The start of season 4 today, with an episode continuing the Replicator cliffhanger from last episode and another which is one of the darkest episodes the show ever had.

Small Victories

Synopsis

We pick up a week later from where we left off from season 3, with Thor’s ship having crashed into the Pacific. Nearby a Russian sub experiences an issue with a torpedo tube from which two Russian sailors can hear noise. Upon opening it and doing a visual inspection they’re attacked and killed by a Replicator that had gained entry.

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Meanwhile at the SGC they have finally gotten the second Stargate installed and ready to receive SG-1, with Teal’c now sporting a soul patch, and getting ready to get some overdue leave. R and R is cut before it can begin however as the team are once again pressed into service as the Pentagon learn about the Russian which was found surfaced with the crew dead, with a US search team finding Replicators on board. Despite wanting to destroy the submarine to contain the threat the situation has been complicated by the fact the Russians are aware the US have captured the vessel who, still unaware as to the Stargate’s existence, believe the US killed the crew. Any further debate is halted however when Thor arrives at the base via the Gate, requesting help with a situation developing in his galaxy also involving the Replicators. The team decide to split up, with Carter helping Thor while the rest deal with the sub situation.

At the Sub quarantine area Teal’c and O’Neill prepare to board with two others while Daniel, still on medical orders, guides them from control. Making entry into the confined vessel, trying to navigate the cramped conditions and currently passive Replicators, to determine just how bad the infestation is. Teal’c and Stevens find the generator/battery room full of Replicators protecting some kind of ‘Queen’ bug building more of the worker drones. Stevens opens fire when one of the drones gets too close forcing them to retreat, with Stevens being overrun and killed in the process while the remaining three manage to seal themselves in another part of the vessel.

On Othala, a key Asgard planet, Thor shows Carter their latest ship, the O’Neill, before informing her that three Replicator ships are on the way, most likely drawn by the O’Neill’s new technology. The two of them board a less powerful vessel to help in the coming battle, with Thor trying to teach Carter the basics of how a Replicator works using a simulation of one of the worker drones for help. Lessons are cut short however when the fleet engaging the Replicator ships drops out of contact, most likely having been destroyed.

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Back on Earth the team have managed to make it back to shore to receive help with their wounds, with a Replicator chunk having been buried in Teal’c’s shoulder. Daniel uses the chunk to theorise that while all the worker drones are made of the sub, and therefore vulnerable to seawater, the ‘queen’ is the same as the one which escaped Thor’s ship and therefore made of better materials which would survive. The team instead decide to attack again, take out the ‘queen’ and then let the nearby USS Dallas sink the Russian sub.

On Thor’s ship Carter tries to come up with plans to deal with the three Replicator ships, eventually coming up with the idea of using the O’Neill as bait to draw the Replicators in hyperspace and then self-destruct, hopefully destroying the then vulnerable Replicator ships in the process. While Thor is against the strategy Carter is able to convince him that it’ll work as it’s something the Replicators would never consider as an Asgard strategy, with the plan working as expected, destroying the Replicator threat.

Inside the sub Teal’c and O’Neill place charges as a prepared distraction for their assault but the Replicators begin to dive the ship, unable to go deep due to damage to the ship. With little time left the two destroy the now lone ‘queen’ but end up being trapped by the workers as they try to escape. With no choice left the Dallas fires torpedoes at the sub, sinking her, but Teal’c and O’Neill are beamed out at the last second by Thor’s ship which just arrived from its mission. While the 4 of them congratulate each other Thor beams them away and quickly departs as O’Neill tries to drag him into going fishing.

Analysis

And there we have the continuing tradition of the opener following on from the previous season finale once again but in this case it’s more a loose plot thread follow on as opposed to the very much direct ones they’ve had previously. While Nemesis focused largely on the strengths of the Replicators this was one that, while still continuing to demonstrate why they’re such a threat, focused more on the weaknesses that the team can exploit.

First off we see the show very much have to simultaneous plots that is very rare on the show, as while it will usually have a B plot involving the SGC (usually trying to dig SG-1 out of a hole) it very rarely has what you could call two A plots happening at the same time. While this sort of split can be problematic this episode handles the two threads well, both being given adequate exposition time as well as action, while having two very distinct feels, with the Submarine plot being very tight and claustrophobic inside a dark submarine while the Asgard plot is very brightly lit and separated from the action part as most events take place in Thor’s command room. This helps keep both visually separate but also represent the different ideas well, with the submarine being a nitty-gritty fight while the Asgard thread was about trying to outthink their opponents.

Outside of this the episode finally introduces something that has so far been absent in the show which is the introduction of international politics on Earth. Up until now other than brief mentions in dialogue the other countries of Earth have never been affected by the events of the show while now we have the introduction of Russia as an increasingly larger role in the show in the coming seasons. The idea of a Russian submarine going missing and them thinking the US are directly involved brings back the scenarios of the Cold-War thriller, with the USS Dallas sinking the Russian sub in the episodes climax likely being a reference to Tom Clancy’s The Hunt For Red October.

Overall the episode is a two-sided piece that splits between a command situation and a Cold War novel and manages to carry them out very well, while also adding new players into the ever increasing mythology of the show.

Assorted Musings

· Teal’c having facial hair was one of the stupidest things the show ever did. Makes him look like a bad 90s R&B/Rapper.

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· Apparently the dialogue at the beginning in Russian/Ukrainian is deliberately 4th wall breaking. I wouldn’t know as I don’t understand Russian or Ukrainian

Quote of the episode: “I’d be happy to debrief you all after I’ve debriefed myself for a nice hot shower.” “Permission to shower granted. In fact, I insist on it, Colonel.” –O’Neill and Hammond upon SG-1s return.

The Other Side

Synopsis

We start with O’Neill arriving back on base, most likely from his fishing holiday, to find that the Stargate has had a number of off-world activations in the last hour. The SGC is able to finally understand the radio transmission coming through the Gate to hear a desperate plea for help from their ‘kindred’, calling themselves the Eurondan, who are under attack from an unknown enemy. They also realise that so far 3 of these people have tried to come through the Gate, all being killed upon impact with the Iris. Upon another contact they finally make two-way contact, with the man on the other end identifying himself as Alar, who fills them in on some information as to their situation, with what’s left of Euronda exist in an underground bunker complex fighting off air attacks daily. Hammond agrees with Daniel to send a humanitarian supply mission along with SG-1, while also telling O’Neill that the Joint Chiefs also want to pursue acquisition of technology as well.

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The team arrive through the Gate to find Alar badly wounded inside the tunnel, which has sustained minor bomb damage, before being brought to the command room before a brief standoff with security forces. After recovering from his injuries Alar expresses confusion at Teal’c being with them, saying that he’s different, with the team explaining that he’s a Jaffa but a member of their team which Alar accepts. Leading the team on a tour of the facilities he shows them many technologies the SGC would be interested in, including cryogenic suspension and an advanced command and control facility that features VR chairs that control unmanned drones. O’Neill agrees to test pilot a group of the drones against an enemy drone as a test, which Alar believes will act as a technology to trade for help in the war.

Later the two sides talk further during a celebratory feast, where Alar briefly expresses more confusion at Teal’c when the latter doesn’t toast in celebration, with the Eurondans willing to give up many technologies including fusion reactors, drone chairs, and advanced medical technology in exchange for continued humanitarian and heavy waters supplies. The latter request causes an argument between Daniel and O’Neill, with the former believing that supplying material that can be used in a nuclear weapons programme is too far while O’Neill believes it’s a small price to pay for what they get in return, summing it up as ‘they’re getting something they want, we’re getting everything we want’. O’Neill sends Carter and Daniel back to the SGC to finalise the deal while he and Teal’c stay and help the Eurondans.

Back at the SGC Daniel continues to press his case for caution, with Carter agreeing to his point that they’ve only seen one side of the war. The two get clearance to initiate the deal and are sent back with what little heavy water was on base, while Daniel uses the opportunity to gather intel about the war.

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In the Eurondan control room Teal’c and O’Neill decide to take control of drones to help repel and shoot down the bombers. While they take out a couple O’Neill crashes directly into the bomber he was tailing, seeing the faces of the pilots moments before the feed cuts off. After the raid is over the two groups reconvene in the meeting room again, with Alar wanting to write the deal down as a formal treaty. Daniel once again decides to ask questions, with Carter adding that Hammond wants to know as well, t which Alar responds with an emotional story about how the war started in a surprise attack on Euronda by the enemy. Alar however becomes increasingly irate when Daniel asks more questions, with O’Neill finally ordering him to shut up having had enough himself of Daniel blocking the deal. As they prepare to leave for Earth to get more supplies and inform Hammond Alar talks to O’Neill privately, asking him not to bring ‘the Jaffa’ back again as he’s ‘not like us’. After Alar leaves O’Neill apologises to Daniel and tells him to continue asking questions while he and Teal’c look around, finally growing suspicious about the Eurondans.

During the subsequent events as the members of SG-1 try to obtain information a clear picture starts to build, with Carter realising the complex must’ve been built before the wat started, Daniel discovering the cause of the war was over racial purity, while O’Neill and Teal’c find that all the people in stasis are all physically similar to each other. Putting it all together they realise that the Eurondans, disgusted by their enemies, who they call breeders, planned to gas the surface to wipe them out for being impure. The enemy however learnt of this and instead struck first thereby starting the war that has lasted since Alar was a child, with the Eurondans slowly losing the war of attrition ever since. Rather than just leave the team sabotage the Eurondan defences, with O’Neill and Teal’c destroying the drones before the team retreats to the Gate as the bombers destroy the complex. Alar follows the team, hoping to buy his escape with his knowledge, with O’Neill telling him not to come with them. On arrival O’Neill orders the Iris closed, with a noticeable hit afterwards as Alar is killed on impact.

Analysis

The Other Side is in my opinion one of the finest episodes the show ever produced. From start to finish it’s a critical reflection on a number of issues, including but not limited to poorly planned armed intervention (which when aired in 2000 was ahead of its time), whether the ends always justify the means, and if morals have to be sacrificed for progress, while the plot itself is wrapped up in a twist that is perfectly foreshadowed and still not entirely given away until the end.

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The central plot that is used as a platform for these debates is a great one where those who know a great deal about the Second World War are likely to quickly start to pick up on the similarities between the Eurondans and Nazi Germany that grow throughout the episode. Both are in a long war with one side reduced to a tiny series of bunkers (though in this case the war was around 40 years rather than the 6 years of WWII), one-side is vastly superior when it comes to technology but lacks the necessary raw resources to effectively employ them in war, and the leadership of the Eurondans is obsessed with the idea of genetic superiority in a similar style to the Nazi ideology. The episode cleverly hides these similarities well with some being kept as throwaway lines rather than central points while others such as genetic superiority is misdirected as just more confusion of Teal’c as an alien rather than the fact he’s Black. This helps make both O’Neill and Daniel’s views understandable as making it too clear to the viewer would make O’Neill come off as an ethically void husk.

The episode right at the very end also contains a criticism of US foreign policy during the 1940s, with Alar attempting to buy his way to freedom. This is a reference to programs run by the US, UK, and USSR, such as Operation Paperclip, during the last days of the war as they forgave the war crimes of many Nazi and German scientists in key fields, predominantly nuclear and chemicals weapons as well as rocket and jet technology, and gave them new identities and lives in Allied nations in exchange for working for them. One of the most well-known examples was that of Wernher von Braun, who was a chief architect in the V-2 rocket program which used prisoners from concentration camps, was apprehended and pardoned by the US before being placed in the US rocket programs and went on to become chief architect in the design and construction of the Saturn 5 rocket that placed Apollo astronauts on the moon (a number of other Nazi scientists would also later end up working for NASA and the Apollo program).

Overall the episode is a highly philosophical one that asks many questions about the military and political decision making over the years, in particular that in the aftermath of the Second World War, and succeeds on all accounts in my view as it thoughtfully reflects on both sides of the argument before coming to a conclusion, which in this case seems to be that mistakes were made in the leniency shown to Axis scientists.

Assorted Musings

· Rene Auberjonois really does have a nack for playing annoyed characters doesn’t he.

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· I’m guessing they used ‘breeders’ as it was what they could get away with given it sounds unusually light for a name for the enemy. A name that was more derogatory was probably going to be used I guess.

Quote of the episode: “Their world is in flames and we’re giving them gasoline.” “We are in fact giving them water.” – Daniel and Teal’c