Old secrets, old loves, and an accidental old hermit.
Spoilers below the cut.
Instead of attending his annual physical like he should, Jackson decides to avoid doctors by looking through some old tapes documenting the old experiments with the stargate in the 1940s. He learns that the stargate was activated in one experiment when O’Neill comes to drag him off to the doctors. Together, they watch the first man walk through the stargate clad in scuba gear and, soon after he goes through, the stargate shuts off. On tape, everyone panics and shuts down the program. Jackson and O’Neill seem to make the same decision at the same time:
Catherine Langford must know.
Catherine, for those of us who have seen the movie, is the old woman that recruits Jackson into the stargate program. She appeared to have a lot of influence over the program and the running thereof. In the time between the movie and the television show, she must have retired since this is the first appearance of her character since the movie. And I am so happy she’s here!
Jackson pays a visit for some tea, good conversation, and to tell her about what he saw in the tapes. Catherine admits that she’s not kept updated on the events at the stargate program, which she makes known by scolding Jackson for not visiting her sooner. Their conversation turns to the old experiments on the stargate and we learn that Catherine was mostly kept in the dark about it though her boyfriend-cum-fiance and father were active in the stargate program at that time. Jackson asks if she knew they turned on the stargate in the 1940s (no) and shows her the tape of the man who went through. Turns out the man that was lost–Ernest Littlefield–was Catherine’s old fiance.
And so an impromptu meeting is called. Jackson managed to extract the chevrons from the old footage and starts making the case for going to the planet. Reason 1: to retrieve a lost American hero. Reason 2: the coordinate are not from the cave on Abydos which means the Goa’uld did not create the stargate system. Reason 3: The planet could have technology that could help defeat the Goa’uld. It’s a bit overkill as far as reasons to visit a planet, but they’re going and they’re taking Catherine with them.
The gate on the other planet is located in the ruins of a castle at the edge of a cliff. They meet Ernest, who is skinny and old and mostly naked. He is ecstatic that people have finally come back to get him and hugs everyone except Catherine. Later, he mentions that Catherine was with him during his solitude, which is passed off as hallucinations but IS IT REALLY? In the 50 years he spent on the planet, he’s come across some fascinating discoveries, like a room deep inside the castle with a pedestal similar to the Dial Home Device that, when activated, displays four different languages on the walls. Jackson calls one such language “Thor’s race” since it was written in old Viking runes. Ernest then reveals a fifth language which was written in 3D representations of the periodic table of elements–only they displayed approximately twenty more elements than the periodic table in 1997. Thus, the races that came together in this castle spoke the language of science and that was how they communicated.
Captain Carter, upon inspecting the Dial Home Device, discovers that it’s broken. Ernest reveals that it was broken when he got here and thus unable to come home on his own. But now they’re all stranded so Carter and Teal’c start working on fixing the DHD. Before they can test their jerry-rigged version, a violent wave from the bottom of the cliff crashes into the castle and knocks the DHD into the ocean below, raising the stakes of getting back home.
But Captain Carter has mechanical engineering logged into her list of specialties (in addition to the biology and psychology I noted in the previous episode) and so rigs a way to power the stargate using the lightning from the storm outside. Once the lightning strikes, the crew is able to manually dial home on the stargate itself. Ernest Littlefield convinces Jackson, who would have preferred to stay and study the four languages, to join them since incredible knowledge is useless without someone to share it with. And six people return to Earth shortly before the castle collapses from the storm.
A while later, the team attempt to return to Ernest’s planet but find they are unable to lock in a gate. Thus, any knowledge that could have been discovered from that planet is lost . . . kind of. There’s still Ernest’s book of notes which would still require a few years of careful study and insightful conclusions.
This episode is the second mention of the Old Norse Aliens and the introduction to three other aliens that are not Goa’uld. I want to have meet all four aliens at least once by the time SG-1 closes as a series.
The primary focus of this episode is the love story between Catherine and Ernest, the ultimate long-distance relationship. Though Ernest seemed indifferent to Catherine at first, he warms up to her presence by the end of the episode. Catherine, meanwhile, is in a tough spot with wanting to pick up where their relationship left off yet knowing that you aren’t abandoned alone on a planet without any sort of repercussions. She acknowledges that this is hard for both her and Ernest but she was willing to work through that.
The secondary focus of this episode is the temptation of knowledge and the dangers that temptation can bring. First with Ernest Littlefield, who chose science over love and regretted every decision. Then with Jackson who wanted knowledge over his friends and family since staying on Ernest’s planet would also mean abandoning his wife who is still a prisoner of the Goa’uld.
I also want to point out the versatility of Captain Carter: Scientist Extraordinaire. She knows enough biology to have studied nanotechnology. She sprouts psychological rhetoric once in a while. And she’s the one always tasked with fixing broken devices of alien origin. What doesn’t this woman do?
This episode’s adorable mascot is Teal’s reaction to getting hugged by a naked old man.