Today we revisit an alternate reality one last time and Daniel returns.
The Road Not Taken
Carter is working in the lab on Merlin’s Device once again, trying to get it to do even more wacky things. While Mitchell watches from the observation room the Device moves her out of phase before something odd happens, resulting in Carter waking up in an alternate SGC. Amongst the changes on the base not only is Lorne the leader of SG-1 but General Hammond is still leader of the SGC while most of the SG-1 she knows have split apart years previously. It seems that alt-Carter was attempting a similar interdimensional bridge as Atlantis had tried only for it to kill her and her assistant while dragging Carter’s out of phase lab into their reality.
Hammond talks to Carter, revealing that this reality diverged with Anubis’ attack on Earth leading to the inadvertent disclosure of the Stargate Program which led to international unrest. As a result of this the Atlantis Expedition was never launched leaving the Earth without advanced Ancient tech to help in their fight against the Ori and the Earth’s political situation in dire straits with it now effectively controlled by US President Landry. On a more personal level Carter unfortunately also finds that this is a reality where she’d married Meredith at one point.
Given that Carter has no easy way home she instead decides to help this reality with its Ori problem, who’ve begun to attack Earth. Given that they have no ZPM to use after it was depleted previously Carter instead decides to try and use Merlin’s Device to hide the entire planet. Using the US electrical grid they’re able to power the Device and hide the planet when an Ori fleet arrives. Despite hoping to resume her work on returning home after saving the planet Carter soon finds herself the latest PR showpiece for the administration. While at a party herself and Landry are beamed to Air Force One, the now repurposed Prometheus, when a protestor breaks in. It turns out that the world is under Martial Law and is effectively a dictatorship, with F-302s being used to bomb an Irish village of “terrorists”.
Desperate for help Carter resorts to her ex-husband. While he’s initially mocking of her attempts and doesn’t believe her plight he eventually comes round to helping her. Carter however returns only to find all her equipment gone as the Landry adm wants to use her to help him be “re-elected”, simply reduced to a Yes/No decision with no formal candidates or any other elections. Refusing to help them Carter decides to go and visit this world’s Mitchell finding that the former poster boy for the administration eventually had enough and was immediately dropped and left to rot on what medical benefits he had, which has seen him reduced to living in a crappy apartment and suffering from alcohol abuse.
Having seen what going against the government results in Carter seems to agree to their demands, taking part in a TV interview about herself. Midway through however she decides to go off message and demand people take back their government but the transmission is cut. Undeterred Carter finds herself detained and brought to Landry on Air Force One. The two spar about the state of affairs in her world, with Landry eventually deciding she’s too much trouble and giving her the equipment she wants back so she can go home. Carter returns to the SGC to find that she’s already been replaced by Meredith who’s first job is to recreate the conditions of the test to send her back. While working together again Carter suggests he “nudge” the President towards becoming the man he used to be once more.
Soon after Carter finds herself back in her own universe, scaring Dr Lee who was scanning the room. Reuniting with the rest of the team she finds out they thought she was simply trapped out of phase and they’d taken shifts talking to an empty room for the whole two weeks she was gone.
And so we come to the final alternate reality episode of SG-1 and what a depressing reality it decides to paint, where the achievements of the SGC end up destroying the world they’d wanted to save. It turns out the fears aired in previous seasons of this reality became true, with the world unable to cope with the shock revelation of both interplanetary travel by the US and the resulting war with aliens and quickly falling apart from the resulting public panic. Martial law has become the name of the game with citizens being detained without trial and virtually all democracy gone. While we do get a lot of this told to us it’s a shame we don’t get to see much of it actually displayed on screen which probably would’ve been more hardhitting.
One of the most interesting aspects of the new world is that Landry seems to be as much a victim as the population he supposedly controls. I feel it’s sort of implied he wasn’t elected into the office of President to begin with, somehow just being the next in the line when it all went to pot, and clearly doesn’t know how to handle the situation. As a military officer he doesn’t get the difference between civilian and military situations and approaches to law enforcement, believing that what he’s done is needed because that’s what he was trained to do. Instead he appears to be manipulated by his Chief of Staff who is effectively running the show behind the scenes without Landry’s knowledge, having put tabs on people like Carter while Landry has largely kept himself isolated on Air Force One and stuck in his own head wondering what he really should be doing. Towards the end of the episode we see that the “good man” Landry was in that reality and is in the prime reality still exists, choosing to just let Carter go, but just isn’t able to get the guidance he really needs to put things back on track.
We even see Hammond return for a few scenes and it feels like a long time since we last saw the man himself. He also feeds into Landry’s problems unintentionally as while he’s trying to support his friend his military background also sees him supporting the actions taken by Landry without questioning them, seeing the state of Martial law that’s lasted for three years as the way things have to be rather than a temporary thing that’s gone on too long. He’s the sole voice that can get through to Landry but for reasons of friendship and rank doesn’t want to be seen to undermine him and therefore the situation is only a barely hidden military dictatorship.
Carter’s place in the episode as the latest in the long-line of poster boys and girls seems to be a thinly-veiled shot at how post-9/11 Western countries used people in uniform (both military and none) to try and counter the collapsing ratings caused by wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. You’d often see a group of people used as the latest face of the effort only to be dumped when awkward questions were asked. One of the most well-known examples is the case of 9/11 first responders and clean up workers being used for political capital only for politicians to then ignore their need for healthcare funding for years (the James Zadroga Act).
If there’s an issue with the episode it seems the last act is sort of lopped off entirely in parts, with Carter just magically ending up home with the help of her alternate ex Meredith (which is also a bit of a stretch) without any real explanation of just how she managed to get back there. Given how the episode went to lengths to try and explain how she arrived just going “it worked” seems a bit of a cheat. Though Dr Lee almost deafening himself by accident makes up for it somewhat.
Overall a grim look at an alternate reality, almost echoing the one shown to Daniel all the way back in season one. While it successfully creates a world and goes to lengths to explain it sympathetically it jumps the narrative in some points and is low on core characters that appear. Still it remains an interesting and largely well put together episode as we near the end of the show.
· Can’t help but think Lorne on SG-1 might be an admission maybe they got things wrong with the sudden recasting.
· Is that an upper-class version of the SG-1 theme I hear.
· Surprised Lee hasn’t quit by now.
Quote of the episode: “The General Hammond that I know is retired from service.”
“Well then he’s a lucky man.” – Carter and Hammond
The team are off-world on a planet that a Prior has visited and attempted to teach them of Origin but without any threats of subjugation, a notable change from the usual behaviour. The village leader allows the team to hide and observe when the Prior returns, with it being revealed that the Prior is none other than Daniel. With the help of the Odyssey the team prior-nap Daniel and have him restrained. Daniel however claims he’s not been brainwashed like the others and is still him, with his Prior-like appearance and powers being a temporary effect by Merlin (who’s mind and memories are still in his head).
Now in confinement Daniel/Merlin tells the team that their plan was to let Adria believe that he’d been “converted” to the true belief of Origin but instead used it as a ruse to allow them to build the Sangraal anti-Ascended weapon using her resources and then fly an Ori ship with the weapon through the Supergate, which he needs the team to reopen and dial to the Ori galaxy.
Still unsure of what to do the others report back to the SGC and O’Neill, with his friend and former commander somewhat against the idea. O’Neill however comes aboard the ship to talk to Daniel/Merlin himself which results in their usual sparring with Daniel believing he’s being let down by the others while O’Neill finds the whole two minds thing a bit hard to believe. While O’Neill is swayed towards helping his friend the IOA under Woolsey steps in and want to “terminate” Daniel due to their previous issues with Ascended beings and letting them stay alive, though they’re able to talk him down to just putting him in Stasis, and instead use Daniel’s intel to simply have SG-1 do the mission instead.
Woolsey decides to at least have the decency to tell Daniel in person about what they’re going to do with him and beams aboard the Odyssey. Unfortunately for him and the crew Daniel has had the time to overcome the anti-Prior device and takes control of the ship, beaming out Woolsey and the crew while bringing on board SG-1 and O’Neill to complete the mission.
While O’Neill and Daniel stay on the Odyssey the rest of SG-1 travels to the Ori ship with the Sangraal on board and finish building the device, which Daniel had been unable to finish due to Adria. Arriving at the Supergate they find another Ori ship waiting and that Adria and some of her troops have arrived on board theirs. The Odyssey soon arrives which is now cloaked thanks to Daniel, allowing him to go across to the Ori ship and take out Adria temporarily. With all the pieces in play O’Neill orders the Daedalus to destroy the Stargate in Pegasus that’s blocking the Supergate thereby allowing Daniel to dial the Supergate to the Ori galaxy and deliver the Sangraal weapon.
Sometime later Daniel is recovering inside Odyssey’s infirmary and the team are wondering if the plan worked. The group head up to the bridge to watch as Ori reinforcements pour through the Supergate but still have no way of knowing whether the Ori themselves are gone.
What to make of the episode, I really don’t know. In many cases I really do like it but as an episode I also find it to be confusing and distracting with how it’s been put together as a product. It seems clear to me that this is one that was meant to be longer than an episode but has been crushed together given the end of the series and the lovable mess is what resulted.
Let’s start with some of the better aspects, the chief of which was the return of O’Neill and Daniel banter. The relationship between the two as they verbally spar was always one of the best parts of the earlier show and I didn’t realise how much I missed it until it returned this episode. Few manage to grate each other on the show like these two friends, with Daniel’s complex situations and instructions annoying O’Neill while O’Neill’s stubbornness drives Daniel up the wall and both aspects show themselves here. What we also see is the mutual respect and deep friendship as they just make stupid comment to each other while waiting for the others to complete the plan. It’s a shame this is the last time we’ll see this on the show but like with so many things we’re hitting final appearance time on the show.
Woolsey was also one of the positives of the episode, again adding a little bit to the character. It’s not secret his and Daniel’s relationship didn’t get off to the best start given the issues with Khalek last season but there’s still a respect there that we see multiple times. While his IOA mandated task was to kill Daniel he quickly gets the lesser option as the new objective as soon as the SGC suggests it and he does take the time to be honest to Daniel’s face about what he wanted to do when he could’ve easily let some lackey do it for him. Of course this doesn’t go to plan for him but it’s a nice touch that he took that risk and says a lot about him.
Now some of the bad stuff and the real big one has to be Adria. For the supposed great leader of the Ori she doesn’t half do bugger all. While we knew the sex appeal was an aspect of her as a figurehead of the Crusade it did come across slightly sexist with how she turns people into Priors with the whole “romance” and where the gem in her necklace hangs. She also doesn’t get to do much anyway this episode, easily defeated by Daniel after around 15 seconds of screentime. Again I can only put this down to the lack of time remaining for the show to get where it needed to go this season and that’s why her stuff felt so squashed.
That “squashing” of the episode is the final issue with the episode. To put it bluntly there are too many scenes in the episode with needless scenes that take place at the SGC rather than on the Odyssey and splitting everyone up time and time again just means wasting time that could’ve been used to better effect in a more streamlined piece. While this doesn’t horribly damage it the overall work remains this, a relatively good episode due to characterisation that sadly suffers from pacing issues plotwise.
· That Prior makeup on Daniel ain’t good.
· Oh look, Adria appeared for all of 15 seconds.
Quote of the episode: “Yep, just like old times. Except I’m here against my will and you look like Marcel Marceau.”
“Yeah you know, some things change but others stay the same.” – O’Neill and Daniel