Apr 21, 2014
Stargate SG-1 “Avenger 2.0”
[Note from the editor: This article is by prospective staff writer Allison Venezio. Enjoy!]
I’m a huge Stargate fan. Ask anyone who knows and has spent time with me. This is despite coming into the franchise very late (I didn’t start watching regularly until 2010, when the third—and underrated—series in the franchise, Stargate Universe was on the air). And while I’m always late to the party (this is a frequent occurrence with me and TV shows), I arrive.
While I wasn’t hooked on the whole Stargate thing at first, I gradually got sucked in, and began reading the tie-in novels, buying the DVDs, and—gasp—attending the conventions. In 2012, I went to my first Stargate convention in Chicago, and I’ll be going to my fourth in August 2015. And I’ve been fortunate to connect with a small group of friends whom I’ve found other common interests with beyond the ‘Gate.
Stargate SG-1 is the first series spun off from the 1994 feature film Stargate, in which anthropologist Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) and Air Force Col. Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) travel across time and space to a desert planet that looks a lot like ancient Egypt. You might recall that at the end of the film, Jackson stays behind with the newly-freed people of the planet Abydos, to live among them with his new wife Shau’ri.
SG-1 takes place a little over a year after the events of the film. A new threat arrives at the military base seen in the movie, and several Air Force SFs are killed and another is kidnapped. This is presumed to be the work of System Lord Ra, the movie’s allegedly-dead main villain, so the retired Col. Jack O’Neill (now played by Richard Dean Anderson, and now with an extra “L” in his last name) is recalled to active duty to stop the latest threat to our very existence.
O’Neill brings together a team including astrophysicist Samantha “Sam” Carter (Amanda Tapping), the recalled-to-Earth Dr. Daniel Jackson (now played by Michael Shanks), and Jaffa rebel Teal’c (Christopher Judge) who turns on his own people and leaves to join the Earth team’s cause. Together, they explore the galaxy in an attempt to seek out advanced technology and protect humanity against the threats that lie just beyond our world, while angering other System Lords who find them inferior and want to be the ones to take down the team.
SG-1 ran on Showtime from 1997 until 2002, and then on the Sci-Fi Channel from 2002 until its cancellation in 2007. In season six, Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose) replaced Michael Shanks as Jonas Quinn, who arrives on Earth after betraying his people while Dr. Jackson lays dying from fatal injuries sustained on his homeworld Kelowna (Michael Shanks would later return in season seven).
In season nine, Richard Dean Anderson left the show, with Ben Browder (John Chrichton on Farscape) replacing him in the leadership role as Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell. Claudia Black (Aeryn Sun on Farscape) joined the cast in season ten as Vala Mal Doran, after several appearances in previous seasons. The late Don S. Davis portrayed Stargate Command leader Major General George Hammond during the show’s first seven seasons, with Richard Dean Anderson succeeding him in season eight. Further succeeding Anderson upon his departure was Beau Bridges, playing Major General Hank Landry in seasons nine and ten.
There were several spin-off series: Stargate Atlantis (Sci-Fi Channel, 2004-2009) and SGU: Stargate Universe (2009-2011) opened up more worlds in the universe. An unrelated (and short-lived) animated series, Stargate Infinity, aired in syndication in 2003.
But my absolute favorite series of the franchise is by far Stargate SG-1. While I do love Atlantis, and am finding a gem in the underappreciated Universe, SG-1 is my team of choice, and the Earth ‘Gate is my destination. I have favorite episodes, not-so-favorite episodes, and episodes I’ve seen too many times to count… though maybe I just have a bad memory and lost count somewhere around fifteen.
However, after ten years of life, Stargate SG-1 did have a few weak spots along the way. There’s one particular episode that fans roundly agree is a low point of the series. And while it isn’t the worst concept for an episode ever, it’s still not winning fan love, twelve years after it aired. Okay, so maybe some fans love it, but this fan cringes over the existence of it. Even the title makes me cringe.
“Avenger 2.0” (oh yes, that’s the title) is the ninth episode of Stargate SG-1’s seventh season, and it’s apparent from the title alone that this is going to be a doozy of an episode. I hear “Avenger” and I think Marvel, not computer viruses. And that’s exactly what the episode is about: a glorified computer virus. It has one job (to be like a computer virus without actually being a computer virus—remember, the ‘Gate network isn’t based on a computer system), and actually does the job a computer virus is known for: shutting down vital systems and wreaking general havoc for our heroes. I knew this one was going to be trouble when the main characters were relegated to being little more than background extras.
You’ll really have to suck up your courage to get through this one.
This episode primarily focuses on the character of Dr. Jay Felger (pronounced “Fell-grrr,” not “Fell-jur” or “Folger”—that Colonel O’Neill will mispronounce just about anything!), a scientist working at Stargate Command who’s got a bit of hero-worship for the SG-1 team.
Felger is in a bind. His latest “invention”, an energy-based weapon made to potentially replace the missiles on the X-302 (a hyperspace fighter reverse-engineered from alien technology) turns out to be an unmitigated disaster. Sort of like Felger himself. In fact, his invention knocks out power to the entire base. Did I mention I did the same thing by plugging an extension cord that no longer worked into a hairdryer? I didn’t? It’s only because I don’t like to admit to that kind of stupidity.
Before I go on, I guess I should backtrack a little on Dr. Felger. Jay Felger was a character introduced in the marginally better season six episode “The Other Guys”, which, come to think of it, also featured a group of scientists who forced our heroes into the background. Who puts SG-1 in a corner?
I just looked up the writer for that episode. Damn you, Damian Kindler, for starting all of this!
And who are the writers putting SG-1 in the corner this time?
Felger’s latest and not-so-greatest invention is actually one in a long line of disastrous projects he’s undertaken in the last six months, which have all been long on promise, but short on results, according to General Hammond. He’s ready to pull the plug on Felger’s research, effectively ending his time at Stargate Command (which, if you ask me, should have happened after “The Other Guys”).
Felger decides this is the perfect opportunity to tell Hammond about how he’s on the verge of “something huge.” And since Major Carter, who’s his (and every male’s) crush is in the vicinity, he probably feels this is the perfect time to unveil his “something huge.”
Of course, Felger’s “something huge” turns out to be… a glorified computer virus. His assistant/potential love interest Chloe (who has an annoying voice) thinks he’s nuts for even considering it, but it does seem to have some interesting potential. You dial up a target ‘Gate, and the virus scrambles the established coordinates. The theory? The Stargate network is a series of linked computers already. By initiating this virus, the symbols will no longer correspond with the proper coordinates, resulting in that target ‘Gate being useless. Like Felger. Major Carter is decidedly interested (being a geek and all), but is waiting until she sees actual proof to get excited.
And what’s the name of this virus, you ask? Avenger!
Remember the title of the episode, “Avenger 2.0”? That’s not just the title, that’s also the name of Dr. Felger’s “something huge” of an idea. He explains that he named it after a superhero comic he read as a kid. I think Marvel should sue him for hijacking the name. And I’m assuming the “2.0” part of the title is a cute play on technology… or a hint that there’s something else named “Avenger” out there, but it’s never explained.
And like a typical computer virus, it wreaks havoc on the network of ‘Gates, effectively shutting them down, and spreading to other ‘Gates. While the Earth ‘Gate can dial into any location, those other ‘Gates can’t dial Earth. How is this a disaster, pray tell? Because it traps Col. O’Neill and Teal’c on a planet with Jaffa rebels, who become testy when the ‘Gate doesn’t work. It also traps Dr. Jackson and another team on a planet that’s slowly flooding from heavy rains.
So, of course, if you make a mess, you have to clean up said mess. Carter discovers that certain correlative updates, performed by Dial Home Devices on other planets to compensate for interstellar drift, caused the virus to spread the way it did. So any teams that are off-world are recalled immediately.
Soon, System Lord Ba’al is taking advantage of the situation by attacking other System Lords on other planets, due to having the most ships. Though, we don’t actually see him do this (and I’m starting to wish we did, as that sounds like a far more interesting story than this one). Felger devises a solution to upload everything from the dialing computer, assuming that another update will occur, as the system is adaptive by nature. He believes it will work, and… it doesn’t.
So now, with a “something huge” computer virus causing a malfunction, an “antivirus” that doesn’t work, a System Lord taking advantage of the whole situation, angry Jaffa Rebels, flood waters, thirteen stranded teams, and one bumbling idiot who caused the disaster, someone’s going to have to save the day. Take one guess who. And then take another guess who doesn’t.
Throw in an ending that tries to be a hilarious callback to Felger’s daydream that ended “The Other Guys”, which had no business happening in the first place, and Felger mugging with his overly huge “in love” grin, and this episode barely escapes being a trainwreck.
The basic concept of “Avenger 2.0” was—dare I say it?—creative, so what happened to make it not quite work?
The “virus” idea is great in theory, and it did exactly what computer viruses already do best: spread and wreak havoc. But not in a comically funny way; just a painful and unfunny way that makes one wonder how this was even an idea.
In this franchise, humor can be a hit (think “Window of Opportunity” or “Point of No Return” for this show, or even “Urgo”, though this is more love it/hate it, depending on who you talk to), or a huge miss (“Irresponsible”, or its sequel “Irresistible” on sister show Atlantis). And this episode was… a huge miss. In fact, it was a major misfire.
The humor feels forced, and the sad use of an action montage where the characters work towards creating Avenger just feels out of place on this show. It’s not the first time a montage was used (see again “Window of Opportunity” for a better example), but in an episode that already feels forced, this montage just isn’t funny.
Then there’s Felger (good lord, Felger). I just don’t find anything funny about the guy or his bumbling nature. He fails to save the day, and really only makes the situation worse when he tries to fix everything. This should be funny, but it’s actually painful, because he’s so hard to watch. If I want to see someone bumble around in a more funny way, any of the episodes where O’Neill has one of his “moments” is far funnier than 43 minutes of Felger mugging and acting like an ass.
And this episode is complicated. I’ve seen episodes that had far more action and were much easier to follow. This is a lighter episode than most, and it’s still too complicated to follow. And not the “you need to watch this show in order to understand it” kind of complicated, it’s the “hope you have a long attention span and plenty of patience” kind of complicated.
I give credit to Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie for making “Avenger 2.0” so darn convoluted that you might be fooled into thinking it’s clever, but at the same time, they’re capable of much better. If you really want to see one of their better efforts, I again highly recommend “Window of Opportunity”, their first writing credit on this show, and my favorite episode.
Really, the only person I can give credit to here is Martin Wood; he’s one of the show’s best regular directors. Heck, he helmed some of the best episodes in the franchise, so at least aesthetically, this episode looks great and is well-directed. But that can’t save it.
And finally, I really need to throw in one more nitpick/bitch moment, because this actually bothered me and feels like a gaping oversight in the writing. At one point, Felger’s mom calls him at Stargate Command, and he answers the phone with, “Stargate Command! Felger speaking!” How did she get his number? For a top secret military base, they obviously just had a huge breach of security. And he answers the phone the way I do, and I work as a secretary!
And if you really want to know, Dr. Jay Felger was never seen nor heard from again. In fact, we never even heard his name uttered again. Ever. And I’m sure O’Neill had something to do with that. Or Carter finally realized how creepy Felger was and had him booted. Or he got fired for his incompetence. Or maybe Kindler, Mallozzi, and Mullie got cease and desist letters that made them stop writing Felger-centered episodes.
Of course, our last image of Felger had to be him with his stupid smile, fantasizing like he did in his previous outing, “The Other Guys”, as he watches Carter and his assistant Chloe wrestle each other over him, while Felger and O’Neill watch. Felger’s Carter-related fantasy in “The Other Guys” (I won’t spoil it) didn’t work in that episode, and this fantasy doesn’t work here. But I hope they paid Amanda Tapping handsomely to pretend to fawn all over Felger (twice).
I don’t say any of this to discourage you from ever seeing this episode. It’s not one to avoid, but it’s certainly one to be cautious about when approaching. After all, it’s about a virus, and we all know what viruses do. Thankfully, this particular episode didn’t infect the rest of the series, which veered back in the right direction, with Mallozzi and Mullie penning better episodes along the way until the very end. So I can forgive them for this one.
Oh, and Marvel, if you need someone to sue over using “Avenger” in a terrible way, his name is Dr. Jay Felger, and if you can find him, he’s all yours.
Allison is a nostalgia buff with a love for all things painful and obscure. She’s an avid RiffTrax supporter and Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan who held a replica of Tom Servo while standing next to Joel Hodgson. As a huge Stargate SG-1 fan, she hopes she didn’t offend other fans with this article. She can be found at her blog, Allison’s Written Words (the former site is on Blogger), and loves followers. You can also keep up with her on Facebook… if you dare.