Two great episodes today. One that puts emphasis on philosophy of the human condition and the other is an action fest in the SGC. Lets start.
The episode begins with SG-1 arriving in a mechanical complex with no view of the outside world. Exploring they come across a console which they activate, deciding to retreat quickly but end up getting rendered unconscious by an energy field. Upon awaking they find themselves in new bodysuits and are met by a strange man called Harlan, who appears to be alone and going insane after 11,000 years of isolation, largely muttering the phrase ‘comtraya’. Among his rantings about how hard it is to maintain the facility they’re in he reveals that he has made the team ‘better’ but without an explanation as to what it means. The team, seeing they’re getting nowhere, decide to go back to Earth.
Back at the SGC Fraiser begins an examination of them, first finding that they no longer have a heartbeat and that their blood has been replaced by a strange white fluid. Confused O’Neill suddenly cuts open his arm, revealing it to be mechanical in nature. Fraiser puts the base on alert and with no other option the team are placed in lockup, fearing it may be a Goa’uld scheme. Hammond reveals that they’re planning to send SG-5 through to check out their stories but SG-1 soon collapse, running low on power, and are forced back through the Gate.
Arriving back on the planet the team quickly recover and are met by a jubilant Harlan who continues to not see any wrong with his actions, still deeming them to be better. He leads the team to a rest area so they can recover further but an alarm sounds, signalling more problems with the facility, and is forced to leave them in the room. Left alone the team begin to argue about their fate, with Daniel and Carter wanting to see what it’s like, Teal’c reserved to his fate, while O’Neill is increasingly angry and leaves the others to confront Harlan. Teal’c, behaving strangely also wonders off, leading to Daniel and Carter to try and find him. Unseen however Teal’c begins to have a fit for unknown reasons.
The other members of SG-1 have found Harlan as he repairs the facility, with them all now getting angry at his lack of understanding and answers, only revealing that the facility was built for the 1000 survivors of the now uninhabitable planet who were transferred to artificial bodies but over the years they’ve all either suffered accidents, left through the Stargate, or deliberately killed themselves on the surface. While further discussing their predicament the facility goes into complete meltdown, forcing the three of them to assist with major repairs.
During the repairs Teal’c finally shows up, proceeding to attack and nearly kill O’Neill before being disintegrated by Harlan and then once again running off. Carter and Daniel run after him and find him with Teal’c’s body in a cage. Finally in a corner he admits he still has the original bodies of SG-1 but can’t put their consciousness back in the original bodies before leading them to a chamber where they find that the original ‘bodies’ are in fact the actual SG-1 and that the team we’ve been watching are in fact mechanical copies of the team.
Daniel and Carter begin interacting with their artificial selves, with both versions fascinated with each other, while Teal’c is almost sad at the fact there isn’t a copy of him. O’Neill hunts down his artificial self who stormed out the room earlier and eventually gets him to agree to stay on the planet with Harlan and to bury the Stargate.
Tin Man is an interesting episode as it largely deals with the idea of whether a copy of someone is really that different from the original, with the viewer spending 3/4s of the episode unaware of the fact the team had been replaced at all, simply being told that they had been placed in superior mechanical forms. Along with this we largely see the effects of extreme isolation can have on people, with Harlan being unable to understand basic social constructs after 11,000 years by himself and has an almost childlike personality to him with everything he does being without personal consequence, such as refusing to see why the copies were angry at having their bodies replaced.
The whole scenario that Harlan finds himself in is an interesting one as what he’s doing is purely machinelike in that he is maintaining a facility designed to house a people who no longer exists. He’s the last survivor of an entire race but doesn’t seem to understand that no matter how long he keeps the lights on the planet is doomed and always will be. This behaviour is probably down to the fact he isn’t all there mentally and probably hasn’t since the last of the other survivors just let the end come.
Some of the ideas fall a bit short however, which isn’t surprising given the running time and some of plot reasons are stretching it, such as Hammond sending the copies back through the Gate to begin with when previously a bomb plot was precisely to lead people to the Gate. Overall it’s a nice episode with some wider, more philosophical points to it that, despite some stumbles, executes them well.
· Even though I feel sorry for him I’d probably walk out into the dark if left alone with Harlan for any period of time.
· How Harlan managed to keep SG-1 alive isn’t revealed which is strange as there doesn’t seem to be any food or water sources in the facility.
Quote of the episode: “Colonel Jack O’Neill. Kum-bi-yah.” -O’Neill
There But For The Grace Of God
The episode starts similar to the previous one, with SG-1 emerging from the Gate into an unknown facility that is full of artefacts from an unknown civilisation. O’Neill and Teal’c stumble upon a symbol that acts as a warning for Goa’uld to retreat due to complete nuclear destruction of the planet. Carter and Daniel find a lab that stores various labelled specimens but are ordered to leave by O’Neill, with Daniel staying back to collect the artefacts. He finds a remote that activates a nearby mirror that shows no reflection and upon touching it experiences a strange energy surge. Emerging from the room he finds the team gone, concluding they must’ve already gone back to Earth he dials to follow them, emerging into an SGC different to his own with a Colonel Hammond who doesn’t recognise him.
Quickly restrained he is dragged to the infirmary, demanding to be brought to Colonel O’Neill only to be informed he is General O’Neill by the staff. He is eventually put in detention only to be visited by Catherine Langford who is still a senior member of the base. Despite informing her of who he is and what his current mission was Langford sates he’s never been a member of the facility and had no involvement of the Stargate Program and that there is no Captain Carter, only Dr Carter.
Despite concerns Langford decides to bring him to the briefing room, where he finds O’Neill and Hammond discussing evacuation of key personnel to the ‘Beta Site’. O’Neill tries to get rid of him after he starts talking about Teal’c as a friendly Jaffa, only to also be convinced when Daniel reveals personal details about O’Neill’s mission to Abydos. Carter enters to room but before Daniel has a chance to talk to her she reveals that they have lost ‘Washington and Philadelphia’, revealing a map that shows much of the Eastern Seaboard, Europe, and North Africa destroyed by the Goa’uld who have invaded.
Daniel is left with Catherine, who further discusses how he came to alternate Earth, only to observe a nuclear weapon being deployed in the Gateroom and that they’re sending it to Chulak in a desperate attempt to turn the tide, with O’Neill unsympathetic to Daniel’s attempts to stop him. Daniel still confused at his situation agrees with Carter’s idea that this must be an alternate reality to his own where everything is slightly different. While the others are distracted by an incoming wormhole Daniel tries to find out about his alternate self, concluding that he is likely already dead. The base, called SGA in this reality, receives contact from Air Force One but it’s promptly shot down by a Goa’uld ship that then locks on to Cheyenne Mountain, landing on top of it.
The base, currently blocked from escape via the Gate as the Goa’uld are dialled in, is forced into a desperate defence as Jaffa forces breach the mountain while Catherine, Carter, and Daniel try to work out what they can about the enemy while waiting for the Gate to hit the connection limit of 38 minutes. Just after working out where the Goa’uld came from the Gate disconnects, allowing them to try dialling out but the manual dialler is slower than the Goa’uld’s DHD, meaning they have to wait another 38 minutes before trying again.
At the surface O’Neill leads a first line defence that is initially successful but are quickly overwhelmed by weight of numbers, forcing them to retreat. After the Jaffa secure the entry the alternate version of Teal’c, still serving Apophis, enters. Back in the briefing room Daniel tries to convince O’Neill to let him go back to his Earth to save it from the same fate as this one but it’ll take another 22 minutes till they can dial the Gate again. While sceptical O’Neill agrees to buy time by trying to convince this version of Teal’c to switch sides, with Hammond leading a final defence of the Gate level.
O’Neill manages to find Teal’c and shows him the tape of Daniel’s reality, revealing the version of Teal’c that works on SG-1. Attempts at convincing him seem to be progressing until he reveals that the nuclear weapon sent through the Gate had wiped out Chulak, including Teal’c family. O’Neill, resigned to his fate, allows Teal’c to execute him via Staff Cannon. Near the Gateroom the final barricade, manned by Hammond and Walter Harriman (everyone’s favourite Gate technician), falls with Carter blowing herself up to take out several Jaffa in the briefing room, leaving only Catherine and Daniel. Catherine manages to dial the Gate just before likely dying as well but Teal’c makes it to the Gateroom itself, shooting Daniel as he runs for the Gate, seconds before the autodestruct goes off.
Despite injured by a staff blast Daniel makes it through the Gate and returns to his reality, bringing the warning with him that the Goa’uld are on the way.
This episode is probably my favourite of the first season as it takes everything we’ve seen so far, including the Goa’uld ships, superior technology, and the Goa’uld determination to destroy Earth, come to a head in a dramatic conclusion. We see the SGC (or SGA in this case) engage in a dramatic last stand against an unstoppable force and, despite their courage, are wiped out to the last person.
Apart from just the plot itself this episode establishes two items that become hallmarks of the show in the 38 minute limit for a Gate connection and the ability to travel to alternate realities/time-travel which would be used multiple times in years to come and it also firmly establishes the one relationship that would haunt the writes for years to come; Carter/O’Neill.
I do like how the writers clearly reference other shows that have done alternate realities, with the different hairstyles that Star Trek did and the different, more combat focused uniforms used by the evil U.N.I.T in Doctor Who.
Overall it’s a fun and dramatic penultimate main episode of a first season that has at times struggled with what sort of show it actually wants to be.
· It’s lucky that the device Daniel was using still stayed connected to the mirror as in later episodes it could’ve stranded him forever.
· Despite the differences between the realities it’s funny how they still all ended up in the same organisation. They should’ve had some random person replace one of the leads just for a single episode.
Quote of the episode: “Oh yeah. I also wish to blow us all to hell.” – Carter