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    FAN REVIEWS: Dominion

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    SG-1 hatches an elaborate plan to try and capture Adria, using Vala as bait.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 6, 2021, 09:46 PM.

    The great strength of season ten of Stargate SG-1 is the excellent development of the Ori arc. Knowing that Dominion would push the storyline further along meant that expectations were high.

    The first act, as Vala meets her daughter and explains how she came to split from the SGC, gets the episode off to a good start. Vala's story is full of holes - as if the SGC would be so incompetent as to let her escape if they wanted her kept! - but these scenes are played so expertly that we are kept wondering where exactly the deceit is. But it is when SG-1 ambush Vala and Adria that the episode really gets going. And it doesn't stop.

    From the startling intervention of Baal's troops to the alarming manner in which Adria cheats death, Dominion is exciting stuff. The concept of a goa'ulded orici raises interesting and quite worrisome questions: would Baal have been able to keep his hold once the anti-prior device wore off? Would he have had access to the knowledge of Adria alone, or would he have had her power too? We will never know the answer, but that's no great shame - the strength of the Ori is that they are a new foe, and contaminating their power with that of the enemy they all-but-destroyed in season eight would dilute any Tau'ri victory over the Ori. Still, the ideas and possibilities are welcome in the middle act, when the Tokra arrive and things threaten to lose momentum.

    Adria, weakened but still formidable, has managed to ascend. This too brings questions: will she assume the role of Ori? What can a single Ori do? will she jealously guard her status or will she assist priors towards ascension and make herself allies? With only one episode left, it's fair to say that these questions will probably not be answered until the movie. Roll on, Movie.

    So that was the plot. Lots happenned, and no reset button. Always a good skeleton for an episode, especially an arc-driven one. But what of the flesh?

    The central characters were Vala and Adria, both played by reliable and talented actors. Morena Baccarin was Adria's usual self initially, and little was asked of her as Baal's captive. As Adria dying, Baccarin was more challenged, and rose to it well. But the really impressive bit was after impregnation with the symbiote, when her soft girlish face took on the mannerisms of Cliff Simon's smug reptilian goa'ld.

    Simon too is Baal' usual self. It's not hard to see why he alone was chosen by the writers to outlive the days of the galaxy being ruled by system lords. If this is his exit it is a suitable one, scheming and duplicitous to the last.

    Vala goes through the emotional wringer. As she sits with the gamblers there is no hint that her casual confidence is a veneer for disappointment and loneliness. With Adria, as the story emerges, Vala's turmoil is heart-wrenching. Claudia Black underplays these scenes to good effect, showing that Vala's dignity demands that she keep her poise; and reserving her animated outrage for the return to the SGC. The preening and cheerful woman in the video is a pleasant contrast and provides the only moments approacing comic releif in Dominion. (Welcome relief: it neutralises the hurt and betrayal that the audience must feel on Vala's behalf, but its brevity in an episode so full of important happennings is also welcome.)

    Vala's feelings for her not-daughter are... how to describe? Vala certainly doesn't know how she feels for Adria and this confusion is written subtly and played beautifully. The thoughtful script and sensitive turns from Ben Browder and Michael Shanks give Black good material to work with.

    Dominion's chief weakness is that Cam, Sam, Teal'c and Daniel are rather by-the-numbers. They fit snugly into the episode, making decisions, doing science, delivering concise musings or talking with Vala as appropriate. They do it all very well, as would be expected, and the actors are on form, but their characters get little chance to stand out from the rest of the episode except when interacting with Vala. This does not harm the episode particularly, however. The team do work well together, and seeing that is always enjoyable. The fast paced plot sweeps the characters along rather than allowing them to drive it, which is not always ideal but in events of the magnitude of the deaths of the Baals, the ascension of Adria and the confirmation that the Ori are gone (or are they?) it does feel fitting.

    Dominion is well directed by Will Waring. The opening scene, and the ambush planet were particularly well-looking, and the character moments were neatly presented. The effects department, costumers and set-designers have all done a good job, and Adria's make-up artist made her look suitably moribund after her operation.

    Stargate's penultimate episode seems to have drawn a line under a chapter of the Ori story. It has done so in a great way, with no sense of the storyline being hurried or rushed despite the suddenness of the developments within the episode. Dominion has not disappointed the high expectations that arc-based episodes bring. And If Unending is as good as this, Stargate SG-1's television run will have ended well.

    Then, like I said...

    ...Roll on, Movie.




      Dominion is a roller-coaster ride of an episode. Twisting and turning at breakneck speed, there is little time to catch a breath before the ride ends and the viewer is left wondering what exactly happened. As a potential series finale for the Ori storyline or even for Ba’al, it exudes the air of cancelled-TV-show, but as a book-end to Flesh and Blood, it works very well, placing Vala’s relationship with Adria at its centre.

      Having lost the focus on the mother-daughter aspect of the two women in the middle of S10, Dominion returns to it with startling intensity. Claudia Black gives a wonderful performance as a conflicted Vala; one who understands her daughter is an enemy they must stop at all costs but yet who still feels the tug of a maternal bond. Black excels in both ‘are you OK with this?’ scenes (one with Browder, one with Shanks) and when she brushes a lock of hair away from a dying Adria’s face. Her portrayal, and the dialogue that reflects Vala’s internal thinking, makes the final decision to pick up the gun at the end believable. All of this is a nice nod back to Flesh and Blood where Vala previously stopped Daniel shooting Adria. Black and Morena Baccarin have worked out a believable back and forth in their interactions and have a wonderful chemistry as mother and daughter on screen.

      Baccarin plays Adria very well; her portrayal of an Adria infested with a Ba’al symbiote less so. While the dialogue is all Ba’al, it fails to resonate without Cliff Simon’s twinkling eyes, smug smirk and deep accent; Baccarin simply can’t reproduce it. Still, as Adria, Baccarin remains hugely watchable, capturing the mix of woman, child and Ori. That said, Adria remains a rather two-dimensional character as a villain. There was such potential for the character shown in Flesh and Blood, particularly around Adria’s conflicted emotions about Vala, which suggested that she would be much more complex and ambiguous as a villain. Some of this is alluded to in Dominion; her saving Vala at the beginning, her wish for her mother to remain with her, the throttling of Vala as she finally understands her mother would kill her if necessary. But it all feels a little too late as Adria hasn’t had an opportunity within previous stories to fully develop, and within Dominion the scenes are kept so short and tight that she cannot – which neatly raises an issue around production.

      There was enough content in Dominion to justify a two-episode story, just as there was with The Shroud. From a series production perspective, the decisions to keep these as single episodes along with a run of standalone episodes since the latter, has been, in my opinion, a mistake. The stories themselves have suffered, as has the development of Adria as a character, but so too has the overall sense of the importance of the Ori arc to the series. An extended version of Dominion might have renewed the importance of the Ori arc, balanced the season, and it might have improved the balancing of the characters.

      Dominion is unsurprisingly very Vala heavy with all the other SG1 regulars reduced to support characters without any opportunity to move beyond the usual boundaries of their function within the team with Daniel simply reduced to compassionate friend. It might have helped had some Vala notes been shifted to another character such as her idea to lure Adria using the false memories or the Tok’ra recognising her, but extending the story into two episodes would have allowed a sub-plot to showcase the others more. I like Vala, and while I accept there has been efforts made to allow the others to shine in other episodes, this emphasis on her at the end of S10 with Dominion and Family Ties does leave a rather skewed impression that the show isn’t Stargate SG1, or even Stargate Command, but rather Stargate Vala. It’s a shame given the huge strides that have been taken in showing the SG1 team spirit this season.

      Overall, I do think the cancellation played too much a part in final production quality with Dominion. While I’m not unhappy this isn’t the final episode and I stand in awe of the script, direction and production that packed so much into Dominion, the story itself exudes the air of being a cancelled show rushing to end its outstanding arcs both around the Ori and Ba’al, and this isn’t helped with the pacing.

      The episode is a roller-coaster; a slow build-up as Vala relays her false memories of a break with SG1 to Adria suddenly gives way to Ba’al grabbing Adria. From that point on, the episode jumps to breakneck speed with the explanation of Vala’s memories explained away, the death of the Ba’al clones, Ba’al’s infestation of Adria, their grabbing her back, the idea of the Tok’ra, the surgery, Adria’s reawakening and Ascension all told with brevity. It's all good and highly enjoyable, but the action whips around so fast and there is so much to follow, that the viewer is breathless at the end and wondering along with Landry whether anything of import actually happened as the team conclude Adria could be reincarnated in future and its unlikely that all the Ba’al clones are dead – more’s the pity. Hmmm; could the TV movies possibly be in mind?

      Dominion is enjoyable, action packed and it does provide some form of closure to the events associated with the Ori, Vala and Adria in S10, but it fails to showcase SG1 as a team which the rest of S10 has done so well. The decision to make this story one episode feels like a misstep as, in the end, it rushes through everything too fast giving a clear signal that the show itself is hurtling towards the finish line. It would have been so much better had it slowed down and allowed us to fully enjoy the ride.
      Women of the Gate LJ Community.
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        For all intents and purposes "Dominion" is the end of the SG-1 series and its Ori arc. Therefore, it had to deliver. It had to be action-packed, interesting, enjoyable and set up well for the movie. It had to make any Stargate fan look back with pride rather than distaste. Fortunately, it succeeded!

        This episode was epic in scale and was entirely action-packed. I couldn't help but wish it had been a two-parter, which would not only be more fitting for a series finale but would have done the story a great deal more justice. Still, the episode was great as it was.

        As you might expect, this episode was centered on Adria and, consequently, on Vala. The episode, necessarily, got off to a steady rhetoric-heavy start as Vala reflected on her escape from Earth after her friends abandoned her. While never fully believable, the story was well-constructed and the explanation for Vala's ability to deceive Adria was acceptable and showed good continuity, though a little more explanationw would have been nice.

        From there, the twists and turns began and never ceased to stop. The story, scripting, special effects and characters were all impressive. Of special note this week was the brilliant cloaking effect and Ba'als role - PLUS, his eyes glowed! Something any reader of past reviews will know I have missed seeing. Of course, the star of the show was Vala. Every side of her character, which has been developed brilliantly over two years, was explored during the 43 minutes. The member of the SGC, the woman on the run, the divided mother and the classic eccentric. She brought a magnificent balance to the episode - providing most, if not all, of the humour and some of the most emotional moments, primarily concerning her upset over being betrayed and her divided feelings towards Adria. Again, more time would have allowed us to delve into these and her interactions with Daniel and Cam even more.

        Adria's role in the episode was good, if a little flat. I've never been a huge fan of Adria as she has always been a little two-dimensional and never come across as a true villian - surprising considering she commands the power of a force much greater than that of the Go'ould. This ep did nothing to improve that image as she was held prisoner for much of the time. She succeeded where it mattered though - creating a great finish by making the viewer feel a real sense of fear and foreboding about her inevitable return as an ascended being. The setup for the movie was, in my opinion, the most important requirement of "Dominion" and I wasn't disappointed. The movie, for me at least, is highly anticipated.

        The episode did have weaknesses. Firstly, the non-stop action of the episode hindered its overall effect on the audience. Similar to "The Shroud" this episode was truly epic and gave some of the best Ori developments a viewer could hope for. Therefore it is irritating that all this golden material was squashed into one episode when, back in Go'ould days, a similar story would have easily been a two-parter and, given that it is the series finale, should have been in this case.
        A couple of other nagging problems for me included the lack of any explanation for the memory manipulation device or the Orion cloak and also the disappearance of Adria's personal shield [although I may simply be forgetting something concerning that].

        To conclude, "Dominion" is a fitting end to the SG-1's rebooted story arc and a magnificent set-up for what should prove to be a brilliantly satisfying movie. It was so good that it should have been a two-parter, that being the only important complaint I have about the episode. I will miss SG-1 terribly, a realisation this episode helped intensify by showing the characters - both good and bad - we've been following for between 2 and 10 years at their very best and providing a great story. [not just SG-1.. Ba'al, the Tokra, Ori, Jaffa & more mentions too]

        Rating: 9/10

        O'Neill: Phasers?
        Carter: Sorry sir.



          After a number of episodes focusing on stand-alone concepts, the season arc comes back in a big way in this penultimate episode for the series. The name of the game, as usual, is plot progression, even when it requires severe willful suspension of disbelief to accept the logic that allows for that progression.

          No matter how well they leave the door open, this felt like a way to take the ridiculous Ba’al plot thread and bring it under control. The ending mitigated that measure of control, but we now have less Ba’al clones to worry about, and that’s a good thing. Given the age of the series and the constant possibility of cancellation (which is now coming to pass), having such a massively open-ended plot element lingering the background was simply not a good idea.

          That’s why bringing Ba’al into the prelude to the conclusion of the Ori arc was a genius move. It helps make sense of Ba’al’s actions since the fall of the System Lords, and it’s the kind of leverage he would try to find and utilize. It also allows the writers to complicate the capture of Adria, which might otherwise have been a bit too easy.

          Unfortunately, after setting the stage for a final showdown over the solution to the Adria problem, the writers toss a major plot convenience into the mix. Despite taking precautions on more than one occasion to keep an anti-Prior device around Adria, they completely blow it during the most important moment. If one of those devices had been in the room when the toxin was being administered, Adria would have been gone and, if Ba’al and Adria are to be believed, the Ori fleet would be without Ori and Orisi.

          Instead, Adria is able to ascend, which is a nice set up for the conclusion of the arc in “The Ark of Truth” film, if nothing else. I’m just not sure that the writers took the most logical path to that end. More than once, the characters mentioned Adria’s eventual ability to overcome the anti-Prior device; why not use that plot point to explain her ability to ascend at the end, even with one of the devices in the room? A minor change, but one that switches plot convenience with plot payoff.

          That final act is really the only weak link in the episode, despite my annoyance that the Ba’al plot thread was kept open when it could have been easily closed. It’s enough, however, to keep the episode from achieving its full potential.