Stargate Rewatch

The Stargate Rewatch: SG-1 Season Five

Stargate SG-1 Season 5
Executive producers: Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper, Michael Greenburg, Richard Dean Anderson
Executive consultant: Jonathan Glassner
Original air dates: June 29, 2001 – May 17, 2002

Mission briefing. SG-1 is trapped in another galaxy, along with Apophis, who has brainwashed Teal’c into thinking that he was a mole for Apophis all along. Unfortunately, the galaxy is also where the Replicators live. They take over and destroy Apophis’s ship and then take over SG-1’s ship and fly it back to the Milky Way where there’s a whole new galaxy of stuff for them to consume. SG-1 and Jacob are able to make the ship crash—taking Apophis and the Replicators with it—and escape back to Earth.

Teal’c, though, still thinks he’s in service of Apophis, and Bra’tac has to engage in a ritual that involves removing his symbiote and forcing him to the edge of death. It succeeds—barely—and Teal’c happily rejoins SG-1 as himself.

This isn’t the last we hear of the Replicators, though—SG-1 discovers their creator, a child named Reese who is far more than she seems, as are the mechanical creatures she created as toys…

Earth-bound threats continue to abound—not just the NID, in the person of Colonel Frank Simmons (Maybourne’s replacement, who puts the SGC through several bits of nastiness), but also an industrialist named Adrian Conrad, who tries to cure his fatal disease with a Goa’uld implantation (with disastrous results). Plus, Martin Lloyd and friends are back, and Martin has taken his experiences with the SGC and made them into a rather pulpy TV show called Wormhole X-Treme! When Teal’c is trapped in the matter stream of a wormhole, it causes issues with both the NID and the Russians.

Stargate SG-1 season 5

The SGC also encounters various odd alien races: the Aschen, against whom the SGC was warned by the denizens of an alternate future in “2010,” and who turn out to really be that bad; the K’tau, whose sun is damaged by a wormhole and who refuse SG-1’s help to save them; and people who enslave the Unas.

While Apophis is really-o-truly-o dead now, there are plenty of other Goa’uld causing trouble. Nirrti’s experiments on Cassandra when she was younger lead to her almost dying, while the release of an imprisoned Goa’uld named Marduk results in the deaths of several Russian officers. Svarog attempts to take over a planet he’d lost centuries ago due to a piece of technology that was broken by Maybourne’s rogue NID operation, and SG-1 has to fix it. Imhotep tries to break the Jaffa resistance by posing as a Jaffa named Kytano who recruits Jaffa to the cause to set them up to be eliminated. And a Goa’uld (we don’t know who) sends a naquadah asteroid toward Earth, trying to circumvent the Asgard’s protected planets treaty by making it look like a natural disaster.

But the big new Goa’uld in town is Anubis. Believed long dead, he has returned, and is immensely powerful. He has Zipacna, Tanith, and Osiris working for him, he has been making moves on other Goa’uld—the other System Lords call a summit to discuss what to do about him, and wind up capitulating to his superior power—and he’s strong enough to wipe out the Tollan (after attempting to blackmail them into destroying Earth) and seriously hurt the Asgard.

Stargate SG-1 season 5

Finally, the Ascended beings whom our heroes encountered on Kheb are becoming more of a presence. One of them takes human form in order to warn Carter not to use a particular weapon—and winds up falling in love with her. And when Jackson takes a lethal dose of radiation while trying to save the lives of the Kelownans (and save them from themselves), he ascends with the help of Oma Desala, though it doesn’t make his “death” any less tragic for the rest of the SGC…

Best episode: “Fail Safe.” Quite possibly my favorite episode of the entire series, this is classic SG-1, with a problem to solve, obstacles to overcome, and real science behind all of it and making it actually that much more dramatic, putting paid to the tiresome complaint that it’s too intelligent for people to follow. The asteroid being heavier than it should be and having naquadah in it is a particular masterstroke that amps up the suspense by using real science, and even the solution—based as it is in the made-up science of hyperdrive—works in context. Plus, it’s got some fantastic lines, from O’Neill’s rant about the poorly made bomb to the physicist unwilling to go through the gate because he knows how it works to the running gag of “I’m confident,” “Me, too,” “As am I.”

Stargate SG-1 season 5

Honorable mention goes to “Wormhole X-Treme!” a hilarious hundredth episode that celebrates by making fun of itself, including pretty much every single fan complaint used on the titular show, with the added bonus of the always wonderful Willie Garson returning as Martin. More in-jokes than you can shake a staff weapon at.

Also excellent: The “Summit”/“Last Stand” two-parter, that introduces a bunch more Goa’uld, establishes the threat of Anubis, tells a thrilling infiltration story with Jackson and Jacob, and tells a nifty action story with the rest of SG-1 and SG-17 on the Tok’ra base. “The Tomb,” a tense horror thriller in a catacomb, with the added tension of O’Neill’s inherent dislike of the Russians. “Between Two Fires,” which goes from conspiracy-based mystery to tragedy as the Tollan’s orderly society is demolished. “48 Hours,” which squeezes in an impressive amount of stuff into a thrill-ride of an episode.

Worst episode: “2001.” The Aschen were spectacularly uninteresting antagonists in “2010,” and they’re not much better here, and the dramatic irony of knowing that they’re evil from “2010” just falls totally flat here.

Dishonorable mention to “Enemies,” in which a particularly nasty cliffhanger is resolved by a series of unrealistic coincidences, with SG-1 surviving and Apophis and the Replicators being destroyed and our heroes going back home due to almost nothing they themselves accomplished.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? “Fail Safe” in particular does an excellent job with real science, from the asteroid’s being out of the usual plane of the solar system meaning it almost wasn’t discovered to its naquadah composition adding to its density and gravity and proving that it came from another solar system.

Stargate SG-1 season 5

For cryin’ out loud! Some of O’Neill’s finest moments are in this season, mostly of the quipping variety (“Carter, I can see my house!” from “Fail Safe” remains a classic), but I really do like his speech to the rebel Jaffa in “The Warrior” where he explains the difference between a P-90—a weapon of war—versus a staff weapon—a weapon of terror. The Jaffa’s MO really is one of terror, of frightening the already-cowed subjects of the Goa’uld. But the rebellion needs to fight a war, and that requires a different set of tactics, and I like the way O’Neill spells it out in this episode.

It might work, sir. Carter’s reputation for having men who fall in love with her die gets a serious workout in this season, as we have Orlin in “Ascension,” Lantash’s death after confirming that Martouf loved Carter in “Last Stand,” and Narim being lost with the rest of the Tollan when Anubis destroys their world in “Between Two Fires.” Also her reputation for pulling a scientific rabbit out of her hat—having already blown up a sun at the end of last season—gets an equal workout, with everyone looking to her to kick scientific butt in “Red Sky,” “48 Hours,” and “Fail Safe.”

I speak 23 different languages—pick one. The season ends with Jackson’s “death”—he takes a lethal dose of radiation in an act of selflessness, but he chooses to ascend, with Oma Desala’s help—which, if nothing else, left things open for his three guest appearances in season six and his return to the main cast in season seven…

Stargate SG-1 season 5

Indeed. In “Threshold,” we get Teal’c’s entire backstory, including Bra’tac recruiting him as his eventual replacement as First Prime, as well as teaching him that the Goa’uld are false gods. It retroactively makes his actions in “Children of the Gods” less out-of-the-blue, as Bra’tac taught him to do his best to make life better for the Goa’uld’s subjects/victims, but it’s Teal’c who feels it should be taken a step further, to full-on rebellion, and he sees the Tau’ri as the means to that. In “The Warrior” it becomes clear just how far-reaching Teal’c’s actions are, as the rebellion has grown by leaps and bounds.

How do I know what color to wear? With the season’s end and Daniel Jackson’s departure in “Meridian,” we also meet his replacement: Jonas Quinn, a brilliant, eager-to-please young man who finds himself exiled from his homeworld for doing the right thing.

You have a go. I keep coming back to “Fail Safe,” but it also has one of Hammond’s finest hours, as both Davis and Fraiser urge him to evacuate to the Alpha Site, but he refuses, declaring, “I haven’t been relieved of this post” with quiet dignity.

Stargate SG-1 season 5

Wayward home for out-of-work genre actors. John deLancie, best known as Q on the various Star Trek spinoffs—and also co-star with Richard Dean Anderson on the tragically short-lived Legend—commences his recurring role as Simmons in four episodes. Former seaQuest DSV stars Peter and Michael DeLuise both appear in “Wormhole X-Treme!” While it’s more in reverse, several people who will later star in Battlestar Galactica show up, most notably Grace Park, the future Boomer, in “Proving Ground” as Satterfield and Rick Worthy, the future Simon (and past guest on several Star Trek episodes), in “The Warrior” as Kytano/Imhotep.

Trivial matters. This is the last season of the show to initially air in the U.S. on Showtime. Its remaining five seasons will air first on the Sci-Fi Channel (later SyFy). Michael Shanks departs as an opening-credits regular after this season, though he’ll return thrice as a guest star in the sixth season and return to the opening credits in season seven.

Besides deLancie’s Simmons, several other recurring characters get their start this season, including Bill Marchant as Adrian Conrad, Peter Flemming as NID Agent Malcolm Barrett (who will actually be an ally to the SGC going forward), Garry Chalk as Colonel Chekov, David Palffy as Anubis (the new big bad Goa’uld replacing Apophis), Cliff Simon as Baal (who will be the longest-lasting Goa’uld antagonist, not being finally stopped until the movie Continuum), Corin Nemec as Jonas Quinn (who will become an opening-credits regular for season six and recur a few times after that), and David Hewlitt as Rodney McKay (who will eventually become an opening-credits regular on the spinoff Atlantis).

Stargate SG-1 season 5

Several recurring regulars are also killed off this season, including Peter Williams as Apophis (though alternate timeline versions of Apophis will appear in future), Garwin Sanford as Narim, Peter Wingfield as Tanith, Jennifer Calvert as Ren’hol, and Marie Stillin as Travell.

Three of the four trainees seen in “Proving Ground” appear at least once more. Hailey previously appeared in “Prodigy,” Eliot returns in “Summit” and “Last Stand,” and Grogan returns in “The Sentinel.”

“The Warrior” is the first of four episodes written or co-written by Christopher Judge, the only one of the acting troupe to take a shot at scripting.

Stargate SG-1 season 5

To catalogue all the in-jokes in “Wormhole X-Treme!” would require its own rewatch entry, but suffice it to say, the writers show a spectacular capacity for self-parody and owning up to their mistakes (with several bits from the show being spoofed, including why someone out of phase wouldn’t fall through the floor, the fact that the aliens all speak English, and the notion that three hits from a zat’ni’katel disintegrate the body). Peter DeLuise directs the episode and plays the director of the Wormhole X-Treme! episode being filmed, and also casts his brother Michael as the lead actor in the show, and a large number of the production staff appear in front of the camera in various roles.

Your humble rewatcher is just finishing up Kali’s Wrath, an SG-1 novel that takes place between “The Warrior” and “Menace,” and highlights Kali, whose only onscreen appearances were in “Summit” and “Last Stand” (played by Suleka Mathew, a favorite of mine since DaVinci’s Inquest).

Chevron seven locked. Quite possibly the best overall season of the show, as the two episodes I cited as the worst commit only really the sins of being boring (“2001”) and lazily written (“Enemies”), and nothing else was bad enough to even be considered for such a list of ignominy (though I contemplated “Meridian,” see below).

And the strengths are brilliant. Besides the magnificence of “Fail Safe” (have I mentioned that I really love that one?), the excitement of “Summit” and “Last Stand,” the hilarity of “Wormhole X-Treme!” the suspense of “The Tomb,” and the tragedy of “Between Two Fires,” I want to particularly single out “48 Hours.” This is a classic SG-1 problem-solving story, but it also beautifully picks up on so many different threads. There’s Simmons’s ongoing animus against the SGC (“The Fifth Man,” “Desperate Measures”), the conflicts with the Russians (“Watergate,” “The Tomb”), Adrian Conrad (“Desperate Measures”), and Teal’c’s ongoing animus against Tanith (“Crossroads,” “Exodus,” “Between Two Fires”), plus the introduction of McKay, who will continue to be an entertaining part of the franchise (though he’s rather two-dimensional here, and won’t really gain anything like depth until he joins the cast of Atlantis).

Stargate SG-1 season 5

Just in general, there’s tremendous forward movement. Apophis dies, but Anubis has arrived. The Tok’ra are dealt a vicious blow, the Tollan are all but destroyed, the Asgard are weakened—but the Jaffa rebellion is growing by leaps and bounds. The NID remains a threat, but with the ouster of Simmons in “48 Hours” and the introduction of Barrett in “Wormhole X-Treme!” there’s hope for the future.

One of the problems with “Children of the Gods” is that everything kind of barreled toward the eventual status quo with unconvincing speed. The command post at Cheyenne Mountain is made into Stargate Command with unrealistic dispatch, Teal’c is accepted as a member of SG-1 with even less realistic dispatch (and his heel-turn has very little prep beyond Christopher Judge looking nauseated while Apophis tries to find the right host for Amaunet). This season does a very good job of addressing that general lack. The Replicators are given an origin in “Menace,” Teal’c’s journey from loyal Jaffa to the first member of a growing rebellion is beautifully chronicled in the flashbacks in “Threshold,” and future regular Jonas Quinn is nicely set up in “Meridian.”

Speaking of “Meridian,” for many fans it’s the defining moment of the season, as it’s when Daniel Jackson becomes mostly dead (not all dead, as we’ll see). Unfortunately, the episode itself isn’t all that and a bag of chips: it’s pretty much the paint-by-numbers let’s-write-a-character-out story, with the noble sacrifice, everyone getting to say good bye, even setting up his replacement. The hand-wave of ascension was, at least, already set up in the third season’s “Maternal Instinct,” as well as this year’s “Ascension,” but it still feels like a cheat. The only thing that really redeems “Meridian” is Jackson’s own negative self-assessment. The tragedy of the character is not that he’s dying, it’s that his failures loom so large in his own mind that they eclipse any good that might have happened. Sha’re’s kidnapping and eventual death (which he blames himself for, since he encouraged the Abydonians to unbury their gate), Sara Gardner’s being taken by Osiris, the fact that the Goa’uld are at least as big a threat now as they were five years ago—all this he blames himself for, and he refuses to acknowledge the good he’s done, no matter what Oma says.

I do admire that they don’t end the season with “Meridian,” though, instead showing us that there’s plenty more to come: Anubis is a huge enough threat that even the Asgard are helpless against them, and that bodes ill for the future…

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s latest piece of fiction is “Down to the Waterline,” an urban fantasy story starring Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet, taking place in Key West, Florida, and featuring scuba diving, rock and roll, mysterious undersea murders, ghosts, nixies, and the evils of spam filters. The story is available for free on Buzzy Mag online.


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