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    FAN REVIEWS: The Shroud

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    When SG-1 discovers that Daniel Jackson has been turned into a Prior of the Ori, they must determine whether or not his plan to destroy the Ori is genuine.



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    When Daniel failed to make it back with his team at the end of The Quest part II, it was clear that his return would be dramatic. A two-week absence heightened the tension. And the moment we finally saw him, pale and marked as a prior of the Ori, was nothing if not high drama.

    There follows a series of well-scripted character studies as the team try to guage the reliability of their colleague, and the culmination of months of searching for the means to defeat the Ori. Just to make The Shroud even more special, an old friend is along for the ride.

    Richard Dean Anderson delights as O'Neill. Jack's mix of irreverence and professionalism was not as well balanced in recent years as it was in the early days of Stargate, but he is in fine form on his return to the SGC to discuss the problem of Daniel. If this should prove to be Jack's swansong in the Stargate universe, it will stand as a good way to remember a well-loved character whose presence defined the show for so many years.

    The classic - traditional may be a better word - banter between Jack and Daniel makes a welcome return, and there is an abundance. On paper, the dialogue would surely look like prime, archetypal stuff; the usual arch and facetious humour in the face of reunion, shared adversity or disagreement; the two men playing off each other the same as ever. Translated to the screen it attains a different air, for while Jack is the Jack we know of old, Daniel is simply not himself. Which is rather the point, and which in no way detracts from the enjoyability of the scenes, but which helps to maintain the uncertainty over Daniel's true alegiance very effectively.

    Michael Shanks has had plenty of opportunity to stretch his acting muscles over the years, playing a vast array of characters inhabiting Doctor Jackson's body. Ever-reliable, he does not disappoint in The Shroud. As a blend of Daniel and Merlin, he is recognisably still Daniel, but palpably also a peevish old man. Called upon to play impotent frustration in varying degrees of sarcasm and urgency for much of the episode, Shanks excels, making Daniel sympathetic in his desperation and yet not entirely convincing to the viewer, keeping us wondering.

    The marked difference from Daniel's usual character, and the single-mindedness that Daniel and Merlin share contribute to the uneasy feeling that Daniel might actually be plotting against his friends. The cold reptilian make-up seems to quietly give the lie to everything he says, until his eventual showdown with Adria when for a moment it truly appears that he has been turned to the Ori; a truly thrilling and shocking moment.

    Daniel, of all the characters in SG-1, is perhaps the one most defined by his desire to do right, and by the steadfastness of his beliefs. That any of SG-1 might have turned to the enemy is a powerful hold on our emotions, and that it should be Daniel who becomes a prior and appears to subvert his own being so totally serves to enhance the strength of this idea.

    It is good to see the team have faith in Daniel, particularly Teal'c who takes little time to make his mind up. Vala, with her intense personal experiences of Origin is less willing to take chances, but still treats Daniel very much as himself, and the others are happy enough to fall in with a modified version of his plan. But pleasing as it is to see the depth of trust Daniel engenders in his friends, there is a missed opportunity here. Of course the rest of SG-1 have reservations about Daniel's plan, but their doubts appear to be of the 'just in case' variety. Possibilities that he might have been truly brainwashed, or that he might be under the direct control of an Ori, Prior or Orici, or that his damaged mind had succumbed to persuasion after being taken by Adria are not discussed, so that the objections to Daniel's plan seem almost to come down solely to his altered appearance.

    Fuller consideration of what could have led to this situation where Daniel can be suspected of betrayal, might have been an exciting and major theme of this particular mini-arc, but is not capitalised upon. This is perhaps a symptom of timebound episodic television; still, if the events of The Shroud had been spread over two or more weeks this admittedly minor flaw may have been avoided. Extended, this storyline could even have played with the concept of actually having Daniel ally with Adria for a time, with the rest of the team engaged in a battle for Daniel's soul. As it is, with the idea of Daniel as a prior The Shroud opens up many vistas without exploring any; without even glancing at more than one or two.

    Nonetheless, if it is a weakness that aside from a few moments near the end Daniel's colleagues never seem to genuinely share our suspicion that he may be evil, it is also a strength. Warmth and cameraderie abound, serving as a welcome counterpoint to the sense of foreboding, as the struggle against the Ori takes a turn that may ultimately be for the better but appears immediately to be for the worse.

    For the past few years, most of Stargate SG-1's better episodes have been those which have moved the various storylines onwards and in this The Shroud fits the pattern. This episode is indeed a superior offering, and its contribution to the overall arc of the past two seasons is substantial. In enhancing the threat of the Priors within the Milky Way the scene is set for a grand climax in the course of the remaining episodes, and while we do not know if the Ori themselves live, or what would become of Adria the Orici without their continued existence, we can be very sure that the rules have shifted for the endgame of the show.

    If the sustained quality of recent episodes is an indication, it will be a thoroughly enjoyable endgame.


    Thanks and acknowledgements to Keshou



      Sometimes expectations about an episode can be a bad thing. With the news that The Shroud would feature the return of Daniel Jackson as a Prior and a guest appearance by Richard Dean Anderson, memories of Abyss – one of the best SG1 episodes in its history – ensured that the episode had a lot to live up to. Further, with two SG1 team dynamics to cater for, there was always the potential the episode would go horribly wrong and fail to satisfy a significant proportion of its fan base. In the end, The Shroud is no Abyss yet it does manage to deliver an intriguing story and just about balance all the characters.

      The main dynamic that The Shroud was expected to showcase was Daniel and Jack, and so it does. In all their scenes together, their interaction zings with the snarky banter and filial undertones that characterises the relationship. Whether it is Jack noting that Daniel’s look is ‘new’, the ‘Daniel’/’Jack’ exchange when Jack is beamed up to the Odyssey, or the ‘wake up sleepyhead’ complete with ruffling of hair in the infirmary, there is a lot to enjoy even if the scenes lack something of the emotional angst of those in Abyss. Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks both seamlessly pick up where they left off in their interplay so much so that it is difficult to believe that their last real scene together prior to The Shroud, (ignoring the jesting sketches of 200), was the end of Origin in S9.

      Anderson’s revival of Jack is very successful in that regard; he very quickly makes it seem like he hasn’t been missing from the SG1 universe and the story promotes this idea strongly; his entrance is understated as he turns up at a briefing and continues to interact with all the characters both old and new as though he is a regular visitor to their world – just one the audience never usually sees or hears about it beyond the odd snippet. While this approach does fail to provide some back-story in terms of what exactly Jack has been doing since he stopped being SGC leader, it evokes the sense that Jack has never really been away.

      Both the story and Anderson deliver a recognisable Jack; more matured but he is still the same Jack underneath; irreverent, uncomfortable with not being in the thick of the action, wonderfully fierce and commanding with Woolsey when he notes that the other man will kill Daniel over his dead body, and still believing not just in Daniel but the rest of his team.

      It is one of the strengths of the story that the relationship between the original SG1 team members, the depth of their friendship and faith in each other, is recognised throughout with Sam querying whether Daniel is OK, Jack believing Teal’c will ascertain whether Daniel is lying or not, Teal’c’s interrogation of Daniel, Teal’c backing up Sam on the Ori ship, Jack believing in Daniel to disconnect the wormhole or Jack and Sam discussing the situation in Sam’s lab together. All lovely moments that pepper the episode and add a believability to the team believing in Daniel despite his outward appearance as a Prior.

      Yet the new SG1 dynamic is not forgotten either; there is a great moment between Daniel and Vala where she questions him because she knows how powerful Adria is and his plan risks so much. Mitchell and Vala’s banter signal their deepening friendship. All the SG1 mission scenes portray a team working cohesively together which has been one of the successes of all S10 episodes to date.

      Undoubtedly the balancing act isn’t perfect. Which character is preferred, which relationship dynamic is enjoyed, which team dynamic is favoured, will alter whether the viewer comes away disappointed or pleased. As someone who enjoys both the old and the new, I am surprised at how well the balancing act is done yet greedily I want more.

      In many ways, the ambitious story needed more time to be told as it effectively ends the quest for the Sangraal and provides the team finally with a weapon against the Ori. It feels like it should have been a two-part story. The question over whether to kill Daniel could have provided real additional drama and angst but it is dealt with so quickly that it loses some of the initial shock and horror at the original announcement. Equally, the flashbacks of Daniel’s time with Adria provide nothing more than tantalising glimpses and leave Adria nothing more than a caricature in her potential seduction of Daniel to the dark side. That remains nothing more than a tease even with Daniel’s superb escape and takeover of the Odyssey and is why the end denouement of Daniel’s showdown with Adria lacks some tension.

      Additionally, the whole episode suffers from an anti-climax as there is no way the team have of knowing if they were successful or not. The question of whether the Ori were destroyed, whether the plan ultimately failed, leaves the episode in somewhat of a muddle. The culmination of this particular thread deserved some real closure even if the uncertainty fits with the story and keeps the rest of the arc alive and kicking.

      In many ways the story perhaps tried to do too much and show too many things given its limited time. It has raised my hopes for the proposed movies where they will have greater scope in timing to tell a story and show character relationships, and it certainly proves, should they manage to secure Anderson to appear, that they can mix the old and the new successfully.

      Still, The Shroud is highly enjoyable with the tease of Daniel’s motivations, and the great team and character interactions providing more than enough to keep the interest. Every aspect from special effects, to music, to performances is accomplished and ultimately, this is a quality episode of SG1. Did it meet expectations? Well, no; but maybe that’s a good thing.
      Women of the Gate LJ Community.
      My Stargate Fanfiction. My LiveJournal.


        Rumoured for months, ‘prior knowledge’ of the episode rapidly became an exhausted phrase. Anticipation had rarely been higher: recent good form and the O’Neill return! Add that its success rested largely on Michael Shanks, the actor whose ability to portray arcs of an intimidating range has often proven a cohesive force – and occasionally the saving grace - of an episode and the fandom expected. Simply put, the Stargate team delivered in breathtaking form.

        ‘The Shroud’ isn’t perfect. The main criticism is that this arc deserved more screen time than one episode could credibly hold. A resultant decision evident in the writing of the episode is that some relationships flourish and others are sidelined. The friendship between Sam and Daniel so integral to the series in earlier years is painfully neglected. Tapping makes valiant use of what there is and there are some poignant beats between the characters. As is too often the case this season, they also highlight potential consistently unused. Mitchell is also neglected but this feels less of a glaring omission when past episodes such as ‘Singularity,’ ‘Entity’ and ‘Fallen’ are remembered, in which Sam and Daniel interaction yielded some of the most affecting scenes.

        The only character to suffer due to what they are given is Adria, whose role can feel incongruous – both deceived and overpowered where neither had been possible before in the space of one episode. It isn’t illogical and we are approaching the beginning of the end, so it’s time we found a way to strike back. Whilst the writers qualify it well through flashback, her almost total defeat after being such a powerful, intelligent enemy in The Quest I & II still feels slightly too sudden. However, she returns in Dominion and I wouldn’t bet on her being happy.

        The majority of what it does it does astonishingly well, so I’m going to talk about that for a while now. The writing is impeccable and convincing from the leads through to smaller roles, e.g. the difficult yet sympathetic Richard Woolsey. Old tricks are turned on their head to new purpose – the familiar banter between Daniel and O’Neill becomes uncertain ground, serving to challenge the validity of the character rather than affirm it.

        The much-hyped return of O’Neill feels anti-climactic but the episode is better for it. He is very simply there and in the action, integrating with the existing regulars in easily his best guest appearance to date. Where other episodes that have included the character have done so with bells on and wilful sacrifice of other angles, flagging up his absence rather than suggesting a continuing off-camera presence, the writers finally get it right in The Shroud. He takes a place in the ensemble and doesn’t take over. In their understated portrayal and his comfortable assimilation, O’Neill’s presence feels like a break from a timeline of his own. Just as it is believable that he is present in the crisis it is just as believable that he’ll return to his own place in the end.

        Shanks is magnetic, dominating – unsurprisingly – every scene he appears in and even those he doesn’t. He is relied upon and mistrusted in equal degrees. He holds the secrets both on galactic and personal fronts, forcing the others to come to him and then using his persuasive abilities when they inevitably do. The jarring notes against a familiar tune in his portrayal of Daniel heighten the tension from the moment his voice is heard. He makes the possibility of Daniel’s betrayal both feasible and ridiculous, creating a captivating guessing game.

        However the biggest surprise is Claudia Black, who turns in an exceptional performance – again, easily her best in the series. Second here only to Shanks of the cast, she infuses her character with a guarded vulnerability and strength from the first as she quietly struggles on, noticeably subdued but attempting to use normal defence mechanisms only to find them inadequate. Built up consistently throughout the first half, it pays off in a mesmerising scene between Shanks and Black exploring their relationship and the outside forces that influence it. Forced to interact without irony or immaturity, this is the first time the two are open to the other, the scene crackling and raw. Daniel is hesitant and vulnerable with her, at his most human and unambiguous, genuinely sympathetic even as a prior when she cannot give him the answer it is suddenly clear he needs. Black’s portrayal of Vala is just as strong, this episode finally placing her character as his equal to bring balance and depth to the previously redemptive or comic dynamic. Previous episodes in this arc are referenced sensitively, the Counterstrike echo at the end being a stand-out.

        The music is used well, never overpowering and successfully gentling the potentially harsh ship sets during the character pieces, managing to make that scene between Adria and Daniel less awkward than expected. The same can be said of the special effects and Daniel’s prior make-up. Daniel is immediately recognisable but radically different. All are excellent in their efficiency, effective without getting in the way of the characters.

        You are left disoriented and reeling, the abrupt ending adding to the sense of shock. This episode marks the drawing of a line in the Ori arc and packs an emotional punch reminiscent or surpassing the superlative Counterstrike. The ending is a bold step from the writers. After two long years, they open the door to the chance that victory is possible at the same time as they plunge headlong into further jeopardy, essentially blowing apart the Ori storyline to leave it fragmented and uncertain in a genuinely unexpected ending.

        If this is the beginning of the end, then it’s in a brave new universe of possibilities. A real series classic.

        Kay x


          When we last left Daniel Jackson, he was in the lovely yet evil hands of Adria, the avatar of the Ori. Oddly, SG-1 has done very little to find or rescue Daniel since his capture. His return in this episode is a bit coincidental as a result; the team just happens to be on a planet where Daniel comes calling as a new and unusual Prior, extolling the virtues of Origin. The team, like the audience, is stunned and dismayed.

          Of course, it’s not that simple. Daniel claims that he and Merlin (the part of the old Ancient still in his brain) concocted a plan to fool Adria into thinking he succumbed to her powers of persuasion. The team is less than convinced, especially when he explains that his plan involves letting the Ori Supergate open to the Milky Way. He claims to need that to bring Merlin’s completed weapon home for Earth’s defense. On the other hand, he could be lying, and it would allow the Ori fleet access to the galaxy, with a Prior in control of a weapon capable of killing Ancients. All in all, a situation with more than a little risk.

          Enter General O’Neill, who is brought in to question Daniel, which is a nice touch, given their long and involved history. It’s almost as if O’Neill was never gone, something that helps to connect the dots as the series draws to a close. Between O’Neill and Teal’c, they come to the conclusion that Daniel is telling the truth. Unfortunately, the IOA wants Daniel taken out. Stargate Command and the IOA have rarely seen eye to eye, but this is the biggest point of contention yet.

          In a nice twist, Vala is the one who takes the potential threat that Daniel represents most seriously. Given her evolving relationship with Daniel, she has plenty of reason to want him to survive. But her reasoning is sound: following Daniel’s plan is too much of a risk. The alternate plan is fairly obvious, but it was worth taking the time to let the various characters react to Daniel and his current status.

          When things start to go wrong (as of course, they must), the twist and turns are slightly confusing. The end result, however, is that Daniel is back to normal, more or less, and the weapon was armed to detonate, with no evidence that it actually worked. And now that the Supergate is open for business, the armies of the Ori have the ability to send tons of reinforcements into the Milky Way. It’s hard to figure out if the risk/reward analysis was on the dot this time around, but considering that the Ori arc was always meant to extend beyond the end of the season, this complication makes a certain amount of sense.

          Had the series been continuing, then Daniel’s quick and relatively simple return to the team might have seemed too quick. It would have been a lot more interesting if Daniel’s time as a Prior had stretched out over a few episodes. However, in light of the fact that the series is ending, a number of ideas will likely get short shrift, and this is just one such example.