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Stargate 1.1 - Gift of the Gods



Blurb: Doctor Daniel Jackson wakes up on the floor of his SGC lab, with no memory of what happened or how he got there. With him is Lt. Hunter of SG-12 – the team that should have accompanied SG-1 on their mission to P2K-797. But now, here they are, back on Earth with the whole of Stargate Command incapacitated around them.

So what happened? Why can no one remember? And why is the Stargate apparently connected to an alternate reality?

Format: Limited cast audio drama recounting a story in the life of Dr. Daniel Jackson. Published by Big Finish Productions and released April of 2008.

Setting: The SGC.

Continuity: This story takes place between the television stories Seth and Fair Game.

Stargate Note: Before I start, there are a few things that I want to note. I realize that the Stargate line from Big Finish is out of print, because MGM yanked the license. I also know that they're somewhat hard to find, because apparently when MGM revoked the license they did it with almost no notice, so Big Finish was not able to sell their remaining stock. Still, you can find these if you search. I've also heard that some library services have audiobooks and audio drama libraries digitally and some have found the Stargate audio stories on those.

Discussion: This is my first foray into Stargate from Big Finish. I was kind of excited approaching this, since I am a big fan of the Stargate franchise, and I know how much love and effort Big Finish put into their properties. The cover looked nice, as Big Finish covers typically do. I also liked that they got a big name like Michael Shanks for their first outting. I was interested to see what they'd do with Doctor Daniel Jackson.

The musical theme didn't impress me at all. I've heard Jason Haigh-Ellery speak at conventions about how MGM demanded a five-figure sum to license the Stargate theme music, so BF decided to just do their own. It's...sparse. When you think of the epic scope and grandeur of any of the Stargate themes and compare it to the simple ditty that Big Finish created it just does not compare. It's not only short, but it doesn't really sound like a Stargate theme with just some slight hints or teases to the music. The background music throughout the episode did a slightly better job evoking the Stargate feel than the theme did. The sounds were good, but you expect that in a Big Finish production. It's been so long since I've seen Stargate that I was just happy to hear the sounds of zats and the Stargate opening and closing. Even the gunfight scenes sounded like they came from the television series. It made for a really great nostalgia trip.

I was really impressed by Michael Shanks performance in this! In the interview at the end of the program he expressed his unfamiliarity with audio, but he did an outstanding job performing not only as Daniel but also in getting the cadence and tone right for the other members of SG-1. His standout performance was reading the lines for General Hammond where he could have been mistaken for Don S Davis. You can tell that Shanks put a lot of thought into his performance, because this is definitely an earlier version of Daniel from before his ascension. He still stammers a lot and seems far more uncertain of himself. It's clear that he's spent a lot of time in this universe and with these characters, because of how his performance is informed by the time period and in turn informs the audience of when this one is supposed to take place.

Assisting Shanks is John Schwab as Major Hunter. Hunter is played as a fresh-faced military man. Young and curious he takes his duty very seriously. Hunter goes through an arc where he questions his actions and in trying to correct his mistake ends up discovering how to resolve the story in the best way that it could have. Schwab makes Hunter instantly likeable, which helps with a character that the audience isn't familiar with, but needs to develop a rapport in the span of an hour. The uncertainty with which he speaks with Daniel at the end of the story feels real and helps to underscore the dramatic events earlier.

The plot is best when you consider the personal side of it. It opens with Daniel narrating a recent adventure, but it isn't until you get to the end and realize why Daniel is recording a narration of this particular story that you realize just how important that is and how well author Sally Malcolm has utilized the format to give you a story that would be nowhere near as impactful if told in any other way. This is a story about loss, not only of friends and comrades but of identity. It'd be a wonder if Daniel doesn't go through some kind of identity crisis after this one. Tying that in with Hunter's need to correct his mistake and the drama of an entire reality being on the line makes for a really satisfying philosophical story. It's hard not to feel a rush of relief as Jack is confronted with Daniel, alive, while at the same time Daniel is left with nothing but an empty feeling.

There are definite holes in the plot. Why does the machine even bother to create as much of the second reality as it does? Apparently, it conveniently recreates Cheyenne Mountain, but nothing beyond. Therefore, the SGC is intact but there are no resources to call upon outside. Why not just recreate the gate and a few feet in any direction? That's all that would be needed for the explosion. Recreating a sizable bubble means that you recreate people to resist you, which doesn't make a lot of sense. I was also confused how the Jaffa invaded the prime reality. While I understand that the Stargate wouldn't close why would they have opened the iris? Also, how did the Jaffa even open a wormhole if the two gates from the two realities were connected? Despite Malcolm having written for Stargate in the past it really seemed like she wasn't up with the lore or any explanations that she had were cut. I really would have liked to have seen those issues addressed, since it seemed so very out of place to ignore these staples of the SG-1 series.

Final Rating: 8/10

Recommendation: A lovely, introspective story as Daniel recounts a tale about death and loss. Big Finish does a great job recreating the Stargate charm and Shanks does not disappoint as Daniel Jackson or any of the rest of the team. There seem to be some significant plot issues, but if you overlook those the strength of the performances, sounds, and theme of the story will see you through. I definitely recommend listening if you can get your hands on it.
Tags: daniel jackson, gift of the gods, michael shanks, sg-1, stargate
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