Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 7: "Fragile Balance"

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Episode Information

Title: "Fragile Balance"
Written by: Damian Kindler
Director: Peter DeLuise
Rating (out of 4 stars): *1/2
Reviewed on: May 17, 2007

Synopsis from GateWorld


This episode started out pretty good and then took a turn for the worse in the second half. At the beginning of the episode, we are treated to a "young Jack O'Neill". Somehow, O'Neill has apparently been de-aged to that he appears as he did when he was about 15. He still retains all his memories (and attitude) of his adult self.

The actor that plays young O'Neill does a wonderful job portraying O'Neill's mannerisms, attitude, and tone of voice. I can't imagine how long the actor must have studied old episodes! His talent made the beginning of the episode a lot of fun to watch.

Initially, General Hammond, Carter, Daniel, and Teal'c do not believe young O'Neill is O'Neill. Frankly, given all the strange things that SG-1 has encountered, I think it took them a little too long to believe him, especially once he was able to spout off detailed descriptions of events they had encountered.

In fact, Daniel makes this point for me. In an amusing scene, Teal'c asks Daniel to name a stranger event (than the de-aging of O'Neill) that has happened to them. Daniel rattles off: the time O'Neill got really old (season 1's "Brief Candle"), the time he became a caveman (I assume this is season 1's "The Broca Divide"), the time they all swapped bodies (season 2's "Holiday")... I was wondering how the amnesiac Daniel would remember these missions from years ago, but then I remembered how Daniel told Jonas at the beginning of the season in "Fallen" that he was reading SG-1's mission reports. I would think that reading those reports with no memory of the events would really make them stand out as unusual (which they are to any normal person!).

Eventually, Dr. Fraiser uncovers two facts about young O'Neill: first, he's dying from some kind of cellular breakdown, and second, that he's a clone. The fact that he's a clone implies that the original O'Neill may still exist somewhere.

At the same time, Daniel and Teal'c have been investigating young O'Neill's description of what happened to him the night he was de-aged: he remembers being transported to an alien ship, where he floated in mid-air, was experimented on, and had green lights buzzing around him. Daniel and Teal'c interview a number of people who had reported similar alien abductions in the past. They deduce that an Asgard must be responsible.

As an aside, this subplot is an amusing addition to the established backstory that the Asgard have been monitoring and visiting Earth for years. The writers of Stargate SG-1 have admitted that they based the Asgard on stereotypical descriptions of aliens in alien abduction stories. Now we are seeing the "real story".

Tests also show that the previous abductees are not clones. Consequently, Daniel reasons that they were temporarily replaced by clones while the originals were experimented upon, then they were returned and the clones were taken away. Following this logic, he believes that the young O'Neill is due to be taken back by the Asgard and the original O'Neill returned.

This is where the episode starts to take a sharp downturn. SG-1 wants to neutralize the Asgard responsible so the experiments will stop. They clearly need young O'Neill's cooperation to do this. How do they persuade him? They just expect him to help. They express little concern for him, as young O'Neill says, presumably because they just care about getting the original back. Teal'c lamely suggests that the Asgard might be able to fix young O'Neill, since he was responsible for his creation. Shame on all of them, for not making this one of their priorities! It's an obvious idea.

They set up the plan. Since they were ready for the reverse-abduction, young O'Neill is awake and zats the Asgard. Then, without thinking, he zats the evil-looking equipment, which stops the anti-gravity field and drops him to the ship's floor with a thump. How typically O'Neill! He then ties up the Asgard and beams SG-1 to the ship, including the original O'Neill.

Original O'Neill and young O'Neill get to speak to each other briefly. They are clearly uncomfortable around each other, which makes sense. The Asgard, Loki, reveals that he was kicked out of the Asgard "science club" (as O'Neill calls it) and has been conducting unauthorized experiments on humans. SG-1 calls Thor, who arrives to take Loki into custody.

Then O'Neill has to decide what to do about young O'Neill. Thor assumes that original O'Neill will let the clone die. This is a disturbing idea, coming from an "advanced" race. Do the Asgard routinely clone themselves and let the clones die (as long as the original is still alive)? Do they not believe that the clones are sentient? Perhaps since the Asgard are used to moving their consciousness from body to body, they are used to discarding bodies and Thor thinks of the cloned O'Neill in this light. Or perhaps they value the uniqueness of an individual so highly that they even consider a clone to be a huge threat.

Who else fails to come to young O'Neill's defense? Daniel! This tells us, if nothing else does, that Daniel is not all the way "back" yet. The Daniel that fought for the rights of non-human Unas (season 5's "Beast of Burden"), wanted to communicate with and to preserve a completely electronic being (season 4's "Entity"), tried to save the android creator of the replicators (season 5's "Menace"), and comprehended beings made of water (season 4's "Watergate") (just to name a few!) would never give up fighting for young O'Neill's right to live, clone or not. Here he hardly says a word. Does he really think the decision is all up to the original O'Neill?

Finally, the original O'Neill himself hesitates a bit too much deciding to save young O'Neill. After all, original O'Neill allowed an android copy of himself to live (season 1's "Tin Man") and even expressed grief when that android died (in season 4's "Double Jeopardy"). At least he finally makes the right decision: he asks Thor to fix young O'Neill.

Besides the obvious moral questions involving young O'Neill's life, the scenes aboard Loki's ship are very slow and expository. The two O'Neills answering simultaneously any question directed to "Colonel" is only amusing for so long. But wait, the episode gets even worse.

Thor fixes young O'Neill so that he will survive and age at the normal human rate. So what does young O'Neill decide to do? Go back to high school. This is completely, utterly unbelievable to me. First, how could someone with O'Neill's grown-up personality and experiences be satisfied with the shallow and petty nature of high school social life? Does he really just want to mess around with the girls that much?

Second, how could the SGC virtually give away a duplicate with O'Neill's experience and memories? My first thought was that he would be a perfect liaison with the Asgard: they would not think twice about his young appearance, plus they respect O'Neill. Even if the SGC didn't want to do something that radical with young O'Neill, certainly they could come up with another way to take advantage of him. Heck, make sure he can qualify for flight training with his young body, and then turn him loose on training, testing, and fighting. He could accumulate another 20 - 30 years of experience, meanwhile having a young man's reflexes and physical abilities. What an invaluable asset! But none of this happens.

As I said at the beginning of the review, the beginning of the episode is quite good, with the mystery of the young O'Neill. But midway through, the plot takes a nose dive. I can only shake my head and wonder what the writer was thinking.

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