Back again and today we have an episode where Michael Rooker becomes Lord Chelmsford and Carter takes part in a piece of capitalist advertising.
We start off-world with an SGC mining operation, looking to mine an old naquadah deposit to help build new BC-303s. As the members conduct their measurements of the terrain and search for deposits one member is dragged off by an Unas. When the rest of the team realise one of their men has gone missing they call for reinforcements from the SGC including SG-1. As the search party spreads out Daniel studies artefacts found during the initial survey that prove that Unas were used to mine the naquadah centuries ago and are likely still there. In the woods the search team finally find the missing man, who has been strung up dead by the Unas as a warning.
Back at the main digsite Daniel tries to suggest a more diplomatic path forward, with backing from O’Neill, regarding the Unas but the onsite commander Colonel Edwards overrules and takes a more aggressive stance. Multiple units are sent out into the woods as a show of force, leading to large losses amongst both the SGC and Unas in a resulting clash, with O’Neill being pulled back to the SGC due to his injury. At the SGC the rapidly deteriorating situation draws in the attention of the Pentagon who are unhappy with the slowdown in production. General Vidrine, the man in charge of the BC-303 program, gives permission for Daniel to attempt a peaceful settlement while more routine checks are made at the digsite but if these fail then they will resort to military methods of subduing the Unas.
Daniel, along with the Unas Chaka who he’s brought in to help with negotiations, head to an ancient Unas memorial site to begin negotiations while Edwards begins setting up for his more violent plan B. While initial negotiations seemingly go well the scans of the mine show there’s massive amounts of naquadah still in the mine, meaning that the SGC won’t move sites. As Edward’s men move into the forest again Daniel hastily attempts to finish negotiations will a mutually-beneficial arrangement, finding out in the process that they’ve severely underestimated the number of Unas in the area. As Daniel attempts to rush back to the main digsite to warn the others a member of the SGC kills an Unas who surprises him in the forest, with the Unas having only wanted to pick up an artefact left over from the previous battle. Knowing this’ll mean war the entire force retreats back to the main camp.
At the main vamp Edwards prepares his small number to defend themselves but are shocked when hundreds of Unas emerge from the high ground above them, leaving them cut off from the Stargate. The leader of the native Unas however comes down to accept what is essentially their surrender/apology and work out an arrangement between the two parties, with the Unas being supplied by the SGC while they themselves carry out the mining themselves to help the fight against the Goa’uld. Edwards calls Daniel a pain in the arse, but a helpful one.
And here we come back to the Unas for what I think is their final appearance on the show and they sure do go out with a bang. Here we see an episode that in many ways harkens back to an old pair of British films about an overconfident military and that technology doesn’t always win.
The story in many ways plays similar to the 70s film Zulu Dawn, the prequel to the iconic war film Zulu about a small British station in South Africa standing against the Zulu horde. The prequel however covers the fate of the Battle of Isandlwana, where an entire British Column was destroyed by the Zulus due to a series of blunders largely stemming from poor leadership and underestimating the enemy. Here the similarities start quickly with Edwards unsuitable for a frontline combat role as he sends forces out piecemeal into combat and is steadfast in looking for a fight despite his lack of knowledge of the area and it being revealed that the Unas number many hundreds more than first thought. The main difference of course being that while the inspiration for the story ended with a massacre here they come to a peaceful settlement.
This peaceful settlement angle probably stands out the most of the episode. It’s no secret that SG-1 is a fairly pro-military show but this episode is one of those that helps prove that it isn’t interested in promoting a military dictatorship as some have claimed. Here Daniel’s method of compromising peacefully with the natives comes out to be the best solution while the military strategy falls apart again and again, seeing instead greater loss of life on both sides as each feels their need to defend themselves against the others encroachment. The episode also thankfully avoids the White Saviour trope by having the mainstay of the negotiations requiring and at times being run by Chaka, the Unas who has been a longtime friend and ally of Daniel and the team. It’s only with Chaka’s understanding of Unas customs that a massacre is avoided as without him Daniel would’ve been unable to accurately communicate with the leader of the native Unas.
The only trap the episode does fall into is the fact they do hit the “savage natives” imagery a bit too often. While many of those who do raise this are the ones to get their just desserts by the end it doesn’t half get raised a lot and become distracting and patronising.
Overall though the episode is a decent one that looks more at the promotion of diplomacy over force, especially when it comes to dealing with other cultures and peoples.
· Wonder if any of the SGC ever manage to have an open-casket funeral.
Quote of the episode: “They’ve been moved.”
“Well they were in the way.”
“Daniel, go to your happy place.” – Jackson, Lorne, and O’Neill discussing artefacts found in the dig.
We begin with Carter rushing in to the SGC in full biker gear for an urgent meeting. It turns out Warrick Finn, the alien they met transporting human prisoners a year ago, has come to offer the SGC a backdoor deal to allow them access to advanced technology from his planet of Hebridan in exchange for helping him win a racing competition. The race, hosted by the planet’s largest corporation Tech-Con Group, is effectively used to recruit exceptional pilots to their ranks. While Warrick is initially just there for help via the naquadah generator Carter manages to twist his arm into letting her join him in the race itself.
The team are transported to Hebridan via Warrick’s ship, the Sebrus, where they meet Warrick’s slightly uptight brother Eamon who is slightly miffed by the haphazard way the Sebrus is being prepared for the race. Eamon reveals to Carter that Warrick is desperate to regain control of his life, with his wife having divorced him in his likely years long absence. While picking up parts for the ship Carter and Warrick are accosted by one of Warrick’s longstanding rivals, the human Golan Jarlath. While everyone is away from the Sebrus’s hanger a human sneaks on board for unknown reasons.
Later the race gets underway, with the Sebrus taking a minor beating from the first obstacle involving drones before approaching the second phase which is flying dangerously close to a nearby star. Once near the star however the ship begins experiencing issues and their engines fail due to an overloaded system. Given the sudden nature of the fault the Finn’s suspect someone has sabotaged the ship on purpose. With help from Carter they’re able to juryrig a fix for the overloaded system and get back in the race. On the way they receive a distress call from Jarlath’s ship which has begun drifting. While the two longstanding rivals argue Carter convinces them to get along and they bring him onboard.
Back at base Eamon finds out who hacked his system, his human supervisor Tynan, and convinces Teal’c the need to go to the Tech Con HQ itself to find out exactly what Tynan did to the system. Breaking into his office, which has no lock due to company policy, they are quickly able to find evidence that Tynan is part of a pro-Human conspiracy that believes the Serrakins are destroying the humans slowly and that Tynan has fixed the race to prove that pure humans are superior. Worried by the two’s lack of communication O’Neill and Daniel also head to the HQ building and manage to get themselves inside with help from the Tech-Con CEO. The CEO also reveals to Tynan that his subpar promotion rate was due to him being investigated for corruption he was carrying out, not because of anti-human bias.
Back in the race the Sebrus has no chance of winning but is able to cripple the pro-human conspiracy’s pilot meaning another competitor won. Back at the SGC after the race it’s revealed the winning pilot has taken Warrick on as a co-pilot and Carter has gotten a Serrakin ion drive to study. Carter however wants to take part again next year and win.
Space Race is one of the episodes I look forward to whenever I start watching through the show as it’s yet another one of those stupid and ridiculous standalone episodes that the show does so well.
Here the main story revolves around SG-1 taking part in a racing event around the solar system that the planet Hebridan resides in. While this initially seems like yet another edition of the race slowly it emerges that pro-Human elements on the mixed-species planet are using it as a way to create an icon for pureblood humans to rally around, sabotaging any competition. The fact that if purebloods were so good they wouldn’t need to cheat is clearly lost on them. As usual this plot is defeated by the team largely due to the conspirators’ incompetence with the ringleader having been under investigation for months already.
While this may seem the episode seem sinister and quite serious the reality is that it mocks and makes fun of the highly commercialised world of professional racing such as NASCAR or Formula One. One of the constant elements in the episode is the input of the two race announcers who do little more than have one routinely mock the other for being wrong and then just endlessly promote the various services and products sold by the corporation that owns the race which includes such products as suntan lotion and funeral services. It’s this juxtaposition with the conspiracy plotline that makes it so ridiculous with the adverts being played against death-defying situations of space racing, much like the cheery sponsorship messages played against scenes of cars piling up on the speedway.
The episode is a highlight of the season as it’s a stupid and fun one and for me the show is always at its best when it’s those two things, with special effects and action to back it up.
· Some of the background music from Mass Effect (in particular that used on the Citadel) sounds remarkably like a slowed-down version of that which plays in this episode during the message about the other competitors.
· Does Tech-Con own everything?
Quote of the episode: “Tell him Mr Man With the Stargate is here. He’ll know” – O’Neill