in proximity to the flare in question in order for time travel to work.

It might work, sir. In the altered timeline, Carter became an astronaut (which Jacob Carter said was her dream back in “Secrets“), and was Mission Commander for the Intrepid. She died saving the rest of the crew. This results in many people giving the mainline Carter strange looks, as she died a national hero, with a funeral on the White House lawn (which Landry attended).

Indeed. Ba’al snags Teal’c as his own First Prime before Apophis can get to him, promising to free all Jaffa once he achieves his goal of conquering Earth. When Qetesh kills Ba’al, Teal’c acts to avenge his god, as is proper for a First Prime.

I speak 23 different languages—pick one. Jackson has a book published in the altered timeline called The Truth About the Pyramids. The mainline Jackson finds it remaindered at 70% off cover price. He then calls his alternate self and urges him not to give up, and that he was right all along; the alternate Jackson hangs up on him.

Stargate: Continuum

The man doesn’t even have a decent pie crust. Mitchell goes to his family home in Kansas, which is owned by someone else. Later he saves the life of his own grandfather.

You can go ahead and burst into flames now. Landry declines going to the extraction ceremony as he has paperwork to do. The alternate Landry tears SG-1 a new one for their arrogance in being so cavalier about destroying the timeline he’s familiar with.

Let’s make babies! Vala gives a very moving description of what an extraction ceremony is like for the person going through it. In the altered timeline, Qetesh has Vala as her host and she’s not only Ba’al’s queen, she kills Ba’al and comes close to taking on his entire power base, except for SG-1 being awesome.

For cryin’ out loud! O’Neill personally escorts Ba’al to the Tok’ra homeworld and stays through the whole ceremony, despite his declaration toward the end that, “Never in the history of boredom has anyone been more bored than I am right now.” The alternate O’Neill stayed in Special Forces and his son never died—and, presumably, he never divorced his wife, either…

You have a go. Hammond—who was established in “Lost City” as being an old friend of Hayes—is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs for the president, serving as his primary military advisor during Ba’al’s invasion.

Stargate: Continuum

Trivial matters. This movie takes place shortly after the Atlantis fifth-season episode “Search and Rescue,” in which Carter returns to Earth saying she’s been invited to participate in Ba’al’s extraction ceremony. She’ll next appear in “Enemy at the Gate,” the Atlantis series finale.

Jackson will next appear in the Atlantis two-parter “First Contact”/”The Lost Tribe.” O’Neill will next appear in “Air,” the premiere of Universe. This movie marks the final appearances of Teal’c, Mitchell, Vala, and Landry (though Landry will be mentioned again in both “The Lost Tribe” and “Enemy at the Gate”).

Don S. Davis passed away shortly before the release of this film. This is his last appearance as any version of Hammond, and indeed his final onscreen appearance period.

Mitchell and Carter’s walk across the ice and meet-up with O’Neill was actually filmed in the Arctic. A scheduling conflict kept Michael Shanks from being part of that filming, so the give-him-frostbite-and-leave-him-behind-and-his-leg-gets-amputated bit had to be added to accommodate for his absence.

The X-699 that Vala wants to bring with is the BFG that Carter and Lee “demonstrated” in “Bounty.” Apparently it works now.

SG-1 retrieved a ZPM from Taonas in “Lost City,” which powered the Antarctic base enabling Earth to fight off Anubis’s invasion.

Though it isn’t stated outright, it’s assumed that Ba’al’s knowledge of the future enabled him to wipe out the Tok’ra, which is why they all disappeared in the original timeline.

Mitchell comments that the Stargate program started either in 1997 or 1994, he couldn’t remember, a play on the release dates of the original Stargate movie (’94) and the first season of SG-1 (’97).

Stargate: Continuum

In addition to Cliff Simon as two different Ba’als, this movie sees the return of several Goa’uld in the alternate timeline, including several who were killed in the mainline timeline: Peter Williams as Apophis, Jacqueline Samuda as Nirrti, Steve Bacic as Camulus, Ron Halder as Cronus, and Vince Crestejo as Yu. In addition, Jay Williams again plays Ra as he did in “Moebius.”

Ben Browder plays both Mitchell and Mitchell’s grandfather.

Carter is incorrectly credited as “Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter,” even though she was established in Atlantis as having been promoted to full colonel. Hammond is credited as “Major General George S. Hammond,” even though he has three stars, which makes him a lieutenant general.

Chevron seven locked. It’s kind of amusing to do this rewatch the same week that I did “Tomorrow is Yesterday” for the Star Trek The Original Series rewatch, as both of them are wacky time travel adventures, but where the Trek episode was one of the earliest examples of the breed, Continuum is about the eight millionth in the Stargate franchise alone. Actually, this one combines two of Stargate‘s go-to science fiction tropes: time travel and alternate timelines.

Stargate: Continuum

And as a last hurrah for SG-1, it’s actually not bad. It gets everyone (well, except for poor, maligned Jonas Quinn) back together for one last adventure, and the bad guys are the original villains, the Goa’uld. There’s even a Ra cameo!

Most everyone gets their moment in the sun. Vala’s only there for a tiny bit, but it’s heartfelt (her accounting of the extraction process is gripping), and then Claudia Black gets to chew all the scenery as Qetesh. Teal’c gets to do badassy Teal’c things, only in service of Ba’al, which is a nice twist. Beau Bridges is magnificent in the alternate Landry’s evisceration of SG-1 in the hangar. Cliff Simon is deliciously evil as Ba’al, and it’s wonderful to see all the system lords again (though I was disappointed that poor Vince Crestejo didn’t even get any dialogue as Yu; I always liked Yu…), especially Peter Williams, who beautifully delivered Apophis’s final words: “May your reign last days and your death years” (which also prompts a terrible pun from Ba’al). William Devane’s return as Hayes is more than welcome, and quite excellent. And Mitchell gets to save the timeline in the end.

Amanda Tapping and Don Davis get a bit less to do—Carter’s more of a consistent presence (and of course, her big brain dopes out the device on Praxyon), while Hammond’s a glorified cameo. Having said that, Tapping got a whole season on Atlantis and Davis probably wasn’t in the best of health.

Stargate: Continuum

But the greatest moments here are from the two characters who’ve been there from jump: O’Neill and Jackson. In the mainline timeline, we get the same O’Neill we got pretty much from season 7 onward: snide, sarcastic, not taking much of anything seriously. He’s seen and done so much it’s impossible for him to view the universe as anything other than absurd. It’s easy to say that Richard Dean Anderson had grown complacent and disinterested—but then we have the alternate O’Neill, and suddenly Anderson is channeling his season 1 self all over again. It’s an impressive acting job.

And that’s as nothing compared to the heartbreak of Jackson’s scenes during the one-year interregnum. First there’s his discovery of “his” book, then realizing that it’s remaindered, and the author photo is that of—well, of a lunatic. If that’s not enough, he tracks himself down (knowing what hotels he frequented in Egypt) and tries to tell the alternate Jackson that he’s not crazy, that he was right, that he shouldn’t give up. And, of course, he hangs up on himself.

Stargate: Continuum

Ultimately, though, the story just feels irritatingly inconsequential. In the end, the only person who knows what happens is a version of Cameron Mitchell who died some time in the mid-20th century. Stories like “There But for the Grace of God” and “The Road Not Taken” are more effective because Jackson and Carter, respectively, remember the alternate realities they visited. But this is more like “Moebius,” albeit less comical.

In the end, the sum of its parts are better than the whole. It’s a decent episode of SG-1 given delusions of grandeur by the DVD format, but mostly it means they have the budget to do the aerial dogfight over Russia and have Anderson, Tapping, and Browder wander around the Arctic Circle.

 

Rewatcher’s note: We’re in the home stretch for a very nifty Kickstarter for a superhero flipbook anthology called The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, for which your humble rewatcher will be writing a Super City Police Department story, and which will also have a new Furious story by Bryan J.L. Glass, as well as tales by Star Trek fictioneers Peter David, Aaron Rosenberg, and Robert Greenberger, as well as Jennifer K. Spendlove, James Chambers, Gail Z. Martin, John L. French, James M. Ward, Neal Levin, and Kathleen O. David. The anthology will be edited by veteran anthologist Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Between Books‘s Greg Schauer, and there are tons of nifty rewards, including bonus fiction and a chance to be a character in one of the stories. Please lend your support!

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Shore Leave 37 this weekend at the Hunt Valley Inn in Cockeysville, Maryland, along with actors John Barrowman, David Nykl, Jaime Murray, Tony Curran, Jesse Rath, Rekha Sharma, Daniel Davis, and Roger Cross; fellow Stargate novelists Amy Griswold and Melissa Scott; fellow Trek novelists Christopher L. Bennett, Kirsten Beyer, Peter David, Kevin Dilmore, Michael Jan Friedman, Dave Galanter, Robert Greenberger; David Mack, John Jackson Miller, Scott Pearson, Dayton Ward, and Howard Weinstein; and tons and tons more too numerous to list here. Keith’s schedule can be found here.

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