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WATERGATE
 
RATINGS SCORECARD
GATEWORLD - * * 1/2
FAN POLL - 7.25
SYNDICATION RATING - 3.0 / 3.1 (-12)

Season Ratings
EPISODE NUMBER - 407
DVD DISC - Season 4, Disc 2
ORIGINAL U.S. AIR DATE - 08.11.00
SYNDICATION AIR DATE - 10.29.01
WRITTEN BY - Robert C. Cooper
DIRECTED BY - Martin Wood
GUEST STARRING - Marina Sirtis (Dr. Svetlana Markov), Tom McBeath (Maybourne), Gary Jones (Technician), Darryl Scheeler (Co-Pilot)
The Russians recover a Stargate from the bottom of the ocean, and turn to the S.G.C. for help when their experiments go awry.

SG-1 prepares to visit a new world, one they hope will be a suitable place to relocate the Enkaran population. But as the Stargate is dialed, the seventh and final chevron fails to lock into place. All diagnostics indicate that the gate is working fine, and that there is no reason why it should fail.

Carter discovers that the base power logs indicate an energy spike about eight minutes before they attempted to dial -- similar to when Maybourne's rogue Stargate team used the second Stargate recovered from Antarctica ("Solitudes,""Touchstone"). Seismic activity in Siberia, Russia precisely corresponds with the energy spike, confirming that the Russians have a Stargate.

After confronting the Russian government, Hammond reports his findings to SG-1: the Russians recovered the alpha Stargate from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. swept the area where Thor's ship went down ("Nemesis"), and concluded that the gate must have been destroyed. The Russian navy, however, was on alert after the country discovered the Asgard ship in Earth's orbit. They recovered the gate.

The Russian government has been divided on whether or not to commission a Stargate program of their own. Now, the gate has been connected to another world and cannot be closed. The Russian president was prepared to order the base bombed and the program covered up; but a scientist, Dr. Svetlana Markov, convinced the government to allow SG-1 into Siberia with her to try and find another solution.

The team meets up with Dr. Markov at Kuybyshev Airbase, and learn that she knows far more about them and about the S.G.C. than she should. She explains that their Stargate program has been in operation for 37 days, with Markov as second in command to General Sakalov. They were able to activate the Stargate so quickly because they have the D.H.D. -- missing from the Giza dig where the Stargate was discovered in 1928, but recovered from the Germans after World War II.

The five of them fly to Siberia, and parachute in. The base is quiet and dark, and the team soon discovers that all 47 of the people assigned to the project are dead. Some were shot;others died when the commanding officer enacted the extreme measures protocol and gassed the facility.

But the Stargate remains connected to a water planet (where the gate on the other side is entirely submerged), despite the fact that it has no apparent power source (the extreme measures protocol cut its connection to the D.H.D.). The Russians had captured a water sample from the planet, though Dr. Markov was recalled to Moscow before she could examine it. The base officials were under orders not to touch the sample until she returned.

SG-1 must find a way to shut down the outgoing wormhole. Otherwise, they cannot use their own Stargate -- and seven S.G.C. teams will remain stranded offworld.

Markov explains that the water sample -- now missing from the containment area -- exhibited incredible energy properties (giving off energy in the form of heat). Carter theorizes that the Stargate may be drawing energy from the water on the other side to maintain the wormhole. Because a Russian probe on the other side has been transmitting a constant signal back through the gate, it hasn't shut down.

Markov, Carter and Jackson take a mini-submarine through the gate to the water planet, in order to capture the drone and shut it off. They succeed, and the Stargate deactivates.But when they move the sub to investigate nearby ruins (and thereby try to solve the mystery of why everyone in the Russian base is dead), the sub becomes stuck. The engines blow, and Dr. Markov sets about repairing them.

Back on Earth, O'Neill and Teal'c continue to search the base for survivors. Inside a freezer, they find the person responsible for leaking top secret information on the S.G.C. to the Russians: it is Colonel Maybourne, frozen solid.

They thaw him out, and discover that, miraculously, he is still alive. When O'Neill and Teal'c refuse to let him get to the Stargate, a gaseous life form leaves him and enters Teal'c.

Maybourne explains his involvement in the Russian program to O'Neill, and what they discovered: the water isn't water at all -- it is a collection of millions of intelligent,microscopic life forms. They are trying to get home. The soldiers in the base tried to stop them, even shooting many of the scientists. It was chaos. The alien life forms inside Maybourne forced him into the freezer to avoid the nerve gas released by Colonel Sakalov, and kept him alive.

O'Neill follows Teal'c and tries to stop him from going through the gate and killing himself, but Teal'c throws him aside and continues toward the gate room.

On the submarine, Dr. Markov repairs the engine -- but still, the sub will not move. As the pressure around them increases, the glass window shatters. Instead of filling the sub,though, the alien life forms create a solid wall of "water" where the window was. Daniel puts his hand into the water, believing the aliens just want to understand them. But he, and Markov and Carter, are soon pulled into the water.

Teal'c enters the gate room and dials the water planet. The alien leaves his body, and escapes through the gate, leaving him alive. Moments later, the Stargate reactivates and Carter, Jackson and Markov come flying through.

It was, Jack speculates, an exchange of hostages.


ANALYSIS
  • This episode posits some interesting questions on how the Stargate works, while destroying at least one long-held notion about Stargate physics. Though it has previously been established that a wormhole cannot be established with a gate that is filled with matter ("Children of the Gods" and "New Ground," among others), the Russians easily gated to a world where the Stargate was submerged in water.

    It seems that, in fact, one can connect to a gate that is filled with matter that is less dense than earth or rock. While rock or dirt will prevent the gate from activating (burying a gate remains an effective way of preventing anyone from coming through it), water will not (nor will air, obviously, which itself contains matter to a minuscule degree).

  • It has been well-established that the alpha Stargate (recovered from the Giza dig, used by the S.G.C. for years and now in the possession of the Russians) supersedes the beta gate(discovered in Antarctica three years ago, and used by Maybourne's rogue Stargate team).This means that if someone offworld gates to Earth's address, they will arrive through the alpha gate. This can be overcome by overpowering the offworld gate, causing the wormhole to jump to the second gate instead ("Solitudes," "Touchstone").

    Now we learn that a Stargate must be hooked up to a power source (such as the D.H.D.) in order to receive a wormhole. The Russians disconnected their Stargate when it was not in use, so that S.G.C. teams would return to the United States' gate. When they expected a team of their own, the gate was reconnected and the wormhole defaulted to the Russian (alpha) gate.

  • Initially, it makes sense that a receiving Stargate must have a power source to operate. Every time the S.G.C. visits another world, they send a probe to check the area and make sure there is a D.H.D. there (powering the gate and giving them a way to dial back to Earth). This also explains why S.G.C. teams did not arrive back on Earth through the alpha gate after it was salvaged from the Pacific Ocean.

    But this violates at least one established fact from the series: Hadante, the prison world where SG-1 was sent two years ago ("Prisoners"),had no DHD and no power source -- but received incoming wormholes daily.

  • It has also been established that the Stargate retains some power even after being disconnected from a power source -- enough to dial out once ("Nemesis"). This ought to be enough to allow an incoming wormhole to connect to the Russian gate even after it had been disconnected from the D.H.D.

  • The alpha Stargate's dial-home device (D.H.D.) was not missing from the dig at Giza, as previously believed ("Children of the Gods"). It was recovered by the Germans, and found its way to Russia after World War II ended. The Russians likely had little or no idea what it was until they recently learned of the existence of the Stargate.

  • The Russian gate would likely still cause energy spikes at the S.G.C. and seismic events when used. These would not have been noticed as out-of-the-ordinary, until the S.G.C. gate failed to dial out -- the result of the Russian gate already being in use.

  • Maybourne may still have contacts at the S.G.C. or within the higher levels of the U.S.government, considering Dr. Markov's knowledge of the incident with the Replicator-infested Russian submarine ("Small Victories"). Maybourne likely lost his position at the N.I.D. after his rogue Stargate team was exposed and arrested last year ("Shades of Grey") -- several months before the incident with the Russian sub. It is also reasonable, though, that Dr. Markov was simply speculating about SG-1's involvement with their missing submarine.

  • It seems miraculous that the Russians would have discovered at least nine valid Stargate addresses in less than 37 days (seven already explored, and two remaining after the water planet, according to Dr. Markov). The vast majority of glyph combinations would be invalid. Most likely, Maybourne supplied a list of valid addresses along with the other information he leaked to the Russians. The addresses would therefore have their origin on the Abydos cartouche -- the same list that the S.G.C. uses ("Children of the Gods"), and potentially including some worlds that the S.G.C. has already visited.

  • According to Carter, the Stargate will not close if there is a strong enough radio signal being sent through (so long as it has a continuous power source -- something more powerful than a D.H.D. or the S.G.C.'s power system). The gate probably interprets the radio signal much in the same way as matter: if there is matter still in transit, the wormhole cannot be shut down. (For example, Jack kept his hand past the event horizon to keep the gate from closing in "Shades of Grey").

  • Notice that the wormhole held up the mini-sub after the front of the vehicle had passed beyond the event horizon. This wormhole property is consistent with past events, such as Apophis' body being sent through in "Serpent's Song".

  • The unstable vortex created by the Stargate when it is first activated (the "woosh" effect) disintegrates anything in its path ("Prisoners," among other episodes, have established this). Were millions of alien life forms in the water killed each time the Stargate was activated? This seems unlikely, since the aliens themselves repeatedly dialed from Earth to get home. The vortex probably pushes the water out of the way, just as it most likely pushes the air out of the way on any other planet.

  • Either the alien life forms or Teal'c himself knew the Stargate address for the water planet. The aliens also knew the address for Earth; they probably learned that by observing the Russians dial out after their first visit.

  • When the aliens returned Carter, Jackson and Markov, all seven chevrons on the Earth Stargate engaged simultaneously.


  • CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
    Colonel MaybourneColonel Maybourne - Maybourne eluded capture when O'Neill exposed his rogue Stargate program ("Shades of Grey"), and eventually went to Russia. He has been participating in the new Russian Stargate program since the alpha Stargate was recovered from the Pacific Ocean, and shared a great deal of classified information about the S.G.C., its missions and its members.

    After escaping alien influence, Maybourne is presumably still at large. He has also added treason to his list of crimes.


    NOTES
  • Some in the Russian government wanted to expose the United States' Stargate program,in order to force them to share the technology. Dr. Markov convinced them that they could benefit from their own program more than they could trust the Americans.

  • Carter's research indicates that the Stargate uses density molecular structure and the force being exerted on the event horizon to determine if something is actually trying to pass through. This counter-measure probably kept the water on the alien world from pouring through the gate into the Russian base (though the alien life forms themselves could have prevented that, as they did not pour into the submarine either).


  • UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
  • Who are the Enkarans? Why do they need to be transplanted to another world?

  • What will become of the Russian Stargate program and the alpha Stargate? Certainly,they will not simply give it up to the United States. Will the Russians and the S.G.C. be forced to cooperate in successfully using two gates from the same planet?

  • How long have the Russians known about the S.G.C.?

  • For how long has Maybourne been in Russia? Was he in contact with them before they recovered the alpha gate?

  • What will become of Maybourne?

  • What six other worlds have the Russians visited? Did they acquire any technology, or make contact with any alien species?


  • PRODUCTION
  • Actress Marina Sirtis (Dr. Markov) talked about her Stargate experience at the Denver Starfest sci-fi convention in April, 2002: "I was amazed I got that role. My manager called and said, 'They want you to audition for Stargate, you have to be Russian. Can you do a Russian accent?' I went, 'I don't know.' 'Well, can you do one by tomorrow?' I went to the audition. There where 19 women and 17 of them where Russian. Well, I had the edge because the audition was all techno babble. I learned it all so when I went in I dee dee dee dee [spoke the lines] and they go, 'You got the part.' Actually, when I went on the set at Stargate, the producer come up after the first scene and goes 'can you tone down the Russian a little. Tone it down, we can't understand what you are saying.'"

  • "Robert [Cooper] once pitched an underwater story that was technically impossible one season, and became 'Watergate' just two years later." (Executive producer and co-creator Brad Wright, in a Q&A at GateWorld)



  • "A great episode with a lot to love about it, but two things about the production stand out for me. The first was Paul's ballistic reaction to the scene in which a frozen Maybourne is discovered. In this case, Paul (a.k.a. Captain Logic) could not accept the fact that someone could be frozen in a standing upright position. Rather, he argued, if you were freezing to death, you would be hunkered down, trying to keep warm. The fact that Maybourne is discovered on his feet, frozen solid, suggests a sudden freeze -- which isn't what happened here. Anyway, it wouldn’t be the last logic issue to set my writing partner off, but it was memorable for being a fiery first.

    "As for the second thing that stands out about this episode for me: the title. I swear, I thought Rob was kidding when he said he was going to call it 'Watergate.'"
    (Writer-producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)

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