Half Life is the first of a three-episode arc that makes up the first full cast drama from Big Finish Audio. It’s written by James Swallow, and stars Michael Shanks as Daniel Jackson, Claudia Black as Vala Mal Doran and Cliff Simon as Ba’al.
Luckily, one person is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Unluckily, that person is Vala Mal Doran, reformed thief and least trustworthy member of team SG-1.
Can she clear Daniel’s name and help him discover what’s really going on?
Review: I think, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that though I am a huge fan of Stargate (all three series, hate the original movie) the overwhelming reason for buying this series was Ba’al. I adore him. Seriously. Now you’re forewarned about that, I shall continue. 😀
Half Life starts with Daniel ‘turning’ on his friends and shooting Jack O’Neill. Jackson is arrested, though he protests that he wasn’t in control. Oddly for a place well used to such occurrences, no one seems to take him seriously, and only Vala is prepared to hear him out.
It turns out that Jackson’s not long returned from an off-world mission, and Vala is convinced that the answers lie that, which lead her into taking a massive risk to prove his innocence. But her return to the planet in question throws her into extreme danger as she stumbles across the deadly plot being masterminded by Ba’al, last of the System Lords.
After opening with a literal bang, Half Life doesn’t let up on the tension throughout its hour-long playing. I wasn’t sure how an episode-like drama would translate to audio when the show is big on visual effects, but the answer is that it does so very well indeed. The three main cast members are supplemented by extras, audio special effects and a musical score that really gives the sense of a big-scale production.
Plot-wise, there’s a lot of play on identity and what makes a person a person, and no real definition is given, which challenges the listener to make up their own minds. The drama also includes some lovely interplay between Shanks and Black as Daniel and Vala, capturing their on-screen relationship perfectly.
But there’s a “however” for me, and rather a big one at that. Though Swallow is obviously aware of Abyss (Season 6, episode 6), it doesn’t seem he watched any other episode featuring Ba’al. Actually, given the lines he writes, he might only have read the script, because the Goa’uld’s unique personality is all but gone, replaced by the standard issue Bad Guy. Anyone who’s seen anything of Ba’al knows he doesn’t lose his temper or act like a God. I swear that Swallow has him saying that more times that all five seasons’ worth of episodes put together.
However, the bad characterisation is saved by Cliff Simon’s flawless portrayal. He manages to put spins on some truly terrible lines and conveys the charming bad guy he plays so well on-screen. This, and the otherwise fabulous plot, saved the audio for me. Though it took me some time to work up enough courage to listen to the rest.