Stargate Origins: Episodes 4 & 5 (review)

The Goa’uld are known for their warm and effusive greetings and all-around love for everyone (image via Gateworld (c) Stargate Command)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND THREE MOONS! COUNT ‘EM – THREE!

Ever had those moments when you’re in way over your head, when everything you thought you knew is of little-to-no-use and there are three moons overhead and not one?

OK perhaps that last one is a little outside the experience of mere non-Stargate travelling mortals – well completely outside, let’s be fair – but in Stargate Origins, which just released episodes four and five for streaming, pretty much everyone, and I mean everyone is having that moment.

Katherine Langford (Ellie Gall), all chutzpah and sometimes flummoxed bravery – which is kinda endearing; it’s refreshing to have a protagonist that is willing to boldly sally forth but doesn’t have all the answers – her new beau and reluctant galactic traveller Captain James Beal (Philip Alexander) and Egyptian solder/ comic relief Wasif Shvan Aladdin) burst through the stargate in the opening moments of episode 4 to find the gate room empty.

Well, only just.

Local inhabitant and gate cleaner – what a job that’d be! Get me a really tall ladder please – Kasuf (Daniel Rashid) just got out of the way in time and watches warily as strangers wander into the room, unsure where they are, but fairly certain that it must be Mars.

Because of course it must be.

Or not … turns out the planet on which local Goa’uld Aset (Salome Azizi) is camping out in arrogantly royal splendour has three moons which everyone is forced to admit is not something Mars possesses.

Cue a soul-shaking sense that we’re most definitely not in Kansas anymore … or Mars … or, well then, where the hell are we?

 

Toto I don’t think we’re in kansas anymore … or on Mars for that matter (image via Bleeding Cool (c) Stargate Command)

 

No one’s quite sure but when the gate closes up and Katherine can’t find the final seventh symbol – the dial-home address is, quite naturally, different to that which takes you to Aset’s desert planet, something Katherine doesn’t quite think of in her understandable “what the hell is going on?” panic – it’s Kasuf to the rescue, spiriting the gang off to the relative safety of the peoples’ tents far away from the temple.

Well, he eventually gets them out of Aset’s way.

Turns out neither Katherine nor the Captain nor Wasif have seen a single episode of Lassie on TV – I will give them a pass on this since it’s 1939 and TV is only 10 years old and not in wide use, and yep, Lassie didn’t made until the 1950s – and fail to heed Kasuf’s “get the hell out of here!” looks.

Fair enough since who knows who they can really trust but the arrival of the transport rings and a battle with Aset’s bodyguard Serqet (Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez) proves that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to heed Kasuf and head off into the hot desert sands.

It makes for some nice tense TV but also exposes one minor flaw of having each episode be just 10 minutes long – things that would normally be settled in a reasonable amount of time, are truncated into a minute or two.

Great for big, instant-gratification TV but not so good for in-depth, layered storytelling.

Still, it’s a minor issue, and really when  you consider Stargate Origins seems to be gunning for a 1950s featurette vibe, and hence it’s all gung-ho, full speed ahead action and not slowly-unfolding, nuanced narratives, it’s entirely forgivable.

It’s certainly only a small niggling thing, as is the way Katherine seems to conquer communicating with Kasuf pretty damn quickly but it’s no deal breaker and the episode kept rocketing on with no real harm on.

What is a little odd is the way Wasif is treated as expendable.

Yes, the Egyptian is the comic relief, the one who almost dies at one point – yay for magic healing sticks what ho! – but he’s the one who figures out they’re not on Mars, who bravely stands in the gap when they’re attacked, and who picks up that Kasuf is speaking ancient Egyptian, which makes sense since that’s where the Goa’uld harvested the planet’s inhabitants from.

Thing is neither Katherine nor the Captain pay much heed to him, which may fit with the colonial mindsets of the time, but comes across a little too blinkered when it comes to today’s more enlightened sensibilities.

 

Well thank goodness my daughter isn’t mixed up in all this mess … hmmm you sure about that professor? (image via syfy (c) Stargate Command)

 

Still, they manage to survive to fight another day, well after Kasuf’s tie them up which, again rather fairly, would be the sensible option when new humans are either a threat or more Goa’uld come to torture you.

Speaking of the snake-filled humans, the latest two episodes introduce an intriguing idea into the mix.

Aset make reference to their system lord being Ra and while we don’t see him, it’s clear that he’s no more pleasant to be around in 1939 than in Stargate SG-1‘s days, making it clear to Serjet that they need to contain the interlopers lest Ra hear about it and judge them all.

Turns out that Aset is planning a rebellion of some kind, and while it’s not clear if this is just your regular Goa’uld powerplay or perhaps, and this is intriguing, the beginnings of the Tok’ra (odd if so since that happened millennia before but maybe a new tilt at dislodging the System Lords?) – Goa’uld rebels whose name means literally opponents of Ra – there looks to be drama-worthy argy-bargy in the offing which could add some power-playing layers to Stargate Origins swashbuckling tale.

Whatever lies behind Aset’s oblique references, it adds to the idea that while the series is channelling its inner retro-movie featurette, it’s not averse to adding in some storytelling complexity which is pleasing to see.

Oh and the Nazis and Professor Langord (Connor Trinnear)?

Locked away with some power posturing courtesy of Dr. Wilhelm Brücke (Aylam Orian), not much happens, suffice for the professor happily noting that at least Katherine is safe and not involved in this mess.

Haha … no … oh yes she is and with the lovely cliffhanger that has become the hallmark of each of Stargate Origins thus far, it’s all going to get a whole lot more messy before it, well, doesn’t …

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