Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 2: "The Fifth Race"

Warning: all of my reviews contain spoilers.

If you have any comments on this review, please email me at the address at the bottom.

Episode Information

Title: "The Fifth Race"
Written by: Robert C. Cooper
Director: David Warry-Smith
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: December 23, 2018

Synopsis from GateWorld


O'Neill builds a device to travel to meet the Asgard.

Daniel has found a Stargate world that may be related to one of the four races that build the repository found in season 1's "The Torment of Tantalus". In short order, SG-1 goes there to investigate.

The "world" seems to be a room that is built around the stargate, rather than the stargate sitting on the surface of a planet. There is pretty much nothing there, and ever-so-patient O'Neill decides they shouldn't waste time hanging out. He steps across a circle on the floor, and a device appears on the wall. Teal'c peers into the hole in the device and see lights, but nothing of interest. O'Neill looks in, and suddenly the device grabs his head, holding him for several seconds. When the device lets go, O'Neill collapses, unconscious. I liked the misdirection on the writer's part - by having Teal'c look into the device without effect, we were extra surprised by its reaction to O'Neill.

Back at the SGC, O'Neill wakes up and feels fine and passes all physical tests. But in the team debrief with General Hammond, he seems oddly impatient with the proceedings. Also, he drops a non-human-language word into the conversation without realizing it. Hammond seems bemused and dismisses him - notice that O'Neill had been sketching something, and he carefully takes away the paper with the sketch. Hammond tells the others to keep an eye on O'Neill.

This leads to an amusing scene where O'Neill tries to "teach" Teal'c how to box - Teal'c is probably the one person who really doesn't need instruction on how to hit someone! O'Neill continues to occasionally put foreign words into his speech. O'Neill and Teal'c visit Daniel, who is trying to translate something from the world they just visited, and O'Neill can read it right off, although he doesn't know what it means. Daniel thinks that O'Neill's alien words are related to Latin, and he's able to do some rudimentary translation. Eventually, Daniel hypothesizes that O'Neill is speaking the language of the aliens who built the stargates - the Ancients. Another visit to the infirmary reveals that O'Neill is using much more of his brain capacity than a normal human does.

In short order, O'Neill shows up in the stargate control room and begins entering a program in machine language. Although the others try to stop him, he is able to complete the program. The program uploads many new worlds with stargates into the database. These worlds are not in the list from Abydos, so the SGC personnel reason that the Goa'uld don't know about them. And since these worlds seem to have come from information related to the four-alien repository, they reason that there may be more information about these worlds on those planets. General Hammond starts sending MALPS and teams to visit them.

One planet seems to be particularly promising, so Carter, Teal'c, and two non-SG-1 members go to explore it. Meanwhile, Daniel is trying to get more information from O'Neill. However, O'Neill can't really speak English any more, although he can write it and apparently understand it. O'Neill begins building some kind of device from circuit components and the energy source from a staff weapon; I think this is the device that he was sketching in the debrief meeting. He seems to complete it, and it turns on with a light and some humming, but he can't say what it does.

Meanwhile, Carter and the others off-world are stuck. Somehow the DHD is stuck mid-dial and can't be "rebooted". The problem is that the planet is going to get much hotter than they realized - almost to the boiling point of water - and so they must leave ASAP. Daniel communicates the problem to O'Neill, and O'Neill within minutes sketches a detailed diagram of the DHD and how to fix the problem. They send it to Carter and the others, who return safely.

At this point, O'Neill is almost uncommunicative to the others. He acts almost vacant, as if his own will has been shut off - instead, he is acting according to "programming".

The stargate begins dialing out, apparently directed by the program that O'Neill entered. The stargate is also trying to draw much more power than usual. Conveniently, O'Neill takes his device and connects it to the main power for the stargate - somehow it provides the needed power.

Amazingly, the stargate goes through the usual dialing sequence but then keeps going and adds an 8th chevron "coordinate". From what Carter can tell, the wormhole is connecting to a stargate in another galaxy. O'Neill wants to go through the stargate, and Daniel convinces Hammond to let him.

O'Neill arrives on an alien world. He begins to speak in Ancient again, and the aliens realize he needs help due to the "download" into his brain. They remove the extra knowledge, and O'Neill seems to go back to normal almost instantly. Gotta love that advanced alien technology!

O'Neill then speaks to the aliens in English, and they are able to speak back. They are the Asgard, and they look like the alien "grays" from UFO conspiracy theories. They say that they long ago formed an alliance between themselves, the Nox, the Furlings, and the Ancients. They confirm that the Ancients built the stargates. The Asgard also reveal that they have been studying the human race for some time, and they think humans have a lot of potential, but a long way to go before they can become an Asgard ally. O'Neill gently rebuffs them by saying that humans are currently exploring space via the stargates, whether the Asgard think they are ready or not. The Asgard seem to react positively to this. They send O'Neill home.

This is a momentous episode for the series, although some of the suspense is lost upon re-watching. In this episode, humans from Earth have formally met the Asgard. Previously, SG-1 had interacted with them only through intermediaries, in season 1's "Thor's Hammer" and "Thor's Chariot" from earlier this season. The Asgard have superior technology to the Goa'uld, so they would be important allies for Earth and the SGC. But how will Earth get in touch with the Asgard again to pursue this?

Clearly the Asgard have an interest in the human race, since they have taken pains to protect humans on other planets, such as Cimmeria in "Thors Hammer". It seems odd that the Asgard are apparently aware of humans living on Earth and yet have not protected them from the Goa'uld.

It's an intriguing idea to think that the Ancients were able to "program" humans as proposed in this episode. I don't honestly think the human brain works this way. And how could such a program take care of all possible variations?

Daniel got to do some of his typical amazing leaps of linguistics and logic, like usual, from translating pseudo-Latin on the fly to speculating on the origin of the stargate system. I did appreciate how he happened to be the person supervising O'Neill when he installed the device he built into the power system - probably Daniel is the only person on the base that would have allowed that.

Speaking of the device that O'Neill built: Carter says that after it is installed, the stargate is using 10 times more power than usual. That is a heck of device! All from a staff weapon power supply? That seems impossible, but I suppose that's part of the mystery of what the Ancients can do.

The sub-plot of sending Carter and the others to the too-hot planet was a bit of a red herring and turned out to be filler. It was clever to have O'Neill save them, but I wonder if the writer felt like he needed to get Carter out of the way or she might figure out what O'Neill was building with his device.

Return to my Stargate SG-1 reviews page.

avondale@astr ;o.umd.edu