Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 9: "The Scourge"

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Episode Information

Title: "The Scourge"
Written by: Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie
Director: Ken Girotti
Rating (out of 4 stars): **1/2
Reviewed on: October 5, 2007

Synopsis from GateWorld


This episode has implications for the Ori's next move in our galaxy, but ultimately the special effects and horror-movie angle make it hard to take it seriously.

SG-1 is given their most fearsome task to date: escorting members of the International Oversight Advisory committee (IOA) on a trip to and tour of the Gamma Site. (Does that mean there's a Beta Site?) Needless to say, they are not thrilled. Mr. Woolsey is representing the US, along with representatives from China, France, and the UK.

The Gamma Site is commanded by Colonel Pearson. The IOA representatives are given a tour of the base labs and other facilities, but are not allowed into certain military areas. The Chinese representative, in particular, is not pleased with all the secrets being kept from her government. She also conveys her government's disappointment in how little advanced technology they are receiving, since most discoveries are deemed "military" and therefore are not shared. She not-so-subtly tells Daniel that the Chinese government is planning to take steps to change this situation. We don't know how.

Meanwhile, some insects that were brought back from another world have accidentally been fed a key substance, and have begun reproducing out of control. These insects are believed to have been "manufactured" by the Ori, and they use echolocation. Since this feeding, they have also switched from being herbivorous to being carnivorous (cue horror music). The bugs escape containment, but procedures are followed and they seem to have been destroyed. However, a small number must have escaped.

One of the bugs apparently breeds inside a scientist; making him ill. Because the source of the illness is unknown, Pearson locks down the base and prevents the IOA and SG-1 from returning to Earth. When the eggs hatch inside the scientist (do insect eggs hatch?), the bugs begin eating the scientist from the inside out. They burst out of the scientist and spread throughout the base. They are reproducing at a fantastically fast rate, so they begin overrunning the base and eating the personnel.

Pearson orders some personnel to escort the IOA representatives to an off-site research station some 10 kilometers away, but Woolsey insists that SG-1 accompany them. As they trek overland, hordes of bugs swarm up from underground to attack them. SG-1 scares them off by firing their machine guns, the idea being that the bugs are extremely sensitive to sound. They do not get to the research station, but stop in caves in rocky territory (that bugs cannot dig through). They are able to scare the bugs away from the entrance.

Back on Earth, the SGC has been unable to contact any person at the Gamma Site. Using some of the sensors and cameras on the Gamma Site, they are able to remotely determine what happened: the bugs took over. Dr. Lee begins working on some kind of bug poison. The Odyssey is sent to find any survivors, and to implement protocol CR-91, which calls for a neurotoxin to be delivered to the planet, killing everything.

SG-1 devises a plan wherein Mitchell and Teal'c will return to the Gamma Site and get F302s, which they will use to ferry themselves and the IOA representatives to a safe location. However, before Mitchell and Teal'c can make it to the Gamma Site, they see and hear its self-destruct mechanism detonating. The F302s are no longer an option, so they return to the caves.

During all of this, the IOA representatives have been getting increasingly hysterical. The French representative, in particular, is having a hard time keeping himself together. The duty of babysitting them falls mostly to Carter; while she keeps a level head, she refuses to just say that everything's going to be all right. Remarkably, Woolsey rises to the challenge of calming and reassuring the other representatives. He is also very tense, made obvious by his comment to Carter that this mission is going to reflect badly on the stargate program, but not as badly if SG-1 managed to get the representatives back to Earth in one piece.

SG-1 moves on to plan B: continuing on to the research station. Their hope is to contact the Odyssey, which they assume is en route, and get beamed up. They cannot simply be detected by their locator chips, because the planet was specifically chosen for the Gamma Site because its atmospheric properties block such signals. SG-1 and the IOA representatives begin the journey, even though the representatives are neither mentally nor physically suited for the hike. Eventually they get to the station.

When Carter turns on the communications system, the vibrations attract the bugs. The other team members hold them off as best as possible while Carter sends the signal. They are running low on ammunition and explosives, so their time is extremely limited. Fortunately, the Odyssey arrives just in time, and beams them aboard, no questions asked.

Back at the SGC, Woolsey tells Landry and SG-1 that the representatives' report on the mission will not be as negative as they might have feared. The representatives are certainly thankful to be alive, and with the immediate threat gone, they are able to appreciate that no one in the stargate program was at fault for what happened. At the end of the episode, we also receive news that the bugs have been discovered on more planets, presumably planted by the Ori.

This episode did touch on a number of serious issues. First, the Ori's next tactic against our galaxy, in the form of the bugs. What is their plan? If the bugs just eat everyone, the Ori will not have more worshipers. Presumably the Priors are planning on stepping in and "saving" worlds from the bugs, similar to their strategy with the plagues.

The second big issue was the IOA's control over the stargate program. The Chinese representative says her government wants change. However, I can't see the US government relinquishing the control it has. What kind of confrontation will they have?

Unfortunately for the episode, the bugs themselves were pretty cheesy. I think the special effects for individual bugs were OK, but when they moved collectively, it looked too programmed. Beyond that, there are seriously plausibility issues concerning them. I can buy that they eat meat, but do they also eat fat and cartilage and bone? We saw bugs swarm one airman and watched as he melted away and was completely consumed.

Next: the bugs use echolocation. Well, OK, although there certainly aren't any insects on Earth that use it. However, that doesn't mean that they are necessarily extremely sensitive to sound, to the extent that loud sounds would drive them away. And why did the bugs' echolocation seem to draw them only to people? Surely there was a lot of other animal prey in the woods we saw.

Why would the bugs travel underground to get to places? Unless they want to travel long distances (so that the curvature of the Earth's surface is important), it seems like the ease of not traveling through the ground would outweigh the shorter-distance benefit. I suppose this just made them seem creepier.

When Carter sent the message to the Odyssey, it must have been some message. After all, the Odyssey was coming to essentially sterilize the planet. When they beamed back the survivors, they had no idea that they weren't also bringing up a pile of bugs. While convenient for the plot, it's not smart.

The Gamma Site has been forced to self-destruct, not too long after the Alpha Site did the same in season 7's "Death Knell". Finding new planets for suitable sites and constructing them must take quite a budget. I found it odd that when Woolsey was congratulating SG-1 at the end of the episode, he didn't mention the substantial lose of life at the Gamma Site. As far as we know, every other SGC member at the site was killed.

One nice touch at the end: Mitchell says their movie night will consist of the "humorous" movie, Starship Troopers. They should certainly get a good laugh out of that!

In the end, this episode provided some chuckles at the B-movie effects, but didn't follow through with its potential on more serious issues.

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