Stargate SG-1 Season 4
Executive producers: Brad Wright, Michael Greenburg, Richard Dean Anderson
Executive consultant: Jonathan Glassner
Original air dates: June 30, 2000 – February 23, 2001
Mission briefing. O’Neill, Carter, and Teal’c are rescued with the second gate being installed in the SGC. However, the primary gate goes down with the Biliskner, the Asgard ship that was overrun by Replicators. While Carter helps the Asgard deal with the Replicators in their home galaxy, O’Neill and Teal’c have to deal with a new set of Replicators in the Pacific thanks to a Russian submarine that tries to salvage the Biliskner.
That event has far-reaching consequences, beyond the introduction of the Replicators to the Stargate universe. The Russian government does manage to salvage the Stargate, and they also have the original DHD that went with the gate found at Giza. As a result they start running their own Stargate program—with some help from Maybourne, now a fugitive from the U.S. government, but more than happy to sell out—but things go horribly wrong and SG-1 has to come to the rescue. After that, the Russians discontinue their program—but hold onto the gate.
The Tok’ra alliance deepens, though it’s not without its setbacks and difficulties. The Tok’ra provide enhancement bracelets that don’t work on those with symbiotes, so they test them on SG-1—a test that goes a little too well. The formal signing of a treaty between the Tok’ra and Earth is almost done in by a za’tarc, a Goa’uld assassin who is brainwashed and could be anyone. Unfortunately, the za’tarc turns out to be Martouf, and Carter is forced to kill him to save the alliance, though the symbiote is spared. However, the Tok’ra teams with SG-1 to try to sabotage a potential alliance between Apophis and Heru’ur. At that, they’re successful, though Heru’ur’s death during the mission results in Apophis being even more powerful, as he absorbs Heru’ur’s forces as he did Sokar’s.
An old flame of Teal’c’s named Shan’auc has been communicating with her symbiote as it matures. She believes she has convinced it to reject the Goa’uld and serve as a spy for the Tok’ra, providing information from its genetic memory. However, Tanith, the symbiote, was playing her and when it matures and takes a host, he kills Shan’auc. The Tok’ra, however, learn of the deception, and they use Tanith to feed misinformation to the Goa’uld.
The team also find the Goa’uld homeworld, even finding some less evolved Goa’uld (who don’t have naquadah in their blood), and an entire race of Unas, who are established as the previous hosts of the Goa’uld before they started taking human hosts.
The Harcesis child is tracked down on Abydos, and gives Jackson a vision of the future that is not a pleasant one. Another unpleasant future is stopped by SG-1 using time travel in 2010 to stop a race known as the Aschen from basically taking over the Earth.
Heru’ur isn’t the only Goa’uld the team takes out: Cronus is killed, though ironically not by Teal’c, but rather Teal’c’s robot duplicate (who has the same memories and emotions as Teal’c, and so feels the same need for revenge against Cronus for the death of Teal’c’s father). It turns out that the robot duplicates from “Tin Man” have continued to go on missions, though the mission to Cronus’s world goes badly for them, as they’re all killed.
We also meet a new Goa’uld: Osiris, who has been trapped on Earth for some time, and manages to escape, killing Jackson’s mentor along the way and also taking his ex-girlfriend as a host.
Politics continue to interfere with the SGC, as the NID maneuvers Hammond into retiring and replaces him with an incompetent. O’Neill reluctantly works with Maybourne to force Senator Kinsey into reinstating Hammond.
An early attempt to retrofit Goa’uld technology fails rather spectacularly, as a recall device in a death glider that O’Neill and Teal’c try to test-fly for the Air Force sends the pair of them out into space.
We also meet the future of the SGC in Cadet Jennifer Hailey, a young woman with Carter’s brilliance, but also with a significant attitude problem. Carter’s solution is to take her through the gate and show her what’s waiting for her.
And, of course, there’s the usual crazy stuff they find on the other side of the wormhole, whether it’s relocating people to a planet that’s also claimed by an alien lifeform that is terraforming the planet; getting caught up in the Eurondan war, where a lack of complete intelligence results in SG-1 being on the wrong side; SG-1 being kidnapped and brainwashed into thinking they’re miners; tiny energy beings on a moon; a light that soothes also proves addictive, nearly killing both SG-1 and SG-5; an entity takes over both the SGC computer and Carter; and O’Neill and Teal’c get caught in a time loop started by a scientist desperate to save his dead wife and willing to warp the space-time continuum to do it. Plus, right here on Earth, a guy named Martin Lloyd knows a lot about alien life, mostly because it turns out that he is alien life…
After Cronus’s death, the SGC takes his mothership and lends it to the Tok’ra, who intend to use it to relocate their Stargate to a planet not on the Goa’uld map. That also means they can leave Tanith behind, and Carter also plots a way to wipe out Apophis’s army: by making the sun go nova…
Best episode: “Window of Opportunity.” Like there was any doubt. One of SG-1’s finest episodes, a brilliant, hilarious Groundhog Day riff that is perfectly constructed, from the initial frustration to the giving-in-to-the-absurd to the final confrontation. So many brilliant comic moments here, none more perfectly delivered than the reveal of the painful way that Teal’c has been starting each of his loops. Best of all, after delving so thoroughly into the ridiculous—playing golf through a wormhole, juggling, O’Neill kissing Carter (though, ever the good soldier, he hands in his resignation before doing so)—the episode also manages some genuine pathos with the scientist responsible, giving Richard Dean Anderson a rare chance to dig into O’Neill’s pain as a person who lost his son.
Tons of honorable mentions in this excellent season: “Small Victories” is half a good vehicle for Carter, half a brilliantly claustrophobic action sequence on a Russian sub with O’Neill and Teal’c. “Upgrades” plays with the clichés in true SG-1 fashion and makes it fun, mostly due to watching how much fun the three characters have with it. (Teal’c’s non-apology at the end is brilliant, followed by Hammond’s terse, “He was actually following orders.”) “Tangent” is another great problem-solving story with consquences as the characters have to move heaven and Earth to save O’Neill and Teal’c from the out-of-control death glider. “Prodigy” gives us a strong character in Jennifer Hailey who should’ve come back more than once. “Double Jeopardy” is a delightful sequel to “Tin Man,” even if killing all the duplicates was tiresome—it was made up for by Teal’c’s robot duplicate being the one to kill Cronus and the never-gets-old visual of O’Neill giving himself noogies. “Exodus” is a slam-bang season finale, complete with Carter blowing up a sun, a signature moment for the character. And the exciting, cleverly written “The Serpent’s Venom” would’ve gotten best in any year that didn’t have “Window of Opportunity” in it.
Worst episode: “Entity.” Just a dreadful SGC-in-jeopardy episode whose only saving grace is Amanda Tapping’s superb ability with facial expressions.
Dishonorable mention to “Beneath the Surface,” a ridiculous amnesia story folded together with a ridiculous prison story, with no predictable story beat left unturned. (The only saving grace was that this episode got rid of Teal’c’s soul patch.) “2010” and “Absolute Power” both give us spectacularly uninteresting alternate futures that result in a couple of boring, inconsequential episodes.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? “The Serpent’s Venom” has one of SG-1’s finest moments in its understanding of the fact that there are numerous scientific disciplines. Carter is an astrophysicist; Jackson is a linguist and archeologist. In a genre that tends toward all scientists knowing all science generally (yes, Spock, I’m looking at you), it’s incredibly refreshing to see a show that understands that that isn’t how it works. Jackson has to translate Phonecian numbers, but it’s Carter who has to explain that there needs to be a 0, even if Phonecian doesn’t usually have that, in order for the programming to work. It’s a classic moment.
For cryin’ out loud! We get all the extremes of Jack O’Neill this season, from his lightest side (making fun of himself in “Double Jeopardy,” the lunacy of “Window of Opportunity”) to his darkest (closing the iris on the Eurondans at the end of “The Other Side”).
It might work, sir. Carter blows up a sun.
I mean, yeah, sure some other stuff happened with her this season, including one of her potential love interests dying in “Divide and Conquer,” but who cares? Carter blows up a sun!
I speak 23 different languages—pick one. Jackson learns what it’s like to rule the world thanks to the Harcesis, starts a dialogue with the original hosts of the Goa’uld (a connection that will prove useful going forward), and attends the funeral of his mentor and watches an ex get possessed by Osiris.
Indeed. Teal’c is reunited with a long-lost love in Shan’auc, and becomes her greatest advocate for Jaffa attempting to communicate with and turn their symbiote larva. However, when the plan fails and Shan’auc is killed, Teal’c is denied his revenge by the Tok’ra’s use of Tanith to feed misinformation to the Goa’uld. That thirst for revenge later gets him shot and back in Apophis’s power. For good measure, Heru’ur has him tortured too.
Oh, and for nine episodes, he had a blond soul patch. Yes, really.
You have a go. One of Hammond’s greatest moments is in “Upgrades,” when he sees right through the Tok’ra’s deception, realizing that they wanted SG-1 to attack Apophis’s new battleship all along.
Wayward home for out-of-work genre actors. From the Star Trek side of things, Rene Auberjonois (Deep Space Nine’s Odo) plays a Eurondan in “The Other Side,” while Marina Sirtis (The Next Generation’s Troi) appears as a Russian scientist in “Watergate.” (Reportedly, Sirtis auditioned along with several Russian actors, but she got the role because she could handle the technobabble better than the others.) Steven Williams (“Mr. X” on The X-Files) appears in “Tangent” and “Absolute Power” as General Vidrine. Peter Wingfield (Methos on Highlander: The Series) debuts the recurring antagonist Tanith in “Crossroads.” Vanessa Angel of Weird Science fame appears in three episodes as the Tok’ra Anise, and Ronny Cox is back as Kinsey.
Trivial matters. This is the only season in which Tony Amendola does not appear as Bra’tac, though the character is mentioned, particularly in “Crossroads” and “The Serpent’s Venom.”
The recurring characters of Anise (Vanessa Angel), Martin Lloyd (Willie Garson), Sarah Gardner/Osiris (Anna-Louise Plowman), Rak’nor (Obi Ndefo), Dr. Bill Lee (Bill Dow), Jennifer Hailey (Elizabeth Rosen), Chaka (Dion Johnstone), and Tanith (Peter Wingfield) all debut in this season.
This season sets up the Russians as wanting to be involved in the Stargate program in whatever way they can, with their salvaging of the Stargate from the Biliskner.
The robots in “Double Jeopardy” still appear as the characters did in season one, so the O’Neill robot has brown hair, the Jackson robot wears a bandana (to cover the fact that he should have longer hair), and the Carter robot is still a captain and has a different haircut. In addition, the robots still have MP5s instead of the P-90s that the SGC personnel switched to.
Your humble rewatcher explained both Teal’c’s soul patch and Carter’s non-regulation shaggy hair (both of which happened in the week the two of them and O’Neill were trapped on a planet between seasons) in his short story “Time Keeps on Slippin’,” which appeared in the 2014 anthology Far Horizons.
By the end of the season, Apophis is back to being the primary threat among the System Lords.
The Replicators will continue to be a recurring nemesis in both SG-1 and Atlantis moving forward.
Longtime director Peter DeLuise takes his first of many shots at writing with “The First Ones,” and Michael Shanks makes his directorial debut—the first cast member to do so—with “Double Jeopardy.”
General Michael E. Ryan, at the time the chief of staff of the Air Force, appeared as himself in “Prodigy” (an episode that also has numerous scenes in the Air Force Academy). The USAF cooperated with SG-1 throughout its run, and this was one of the more overt examples of it.
Chevron seven locked. This is a really strong collection of episodes. Even its failures are noble ones, or at least have a redeeming feature, whether it’s Amanda Tapping’s powerfully wordless performance in “Entity” or Michael Shanks taking to fascism like a duck to water in “Absolute Power” or the hilarious tour of the decommissioned SGC in “2010” (“We’re walking…”).
And holy crap, the high points. Carter—the smartest human around—being sufficiently stupid to help the advanced Asgard deal with the even more advanced Replicators. Jackson snarking off Dr. Markova in “Watergate.” O’Neill giving himself noogies (really, that never gets old) in “Double Jeopardy.” Teal’c’s emotional roller-coaster in “Crossroads.” Hammond’s cutting through the crap in “Upgrades.”
And the sense of continuity is as strong as ever. The ongoing chemistry between O’Neill and Carter, causing issues in “Upgrades” that then cause more issues in “Divide and Conquer” (not to mention being the source of a great sight gag in “Window of Opportunity”). Picking up on the Harcesis child in “Absolute Power” and the NID in “Chain Reaction.” Developing Apophis’s return to power after last season’s “Jolinar’s Memories” and “The Devil You Know,” until he’s the biggest bad again by season’s end. Developing the Jaffa rebellion in “Crossroads” and “The Serpent’s Venom.” Developing the Tok’ra in about half the shows this season. Plus, several episodes from this season will be followed up on.
Everyone gives it their all here, too. Michael Shanks gets some great stuff to sink his teeth into, especially in “Absolute Power,” Richard Dean Anderson and Christopher Judge are at their best in “Window of Opportunity,” Don S. Davis knocks “Upgrades” out of the park, and “Small Victories,” “Entity,” “Prodigy,” and “Exodus” all give Amanda Tapping plenty of opportunities to remind us how awesome Carter is. Plus there are some great guest stars, from the radiant Musetta Vander as Shan’auc to the complex Peter Wingfield as Tanith to the always-brilliant Rene Auberjonois as the Eurondan bad guy to the hilarious Willie Garson as Martin.
Keith R.A. DeCandido is hard at work on Kali’s Wrath, an SG-1 novel taking place in the fifth season.