Book 1: Half Life
The latest in the Big Finish audio plays from Stargate sees the return of Michael Shanks as Daniel Jackson and Claudia Black’s loveable rogue Vala.
I never realized how much I missed Stargate until I heard their voices again. Having been a long time fan of both the original movie and the spin offs, there was a lot wrong with Stargate but an awful lot right too producing some classic epic television
Halflife doesn’t fall into the epic category but begins with a clincher of a hook to draw listeners in. Daniel and Vala arrive back from a planet only for Daniel to shoot Jack O’Neill who unfortunately isn’t among the cast. And that’s as much as I can tell you without spoiling it.
With Daniel locked up, the command team literally have to tick off their list to find the answers they need while Jack lies in critical condition. And this part was fun as they go through their past adventures encountering duplicates, parallel worlds, androids, Goa’uld hosts etc and let’s face it with ten years worth of adventures they at least have a reference point to go on.
However, the writer, Jim Swallow provides the answer too soon into the play which rather spoils the mystery. If it were me I would have had the revelation come much later and the story falls back on science fiction cliché from here on in as Vala breaks Daniel out to discover the truth.
The performances are spot on. Vala is as fun as ever with Daniel being her ever constant guardian, rolling his eyes at her mad ideas which by the way usually work. Shanks and Black have lost none of the chemistry they had on the show and you can tell they had fun doing this. Plus an old enemy is waiting in the wings with a plan that again has been seen before in the show but he too is a welcome return even if his dialogue is sometimes super clichéd.
Overall, nothing new in this story which left me wanting to jump to the end once the mystery was revealed. But one thing Big Finish; please change the dreadful title music. It’s like something you would have heard in a really bad eighties television show and nothing even close to the grand operatic Stargate theme that enthrals us all. I understand there are probably copyright issues in using the real theme but seriously, surely something better could have been used? (Book 2 after picture)
Book 2: Eye For An Eye
The second part of this trilogy of new Stargate plays picks up where Halflife left off with Daniel and Vala under arrest aboard the Sun Tzu, a Chinese starship which is a nice nod that the world has continued to expand after the end of the series, where they must convince their own people they are who they say they are.
This is a nice nod to the show as Earth politics prove to be as dangerous as any Ori or Goa’uld. Ba’al’s scheme is having far reaching consequences that is leaving friend against friend and the answers may lie with one of Vala’s old acquaintances Keto who has in his possession a Goa’uld mind probe and has discovered something amid the wreckage of Ba’al’s ship.
Ba’al’s clone technology and penchant for multiple bodies for himself is key to this series. Cliff Simon gets a chance to shine here but his storyline is again like the first play, something that has been done before in the television series and just to slightly better effect.
But again Shanks and Black bounce off each other brilliantly as they find themselves battling their own people and Ba’al’s plans. However this play has identical themes to Halflife as in the discovery of identity and what makes us what we are. It feels like old ground lit up by the dialogue which allows not only Vala and Daniel to shine but Ba’al also. He was never my favourite villain in the show but by dipping into past storylines he is able to show us a different aspect to his character beyond the “I am your God!” line.
Have to mention the fact that it’s great to hear a sound effect from Star Trek the Next Generation that for a second makes you believe Picard and crew are about to burst in.
And unlike Halflife we end on a cliffhanger that leads to the final part of this trilogy. And to be fair, what a way to end. The familiarity of the plot lines may make me nonchalant about the overall arc but my faith may yet be restored.
It’s not that the plays are bad by any means, they are entertaining but we’ve seen them all before. (Book 3 after picture)
Book 3: Infiltration
And what a let down. The cliffhanger of the end of Eye for an Eye left the SGC in a precarious place as Ba’al’s sleeper clones were activated.
But we are only told about their awakening rather than anything dramatic happening. However, Daniel and Vala are about to discover there are other clones closer to home to deal with.
We open with Daniel and Vala being chased by dinosaurs after being side swiped by one of Ba’al’s wormholes and before long the clone plot is drawing in theJaffafrom an isolated region and one that Daniel has visited before. When the Sun Tzu is attacked, Vala and Daniel split on separate missions where they both face death and a last minute few twists leave us wondering who is who as Vala teams up with old friends and discovers a group of people held prisoner by Ba’al.
Although these stories are entertaining I still feel it’s missing something. The scale should be bigger given the story line, something easily achieved on audio. The threat of Ba’al’s plan is underused and like many television episodes leaves the plot thread open for the future but do I really care? I’m afraid not.
As brilliant it is to hear Vala and Daniel back in fine form and the bubbling of the Stargate as it opens, I feel like I’ve had a snack rather than a three course meal.
For me the stories of this trilogy haven’t advanced the Stargate universe, just nibbled from old meaty bones.
As much as I wanted more, I just feel like been there, done it, only better. Oh and listen out for the Farscape in-joke.