Another two episodes today. One further explores the world of the show and the other explores a single character. Let’s start.
The Torment of Tantalus
We open this episode with a group of Air Force personnel toying with the Stargate in what appears to be the 40s or 50s. Quickly we pull back to find that this is video that Daniel is watching from material sent over by the Pentagon. O’Neill is dismissive of the footage until Daniel notices a man in a diving suit is sent through the active Stargate only for it to shut down, stranding the man on the other side.
We move to Daniel meeting with Catherine Langford, the woman who originally ran the Program before the film and brought Daniel into the fold. It turns out that it’s been six months since the premiere but during that time no one had told her the Gate was being used, leaving her angered. She provides what little she knew about the original experiments from conversations with her fiancé Ernest Littlefield (she herself was blocked out due to her gender), what she didn’t know however was that the experiments were successful. When shown the footage she realises that Ernest was sent through the Gate and that the story he died in a lab accident was a lie to cover it up.
Daniel brings Catherine to the SGC to introduce her to the facility and SG-1 where a pissed Hammond berates him about bringing a civilian on base without permission. O’Neill defends him up to the point where Daniel wants to bring Catherine to the planet Ernest went to. During this time Carter has confirmed that the address isn’t in the Cartouche addresses, meaning it’d prove someone else built the Stargates rather than the Goa’uld. Despite his previous annoyance Hammond agrees to the mission due to the initial idea of finding Ernest and bringing him home, allowing them to take Catherine along.
Stepping through the Gate they emerge into a stone building, similar to a temple that appears to still be falling apart around them. Carter notices a figure in the back who emerges to reveal himself to be an elderly (and naked) Ernest. Shocked by the fact actual people have come through he proceeds to get emotional and hug the members of SG-1 but upon recognising Catherine he suddenly walks out the room, with Daniel deciding to follow.
He finds his way into a circular room with a device in the center where Ernest resides, now wearing the tattered remains of his diving suit. It’s revealed the planet is abandoned, meaning Ernest has been in isolation for over 50 years. Ernest shows Daniel his old journal that, among his more delusional moments, details his explorations of the building and what he thought it was used for. O’Neill and Teal’c return from their explorations and reveal that the coming storm is likely to destroy the Temple. However they find the DHD has been damaged by previous events and therefore can’t dial home.
Given their predicament Ernest instead shows them the pedestal in his room that when activated causes the walls to glow, detailing four distinct writings and a display of the elements as a base to work from. They conclude that the building must’ve acted as a meeting ground for an alliance of four alien races and as a repository of knowledge for others who found it. Despite this though O’Neill is worried about the worsening conditions and wants to evacuate. He heads back to the Gateroom where Carter and Teal’c have been working on the DHD to get it repaired, however during a further movement of the building the DHD falls through the floor into the ocean below.
Daniel and Ernest are continuing their discussions on the pedestal when the others come in. As the DHD is gone they want to use the power source of the pedestal to power the Gate. A reluctant Daniel eventually allows them to shoot it but it withstands a Staff blast. As a result they instead aim to use the storm itself to power the Gate. While the others, including Catherine and Ernest, get ready to leave if it works Catherine mentions that Daniel is obsessed with the device. Ernest tries to get him to realise the futility of learning from the Pedestal but being left behind but is unable to and further resists O’Neill’s attempts to drag him away. Eventually he goes but the building is already falling apart, with them barely reaching the Gate in time to escape. Sometime later the SGC try to redial the planet but the Gate doesn’t lock leaving Daniel saddened but Ernest reminds him that when he finally meets Thor’s race he can ask them in person.
This is an episode that, despite the title, mainly exists as exposition of the show. Much like the previous episode Thor’s Hammer it largely focuses on the existence of other aliens we haven’t seen yet, in the form of the Alliance of Four Great Races, whose members include both the Nox and Thor’s Race and two as of this point unnamed races. This nature further deepens the world as it actually depicts for the first time that life existed long before the Goa’uld seized power in the galaxy and that the Stargates have been around for millions of years and are simply used by the Goa’uld as an effective means to control their territory.
The love plot element of the episode however isn’t one I’m really a fan of as there’s nothing to get attached to given how both characters are people we’ve never seen on the show before. While Catherine had previously appeared on the film her role was fairly limited and mainly existed as a reason for Daniel Jackson to turn up in the first place. Sure the idea of two people to be wed being reunited after 50 years is a nice one but honestly Ernest better worked as a warning to Daniel to what his obsession with knowledge could end up doing to him as a person.
Overall it’s still a good episode though that doesn’t hang around much and carries the plot forward with each scene with little filler apart from a few conversation here and there. Thinking about it the deliberate comparisons between Catherine with Carter and Daniel with Ernest is probably where the fan idea of Carter and Daniel ending up together probably started.
· I’d like to know where Ernest got food from for the last 50 years without killing himself when experimenting with different sources.
· I love how simple they find it to fix a very damaged DHD in this episode yet in the future will find more basic work on it impossible to solve.
Quote of the episode: “Oh please, the Pentagon’s lost entire countries.” O’Neill
The episode begins with Teal’c hallucinating the implanting a young Jaffa, called Rya’c, and then himself by a group of Jaffa priests. We see that this is the outcome of another failed drug treatment to replace his symbiote and when questioned by the others as to who Rya’c is he feigns ignorance. At the debrief about the failed experiment Hammond expresses that the Air Force will be disappointed at the lack of a symbiote to be studied. Teal’c reveals there are plenty of symbiotes available on Chulak but Hammond sees it as too dangerous. O’Neill goes to talk to Teal’c about his wish to return to Chulak where Teal’c reveals that he left a wife and son back on the planet, and that he kept it a secret due to his fears the Air Force wouldn’t accept him onto the team. Teal’c further reveals that his son, Rya’c, is about to be implanted with a symbiote and that his old master Bra’tac would be willing to help fight the Goa’uld.
Despite this information Hammond is still reluctant at authorising a mission due to the dangers and O’Neill is forced to reveal that Teal’c has a family back on Chulak. While this is going on however the Gate alarm goes off, with Teal’c back in Jaffa battle armour wanting to go back through the Gate. Hammond denies him this due to him being a security risk but authorises SG-1 to go on a mission to retrieve Teal’c family and bring them to Earth.
The team head to the planet disguised as priests from Apophis’ court and manage to blag their way through the Gate guards and head to Teal’c old home outside the city but find it in ruins. The house has been branded with the mark of the ‘Shol’va’ or outcast/traitor due to Teal’c’s defection. While comforting their friend a man who Teal’c identifies as Bra’tac emerges and holds the group at staffpoint. The two old friends greet each other, with Teal’c introducing him to the rest of SG-1 who he views poorly. He challenges O’Neill to a fight and upon being floored by him Bra’tac approves of them, tackling O’Neill to the ground when O’Neill criticises his age of 133. The group split up, with O’Neill heading with the two Jaffa to find the family while Carter and Daniel go to the temple to steal a symbiote.
While enroute to their objective Carter and Daniel run into a group of priests carrying some kind of container and, upon hearing a bell, decide to follow, figuring it must be the temple. The other group reach one of the outcast camps and find Rya’c just before implantation. Teal’c manages to disarm the priest but is attacked by a hooded figure, revealed to be his wife Drey’auc. During the fight however the infant Goa’uld symbiote and the priest have both been killed. Drey’auc is angered by Teal’c arrival, feeling abandoned by her husband and forced to fend for themselves, with her having told Rya’c that Teal’c had died in combat.
By this time Carter and Daniel have made it to the temple and witness that the container carried young symbiotes that had now been placed with others in an unguarded container. They decide to nab a symbiote from the container and place it in a biohazard container. When leaving Daniel contemplates killing the rest with Carter trying to convince him to leave them be. Though she appears successful Daniel suddenly turns his MP5 on the container and destroys it. As a result of this they’re chased into the forest but Carter is able to deal with the following Jaffa with a well placed grenade.
Back at the camp it is revealed that Rya’c is suffering severely from what appears to be Scarlet Fever. O’Neill has some basic medical supplies with him that he gives to him but require more substantial treatment at the SGC. On the way back however Rya’c takes a turn for the worse and doesn’t have enough time to make it to the Gate. Teal’c not wanting to see his son die, effectively sacrifices his own life by giving his symbiote to his son. However Carter and Daniel make it back and give the symbiote they took to Teal’c to replace his own, with the implantation being a success.
The Gate guards are alerted after the bodies of the temple Jaffa are found in the woods. As a result Drey’auc and Rya’c stay on Chulak while the others make a break for the Gate, with Teal’c vowing to return. Bra’tac leads them to the Gate, with them bringing SG-1 as ‘prisoners’. This time the guard is more suspicious causing Bra’tac to singlehandedly deal with all those at the Gate. After assuring the team he’ll be ok, Bra’tac says goodbye to Teal’c and heads off while the others go back through the Gate.
This episode does one of the most important things of the show; it introduces the character of Bra’tac who goes on to become SG-1s most important ally, joining them repeatedly over the years for a variety of suicide missions they go on. The idea of the wise elderly leader is hardly a new one but the fact he was still able to deal with both SG-1 and Jaffa alike at the age of 133 was twist on the usual old and disabled angle shows go with.
This episode mainly though actually gives Teal’c some backstory. Up until this point Teal’c had largely existed as not only the muscle of the team but also primarily as Mr Exposition who informed the viewer about Goa’uld society, culture, and technology. Here we witness what his life was like before his defection to the Tau’ri, with it being shown that he lived a fairly unremarkable life given his position with a wife and kid and friends on Chulak in a fairly modest house. It also goes to lengths to show how his decisions have had repercussions on those he cares about, with his wife, unaware of the reasons why he defected, believing him to have not only abandoned his family but chose not to come back, leading her to choose to view him as dead, and his son catching a deadly disease as a result of living in the rough.
The fact that this episode also saw the normally kind and reserved Daniel, who was always willing to give a second chance, heartlessly kill defenceless symbiotes was a nice juxtaposition to his usual self. This quite clearly shows how effected he still is by the events of the premiere on Chulak as he seemed to care little about the consequences of his actions, even attracting a Jaffa patrol which Carter had to deal with as a result.
· I like how Teal’c troubles to understand human phrases extended to Bra’tac in this episode, with both failing to understand O’Neill’s mannerisms.
· Carter not being taken over by a symbiote is pretty lucky given how we’re shown they can implant themselves not only via the neck in later seasons.
Quote of the episode: “Well, we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.” - O’Neill, “No. The bridge is too well guarded.” – Bra’tac