Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 10: "Unending"

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Episode Information

Title: "Unending"
Written by: Robert C. Cooper
Director: Robert C. Cooper
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: June 24, 2007. Revised on January 21, 2008.

Synopsis from GateWorld


So that's the end of the series? This episode would have been OK for sometime mid-season, but it was sloooow for a series finale. And nothing ended, although I guess the title warned us about that.

The events at the beginning of the episode happen quickly. SG-1 and General Landry are on the Odyssey at the request of the Asgard. The Asgard race are dying as a result of a disease they created while trying to solve their cloning problems. For their last act as a race, they upgrade the Odyssey with all the Asgard technology it can handle and install the "Asgard core", which contains the entire history of their race, presumably including technological development. Once this is complete, the Asgard blow up their planet and themselves to prevent any of their technology from falling into the hands of their various enemies.

Two Ori ships show up. The Odyssey destroys one of them with its new Asgard weapons, then retreats. (How realistic is this? At the end of season 9 in "Camelot" we see the Ori kick the asses of everyone, including the Asgard ship. Maybe the Asgard commander was no good.) However, two Ori ships are apparently able to track the Odyssey, and they arrive just behind it during a series of hyperspace jumps. SG-1 quickly jumps to the conclusion that somehow the Ori are tracking the new Asgard technology. This seemed a bit of a snap judgment to me, but when the Ori keep showing up, it does seem to be true. And, they don't really have time to consider other possibilities.

General Landry decides they must detach and destroy the Asgard core in order to save themselves. Daniel very rightly protests that they'd be making a huge mistake, since they'd lose all of the Asgard information - plus they owe it to the Asgard to preserve their legacy. Thank you, Daniel! They try to come up with an alternate solution. Meanwhile, after one quick hyperspace jump, they drop off the crew on a planet with a stargate.

However, no plan is developed. They engage in a battle with several Ori ships. Just as the Odyssey is about to be hit, Carter turns on a bubble of alternate-time using the Asgard technology. While nanoseconds are passing outside the bubble in the rest of the universe, years are passing inside the bubble. Carter's intent was that they can use the "extra" time to figure out how to stop the Ori from tracking them and save themselves from the death blow about to hit them.

So far, everything has happened at a breakneck pace. Now, the episode begins to drag. Carter was hoping to develop a solution with the help of the Asgard database within a few weeks of their time. She does not succeed. They are able to live within the ship indefinitely because the Asgard matter-energy device is able to manufacture any food and supplies they need directly from energy. They end up living on the ship for some 50 years.

Over those 50 years, we get a look at how the characters might age and what they would do in this situation. Any other time, this would be interesting, but it's not really what I might have hoped for for the finale. Carter spends her time working for a solution, and also learns to play the cello. General Landry becomes quite a botanist. Mitchell exercises a lot, trains with Teal'c, plays chess with Landry, and goes a bit stir-crazy at the confinement. We don't see much of what Teal'c does.

Probably the most interesting development is the relationship between Daniel and Vala. Vala repeatedly throws herself at Daniel with her typical lack of subtlety. In a very painful scene, Daniel unleashes a tirade wondering how she could ever think he'd even consider a serious relationship with her. This rant went on for quite some time, and I could only wonder where the real Daniel was, because surely he would never be so callous of someone else's feelings. In the end, I think he was testing Vala's reaction, but got carried away because of his own frustrations. When he saw that she was genuinely hurt by his reaction (and thus was serious about her interest in him), he agrees to try the relationship. From what we see, they apparently stay together for the 50 years they are there.

Over the 50 years, General Landry dies of old age. The rest of them gradually age with that fake TV-aging look. I never think the old-age makeup looks right.

Finally, Carter comes up with a solution. She has figured out how to reverse time in their bubble so that they can go back to the instant they created the bubble and choose a different course of action. That different course of action will be to run a special fast-running routine she has written to disconnect the Asgard core and thus stop the Ori from tracking them. However, this plan requires that one of them not be reversed with the time reversal, but stay old (using Asgard technology) in order to implement the new plan. Otherwise, presumably all of them would just do the same things they did in the first place.

Teal'c volunteers to do this. As he points out, he is the logical choice: as a Jaffa, his lifetime will be longer than a normal humans, so while he will effectively lose 50 years of his life, he will continue to live for some time. Apparently this means that Jaffa lifetimes can be naturally longer, even though he is now using tretonin and does not have a symbiote. Even so, this is quite a sacrifice for him.

The last twist in the plan is that in order for the Odyssey to have enough power to implement it, they will have to allow the ship to be hit by the Ori and use the energy from the blast for the time reversal. This leads to some fun scenes where the Odyssey is hit, starts to explode, then the explosion reverses. Teal'c is preserved in his current state and sees the explosion happen around him.

Once time is reversed, Teal'c executes the new plan, and the Odyssey is able to escape into hyperspace and not be tracked. They successfully return to Earth, where Teal'c gives a bare-bones explanation of what happened. However, Teal'c was well-schooled by Carter that he must not reveal anything of what happened in the "future", even though it's no longer a future that's going to happen. At the end of the episode, SG-1 heads off on another mission.

I don't have a problem with the very end of the episode: SG-1 heading off to another mission. It gives a "life goes on" feeling, that the SGC's mission is never done. It did feel a bit rushed. My problems with the episode are all the unanswered questions and issues with the plot in the episode itself.

First, I really dislike "reset button" endings. Since time was reversed in the bubble around the Odyssey, the events within never really happened, except in Teal'c's memory. I suppose in principle it's good that Teal'c isn't going to reveal that "future", but what could he reveal, really? That Landry likes plants? That Carter is a mean cellist? That Mitchell doesn't like to be cooped up? (Mitchell even guessed that.) It seems to me that the biggest revelation that could affect the current SG-1 would be that Daniel and Vala were compatible in a long-term relationship.

The fact that Teal'c has nothing to reveal highlights the problem with the part of the episode following their 50 years on the ship: we didn't really learn anything new about the characters. All we saw really was them getting old. There weren't really even any extreme disagreements or tension, that we saw, which is almost unbelievable. The biggest on-going disagreement was Mitchell's desire to do something and Landry vetoing it, although I think Mitchell even realized his desire was based more on being stir-crazy than any rational expectations. I think that either more time needed to be spent on these years (so that more character development could have taken place) or else we should have jumped right to the end of the 50 years. What we got was too sketchy in events and just felt slow.

Another problem I had was that we never really found out what happened to the Asgard's legacy. Did they manage to disconnect the Asgard core, but save the database? Did they have to ditch it? It's not mentioned either way, which I think was a deliberate omission, but it's very frustrating. After all, the whole 50-year situation developed because they wanted to save the damn thing. It would be such a huge advantage for the SGC to have retained that information; obviously it would take some time to be able to integrate any of it with Earth technology, but it would certainly be worth the effort. The survival of the database would have given this episode meaning, but since we don't know, the episode lost its punch.

The last issue: what happened to the Ori? They are clearly still rampaging through the galaxy, but what is Earth doing about it? Has Adria's ascendance in the previous episode changed the effectiveness of the Ori? While we see the Ori in this episode, there is absolutely no closure to this plot. They are simply a plot device.

Other comments: Thor's affirmation of humans as the "fifth race" of major races in the galaxy was nice. (This idea was first encountered in season 2's "The Fifth Race"; the other races being the Ancients, the Asgard, the Nox, and the Furlings.) It's a stunning blow to see the Asgard race ended so suddenly. While we knew they were having problems, their destruction seems capricious on the part of the writers.

Overall, I was hoping for something a bit more from this episode. Gaining Asgard technology would have given it more weight, but we are left hanging on this. None of the characters have the screen time for introspection or development, so this is lacking, too. The Ori plot doesn't go anywhere, so that doesn't give resolution, either.

Even so, Stargate SG-1 had 10 years of original science fiction, most of which was quite good. It's been fun!

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