Well here we are, after 35 recaps we arrive at what many would call the best episode of Stargate SG-1, Window of Opportunity. Also we have Divide and Conquer as well.
We start with SG teams 1 & 14 off-world at the Tok’ra outpost trying to finalise the timing of a meeting between the Tok’ra Supreme High Councillor and President of the United States so that the Tok’ra-Tau’ri Alliance can be formalised. Upon entry of the Tok’ra Supreme High Councillor Per’sus the leader of SG-14 starts attacking the Tok’ra with an unknown weapon, killing several of Per’sus’ guard, before unwillingly turning it on himself. In the aftermath Anise reveals (while in her most revealing outfit yet) that SG-14s leader may have been a ‘Za’tarc’, a person who has come under Goa’uld influence to act as a sleeper agent without knowing it and becoming incredibly violent when triggered before killing themselves.
Fearing that the President is likely the next target to be attacked Martouf and Anise are sent to the SGC, where they’ll use an experimental device which can detect the false memories that are used by the Goa’uld to cover up the Za’tarc programming. According to Martouf while useful the device is flawed, only revealing if what they’re saying is true or not rather than why and can give false positives if memories are recalled out of order by the subject. The testing quickly gets results however, revealing that at least one other member of SG-14, Lt. Astor, has been compromised by the Goa’uld. With the choice of either most likely being removed from the SGC or taking an experimental procedure to remove the programming Astor chooses the latter option. This goes badly however as the programming activates, with Astor attempting to kill General Hammond who is watching from the observation room with an M9 before turning the pistol on herself when she realises that she’s cornered.
Despite the now fatal consequences of the testing the SGC have little option but to continue if they want to stop another assassination attempt, with SG-1 the next team to be tested. Anise questions them on the events of their adhoc mission during the episode Upgrades, when they were under the effects of alien armbands. Despite clearing Teal’c and Daniel for duty the Za’tarc detector finds that both O’Neill and Carter are compromised. With all other SGC personnel cleared for active duty the summit proceeds to go ahead as planned, with the base turning to the question of what to do with O’Neill and Carter. Both Martouf and Daniel go to Carter and O’Neill respectively to request they try the removal procedure, fearing that the two may kill themselves if the programming realise they can’t fulfil their mission.
The day of the summit arrives with O’Neill agreeing to the treatment rather than be sedated, believing that even failure would allow a better chance to help Carter. While being sedated Carter however starts muttering what she said during the Upgrades mission, with Fraiser realising that the two of them were hiding their feelings for each other which caused the machine to read them as false memories. O’Neill’s closed room retest, where he admits he cares about Carter more than would be allowed under military policy, confirms that he isn’t a Za’tarc. While they’re initially happy at being confirmed as themselves they realise one person who has been in Goa’uld custody hasn’t been tested, their longtime friend and comrade Martouf. In the Gateroom Daniel tries to remove Martouf silently but his programming activates. While the team initially try to render him safe Carter has no choice but to Zat him a second time, killing him. Despite the issues of the day the summit is finally able to go ahead as planned, leading to the signing of the treaty.
Divide and Conquer is quite an interesting episode and a good break from the previous two middling ones. Once again the Tok’ra form a big part of the episode, this time with the final realisation of the informal alliance between the two groups since season 2, and are back to their usual selves as opposed to the strange depiction we had in the previous two episodes.
In terms of the story for the episode the basis is formed by the bread and butter of the show, Goa’uld meddling, but puts a spin on it in that what we may have seen only two episodes ago may have been faked by the Goa’uld to cover up O’Neill and Carter being captured by the enemy. This could’ve been a good long con to play on the show so it’s a shame that they didn’t go through with it, having the explanation instead be the hiding of O’Neill and Carter’s feelings for each other. Despite this the misdirection in the plot is still a good one, with the real threat of Martouf being in plain sight throughout the episode, only to be revealed at the last moment. The killing of Martouf was still a shame however as he was one of the most well-known off-world allies the team had and the human face of the Tok’ra, alongside Bra’tac for the Jaffa and Narim for the Tollan, and the show never really gets round to replacing him in this position.
Once again the only real weakness of the episode is Anise. Once again only there as unnecessary titillation her character is further rendered unbelievable by becoming an expert in yet another field overnight, just so happening to also know all about Za’tarcs and the only person who knows how to deal with them. While it’s normal for the show to have characters become experts in fields quite quickly or merge them (such as every scientist also being a Computer Scientist despite them being two very different fields) the amount of things this character knows in only three episodes is hard for even fans of the show to accept.
Overall the episode is a fairly good one that has an interesting, if largely unused, idea that maybe what we thought we did wasn’t true and is only lightly letdown by the continued buy thankfully final appearance of a character only there for ratings.
· The fact that Fraiser now knows about the O’Neill/Carter thing can’t help but make me think this is where the increasing role of Fraiser as Carter’s best female friend may have started.
· Anise is the Tok’ra who keeps reappearing but having one person stay head of the High Council for more than one story is too much trouble. I think this is the third leader of the Tok’ra we’ve seen now.
Quote of the episode: “I think these are the Jack O’Neill moments I would probably miss the most.” – Daniel after O’Neill starts talking about who Anise fancies.
The team are off-world on another mission, this time preparing scientific instruments to measure the readings the sun is putting out during a solar storm. Daniel however is taking an interest in the nearby ruins alongside another man they met at the site, who repeatedly hints that it’s time to leave before stunning Daniel unconscious and activating a nearby table. The team, growing suspicious at Daniel’s lack of communication go to investigate as the Stargate, both on the planet and the one at the SGC, begins to act weirdly. Both Teal’c and O’Neill struggle with the man before being effected by the beams of energy, with O’Neill finding himself suddenly back in the SGC Mess during breakfast with Daniel and Carter. While O’Neill questions what just happened the others don’t seem to have any recollection of what happened. At the morning’s briefing both O’Neill and Teal’c believe they have already been on the mission, being able to recall the morning’s events before they happen, while the others don’t have a recollection of the events. While the team initially believe the events to be one off an unexpected activation later in the day causes O’Neill and Teal’c to reset to that morning again.
On the following reset while the events largely occur the same this time O’Neill and Teal’c are able to convince Hammond to let them go back to the planet to confront the man. While he initially feigns ignorance he calls Carter by her name despite never having met her, proving that he’s also remembering the resetting along with the others but the loop happens again despite the attempts to stop him. On this following loop Carter tries to prevent the effect by dialling out first but this ends up having no effect. Giving the inability to simply avoid the loop O’Neill and Teal’c are forced to slowly learn Ancient to decipher the drawings on the table in the ruins.
During the following series of loops both are slowly driven insane by the endless boredom of having to learn the language and also suffer the earlier parts of the day, such as the briefing and infirmary and in the case of Teal’c getting hit in the face by a door at the start of every loop. O’Neill finally breaks and claims he’s taking ‘the loop off’ and drawing faces on plates in the Mess. During one loop Daniel states they should be enjoying the experience as they can do things without any consequences, leading the two trapped members to start taking part in increasingly bizarre shenanigans including riding through the base on bikes and golfing through the Stargate itself, ending with one loop where O’Neill hands in his resignation and kisses Carter, which she reciprocates, as Hammond looks on confused.
Eventually the two of them are able to complete the translation, which reveals that the machine is a byproduct of a failed timetravel experiment the Ancients conducted to avoid an unknown cataclysm but they couldn’t get it to work, eventually just giving up and letting the end come. After travelling to the planet one last time the team encounter the strange man once again, who reveals that the reason he’s been using the machine is an attempt to go back in time so he can see his now dead wife. O’Neill however is able to get through to him, sharing his desire, knowing that even if he was able to get the machine working it would be a nightmare rather than a blessing to watch their loved one die again, convincing him to shut down the machine. On return to the SGC O’Neill celebrates with a bowl of Oatmeal, relishing the change from fruitloops, while Daniel enquires if he did anything he wanted during the loops, with O’Neill only looking at Carter in response.
Window of Opportunity is often stated as the best episode the show ever did and it’s not that hard to see why. It has a fun plot that ends with a serious message, role reversal for the main cast, and is filled with many memorable scenes and lines that are often quoted.
The plot itself is a fairly simple one, Teal’c and O’Neill get trapped in a time-loop and have to end it, but the way they expand this simple setup is brilliant. Not only are Teal’c and O’Neill, usually known for not being the most academically gifted, forced to learn and entire language to translate a series of tablets but are forced to do so for an unknown period of time. This leads the two of them to indulge in increasing off-colour behaviour as the loops increase just to stop themselves going mad such as learning new hobbies and taking advantage of the lack of consequences. The increasingly bizarre scenes, such as the famous golfing sequence, are made even more so by how the concept is played out, with Teal’c and O’Neill both dressed in outfits for the green while partaking in the activity.
This increasing lunacy helps make the ending of the episode, where it’s revealed that the man who seemed like he wanted to control time simply wanted to be back with his wife, even more poignant with O’Neill being able to relate to what he’s going through after what happened with his son.
While much of the episode would seem bad on paper it’s the performances of the cast that really sell the episode. Richard Dean Anderson and Christopher Judge are both able to sell the increasing insanity of their characters, with O’Neill becoming more unhinged and Teal’c acting out physically against personnel who annoy him, while the other main cast members are able to pull off the required ‘straight man’ performances needed to contrast the two.
Window of Opportunity in the end is a first-class episode and a great example of the show at its best with it indulging in the stupidity of the scenario and light-hearted Sci-Fi in general and adding the right amount of fanservice while also ending on a brilliant moral that makes the perceived villain relatable to almost anyone in retrospect.
· I do enjoy how O’Neill keeps deliberately letting Daniel get knocked down by Silar and taking amusement in it. He never did entirely lose that anti-geek streak he has.
· Teal’c getting to say ‘I told you so’ is a rarity indeed.
· I do love the ‘bad example’ running joke throughout the episode, with O’Neill unable to put together a decent argument.
Quote of the episode: “Colonel O’Neill, what the hell are you doing?” “In the middle of my back swing!” – Hammond and O’Neill during the golfing segment.