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Bad Guys - Review

Bad Guys is the 16th episode in Season Ten of Stargate SG1.

Review

Bad Guys is a wonderful reminder of the classic Stargate era as the team go off-world, run into trouble and have to resolve the situation through their own ingenuity, bravery and skill in order to return home. The story is simple yet well-told, played straight with a lot of the comedy arising naturally from the situation of SG1 acting as kidnappers, with all of the characters present contributing to the team. While there are questions over season production, the rest of the episode is accomplished and the cast deliver a good performance.

Although not challenging, the actors seem to revel in the material. There is an intangible sense of enjoyment that seems to transmit itself from the screen to the audience. Even the guest cast while remaining fairly two dimensional in characterisation make the most of their scenes and add a credibility and humanity to the alien culture. Perhaps there is a complaint that the alien planet is far too Earth-like but the parallel seems to be deliberate with a direct comparison between Daniel and the alien historian/researcher Cicero, and the refusal to give into political terrorism. The similarity also quickly provides empathy for the alien culture. Quartus, played to perfection by Ron Canada, is particularly impressive as the Chief Security Officer trying to do his best in difficult circumstances.

What is also a little startling is the similarity between the museum and Mitchell’s high school in Bounty. There was one shot of the corridor and a side display cabinet where I almost expected to see a poster proclaiming ‘Peter DeLuise for Class President’ hanging in its window. Maybe it’s an unfortunate consequence of the two episodes airing closely together but also unfortunate is the reference to the absent Carter. In terms of the events that have taken place since Road Not Taken, the excuse used for her absence makes no sense at all although there are undoubtedly similar themes in Bad Guys to that episode. It is a minor quibble and no doubt those interested in a Sam/Jack romance can think of an alternate reason why Sam was away in Washington, but both the set design and the reference suggest a lack of sense-checking from a season perspective on the production side. Again, just as with Bounty, the audience is left wondering why the team are focusing on what could be seen as a trivial activity (treasure hunting) instead of dealing with the enhanced Ori threat especially as the obvious justification that any weapons found will help is not used.

Otherwise, the episode is very well put together with the direction and musical underscore deserving a special mention for evoking a great sense of tension in the final act. The scene where a surrounded SG1 talk Quartus into letting them go is very believable, with Ben Browder putting in a very credible performance. Browder does a great job displaying a Mitchell who has learned from his experiences to date with SG1 but occasionally displays his inexperience such as in the early discussion about the likelihood of an actual DHD being found on the planet.

If the story makes good use of Mitchell, it also makes good use of Vala. Her past skills and experience are well-displayed in the scene with the retrieval of the bomb from the display cabinet and in her handiwork to make the Gate work. This story naturally allows Vala to contribute without seeming contrived and is obviously helped by the absence of the usual fix-it person for the team, Carter. Personally, I did feel the absence of Sam even though the story flows well. Possibly because there was a role for Sam with even Daniel commenting that they should have brought someone who knew what they were doing with the Gate although Vala’s MacGyvering is ultimately successful.

The scenes of Daniel and Teal’c as kidnappers are very funny; Chris Judge captures Teal’c’s disbelieving expression of Daniel’s attempt to be threatening at the end of the demand call with Quartus perfectly and Michael Shanks manages to convey Daniel’s frustration, awkwardness and naivety at being a kidnapper equally well. The funniest moment though has to be Teal’c zatting a hostage and attempting a friendly expression while telling the screaming girl to ‘please remain calm while we try to rectify this most unfortunate circumstance.’ Comedy is also provided by the bumbling security guard especially during the exchange between him and Daniel.

The humour flows naturally within the story and Martin Gero deserves credit for a tightly written script. Equally Ben Browder deserves a mention for coming up with the initial idea. It has been well documented that Browder watched all of the SG1 episodes and here the influence of classic Stargate in the concept can clearly be seen. It is a joy to see the team travel through the Gate, get into trouble and have to get out of trouble through their own ingenuity without a handy naquadah generator showing up (even if it was mentioned), or the magical beam-out fairy. With a little tweaking, this story would have fitted in with ease into the earlier seasons of SG1. Perhaps it would be worth the writing staff sitting down to watch some Stargate marathons themselves in future to stimulate some creative ideas.

Overall, there is little to complain about in Bad Guys and a lot to appreciate. It’s fabulous to see that the original concept of Stargate can still be used to tell a simple but interesting story that gets that mix of humour and drama that Stargate does so well absolutely right. Someone really does need to step up to sense-check episodes for content from a season perspective but that said, as a stand alone episode of SG1, and although not without its flaws, Bad Guys deserves to be considered a highly enjoyable classic.
 

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