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ASCENSION
 
RATINGS SCORECARD
GATEWORLD - * * 1/2
FAN POLL - 8.13
SYNDICATION RATING - 2.3 / 2.4 (-23)

Season Ratings
EPISODE NUMBER - 503
DVD DISC - Season 5, Disc 1
ORIGINAL U.S. AIR DATE - 07.13.01
SYNDICATION AIR DATE - 09.23.02
WRITTEN BY - Robert C. Cooper
DIRECTED BY - Martin Wood
GUEST STARRING - Sean Patrick Flanery (Orlin), John de Lancie (Colonel Simmons), Ben Wilkinson (O'Brien), Eric Breker (Reynolds), Rob Fournier (Special Forces Commander)
An alien being is smitten with Carter and follows her back to Earth, assuming human form and pursuing a relationship with her.

SG-1 finds a world desolated by war, with apparently no remaining survivors. They investigate a device in a small complex set apart from the city, which appears to be more technologically advanced. The device may be a weapon of some sort; the Pentagon will certainly be interested.

Jack O'Neill and Teal'c go exploring while Daniel Jackson attempts to decipher an inscription outside. But inside the structure, Samantha Carter is struck by a powerful form of energy while studying the device. She is knocked unconscious.

Back at the S.G.C., Dr. Janet Fraiser declares her healthy -- but is cautious, considering everything Sam has been through over the last four years, and tells her to take some time off. Sam insists on helping SG-16 with the alien device, but General Hammond and O'Neill order her to go home and relax.

The next morning, Sam has a brief encounter with a man outside her home. Moments later, she finds him inside, wanting to talk with her. He claims to be an alien from 636, who followed her back through the Stargate. Sam doesn't know what to make of the stranger, and runs.

She calls in a sweeper team from the S.G.C., which finds nothing. Cameras and listening devices are placed throughout her home, but the alien does not show himself for days. Though her friends believe she is losing her mind, Sam insists that he is real. When the devices are removed, he returns.

The alien -- Orlin -- convinces Sam to let him finish what he started on the planet Velona. He believes that a human can handle the "sharing of souls," if she is prepared for it. She cautiously agrees, and the process is complete; Orlin shares his true essence with her. In so doing, he falls in love with her.

Orlin is a member of an ancient race that long ago ascended from physical form to a spiritual form. Carter believes his race is the same as Oma Desala's, the alien being who raised Shifu, the Harcesis child ("Maternal Instinct"). They both take the same ethereal form, and have the ability to control the weather.

Carter does not tell her superiors that the alien has returned; Orlin threatens to simply disappear again. But she continues her reluctant relationship with him, trying to gather information. In so doing, she learns the terrible truth about the planet Velona.

Orlin tells her that Velona was under attack by the Goa'uld, and that he showed the people there how to construct the highly-advanced weapon to defend themselves -- a violation of one of his people's highest laws. But after the Goa'uld were repelled, the people began to plan the conquest of other worlds. The others of Orlin's kind came and wiped them out to "correct" Orlin's mistake -- sentencing him to live alone on the desolated planet.

Carter cannot convince General Hammond and the Pentagon (represented by Colonel Frank Simmons) to stop the weapons test. SG-16 has integrated a naquadah reactor, thanks to Sam's help, and prepares to activate the weapon. And when she learns that the Pentagon has been spying on her and Orlin, Sam is confronted by Simmons.

The Pentagon calls in a strike force to surround Carter's home and capture him. But Sam has grown close to Orlin over the last few weeks, this alien who has taken human form and forsaken his ethereal nature and powers for her -- and has started to like him. She goes inside ahead of the team, and finds Orlin busy in the basement.

He may have given up his alien abilities, but he certainly still has the knowledge that goes with it. Orlin has constructed a miniature, single-use Stargate to take him back to Velona. He activates the gate, and Sam follows him through as the strike team rushes into the house.

On Velona, Orlin throws himself in front of Colonel Reynold's gun to stop the test fire of the weapon -- knowing that if it is activated, the others of his kind will return, and humankind may suffer the same fate as the people of Velona. Orlin manages to disconnect the power source, and the ignition sequence is terminated. He is near death.

But the others have returned, he tells Sam, and have given him a second chance. They help him to ascend once again to an ethereal form, and he destroys the weapon and leaves.


ANALYSIS
  • The inscriptions that Daniel was examining on Velona were probably not in the same language as those on the walls of the monastery on Kheb ("Maternal Instinct"); otherwise, he would have recognized the language, since he translated much of it while on Kheb. It's logical to assume that the pillar was made by the locals and was inscribed with the native's language.

  • The alien weapon included components based on crystal technology, just as the Goa'uld use (seen, for example, in the engine room in "Exodus"). While it's unlikely that the Goa'uld had anything to do with this device, it is possible that they once scavenged crystal-based technology from Orlin's race (or from someone who got it from Orlin's race).

  • Dr. Fraiser told Sam to come back to the infirmary if she started speaking an alien language -- a reference to the time when Colonel O'Neill did just that, after having the Ancients' library downloaded into his mind ("The Fifth Race").

  • The weapon structure was built approximately 400 years ago, though Daniel believes that the civilization may date back as far as 3,000 years. The Goa'uld attack was thus around 400 years ago, leaving Orlin alone on Velona for some four centuries.

  • Colonel Reynolds has been transferred to the S.G.C. (at least for this mission), and led SG-16 in its long-term study of the planet and the alien weapon. SG-1 met Reynolds (then a major) two and a half years ago, when he gave them a tour of Area 51 ("Touchstone").

  • What species was Orlin's before they "ascended" to the ethereal creatures they are now? Orlin told Sam that he use to look like a human, before his ascension. It is possible that they were human, though it seems unlikely that a human colony taken from Earth only a few thousand years ago could evolve to that level so quickly (unless they ascended with the aide of advanced technology).

    Orlin also states that his kind can retake human form, thus limiting their abilities. This lends weight to the argument that they were once actually human, though he still may have been speaking only in the most general terms -- saying "human," where in fact he meant "corporeal."

  • If Orlin's race wasn't human, who were they? Their history bears resemblance to the Ancients, the builders of the Stargate network. The Asgard told O'Neill that the Ancients were once a member of the alliance between four advanced races, but have since passed on from this part of the universe ("The Fifth Race"). This could be explained by the species' original ascension.

    More evidence comes in this episode: Orlin constructed his own Stargate from scratch to take him back to Velona. Since the Ancients originally built the gates, Orlin's remarkable ability supports the theory that his people are the Ancients. This too is inconclusive, though: other species have apparently built Stargates, including the Tollan ("Pretense"), who are only a few hundred years ahead of Earth's level of technology.

  • Orlin, and apparently Oma Desala as well, were banished for breaking one of their species' most sacred rules: to not accelerate the natural ascension process of other beings. Oma Desala helped corporeal beings ascend to her race's level ("Maternal Instinct"), while Orlin gave a species advanced weapons technology.

  • Members of Orlin's race are still monitoring Velona, to some degree. Orlin said they would know if the weapon was reactivated, and in fact they did return to the planet when it was turned on.

  • Orlin constructed a small, one-use Stargate using 100 pounds of pure, raw titanium, 200 feet of fiber optic cable, seven 100,000 watt industrial-strength capacitors, items from Sam's house, and more. He encoded it to only dial Velona, and expected that it would probably burn out after it was used.

    Whether or not the gate still works, it will no doubt be invaluable to Earth -- showing them how to construct a Stargate from material found on Earth, and without naquadah. It is likely that Colonel Simmons had the gate confiscated from Carter's basement and brought to Area 51.


  • CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
    Samantha CarterSamantha Carter - Carter was forced to take time off work, and found that she had nothing else to do. She is certainly married to her career, as has been implied in several other episodes ("Nemesis," "The Other Side," "The Curse").

    Though naturally suspicious of Orlin, Sam eventually opened up to him, and even started to like him. She did not believe a relationship with him was possible, though he claimed to love her.

    Sam apparently has no other siblings, other than her brother Mark (seen in "Seth"), as there were none pictured in the family photos in her house. Her birthday is in May -- her birthstone is an emerald.

    Jack O'NeillJack O'Neill - Jack was understandably surprised when he found out that Sam had a "date," and even seemed to be a bit jealous.

    O'Neill is not much of a science fiction fan.

    George HammondGeorge Hammond - Hammond objected to the government's having bugged Carter's house, but found himself helpless to do anything about it.


    NOTES
  • Orlin's race is capable of easily manipulating the weather (including the ability to make lightening strike a very specific spot), and can make themselves completely invisible. They can also appear however they wish to appear, and can retake physical form at will -- though this limits their powers. They cannot reascend to the way they were without the help of others of their kind.


  • UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
  • What Goa'uld was responsible for the attack on Velona?

  • Who exactly does Simmons work for? Who had the authority to approve the bugging of Sam's house?

  • To what race does Orlin belong? Is he one of the Ancients?

  • Where did Orlin's race go? Did they leave this part of the universe when they ascended? How then, could they be monitoring Velona? Did they leave some people behind?

  • Will the folks at Area 51, or the SGC, be able to reproduce Orlin's miniature Stargate? Does it still function?

  • Where will Orlin go now?


  • PRODUCTION
  • "This is a huge, huge episode for Carter. We get to see where she lives. I get to wear normal clothes. I drive an amazing car. It's sweet. You know what? I think Carter is very cool. She has a 1940 Indian motorcycle; a 1961 beautiful, mint, vintage Volvo and she's got a Harley in her garage that she's working on, too. How great is that?"

    "I have a man. Of course, at first nobody believes he exists. He's a bit like 'my imaginary friend'. Actually it's a great episode for me because everyone thinks I'm crazy and plays into the fact that Carter has no life outside the S.G.C. They play into the fact that she never relaxes, so they keep saying things like 'take it easy', 'rest' and 'go home'. So you get to see her house and see that she does have a normal life. It's not like she's a complete loser, you know. Well, she might be a little bit of a loser, but not totally."
    ('Samantha Carter' actress Amanda Tapping)

  • "Sean [Patrick Flanery] did a wonderful job. You have to see the episode, though, to really know what I mean. He and Amanda are just fabulous,so much so that you want to see them in their own little series together. There's a wonderful magic between their characters. The story was well-acted and nicely directed by Martin Wood, who also directed 'Enemies.'"

    "'Ascension' also introduces another new recurring character played by John de Lancie. He's a colonel in the Air Force who has very questionable allegiances. He comes in and poses a threat to General Hammond and Stargate Command by questioning the S.G.C.'s way of doing things. He may or may not be in some way linked to Senator Kinsey, so you're not really sure who's pulling the strings behind his orders or what he's up to. There are some surprises relating to his character that I can't really give away. Needless to say he will become an integral part of our on-Earth storylines and the mythology of running a Stargate programme in the United States."
    (Executive producer Robert C. Cooper, in TV Zone Special #42 [July 2001])

  • Can Orlin's home-made Stargate be reused? "That particular Stargate was a one-show only affair," according to writer / producer Joseph Mallozzi (via an online chat at the SG1Fans discussion group)



  • "This was one of those episodes that hadn't sold me at the script stage but really came together once we started shooting. Sean Patrick Flanery was great and had terrific onscreen chemistry with Amanda. Another perfect example of writer-producer's remorse: an actor who does such a good job that one regrets killing off his character."
    (Writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)

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