A good science fiction show places its heroes in peril as they fight the bad guys. What makes it extra fun, though, is when the heroes don’t know how to fight the bad guys. This is very simple way of looking at Stargate SG-1: Brief Candle. This is a first season episode of the decade-long series and it’s one that I like quite a bit, though there are aspects that keep it from being a superb show.
At the beginning, SG-1 is investigating a temple on a planet and run across a couple. The woman is about to have a baby and, in fact, it’s delivered by Daniel (Michael Shanks) with assistance from Sam (Amanda Tapping). This entire opening sequence is wonderful to watch. There’s a lot of cute interplay between SG-1’s leader, Jack (Richard Dean Anderson) and Daniel over the building’s architecture and then over the delivering of the baby. It’s a bit of humor amid the drama that is to come.
One time at a convention in Australia, the head of the makeup department, Jan Newman, spoke about this episode and Anderson. The series star was known for not liking the makeup process; it was hard to get him to sit still. In Brief Candle, though, his character had to age decades. The only way Newman could get Anderson to go along with the hours it took to apply the makeup was to agree to make him look as much like his real grandfather as possible. At his oldest in the story, he had very long, white hair, a bunch of wrinkles, and was very crotchety.
A couple of my favorite moments are ones that involve emotion. Jack is separated from his wife, Sara, and here we see him trying to write her a letter and clearly still very much in love with her. Anderson played that so well through expression and demeanor.
Then there was Daniel, who was very angry when told that Jack would essentially have to remain on the alien planet and die. Daniel gets very animated. It’s a great moment.
The worst thing about Brief Candle and the reason it can never be a winner is that Jack, as the leader of SG-1, would never have allowed himself to be led away by the one the aliens, drugged with a potent wedding cake, and then have sex with her. By the same token, it’s ridiculous that the team would have just sat there and let it happen. This element of the show was poorly conceived.
There are wonderful lines and more poignant moments which overshadow the bad and make Brief Candle well worth watching.