Stargate SG-1 Season 9
Executive producers: Robert C. Cooper, Brad Wright, Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie
Original air dates: July 15, 2005 – March 10, 2006
Mission briefing. Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell was the Commander of the Air Group supporting Prometheus in “Lost City” against Anubis over Antarctica. His 302 was shot down, and he spent a year recovering and re-learning how to walk. For his heroism, O’Neill, the newly appointed head of Homeworld Security, gives Mitchell his choice of assignments, and he chooses SG-1.
So he’s kinda surprised when the new head of the SGC, General Hank Landry, informs him that he has to pick a new SG-1. Jackson has been reassigned to Atlantis, Carter has taken over R&D of Area 51, and Teal’c has returned to Dakara to help form the first-ever Free Jaffa government. Mitchell tries to convince all three to come back—he wanted to serve with those three, not form his own team—and fails.
At least at first. When Vala Mal Doran shows up with a treasure map to Avalon, Landry, Mitchell, and Jackson are intrigued. And Vala slaps a pair of Goa’uld bracelets on her and Jackson that tie the pair of them to each other—if one gets too far from the other, they both collapse—which strands Jackson on Earth as Daedalus wends its way to Pegasus.
They discover that Merlin of Arthurian legend is actually an Ancient who returned to Earth from Atlantis way back when (also known as Myrddin and Moros, seen in Atlantis‘s “Before I Sleep“), and he hid treasures in Avalon below Glastonbury. They find them—and also Ancient communication stones (like the ones seen in “Citizen Joe“), and it switches Jackson and Vala with people in another galaxy, where they discover the Ori.
The Ori are ascended beings who split off from the Ancients and demand worship from the humans they helped evolve. Learning about the Milky Way from Jackson and Vala, they start sending their missionaries, called Priors, to our galaxy. But their methods are especially brutal: worship the Ori, or be destroyed. Several worlds give in to Origin, some willingly, some by force—and others are utterly wiped out.
Several of the free Jaffa, including the leader of the council, Gerak, become intrigued by the Ori, though Teal’c and Bra’tac view it as simply exchanging one set of false gods for another. Gerak at one point becomes a Prior. In addition, a legendary group of Jaffa known as the Sodan, who had thrown off the Goa’uld centuries ago, initially succumb to Origin, but eventually refuse it—paying for that refusal with their destruction. One of their methods of destroying a heretical world is to hit it with a plague—they try that on Earth, and it’s barely stopped by the Ancient Orlin, returned to corporeal form to help Carter against the Ori and provide useful intel, with help from a repentant Gerak, who pays for his betrayal of his Prior-ly duties with his life.
Another target of the Ori is the Rand Protectorate, and they ask Jackson for help, even though SG-1 was responsible for their war against each other back in “Icon.” That only results in more tragedy, including the destruction of Prometheus.
The Goa’uld are not totally gone, of course. Ba’al has taken refuge on Earth, and created several clones of himself, later trying to brainwash members of the Jaffa council. SG-1 stumbles across one of Anubis’s hybrid experiments, and Ba’al’s former chief scientist Nerus is conscripted to assist the SGC, and even imprisoned by them for a time. In addition, a loose alliance of privateers have banded together to form the Lucian Alliance, using plundered Goa’uld ships and equipment.
SG-1 does have their usual trials and tribulations. To find a way out of the bracelets that bind Jackson and Vala together, SG-1 has to perform a variety of tasks—to no avail, as it doesn’t work. A visit to an alien world results in Mitchell being accused of murder. Several alternate versions of SG-1 wind up coming through the gate. And a tour of the Gamma Site given to IOA oversight committee members almost ends in tragedy as a bunch of bugs get loose.
The Ori attempt to construct a “Supergate,” a massive Stargate that can transit instantly between galaxies. Their first attempt is stopped by what appears to be a suicide run by Vala—though later we learn she survived and wound up marrying an Ori disciple named Tomin. She marries him because she’s pregnant, and wants Tomin to believe it’s his, but she’s truly been impregnated by the Ori themselves.
Undaunted by their first failure, the Ori construct another Supergate. And this time, despite having gathered several devices created by Merlin (including “Arthur’s Mantle,” which sends Mitchell and Carter out of phase), SG-1 is unable to stop them from sending a massive fleet of ships through…
Best episode: “Camelot.” An intense season finale that gives us lots of Stargate twists on Arthurian legend, including setting up the quest for the Holy Grail (or Sangraal) next season, with the added bonus of John Noble being, well, John Noble. On top of that, we get a thrilling space battle as Odyssey and Korolev are joined by Free Jaffa ships and Lucian Alliance ships, as well as Kvasir of the Asgard, to try to destroy the Supergate—or face the fleet that comes through it if they can’t. The end result is a nasty cliffhanger, as Carter is left stranded in space watching in horror as the Ori fleet comes through, and in the fleet, Vala is equally helpless, watching just as her water breaks…
Runners up: The tense two-parter “The Fourth Horseman,” which is worth it just for the confrontation with William B. Davis’s Prior, with Mitchell’s recipe swapping, Jackson’s overwhelming snark, Orlin’s tragic recitation of the Prior’s, uh, prior life, and the first indication of hope against this foe. Also the cliffhanger of Gerak as a Prior is devastating, as is his redemption.
“Ethon,” a particularly depressing episode, as they double down on the tragedy of “Icon” in its sequel. The Prometheus‘s destruction is an unexpected shock, and having greats like John Aylward and Ernie Hudson elevate the material even further.
“Crusade,” an excellent vehicle for Claudia Black, and a nasty look at the reality of life under the Ori.
And the “Avalon” two-parter and “Origin” do a very nice job of introducing the new status quo of SG-1, complete with Blues Brothers references and entertaining snark from all parties (“New guy!” “Bullets bounce!” and Vala’s limited gene pool line).
Worst episode: “Collateral Damage,” a depressingly paint-by-numbers sci-fi-twist-on-a-murder-in-which-our-hero-is-framed plot that was hoary and stupid when Voyager did it in “Ex Post Facto” a decade previous.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Ancients didn’t just hide a base in Antarctica, they also hid an entire treasure trove under Glastonbury. The SGC only is able to detect it with Prometheus‘s Asgard-enhanced sensors.
It might work, sir. Carter spends the first several episodes of the season heading up research and development at Area 51. The out-of-the-box explanation was to accommodate Amanda Tapping’s pregnancy; the in-character reason was that she needed an always-on-planet assignment for a while to help Cassandra deal with some stuff (probably related to the death of her adoptive mother Frasier in “Heroes“).
Indeed. The Jaffa have a difficult time adjusting to being free—as Mitchell puts it to Teal’c in “Avalon,” politics suck everywhere—and many of them wind up diving full tilt into Origin.
I speak 23 different languages—pick one. Jackson’s plan to join Atlantis is foiled by Vala’s trickery, and he winds up being as much at the vanguard of the fight against the Ori as he was against the Goa’uld, at least in part because they’re the enemies of the Ancients and Jackson is the leading expert on that stuff.
The man doesn’t even have a decent pie crust. Mitchell is an SG-1 fangoober, having memorized all their mission reports like a comics nerd who can quote issue numbers of Amazing Spider-Man. He’s so disappointed that he can’t serve with SG-1 that he moves heaven and earth to make it happen anyhow—aided by Vala’s tricking Jackson and the pair’s discovery of the Ori.
You can go ahead and burst into flames now. Landry is gruffer and blunter than either Hammond or O’Neill, and isn’t as good with interpersonal relations as they are—this extends to his daughter, who’s the new base doctor...
Let’s make babies! Vala coerces SG-1 into helping her by literally bonding herself to Jackson. We learn that the con artist/thief/smuggler was also once the host of a Goa’uld named Qetesh, a role she assumes in “The Powers that Be.”
You have a go. Hammond appears in “The Fourth Horseman,” wearing civilian clothes. He has retired from the Air Force and now serves as an advisor to President Hayes.
For cryin’ out loud! With Hammond’s retirement, O’Neill is promoted to the position of Head of Homeworld Security, and now works out of the Pentagon. We find out that he never bothered to open any of his desk drawers during his year in charge, and he forgot to mention to Mitchell that Carter and Jackson had been reassigned and Teal’c had left the SGC when he told Mitchell he could serve in SG-1.
Wayward home for out-of-work genre actors. Besides the obvious—Farscape alumni Ben Browder and Claudia Black joining the cast—we’ve also got William B. Davis (the Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files) as a Prior in “The Fourth Horeseman,” former Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda co-star Lexa Doig in the recurring role of Dr. Lam, Tony Todd (star of the Candyman films and regular Star Trek guest as Kurn and old Jake Sisko) recurring as Haikon, Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore in Ghostbusters) playing Pernaux in “Ethon,” Michael Ironside (Total Recall, Highlander 2, among many others) playing Seevis in “Crusade,” Wallace Shawn (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Princess Bride) inconceivably appearing in “The Ties that Bind,” Tamlyn Tomita (of Babylon 5 and The Burning Zone fame) kicking off her recurring role as Shen, John Noble (Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and future star of Fringe and Sleepy Hollow) playing Meurik in “Camelot,” Serenity‘s Yan Feldman and future Dollhouse and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actor Reed Diamond guest starring in “Stronghold,” plus veteran actors both in and out of the genre, Julian Sands as Doci, Lou Gossett Jr. as Gerak, John Aylward as Nadal, and Maury Chaykin as Nerus. Plus Obi Ndefo (Rak’nor) and Robert Picardo (Woolsey) are back for more. Just in general, the quality of guest actor is kicked up a notch in this season…
Trivial matters. Ben Browder and Beau Bridges join the opening credits as Mitchell and Landry, respectively, and this is the first season that doesn’t lead off with Richard Dean Anderson’s credit. O’Neill appears in only the opening two-parter, passing the torch to the newbies, though he’s mentioned any number of times.
In addition, this season introduces the Ori as the new bad guys, establishing their connection to the Ancients and to ascension. Since Egyptian mythology had been pretty well mined by the Goa’uld, they turned to the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic mythology of the King Arthur legend to provide the backbone of the storyline.
This season airs alongside Atlantis season 2. There are no direct crossovers on SG-1, beyond Jackson’s assignment to Atlantis being curtailed and the information about Merlin/Myrddin/Moros coming from the sister show’s database.
“The Fourth Horseman” marks the final appearance of the mainline Hammond. He appears in “200” as a puppet in season 10, and alternate timeline versions appear in both “The Road Not Taken” and the movie Continuum.
Claudia Black appeared in the first six episodes, as well as the final two, as a semi-substitute for Carter while Amanda Tapping was pregnant. Ironically, when she came back for the final two, Black was pregnant, but they wrote that into the storyline.
For the first time since the sixth season, the producers did not write the season finale as if it could be the series finale. In fact, it ended on rather a nasty cliffhanger, so it was a good thing the show was renewed for a tenth season…
Chevron seven locked. Opinion is heavily divided among Stargate fandom regarding SG-1‘s final two seasons. There are those who actually prefer the Mitchell era to the O’Neill era—or, at the very least, welcomed the arrival of Ben Browder to replace a Richard Dean Anderson who was clearly phoning it in the past two seasons—and there are those who disdain everything that happened after the Goa’uld were taken care of.
And then there are some who like it all. I fall into that camp. I recognize that the producers were stuck between a rock and a hard place. After all, when the channel that hosts your show tells you they want another season, it’s really hard to say no. Most TV shows don’t make it past their first season, and these guys were being asked for a ninth!
But they also had to deal with the loss of their lead actor, who had become almost as synonymous with this franchise as he had MacGyver. In Browder they got someone who was of a similar personality to Anderson—indeed, it’s a type common to pilots, seen also in Sheppard on the sister show—but who had his own foibles and ticks.
Best of all was making Mitchell an SG-1 fangoober. That softens the blow of having him inserted into the team: he doesn’t want to lead these people, he wants to follow them. Of course, while he’s nominally in charge, nobody actually listens to him. Teal’c and Jackson don’t have the respect for him that they had for O’Neill, he and Carter are of the same rank, and Vala doesn’t listen to anybody. He’s less a CO of a military unit and more the glue who holds the team together. Hell, he pretty much reassembles the team by force of will.
Still, I mourn for what might have been had Amanda Tapping not gotten pregnant. That kept her out of the first half-dozen episodes, and while it did pave the way for Claudia Black’s Vala to recur, it also pretty much guaranteed that Carter would be removed from her rightful place as SG-1’s CO in favor of an O’Neill retread. (That being the legitimate gripe of many SG-1 fans who objected to the final two seasons.)
Vala herself is a welcome injection of chaos into the orderly world of the SGC. Her chemistry with Michael Shanks was just sparkling in last season’s “Prometheus Unbound,” and it picks right up magnificently in “Avalon.” She also fares better than Mitchell in the let’s-give-the-new-person-a-storyline derby, as both characters have episodes obviously written to spotlight them and give the new characters a chance to shine. “The Ties that Bind” is a delightful romp, and she shows her versatility in “The Powers that Be.” For his part, Mitchell’s spotlights include the season’s low point in “Collateral Damage,” as well as the paint-by-numbers plots of “Babylon” and “Stronghold,” but those two are mostly elevated by magnificent performances by two great guest actors, Tony Todd in the former, Reed Diamond in the latter.
In addition, this season shows exactly how closely Teal’c is tied to the Goa’uld. Without them as the bad guy, Teal’c’s presence on the SG-1 team is absurd. Yes, the politics of the Free Jaffa Nation are irritating, but that’s Teal’c’s place. After all, he was the one who started the revolution. His place is on Dakara, and the shoehorning of him into SG-1 missions is clumsy at best. Teal’c certainly has his moments—particularly in “The Fourth Horseman,” both when he convinces Bra’tac to take over as leader of the council from Gerak, and when he confronts Gerak and forces him to realize what he’s done. But overall, Teal’c is a fifth wheel in this season, and would have been more valuable as a recurring role rather than a starring one.
And far too many stories just don’t work. As an example, “Ripple Effect” has its fun moments, and it’s nice to bring Teryl Rothery and JR Bourne back as alternate versions of Frasier and Lantash/Martouf, and the “Aunt Emma!” exchange between the Mitchells is one of the season’s high points, but the episode falls flat once the plot kicks in.
However, ultimately, what I like about the story is that it takes a much harsher looks at the dangers of religious extremism by giving us false gods that can’t be dismissed as “mythological” the way you can with the Egyptian gods. The Ori are much closer to the more popular modern religions: The Book of Origin has its similarities to the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, etc., ascension is very much an analogue for going to heaven when you die, it’s tied to the very Christianized King Arthur legends, and we’ve even got a virgin birth.
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s short story collection Without a License is now on sale from Dark Quest Books. It includes nine stories from throughout his twenty-plus years of writing, plus brand-new tales in the Dragon Precinct and Cassie Zukav milieus. You can order the trade paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from the author; the eBook edition will be on sale soon.