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FAN REVIEWS: Line In the Sand

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    FAN REVIEWS: Line In the Sand

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    SG-1 tries to defend a planet from the Ori by hiding its people in another dimension. Vala attempts to convince her husband Tomin of the Ori's true motives.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 6, 2021, 09:54 PM.

    After a complete miss with Insiders and a solid effort with Company of Thieves, Alan McCullough finally manages a home run with Line in the Sand. With a couple of minor quibbles around the usual suspect of characterisation, this episode scores on every level; great story, good use of canon, teamy character moments, excellent guest performances and neatly executed special effects.

    The special effects are used to enhance the story but never feel like they are intruding. The Ori ship destroying the village from space; the phasing of the village in and out; the Prior trying to see into the phased building to Mitchell and Sam are all so seamlessly incorporated it’s easy to forget that it is a special effect. If the dart-ships feel a little too like the Wraith and have the same accompanying sound effects, the comparison is enough to evoke a familiar sense of dread, and overall, the ground incursion of the Ori soldiers is particularly impressive from an effects perspective especially the deployment of the rings and the intricate detail of the Ori weapons fire during the battle with the villagers.

    If the special effects enhance this episode so too do the guest performances. Aisha Hinds is very impressive as the noble leader of the village and pulls off a stunning scene where she convinces her fellow villager not to sacrifice Teal’c to the Ori. Equally good is the performance by Tim Guinee playing Vala’s estranged husband. He manages to convey Tomin as a devout follower yet in such a way that he still evokes sympathy despite the shock act of hitting Vala at one point. His tremendous acting is part of the reason why Tomin’s slide into questioning the Prior, if not actually the Ori and Origin, is believable and gives credence to the eventual act of saving of Vala in returning her to the planet. The scene where he confronts the Prior in the control room of the Ori ship is extremely powerful and wonderfully done especially as Greg Anderson playing the Prior also gives an equally impressive performance in displaying religious fanaticism at its worst.

    The performances of the main cast also match the quality of the guests. Chris Judge has the least to do as Teal’c but makes the most of what he is given. He has great chemistry with Aisha Hinds and their scenes flow beautifully. He also has good chemistry with Claudia Black who turns in a wonderfully complex portrayal of Vala showing all the different facets to the character. She slides easily from earnestness into horror into manipulation into seriousness into…the list is endless.

    Ben Browder seems to enjoy getting some meaningful dialogue in the scenes where he encourages Sam to stay alive. The best moment is when as Mitchell he haltingly admits that he fought so hard to get the team together again and having lost Daniel, he can’t lose Sam too. There was a real sense of emotion and loss for their team-mate as well as fear that he had failed another. He and Amanda Tapping gel nicely in their scenes. Tapping herself seems to positively revel in Sam finally getting a scene that isn’t just about technobabble and exposition. Her performance as she admits to her fear of dying, telling Mitchell of the letters for after she is gone, and simply acting the part of a badly wounded soldier is perfect from her initial shock at getting hit, to her horror at her bloody wound to her pain. She was so good that I winced when she did.

    However, despite Tapping turning in an exemplary performance, for me McCullough still hasn’t quite managed to fully realise Sam’s character even here, although he’s a lot closer than ever before. Given the character’s established history as a never-give-up-soldier, her early fatalism where she tells Mitchell to accept she will die on the planet doesn’t quite ring true, although her later facing up to the possibility of death is very well done and provides a nice moment between the characters. It is a minor quibble and while I might still encourage McCullough to revisit some classic Sam episodes, he’s close enough here that it doesn’t detract from the quality of the rest of the story where the only other minor character quibble is with Teal’c who once again finds himself captured and tortured if by a Prior rather than by Ba’al or the Lucien Alliance this time.

    McCullough does deserve credit for writing a beautifully woven story with great use of canon throughout from Merlin’s device which provides a solid foundation, Vala’s relationship with Tomin, Teal’c’s refusal to capitulate to False Gods, Sam’s oblique reference to fishing and Cassie, to Cam’s Grandmother reference. All are neatly threaded through the episode which also uses the overall Ori arc in a great way. I loved the story of the Line in the Sand within the Book of Origin which was well used in the scenes on the Ori ship. It might have been good to have mentioned Daniel more given the events of the previous episode, but his singular mention does at least ensure he isn’t forgotten and adds to the sense of team that the story evokes.

    There are some great beats between the characters; Sam’s exasperation with Vala, Sam’s concern for Teal’c and Vala when they cannot be contacted, Cam’s concern for injured Sam, his mentioning losing Daniel, Vala jumping into Teal’c’s arms when the village appears around her, Cam baking Sam some macaroons and visiting her in the infirmary. It’s all good teaminess despite the lack of Daniel.

    The quality of the story, the performances and the special effects all combine to produce a very enjoyable and above-average outing for SG1. Kudos go to Peter DeLuise for pulling it altogether as director and deserved applause for Alan McCullough for a well-earned success as its writer. Praise where praise is due for a great episode.
    Last edited by Madeleine; January 22, 2007, 05:39 AM. Reason: Author's request
    Women of the Gate LJ Community.
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      When you want to hide something you can direct the seeker's attention elsewhere, or you can try concealment, but actual invisibility is beyond most people's ambitions.

      Samantha Carter of the USAF is not most people. Her boss knows it; and this sets up an unusual inversion of the scientists' role in science fiction shows. For once, the scientist is the one setting limits on her own capabilities rather than predicting that the impossible can be done, and her superior is asserting that the necessary will be achieved regardless of scepticism from below.

      This made a pleasant change. What's more, we really didn't know whether Sam's gizmo would operate, since the form for SG-1 lately is to lose at least as many battles as they win. Better still, we didn't know if the fully operational gizmo would fool the prior. It's not surprising if Stargate is at times formulaic; after all, there has always been a formula for the show. But it's good that even a fairly unoriginal premise - Our Heroes go to defend some villagers from nasty baddies but it's not as easy as they'd hoped - can have originality and suspense.

      Each team-member was used effectively. Sam, of course, had her thingumajig to get working. Cam got a chance to do some field medicine, something rarely seen in the show. Teal'c was the catalyst for the actions of the prior and the villagers, and though hidden under a cloak for much of the time his presence, as usual, spoke at least as much as his words.

      The villagers, though well acted, were straight from the cut-out Book of Stargate Villagers, and existed largely for other people to worry and argue over. The notable guest character this week was Tomin. Tomin has a difficult role in season ten. He is, as Vala tells us, a good man. But he is a man whose concept of being good has always included obedience to the priors and the Ori. At times his conversations with Vala and with the prior came over as unsubtle allusions to real world religious politics, but Tim Guinee gives conviction and humanity to his character, and Tomin becomes someone we want to see redeemed as much as Vala does.

      Vala herself has another chance to add layers to her character. The reminder of her burning at the hands of the followers of Origin gives her plenty of motive to resist them, and her fondness for Tomin proves to be genuine rather than as false as might have been expected. A pity that a deus ex machina was required so that she could escape back to her team, but that's a minor niggle.

      The eventual invisibility was a treat to watch, and a good concept. At this stage of the season, with the Ori so powerful and with no means to defeat them or even to hurt them, a method of evading them is a good device, allowing the prolonging of the process of wiping out dissent in the galaxy, and buying time for the SCG.

      For some who work in television, invisibility is a measure of success. Editing is rarely noticed if it is good, but bad editing is highly visible. Some of the trickiest SF shots are ones which no one ever realises were effects, and it can be an equally thankless job doing make-up. For this reason, I'd like to take a step out of this review right now, and point to every other review I've ever done and say that the lack of praise or acknowledgement for any of these invisible artistes is a measure of their success: and I apologise for not thanking or praising you as much as you deserved before.

      Now back to Line in the Sand, because it has to be said that Sam's make-up did not suit her acting. She got shot, she was enfeebled and possibly mortally wounded. Amanda Tapping certainly portrayed feeble and dying very effectively. So why was her complexion so pink and perky? Could she not have been a bit more wan, a bit greyer? A collection of emotional and well acted scenes between two interesting characters in a desperate situation was let down by a small detail; Sam looked fine. Make-up can't be invisible, but it certainly shouldn't be noticeable.

      Most invisible of all in this episode was, of course, Daniel. It seems to be the Stargate way for missing characters to be ignored during their absence, but coming after such a dramatic and shocking event for Daniel, the initial cheeriness of SG-1 and the business asusual attitude was jolting. (And not helped by the confusion over whether Sky would be airing the correct episode.)

      But the sense of urgency and impending doom that has driven the show lately was back once the episode got going (once the phase shift device got not-going) and from then on this is a tight episode that moves the Ori arc forwards while providing a good self-contained story for Sam and Cam, and some sweet character moments to please the fans.

      The very best episodes of Stargate are imperfect, but it's hard to notice the flaws when a really good story sweeps you up. Line in the Sand isn't quite of that class, but it's certainly good enough that the imperfections are forgivable, if far from invisible.




        The episode starts with the SGC making strides in hiding troops and materiel from the advancing Ori forces using a device from Merlin, setting the stage for a confrontation. An entire village is under the gun, and a device that can make things disappear into a different dimension sounds like a great idea. It’s a bit annoying for Daniel’s situation to be completely ignored, but with the conflict against the Ori taking center stage, at least it’s relevant to the season arc.

        Of course, it doesn’t take long for things to go wrong, and SG-1 is forced into a defensive position when the village chooses to stand their ground. The actual battle begins very quickly, which is a nice touch, and the village falls remarkably fast. It’s a nice touch for Tobin to be the commander of the Ori force, especially once he orders the execution of the village’s defenders.

        It’s unusual for one of the team to be injured badly, so Carter’s wound is a nice touch. It gives Mitchell another chance to display his field experience. It’s a bit odd that Carter would give up so easily, but they have dealt with the Ori enough to know how overwhelming their forces can be. Mitchell’s campaign to keep Carter’s faith going is a nice bit of characterization.

        Considering Vala’s initial characterization, it’s always great to see her interact with Tobin and struggle with her role as the mother of the Orisi. Vala’s argument with Tobin is a strong depiction of resistance to religion gone horribly wrong. Tobin’s reaction does much to prove Vala’s point. Tobin’s subsequent argument with the Prior is also reflective of those who preach violence through perversion of traditional interpretation of religious parable. Holy words become a pretext for abomination. As always, the nature of Origin has interesting analogues to fundamentalist movements in the real world.

        The villagers are left to choose submission to another set of false gods or perish by the sword (or really odd-looking spear), and that speaks well to T’ealc’s character. It’s not surprising that some of the villagers would come to the conclusion that giving up is the only means of survival. But that begs the question: is survival enough, if it means giving up everything that makes survival meaningful?

        The ending is somewhat predictable, right down to Tobin’s sacrifice for Vala’s survival and the last-minute deliverance of the village. Even so, as with many of the episodes that deal with the allegorical aspects of the Ori crusade, this delves into the kind of material that helps the episode rise above the simplicity of the typical stand-alone episode.