Two great episodes today that even now are standard episodes of Stargate SG-1 at its best.
A Matter of Time
The episode begins with a Black Hole forming near to a desert planet that is currently being explored by an SG team. The team make a run for the Gate but are already being effected by the extreme gravity of the Black Hole, with time slowing down and consequently their actions. At the SGC O’Neill and Carter are having a discussion about the semantics of why they’re called wormholes and if they’re always there, with O’Neill quickly becoming confused but saved from further discussion by the incoming team, identified as SG-10, send a GDO signal but the team never appear before the Gate shuts down. Hammond places SG-1 and SG-3 on standby for rescue but first decides to send a MALP through the Gate but upon arrival the MALP only sends back a red screen which Carter deduces as red-shifting due to time slowing down in the same way the GDO code was initially unrecognisable. Despite the slowness of the commands they are able to pan the MALP camera up to reveal the Black Hole that is causing the problems. Given the nature of the threat and the effects they decide they can’t help the team but also don’t want to witness their deaths so try to shutdown the Gate but are unable to.
Outside the base a special forces team has arrived as the SGC has been out of contact for 4 hours and the last contact saw the SGC suffer effects of time dilation, with the team preparing to rope in via an emergency entrance. In the SGC itself Hammond is unable to contact those outside and Hammond goes up to NORAD above them to contact the President. Given that they can’t manually disconnect the Gate O’Neill and Siler instead try turning off the power directly at the breakers which causes an overload both in the breaker room and the Gate capacitors but the Gate itself remains connected as it’s being powered from the other end. The Gate itself is also behaving strangely, with a strudel like effect on the surface, which is the gravity of the Black Hole leeching through, causing it to attract Carter’s dog tags when held near the surface.
Hammond finally makes his way to the main level of the base where he is greeted by armed troops and Major Davis representing the Joint Chiefs. He reveals that he was sent due to the communications blackout and is there to bring him to the President. Despite it being only 10 minutes to Hammond since the Gate started acting strangely it is already late at night outside the base.
Down below the special forces team finally breaches into the SGC, running into Fraiser, who leads them to the others where O’Neill recognises the leader of the team as Frank Cromwell. After bringing him to the control room it becomes clear just how badly the situation is, with an airman near the Gate now also speaking slower despite being only around 30 feet away. Carter, knowing she has a better chance to fix the problem outside where she’d have more time to work out the solution. Hammond returns after an 18 hour visit to Washington D.C and back and informs them that the Pentagon’s plan is to destroy the Gate with an autodestruct, with O’Neill and Cromwell staying behind for 5 minutes while everyone else evacs.
When Hammond and Carter make it to the surface it’s been 22 hours since he made it back to the base and that the 5 minutes O’Neill is waiting out will be 6 hours on the surface. Carter, with nothing else to do decides to make use of the time they have to work out another solution while Hammond, much like O’Neil, finally has enough of trying to understand time dilation. Several hours later Carter is close to giving up but Hammond, while talking about restarting the program with the second Gate, gives her the idea of creating an energy spike to forcibly make the Gate connection jump to another Gate, much like the events of Solitudes.
In the control room O’Neill and Cromwell prepare to start the autodestruct but unfinished business comes out, with Cromwell having abandoned O’Neill for dead in the Gulf War that saw O’Neill taken prisoner for several months to suffer at the hands of the Iraqis. Their argument is stopped however when the control room window finally gives way under the strain and smashes towards the Gate, along with the arrival of Carter. The two of them, being the most qualified, are the ones to transport the bomb (with it having been several additional days already) to the Gate via rope (as the gravity now has effectively rotated the room by 90 degrees along the Z axis) with them quickly feeling the effects of the extreme G forces. The effect however grows, with more of the control room windows breaking but also the Iris finally giving way under the extreme pull. Cromwell’s rope, having gotten glass caught in the climbing gear, snaps with him managing to grab onto O’Neill but chooses to let go knowing the combined weight would never hold. Short on time O’Neill manages to arm the bomb and pulls himself clear of the blast with help from the others.
An unknown amount of time later O’Neill wakes in the infirmary where Gate operations have restarted with Daniel having returned from off-world, with them revealing their combined time since the Gate connected has been two weeks.
This really is the classic SG-1 episode done in style; finding a science based gimmick and basing an episode around it. Here of course the idea is centred around the effects of time dilation, a topic that would get used repeatedly on the show, and they use it to great effect. Not only does it create the problems we see in the episode but it also provides the solution for the team as while events inside the bubble will eventually cause the Earth to get pulled through the active Gate the immense slowdown it causes means those outside the bubble get a millennia to try and find the solution to events, with Carter once again saving the day after unexpected inspiration from the General.
In terms of the passage of time I do like how they don’t do it via ticking clock or similar but instead have little off the cuff remarks by characters, largely Hammond in a half confused matter which eventually has him getting fed up with trying to understand what is going on. They also use the remarks to convey how the time dilation effect is getting worse with the time skips steadily increasing but also the outside reaction getting lower and lower with the initial 4 hour blackout getting a special forces dispatch but by the end when several days go by everyone acts perfectly normal by comparison.
In terms of the characters the main focus here is O’Neill and more insight into his previous military career as, adding to his previous missions gone wrong, we find out that he was captured by the Iraqis during the Gulf War and is resentful towards those who left him behind, which might go some way to explain his noticeable antagonism to military higher ups and those who refuse to share details with him. This comes to a head with Cromwell, an officer who served with him in Iraq and feels partially responsible for his fate, giving his life when one of their ropes break.
Overall this is a stellar example of the show at its best with a great one-shot plot that put to rest some of the more kooky elements of the show for a week and instead played a nice twist on the threat and as a result it remains a standout episode to this day.
· I do find it odd we never see the team rescue SG-10 and possibly Cromwell in the show, with it being relegated to the books only.
· The fact that the SGC happens to have a second exit that looks like a toolshed was something I always found laughable.
Quote of the episode: “I feel like I put on a couple hundred pounds.” “I wasn’t going to say anything.” – Cromwell and O’Neill.
The Fifth Race
We begin in the briefing room with Daniel telling the others that he’s found a planet that has writing that matched one of the languages found in the Alliance meeting place in The Torment of Tantalus. They arrive on the planet to find themselves in a box like room they can’t leave via anyway except the Gate and is featureless. O’Neill, ever the cynic, walks over the writing on the floor as he heads to dial the Gate back to Earth, triggering an object to appear on the wall. While Teal’c first looks it doesn’t react to his presence but upon O’Neill’s inspection it grows and attaches itself to his head, forcing him to gaze into a bright light of unknown purpose, leaving him out cold upon releasing him.
The team return to the SGC where Fraiser gives him a clean bill of health upon examination. At the subsequent briefing O’Neill begins acting strangely, drawing strange objects on his notepad and wanting to rush the meeting, and when questioned starts using bizarre words, such as saying ‘cruvus’ rather than ‘wrong’ when saying he’s fine. This odd word usage continues later while boxing with Teal’c, leading him to ask Daniel for help but Daniel is rather intrigued not only by the words similarity to Latin but also his ability to read the language written on the floor.
In discussion later with Fraiser they explain his new abilities using the old brain capacity myth and decide to find him to study him, with Carter finding him extracting the power core from Teal’c’s Staff weapon. While Carter and Fraiser are explaining the situation to Hammond they are disturbed by Teal’c who summons them to the control room where they find O’Neill typing random code into the computer and not knowing why which is revealed to be completely new Gate addresses that the Goa’uld didn’t place on the Cartouche on Abydos.
Daniel and O’Neill return to Daniel’s office to try and work out what is wrong where they are later joined by Carter. By Carter’s arrival O’Neill has completely lost the ability to speak English but that they believe the race in question are the ones who first taught humans on Earth basic knowledge and civilisation, known to the Romans as the Ancients. Given this turn of events Hammond gives the go ahead for a mission comprised of Teal’c, Carter, and other SG members to try and find more information about the Ancients on one of the new planets while O’Neill and Daniel try to work out more from the information in O’Neill’s head. The mission with SG-1 however goes badly, with the planet they went to being a desert wasteland with two suns and a broken DHD, with a manual dial attempt not working either.
Elsewhere O’Neill has started building the device he was drawing earlier but both Fraiser and Daniel not understanding what he’s doing. Given no other option though Daniel recruits him into trying to fix the SG-1 issue, with O’Neill managing to tell the two of them to go away while he works. O’Neill manages to come up with an item that should fix the issue and they send it through, with it managing to fix the DHD and bring back a half-baked SG-1 but even with Carter and Teal’c they’re unable to work out what O’Neill’s earlier device is. Carter is called away however as the Gate isn’t functioning correctly, with it refusing to dial out but also demand more energy. At the lab simultaneously O’Neill finally seems to work out what to do with the device and attaches it to the main breaker box, revealing it to be a crude energy source.
Up in the control room the Gate starts to dial itself to an unknown location, however this location is an eight-chevron address which they’ve never heard of before that successfully dials out to another galaxy. Despite caution from Hammond O’Neill, under the influence of the device still and without a GDO to call back, heads through the Gate, burning out the device in the process. On the other end he finds himself in a building that is populated with Asgard, clearly confused by the presence of a human but are able to help him by removing the Ancient knowledge from his head. After helping him the Asgard explain that the Alliance was made up of the Asgard, Ancients, Nox, and the Furlings and were the leaders of the galaxy long ago. Despite talking that the Tau’ri aren’t ready for the knowledge of the four Great Races they are on the way to becoming the fifth. The Asgard send him back to Earth where he says that, in an unusual display of optimism, they’re going to be okay with ‘the meaning of life stuff’.
And here we are with the Ancients, the race that built the Stargates finally getting introduced into the show and they’d go on to dominate the story going forward, with the ‘meaning of life stuff’ going on to become the main focus of the SGC, superseding the previously military technology focus. It also mention the Furlings, a race we’ll never see but will haunt the creators the entire run as fans kept demanding if we’d ever see them despite only being mentioned once in the entire show.
The show also unknowingly lays the future foundation for Stargate: Atlantis with the possibility of dialling to other galaxies via the eighth chevron meaning that there are Stargates outside the Milky Way to travel to while the new addresses inside the Milky Way provide more room to have non-Goa’uld based storylines and the eventual contact with races who haven’t been harassed by them.
In terms of characters O’Neill is once again at the forefront but this time he’s the scientific genius while Carter and the other SGC scientists are left behind and are unable to understand what he’s doing. Also for the latter 2/3s of the episode he’s forced to communicate via a serious of shrugs and head or hand waving due to his inability to be witty or mouthy.
Overall a good episode that puts characters out of their depth and unknowingly sets the tone for the entire future direction of the show at the same time.
· Talking about Atlantis I do find it amusing how much of that show was dominated by the race to get Ancient power devices while O’Neill built one out of a Staff weapon back in season 2.
· I never quite got why O’Neill of all sporting activities to try with Teal’c thought that punching each other was ever going to work well for him.
Quote of the episode: “There was once an alliance of four great races in the galaxy. The Asgard, the Nox” “Met them.” “The Furlings.” “Don’t know them.” – Asgard and O’Neill