This time we’re looking at The Morpheus Factor – the final tie-in novel from Ashley McConnell. It was first published in February 2001 and is set during season 3.
On the world classified by the Stargate Project as P4V-837, the SG-1 team encounter an environment hospitable to humans, and the Kayeechi, a race of seemingly friendly natives. But after a few hours spent with their hosts, the team find themselves hallucinating – each member seeing a completely different landscape than the others – both while dreaming and awake.
The longer the team remain guests of the Kayeechi, the darker their dreams become. SG-1 have become unwilling participants in a brutal conflict – and their subconscious minds have become the most deadly weapon of all…
Synopsis (** SPOILER ALERT! **)
Another day, another mission for SG-1 as they gate to P4V-837, but almost immediately they receive an unusual welcome – as trees start uprooting themselves from the ground moments before they are attacked by these massive birds (or a ‘Roc’ as Daniel says, i.e. a legendary bird of prey from mythology).
Suddenly, the scenery switches and all four members of the team are standing on a beach, the smell of salt water and seaweed evident, and while they think they are hallucinating, Jack decides to test the water to see if it’s real… and ends up with wet feet. SG-1 notice they are then being approached and are soon joined by the local aliens – the Kayeechi. They appear friendly and insist the team join them for a celebratory meal so they can answer any questions SG-1 might have. A few hours later, however, and the team are no clearer about the situation but decide to call it a night. The Kayeechi show them to their accommodation. Just before the team fall asleep though, the four of them hold a sitrep and are surprised to learn that they have all been hallucinating. Every member saw a different landscape or surroundings to the others. Yet instead of packing up and heading home, the Kayeechi convince SG-1 to move to new accommodation (a cave) for the night. They agree. The team subsequently fall asleep, seemingly without their consent.
Jack’s dreams focus on his Black Ops days; Teal’c dreams about being back in the service of Apophis and leading an attack on Earth; Daniel is in Ancient Egypt and living out the actual Book of the Dead-type stuff; and Carter’s dreams are about her lying naked on a beach sunbathing and then being attacked by a giant kraken.
It is then revealed that their hosts are tapping into the dreams of each team member and “shaping” some of what they see. Why? Apparently, the Kayeechi are at war and need to find a weapon that will destroy the enemy – and they believe SG-1 can give them the help they need. They’ve seen their dreams and know they are warriors and have access to weapons. Here’s the thing though, the “shaping” the Kayeechi are able to do… they can actually make the weapons; they don’t need to steal those that the team have with them – they just make their own after observing them in their dreams.
Things then take a really weird turn when Daniel ends up in Sam’s dream, then Jack’s and then Teal’c’s but it is only when they discuss why Daniel smells of whiskey, that they realise something is wrong. This time they do decide to leave but when they get back to the SGC, Jack realises he dreamed about nuclear weapons and he suddenly feels guilty that the Kayeechi could use this information to unintentionally wipe themselves – and the nearby galaxy – out.
With reluctance, General Hammond sends the team, plus Dr Fraiser, back to P4V-837 to try and undo a potentially catastrophic chain of events.
I’ll try to start on a positive note: the concept for the story was quite interesting and it did had potential… it just got lost in the actual telling of the story.
Essentially, the Kayeechi seem to be able to make SG-1 fall asleep against their will – whether it’s via the incense they burn or they’ve drugged the food, it isn’t made clear – but the aliens are watching the teams’ dreams and are subsequently able make objects from what they’ve observed (e.g. the Kayeechi see a zat gun in one of Carter’s dreams and shortly afterwards they are able to create or “shape” one of their own). The inhabitants of P4V-837 don’t realize just how dangerous the weapons are, however, or understand the team’s dreams in their full context, so things soon start to look messy.
As this storyline develops, Ashley explores the concept of lucid dreaming and when these various theories are being explained, you can tell the author has done the research. It’s just a shame the same in-depth research wasn’t extended to the portrayal of the actual characters. It’s well over two-thirds of the way into the book before the team start to figure out might be going on, and that bothered me. SG-1 are intelligent; they’ve been going through the Stargate for over three years now, and the idea that they would: 1). Continue to stay on a planet where they can’t even trust their own judgement, and 2). Not figure out what is going on sooner, is unrealistic.
Speaking of unrealistic, I’m just going to come out and say it: this novel did hit the DNF (did not finish) pile so hard, so fast, at one stage. Why?
Well, I mentioned this in a previous review, but it applies to this book too – it’s full of mistakes. Okay, it could be argued that most of them are inconsequential; for example, you’ve Daniel referred to as a “blond”, or Teal’c being labelled a “Jaffa First” as opposed to “First Prime”, or the odd reaction Jack has to being shot by a zat gun. But there was one error that I couldn’t let go and that was when Samantha Carter’s character was once referred to as “Amanda Carter”. I’m not criticising Ashley, but I’m genuinely curious… if this novel is an officially licensed MGM consumer product, how many people did this huge error slip by? Maybe I’m getting too hung up on the point, but I just think a tie-in novel and something that aims to enhance a show for its fans, should be accurate – and at least have people with an interest in the franchise checking these things and knowing the basic facts. You don’t need to be a massive fan of the show to know one of the main character’s name is wrong.
Aside from that, the portrayal of the characters and the way they spoke to each other felt wrong (see the picture on the right? Well, let’s just say her teammates weren’t the only ones giving Sam incredulous looks here). I was also getting some serious Janet/Jack vibes throughout this story; it felt forced (probably because it’s again wrong and there’s absolutely nothing in canon to suggest they have feelings for one another) and it made for really awkward reading. To use a phrase I loathe… it made me cringe.
The ending was again rushed and a little stupid. It didn’t make sense – who of SG-1 was dreaming at the end? Did the Kayeechi really infiltrate the SGC? Did any of the Kayeechi die?
Overall, I was left disappointed with The Morpheus Factor which is a real shame, because it had the potential to be a great and interesting read.
Chevron Rating: 2/7 (because I’m feeling generous)