Tonight the team deal with ravenous bugs and the end of some crappy stereotypes.
At the SGC the team are getting ready for an exploration of yet more ruins to help in the fight with the Ori, who’ve been very quiet as of late. Instead however their mission has been scrubbed as they’re instead forced to go on a PR mission with a group of representatives from the International Oversight Advisory instead, the destination being the “Gamma Site”, an offworld station for research that may be dangerous on Earth. The group they’re to look after comprises of representatives of the People’s Republic of China (who are growing tired at the NATO bias), France, and the United Kingdom along with the SGC based IOA rep Richard Woolsey.
Arriving at the Gamma site the team of Reps are shown a variety of studies that are currently ongoing including the R75, an Ori-linked bug that eats plants to cause starvation of planets. Shortly after the tour group leaves the labs R75 switches suddenly from being herbivores to carnivores, which also causes a rapid population growth previously unseen. In only a matter of minutes they grow beyond the size of the containment chamber and are flushed via a biohazard chamber but not before one of the scientists is bitten on the arm. Soon after the scientist falls ill, causing his attempted medical evacuation. Before they can bring him through the base’s Stargate however he suddenly starts expelling thousands of R-75 bugs from his body, forcing an evacuation of the delegation as they lose control of the gateroom.
Outside the base the group, joined by two base staff, soon find that efforts to control the outbreak at the Gamma site have failed when a swarm emerge from the ground and consume one of the two airmen. The remains of the group fall back to nearby caves and manage to drive the swarm away with gunfire though this admittedly leaves them trapped. It turns out however the other airman has one of the bugs crawling around under his skin.
Meanwhile the SGC, concerned about the lack of communications, open the Gate to find the bugs waiting on the otherside and no signs of the base staff anywhere. Given the seeming loss of the site Landry orders the activation of “CR-91”, the failsafe plan to gas any base or location lost to enemy forces.
By morning the airman has disappeared forcing SG-1 to go searching for him, only finding his corpse just as it turns into another swarm of bugs. Mitchell and Teal’c decide to go back to the Gamma Site to requisition the base’s F-302s to use as lifeboats for the group and get them off the planet, only to find that the base’s self-destruct was activated. In the cave however the bad news is compounded for Carter as she has to deal with the IOA group already trying to assign blame for things going wrong, with no help from anyone else likely on the way. Given the situation the group decide to make for the research station in the hills, hoping that their transmitter will be powerful enough to alert the Odyssey there are survivors who need rescue.
By the time they reach the outpost the bugs are almost right behind them, leaving them with little time left before they’re overrun completely. Just as they finally run out of ammunition completely the Odyssey arrives, beaming them up before gassing the site. Back at the SGC Woolsey helps reduce the IOA reaction to little more than a slap on the wrist in the aftermath of the incident. The team decide to have their movie night, with Mitchell choosing to watch Starship Troopers.
And here we have the return of the IOA, because what everyone missed on the show was out of control bureaucrats with SG-1 reduced to tour reps from your holiday but more heavily armed.
Up until this point the IOA have been occasionally heard about around the periphery but haven’t really been seen in person that often. Now you see front and centre many of the tensions that have been building in the organisation and the politics going on within it. The main one on display here is the role of the Chinese within the organisation, who are growing to feel the same way as the Russians felt during the earlier days of the program where promised tech was never provided and are now attempting to use the organisation to shift the SGC to Chinese oversight if possible. It’s quite interesting to see history repeat itself as even now the US is still refusing to keep up its end of the bargain, keeping a more realistic edge to the whole “planet coming together” scenario that usually gets played out.
Along with this however we see Woolsey return and the show is continuing the transition of the character from simple supervisor to a more rounded character everyone can get to know and like. Throughout the episode he moves along this scale with ease, early on very focused on getting a good review from the IOA delegation and losing his nerve when the team are unable to provide answers to his questions. Later on however he actively gets tired of the IOA as well, getting the French delegate to stop getting in everyone else’s way, and actively helps the SGC get off without any punishment for the incident with his intimate knowledge of the IOA while also making the SGC aware much of the negativity towards them is only for show.
The episode also displays the drastic expansion of the SGC in the wake of the Goa’uld defeat and the likely reason why the budget was such a contentious issue at the start of the season. Until now the SGC has always had an Alpha Site as a last-resort evac point but the increase in sites now shows just how far they’ve come, handling a lot of what was Area 51 based issues off-world entirely to allow more risky research to take place without risking the homeworld. It really shows the Tau’ri have come to dominate the Milky Way in a way not seen before.
It’s a shame for such a mythology expanding episode that the main threat is just so crap though. It’s very clear they had to cut corners in the episode to cheapen the budget, with very limited shows throughout that saw the team just firing at the floor with nothing there as the main foe. In seasons 9 and 10 you really do see VFX cuts being made and this is one of the most obvious examples.
Overall the episode is a great one in terms of building up the world of the show post Goa’uld threat but is somewhat reduced in quality by cost cuts relating to the main threat.
· What is it with Daniel and women?
· Surprised they didn’t just leave the French guy behind as acceptable losses.
Quote of the episode: “But stay alert. You’ll hear the bugs coming but tree ferrets give no warning.”
“Yeah, nasty buggers. Swoop down and separate a man’s head from his torso before you can blink.” – Mitchell and Frenchie
Carter is busy working on a strange device found in Glastonbury among the other Ancient artefacts there, boring Mitchell in the process. Suddenly she’s able to figure out how to get it to work, rendering both of them “out of phase” (like Daniel in Crystal Skull) and for information to suddenly appear holographically beamed out by the device. Despite attempting to talk to Daniel even he can’t see them, leaving them stranded on their own.
Unfortunately for the two of them the SGC receive word from the Sodan that appears to sound like an attack of some kind, leading Teal’c and another SG team to go to find out what had happened, finding the Sodan settlement in ruins and almost all of the Sodan dead with the only survivor being their leader Haikon who tells them that Volnek, the wanker who injured Mitchell, did it. Part of the team heads back to the Sodan Obelisk to get help but are cut down by Volnek, using a Sodan cloak, who then also sabotages the Obelisk preventing the team from getting back to the Gate.
Meanwhile the SGC finally notices the disappearance of Mitchell and Carter and try to find out what happened, pulling up footage that they disappeared while working on the Ancient artefact. Dr Lee however initially concludes however that they must’ve been made miniature and begins searching the lab little by little. Lee eventually realises his plan is stupid and begins working with Daniel on a new one which Daniel realises could be similar to the Crystal Skull incident. Thankfully this allows them to form a basic form of communication when it turns out the device allows those out of phase to still interact with it, allowing those not there to see the keystrokes.
At the Sodan settlement Teal’c decides to go after Volnek, knowing that waiting for an extraction could take too long and the killer could come back at anytime. After hunting him down in the forest Teal’c finds that Volnek is no longer himself, looking more animalistic, and is able to shake off normally mortal wounds. After returning to the ruins of the settlement to recover Haikon tells Teal’c that it was a Prior that sent Volnek insane. When the SGC send the extraction team it turns out that Mitchell has decided to come with them and the Sodan cloak allows him to be seen by both Teal’c and Volnek but not injured. Given the situation Mitchell decides to be the bait for the trap to deal with Volnek.
Back in the lab Dr Lee thinks he’s worked out a way to reverse the phase shifting, only to find he’s now accidently caused Daniel to join Carter out of phase. Thankfully this does allow Daniel to quickly translate the writings on the interface which reveal that Merlin was working on a way to destroy ascended beings as a weapon against the Ori. Daniel is also able to work out how to turn off the device, meaning he can get them out of phase successfully but also getting Mitchell out of phase while facing down Volnek.
In the woods Mitchell is almost killed by Volnek, only to be saved by Teal’c, who then lures Volnek over the claymore trap which turns him into Sodan pate. Thankfully in the hand to hand Mitchell recovered the missing Ancient crystal for the Obelisk, allowing them all to return home.
The Sodan storyline was by far one of the worst the show tried in the new version of SG-1 and their decision to kill it in the crib was one of the best season 9 made. From the getgo in the episode there fate is sealed and that’s the end of that. It’s a shame that a great guest actor was wasted as Haikon given that the rest of the Sodan were so poorly involved.
It’s a good job they placed the wiping of the slate regarding the Sodan in an episode that contains a fun to watch B plot involving yet another poorly understood Ancient artefact. Once again the team accidently cause their own predicament by messing about with things they have no real business messing about with, in this case bringing back the idea of “out of phase” but in a more humorous way than previously, with multiple members of the team caught up in it. It also takes some elements from classic episodes like Window of Opportunity in that it places Carter and Mitchell out of phase where they don’t have the skills needed to solve the problems as, neither of them know Ancient, while Daniel and Lee have to solve the technical side, which neither have the skills to do so. It’s always fun to watch team members out of their depth and working on out of the box solutions to their issues it’s a shame it doesn’t happen all that often.
Talking about people out of their depth, poor Dr Bill Lee. He’s always such a fun character to watch out of his depth, which is fairly often, as he tries so damn hard to get things right and is always enthused about the work but nearly everything he touches goes wrong to some degree, whether it be an advanced training simulation or a plant in the basement, and he usually cocks up solving it as well. In many ways he represents the comedic heart of the show in seasons 9 and 10, especially as the members of SG-1 themselves are more serious now without O’Neill (though Daniel does have more of a being sick of it vibe). This piling of much of the comedic parts of the show on one side character does have its flaws however, mainly for episodes that don’t feature the SGC that prominently, but overall they manage to pull it off.
Obviously the main weakness of the episode is everything to do with the Sodan plot. You can’t make a non-character like Volnek and imposing villain when no one cares about the Sodan at all. “Oh no, he’s gone mad. Wait, who was he again,” is the reaction he’ll get and that’s what he seemed to get given how no one thinks of the Sodan when they think “iconic SG-1 characters”.
Arthur’s Mantle is a funny episode that is let down by a crap storyline involving a crap faction. Thankfully the episode also kills that crap faction.
· Oh no, not the Sodan. I really cared for their terrible racist stereotypes.
· It made them small? Surely they’d have gone splat then ages before given how everyone was searching the room anyway.
Quote of the episode: “Okay I’m gonna try and make an adjustment to the algorithm, it is a bit of a long shot but…”
“You better be sure about this doctor, because if you make me disappear there won’t be a dimension safe enough for you.” – Lee and Landry