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Warrick, the alien that SG-1 rescued from escaped human prisoners in season 6's "Forsaken", has come to Earth for a visit. Apparently the SGC hasn't yet successfully negotiated trade agreements with his world, Hebridan, so they haven't yet had a chance to study their more advanced technology. Warrick offers Major Carter the opportunity to study his spaceship in detail, if the SGC would be willing to lend him a naquadah generator as a power source for his ship during the upcoming race, the Loop of Kon Garat. General Hammond approved this, and Carter eagerly gets herself assigned to babysit the naquadah generator and thereby participate in the race with Warrick.
Carter virtually bubbles with enthusiasm at the prospect of the race. We are reminded of her enjoyment of thrills when she originally entered still carrying her motorcycle helmet. As she confesses to Daniel later, that she considers participating in the race just part of the job...but if it might also turn out to be fun, then "What's a girl to do?" It's a lot of fun for us to see Carter enjoying something that isn't as stereotypically nerdy as usual.
So, Carter zips off to Hebridan with the rest of SG-1 in tow. Warrick has arranged for O'Neill and Daniel to meet with some top government officials - perhaps to jump start the diplomatic relations between the planets? Teal'c gets out of the official meetings with a bald-faced lie: he claims Carter asked him to help her prepare for the race. It's funny to watch the rest of SG-1 react to this lie - they don't want to insult Teal'c by pointing it out, but they are surprised at it. O'Neill has a great look, as if he wished he'd thought of the lie first.
We meet Warrick's brother, Eamon, who has made a lot of alterations and improvements to Warrick's ship, the Seberus. Eamon reminds me very much of the character Niles Crane in the TV show Frasier: his mannerisms are rather effeminate and dainty, his expressions are similar, and his attitudes about privacy and civility seem similar. It's hard to believe he actually got his hands dirty fixing up the Seberus.
We do find out from Eamon more about Warrick's motivations. Since his rescue by SG-1 last season, he has been struggling to make ends meet. He desperately needs to get a contract of some kind so that he can continue to operate his ship. Since the winner of the race will receive a very lucrative contract, he sees this as his last chance. We also find out that his wife believed he was dead, and married another man. Just how long was he gone?
At this point in the episode, the similarities between this episode and The Phantom Menace begin to stick out to me. Actually, perhaps I should more accurately say that this episode has striking similarities to the video game Pod Racer, based on the pod racing scene with the young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. First, Warrick and Carter review the information about their competitors and their ships. Then, Warrick and Carter go to a trading post and pick up used parts. (You can do both of these things in the game.) While at the trading post, they run into a rude competitor, Jarlath.
The race finally begins. I will say that the special effects during the race are pretty spiffy. The sunlight streaming through the ship's windows when they were in the corona was particularly striking to me.
During the race, the Seberus develops some problems. Warrick and Eamon (who is on Hebridan) deduce that certain key parts of the ship have been sabotaged. Warrick and Carter work around the sabotage and return to the race. While they are fixing things, they are supposed to be in very real danger from the very nearby Sun, but the feel of the episode is still quite light, and I never was very worried.
On Hebridan, Eamon and Teal'c pursue the saboteur, and Eamon discovers it is his boss, Del Tynan. In fact, he has apparently sabotaged the ships of every racer except one, whom he intends to win. Tynan immediately captures them and claims that he fixed the race so that a pure-blood human would win the race. Apparently he believes that Serrakins (the alien race) and mixed Serrakin-humans are oppressing pure humans.
Tynan contacts Warrick and threatens Eamon's life if he doesn't drop out of the race. Warrick stops the ship, but in short order O'Neill, Daniel, and a Tynan's boss take Tynan into custody. Warrick re-enters the race.
The race ends with Jarlath, who Warrick and Carter had rescued, disabling the "winner's" ship so that the second-place person wins at the last second.
There were other small, fun things: Teal'c using the name "Murray" again when he was in disguise. O'Neill using "diplomacy" and his status as Mr. Man-who-has-the-stargate in order to see the top boss. It's also nice to see Carter insist on rescuing Jarlath, despite his apparent lack of personal hygiene and rude behavior.
Bigger issues: midway through the race, O'Neill notified Carter that the SGC was going to get access to some of the key technology they had wanted. Should Carter have continued with the race? Sure, the episode didn't feel threatening, but they were obviously supposed to be in quite a bit of danger. I suppose it's her choice, since she was really only risking herself (and not the whole team).
The race itself was renowned for the fact that it had no rules. I found it extremely naive of Eamon to have left the Seberus unsupervised shortly before the race (when it was then sabotaged). Hadn't sabotage ever happened to ships in the race before? Along the same vein, the ship's computer plans should've also been guarded more carefully. The cut-throat nature of the race, the cat-calls between participants, and the attacks between ships during the race also reminded me of the Pod Racer video game.
The Hebridan world was designed to be a kind of super-commercial world, possibly intending to show us what Earth might be like in another few decades if we keep up the way we are. At first, the "advertisements" between segments of the race were amusing, but they got annoying toward the end. The announcer's segues into advertisements were way too much like the inane commentary on sports shows today.
What was the point of Tynan's racism? I suppose, keeping up the Earth parallel, it's showing that there are bigots in every society. Should Earth's races ever unite, then that bigotry would be shifted to whoever was "alien". Not very encouraging.
In the end, this episode was fun, but didn't have much of a point. Carter didn't gain the SGC access to new technology because O'Neill and Daniel negotiated that. Warrick didn't win the race, although he did get the consolation prize of being contracted by the race's winner. We barely saw O'Neill and Daniel in the episode at all, and Teal'c's scenes didn't tell us anything new. Carter took center stage, but I'm not sure we learned much about her that was new.