Here we see the SGC lose one of their finest Officers and the military and free press face off in a two-parter that is one of the finest episodes of the show.
A documentary crew is on base much to everyone’s displeasure, as the outgoing administration is looking to secure its legacy if the Stargate Program went public. Hammond makes his annoyance at the situation known to the director, Emmett Bregman, but states he will follow his orders to the letter. Emmett however takes a more liberal approach to the situation, believing that the people should have the right to know, and wants to document everything he can including interviews with members of the base.
While Emmett initially maintains his more idealistic attitude he is slowly driven up the wall by how events are going with team members understandably avoiding interviews and limelight about their “exploits” and also coming up against the repeated stonewalling of the Pentagon, who take every opportunity to prevent his access to more sensitive aspects as they weren’t included in the orders such as filming current missions.
Off-world life continues as normal for the SG teams, with SG-13 exploring a previously unvisited planet. While conducting the operation, and discussing how much children suck the life out of you, they find vast ruins of a city built by the Ancients. Exploration is cut short however when the Goa’uld equivalent of a MALP shows up and begins firing on the team. While they manage to deal with the threat they know it’s likely reported their position back to Goa’uld forces, later confirmed when the probe remains are sent back to the SGC.
Back at the SGC Emmett’s time is made worse even further as O’Neill takes every opportunity to avoid being documented by the team and Teal’c also visibly upset at the idea of being interviewed about his role at the SGC. The only event that gets O’Neill to start talking is when he discovers that Senator Kinsey, longstanding thorn in the sides of everyone on the base, is using the documentary to boost his own prestige and whitewash his history of attempting to get the base shutdown. O’Neill’s tirade against the slimeball politician is cut short however when SG-13 report back to the SGC.
After more failed attempts to get interviews out of team members and attempts to avoid the increasingly strict controls placed on his work, including giving Daniel a camera to use off-world, Emmett interviews Fraiser who seems to be more willing to tolerate his presence and discuss previous missions. Surprisingly the two begin to hit it off in the mess, unaware that the base is deploying SG teams 1,3,5, and 7 to backup the deteriorating situation with SG-13 until Fraiser herself is called in to help deal with the injured off-world.
Arriving off-world the situation is still on a knife-edge with the SG personnel hard-pressed even with substantial reinforcements. As the SG forces try to make their way back to the Gate O’Neill spots someone in the trees but is struck in the chest by a Staff weapon as he attempts to intercept, not responding when others try to treat him.
Unaware of the events off-world Emmett resigns himself to editing what he has so far and getting some more walking interviews in the gateroom. Their work is cut short again as the SG units finally get back to the Gate and are blocked from getting shots once again. This is the final straw though for Emmett who ends up poking the camera at an emotional Carter and launching into a tirade at the Air Force for essentially censoring his work repeatedly. Retiring to the mess hall he finds out from his military camera crew and his minder information from the events he missed, including that O’Neill was one of those seriously injured.
The mission is also causing issues for Hammond, with the incident being used by his political opponents to once again try and remove him from command of the SGC. Richard Woolsey a by-the-book pain in the arse is sent to the SGC to conduct the review, either unaware or uncaring of the real motivation behind his new job. Hammond is also having to put together a memorial, confirming that someone has died in the line of duty.
Woolsey immediately and uncaring begins his investigation into affairs on the base, interviewing one by one the SG members who were sent to rescue SG-13. When he calls Hammond in however the General takes an aggressive stance, having found from the NID that Woolsey is responsible for a number of worrying memos that evaluate decisions by the base in fiscal terms, effectively painting life-saving decisions as poor monetary decisions.
Meanwhile, after being interviewed by Woolsey, Daniel finds the camcorder that Emmett had given him before leaving and recalls that he had filmed footage for the filmmaker. Back on Earth however he begins to have doubts about handing it over as he knows what he filmed isn’t something he feels should be shared. Emmett however talks to him about an incident in Vietnam where a cameraman went through a similar experience of capturing a fatality in combat and that while initially he was horrified at what he’d recorded was a death the cameraman eventually came to see it as a picture of a man who saved his life and the heroism that took.
Hammond, already pissed off by Woolsey, finds that Emmett has once again attempted to breach base security, having attempted to gain access to the Infirmary to see who was and wasn’t injured. In retaliation he has the filmmaker’s access to the base revoked entirely and his gear checked and packed up. While he doesn’t like Emmett or his conduct Hammond does have all tapes used, including Daniel’s, handed over to the filmmaker so that the documentary can hopefully put a stop to Woolsey’s report. Emmett is initially delighted at the prospect until watching the tape recorded by Daniel, which graphically depicts a seriously wounded Airman and Fraiser’s sudden death while attempting to treat him.
In the aftermath of the events of the mission Daniel visits the Infirmary to see the Airman who has survived due to the medical aid Fraiser gave before her death while Teal’c comforts Carter who has been asked to give a speech to honour her friend. Emmett also is re-given clearance and sees Daniel, wanting to return the tape given just what it shows but Daniel wants him to go ahead and use it to honour the work Fraiser did and the lives she saved over the years.
In the end Hammond views the completed documentary, which includes footage of the memorial service, and finds it a fitting tribute to the people who’ve served and given their lives for the SGC. Daniel also heads off base to visit the recovering Airman and his young daughter, who they named Janet in recognition of Fraiser. The episode ends with O’Neill willingly having an interview with Emmett.
It’s funny how some of the show’s best episodes are ones that were initially meant to be the cheap ones set only in the SGC and Heroes doesn’t differ. What was initially meant to be a simple 45 minute episode involving a cameracrew trying to get the inside story on the SGC became a quite dark and gritty tale of just what the SGC end up facing on a day to day basis, largely void of the heroics we’ve come to expect from the team.
Fraiser’s death is where a lot of the events of the episode end up revolving but the way it’s dealt with is very different to the show’s normal motion of events. Previous serious injuries on teammembers (or in the case of Daniel their deaths) have been episode long affairs. Here however Fraiser dies in an instant while treating a serious wound. There’s no build-up, no warning, just a sudden burst of light and short scream as she’s struck in the chest by a Staff blast. It’s a shock to the system and has emotional impact not usually seen as you feel the suddenness along with the characters themselves.
The actual action in the episode is thankfully short and sweet, though quite large in scale for the show. We’ve rarely seen such a large deployment of personnel at once, with one of the only other times being the premiere of season three Into the Fire. Here most of the episode instead focuses on the team trying to explain what they do in a public-friendly way and answer questions they don’t really want to on camera. The second half in particular deals with the repercussions of a mission that saw a beloved member of the base dying in the line of duty. While it isn’t the first time we’ve seen people from the SGC die this is probably the first time we see the raw reaction to it, not just emotionally but also institutionally with the higher-ups immediately looking to place blame somewhere in the SGC.
The whole episode is framed by the issue of free press and the military, largely represented by Emmett and Hammond respectively. Throughout Emmett finds the Air Forces strict controls on information to be almost heresy in his eyes, seeing it as only as a way to keep secrets from the press, while Hammond sees the free press as vultures who are looking to make their name exploiting the misery of others along with a need to pry into everything just because. It’s only over the course of the episode that they begin to realise the others point of view and why they believe in their actions, with Emmett coming to see that the control on information is less to keep secrets and more to sanitise the distressing parts of combat and the job and protect members of the Forces from undue pressure from journalists on their actions while Hammond sees that the ability for journalists to function properly prevents people like Woolsey and the shadowy elements of government and power from being unethical, even if it means dealing with an idealistic person like Emmett once in a while.
One of the new aspects of the show that was introduced follows on the coattails of new character Woolsey. While the show has long had evil shadowy parts of the government and Big Business against them this marks the start of civilian bureaucracy starting to find its way into the heart of the SGC. Woolsey is very much a penny-pinching arse, attaching a monetary value to every decision they make in the service. This is very much a new kind of threat to the facility as until now they’ve been the favourite of the President, getting unlimited funding for their actions, but now the beancounters have had enough of buying F-302s and BC-303s without any scrutiny over the costs which could potentially see the facility scaled back in terms of operations.
Overall the episode not only gives a fan favourite a shocking but well done exit from the show but also once again introduces new elements and discusses big issues to do with the military. Truly Stargate at its best.
· Harriman is probably one of the luckiest people on Earth in that his job is incredibly dull but he loves it anyway.
· Siler’s job seems to be get hit by something and then appear in infirmary shots with nurse treating him.
Quote of the episode: “Could we get a shot of the Gate spinning?”
“Sure it’s really cool. Steam comes out of it and everything.” – Emmett and Carter