Stargate SG-1: Prisoners and The Gamekeeper
Prisoners and The Gamekeeper are two very distinctly television science fiction episodes…yet I think they have some really good elements to them.
Stargate SG-1 – Season Two – Episode 3 – Prisoners
See if you can spot the common science fiction theme.
SG-1 is exploring an alien planet, when a man comes running to them, scared. Abruptly they are all transported to an alien courtyard and condemned to a slave planet for trespassing and aiding and abetting a criminal. This slave planet has a Stargate but no dial-home device. The prisoners operate in a typical prison system, with the strong getting favor over the weak. All food and supplies are delivered through the Stargate at regular intervals. Yet for some reason, there is an old woman named Linea that all the other prisoners respect. She has allowed the prisoners to believe that running into the event horizon when the stargate turns on is the only means of escape from the prison, when in reality the energy instantly annihilates anything that comes in contact with it.
Turns out Linea is a bit of a scientist, condemned to this planet for failing to stop a plague. She can use a naturally growing fungus to create cold fusion power, which gives Sam Carter the idea to use it to power the Stargate and manually dial themselves home (Teal’c gets all the heavy work). SG-1 and Linea escape the planet and go to another planet they know SG-3 is scheduled to arrive at, and using SG-3’s DHD, they head back to Earth. Meanwhile, another prisoner escaped right behind SG-1, and is captured by SG-3. On Earth, Carter shows Linea how to use their computers to dial the Stargate, and Linea uses a device to stun Carter. The other escaped prisoner, went brought back to Earth, reveals that in fact Linea is known as the “Destroyer of Worlds” and was responsible for engineering and purposely unleashing the plague that decimated an entire planet…and SG-1 is responsible for letting her back into the galaxy.
Spot it? The idea of breaking some unknown law on a planet and being immediately sentenced to death or life imprisonment is a common science fiction plot. It’s what happens when lazy writers start trying to cram social issues into science fiction, instead of focusing on characters and otherworldly events and locations. I understand the whole mirroring issue that occurs in fiction, but please don’t be so blatant about it. In SG-1’s case, I think that if the characters had been able to say “screw you” to the judge and jury at any point, they would have. Instead we get an escape attempt, a successful one too.
The twist is the woman, Linea, the Destroyer of Worlds. It really hits home at the end that this sweet old woman is in fact a mass murderer just like a Nazi scientist. And SG-1 released her back into the galaxy. Oh crap.
Better believe that Linea will be back.
Trivia! First episode General Hammond goes through the Stargate, to negotiate for SG-1’s release from prison.
Stargate SG-1 – Season Two – Episode 4 – The Gamekeeper
Dwight Schultz from Star Trek: The Next Generation guest stars!! Great actor, love him in pretty much everything he does.
Exploring a paradise planet, SG-1 discovers people hooked up to giant computer pods. Abruptly they are stunned and attached to the pods. Inside, they enter into a virtual reality world, where they are forced to relive certain traumatic events from their lives: Daniel Jackson with Sam Carter continually watches his parents crushed on an archaeological expedition, and Jack O’Neill and Teal’c witness a failed assault on a stronghold in East Germany where Jack lost most of his team and barely escaped with his life. The twist is that both Jack and Daniel can interact with their surroundings and alter events, but in every situation, Daniel’s parents die and Jack’s squad dies.
Wising up (or giving up), both sets of SG-1 notice that a group of people in kinda shawls are watching them intently. Around this time a man known as the “Keeper” shows up and explains to them all that they can change the past in this simulation. The Keeper tells SG-1 that he is keeping them safe from the desolate wasteland outside the simulation. When SG-1 protests and mentions the paradise outside, the robed people visibly react. Flustered, the Keeper allows them to leave the simulation and head back to Earth. Yet back on Earth, SG-1 quickly discovers that they in fact never left the simulation, particularly when General Hammond basically orders them to go back into the simulation to gather intelligence. Jack attacks Hammond to prove his point, and Hammond throws SG-1 into the brig. While in the brig, they are visited by Kawalsky (who died in the very second episode of Stargate SG-1 and was a character in the original Stargate movie), who tells them they should just have accepted the simulation and left well enough alone.
Again, in the corner are the robed people. SG-1 pleads with them, promises to show them the paradise outside, and after walking out of the brig and overpowering the guards, attempt to lead them through the Stargate. Hammond, who is really the Keeper disguised, shuts down the Stargate before they can walk through it. SG-1 chases the Keeper through the replication of the SGC, and find the real exit doors. Turns out the Keeper has known about the paradise all along, calls it his garden, and keeps people in statis to preserve it because they would eventually just destroy the world again like they had initially (leading to everyone entering virtual reality). But the people have already left the VR while SG-1 is talking to the Keeper. So SG-1 is now free to leave the planet, with a promise to help the people care for the planet with the well-intentioned if misguided Keeper.
Environmental disaster. Virtual Reality. All trademarks of classic television science fiction. Done competently enough by Stargate SG-1. Dwight Schultz makes a great Keeper, and it’s nice to see more backstory for Jack and Daniel. But overall this episode is fairly forgettable, with the message of “take care of your planet, you morons” sinking it fairly hard.