Title: Beautiful Wreck
Spoilers: The movie, the whole series with an emphasis on seasons 9 and 10 plus Ark of Truth.
Notes: I've written this with someone who has never seen the series in mind. However, if you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware that there are massive spoilers. Also, I couldn't possibly explain everything in detail and stay within the 5000 word max so some of this will probably be confusing to the non-viewer. Feel free to ask and I'll explain as best I can. Many thanks to risti for looking this over for me.
Okay, fair warning. Daniel and Vala have this thing. They like to take over brains. I'd been in Stargate fandom for years before Vala even came on the scene. I've always waved a proud multishipper flag. And yet there's something about these two that drew me in and makes me want to jump up and down and yell DANIEL/VALA OTP 4EVA!!!!1!!1 (I try not to. It scares the dog.)
Let's start by introducing you to our principle players.
Meet Daniel Jackson. Daniel Jackson has Angst. No, really. He's Heathcliff dipped in coffee and rolled in a snarky topping. He'd fit right in with any grouping of tragic Victorian novel heroes, right down to the Dickensesque childhood. (His parents were killed in an accident in front of him when he was eight, his grandfather refused to adopt him and he was (presumably) turned over to foster care.)
He's also got quite a history with women. The woman he falls in love with at the end of the movie and is married to at the beginning of the series is kidnapped by the Goa'uld (a parasidic alien race that uses humans as hosts, controlling their every physical move) only to die three years later at the hands of one of Daniel's good friends. An ex-girlfriend, Sarah, is also taken as a host, though she is eventually rescued. Other canon sexual relationships include Hathor, a Goa'uld who drugs him into having sex with her, and Shyla, a woman he falls for while he's addicted to Goa'uld technology.
Clearly, Daniel's love live, like the rest of his life, is complicated and angst-filled and has a lot of aliens in it.
I could go on about Daniel and Issues, but I won't. Just know that when I say Daniel Jackson has Angst? I ain't talking' about your garden variety rooftop brooding angst. I'm talking about the Angst that makes you wonder how anyone could go through all of that and still be sane. (Short answer: it's a TV show. Slightly longer answer: who says Daniel Jackson is sane?)
And, yes, Daniel Jackson's' epic angst will become relevant further down.
Other things you need to know about Daniel? He learned snark at the feet of the Great Snark Master Jack O'Neill. When we first meet our hero, he knows his way around a sarcastic comeback, but by the end of the show, he's a Snark Master in his own right. He's also passionate, intelligent, and very opinionated about the Right Thing To Do. His hobbies include knowing more than you, taking flying leaps of logic that seem to follow no rational path and yet frequently turn out to be correct, and starting revolutions. Also, he dies a lot. A lot.
Meet Vala. Vala also has Angst, but she covers it up with a layer of Crazy. Vala was taken by the same parasitic aliens that took Daniel's wife. She was used as a host by the Goa'uld Qetesh for an undisclosed period of time. After that (and apparently prior to it also) she was a thief and a con artist. Vala doesn't talk much about her past and when she does, she's usually lying. (Or pretending to be lying, which has the same basic effect.)
When we first meet Vala, she's still doing her thief and con artist gig. She steals Earth's primary battle cruiser (Daniel steals it back). Then she comes to Earth claiming to have valuable information and links herself to Daniel so that they literally cannot get away from each other. (Yeah, that goes over real well.) Later, she ends up in another galaxy and gets burned alive (she gets better). Then she comes back to our galaxy only to end up back in the other galaxy. This time she's forced to bear a child against her will, being brought back into our galaxy in time to give birth to the child who will lead a conquering army as they slaughter millions of innocents.
Needless to say, she comes out of these experiences a little changed. Mostly for the better as she does decide to leave aside the cheating, stealing, and conning and even most of the lying and try her hand at being one of the good guys for a while.
But she's still Crazy.
Or at least her own special brand of sane.
By now you may be asking yourself how these two special people have attracted a relatively small but somewhat fanatical band of dedicated followers who believe that they are the best thing to happen since sliced cheese. The answer is simple. We, like the characters we adore, are fruitcakes. *g*
When Daniel first meets Vala, it's after she steals his ship. She tortures him (just a little), they have a good time beating each other up (taking a short break in the middle to make out, naturally...) before he stuns her unconscious and takes off all of her clothes (he has a good reason), they talk, they argue, they nearly get themselves blown up. Good times are had by all. The next time they meet is when she uses special bracelets to link them together so that they cannot be away from each other without dying. There are a few times in there when it seems that Daniel is not entirely convinced that death isn't the preferable state.
They end up in the aforementioned other galaxy (the Ori galaxy) together and yada yada yada, Vala gets herself burned alive and then brought back to life. It's during these moments that we see the first hint that Daniel has feelings for Vala that don't include wanting to smack her with a large fish.
Also, they now have common ground what with Daniel's penchant for getting himself killed, though Vala is going to have to get busy dying if she has any hope of catching up to Daniel.
Afterward, Vala comes back to life and a Daniel and Vala have the distinction of bringing the Milky Way galaxy to the attention of a powerful and deadly enemy.
They spend a few more episodes linked together and mostly pass the time by snarking at each other. Vala makes various sexual suggestions and at least one serious attempt at getting Daniel into bed with her while Daniel proves quite adept at defending his own honor.
Which brings us to the banter. Of all the things that define Daniel and Vala, the banter is one of the first things that comes to mind. They are both quick-witted and sharp-tongued and when they go head to head, they bring their A-game. It's a thing of beauty.
Here, have a sampling.
The Ties That Bind
VALA Came to see me off? That's sweet.
DANIEL Well, we've been through a lot together, and I just wanted to come here myself and make sure you were...thoroughly searched.
VALA We could be partners. We can split everything down the middle, sixty-forty. ...Hardly seems fair that your life gets to continue and my affairs are put on hold.
DANIEL Excuse me? I-I-I should be on my way to the Pegasus Galaxy right now.
VALA Oh don't you blame that on me. It's your own curiosity in the ancient treasure that cost you a trip to Atlantis.
DANIEL You cuffed us together!
VALA You weren't paying attention at the time.
DANIEL Vala, this is a military vessel.
VALA I know, darling. I've stolen it before.
DANIEL Well, just try to be, uh...
VALA My charming self?
DANIEL A little less talk, a little more shut the hell up.
Flesh and Blood
VALA She wanted me to give her a name.
VALA Adria. Told her it was my mother's.
VALA Step-mother. Witch of a woman.
DANIEL The more I get to know you, the more I'm starting to understand.
VALA (to Daniel) I'm gonna go crazy, and I'm taking you with me.
After Vala ends up in the Ori galaxy again, we don't hear from her for the rest of the season. It's very sad. But then, she comes back and all is right with the universe. She remotely possesses Daniel's body in order to give a message to the SGC that the Ori (the big bad mentioned above) are coming. She's subsequently brought back to our galaxy and gives birth to her daughter. She's on an Ori warship when Daniel sneaks aboard and rescues her. She ends up on Earth for lack of anywhere else to go and it's Daniel of all people who petitions to have her become a member of Stargate Command.
We get more evidence here of Daniel's growing respect for her in this scene as Daniel makes his case to the commander of the SGC.
DANIEL Look, I know she's no angel. She's-she's lied, she's stolen, she's cheated, she's misrepresented herself, she's...lied. But she also risked her life to warn us that the Ori were on their way, and almost sacrificed herself to shut down the very first Ori Supergate.
LANDRY I understand the contributions she's made. The truth is, the Pentagon isn't willing to roll the dice on her.
DANIEL But you could convince them otherwise.
LANDRY If I push this issue, and the Pentagon agrees to let her join you on off world missions, then I'd be the one ultimately held accountable for her actions. [...] So, I'd be counting on you to keep her in line.
This sets the tone for much of the interaction between them during the 10th season.
Digression time! Daniel and Vala at least partially subvert (oh how I do hate that word but it's the only one that seems to work in this instance) the trope discussed here by cryptoxin. Instead of trying to paraphrase, I will simply quote him with his permission.
The basic set-up is that you've got a leading man who is reckless, or a lateral thinker, or a rule-breaker, or somehow a "renegade" [...] and a female character (either partner or colleague or teammate or boss) who is rigidly cautious, unimaginative, by-the-book, and generally tries to curb or rein in the male protagonist by insisting on the value of tradition, authority, proper procedure, and common sense. [...] The center of gravity for the show -- the one whose actions control the movement of the plot, the locus of interestingness -- is the man.
My point is not that Daniel and Vala strictly adhere to this simply with gender roles reversed. Daniel is neither cautious nor unimaginative and while he is often by-the-book, the book in question is usually a several-thousand-years-old tome pointing to buried treasure or the secrets of the universe. And, if nothing else, Stargate is not a show that lends itself to that dynamic as there are multiple major players, multiple--to steal the phrase--loci of interestingness. However, in the interactions between Daniel and Vala, it is Vala who is the more reckless of the pair and Daniel who both tries to rein her in and, in season 10, is implicitly held responsible for her actions. He tries to curb and rein her in, with varying degrees of success.
It's one of the things I love about these two, the way they like to turn standard gender conventions on their heads. It's Vala who is the more sexually agressive of the pair. Vala is at least as reckless as Daniel, but her behavior is rarely "punished" as one might expect in a woman who acts with little regard for social convention. Vala drives the plot as often as Daniel. Daniel doesn't hold back from going toe-to-toe with her. In fact, in their very first meeting, Vala punches Daniel in the face and what does Daniel do? He punches her right back. Vala stares at him in shock.
VALA You hit me!
DANIEL You hit me.
It's a simple one to one, uncomplicated reaction for Daniel. He doesn't treat her like a woman, he treats her like a person. Vala starts out treating Daniel like a man, trying to use her sexuality to throw him off his game, but when she fails utterly at distracting him with her body she not only switches tactics, but seems to respect him more.
Moving on. Throughout season 10, we see Daniel and Vala form a real bond. They still banter and snark and drive each other batty and are generally hilarious to watch. But the relationship is developing throughout and it develops so beautifully and organically that one is forced to conclude that it cannot have happened the way the PTB intended. (Trust me, if the PTB had been managing this one, there would have been a whole lot more forced and awkward moments.)
Highlights of season 10 include The Pegasus Project, which ends with Daniel and Vala on a balcony having a serious conversation. It's, in my opinion, the first time we see them acting like friends.
Then there's Counterstrike in which Daniel talks about his wife. Italics entirely warranted as Daniel does not talk about his wife. He keeps that pain wrapped up tight and doesn't bring it up for much of anything. But he alludes to it when he tries to comfort Vala and when she pushes him for the story, he tells her. He unwraps that pain and he tells her. *has a shipper moment of glee*
There's The Quest in which Daniel sticks his head in an Ancient head-sucking device and Vala is heartbreaking in her fear and pain as she watches him deteriorate.
There's The Shroud in which Vala sits on Daniel's lap like it's the most natural thing in the world and Daniel needs Vala to believe in him because she's so very important to him.
There's Talion in which they sit in the briefing room and make moon eyes at each other. No, really, look at this.
There's Dominion in which Daniel, in a moment of protectiveness, steps between a livid Major Reynolds and Vala. (Okay, so that was a fabricated memory, but Vala had to believe that it would happen that way and it totally counts!)
Hmm. There seems to be an episode that I'm forgetting. What could it be?
What's that my fellow fruitcakes? Memento Mori, you say? I seem to remember an episode by that name...
Ah, Memento Mori. Memento Mori is the episode that converted me from both casual Vala fan and somewhat interested Daniel/Vala fan into uberfan of both. Memento Mori is very much a Vala episode and if this were an essay about Vala, I would lovingly dissect the plot in several hundred words. But since it's not, I'll give you the highlights and hit on the important D/V moments. On the surface, Memento Mori is your standard amnesia episode. Vala is kidnapped, loses her memory, and ends up working in a diner while wearing some of the most outrageous eye makeup seen on television since The Drew Carry Show went off the air.
There are three things that make this episode such a hit among the D/V crowd.
First off, in the beginning, Daniel takes Vala on a date. Or not, according to him. Here, have some more dialog.
VALA I don't mind telling you, I've been looking forward to this little date all week.
DANIEL I wouldn't exactly call it a 'date'. It's—
VALA Oh, I've watched enough of your television to know what a date is, Daniel. It's a romantic event typified by dinner, movie and/or karaoke and, usually, culminating in a night of...
DANIEL O-okay, this is...this is definitely not a date. It's, it's two friends and coworkers out for dinner.
VALA Oh. Well, I--
Poor Vala looks quite disappointed by Daniel's denial.
Later, after Vala goes missing, Daniel goes a little crazy. He hides it well, but the undercurrent of desperation is clearly there. You can see it in his face and the faces of his friends as they watch him deal. Check out this snippet of conversation between him and his teammate.
MITCHELL Hey, listen, I spoke with the Medical Examiner's office. They're doing DNA testing on the remains recovered at the blast site. But it's gonna take a while.
DANIEL You know, when Vala first disappeared, when the Ori gate was destroyed, I refused to write her off. Although the odds were against it, I believed somehow she'd found a way to survive. And it turned out I was right. I wanna be right again.
Finally, when Vala, still missing her memories, is preparing to run again, Daniel blocks her way out and refuses to move despite the fact that she's got a gun on him. He does what he does best and talks her down.
DANIEL You don't remember who you are, but I do. You won't shoot. If I let you go, I know you're gonna make yourself disappear. You've been running so long it's almost second nature to you. You don't remember it, but you made a decision to stop running. It's over. Now it's time to come home.
Vala flashes back to the SGC. First she sees everyone in the briefing room. But then, in my personal favorite moment of the entire episode, she sees Daniel, just Daniel, in the elevator. She she says his name.
I just love it. *sniff*
Not all of season 10 shows the two of them in their best light. And, really, it would be untrue to the characters if it did. In the episode immediately following Memento Mori, The Company of Thieves, Daniel and Vala are back to their old snarky selves and share hardly one kind word the entire time. (I'm not complaining, mind you, since I like their old snarky selves, but if you were to see The Company of Thieves out of context, you might get the impression that these two can barely stand each other.)
Bad Guys too has them both (okay, mostly Daniel) seeming to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed.
And many people, including me, consider Daniel in Family Ties to be both patronizing and in serious need of a clue, though he is well meant.
But these are all parts of the organic nature of the development of the relationship and just as important in their own way to the ship as all of the sweet moments.
We've now reached the end of season 10. Except, of course, for Unending. *cues up the dramatic music*
Even among D/V fans, Unending can be a little controversial. If you ever see someone in SG fandom refer to THAT SCENE, they're talking about a certain scene in Unending in which Vala comes onto Daniel and Daniel rebuffs her advances. It's...harsh. It's hard to watch. I think it's brilliant. Others disagree.
THAT SCENE has been discussed and dissected six ways from Sunday and I'm not going to retread that ground in this space. There's some good meta on the subject here and my tl;dr comments can be found starting here.
Unending is the only time we see Daniel and Vala cross over into RST territory and in grand science fiction episodic television tradition, at the end of the episode it's all undone. Only Teal'c remembers, and he's not talking.
Following season 10, there were two movies. I'm not going to discuss Continuum as there's nothing D/V-related to speak of there.
The Ark of Truth, on the other hand, is a nice coda to season 10. It shows Daniel and Vala's relationship as fully matured. There's still plenty of snark and banter. Since quoting dialog is fun, I'll give you more, edited for length.
DANIEL Well, it's covered in Ancient writing. These symbols here are part of the oldest dialect I'm aware of. It says: "Safely kept is the...something of old."
VALA What's the "something", Daniel?
DANIEL Well, if I knew for sure, I wouldn't have said "the something..." [...]
VALA Stop your yammering and open it.
DANIEL We can't just open it.
VALA Look at my hands, all right? They are raw and bleeding. I've broken every nail. We've been out here in the scorching heat for days. I haven't showered!
DANIEL None of us have.
VALA That is painfully obvious. Now, according to you, this crusty old chest is our salvation from oppression at the hands of the Ori army. Our best--and maybe only--remaining chance that we have. [...] Finally, we may have found it. The ultimate weapon. So could someone please explain to me why we can't confirm our blessed fortune by simply opening it?!
DANIEL Because it's sealed shut! It literally won't open.
VALA Why didn't you say so?
DANIEL Well, I was trying to, but you wouldn't stop your yammering.
But at the same time the bond and trust between them has been cemented. There's a lovely scene near the end in which they communicate without words, figuring out what the other is planning just by looking at each other. Held up against their early interactions, AoT shows just how far they've come and how much they mean to each other.
And that brings us to the end of the portion of the essay where I over-analyze canon. Now to the part where I tell you why you should ship them. Except I can't do that. The only thing I can do is tell you why I ship them.
Daniel and Vala do not lend themselves to your average quirky romantic comedy that ends with a proposal on the ice in Central Park. They are a mess. I did not title this essay "Beautiful Wreck" because I've listened to 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor too many times. (I have, but that's beside the point.) These are two seriously damaged and hurting people.
And yet, somehow, when they come together, they seem to hurt a little less.
I am not a fan of the theory that if you love someone enough, you can solve all of their problems. Daniel and Vala having sex does not magically make all right with the world. It doesn't even make everything right with them. If Daniel and Vala have sex, they will still be messy. Daniel will still have epic angst. Vala will still have a sugarcoating of crazy over a core of pain. They will still snark at each other and have days when you have to wonder if they even like each other. Daniel will still go too deep into his own head and get lost there. Vala will still have the instinct to run when things get tough.
But if they have each other, then maybe when Vala runs, Daniel will stop her before she gets too far. When Daniel loses himself in his own head, maybe Vala will be there to annoy him until he's forced to find his way back into the real world.
Maybe when Vala breaks, Daniel will catch her.
Maybe Daniel will laugh.
Human love is not a panacea. But it is a powerful force. Daniel and Vala are two seriously broken individuals. But when they come together, maybe the broken bits can find a way to complement each other. Maybe together, they can be whole.
Also? They're really smokin' hot.
I will leave you with a very brief overview of fandom.
daniel_vala - the highest traffic community that I've found
valadanielicons - self explanatory
sg1_debrief - not a D/V comm specifically, but the posts are neatly organized and it's easy to find the D/V fic; a good resource for catching up on all the stories you missed while you were in woeful ignorance of this pairing
stargateficrec - again not D/V specific, but it's easy to find the good crack; just click on the daniel/vala tag
The Gateworld Forums - not my favorite place to hang out, but there is a Daniel/Vala ship thread that's been going strong since 2004(!)
The Isis Awards - an awards site for underrepresented het ships in the Stargate fandom of which Daniel/Vala is sadly one.
The Daniel/Vala Archive - your standard fanfiction archive, organized and easy to navigate.