Monday, March 31, 2014

'Stargate SG-1' - Season 2 (1998)

Starring Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks and Amanda Tapping
Developed by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner
See Also: Stargate reviews

When last we left the members of SG-1, the team had defied orders to stop an impending alien attack on Earth only to find themselves trapped aboard the enemy ship in orbit. Colonel O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), Captain Carter (Amanda Tapping), Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) and Teal'c (Christopher Judge) are now prisoners of Apophis (Peter Williams) and his son Klorel who has possessed O'Neill's young friend Skaara (Alexis Cruz).

With time running out before the ships attack Earth, the team is surprised to find an ally among Apophis' army of Jaffa - Bra'tac (Tony Amendola), whose own plan to stop the attack is thwarted by SG-1's arrival.

Over the next year, SG-1 and their allies will travel to more new worlds and find themselves in a variety of new adventures as the battle against the evil Goa'uld continues. New alliances are forged with the mysterious Tok'ra, an offshoot of the Goa'uld who oppose the conquering ways of their brethren, and with the Asgard - little gray beings who use their advanced technology to protect humans whenever possible.

But these new friends might not be enough to save Earth from the increasingly frustrated Goa'uld. Defeating Apophis has proven to the enemy that Earth is a force to be reckoned with and the other powerful System Lords aren't about to let it go unanswered.

The second season of "Stargate SG-1" improves on the first considerably. This season presents a string of episodes that are more impressive than anything the first season produced, and do a great job expanding the show's mythology.

The Asgard, previously hinted at in Season 1, reveal their existence here and participate in a couple of the season's better episodes. We see the Asgard for the first time in "Thor's Chariot," that shows the consequences of SG-1's actions to save Teal'c in the Season 1 episode "Thor's Hammer."

The Tok'ra appear for the first time as well, in the episode "In the Line of Duty" and then we learn more about them in the mid-season two-parter, "The Tok'ra." This two-parter is part of a string of episodes this season that greatly expand the show's universe.

This season introduces a number of characters who will recur in future episodes, including the Asgard Thor (voiced by Michael Shanks), the Tok'ra Martouf (JR Bourne), and Carter's father Jacob (Carmen Argenziano). We also learn for the first time of the Ancients - the race of beings who first created the stargates.

There are also a number of solid standalone adventures mixed in with all the world-building episodes. These usually involve the team traveling to new worlds and encountering strange aliens or technologies, and on the whole are typically better than similar episodes from the first season. Episodes like "The Gamekeeper" still have some really odd choices being made (the keeper's costume, for example, is just... bad). Still, the overall episode is worthwhile.

Other episodes are even better, with standouts including "A Matter of Time," in which the SGC dials a planet being swallowed by a black hole and must deal with the extreme gravity and time dilation effects coming through the gate that threaten Earth; in "Touchstone," SG-1 uncovers evidence that another organization from Earth has been using a second stargate to steal alien technology; in "1969," the team is accidentally sent back into the past; and in "Secrets," Daniel finally finds his missing wife Sha're while Carter struggles to keep her job secret from her father.

One of the season's best episodes is "The Fifth Race," which introduces the concept of the Ancients when a repository of their knowledge is downloaded into O'Neill's brain. It's a fine episode, and a showcase for the cast's improving chemistry.

This season increases the humor quotient of the show, as well. O'Neill gets a bit jokier in general, but the show's writers let the cast play around a bit more with each other. Hilarious interchanges abound and make an appropriate counterbalance so that the show never takes itself too seriously.

Season 2 is a vast improvement over Season 1. It feels less cheap, and presents a stronger batch of episodes in general. The show feels like its hitting its stride here, with the cast having a lot of fun in their roles and the writers working to expand the setting. Everything gets amped up in Season 2.