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GateWorld
July 28th, 2006, 07:32 PM
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<FONT SIZE="4"><A HREF="http://www.gateworld.net/sg1/s10/1004.shtml" STYLE="text-decoration: none">INSIDERS</A></FONT>
<FONT SIZE="1">EPISODE NUMBER - 1004</FONT>
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Stargate Command captures several copies of Baal and must determine which one is the genuine article.

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White Knight
August 5th, 2006, 02:02 AM
Wow, that episode had me Baaling with laughter. It was amazing how the writers managed to keep so many Baals in the air and handle them so deftly. There were some pretty Baalsy moves made that’ll affect the rest of the series.

Okay, I’ll stop.

Insiders is easily the best episode of season 10 so far, which is exactly what I’d expect of an Alan McCullough episode. It hit all the right notes, it balanced the comedy, the action, the plot and the character and team building, it does simple things that other episodes should by don’t do, and it adds just a little something extra to the overall seasonal arcs. Episodes like this don’t come along often, maybe once or twice a season, but when they do they remind me why I’ve been a Stargate geek for nearly a decade.

The teaser of the episode is an excellent example of the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule being used. How many episodes do we just have the team in the control room hearing “We see the bad guy…we’re shooting at the bad guy…the bad guy’s down.”? Here we got to see a ship descending to Earth, then see the team’s reaction, then see the ship being shot down and then see the team move out and come face to face with Baal.

From what I’d read on GateWorld and from the teaser I would’ve picked this episode as a comedic one, but as soon as Act I kicked off I was being treated to much more. Vala is making contributions more than simple out-of-the-box thinking; she’s using her knowledge and experience of the Goa’uld to help the team get information out of Baal – who tells the team about a credible threat, while still being ambiguous enough that we can’t be sure of his true intentions or whether he’s even the real Baal. I cannot say enough about Cliff Simon and Baal; he’s got a Lex Luthor quality about him, an arrogance and smugness that stems from the fact that whatever anyone says about him, he is an undeniably brilliant and dangerous individual (or individuals).


The team’s offworld hijinks were light-hearted, fun and entertaining. Again, Vala demonstrates her worth to SG-1 and Stargate Command while still being the cheeky and lovable rogue we first met in Prometheus Unbound. We get some fun little action scenes, something which the series was built on in the early seasons (after all, SG-1 is a military unit and its nice to see the writers remember that), and all that interspersed with more Baal moments – and Baal jokes. I expected a lot of jokes to come out having multiple Baals and wasn’t disappointed.

It was during the interrogation scenes that hints of darkness started to creep into an episode that so far had been pretty light and funny. In particular, Mitchell’s manipulation of a Baal was wonderfully played by both actors, and Vala’s sexual bluff being called by another Baal had me genuinely worried for the character.

It was when Barrett was getting angry with Carter that I started to suspect something darker still was going to happen, but no sooner was the thought in my head than the proverbial hit the fan. The escape of the Baals was fast-paced as was the SGC’s response, which helped the tension of the episode tremendously and amped everything up.

The subsequent skirmishes between the Baals and SG-1, as well as the slow revelation of the Baals’ plans, was very Die Hard-esque, but in a good way. I was chewing fingernails watching the whole of Act IV, wondering the entire time “How do the Baals intend to escape? Are SG-1 going to be discovered? What’s Carter going to do?”. The questions being posed help to keep the tension climbing right to the last second. I was particularly happy to see Dr Lee come up with the solution, and seeing Carter fail to grasp the Baals’ plans until it was too late managed to put a chink in her Wonder Woman image far more successfully than the entire ‘Gemini’ episode of season 8.

Seeing the villain(s) succeed has been something of a recurring theme of season 10, and it’s successfully putting Earth and in particular SG-1 down several pegs from the unstoppable dream team of recent years. With Baal the defeat is made so much more personal because of who he is and their prior interactions and it makes his victory over the SGC all the more bitter. The rest of the season is looking bleak for SG-1.

Overall I have to say that Insiders in a brilliant episode, definitely one that defines what an episode of SG-1 should be like. Great performances from the leads and guests, fantastic character building and team interaction, the right balance of humour and drama, and a plot that had me biting my fingernails lead me to give this episode a 9 out of 10 My supreme kudos to Alan McCullough, whose shaping up to be one of the best writers we’ve seen on Stargate yet.

entil2001
August 7th, 2006, 04:54 PM
Coming off the best episode of the season, I was a little wary of this latest installment. For one thing, Daniel was nowhere to be seen, and given that my favorite parts of “The Pegasus Project” involved his character, I was worried that there would be a letdown on those plot points. The second problem was the episode’s focus. I hated the idea of the Ba’al clones in the ninth season, and so a return to that concept in this episode wasn’t something I met with anticipation.

I suppose that my first fear was a wash. Daniel wasn’t in the episode at all, but the plot points were front and center, and the season arc continues to get plenty of exposure in each new episode. This was all about finding Merlin’s weapon and further complicating the information that Morgan LeFay provided, and that was promising. Sure, we’re still firmly in “Lost City Retread” territory, but I’m still finding elements to enjoy. So the lack of Daniel didn’t result in a loss of focus.

On the second point, I was far less impressed. The SGC has dealt with Ba’al enough that they ought to know better than to take anything for granted. On several occasions in this episode, they let their guard down, missing information or implications that were obvious to most of the audience. This is one thing that annoys me to no end: when writers intentionally make their brilliant characters stupid or gullible to facilitate a plot hook. Ba’al and his clones succeeded because the SGC overlooked the obvious, not because the scheme was particularly clever.

For example, the SGC personnel already know that the Trust has been taken over by Goa’uld and has a great deal of influence. They know that Ba’al is looking to stake his own claim and build an empire. Given the connections between the NID and the Trust, why wouldn’t they be watching Barrett like a hawk? Especially when he starts acting like a maniac. They know that Ba’al was using mind control techniques in the past, and they know he’s up to something. Why wouldn’t they place heavy restrictions on access and place layered security protocols on the prisoners? It was far too easy for Barrett to get to Ba’al, which was a key element of Ba’al’s plan.

I suppose this could be overlooked, considering that every series will eventually have a character act a certain way when the script simply won’t allow for anything else, but it was hardly the only offense. I was also bothered by the portrayal of the Ba’als in this episode. Some villains are best used in small doses; Cancer Man was arguably more potent in early seasons of the “X-Files”, as opposed to later seasons where his presence was more centralized. Too many Ba’als can be a problem, especially since the actor had trouble delivering some lines convincingly.

Having fallen into the same trap as the writers, I must mention that one of the downsides of the episode was the constant use of “Ba’als” as a punchline. Yes, it’s funny, but it also got to be a little strained, especially when the situation became serious in the final act. Since I already found the whole “Ba’al and his Clones” plot thread to be ridiculous, it didn’t help for the characters themselves to mock the idea.

The Doctor
August 9th, 2006, 09:28 AM
Well, Insiders. What can I say? The idea of introducing Ba’al as another player in the search for Merlin’s weapon is a good one. Should make for interesting television in the future. But setting it up could have been done a lot better.

Well, Ba’al is back and he seems to be giving himself up to the Tau’ri freely. Off course, everyone is suspicious of his motives, but not nearly as suspicious as they should be. We know Ba’al is a very smart guy with a great deal of resources at his disposal. So why is SG1 gullable enough to play right into his plan and collect all the Ba’al they could find? It was completely obvious that he had some sort of plan in motion, but it seems nobody but the viewer sees it coming.

Dumbing your characters down is a move that is unfortanetely made more often by writers to progress the storyline. Something it’s done well enough for the viewer not to be bother, but this isn’t one of those times. I found it completely unbearable to see SG1 and Gen. Landry walk into Ba’al little plan with open eyes. We are supposed to be dealing with some of the smartest people on this planet and most of the time they act like it. All the more reason why making them act like idiots for the sake of the storyline is unforgivable. With that said, let’s look at the rest of the episode.

I always like seeing Ba’al. I think Cliff Simon is a very talented actor and Ba’al has been my favorite bad guy since he was introduced as one of the major players. He’s smart, calculating and works with more subtetly than most bad guys on the show ever do. I’m still not sure however, if I like the idea of him cloning himself. In this episode, playing so many different Ba’als seems overwhelming for the actor and seeing them is somewhat overwhelming for the audience. Of course, the real reason for what Ba’al is doing is still out there and I’ll wait until that is revealed before I give my final verdict. In any case, I’m glad he’s once again becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Which brings us to Agent Barret. I can’t say I dislike the character, but he has been rounded out enough to make it onto my list of favorite just yet. In any case, it became quite clear as the episode progressed that he was going to do something stupid like letting one of the Ba’al out. Which would mean that the NID had been compromised by the very Trust that they’ve been trying to weed out. This brings a whole new problem to the SGC and I hope we’ll see more of it soon. Just as long as it doesn’t turn into a copy of Full Alert.

One thing I seem to be repeating in every review is that the main actors did a great job with their characters. And once again, that is the case. At the beginning of the episode, I was dissapointed because Daniel (who is still my favorite SG1 character) wouldn’t be in the episode, but the rest of the cast really stepped up and his presence wasn’t missed at all. Just as long as he’s back next week.
It’s almost getting annoying to say it everytime, but the only restriction the actors seem to have are the ones imposed on them by the script. Everytime the script is good, the actors do a great job. When the script is less fantastic, they still do their jobs as good as they can. So here’s to hoping the writers turn out more script with the quality of last week’s and less like this week’s.

So in conclusion, this episode started out with a lot of promise, but because the writers made the characters dumb for the sake of the story, it turned out to be something of a dissapointment. Acting was good, plot development was good, but the rest wasn’t. So, let’s try and shake it of and hope the rest of the episode will be more like The Pegasus Project. I’m afraid I can’t give this episode any more than 6 Ba’al clones out of a possible 10.

Rachel500
November 9th, 2006, 06:01 AM
If The Pegasus Project was a lesson in how to write a good Stargate episode, how not to is covered by Insiders. It suffers from poor characterisation and an obvious plot that makes a meal of its relatively simple objective in terms of the Ori arc. All combine to produce an episode that is neither memorable nor enjoyable with hardly any redeeming features.

The main purpose of the episode seems to be connecting the Goa’uld with the Ori arc, giving another twist to the search for Merlin’s weapon, both in determining its location and in introducing a race. To facilitate this, the two other planets mentioned in Camelot suddenly turn out to be dead ends, which is a little jarring. To quote Samantha Carter, ‘that’s the part that doesn’t make any sense.’ Still, having summarily dealt with that, the rest is a simple assignment but admittedly not without its challenges, the main one being how Ba’al gets the list of Stargate addresses from the confines of the SGC database.

The solution is a simple concept; Ba’al brazenly delivers himself to the SGC, steals the information and manages to escape. Ba’al is the sole remaining Goa’uld bogeyman, played to perfection by Cliff Simon. Although Ba’al has never achieved the same chilling amorality of his relentless torture of Jack O’Neill in Abyss, he remains a beautifully crafted character both cruel and cunning with a pragmatic streak that always chooses survival. An outlandish, daring and convoluted plan to acquire information only available in the SGC computers is certainly within the character’s scope. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, that’s about as successful as the plot gets. The solution ends up creating more problems than it solves. There are three main ones; firstly, the idea itself doesn’t seem to have enough substance to it to last a whole episode of Stargate. Both the Ba’al capturing scenes and later the interviews seem like attempts to pad the idea out. Quite frankly, the whole could have been covered in one act and almost is; the bulk of the action takes place in the third act, leaving the rest as mainly exposition. This leads onto the second problem; the enormous amount of explanation that takes place.

Practically every scene is given over to explaining the plot to the audience in some way, and none are done subtly. Whether it was Samantha Carter commenting that Ba’al has a locator beacon but can’t escape or whether it was Dr Lee’s detailed explanation of why symbiote poison couldn’t be used immediately, the plot signposts are written in large letters and surrounded by neon, flashing lights that scream ‘Look at me! I’m important to your understanding of the plot!’ While it is admirable to try to not leave any dangling questions, the vast amount of time spent explaining the plot slows it down to plodding and it’s unnecessary; Ba’al’s scheme (or rather McCullough’s plot) is neither as clever or as complicated as the writer seems to think, and even if it was, using two scenes to make the point of one (as is the case with Barrett’s brainwashing) is repetitive at best, dull at worst.

The third problem is rooted in making the plot work with the characters and established Stargate canon. While it is not inconceivable that Ba’al would outwit the SGC, the plot relies too heavily on the SGC being stupid for a day and keeping all their Ba’al’s in one basket, a dim-witted security guard who acts without authorisation, symbiote poison suddenly not working instantaneously and everyone but especially Carter not making the connection of multiple Ba’als equalling multiple locator beacons.

Carter has a great deal of knowledge in regards to the locator beacons and jamming technology (she’s the one who originally identifies that Ba’al has a locator beacon). It suggests that she should have realised the risk of the signal being boosted way ahead of Ba’al’s move. Even allowing for her missing that, her behaviour after being released from the storage room is nonsensical as she runs off without a weapon to confront the room full of Ba’als. She actually acts like the dumb blonde Rodney McKay once accused her of being; so out-of-character and in terms of the plot completely unnecessary. Her apology at the end is in-character but unfairly suggests that only Carter should shoulder responsibility for Ba’al getting the list of Stargate addresses whereas it is clear the SGC had operational and security issues beyond her control.

All the characters have moments of inconsistency with perhaps the exception of Teal’c who doesn't have much to do. Bizarrely, Vala goes from new probationary recruit to leading a small team within the episode while Mitchell, always a very respectful and by-the-book officer in front of Landry walks out of the briefing room without so much as a ‘with your permission, sir,’ when the Ba’als start escaping and earlier tells Landry he has no control over his team. Mitchell saying this to Carter a la Avalon where he blurts out his fears about screwing up might have worked; to Landry? No. At least Barrett’s out of character behaviour is explained and the scene between him and Sam in the cafeteria is one of the few redeeming moments in the story.

Another is that the team feel so well-established this season continues despite the absence of Daniel. There is a nice dynamic between Carter and Mitchell throughout with the teasing over Mitchell’s joke and his staying behind with her at the end. Teal’c and Vala arm-wrestling is hilarious and Vala and Carter get a couple of nice moments too.

Unfortunately, this cannot make up for the rest. This is definitely one where the red pen of quality control went missing along with a credible plot which in the end only serves to complete its objective for the main arc while being entirely forgettable otherwise.