And here we are again where today we see Black Mirror circa 2003 and the Michael Shanks impressions show.
We begin at the SGC where Carter is leading yet another recon mission with the MALP. The planet they’re searching is completely toxic and a wasteland except for a domelike forcefield they spot in the distance. Upon driving the MALP through the field they find a utopia before losing transmission, leading the SGC to send SG-1 on an exploratory mission. Donning hazmat gear they make their way to the dome and walk straight on through, finding the same paradise they saw on the screen. While making a quick search they stumble across a young boy, Nevin, who brings them to the main town in return for O’Neill’s cap and hazmat suit, finding it almost Earth-like with all the inhabitants wearing small devices on the side of their head.
The team are brought before a council of elders to discuss the situation further. It turns out that the device the townspeople wear is called “the link”, an easy way to allow them to access any data stored in a vast databank. The team use the MALP to radio the SGC and update Hammond on the situation. The team spend the night in the village, with Carter and Daniel put up with a couple where the husband, Pallan, works on maintaining the dome while Teal’c and O’Neill stay with Nevin and his father. That night one of the councillors randomly walks out of the dome.
The next day Carter goes with Pallan to see how the dome is maintained and learn about the technology of the people while Daniel goes with his wife, Evalla, to look through any historical records on the civilisation. During this period the machines running the dome briefly act strangely, causing all those connected to “the link” to stop moving and not remember the strange behaviour. The team later go before the council again to see if they’d be willing to be relocated off-world but they refuse. When the team bring up the absence of one of the councillors they deny there ever being another councillor, which is also backed up by others in the village. That evening things start to become worse, with the MALP going missing, Nevin and his father have their views changed by “the link”, people start claiming that to take device off will kill them, and Evalla walks out the dome to her death with Pallan claiming he never knew her.
Carter attempts to convince Pallan to help her stop “the link” but he refuses, believing that she’s lying and that he’ll die. Daniel however provides proof that “the link” is killing people to maintain the dome by showing him a paper contract people signed when they first entered the dome. While Pallan continues to protest Carter removes “the link” device from his head, proving that it’s manipulating people. As a last defensive measure “the link” changes everyone’s perception to the idea that O’Neill and Teal’c are sick, leading to a mob forming to trap them. Moments before the mob catch the two members of SG-1 Pallan and Carter are able to override “the link” and stop it.
Days later the team along with reinforcements from the SGC proceed to help move the population of the town off-world to Earth and other worlds and let the dome die. Before he’s moved off-world Pallan asks Carter to tell him about his wife.
As an episode Revisions is an oddly prescient one about the rise of technology in daily lives, coming out in 2003 long before the smartphone or wearable technology but displaying concerns that are now hailed as revolutionary in shows like Black Mirror.
The plot starts off as your fairly standard affair on the show. There’s a world that seems to be a paradise but contains a sinister secret and a population unaware of the predicament they’re in until they get an outside view. What makes the plot different from normal is that the villain isn’t really a villain at all, but rather an advanced program called “the link” that is trying to complete its goal of keeping the dome functioning but with dwindling resources, killing off people seemingly at random to lower the demand of housing and power while removing any memory of that person to hide what it’s doing. It’s only once the seemingly perfect bubble is burst that the inhabitants are able to break free from its grasp.
This central theme of trusted technology becoming out of control is an increasingly popular one and sci-fi shows like SG-1 were ahead of their time in that regard. The year 2003 was a time before the smartphone and a complete reliance on the internet in our daily lives but here all the growing fears of computer programs either breaking or putting lives at risk while completing their goals are displayed here. “The link” isn’t nefarious in its intentions, not really, but in completion of its pre-programmed goals the effects have become sinister, with it no longer showing concern for the individual while protecting the group, going so far as to erase memories and events to stop the group disintegrating.
At the same time the population of the dome have lost all ability to function without “the link” in their lives much in the way many old skills have been lost in the age of the internet, with our reliance on sites like Wikipedia seeing the ability to properly research go down the drain. This is seen in the episode with the village trusting “the link” and its doctored information over that of the newcomers, having no perceived reason to distrust it. All concerns such as data being overwritten is blown off as issues with the team’s computers rather than the dome. The obvious truth isn’t even hidden that well from the village, with detailed records and contracts being found inside the local bookstore but no one visits anymore as they have no reason to.
In the end the episode is one that was ahead of its time, being more relevant 13 years later in the connected era of smartphones than in the early days of the internet in 2003.
· Remember folks, this time it’s the lawyers who are the heroes.
· Can’t help but think of stuff like Google Glass when I see those headsets.
Quote of the episode: “You have strange clothes.”
“You caught us on a bad day.” – Nevin and O’Neill
The team are off-world exploring a crashed starship of unknown origin that contains many people in some form of stasis. While exploring the many rows of people stored the team are rendered unconscious by a strange ball of light, seemingly some form of defensive mechanism. Teal’c appears to be the first to recover, finding the others still out from the blast but unknown to him Daniel has been moved at some point. When Teal’c attempts to waken Daniel his colleague screams at the sight of him.
Upon being brought back to the SGC Daniel is placed in observation as he begins to demonstrate behaviour unlike himself. It soon becomes clear that Daniel has become host to multiple personalities, likely those of the dead seen on the ship, with distinct personalities soon emerging which are Martice the Sovereign who is arrogant and egotistical, Tryan an engineer aboard the Stromos (the ship that crashed) who tries to help Fraiser about their technology and situation, and a young boy called Keenin.
To find answers Teal’c, Carter, and SG-12 head back to the ship and now believe that someone else must’ve woken up and placed the minds inside Daniel as an attempt to preserve them. Back on board the Stromos they find that not only is power extremely low but also come across Pharrin, the crewmember who was awake and has clearly placed many minds inside his own, revealed to the viewer to be Keenin’s father. Carter and Teal’c are able to get Pharrin’s agreement to remove the other minds from Daniel in exchange for using the Stargate to transport all the passengers to a new world of their choosing.
When brought to the SGC Pharrin is able to get Tryan’s agreement in removing the minds from Daniel but Martice retakes control of the body, forcing Pharrin to stop due to his oath. O’Neill however convinces Pharrin that Martice is dead and therefore his oath is void. Pharrin is placed back into statis, with the added personalities from Daniel including that of his son.
Lifeboat plays very differently to most episodes of the show, here resembling more a one room stage play than a more traditional sci-fi show.
The plot is fairly similar to others before, in this case the team once again trying to save a dying civilisation. The main difference here however is that most of episode takes place inside the mind of Daniel and his conversations with Fraiser as they try to work out a solution to the problem at hand. The main focus is through Michael Shanks performance as the many individuals inhabiting Daniel’s body, with him having to present various personalities such as an uppity leader, a scared child, and a down to Earth engineer. All of them end up feeling like distinct people but some do tend to outstay their welcome by the end.
Despite this focus on Daniel I personally found the performance by Teryl Rothery as Fraiser the more interesting of the two on display. Here she had to demonstrate believable reactions to what was essentially Shanks ranting in an empty room and she pulls it off well, making us sympathise with both Daniel’s situation and her attempts to get one of the personalities to help them. For a character who spends a lot of time in the background it really shows that she should’ve had a greater amount of screentime at the foreground.
Even with the great performances a lot of this episode feels like it doesn’t quite come together however. It moves quickly which given how there are essentially 10 characters on screen means many aren’t fully developed and a lot of the backstory isn’t really there.
Overall the episode is one that has a great concept and performances but as a cohesive piece isn’t the greatest due to a lack of screentime to round it out and some scenes that go on slightly too long.
· Surprised any of the pods still work with how long the ship must’ve been crashed.
· Guessing the Sovereigns weren’t elected.
Quote of the episode: “Daniel Jackson’s preliminary electroencephalogram proved anomalous.”
“I dare you to say that again.” – Teal’c and O’Neill