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GateWorld
July 28th, 2006, 07:40 PM
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<FONT SIZE="4"><A HREF="http://www.gateworld.net/sg1/s10/1010.shtml" STYLE="text-decoration: none">THE QUEST, PART 1</A></FONT>
<FONT SIZE="1">EPISODE NUMBER - 1011</FONT>
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SG-1 races against Baal in the hunt to find the Sangraal, Merlin's anti-Ori weapon, and comes up against a series of ancient trials.

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Carl
September 25th, 2006, 09:01 AM
The Quest Part 1 is a semi-epic race to the finish line with a decent cliffhanger. The episode works fairly well as a mid-season cliffhanger although it lacks any real "wow" factor. I can't say for sure why but considering the plot of the story and the characters involved there was a lack of tension, a lack of emotion and a lack of 'bigness' to the entire episode.

We all knew that this episode was coming... Daniel, with a little help from Adria, reveals where the sangraal is hiding, just as he did with the Lost City. With the gate address worked out by the computer our stellar team set off to find that which they've been hunting for almost a year. Along the way they encounter Baal and a wise old man who turns out to be Adria.

The formula is successful for the most part. Ba'al is a brilliant addition to the team, though he's pretty useless throughout and I am once again disappointed by the lack of a Go'ould voice and the ease at which he could be killed if SG-1 wished it. I also wouldn't mind knowing what became of his Jaffa. Adria's disguise worked well and I didn't suspect the old man until he began giving some shifty looks and spewing Ori propaganda in the forest. Upto that point I actually liked him and was worried that he may die - some successful writing really brought him and the female villager, to life in the short time they were onscreen.
When Adria turned into her beautiful self she continued to shine via her silent sense of power - the woman most certainly has a certain quality which makes her appear God-like in the most weak of circumstances. Her presence helped this episode a great deal but still wasn't enough to make it top-notch.

Seeing SG-1 together on a real offworld mission gave me great joy. It seems like such a long time since we've seen them all together for a full episode in their green uniforms and you couldn't help but soak up each and every interaction between them. Vala continues to work well as part of the main cast and her small but nice interactions with Sam Carter are proving helpful in bringing her into the fold a little more. I was terribly disappointed that we didn't see the stargate in this episode - the one time they used the damn thing and we didn't get to see them dialling the newly-discovered address and hear Walter say "Chevron 7 locked". Back in days of old this would have been a default scene for an episode like this - new address, not sure if it'd lock, about to set off on an important mission!!

My big thumbs up this week goes to the parchment of virtues and Daniel Jackson. The concept of the virtues being interpreted literally was a brilliant idea which helped gel the episode together as they moved through the stages of their quest. It also increased the drama and tension of the moments in which Daniel had to display the final virtue - "faith". Unfortunately, not all the tests were quite as successful. The riddles continue to annoy me and seem a woefully inadequate way of testing someone's virtue. The time dilation field was the most impressive of the tests and the most entertaining one to watch the team solve, while the "charity test" injected the most humour into an otherwise serious and important episode.
Secondly, Daniel Jackson was simply brilliant in this episode. From sitting at his desk, to his heated discussions concerning Origin, to his problem-solving, to his final confrontation with Adria. Their final few moments together were the best of the entire episode and watching Adria squirm was a joy. I suspected that her powers may be gone after her confrontation with Baal but was glad to see Daniel test and prove it.

So, given all the praises I have just delivered this episode, why did I feel it didn't work as well as it should have? First of all, there seemed to be a lack of urgency. You didn't feel the desperation or the sense of doom necessary to make finding the sangraal the epic quest it should have been. To compare, there wasn't enough of a "Lost City" feel to the episode. The progression of the episode was too rushed - everything seemed to move so quickly that there wasn't enough time dedicated to impact. This was especially true once they had entered the cave, running from one challenge to the next - just a random river of clues and problems to solve. This also decreased the epic value of the episode. There were no battles, no threat from the Ori, no immediate threat to Earth... just the conclusion to a story-arc. Hopefully, part two will make-up for this lack of 'bigness', although I can't really see where the episode will go from the apparent [yet boring] dead-end in the form of a rubbery looking dragon. I imagine that Baal will speak its name and then they'll have the sangraal... wooo?

Finally... I had a number of problems with the finer plot points of the episode. First of all, why was only one Ba'al present? With so many clones, surely there would have been an advantage to 10 or 20 Ba'als going on the mission. Each one could have tried a different strategy, taken a different route and helped the others solve the riddles to greatly improve their chances of success. Instead, only one Ba'al went, attended by Jaffa whom we didn't even encounter along the way. Secondly, every member of the quest crew, including Baal and Adria, knew that there would be a 'dragon' - otherwise interpreted as some form of barrier or technology which would require the use of a 'password' - so why, when they reached the sangraal did they take it for granted and apparently forget that they had not yet completed one requirement of the parchment of virtues?
Also, how can Adria influence her mother's dreams and imitate certain forms and why the elaborate invasion of the village when the old man could have simply said he'd lead SG-1 to the caves?

The lack of danger and tension in this episode hinders it's entertainment value. With the end of SG-1 on the horizon I have hopes that the second part of the two-parter will have more of an impact and deliver on what "The Quest Part 1" promises. To conclude, the episode is enjoyable and the character interactions are both well-written and well-acted and yet for all the joy of watching SG-1 go on a decent off-world mission, joined by Baal and their arch nemesis, Adria, the episode didn't really set itself apart from others as anything special. I will reserve full judgement on the complete arc for the end of part two, since I have high hopes it will deliver everything this episode lacked.

7/10 - a good story, with good writing and some great character interactions. However, an episode such as this required a danger factor - whether it be Ori ships headed to Earth or the discovery of the second supergate - and yet there was none! Instead, the only threat comes from Ba'al who is unarmed and helpless and Adria who is powerless. The result is an episode, which though entertaining, lacks anything to make it worthy of the last mid-season cliffhanger in SG-1 history [unless part two delivers BIG TIME!]

entil2001
September 25th, 2006, 04:57 PM
So, here we are, the mid-season break, and it’s time to sit back and take a look at how “SG-1” is holding up under the strain. All in all, this season started off strong, but there have been some stumbles along the way. Generally, anything that has involved Ba’al or the Lucian Alliance has been less than inspiring. Considering that this particular episode featured Ba’al (or one of them, anyway), it had a lot going against it from the beginning.

I fully acknowledge that the decision to incorporate Arthurian elements into the show included certain storytelling conventions. They play up the whole “quest” idea on a regular basis, so it’s not a huge surprise. However, while they’ve flirted with conventional fantasy elements, I don’t remember them stepping so far over that line as they have in this particular case. I suppose the title fits the bill perfectly.

This felt like “SG-1 Does D&D”, which I suppose will appeal to a number of fans. Truth be told, I don’t have a problem with the conventions, so long as they are used in a consistent and entertaining manner. This must have looked great on the page during the breakdown sessions, because it had all the clichéd bits: the enemies forced into working together, the “clever” challenges, each team member bringing something vital to the table, etc. And Adria’s wonderful outfit pretty much sealed the deal (Morena wears corset so well!).

The problem with using such a familiar standard is that the audience doesn’t really have to pay attention to the plot. The story will progress in the expected fashion and there will be few surprises. As such, it’s a lot easier to see where the writers fumbled. Who didn’t think that tossing the ubiquitous sand around in the little “time distortion maze” would have been smarter than tossing one rock at a time? Sand would have meant “instant walls”.

Such a solution might have also covered up the other problem with several sequences: poor pacing. The “time maze” took an enormous amount of time, and it looked fairly ridiculous. There’s a certain amount of self-awareness involved, and everything is asking us to laugh along, but there’s a big difference between inspired self-parody and spotty production.

I wish I had more to say about this episode, but it didn’t inspire much thought or consideration. At least with the Ori-heavy episodes, I can latch on to the philosophical concepts at play. There was precious little of that in this episode, and so I didn’t find it particularly memorable or thrilling (Morena notwithstanding). As I measure it, Season 10 is averaging about 6.9, which translates to an average show: solid enough, but nothing distinctive. Considering how well the season started out, that’s not what I had been expecting. Hopefully the final 10 episodes will be less uneven.

(As a sidenote: I also have a podcast associated with my various reviews called “Dispatches from Tuzenor”. Recent episodes cover the “Stargate SG-1”, so it might be something of interest. Go to http://entil2001.libsyn.com if you want to listen!)

Traveler Enroute1
September 25th, 2006, 08:01 PM
THE QUEST

I rated this episode an overall 10. When the final fade-out arrived, I asked: What did I feel? I answered, satisfied; well fed. I got good plotting, some mystery, suspense and surprises. Most of all I got my favorite team, expanded now, working as a unit with all of their talents front and center (with one exception). I got a sense of continuity; that there was a before now, and how events and team members had progressed or not in their good fight. In short, I think this season cliff hanger almost had it all.

From the opening teaser, The Quest was a team episode. It still managed to spotlight the members of SG-1 in a creditable way for me. For example, Samantha Carter was prominent in her element while interacting with her team in the field, as opposed to being solo while the others paired off. The lab scene with Sam, Vala and Daniel was a nice representation of them working in tandem and showed they were at ease with each other. It’s just a nice refresher when Sam is geared up in soldier mode and acts like a soldier (the shoot-out in town) but also shows what made her most valuable to SG-1 – her intelligence (guiding them through the temporal maze). This was nearly classic thinker-solver-soldier Sam.

Cameron Mitchell earned my nod in this episode, too. Even though his intention to duck out of Daniel’s lab seemed off, he made up for that as the events unfolded. As the cold-eyed soldier who was about to dust Ba’al or who wasn’t hesitant to shoot (at) Adria, I was impressed with his no-nonsense stance. Not that he lost his sense of humor, of course; his “You left your oven on, uh-oh?” in response to Sam was humorous without being jarring to the situation. This is a matured Cam Mitchell, a nice follow up on his inspired undercover mission previously. He was solid back up and in good SG-1 team form.

Although Vala and Daniel seem inseparable, they managed to separate them here for me, as least figuratively. Vala was definitely her typical irreverent self, arguing with Sam to steal the map from the old scholar. When she patted Sam on the arm after they got through the temporal maze (and resting against Sam in the lab) it made a nice statement of her respect and friendship with her. Sam and Vala obviously complement one another, Sam has the advantage in scientific method and Vala being impulsive or clever. Vala’s quandary with her daughter, Adria was, as ever, well played in an understated way. Claudia does an excellent job with the dueling feelings involved with her evil offspring.

Daniel Jackson has become even more front and center than Cam Mitchell, for good reasons, it seems; some of which haven’t been (officially) revealed yet. In The Quest he’s clearly the go-to guy when it comes to the Ori and Adria. Daniel’s scenes with Vala have toned down in a good way. They seem to actually talk to each other or rather Daniel finally listens to her then he dismisses her. When she awakens and explains her dream, he’s not very attentive until he hears more. With Adria there are sparks, the old fashioned adversarial ones that make for intense moments viewers live for. Adria has latched onto Daniel’s special ascended past and he’s struggling to find a way to deflect her. Their confrontation at the Sangraal was a palpable opposition; both kept pushing for advantage. Daniel called her bluff, but he wasn’t fearless; he was still uncertain about his theory. Adria was in her unperturbed menacing persona up to the moment it’s obvious she was powerless. Stalemate - and I loved every step up to it.

I also liked the look of this episode. I don’t know why exactly but the colors, especially the clothes worn by the townspeople, stood out to me. Their clothing was singularly vibrant, I thought, in contrast to the other medieval worlds SG-1 visited. The lighting all around seemed to be geared to opening the scenes; no gloomy forests, even the cave sequences weren’t oppressively dark. We also got a look at the ground troops in the Ori forces; thus far they behaved with all the conduct and bluster of any invading army. Adria in battle dress looked dashing, in a Xena sort of way. I think I like her haut couture sense a la Ba’al, though.

Well, of course nothing is perfect, and this episode had its detractions. Foremost is the lack of a defining Teal’c scene. Yes, he’s the perfect intimidator; even the mighty Ba’al can’t ignore a jaffa of his stature. Fortunately Teal’c managed to get in a few lines that moved the story. His input about the temporal maze gave the team at least hope that they could figure it out and he solved one of the riddles in the tunnel. Hopefully he‘ll get more to do in the second half. Ba’al was his customary fashionable and arrogant (even after days without food or water) but I couldn’t find a reason why he was really there. Or is it that the real Ba’al wasn’t really there, or…what? Was he there to speak the (drab) dragon’s true name and save the day?

In all, I had fun watching The Quest. I avoided spoilers so I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. I suspected the old scholar but never expected Adria to be under that wheezing, hobbling villager. The temporal maze was also an imaginative stunt. The charity trap was my favorite team scene, with some interesting overlapping directing. I got a good sense of what the series could be beyond season 10 or even season 11 if the writers maintained plot and character driven stories like this. For me, The Quest had the right (SG-1) stuff. Let’s hope it keeps it six months from now in Part 2!

Rachel500
December 21st, 2006, 07:48 AM
The first part of The Quest takes SG1 from sci-fi to unimaginative fantasy in one fell swoop as the show returns to the Ori arc. While the story retreads fantasy standards such as mazes, riddles and dragons, it does manage to do the almost impossible of balancing the contributions of all of the SG1 team and the two villains who are added into the mix.

Having always loved Arthurian mythology, it’s always been a disappointment that the show has only really touched on the most minimal aspects of it which is still the case with The Quest. The search for the Sangraal continues and it was nice to see the three planets mentioned in Camelot having some validity after two of them seemed to be summarily dismissed earlier in the season without reason. But this and the mention of Morgan are the only references and with only a tenuous link to the mythology, the story takes a leap into the more general fantasy genre and fails to find its footing.

The entire ‘quest’ within the episode is a cliché; strangers turning up in a village at the beginning of a quest, challenges to prove themselves ‘worthy’ of the treasure and even the dragon. While this is the standard fantasy formula, there is nothing ultimately done to make this original which makes the story fairly tedious. This is not helped by the fact that there is little mystery in the challenges for the audience to try and work out the solution along with the heroes. The time dilation maze is quickly explained as is the chest and the child; the riddles section moves along so fast that the audience barely has time to comprehend what has been said before the team is onto the next one, and the wall of fire was fairly obvious to anyone who has ever picked up a fantasy book. The Sangraal located across a narrow bridge over a deep canyon and the dragon turning up just completed the cliché. Compare these tests to those in S2’s Thor’s Chariot and the latter comes across as much more interesting.

There were parts of the quest which were better than others but even these have their issues; the time dilation maze is quite clever and does try to marry the sci-fi heart of the show with the fantasy storyline but visually it doesn’t work well. The sight of the team all lined up behind Carter and walking awkwardly around invisible walls smacked of children playing make-believe; it was hard to believe that they were in any danger of being stuck in time seriously. Equally, the riddles were interesting and the sense of the tunnels collapsing around them did add some urgency and tension to that section. However, the immediate thought on hearing Daniel yell ‘clavia’ was that the archaeologist had suddenly turned into Harry Potter. If these were the relatively good bits, the worst aspect of the quest has to be the dragon where the special effects team seem to have come up with a mutated Sodan-cloak monster with wings; really awful.

With the story drowning in a fantasy cliché, its only saving grace is the charm of the SG1 characters and the nice sense of team that exudes from their interactions. From the opening of Teal’c and Mitchell checking in on Daniel; Daniel, Sam and Vala checking out the addresses; the scenes with the villagers and the Ori ‘invasion’; their working together on the challenges and to contain both Adria and Ba’al – there were so many nice moments that its difficult to mention them all. Indeed, all the SG1 characters are used within the story which adds to the overall team feel of the episode. Unfortunately, the characterisation does come across as one-dimensional at times; Sam is primarily science girl, Mitchell the military man, Teal’c the intimidator, Daniel the translator and Vala the comedienne and they don’t really get the chance to go much beyond these boundaries within the story but certainly they should especially given the inclusion of Ba’al and Adria.

A huge disappointment of The Quest is the absolute lack of tension in the relationship between Vala and Adria that did exist in Counterstrike. The sense is that the writers are moving onto the dynamic between Adria and Daniel. It’s Daniel who works out the old man is Adria (which was well done in terms of a surprise although the ‘truth is only seen by someone seeing with both eyes’ nonsense was a huge give away), who she challenges when her cover is blown and who challenges her at the end over her powers. There is undoubtedly a great tension between them especially in the stand-off over the Sangraal. But for Vala and Adria there is only one lacklustre scene that retreads old ground in terms of dialogue and adds nothing new.

Equally given what had happened between Sam and the Ba’al clones in Insiders, there was the potential or a character moment about that in The Quest which is also ignored beyond a comment about the time it has taken for Ba’al to find the planet. It is difficult to see what purpose adding both villains to the story brings in this first part, although they do at least provide a good contrast to our heroes especially in the test of kindness where it is the ‘goodness’ of the SG1 team that finds the right way. It is hoped that Ba'al and Adria's roles will make more sense in the conclusion.

The first half of The Quest in many ways sums up the first half of season 10 very well; the story lacking substance while having a certain charm and the characterisation lacking depth while finally displaying a revitalised SG1 team that feels and acts like a team. The latter allows a great deal else to be forgiveable but the hope is for more improvements in the second half of both the season and The Quest.