Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stargate SG-1 S1 Ep4: The Broca Divide

"I want you.  ...You want me?"
-Samantha Carter-
"No, well, not like this."
-Jack O'Neill fending off a feral but sexy Samantha Carter thrusting herself at him-

Looking back again at Stargate SG-1 in its infancy, the series was indeed a sometimes gritty, earthy and appropriately earthbound series given its strong relationship to the U.S. military not to mention rustic location shooting in Vancouver, British Columbia.  The color palette for the series with its earthen green and brown tones also helped establish a distinctive look to the series that was entirely unique as a science fiction series.

It was everything Star Trek: The Next Generation or even Star Trek, in general, was not.  It was far removed from the sterile, politically correct and colorful look of that wonderful universe.  Stargate SG-1 offered us wry sometimes irreverent humor with a military dynamic and a different sense of mission (slightly), which placed it squarely within a universe and vibe that was entirely non-Trek.  For many, and in this rare instance, this series not only established itself, but ultimately developed its own franchise industry paralleled to the verse of Star Trek.  The stranglehold of Gene Roddenberry on science fiction was apparently eluded by the creators of the Stargate identity. Star Trek expectations were not applied by fans of science fiction television.  Stargate SG-1 was, of course, like Star Trek in that it was a fantastic adventure series with plenty of well-developed science fiction concepts to explore the human condition.  In that, Star Trek and Stargate shared common ground, but Stargate SG-1 would develop its own beast accordingly without a requirement to keep in step with the world according to Star Trek.  In other words, Stargate SG-1 would create its own mythology and its own universe and do so successfully.  That was a remarkable accomplishment in a world conditioned for Star Trek.

Somehow Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969), Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) and Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001), though permeating the airwaves, failed to alter the vision of Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007).  Were people simply hungry for something new?  Certainly Stargate SG-1 felt like something new when compared to the worlds of future man explored in Star TrekStargate SG-1 was grounded in the present, complete with military fatigues, tapping into the unknown and that offered science fiction fans something refreshing and something relative and connected to their own reality.

Babylon 5 (1993-1998) was battling it out with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in a kind of which came first the chicken or the egg exercise despite both having their strengths that were clearly space station-centric.

And, meanwhile, Stargate SG-1 was indeed anchored on terra firma.  Unlike alien invasion shows of Earth, surprisingly we were the ones exiting the planet and doing the invading in the name of exploration and technological discovery.  It was a modern day, sci-fi based Marquette and Jolliet.  Stargate SG-1 was a little Canadian too.  Beyond exploration, as ST:TOS developed so well once upon a time, was the reality of American interventionism also in subtle question here?

Seeing the episodes again, it is impressive to see the kind of cinematic flair Showtime demonstrated in lighting and the application and use of music.  While maybe not perfect in execution, Stargate SG-1 still holds its own as a science fiction production.  It is a muscular, confident series that is secure in its own skin.  It will no doubt endure and be applauded for those efforts.  Today, it is ripe for a Blu-Ray upgrade.

Our focus is Stargate SG-1, Season One, Episode 4, The Broca Divide but I couldn't help but note some of the obvious sci-fi comparisons and the evolution of the genre particularly during that period.  It seems to be more evident than ever as I coincidentally look back at Star Trek and Stargate simultaneously.

The latest episode here certainly offered viewers a major step up in concept and story quality from the last entry as yielded in the form of the generally weak Emancipation.

The science fiction concept of the "touched" employed here applies to an alien culture whereby some people are essentially turned into primitives. The infecting agent eventually infects SG-1. It's a good story if not entirely original.  These kinds of ideas have certainly been employed in past classics like ST:TOS Miri within the genre.  In fact, as noted by an Anonymous commenter, this bears an uncanny and significant resemblance to Space:1999, Year One, Episode 15, The Full Circle.  That much is undeniable.  Again, what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in spunk and The Broca Divide ends up another stalwart entry conceptually even if not among Stargate SG-1's best.

The infection also appears to impact members of SG-1 in a physiological context. Colonel Jack O'Neill and Major Samantha Carter are even made up with pronounced foreheads and additional body hair. Daniel Jackson too becomes a victim. Only Teal'c can save the day. A vile of blood allows Dr. Janet Frasier to harness a vaccine. Frasier, played by Teryl Rothery, would be perhaps one of the most beloved and accessible doctors in science fiction to come along since many of the unique faces and personalities to grace Star Trek. She has one of the most profound characters arcs and stories to grace television for a recurring character that I have ever experienced culminating in her departure during Season Seven. The Broca Divide delivers her first appearance and one that shined so brightly it became a recurring one thanks to her chemistry with the other principals.

But again, circling back to the beginning of Stargate SG-1 with an episode like The Broca Divide you realize the series captured a rough and unrefined look even when compared to later episodes particularly with the series move to SyFy, or at the time, Sci-Fi. There are moments of intense violence and even a death underscoring the fact Showtime was indeed taking a more mature approach to this series and steering the ship for a cable audience to sometimes successfully cinematic effect.

One particular scene sees Carter become wild and essentially throw herself on Jack O'Neill. Shippers (those fans certainly supportive of a romantic relationship) of the O'Neill/Carter relationship have always wanted some kind of spark to ignite a potential romance.  But these scenes are feral and wild and give cause to place the relationship within a fantastical context.  The science fiction aspects of the series often allowed for the Carter and O'Neill relationship to remain platonic or professional within a strict military decorum and as friends while presenting them within the scope of fantasy whereby the sparks were never entirely real or authentic.  There are plenty of entries that suggest romance but are steeped within a smart sci-fi context.

In The Broca Divide Carter apologizes for her behavior to her superior at the end of the episode.  O'Neill submits that he too was affected by events and was not himself and cannot recall exactly what happened much to Carter's relief.  He proves he's far more clever than he lets on by mentioning her tank top offering evidence that he remembers more than he lets on with respect to Carter sporting that sexy tank top.

Those two notable segments were clipped for a piece I penned for fun here long ago dubbed Carter And O'Neill: Anatomy Of A Love Story.

So, the plague-infected The Broca Divide has its moments and while these primitive regressions are played rather well within the context of the story, O'Neill's lack of articulation is a bit underwhelming.  It's believable but annoying. The title directly reflects the divide between the primitive and the civilized on P3X-797 and French anatomist and anthropologist Paul Broca (1824-1880) of whom Daniel Jackson certainly studies.  The French physician was known for his research on the frontal lobe of the brain also named Broca's Area.  It's a testament to the quality introduced early in the series for making efforts to tap into real science to breakdown its tale.  The story was the work of writer/ executive producer Jonathan Glassner who was instrumental in setting the tone for the series through the first three seasons.  The lo-tech sci-fi basis for The Broca Divide does indeed set that tone and is ironically a leap forward in the series development, a series that seems to be a well-timed anti-dote for the high tech gloss of Star Trek.

The Broca Divide
Writer: Jonathan Glassner. Director: Bill Gereghty.

For those tuning in for the always amusing The World According To Jack O'Neill video segments we have two entries for you.

Jack O'Neill self-confident on the fine art of deductive reasoning.

Jack O'Neill proving popular culture doesn't always translate with aliens.  Heed this message John Crichton (Farscape).


Anonymous said...

Love your blog! Another variation of this plot was used in 1975 on the series "Space: 1999" in the episode "The Full CIrcle" http://catacombs.space1999.net/main/epguide/t15tfc.html

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thank you and excellent point!!!!