[25 August 2008]
PopMatters Features Editor
Joke’s on our beloved team when SG-1 travels to the Tok’ra home world for a routine extraction ceremony. Yawning, checking their watches, bored from the six-hour chant of genocide crimes that number in the thousands, SG-1 finally removes the evil goa’uld Ba’al from cryo-status moments before he’s officially sentenced to death. Laughing with his last breath, Ba’al then reveals that he’s merely a clone, and the original is now enacting a diabolical plan to change the timeline.
Leave it to Ba’al to ignore temporal ethics and undo the events that ultimately led to the downfall of the goa’uld. How fortunate he’s now the only person left from the previous timeline who knows the locations of all the ancient technology stockpiles and undiscovered treasures. That’s so like an unmerciful alien claiming to be a god and enslaving untold human populations with religious mythology.
So begins Stargate: Continuum, a thrilling misadventure through time and space that promises to unlock temporal paradoxes galore for fans young and old.
Little hope remains when Vala Mal Doran (Claudia Black) and Teal’c (Christopher Judge) vanish into thin air moments after Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) is killed. Luckily, protected by the vortex of the stable wormhole as the timeline shifts, the remaining members of SG-1 escape back to earth.
But their return home is hardly met with the warm welcome they expected. Instead of arriving at Stargate Command, Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), Lt. Col. Mitchell (Ben Brower), and Lt. Col. Carter (Amanda Tapping) find themselves trapped inside the icy cargo hold of the seafaring vessel Achilles, a boat that’s been lodged in an Antarctic glacier for almost seven decades.
Turns out Ba’al traveled back in time and slaughtered the crew of the boat Achilles en route to the United States with the stargate on board. Up to his old tricks again, this pesky goa’uld creates a new future, one in which his plots for galactic dominance go unchallenged. One temporal incursion later, and the stargate program is never started, goa’uld dominance in this galaxy is never toppled, and SG-1 is now saddled in an alternate timeline, stuck retelling an outlandish story no one really believes.
Come again? Time travel? Stable wormholes? Stargate Command? What are goa’uld, and who exactly is Ba’al? Newcomers tread with caution. Only frequent watchers of “...the longest running sc-fi series in American history” Stargate: SG-1 will understand all the inside jokes and character nuances that run rampant in Stargate: Continuum. Teal’c's dream of freedom for all Jaffa, Vala host to the goa’uld K’tesh, Ba’al inviting himself to lunch at the Oval Office via a collect phone call from orbit, all these quirky events and more will be lost on the sci-fi amateur.
Any frequent viewer of the television series already knows that this isn’t the stargate gang’s first tumble down the temporal rabbit hole. That said, this feature length time crusade is really for fans only. With special appearances from all the dead system lords and even late legend Don S. Davis as Gen. George Hammond, Stargate: Continuum is essentially all ten seasons of the series rolled into one long episode released on DVD, an episode that not only satisfies the stargate addict, but investigates questions of time travel as well.
Present-day, unwilling to help SG-1 undo countless moments in earth’s history by restoring the timeline, the military provides Jackson, Carter and Mitchell with new identities, which makes sense since Jackson is still a crackpot archeologist, Carter is a dead astronaut, and Mitchell never existed in this timeline, his grandfather ironically killed aboard the Achilles. Unsatisfied, haunted by a past that never happened, each team member is now doomed to live out the rest of their days as common citizens instead of heroic explorers.
This is where Stargate: Continuum gets interesting. Unlike countless other time travel stories that try to avoid the paradoxes associated with temporal changes, writer Brad Wright embraces them wholeheartedly. In essence, how can Mitchell exist now if his own grandfather was killed before he was born? For that matter, if the stargate program was never started, how could any of them have defeated the goa’uld in the first place?
Modern physicists all subscribe to various theories about temporal progression, but two in particular standout among the strongest. The first theory states that “you would be able to go back in time, however you would be unable to change anything about the timeline”. The second, employed here within Stargate: Continuum, suggests that “you could go back in time, but your actions would have no effect on your original timeline”. Essentially, the second (referred to as the multi-verse theory) hypothesizes that you’re actually arriving in different time streams when you travel through time.
Sounds complicated? Learn more from the intriguing featurette The Layman’s Guide to Time Travel, which briefly outlines the common temporal theories held by modern astrophysicists. Hear all about wormholes and Einstein-Rosen bridges, which not only connect points in three-dimensional space, but points in our one-dimensional time as well.
Another must-see special feature to watch is Stargate Goes to the Arctic. Near the APLIS base on the mystical flats of the Arctic Circle, where director Martin Wood filmed some of the movie, you’ll catch rare glimpses of the crew bundled in parkas, braving the blistering below zero tundra, all for the perfect scene. Not to mention the shot coordinated with the U.S. Navy of an authentic submarine actually emerging through the ice. If that doesn’t indicate an astronomical production value, heaven knows what does.
Rent this awesome flick, and enjoy as death gliders attack Washington and Mitchell saves his own grandfather from meeting a premature end at the wrong end of a staff weapon. Though greenhorns will undoubtedly get confused by the storyline, fanboys will certainly scream with excitement, quantum physics lovers will ruminated, and philosophers will wax as Stargate: Continuum explores temporal pragmatism and the future of the science fiction narrative.
Interesting, action-packed and unflinching in the eye of sci-fi taboo, Stargate: Continuum was definitely released for all those enthusiasts who desperately wanted the band back together again for one last reunion tour in space.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/stargate-continuum/