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Hooray for Marathons

By September 3, 2007

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Jessica Steen, who played Elizabeth Weir in Lost City.
Jessica Steen, who played Elizabeth Weir in "Lost City."
© Jessica Steen
There were two sci-fi-related marathons this weekend, reminding me just how useful – and dangerous, if you need to get anything else done – these all-day showings can be.

Friday was the much-ballyhooed "viewers' choice" Stargate SG-1 marathon on Sci Fi. I was very happy with the selection of stories – it was a nice mix of comedy and drama, and a good reminder that SG-1 mixes the two better than just about any sci-fi series, generally without descending into camp. This delightful balance was especially on dispay in two of my favorite episodes: season 8's two-part closer "Moebius," in which the team travels back in time to Giza, circa 3,000 BC, only to screw up history enough to have to tape a message asking their alternate-future counterparts to set things right; and season 4's "Window of Opportunity," in which O'Neill and Teal'c, but not the others, sense that they are in a time loop and must use their Groundhog Day-esque iterations to help translate an obscure inscription. Both of these episodes work great as comedy, and yet introduce genuinely interesting characters and conflicts, and those are what really drive the episodes.

It was kind of strange to see the very cool "Lost City" two-parter from the end of season 7 as well, because that's the story that introduced the character of Elizabeth Weir – seen here in her strawberry blonde incarnation played by scrunchy-eyed Earth 2 alum Jessica Steen. Now that the brunette version of Dr. Weir (Torri Higginson) is in the process of being phased out of Stargate Atlantis, ironically in favor of SG-1's Amanda Tapping, it was kind of bittersweet to see her standing up to the evil vice president for the first time all over again. Dr. Weir, as interpreted by either actor, is a great character and it's a shame that she has to fade into the background just so that Atlantis call pull a Worf.

I'm finding myself missing SG-1 a lot lately, so the marathon was a must-see for me. It helped confirm my theory that SG-1's success depends a great deal on Jack O'Neill's periodic expressions of mild exasperation. The synergy between the four leads is brilliant and perfectly balanced, and the writing top-notch, but it's also true that many an otherwise ordinary SG-1 episode sticks in the mind because of that moment in which O'Neill rolls his eyes or makes a dry comment. In fact the one that got me hooked on SG-1 was season 4's "Entity": the story is interesting but routine (a viral intelligence takes over first the SGC's computer system, then Carter), but what drew me in was the tiny scene in which O'Neill, when told that the doctor can overrule him on medical matters, follows up an earlier joke by griping idly that he's not getting his memos. I'm not sure that any actor besides Richard Dean Anderson could have delivered that inconsequential line in a way that could transform a non-viewer into an instant fan.

Marathons can be useful in other ways besides just reliving favorite moments. Monday's Kyle XY marathon on ABC Family, recapitulating the run of season 2 in a lead-up to Monday night's season finale, allowed me to catch a detail that had eluded me when I saw the episodes on first broadcast. In "House of Cards", Kyle sees evil CEO of Madacorp, Ballantine, wearing a ring like the one Adam Baylin had given him. Kyle had pawned the ring and someone else had bought it and bribed the pawn shop owner to lose the receipt, so Kyle assumes that Ballantine is wearing Adam's ring. But on reseeing the second episode of the season, "The Homecoming," I noticed that Ballantine is wearing this kind of ring (later identified with the secret society known as Latnok) when he's introduced, long before Kyle loses the one Adam gave him. So when Kyle took the ring from Ballantine's hand, he was taking Ballantine's ring, not Adam's. This is interesting just as an indication that that conspiracies swirling around Zzyzx are a little deeper than Kyle appreciates.

Comments

September 4, 2007 at 1:10 am
(1) Morjana Coffman says:

Hi, Mark.

Glad to see a new guide for the SciFi/Fantasy section.

Best wishes to you.

Morjana
http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/SG1-Spoilergate

September 4, 2007 at 10:53 am
(2) Sooey says:

I don’t think Atlantis is pulling a “worf.” :(

September 4, 2007 at 12:48 pm
(3) Erika says:

I agree with what you said about SGA phasing out Weir–I’m a fan of both actresses, but I loved Higginson, and to see her character get pulled is a shame. She was one of the few sci-fi females who had brains and courage, but didn’t have to be a buxom battle babe to be in command.

September 4, 2007 at 2:23 pm
(4) Katie says:

I liked the weir character too but I don’t mind the changes. who is worf?

anyway, carter is awesome, so I can’t wait to see her in the fourth and fifth season of atlantis.

September 4, 2007 at 10:37 pm
(5) Mark Wilson says:

Don’t get me wrong, I love Sam and I’m glad to see Amanda Tapping. But I love Dr. Weir too. (Worf was a character from Star Trek:The Next Generation who was added to the cast of Star Trek:Deep Space 9 once Next Generation ended to bring NextGen fans over to Deep Space 9. I think Carter is being added to Atlantis’s cast in order to pull in SG-1 fans now that SG-1 is over. I said it kind of snidely, which I regret, but I just hate to see Weir go, even if we get Carter in exchange.)

September 9, 2007 at 6:36 am
(6) BDB says:

Bringing Carter onto SGA is a huge mistake. She was dull on SG1 and she will take over SGA just like she took over SG1.

September 11, 2007 at 3:40 pm
(7) abbie says:

Great Worf analogy! Why is it always the least interesting character that gets sent on to represent a parent show? Of course it could well be due to availability of the actor – Tapping is unlikely to be in demand for anything else, whereas other cast members are probably happy to move on. Still trading Weir for Carter seems like a bad move to me, it doesn’t even make any kind of plot sense – why replace a diplomat and a leader with a character whose only purpose for ten years has been exposition and making the lead look hetrosexual? Anyone ready to take bets that this will the last season for Stargate Atlantis? It’s beginning to stink a lot like desperartion from where I’m sitting.

September 11, 2007 at 3:41 pm
(8) majorsal says:

that’s a bit rude to worf he’s much better looking than carter

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