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FAN REVIEWS: Memento Mori

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    FAN REVIEWS: Memento Mori

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    Striken with amnesia and on the run, Vala takes a job as a waitress as she tries to piece together who she is and what happened to her.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 6, 2021, 09:59 PM.

    Every character has his/her share of the "character episodes" in SG-1 and with Vala as the latest addition to the SGC crew, "Momento Mori" was her time to shine. Unfortunately, this episode did her character little justice and added very little to her profile - instead there were a splish-splash of random events which led into more random events, a race against time for the goodies and the baddies, gunfire and a naked Colonel Mitchell - not really a stellar SG-1 episode.

    There were a few good things about the episode though none of them relate to the main story. Firstly, the Vala/Daniel moments are touching. Their 'date' injects the large bulk of this episode's humour, continues to hint towards possible romance for Vala and Daniel and sets up the main segment of the episode [quite weakly I might add] as well as their interaction at the end of the episode.
    Vala and Daniel's reunion at the end of the episode is a joy to watch - specifically seeing her flashback to the smiling faces of her new family [i.e. SG-1] and numerous flashbacks of Daniel. Their interactions and her ability to remember his name remind the audience of the journey these two have been on, helped by Daniel's nice little comment about "wanting to be right." Whether or not a romance is brewing between these two, very few viewers would deny these two characters have developed a perfect chemistry and almost every interaction they share is gold.
    Finally, this episode serves as a pleasant reminder of just how far Vala has come from her first appearance in "Prometheus Unbound." Claudia Black's performance is flawless and offers a fresh perspective on the usually perky and eccentric woman we've seen upto this point.

    Sooo, what wasn't so good? Well... the episode. The ingredients are there but its just all wrong. If this were a cake you'd spit it out and throw up. Character episodes in SG-1 aren't always the best - some work, some don't. I still can't bear to watch Teal'c's "Bane" from season two and season six's "The Changeling" fares little better in my books. However, both of those had certain charms - especially the unique way in which 'The Changeling' was executed [and yes... Daniel Jackson's appearance].
    However, "Memento Mori" contained little more than recycled material, chewed up into a soggy ball and filmed. You have the memory device, you have the Trust, you have an Ancient tablet, a Go'ould [who was terrible] and an Earth-based story. This episode is nothing more than a less good version of numerous other episodes and its a shame that Vala wasn't given better because she's earned it. There are so many possibilities which could have worked... Perhaps if she'd be kidnapped off-world, if she was being held in a Go'ould facility, if we actually got to see some decent flashbacks and get to learn more about Vala's life as a host and the sort of things she did, had more of the good old Go'ould cliche evilness to hark back to the bad guys we used to love to hate.

    Instead... we got a few minutes of pointless memory flashes, a pitiful rescue and one of the most tedious memory-loss stories in SG-1 history along with a poxy race between SG-1 and the Go'ould to find Vala first, which took us here, there and everywhere without being the least bit exciting or making the audience feel at all concerned or apprehensive about what might happen next. [thats what makes a good episode folks!]
    The cafe segment was okay, though hardly thrilling but from there it went downhill. Although I'll admit that the fake Colonel Carter was quite good, the other chasing moments were very weak. They both get the information request sheet, Mitchell jumps on a bike to look all cool while the rest of his team stand there looking helpless, the Go'ould manages to intercept SG-1's communication and find out where she is, leading to a rather plain and boring exchange of fire [and I'm sorry... what the hell was up with that Zat charge moving along the girder?!?]
    The bad guys were pitiful - the Go'ould had no charisma and was plain and boring. I'm also getting fed up of them using human voices all the time. Her techniques were horrible - you have to wonder why her workers are so concerned for their safety - she doesn't seem capable of anything!

    In conclusion, what we have here is a mish-mash episode with a few good moments but a lot of mediocre or bad ones. You can't call it a complete "character" episode because we learnt nothing about Vala or her past. You can't call it an "action" episode as there was no action. You can't call it a "humour" episode as humour was hard to come by. You can't call it a "good ol' Go'ould" episode because all we had was one flash of the eyes and a couple of glimpses at a business woman. We can't call it an "ancient artefact" or "discovery" episode as the tablet was apparently worthless. We can't call it a "story arc" episode as we got NOTHING from it.... I think you get my point. What we have here is a barely decent episode that does nothing more than give Vala screentime and facilitate her addition to SG-1, which should have been done after something more impressive than this.
    So much more could have been made of this episode if a little imagination had been used - the potential is clear but was wasted terribly in what is, considering this could be our final season, a waste of space.

    5/10 - Gives limited insight into Vala's new and improved character, which Daniel has played a huge part in creating. Also continues the trend of showing the special relationship Vala and Daniel share. Story and general execution of the episode is weak and not very entertaining at all.

    O'Neill: Phasers?
    Carter: Sorry sir.



      Generally speaking, I’m the type that will embrace a new character, especially when the older cast members show definite signs of waning interest. It’s largely the reason why I found myself looking forward to Robert Patrick joining “X-Files” in the wake of Duchovny’s exit, and why Ben Browder’s arrival on “SG-1” was something I enjoyed. While it’s not always the case, the arrival of a new character can sometimes jump-start a writing staff, especially if they have fallen into patterns with existing characters with established plot connections.

      So when Vala was introduced and then brought back as a semi-regular, I was somewhat pleased, though concerned by the inevitable backlash. After all, Claudia Black was the second ex-“Farscape” cast member to join the series, and that led to a number of comments that the show was changing irreparably. That wasn’t the case, from my point of view, but I was a little worried over the character’s liability. She was great as a guest star, but would she work as a regular?

      For me, it was akin to the addition of Annabeth Gish to “X-Files”. Patrick brought a vitality and intensity to his role, but it was almost as if the writers used up all their creative energy on the character of Doggett. There were few episodes focusing on Gish’s character Monica Reyes, and in the end, her character never had the same presence.

      I mention this analogy because the writers have been working (some would say inconsistently) to make Mitchell a strong member of the team, while Vala has been featured in some big moments without outgrowing her origins as a fairly one-note guest star. This episode is all about giving Vala an episode of her own, to show what kind of person Vala is at the core, but the story is fairly mundane and ultimately feels forced.

      So we find out that Vala is the kind of person who would rather run away from her problems than face them directly, but we knew that already. And despite all of that, we learn that Vala is fundamentally a good person, but the writers have already reinforced that notion as well. So what did we really learn about Vala in this episode? The slight advancement of the possible Daniel/Vala relationship was nothing new, either.

      Contrast this with the “SGA” episode “The Real World”, which thrust the character of Weir into an unusual psychological space, thus revealing much about her and how she deals with adversity. This episode was trying to do something similar with Vala, but in the end, it didn’t have the same level of impact. Granted, Weir is a lead character on “SGA” and so the audience is more familiar with her, but the principles are the same.

      One other problem with this episode was the stunt coordination. I noticed a similar problem on a recent episode of “SGA”. I know that there are issues with the fight choreography all the time, but it was a lot more noticeable in this episode. There were people with semi-automatic machine guns shooting at people a few feet away, missing entirely, while the “good guys” ducked the bullets!


        Identity crisis is an appropriate summary both for the storyline of Memento Mori and the actual episode. While the story struggles to find its niche, Claudia Black turns in an outstanding performance which ultimately makes the episode incredibly watchable and even enjoyable.

        The main problem with the episode is that the story never settles on where it sits in terms of tone and genre. In many ways, the main arc of the story is the stuff of romantic comedies or psychological thrillers; Memento Mori seems to aim for the first one with a dash of an action movie added for good measure but occasionally slips into the second, and ends up being an uncomfortable mix of both.

        The elements of romantic comedy can be seen in the exchange between Daniel and Vala in the faux date; Vala taking out the two robbers; her trying to escape from the cop; the team discovering Mitchell handcuffed to the bed eating cookies and cake; the last scene of a protesting Daniel insisting it wasn’t a date. All these scenes are handled with a light touch and the cast clearly enjoying themselves. The dialogue in these scenes is also crafted very well to either provide the jokes (as in Vala’s needing the bathroom moment) or is absent to allow the visual joke supremacy (such as in Mitchell’s bed scene). The lighting is bright and the colours resplendent to add to the ‘happy’ feel of the scenes.

        However, the episode fails to follow through on the romantic comedy theme completely. Firstly, it really needs a consistency of male/female to work to maximum effect and substituting Mitchell half-way through for Daniel takes away from that. Further, to truly work as a romantic comedy, it needs the usual happy ending of the couple getting together instead an alternative happy ending with Vala fully joining SG1 is substituted again detracting from the romantic comedy theme.

        Indeed, there are moments when the story seems to self-consciously realise that it is perilously close to being a chick flick and attempts to insert some testosterone into the proceedings by emulating action movies with the explosion at the warehouse, Mitchell’s speeding off in a manly manner on a motorbike and the car chase (complete with crash) and various shoot-outs. The effects are done well mostly but the car suddenly appearing on two wheels for no apparent reason makes the whole flipping of it seem a little unbelievable. All the action sequences are played straight which means they sit apart from the rom-com stuff although handled more lightly, and played for laughs, could have sat comfortably alongside it. Equally, the very dark nature of the torture sequences of Vala, and her internal struggle also sit uncomfortably with the more light-hearted moments.

        In many ways the torture sequences with Vala clearly shown in extreme pain and the whole sub-text of her loss of memory/internal struggle to remember who she is and who to trust, are more suited to a psychological thriller. There is a true darkness to these scenes; Vala’s comment she will kill her torturers delivered without any humour, her evident fear of her flashbacks, her plaintive cries for help to the cop when being taken away; all add a serious undertone which is complemented by the dark interiors of the warehouses, the dim lighting in the flashbacks. But there is no real commitment to making the story a psychological thriller either.

        The villains appear weak and unthreatening as they cave in interrogation and are shown more interested in selling stocks and shares than ruling the galaxy. And there is no real threat in Vala’s flashbacks just space battles and some marching Jaffa although the musical underscore tries desperately to evoke something. However, although the serious psychological thriller element isn’t executed to maximum effect anymore than the rom-com stuff, they still clash badly. Stargate episodes are renowned for mixing light and dark but here the contrasting styles seem to be competing rather than complementing.

        It is a huge shame that there isn’t a singular identity for the episode because the stand-off scene between Daniel and Vala shows how brilliant it could have been had they chosen a consistent genre. This scene is wonderfully executed and would have been a fitting ending for a psychological thriller with Daniel’s impassioned, serious, yet heart-tugging dialogue, the simple flashback to the SG1 team, and the comforting hug as Vala remembers and surrenders. It is also flawlessly acted by both Michael Shanks and Claudia Black.

        All the cast turn in solid performances but with Vala the central character of the piece, the majority have little to do leaving Black to do a sterling job of carrying the episode. While the story never settles on a genre, Black’s versatility means that she is able to carry off all the rom-com humour and yet still be believable in the more serious scenes. The showcase scene for Black’s acting has to be the stand-off with Daniel. She is outstanding at displaying the visible internal breakdown of Vala as she listens to Daniel and remembers. It’s well done and admittedly even had me wiping away a tear. Black’s performance is the main reason why even with the mish-mash of competing styles the episode remains watchable.

        Once again this season, Stargate has produced a solid, enjoyable episode but, once again, the judgement of this particular viewer is ‘could do even better’. I would have preferred the whole story played as a psychological thriller; it would have added depth to Vala’s character; it might have given the Trust some substance as an enemy, and there is little doubt that Black could have handled the material superbly. Equally, had it committed fully to being a romantic comedy, I’m certain the story would have been highly enjoyable. But it definitely needed to be one or the other; trying to be both only gives the whole story an identity crisis that detracts from the quality execution of its parts.
        Women of the Gate LJ Community.
        My Stargate Fanfiction. My LiveJournal.


          *don't post this part... I wrote a new review, Memento Mori this time. Hope you like. About my last two reviews (counterstrike & 200): the idea was that the first remarks are for you, not the public. Count you remove that and put the review itsels in normal style? Don't care much for the italic. From now on, I'll just post the reviews. Sorry for the trouble.

          Memento Mori starts off with the tried and true plot move of putting a leading character in a seemingly wrong situation and then shifting back to how they got there.
          The first part comes off quite well. It’s strang to see ‘Val’ being a waitress and she looks absolutely shocked when she takes out the two thugs with such ease. It’s good enough to get you wondering before the opening credtis.

          Which are off course followed by the mandatory ‘three weeks earlier’. Having Daniel and Vala go out on a ‘date’ is a nice touch. At the moment this is the most interesting relationship within the team, so it’s always nice to see more of it. Vala does seem to be quite happy with the idea of dating Daniel and he’s more reluctant. Now why is that? They do have a certain chemistry and spark between them , but maybe the writers want to save that for later.
          In any case, the story needs to move on and it does quite quickly with Vala being kidnapped.

          After all that, the episode slows down to a more gentle, but also more boring pace. It’s a nice move to bring back Charlotte Mayfield/Athena, whom we haven’t seen since ‘Deus Ex Machina’, but I can’t say I’m very impressed with her acting. She just says her lines and at no point do I feel the evil vibe one ususally gets with a Goa’uld involved. Off course, the whole thing is just a plot device for Vala to get her memories erased and get the rest off the episode going. I do really like the idea that SG1 isn’t the team to be a the right warehouse. The chances off them always being in the right place are minute, so let another team get it right. Off course, this also makes it easier to kill everyone and let Vala get away without SG1 intercepting her.

          After this comes what must become a favorite Teal’c scene among fans. Chris plays him so perfectly menacing that you immediately believe the prisoner will break within seconds. Teal’c desert-dry ‘he was surprisingly forthcoming’ just rounded the thing of perfectly and had me very amused.

          After all of this, this really becomes Vala’s episode. Or rather, Claudia Black’s episode, and she plays it with verve. She’s completely blunt in that first scene with Sal and you really get the feeling that you’re watching Vala, but at the same you’re not. This feeling continues during her scene with the cop, which are also quite amusing. I’ve said it before, but I find Claudia Black to be a fantastic actress and she plays the whole with great subtlety.

          Off course, Vala has to be captured by the bad guys again and Mitchell spring into action. Then comes the mandatory scene where Mitchell tries to explain the situation to Vala and she doesn’t believe him. Having the rest of SG1 find Mitchell watching tv and eating snacks is a nice move tough, it adds some comedy to the whole thing.
          After that, it goes back to the standard plot of a big confrontion between the good and bad guys (off course the good guys win) and the big emotional scene where Vala gets her memory back thanks to Daniel (it simply had to be Daniel, because he’s closest to her). It’s all very much a standard plot and nothing really new or exciting is added.

          The last scene is nice tough. Vala has proven herself several times now and she’s rightfully integrated as a full member of SG1. End the episode with some remarks about the ‘date’ and we’re done.

          Once again, this is a pretty good episode to watch. Problem with this one is that it follows a very well known and often used plot and really doesn’t add anything to it. Like several others this season, Memento Mori never rises about average.
          I did really like the parts of Sal and detective Ryan. Both we’re quite well written and both actors played their roles very well. It did add to the overall feel of the episode.

          So, overall not a great episode but not a bad one either. Pretty much the same idea as last weeks ‘Counterstrike’. But because this episode doesn’t really advance any plot lines either, I can only give it 2.5 blue plate specials out of a possible 5. Let’s hope the quality picks up next week.
          *And that's all I have to say about that*