Vala Mal Doran on Stargate SG-1 in Season 10

Love her or hate her, Vala Mal Doran on Stargate SG-1 was introduced as a strong and vibrant character who was able to take advantage of great numbers of people or any situation. She used sex and sexual innuendo to keep people off guard, but she was also clever, intelligent, and shrewd. Her relationship with Daniel was adversarial, but also one of equals.

Now that she’s on the show full-time, in the latest episode (Morpheus) she’s suddenly acting childlike, mischievous, eagerly helpful, and vulnerable-even to the point of wearing two pigtails and being almost in tears twice in one episode over small things. Daniel and Landry were both treating her with a condescending affection as though she were an annoying little sister. In the case of Daniel and Vala, this put their relationship off balance, unequal.

Does this childlike behavior make her a more acceptable woman to have around: childlike, subordinate, more submissive, vulnerable?

Comments

  1. scarlett says

    We’re just getting the begining of s9 and I can see why people embraced Vala. She was witty, mischevnious, complex, flawed, more then held her own. Givn the buzz she generated as a guest star, I was dubious when I heard she’d been signed on permanantly, because I couldn’t see Stargate maintaining such a great character as a full-time cast member. And if what ppl have been saying about Vala in s10, my doubts were extremely justified.

    And great to have another writer!

  2. Mecha says

    I know nobody around here trusts Stargate writers at all, so maybe this is just shooting into the wind, but what’s the possibility of this being a trick by the character? The funny thing about playing child-like is that it makes people underestimate you (people who should know better, clearly.) It’s actually a really good trick if you’re planning on screwing with people later. No indication or possibility or hinting or nothing? She was shown to be manipulative before.

    Because… wow, a full true personality shift like that is so, so horiffically bad. Wow.

    -Mecha

  3. scarlett says

    Haven’t seen the eps you’re talking about (so far we’re up to in Aust) but that was my concern, watching Vala in s9. She was sexual, seductive, flirtatious, manipulative, gifted with weapons. I loved watching her and Daniel attempt to get the better of one another, and the looks on confusion on his and Cameron’s faces when she DID get the better of them.

    I couldn’t see her character as was working as a full-time character. She’s one of those characters who works best being written in once or twice a season for a atory arc, then going back to whatever she does for the rest of the time. I was worried what they’d do with her in s10, and by the sounds of it, they’ve done everything wrong; reduce her to the same standards of the more ‘palatable’ women on the show – teary, dependant etc.

  4. aizjanika says

    Mecha, it\’s a real possibility that it\’s a trick by the character, but I don\’t like what that says about the other characters. One of the saving graces (for me) was that Daniel was never fooled by Vala even for a second–well, maybe just a second in The Ties that Bind when she gave him the sob story. If he\’s now fooled by her because she acts all childlike and subservient, that\’s both squicky and…well, I think it actually says more about Daniel than about Vala, but also the place the writers feel women should be.

    This is all just my opinion, though. I\’ve been around in the SG-1 fandom enough this week to know that most people don\’t agree with my assessment of the character of Vala in this episode–or of Daniel. (I hated having Daniel used to justify Vala\’s presence.)

    scarlett, thanks for the welcome. I\’ve been here for along time, but just too afraid to write anything. *g* I attempted once before, but this is my first time actually daring to post something.

    I\’ve never really liked Vala. I didn\’t like her mainly because I\’m mostly a fan of Daniel on the show, and I did not like the way she treated him. I didn\’t think it was great fun to see him become the butt of jokes and basically the Screech of the show. *g* Okay, maybe not that bad, but I didn\’t like it.

    I really liked the beginning of season 9, though, but mainly just because Daniel was so present and central to the storyline at that time.

    As I mentioned, though, this is just my opinion and not many agree with me. People who already love the character of Vala are just fine with it and also fine with the idea that maybe she\’s fooling everyone or they don\’t think she\’s acting childlike or whatever.

    I like the idea that she may be fooling people even less than that they changed the character, because of what I mentioned above–what it says about all the other characters that they *are* fooled by her and that they *do* respond to her acting like a child. When a woman acts how Vala did in the begining, she\’s not to be trusted, but if she acts childlike and subservient, she\’s acceptable now?

    I don\’t think everyone else is wrong, but it\’s just a very different interpretation than my own.

  5. scarlett says

    Yeah, I’ve seen your name around, I figured you were one of the major commenters.

    I actually liked that Vala kept Daniel on his toes, and emphasised many of his flaws – he’s kind of uptight, not all that comfortable around large personalities or vivacious women – both of which Vala was. I liked that they portaredy him as flawed, and they had their moments at times – liek The Powers that Be, when she has to admit she can’t help those people.

    I thought it was important to portray the characters as fallible – something they did majorly wrong with Carter – which was what I really liked about Vala. She was obviously flawed and emphasised other people’s flaws. From the sounds of it, I’m going to hate the episodes where Vala reverts to a Carter-esque character.

  6. Mecha says

    Yeah, it does say a lot about the other characters (and what the writers think about them) if it works. Unfortunately, I am under the impression someone who’s challenging and pushing against you draws more criticial examination than someone who’s playing innocent and passive (especially if life’s stressy: who has time to pay attention to Mary Sue?) And I think one could (although I doubt the writers are doing it) use such a deception as a story tool to point out the stupidity of a ‘subservience and innocence from a woman who wasn’t that way before isn’t them becoming ‘perfect’ and ‘good’ and ‘trustable’, stupid, because not all women are like that inherently’ viewpoint… but that gets very close to a ‘women are evil and manipulative in general, don’t trust them’ viewpoint which, even if I thought they were going for my ill-stated first, they’d probably miss and hit the second. ^_~

    I think your interpretation, based upon what’s been said, is perfectly valid too, especially considering how much the writers have broken viewer faith with continuity and good writing of female chars. I was just curious if there was more evidence to your viewpoint than you’d said. I’m an analytical beast to the end. ^^;

    -Mecha

  7. sbg says

    I finally managed to watch snippets of last week’s episode…and TPTB were definitely going for a new, child-like quality to Vala. I saw it pretty much the same way as you. It’s so far on the opposite end of the spectrum from what we already know about her that it’s more disturbing than anything.

    Are we all supposed to think “Poor widdle Vala, nobody wuvs her or trusts her” just because she’s sporting pigtails? I mean, come ON. Why is this formerly strong, self-assured and brassy woman suddenly so easily wounded (especially when she KNOWS how she’s behaved toward the people at the SGC in the past and KNOWS she needs to earn trust…) and almost fragile?

    It might be intentional on TPTB’s part. I doubt they have the skill or foresight.

    But whether it is or isn’t, though, they’ve just handed me another thing to hate about Vala. And another reason to stop watching.

  8. scarlett says

    Actually, I recall Vala wearing pigtails in an s9 ep, The Ties that Bind, I think. The whole effect was ‘here’s a woman who’s so strong and sexy she can wear pigtails and STILL run cirlces around most other women’.

  9. aizjanika says

    I agree. This is how it struck me, and I found it disturbing.

    As someone on LiveJournal pointed out to me, though, it’s possible her characterization could be all over the place this season. In tonight’s episode (The Pegasus Project), she wasn’t really fun to watch, but she also wasn’t really childlike. She showed a tiny bit of the intelligence we saw in her in Avalon and Origin, but she was almost a nonentity in the episode, even though she was paired up with Daniel.

    I actually didn’t mind her at all, except in the last scene. It’s hard for me to put my finger on it. She wasn’t acting childlike, but it was more…just shy of being shippy, I guess. That wasn’t disturbing except in the sense that I don’t want to see that, but I saw no UST or anything like that between them in the entire episode–not even in this scene. Vala wasn’t using sexual innuendo or making outrageous statements to annoy Daniel, so at least there wasn’t there. If Vala had no past and I’d never seen any other episodes, I wouldn’t be alarmed by her presence from this episode (The Pegasus Project) alone.

    Maybe they just don’t know what to do with her. I guess it will take a while to flush out what they want to do with her character. So far, I don’t think they’ve justified her presence in any way, but if she’s not completely annoying all the time or shippy with Daniel… Well, I don’t know. *g* I was going to say it might not seem so bad to me, but I’m not sure of that, because if Daniel is paired up with her all the time, that will annoy me.

  10. aizjanika says

    Yes, she did wear pigtails in at least one season 9 episode, but she wasn’t acting all childish in those episodes. I think it was the behavior combined with the pigtails that just added to the overall impression that I had.

  11. aizjanika says

    You may not see it as I do, though. I have never liked Vala so maybe I’m being overly critical. OTOH, I think I would have been even more disturbed by this episode if I loved her as a character. I don’t think she was acting like Sam, though, as I don’t believe that Sam ever used this sort of behavior to get her way. Now Daniel, maybe… ;-) Just kidding. :-)

    I didn’t like the Vala and Daniel interaction in season 9 at all. I didn’t think of it as Vala “keeping Daniel on his toes.” She virtually kidnapped him and endangered his life and used that to blackmail him and everyone at the SGC to get them to do what she wanted–all for her own personal gain. I didn’t find Vala’s treatment of Daniel in any way amusing or feel like somehow Vala was emphasizing anyone’s flaws, and especially not Daniel’s. If anything, she made Daniel seem like an even better person in comparison, in my opinion.

    The only flaw Vala emphasized was that in SGC security and their flaws of judgment (and that included Daniel’s in somehow speaking for her so that they authorized her coming to the base at all in season 9).

    Daniel is my favorite character on the show, but I’ve never seen him as perfect. He’s made a lot of mistakes in the past and they haven’t been completely glossed over. Daniel is sometimes impatient or too focused on things. I think he’s learned and grown as a character over the years, though. One of the things I love about him is that he’s not perfect and he doesn’t always have all the answers and sometimes when he does, he’s wrong. I don’t think he ever needed Vala to highlight his flaws.

  12. aizjanika says

    :-) I love analysis, too. I’m not sure about the evidence, though. I saw Vala behaving childishly and in a sort of…well, what I’d call smarmy way, sort of. It was her facial expressions, the way lines were said, and so on.

    I liked her scenes with the psychiatrist, though. I thought they were played for comedy and worked well for what they were. To be honest, her scenes with the psychiatrist in Morpheus were the most interesting scenes in the episode, which contrasted to her almost boring behavior in Flesh & Blood and The Pegasus Project. I was just disturbed by how she behaved with Daniel and Landry, especially, in Morpheus.

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’m seeing comments on LJ from people who feel she’s become “Daniel’s annoying little sister”. Some of them seem to really like that.

  14. sbg says

    Huh. Daniel’s annoying little sister who has NO reason to be there. That’s my biggest issue with Vala at this point (and I have lots of them): both her pretty easy acceptance there at the SGC (incidentally, wasn’t she specifically NOT put on SG-1? Why, then, is she galavanting around with them?) and other peoples’ acceptance of this. Like it’s no big deal that she’s there simply because they find her amusing. Uh.

  15. Jennifer Kesler says

    I guess some people can suspend their disbelief a lot more than I can, if they’re sufficiently entertained. That’s not a criticism – I should probably envy them. I just like fiction to inspire me, give me ideas on how to improve my own life, or maybe the world in some small way. To me, that’s the power of fiction. If it makes no sense, I just can’t find that entertaining.

  16. sbg says

    Yeah, fiction has to make sense where real life doesn’t…and it just makes no logical sense to me that Vala is suddenly there. They haven’t given any concrete, believable reason and, for me, because she’s entertaining is not a valid reason.

    Many have seen it regarding characters in the past, but miraculously don’t now.

  17. aizjanika says

    Yes, that bothers me, too. I don’t accept it. I’m not sure if I can tolerate it or not. *g* It doesn’t make sense to have her there, though–especially not in this way.

  18. aizjanika says

    I can find it entertaining sometimes. A lot of sci-fi doesn’t really make sense to me. *g* I feel that way about Atlantis. I just view it as a fun show and all the stupid stuff or moral and ethical stuff, while I may comment on it, doesn’t bother me as much as the exact same things would bother me about SG-1.

    I think that may be because Atlantis started out as that type of show, but SG-1 was sort of a “thinking person’s” show–at least I saw it that way. It was quite different from other sci-fi. There are a lot of people who see SG-1 as the “non-thinking person’s” show and they see it as more of a lighter show that’s not to be taken seriously.

    The early seasons may not have had the greatest special effects, but I loved the way the show focused on the characters–all the characters.

  19. Jennifer Kesler says

    The plots could be silly on SG-1, even in the early years. But the characters were played like real people instead of charicatures.

    I can suspend my disbelief about sci-fi plots and accept that there’s some magic alien device that does whatever, but I can’t suspend my disbelief when it comes to people acting like real people. The alien device is far enough outside my experience for me to cut it slack; people, I deal with every day.

  20. E says

    I was a fan of season 9 Vala and I actually liked the characterization we saw in Flesh and Blood. Vala was on an “enemy” ship, dealing with the rapidly growing child she’d delivered hours(days?) earlier, explaining the situation to Daniel and then helping him figure out a way to get to the rapidly growing child. In addition to that, she still had to deal with her religious fanatical husband. In spite of the situation, she still managed to show some emotional connection to all three of these characters, Daniel, husband and child.

    That characterization–wry, wise and still somewhat self-centered–made sense for the character at that point in time. Then we take a few steps back in Morpheus with the tear-filled interactions with various characters. I liked the humor, sure, but the depth from F&B was nowhere to be found.

    I’m afraid that Vala is going to suffer “Mitchell” syndrome, the other character who was brought on full time in season 9. This time it’s her turn to suffer inconsistent characterization to fill in whatever plot needs to be serviced. And that’s really too bad because sexy, capable, not completely trustworthy and smart really should have been enough.

    But, then again, given what’s happened to Carter over the years, is this really a surprise?

  21. Dave says

    Vala rules. No, seriously. She has that undefinable characteristic only known as “spunk”. She’s used to doing things her own way, and often does them without really caring that that’s not the way SG-1 handles things. Keeps everybody on their toes, that’s for sure.

    As for Vala’s character – You have to understand, the girl is not USED to the idea of having people around her she can trust. I don’t think I need to re-hash everything she’s gone through, but we all know that it has to be a big change to her galaxy-view to see a group of people as dedicated to doing what’s right as the SGC is. People who will put others’ welfare ahead of their own… and yet aren’t simpering idiots.

    Honestly, I think her time spent with SG-1 has shown her a few things, and suddenly she wants a little more out of life than just to look out for #1. Plus, of course, she wants to be able to make a real impact on the fight against the Ori, possibly saving her child in the process.

    So, she’s doing her best to make herself endearing to the gang. She honestly wants to earn their friendship… Of course, at the same time, as I said, she’s used to doing things her way… So, she bucks the rules, has a little fun with the gang when she can get away with it… And sometimes says things just so they don’t think she’s gone soft.

    So, yes, I love Vala. And I can see her being a great character for a long time to come… Here’s hoping she doesn’t learn too much and get boring. ;)

  22. aizjanika says

    I don’t think I need to re-hash everything she’s gone through, but we all know that it has to be a big change to her galaxy-view to see a group of people as dedicated to doing what’s right as the SGC is.

    We don’t all know this, though. *bg* I don’t know this.

    I still don’t really see how Vala belongs on SG-1, though–the team, that is. I don’t really care what Vala’s been through, and I don’t really care what (if anything) the time spent with the members of SG-1 has taught her or what she cares about or doesn’t care about now.

    I don’t believe that she’s suddenly less self-serving, and I don’t believe she cares that much about the fight against the Ori. After the life she’s led and her background, I don’t get why she would want to make herself endearing to the other members of SG-1 so whenever I see her acting all simpering and babyish/childish, it plays false to me. I liked her better when she had a bit of an edge to her interactions with everyone.

    I still don’t believe that she wants to be there, and, even more, I don’t really see why she’s there. Why does everyone else tolerate her? What is her purpose? (These are rhetorical questions because I don’t believe these things have been answered on the show so far.)

    I haven’t really seen any real justification for Vala’s presence at the SGC, and everyone else seems to be just barely tolerating her antics. That just puzzles me. If she’s not going to be useful, why would they have a less-than-trustworthy member on the team? What is she doing for them? So far, I really haven’t seen anything that makes me believe that everyone else isn’t just a little bonkers for tolerating her presence.

    I think Vala would have worked much better as a rogue with whom they they occasionally interacted. They have made her go “soft” as you put it. I already find her boring. While I didn’t like her in either Prometheus Unbound or in season 9, she certainly wasn’t boring then either. I liked her best in Avalon 2 and Origin when she was serious and smart, easily keeping up with Daniel’s thought processes.

    What I’ve seen so far in season 10 really makes me dislike Daniel just a little, because I can’t see any reason why he’d argue for her to stay or why he’d tolerate her himself.

  23. aizjanika says

    I’m afraid that Vala is going to suffer “Mitchell” syndrome, the other character who was brought on full time in season 9. This time it’s her turn to suffer inconsistent characterization to fill in whatever plot needs to be serviced.

    Now that I’ve seen more of the season, I think you were right in this. Vala’s characterization has been all over the place this season so far.

  24. Laura says

    Okay people, here’s the thing. Take Vala away from SG-1 and what do you get? A bunch of overly serious people who have been working together so long they know each other back-to-front-inside-out. While I persoanlly loved all Vala episodes I have seen (and found all ones in between without her boring) even if you don’t like her, you have to admit, SG-1 needed a stir up.
    And look at it this way, Vala is under a lot of stress and conflicting thoughts and emotions at the moment. With her daughter and husband, her new founded friends and the difficulty to put her decietful past behind her, it’s no surprise that she comes a bit childish and emotional for a couple of emisodes.
    As for Daniel arguing for her to stay and putting up with her. I think it’s clear, whether he realizes it himself, he has feelings for her. So even though he’s not quite sure himself why he wants her around even though she drives him up the wall, it’s that element of her that he, subconciously, finds so attractive.
    Also, Vala keeps Daniel from turning into the nerdy one who is always too busy researching stuff to be a main character.
    I’m not sure how they will manage with her as a perminent member of the show, but I’m willing to bet it will be interesting.

  25. DesertRose says

    Thanks Laura, you’re summary hit the nail right on the head and hopefully opens a few eyes.

  26. says

    Wow, that’s a shipper interpretation of Vala if I’ve ever heard one. I have no idea how anyone could possibly have thought of Daniel as “nerdy” long before Vala showed face on the show.

  27. says

    you have to admit, SG-1 needed a stir up.

    No, I don’t. SG-1 needed cancellation, not a stir up. The writers had stopped giving a crap 4 seasons before Vala showed up. The changes to RDA’s role were disastrous for the show, and he seemed to lose all enthusiasm for the show – understandably. Putting Sam in charge but not actually letting her be in charge was not just cartoonish, but insulting.

  28. SunlessNick says

    There’s only so far I can dislike a Claudia Black character, but I’m not impressed by Vala except in a few episodes (there’s also only so much any actor can do when a character isn’t written well).

    As for Vala’s character – You have to understand, the girl is not USED to the idea of having people around her she can trust.

    I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who doesn’t get that. More that little of her behaviour holds water as a response to that. She just doesn’t seem like someone who is protecting herself.

    Also, for a character who we’re told is a manipulator and con-woman, she’s usually *shown* as astoundingly bad at manipulation (which also nerfs Daniel’s insightful side not being taken in).

    SG-1 needed cancellation, not a stir up.

    Can’t get behind this, though. Too many things I did like in later seasons. :)

  29. says

    Instead of cancellation, what SG1 *needed* were fresh, new writers, and a return to its original premise: the one established in the movie.

  30. says

    I think most shows should be canceled after 3 seasons, no matter how heart-breaking I find it when it happens. Actually, I prefer the British approach where they often take a season off after the third series, and then later if they come back, it’s because they’ve looked at it from a creative perspective and decided they have more story to tell, and everyone feels inspired.

    American TV has but one goal: keep limping ’til you hit that 100th ep. Then, that 200th ep. Whoohoo.

  31. says

    LOL–I completely agree with you on the BBC arrangement of filming series. Less filler, more *story*…and in general, most series here in the USA do tend to run out of fresh ideas after 3 seasons.

    But since this system isn’t changing anytime soon, I think kicking out stale writers and producers is a good though imperfect, way to go.

  32. says

    It would be – but unfortunately, that’s also part of the system that isn’t going to change. You get a whole lot more in residuals if you are credited for 100 episodes rather than 99, under the American system (no other country does it this way). So it’s in every writer’s and producer’s interest to stay in for the long haul, and TPTB don’t often fire writers and producers from a successful show because it’s difficult to justify as long as the money’s still coming in.

  33. sbg says

    I’m not sure three seasons is the magic number or anything, but it would be nice to have more shows with a definite beginning, middle and end. There are too many procedurals that drag on and on and ON (L&O or CSI, anyone?), when I think people might really respond to a well-plotted and well-told tale.

    No tossing in romance to spice things up, or no pregnancy , or no “ha ha, that was all a dream!” twist.

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