Stargate SG-1: The Torment of Tantalus

The Torment of Tantalus (episode 11) does push the plot forward a little bit, but it's also kind of a slow, anticlimactic episode, so it's a bit of a mixed bag. Mainly it just feels too long. There's a good story there, but it just doesn't feel like enough for a full episode.

Hey, who are these guys?
The episode opens mid-flashback to what is soon revealed to be a previously unknown first attempt to activate the stargate. The scene fades to sepia and zooms out to reveal Daniel Jackson watching a video of it in Stargate Command. It's never adequately explained why this old project wasn't properly documented or known about, Jack just sort of blames it on bureaucracy. Which makes some sense, I guess, but you'd think alien artifacts would get more attention - especially considering they actually got the gate working. Oh, and sent a guy through.

I don't think I've seen this episode.
Daniel immediately goes to see the only person he can think of who might have more information, Catherine Langford. From the movie. She's a bit annoyed that no one told her the stargate program was back on, and Daniel's a bit annoyed that she never told him about the first attempt. They both make good points. Turns out her father and fiancé were both involved. But even she didn't know that they'd ever got the gate to work. Her fiancé was the one who went through and her father told her he'd died in an accident.

But now Daniel's seen the footage they can go through and find out what happened to him. And more significantly, the planet isn't one of the ones they know about from the information on Abydos, which suggests the Goa'uld may not know about it either. So a mission is authorised and also Catherine gets to go along.

They sort of carry her through for some reason.
They end up in some kind of ruined building and quickly discover that Ernest (Catherine's fiancé) is still alive. And naked. At this point you'd think priority one would be getting him home, but they don't even think about doing that for an annoyingly long time. Seriously, they just wander around exploring like as though this is a regular mission. It takes almost ten minutes (of a 45 minute episode) for them to discover that the dialling device is broken. I would have thought that SOP would be to check that first thing, but apparently not.

Daniel is not comfortable with this.
But this delay gives Ernest time to show them around some more, and reveal his greatest discovery: some kind of alien computer with information in four languages. We won't get the full story on this for a long time yet, but it's obviously pretty significant. It seems clear that one of the languages probably belongs to Thor's people, and you could probably guess that another belongs to the Nox, but the main thing is that this is going to allow for a steady drip-feed of information about potential allies for the protagonists.

Why is alien technology never convenient?
Meanwhile, Sam and Teal'c are trying to fix the dialling device, and deciding that it's probably easier to just dial the gate manually and use an external power supply, like they do back on Earth. It really seems like there's no danger here. If they don't check in, SGC will send another probe and they'll be able to say what the problem is and get more equipment sent through. They're all acting like it's a big problem, but we've no reason to believe it actually is.

Yep, it's broken.
An approaching storm does give them some motivation to leave sooner rather than later, but it takes them way too long to realise that it also means that a lightning rod can supply them all the power they need to activate the gate. Seriously, that's the solution they end up going with and it's super obvious. There's a little bit of last-minute drama with Daniel wanting to stay and then deciding not to and barely making it back, but it's kind of pointless.

The storm ends up burying the gate, but they have Ernest's notes, so it doesn't really matter. It's a really low-key, low-stakes episode with no antagonist and not much happening, and if I were judging it on its own I'd have to say it's not good. Also the gate being buried just after they make it back home is awfully (in)convenient. But it's one of those important world-building episodes that does a lot to pique your interest for the rest of the series, so it has that going for it.

Who doesn't want to see a bit more naked old guy?

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