Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Muse -- Old Schoool Style: Michael Shanks as Daniel Jackson on Stargate SG1

Sticking with my old school sci-fi theme and going back to 1997 with Michael Shanks as Doctor Daniel Jackson. This post is also going to kind of take us into how my love for sci-fi began.

In my early teenage years, I loved the X-files, and then moved on to being obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My Buffy obsession was probably understandable since she was the same age as me, and it was kind of like we grew up together.
James Spader in the original Stargate movie
It wasn't until my early twenties that I discovered Stargate SG1, thanks to my sister-in-law who was already addicted. She bought the series on DVD and I happened to catch a few episodes when I was over visiting, probably smack bang in the middle of season three, or something random like that. I realized that I'd seen the original movie before -- probably when it was on TV or something -- so even though I hadn't seen the show from the beginning, I understood the concept. And within a couple of episodes, I was totally hooked and knew I had to go back and watch it from the start. I heard people go on about Star Trek and Star Wars, but I'd never understood what was so good about science fiction. Well, Stargate totally blew me away, and opened up my eyes to a genre I'd never considered before.
It wasn't until years later, when I remembered that as a kid my parents used to let me watch this little show called SeaQuest that I realized my sci-fi foundations had been laid.
Anyway, back to Stargate. I've been thinking about doing a re-watch, now that I've just about finished with re-watching Farscape. But the prospect of doing Stargate all over again is a little daunting, with ten seasons and three movies to get through (if you include the original movie with James Spader that inspired the TV show), so this is no small commitment we're talking about!
Michael Shanks as Daniel Jackson, season 1
Daniel Jackson ended up being a very interesting character, and out of all of the cast, I think he did the most growing and changing over the years.
To begin with, Daniel Jackson was the typical scientific geek. He didn't particularly agree with the military's stance on things, so working for them kind of went against his beliefs and created some interesting conflict with Jack O'Neil, the commanding officer of the SG1 team.
He also didn't have the first clue about weapons or conflict, and this carried through the first couple of seasons. So in one particular episode (I can't remember which, it was probably either the season 1 or season 2 finale) when Daniel had been injured and offered to take a gun and hold off the Goa'uld so the rest of the team could escape, this was no small thing, which Jack made a point of highlighting.
From this, we got a glimpse that deep down through all his sensitivity, Daniel had a core of steel, and when push really came to shove, was willing to do what was necessary.
However, the evolution of Daniel's character still didn't happen very quickly. The changes were so gradual that it was probably hard for the audience to even notice they were happening. However, if you watch Daniel in an episode from season 1 and then take an episode from season 10, you'll see two very different facets of his personality.
I guess the simplest way to put it is that they toughened Daniel up. He died (more than once, I think) and lost his wife, the woman he loved, and had countless more little things chip away at him until he eventually became more military than scientist. He learned how to use those weapons, how to fight in hand to hand combat, and became harder, both physically and mentally. In the first season or so, one wouldn't have necessarily thought "hotness" when considering Daniel Jackson. But by the later seasons, especially as hot geeks were starting to trend, there was pretty much no other way to describe him.
Undeniable hotness!
Daniel's relationship with Jack was also a point of interest. At first, the two didn't really get along --Daniel though Jack was just a hard-headed military guy who would rather fix a problem with his gun than listen to reason, and Jack thought Daniel was a naive, idealistic scientist who didn't understand the way things really worked.  
Over the years, the two helped each other see things from different perspectives, and they gained a unique understanding and friendship. I've mentioned it on this blog before, but I found it equal parts funny and annoying when people started speculating that there was an underlying gay sexual tension between Jack and Daniel.
Yes, in season 4 in particular (I think it was) the bromance between Daniel and Jack was probably at its peak, especially in the episode The Light, where Daniel is affected by an alien artefact, and almost jumps off a balcony. Jack talks him down and then rushes him back to the planet just in time to save him. This is actually also one of my favorite SG1 episodes, simply because of the awesome dynamics between the characters. But I don't think Jack and Daniel's regard for one another was ever anything but platonic, and I don't understand why two men can't have an openly affectionate and deep relationship, without it being construed as gay.
After losing his wife, I had always hoped the writers would bring another love interest in for Daniel, and over the years there were a couple of short attractions explored, but nothing with the permanence I really wanted to see. Until the writers brought in Vala, played by Claudia Black, which was a little weird for us Farscape fans, because Ben Browder had also joined the cast to replace Jack. Seeing those two on screen together as different characters was a little strange, especially since the lingering chemistry was plainly apparent in some of the scene they did together. And there weren't many, I think the writers were probably aware of this, and tried to limit their one-on-one interaction, lest it turn into Aeryn and Crichton all over again.
But back to Daniel and Vala. These two played so well off each other from the very beginning -- there was just something about the way they clashed, but were also obviously attracted to one another. And the writers got to explore the possibility of where Daniel and Vala's relationship could end up, when they did an episode where the team got trapped on a ship in deep space, in some kind of time vortex they couldn't escape. Through this, Daniel and Vala ended up together, and basically lived an entire life together. However, at the end of the episode, the team found a way to go back, like no time had passed at all, with none of them remembering what had happened, apart from Teal'c, who had to set off the device.
Gratuitous shirtless pic.
Of course, Teal'c being the type of person he is, never mentioned to Daniel and Vala what had happened between them during all that time, leaving their relationship to unfold once again, though given a different set of circumstances, their relationship may not have necessarily ended in the same way.
All in all, Daniel Jackson's story and character arc is an interesting one, and one of the things that always drew me to the show.

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