Another two episodes tonight with the first about a young group of recruits and the second seeing the Russians, NID, and Goa’uld prove to be pains in the arse for the SGC.
We start with O’Neill and Teal’c leading a young group of SG personnel, including former cadet now Lt. Hailey from Prodigy, on Earth to hunt down a Goa’uld who has captured Carter and Daniel at a warehouse. The two SG-1 members go in first but request backup from the others to find that Carter and Daniel are in a standoff with each other both claiming the other is the Goa’uld. One of the recruits, Lt. Grogan, shoots Carter but all are promptly killed by Daniel, with the entire thing revealed as a training exercise for new recruits which they’ve failed. The leader of the recruits, Elliot, points out a flaw in the scenario as O’Neill and Teal’c wouldn’t have been able to call for help if taken out, only to draw O’Neill’s ire for trying to pass off his failure.
Back at the SGC Carter tries to speak up in defence of the recruits as O’Neill puts them down and doesn’t have hopes for the exercise the next day. At the exercise O’Neill’s concerns are proven once again as the team fail in their objective with one of them being killed in the simulation. O’Neill’s following bollocking is cut short however when they’re interrupted by reports of a ‘foothold situation at the SGC’ with an unknown Air Force team arriving who attempt to take out O’Neill. O’Neill decides to head back to the SGC, taking the recruits as his only support.
Making their way back to the Mountain they breach via an emergency exit and observe Teal’c ordering troops under the command of Daniel, who has seized control of the base, with them attempting to locate and kill Carter. The team of recruits manage to take control of one of the labs and observe via the cameras that the Gate is active and Daniel appears to be under the control of an alien device. The recruits move out to search for answers, leaving the wounded O’Neill locked in the lab until they clear the base. The recruits split up with Grogan and Satterfield, another recruit, heading to Daniel’s lab while Elliot and Hailey attempt to shut down the Gate. While they attempt to only use their training weapons, repurposed Imtars, Hailey is forced to use her M9 to kill an Airman in the corridors of the base. O’Neill however, after receiving a phone call, suddenly requests Elliot and Hailey withdraw from the Gate Room.
Back in the lab they confirm that the Goa’uld device is using nanomachines to control the base personnel. The team decide to attack the briefing room which would allow them to also shutdown the Gate. After they leave however O’Neill sends a mysterious phonecall to persons unknown telling them that the team are ‘on their way’. The team run into Carter in the corridors of the base and return to the lab to find O’Neill freeing an airman with the team deciding to stun both of them. The recruits head out once again, with Carter staying to guard the unconscious O’Neill and Airman. When they leave however Carter revives O’Neill, revealing that the whole thing is a giant training exercise to test new recruits in an authentic situation, with Hammond and others betting on the outcomes.
Still in the dark to it being a training scenario (though O’Neill believes Elliot may be suspicious) the recruits attempt their assault on the briefing room, successfully taking out all defenders with Grogan once again getting zatted. The team plant C4 on the device and wait for it to go off, only to be surprised by Hammond and the rest of SG-1 in the briefing room who reveal the true nature of the exercise. Hailey however has gone missing, attempting to shut down the Gate, and the staff and recruits attempts to evacuate the base but Elliot steals a keycard to rescue Hailey from the gateroom. This is revealed to be yet another training exercise to test Elliot as a leader of an SG team. The day ends with all of the recruits approved, with Elliot being given priority access to a free spot on one of the existing teams, and the alarms once again going off.
There we have the second part of the ‘next generation’ arc after Prodigy last season and that’s it. No more tales of training up new recruits which, given this episode, is a shame really as it allowed the show to explore ground it never went anywhere near otherwise.
One of the most interesting things about the episode is that it’s practically unique in the franchise as it’s the only episode that shows regularly duties on the base. While other episodes show the extreme battles and dangers the team face this instead shows what is for them a fairly standard training scenario, with the SGC being used as an example of facing bizarre alien threats. The fact this is also left untold to the viewer for most of the episode adds to the tension and help us understand what the recruits are going through until we pull away to see it through the eyes of the more experienced officers who almost seem occasionally annoyed at the bizarre scenarios whoever sets these things up come up with.
One of the parts of the episode that adds the most to it is probably the writers decision to have parts of the scenario go wrong throughout, with hints of the real SGC making itself known such as SG-3 almost giving the jig up when they have to return in an emergency and O’Neill getting caught freeing an Airman from his restraints. This adds to the realism of the show’s world as it’d be strange if everything went to plan on a base at the doorstep to a largely hostile galaxy.
Overall Proving Ground is a fun little episode that uses the SGC set more than most episodes to show off what it’d be like for a new recruit trying to join the facility, with only the fact this is the only time we see this happen on the show being the episode’s only letdown.
· Wouldn’t have liked to be the guy filling in the health and safety forms for the training exercise.
· I enjoy how Daniel is always the villain in the scenarios, probably suggesting that O’Neill has some say in the handing out of roles in the exercise just so the archaeologist gets zatted a few times.
· I think this is the episode that begins the running gag of everyone wanting Hammond’s chair due to it being really comfortable.
Quote of the episode: “Looks like their leader is Dr. Jackson.”
“I always knew he wanted that office.” – Elliot and O’Neill
The episode starts with the team under attack off-world and heading to the Gate, bombarded by an Al’kesh piloted by Tanith. While the others make it through the Gate Teal’c shoots the ship’s cockpit with his makeshift staff cannon and retreats through the Gate moments before the Gate crashes into it. On the other end the rest of SG-1 and Hammond witness the Gate shutdown without Teal’c coming through. The SGC begins to dial out to return to the planet but they encounter an unknown error, which Carter believes may be related to Teal’c’s fate, and decide to abort the dialling sequence. Carter theorises that Teal’c is stuck inside the Gate’s buffer which wasn’t able to reintegrate the Jaffa and that any dialling in or out will clear the buffer, meaning they have to seal the Gate and fast.
The blocking of the Gate means that any teams off-world are now stranded, requiring that the Russians get involved to allow SG teams to make their way back to Earth. Hammond, knowing any dealings with the Russians needs diplomatic nuance, has Daniel sent to Moscow to oversee things along with Major Davis from the Pentagon. In Moscow they meet with the chief Russian liaison Colonel Chekov who voices concerns about the current agreement between the two nations as both sides have repeatedly flaunted the rules. Negotiations start to go badly however when the US requests to have a team sent off-world to obtain info on how to save Teal’c from their allies to which the Russians request something in return.
Meanwhile back at the SGC operations to rescue Teal’c are interrupted by the arrival of Colonel Simmons and an egotistical civilian scientist, Dr Rodney McKay, who are there to ‘assist’ with the recovery efforts and inform them that the SGC has only 48 hours to rescue the Jaffa before the Pentagon force standard operations back online. Off-base nearby O’Neill runs into Maybourne who he at first attempts to attack as he believes the former NID Officer was the one who shot him. Maybourne reveals he’s there to offer advice and to warn O’Neill about Simmons, who he had initially recruited into the NID in the first place.
Back in Russia SG-5 are sent off-world who return with information that the Tok’ra believe that using the DHD would allow reintegration but negotiations to use the Russian DHD has completely stalled, with the US refusing the demands of a Russian SG team and that all information and tech is shared with the Russians. Daniel instead asks Chekov what would allow them to buy the DHD outright from the Russians, with Chekov states is the naquadah generator technology. Davis however refuses to share it with them, due to fears of proliferation and nuclear weapons usage, but Daniel believes it’s a fair deal given how they already owe them the tech.
At the SGC Simmons attempts to get Hammond to give him a Goa’uld artefact in exchange for information to save Teal’c’s life, which Hammond refuses. O’Neill instead attempts to go through Maybourne, with the two of them teaming up to find just where Simmons is keeping the Goa’uld he has, finding that Simmons has logged a flight to a remote NID safehouse before heading to the SGC. The two of them assault the safehouse, taking out the rogue NID security and interrogating the Goa’uld for information but it refuses to give them answers. Instead the two grab security tapes of him giving the info to Simmons.
Back on base despite the looming deadline Carter and McKay are making no progress, largely due to the fact McKay refuses to accept anyone as smarter than himself. The working relationship gets worse and worse until he lets slip that he came up with the 48 hour limit the Pentagon are using and that he doesn’t care about Teal’c, only being proven right.
In Moscow Chekov finally agrees to the exchange and agrees to come with them to witness the use of the DHD. However the deadline is about to pass, with Hammond willing to resign if it gave them enough time to stop the Gate activating. However moments before the Gate dials O’Neill checks in stating he has proof of Simmons’ rogue operations, making him guilty of treason. While Simmons is arrested McKay gets a punishment assignment of being sent to Russia to keep an eye on their naquadah generator technology.
Finally Colonel Chekov and the DHD arrives from Moscow to help save Teal’c, which is successful at the cost of the DHD which is destroyed in the process. Teal’c returns with no awareness of the last couple of days, only stating that he’s had his revenge and refuses to believe a Goa’uld had anything to do with his saving.
And here with have yet another display of Earth-based politics, with Russia and the US arguing once again over their treaty regarding the Stargate and this time things aren’t so hunky dory between the two former opponents.
One of my favourite bits of the episode has to be Maybourne once again showing his face to have another adventure with O’Neill. Their double act is one of my favourite things on the show with how they barely manage to get along at times but still seem to enjoy each other’s company. Their interactions this time are bolstered by one of my favourite exchanges of the show, with O’Neill having a public tirade with the former spook having believed he’d shot him, but Maybourne once again proves himself as a capable ally of the team using his skills to hack the NID database and rescue Teal’c.
The episode also introduces Dr Rodney Mckay, who would go on to become one of the most liked faces of the franchise, in an episode that has caused many arguments over his behaviour, which some have labelled as sexist. While I could understand why people would see it this way he’s more just an egotistical prick who can’t stand to be argued as wrong, with it coming across as sexist as the only character he really interacts with is Carter who he at one point labels a ‘dumb blonde’ to insult her intelligence. Thankfully however e’s portrayed as less of a piece of shit in later episodes.
Overall however the episode is a good one largely boosted by good subplots involving Daniel in Russia forced to face the reality of US-Russian relations and another with O’Neill and Maybourne hunting down a rogue NID agent and Goa’uld. Despite being weighed down slightly by a few phrases used by certain characters it largely portrays them well, with sense winning in the end.
· McKay will make a habit out of being sent to dark cold hellholes.
Quote of the episode: “Hi, Jack.”
“You rat bastard!”
“Hey hey, take it easy!”
“I’m so gonna kick your ass!”
“There’s people watching.”
“I don’t care!”
“It wasn’t me. I didn’t shoot you, Jack.”
“I trusted you!”
“Come on, would I come back here like this if I’d done it?”
“You might!” – Maybourne and O’Neill