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Rita Lewis Avalon, Parts 1 and 2: Season 9, Episodes 1 and 2
02 August 2017
: what a fantastic job reviewing these controversial episodes and explain to this Scaper why Ben pla...

The Ben Browder News Blog

10 minutes reading time (2072 words)

Avalon, Parts 1 and 2: Season 9, Episodes 1 and 2

 The first time I sat down to watch Avalon, I must confess I was slightly dubious. I had spent eight seasons getting to know Richard Dean Anderson's character Jack O'Neill, and I was a little sad that he was leaving. Until Ben Browder as Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell strode into the Gateroom in full blue Air Force dress uniform and crouched down to touch the Stargate in silent reverence, his eyes reflecting a solemnity, awe and haunted memories even before the flashbacks were shown to establish him as the hero of the Battle of Antarctica.

I recall wondering when I watched the earlier episode Lost City who all the pilots were on the team which came to support SG-1 in the battle against Anubis' fleet. We saw General Hammond appear in command of the Prometheus, and there were numerous X-302 fighters involved. Yet, as with many other episodes, we never caught a glimpse of their faces or knew who the other heroes were besides SG-1. Until Avalon. For me, it was intriguing to discover this new character and a clever way to tie him into the Stargate universe. I had only briefly seen Ben in a few small guest roles many years before when I was quite young, so this was my first proper introduction to him.

I was pleasantly surprised to find myself so engaged in his performance that, while I obviously did not forget the previous eight seasons, I nevertheless took an instant liking to the new story arc. 

Avalon, Part 1: Meet Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell, Vala Mal Daran and Discover Avalon

Ben's portrayal of Cameron in the two-part episode Avalon ranges from haunted, pensive and contemplative, to somewhat insecure, frustrated, and enthusiastic. He comes to the SGC to join SG-1, yet is startled to learn from General Hank Landry (Beau Bridges) that Samantha Carter, Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c have all moved on, and he is now set to lead SG-1. 

meet landryThe scene between Ben and Beau Bridges when they first meet is fascinating to watch. Beau plays Landry as somewhat testy and irreverent, going out of his way to provoke a reaction from Cameron just to see what will happen. The moment is comically punctuated by the voice of Stargate's equivalent to M*A*S*H's Radar, Master Sergeant Walter Harriman, who as usual anticipates the General's needs before Landry knows them himself. Ben as Cameron meanwhile is visibly mystified, somewhat nervous, and flustered by the entire situation. It is the first glimpse into his character's intensity and passion, qualities which Ben infused into Cameron when the script might otherwise have made this a very bland and simple character.

It is interesting to note that the showrunners have spoken at length about how Cameron Mitchell was originally intended to be a more comedic character, a real "fanboy" who would be a tribute to Gaters and represent the audience. While this concept was never fully dismissed, ultimately Ben brought so many complex layers to the role through his expressions, tone of voice, eyes, and gestures, that he convinced them to write Cameron as a deeper person, spawning later dramatic backstory episodes such as Babylon, Collateral Damage and Stronghold.

Bringing the Band Back Together 

As the story in Avalon progresses, we see Cameron in scenes both humourous and slightly dramatic trying to persuade Daniel Jackson, Teal'c, and Samantha Carter to return to SG-1. The scene between Ben and Michael Shanks as Daniel when Cameron goes to see him offers a hint of tension. The men initially shake hands and ask each other to use their first names, but when Daniel flippantly dismisses Cameron's request that he at least consider remaining at the SGC, Cameron performs a TV trope and switches to calling Daniel by his surname. There is a great moment between Ben and Michael as Daniel momentarily realizes how much it means to Cameron and says "I'm sorry, I know I owe you one, we all do," and then a flashback shows us just how much Cameron Mitchell sacrificed for SG-1 and the world when he took fire, crashed and nearly became a quadriplegic. The moment is shattered however when Daniel tries to offer Cameron his apartment as a token of his appreciation and carries on with packing for Atlantis. This scene marks the beginning of Cameron's brief disappointment in the people he had begun to regard as heroes, and the cool aloofness between the characters which will take nearly an entire season to fully thaw.

excaliburUpon being brushed off by both Teal'c and Samantha, Cameron finally decides to interview other candidates for SG-1. This is one of the best scenes in the first episode, as Ben's countenance glazes over with the sheer oddity of the people he's interviewing.

Eventually, Ben's former Farscape co-star Claudia Black arrives as Vala Mal Doran, and how Ben keeps a straight face as she prances down the platform in the Gateroom, dressed in a ridiculous black leather dominatrix outfit and bats her large blue eyes at him is a mystery. Later, when Vala tries to claim she's pregnant and Daniel is "probably" the father, Claudia winks at Ben and he does a perfect double take. These are the earliest interactions between their characters, which are far and few until later in season 10, since the showrunners were attempting to keep them as separate as possible to avoid Farscape comparisons. Ben and Claudia's acting chemistry nevertheless shines through even in these brief interactions and adds a distinct "freshness" to the series.

Eventually, after much chaos ensues with Vala linking herself and Daniel together via Goa'uld Kormak bracelets (which she refuses to remove until they have gone to find the "treasure" she believes she has located), Cameron gets his wish to lead Teal'c and Daniel on a mission. The plot takes an unexpected turn into Arthurian mythology and SG-1 is on the hunt for the Holy Grail in Glastonbury. Cameron soon finds himself fighting a holographic knight with a sword he pulled from the stone in a test apparently set centuries ago by Merlin. It is amusing to watch Ben pretend to be clumsy with a sword, since he was classically trained at the Central School of Drama and Speech in London, wherein he learned, among other things, swordsmanship.

Ben/Cameron has some fun moments 


Puzzles, Comedy and Discoveries

bullets bouncePart 1 of Avalon ends on a cliffhanger with Cameron and Tea'c trapped in one collapsing cavern and Daniel and Vala in another, and Part 2 sees them solving the riddles and surviving, but alas, still no treasure. It seems Vala stole a coin and Cameron must return it, yet even when he does, he is unable to leave. A beautiful scene follows as Cameron silently figures out that he must return the sword to the stone, thereby releasing the treasure. Ben plays it with an almost mystical air, and it is not until season 10 and Part 2 of The Quest that we learn Merlin perceives Cameron to be a modern day Sir Percival. Does this mean he was destined to draw the sword from the stone, in conjunction with his own "truth of spirit"? Next we see Daniel unsurprisingly reading the only book among all the jewels and gold, the team discovering an Ancient long-range communications device and Cameron and Daniel uncovering a shocking, unforeseen truth about the Ancients and their origin. Much of the rest of the story focuses on Daniel and Vala as they use the device to send their minds to a distant galaxy in hopes of finding the Ancients (called Alterans) who might still exist in human form. Meanwhile at the SGC, Cameron, Teal'c, Dr. Carolyn Lam and Dr. Lee struggle to find a way to wake them up and disconnect them from the device when it becomes apparent that their lives are now at risk.

Next, we see Daniel unsurprisingly reading the only book among all the jewels and gold, the team discovering an Ancient long-range communications device and Cameron and Daniel uncovering a shocking, unforeseen truth about the Ancients and their origin. Much of the rest of the story focuses on Daniel and Vala as they use the device to send their minds to a distant galaxy in hopes of finding the Ancients (called Alterans) who might still exist in human form. Meanwhile at the SGC, Cameron, Teal'c, Dr. Carolyn Lam and Dr. Lee struggle to find a way to wake them up and disconnect them from the device when it becomes apparent that their lives are now at risk.

Avalon, Part 2: Discovering the Ori

daniel and booksAlthough Ben's role is not quite as large in Part 2 of Avalon as it was in the first episode, it is still significant and he brings a sense of urgency and deep concern for his team and also Vala. I'd like to note here that a misconception I've come across with some fans is that Cameron was "in it for the glory," and I believe it comes from his enthusiasm and determination to "get the band back together," as he says. However, neither the character himself nor the way Ben played him show such motivations. Cameron is merely cognizant of the fact that Daniel, Samantha and Teal'c are still very much needed, and he refuses to let them throw away all they have worked for in favour of other pursuits. They are a team and the best team, and he knows it. I found it intriguing that Jack O'Neill failed to tell Cameron about their new assignments; in an earlier scene from Part 1 between Beau and Richard Dean Anderson where they discuss the situation, I've always gotten the impression he did it with the knowledge that Cameron would not take no for an answer and ultimately impress the others enough that they would choose to work with and follow him. Ben played Cameron with a subtle if unconscious charisma and force of nature, which is at times a major contrast to his lack of confidence in his own ability to lead the team. Yet, when the chips are down, his impulsive nature takes over and most times this causes him to make life-saving decisions. 

The story climaxes in a brutal scene with Vala in the other galaxy being burned to death. At the SGC, Cameron and the others have no way of knowing what is happening to Daniel and Vala when she abruptly goes into cardiac arrest and dies. Ben's eyes in that scene project Cameron's horror, guilt (since he pushed for the mission) and resolve to save Daniel, even if he can't save Vala. It is a hallmark of Ben's interpretation of his character that you can always see his mind rapidly working and calculating the possibilities of what to do next. While Cameron's refusal to quit no matter the odds was quietly written into his persona, another actor might not have made it so visual as Ben himself did.

To the astonishment of the doctors, Vala miraculously resurrects, but to Cameron's frustration both she and Daniel are still unconscious, bonded by the Kormak bracelets, and connected to the device. The episode ends with the story still unresolved as a strange religious cleric who we will later learn is an Ori Prior leads Daniel and Vala to the city of Celestus, and it will not be until the third episode of season 9, Origin, that the tale concludes. I generally watch all three episodes together, since they play out more like a television movie than separate stories.

In Conclusion

Avalon Parts 1 and 2 is an absorbing introduction to Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell and the new story arc which will encompass the rest of seasons 9 and 10 through to the direct to DVD film, Ark of Truth. Ben walked into a series which had been running for eight seasons and which saw the departure of a beloved character and made this new role his own. He is a powerful actor who could easily have made an entirely smooth transition into the series, yet he did not hesitate to play Cameron as being unsure of himself and somewhat uncomfortable with the new leadership role thrust upon him. In essence, he didn't turn Cameron Mitchell into a perfect hero; instead, he created a brilliant but flawed and very human character. A perfect addition to a very human show, and just the right man to take the series in a new direction. 

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External Publication

  • and other Stargate website sources
  •   Wednesday, 02 August 2017
Origin, Season 9, Episode 3
Who Is Lt. Col. Cameron "Camshaft" Mitchell?

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