Review: Stargate Ark of Truth
Satisfying. But unfulfilling.
Itâ€™s been one hell of a ten years for the series Stargate: SG1.
Weâ€™ve had the original movie back in 1994. Then the series followed. Then a spin off series. Another spin off lays in development. And now weâ€™re back to the movies.
The little show that could has come full circle.
This first tv movie, The Ark of Truth, caps off once and for all the storyline that has been running through Seasons 9 and 10 â€“the Orii. The show veered off in this dramatic new direction when Season 8 was the supposed last series, and the threat of the Goaâ€™uld was effectively wiped out.
With the storyline came new characters, Mitchell and Landry, along with my personal favourite, Vala Mal Doran, and almost a new title i.e. Stargate Command.
So. Big question.
Do I feel this movie effectively encapsulates the whole of the Orii storyline?
Do I feel this movie effectively encapsulates the whole of Stargate: SG1?
No. But thatâ€™s ok, because that isnâ€™t what this movie is designed to do. And if you go in expecting that final, heartstring-tugging finale, (see Season 8â€™s â€˜Threadsâ€™) you simply wonâ€™t get it. This story is about finishing off what was effectively a brand new show built out of another.
In that regards, it works.
Dramatic showdowns? Daedalus vs. Orii. Daniel/Vala vs. Adria. Mitchell vs. Bad Guy in fisticuffs. Check.
Continuity with previous episodes? Asgard core. Merlin. Adria. Replicators. Supergate. Check.
Character moments? Daniel railing against Ascended Ancients. Vala railing against her daughter. Tealâ€™c consoling Tomin.
Itâ€™s all here. Itâ€™s all checked.
And perhaps thatâ€™s the biggest problem I have with this story.
Everything is checked in. It all fits together. But I donâ€™t really feel this is the best they could have done with the potential they had on offer. It irritates me to no end that the big questions on offer since the start of this storyline are merely addressed here, and not particularly tackled in any depth; Iâ€™m talking about religion vs. science. Iâ€™m talking about how the humans of Earth can possibly justify brainwashing perhaps billions of others into their way of thinking.
Ultimately, the central question weâ€™ve been asked for the last few episodes of Season 10 was, now that the Orii are dead, how do we stop their followers? This question, this moral debate, is sidestepped entirely through the Deus Ex Machina of the titular Ark of Truth.
This is something we have never been told about before, and itâ€™s another one of those handy dandy Ancient devices which we can find in the nick of time, to save our collective bacons from the fire. Itâ€™s a device capable of showing a person the truth of something, whatever that truth is that is programmed into the machine. There is a little fudging of the issue, in the sense that we are told the Ark can only be programmed to show the truth. It canâ€™t be programmed to show a lie as truth â€“ it can only be the truth.
Anyone else having a problem buying that?
Look. Iâ€™ll give credit where itâ€™s due. For the purposes of resolving this storyline, for showing us another look at Ancient culture millions of years ago, and for giving us a neat way to end the war without any more death, it works. I believe, however, that there should have been more ethical debate about the use of the Ark, and less time spent towards action sequences where Mitchell fights some near super powered being that, by all rights, should have finished the fight in the first few blowsâ€¦
For me, itâ€™s the smaller moments that make it.
On the journey to the Supergate, you have a small, nicely played scene between Tomin and Tealâ€™c where the former cannot begin to fathom how his life has reached this point, and the incredible guilt he now feels for his actions. Itâ€™s telling how Tealâ€™c responds, a character who is in the same damn position, and lets him know in no uncertain terms that it does not matter how hard he tries to make up for what he has done, it is impossible. All he can do is fight for the rest of his life to try and make amends. Standout performances from both actors here.
The opening and the Daniel and Vala bickeringâ€¦ I am a firm believer that Vala has done nothing but bring new life to this show. Her responses are so decidedly unearth like (or at least unlike any of the earthbound humans we have seen so far), and are so far apart from Tealâ€™câ€™s deadpan responses, that it shows how you donâ€™t have to play an alien as monotone to make it work. She is a literal breath of fresh air, and the interplay she has with Daniel is all the more worthwhile because it takes the place of the Jack vs. Daniel banter we used to have. I am admittedly an unashamed fan of Farscape, and itâ€™s fantastic to see Claudia Black playing such a completely different role from Aeryn Sun â€“ they are nothing alike and played completely believably. It also allows us to be filled in, quite handily, on some of the background of the movie, without the 10 minute long â€œPreviously onâ€¦â€ segment that accompanies the DVD.
I donâ€™t want to get much more into the plot, because then we venture into spoiler territory. Suffice to say, it satisfies. It ties up the loose ends.
By the end of the DVD, youâ€™ve pretty much seen everything you probably needed to see to get a fair conclusion of this story arc.
Itâ€™s unfortunate that to some extent, Mitchell and Samâ€™s characters are given their own angle to pursue in this movie, but then, their characters were perhaps the two with the loosest, personal connections to this story â€“ they were just doing their jobs. Their story is more about how our military could respond, specifically the I.O.A, to threats if they went in without any concern for who might get hurt along the way. The central issue with this storyline, especially since the Orii were thought to be wiped out, was how do you stop the human soldiers, who arenâ€™t inherently evil, but just following a belief? Following orders? SG-1 didnâ€™t want to kill more than was necessary, but, arguably, you are sometimes left with no other choice which is what the I.O.A went after.
Kudos to Currie Graham for playing a role that could have been quite one note. The storyline did go in a way I didnâ€™t expect, although I have to admit, despite all my talk about how I find SG-1 too familiar sometimes, I cottoned on to Marrickâ€™s, and by extension, the I.OAâ€™s, plan pretty darn quickly once I realised where he had based himself. So there IS something to be said for the familiarity of SG-1. The way the storyline eventually spun off to, Iâ€™m not to happy about. At least it clicked on the continuity boxes, but I was hoping for a new twist, some spin on how everything was playing outâ€¦
Still, at least Mitchell got beaten up on. Again.
But if that was the B storyline, what of the A?
The final thrust of the movie.
The characters involved are those who have the strongest connections:
Daniel has always been the morality, the spiritual heart, of the team, and the most involved with the Ascended beings. Vala became involved because her own daughter became the leader of the Orii crusade. Tealâ€™câ€™s initial journey was about defeating the Goaâ€™uld, also beings masquerading as something greater than they are and his unshakeable will to take down their evil is understandable. Thatâ€™s why they are there in the final showdown as it were.
Well. Thatâ€™s it as it were!
The Ark of Truth satisfied me. I wonâ€™t pretend it was the epic, all encompassing journey that I wished it had been, but it was a thoroughly rip roaring adventure through space, that I enjoyed even if it didnâ€™t answer everything quite as satisfactorily as I would have liked. If youâ€™re a fan of SG-1 and you want to see how it ends, then this movie is for you. I canâ€™t recommend it enough.
And donâ€™t forget that the movie itself was essentially Season 11 of SG-1, squeezed down into one movie of 1 hour and 40 minutes. That is one hell of an achievement in itself. Itâ€™s telling that these actors themselves chose to come back and finish off the story, that they wanted to see the end as much as we did. And theyâ€™ll be back.
Oh yes. They will be back.
Iâ€™m very much looking forward to the next movie, Stargate: Continuum.
Time travel? Check.
Jack Oâ€™Neill? Check.
Valaâ€™s back? Check.
Hereâ€™s to more of, despite what I say, more of the same.
About Joss Gateway
Sci-Fi Heaven's resident Stargate and Doctor Who columnist. He's lovely too.