So here we are on SG-1 day and today we see two introductions to O’Neill’s command. One very serious and more plothole filler while the other is a humourous moving forward.
The SGC is currently in contact with the Russian commander on board the International Space Station, who are guiding them around debris left from the destruction of Anubis’ fleet with the Russians pissed at once again having to deal with the American’s mess. The SGC however loses video signal with the station and a cloud from the debris penetrates the hull.
Sometime later O’Neill, still trying to get into the swing of leading from behind a desk, is met by Alexi Vaselov who wishes to join SG-1. O’Neill, not wanting to dump a new recruit on SG-1 and informing Vaselov that he needs to be trained if he even wants a chance at getting on any of the active SG teams. To stop having to deal with it entirely O’Neill decides to leave SG-1 as a three-man team. Upon hearing of Vaselov’s rejection Daniel decides to go meet with the man to be more diplomatic. While talking to the Russian Colonel Alexi collapses and admitted to the infirmary while Daniel, though worried, goes back to being deployed off-world. When Alexi wakes in the infirmary he seems to have no idea where he is or how he got there, also showing signs of a severe illness. Given this O’Neill has the base locked down as a precaution. When he’s unable to leave Daniel suddenly takes a hostage and shoots several staff in the gateroom before being subdued. O’Neill subsequently initiates a full quarantine of the base.
Later Daniel is still unconscious while Alexi has begun to recall events of the last few days while talking with Teal’c which describe being similar to a host of the Goa’uld. It turns out that a Cosmonaut who was on the ISS died only recently from a similar illness and that Vaselov had met with him shortly before he died. Daniel wakes shortly after displaying similar loss of memory to Vaselov, only remembering up to when Vaselov collapsed. However when he begins to recollect memories he realises that the presence controlling people must be Anubis who is trying to find a way back to his own territory via the SGC Stargate. Anubis this time takes refuge inside one of the doctors from the infirmary to avoid detection before then moving to one of the security personnel and almost getting out via the Gate.
Given the inability to stop Anubis from taking control of anyone at will O’Neill institutes a new plan. The base is divided into three separate areas via a controlled lockdown, dividing control of the dialling computer from the area where the Gate is held, meaning that as soon as Anubis tries to get out the Gate the SGC will be able to stop the dialling themselves. The hope is that Anubis will eventually give up and try to use his ascended powers which will allow the Ancients to step in. After a week however the President orders the lockdown be lifted but O’Neill seemingly disobeys the order, stating that the lockdown will go on for as long as needed.
Given this apparent turn of events Anubis decides to make his play, using Carter to undo the lockdown. After attempting to escape this way Anubis takes control of O’Neill when the General Zats Carter in the base corridors and uses him to activate the Self-Destruct which cancels the base-wide lockdown. Though Carter is able to remotely stop the Self-Destruct this seems to activate a hidden dialling of the Gate. As the controlled O’Neill attempts to go through Vaselov, who went walkabout from the infirmary and knows he’s dying, offers himself up to Anubis instead which Anubis decides to accept. Though Carter was unable to stop the dialling itself Carter instead switches planet, revealed to be a frozen wasteland that freezes Vaselov steps after he arrives.
Lockdown is the first proper episode of season eight and is the first SGC-centric episode in a longtime, once again focusing on the idea of a “foothold” situation. However much like the opening two parter it’s having to try and deal with the fact that the show was meant to be canned.
The story is largely dealing with the remnants of the attack by Anubis at the end of last season. Here we see that the Goa’uld has managed to survive the destruction of his fleet, existing merely as a gas cloud in orbit. Despite thinking he was no longer a threat the SGC are confronted by the fact Anubis is still capable of being a major threat, being able to take control of anyone he wants but not bound by a slow symbiote outside of a host anymore.
Obviously this ability makes Anubis as a foe incredibly overpowered and leaves open a substantial number of questions such as why Anubis didn’t just take control of a major world leader to gain access to the Gate or just slip away on-board the Prometheus or the like.
In terms of the characters the episode once again brings the Russians back into the mix. The idea of a Russian team was one that the show tried to play around with between seasons 5 and 6 but it sort of fell off the radar after that which is a shame really given how the main spin-off is incredibly international focused. Instead however the Russians became red-shirts, always dying off in stupid ways while the main team survive. Here, while Vaselov does die in the end, the show does do a much better job in my opinion of showing the Russians in a more useful and co-operative light. Compared to many other one-shot character Vaselov is given quite a key role in the episode, giving away first the fact that it’s Anubis, though he doesn’t realise this himself, and then saving both the SGC and likely the planet by sacrificing what’s left of his life to remove Anubis as a threat.
Outside of this however the placement of this episode in the running order does seem odd, especially with the next episode which focuses more on O’Neill getting to grips with command, as here we have another extremely serious episode right after a very serious (and creepy) opening two-parter so it feels like it all flows together.
Overall the episode is an adequate one by itself, trying to deal with the loose end of Anubis, and reintroduces the Russian element of the SGC. However the placement of it within the season and the general lack of progress for major characters hardly makes it memorable.
· O’Neill leaving a team undermanned seems like a bizarrely stupid move.
· Surprised the SGC doesn’t come under more questions regarding why the Russians always seem to die.
· The remote stopping of the local Self-Destruct makes no sense
Quote of the episode: “One crisis after another. This morning the Mess got a shipment of Yukon Gold potatoes instead of the usual Russets.”
“Oh yes. The golds don’t make for good mash. The consistency’s all wrong.” – O’Neill and Daniel
O’Neill is arriving at the SGC to be greeted by Harriman, currently acting as his PA, who informs him about the various issues currently needing to be sorted including one team wanting to bring off-world plants back to the base. Harriman introduces O’Neill to his new PA, Mark Gilmor, who’s been sent by Hammond to deal with the growing backlog on the base. When left alone in his office Gilmor makes a call to an unknown person, only saying that O’Neill doesn’t suspect a thing.
O’Neill tries to desperately stay on top of things happening at the base which already includes an uneasy SG-1 who want to do recon of a potential ZPM site, a plant that has the science teams excited due to its growth rate, and having to oversee an attempt to help two factions on another world find peace. With the two factions, who Major Davis describes as squabbling children, O’Neill decides to lock the two of them in the same room until they stop acting like children.
The next day O’Neill returns to work to find that the aliens are still refusing to talk, that Dr Lee has concerns about the plant, SG-1 still want to go off-world, and that worst of all the bunting for the infirmary is wrong. SG-1 is finally allowed to go on their scouting trip with SG-3 as back-up. In the labs it turns out that the plant has massively grown overnight, already taking over the entire lab and the corridors outside. Not long after this the plant problem takes over most of the level, with staff resorting to flamethrowers to burn it off.
Not soon after the SGC are contacted by SG-3 after an Al’kesh passes over the planet and all contact with SG-1 is lost. After SG-3 pull back to the base Ba’al contacts them via hologram to claim that he has SG-1 and will swap them for Camulus, the Goa’uld seeking Asylum on Earth.
The next day O’Neill arrives to conduct the exchange between the two sides, with O’Neill threatening to send Camulus to the address to make the Goa’uld talk but this doesn’t seem to make the Goa’uld give anything away. Later in his cell however he gives O’Neill the location of an Ancient device which SG-3 later find, revealed to be a ZPM that still contains charge. The celebration is cut short however by “that damn plant” which is now shown to have buried itself inside the walls to find light and has taken control of an increasingly large area of the base. Ba’al makes contact with the base wondering why the SGC hasn’t made contact and despite O’Neill slight mockery he accepts his explanation that the Gate isn’t working, giving them an extra day. O’Neill also stops a Pentagon plan that would see them use Symbiote poison to wipe out Goa’uld strongholds but at the cost of killing the tens of thousands of Jaffa present too.
Later on O’Neill agrees to release Camulus in return for the ZPM they delivered but stops this when Dr Lee, having eradicated the plant, finds that the ZPM has been tampered with and replaced with an incredibly powerful explosive that would’ve devastated or even destroyed the planet. Instead Camulus is freed by O’Neill anyway along with the tampered ZPM in the hope he may be able to get SG-1 freed or even kill Ba’al, removing their common enemy but this seems to have been pointless. The SG teams on base decide to make a show of support in the gateroom for O’Neill. Before O’Neill leaves for the night however they receive word from SG-1 who are under heavy fire and deny ever being captured by Ba’al but were instead just stuck inside the base they were exploring. Despite the risks O’Neill has the Iris opened and the team make it back.
In the aftermath Gilmor reveals that he was really there as an undercover audit but that Hammond had already let O’Neill in on the fact. Gilmor congratulates O’Neill on his leadership and that the alien delegates who’d been locked in a room for several days were much better now. The episode ends in O’Neill’s office zooming in on a resignation he’d been drafting that ends with “never mind”.
Compared with Lockdown, Zero Hour is a much better introduction to the idea of O’Neill as the head of the SGC. Not only do we get to see the former ground commander stuck behind a desk and struggling with the new burden of being stuck at base but we also get to see a less serious approach to the challenge.
The story focus on O’Neill encompasses the five days leading up to a visit from the President and as per usual nothing seems to be going right for the SGC. Not only are the decorations and food orders getting messed with but a plant sample begins its dream to take over the world while SG-1 go missing, presumably captured, while exploring for a ZPM to allow the team to contact the Atlantis Expedition. All of these end up presenting extreme pressure for the new commander. While alone O’Neill starts to feel the pressure getting to him and feels that he can’t handle the new role, going so far as to draft his resignation before the end of the episode but eventually decides against it when everything ends well.
The characterisation really makes the episode work, with O’Neill throughout being presented as someone who is struggling to make the new job work. Once again using his trademark humour to try and deflect how it’s getting to him, mocking many members of the SGC throughout the episode, usually juxtaposed against his various attempts to write his resignation. Even when Ba’al confronts him with news that he has SG-1 hostage O’Neill can’t help himself but mock the Goa’uld during their little chats. It’s these attempts to present a strong front while hiding the issues that make him so close to the General he doesn’t think he could live up to, only finding that the rest of the base are in solidarity with him as their new commander even when he thought he was unworthy.
The episode also places some initial moves to redevelop Ba’al as a more rounded character. Until now he’s been little more than another generic villain who is just as evil as every other Goa’uld but here he’s shown to be rather reasonable, almost businesslike. Despite giving O’Neill the usual talk of killing the team unless he returns Camulus he actively extends the deadline when he sees that O’Neill genuinely can’t deliver the team due to a Stargate malfunction. Whether this is simply due to not having the team on him isn’t said though.
Overall the episode is a much better introduction to the new setup of the SGC and keeps a much more humourous tone when compared to the previous episode. The episode focuses less on the evil doers and more on the stresses of a new job, an endlessly more relatable issue than a creepy ghoul.
· Gamma radiation, really? Surprised they didn’t kill everyone on the base.
· So the SGC now have the ultimate bomb? Could use that later on.
Quote of the episode: “He’s not like other generals.”
“Actually, he’s not like other people.” – Gilmer and Harriman