Shades of Grey

Summary | Analysis | Notes | Characters | Questions | Production

O'Neill steals technology from the Tollan, and is forced to leave the Stargate program. Maybourne offers an intriguing proposal involving his black-ops team.

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EPISODE #318
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 02.11.00
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 04.16.01
DVD DISC: Season 3, Disc 5
WRITTEN BY: Jonathan Glassner
DIRECTED BY: Martin Wood
GUEST STARS:

Tom McBeath (Colonel Harry Maybourne), Steve Makaj (Colonel Makepeace), Marie Stillin (High Chancellor Travell), Christian Bocher (Neumann), Teryl Rothery (Dr. Janet Fraiser), Linnea Sharples (Lt. Clare Tobias)

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SG-1 arrives on the planet Tollana to negotiate — they hope they can secure new weapons technology from the advanced alien race, because the team recently saved their world from a Goa’uld attack (“Pretense”). The Tollan refuse, because they have shared technology in the past and had it used for evil (“Enigma”). Now, it is strictly forbidden for them to share technology with less advanced peoples.

Colonel O’Neill grows frustrated with the arrogant, self-righteous Tollan, and storms out. Carter, Teal’c and Jackson follow, and watch as O’Neill opens up a wall panel and removes a Tollan device (one that disables weapons — human and Goa’uld alike). He takes the device back to Earth, and is congratulated by Hammond. SG-1 is in shock, and does not know how to tell the General that O’Neill has committed a crime that may earn him a court martial.

Hammond soon learns the truth, and is quickly met with insubordination by O’Neill. The Colonel is examined by Dr. Fraiser, who finds nothing medically wrong with him. And when the Tollan arrive to demand the return of their property — and threaten to break all ties with Earth — Jack is given an ultimatum. Either he can face a court martial and prison time, or he can retire.

Jack chooses retirement, and settles in to a monotonous life at home in Colorado Springs. Jackson comes to visit him, and learns that Jack is no longer the man he knew — or thought he knew. Their friendship is torn asunder, and Daniel leaves.

A week later, Colonel Maybourne shows up to speak with Jack. He offers him a new opportunity: commanding a rogue, off-world Stargate team, one that acquires technology by any means necessary to help defend Earth. This team was formerly based on Earth, using the second Earth Stargate to steal advanced technology from other worlds (“Touchstone”).

Jack refuses at first, but Maybourne is confident that he will miss the adventure that the Stargate offers. O’Neill eventually agrees, and embarks on a plan to join the secret, black-ops unit at their off-world base.

Now convinced to abandon diplomacy and join Maybourne’s way of doing things, Colonel O’Neill returns to the S.G.C. and requests to live out the rest of his life off-world. He convinces General Hammond to send him to Edora, a planet where he recently spent three months and fell in love with a woman (“A Hundred Days”).

Immediately after arriving on Edora, Jack dials the gate to the coordinates of the secret operation, and meets the rag-tag band of soldiers. There are about eight in all, and their temporary leader is a young patriot named Neumann — one of the four men from whom SG-1 recovered Earth’s second Stargate a year ago (“Touchstone”).

O’Neill is quickly integrated into the unit — men and women who greatly admire O’Neill and SG-1, though they do not yet completely trust his change of heart. They take Jack on his first mission: the group retrieves an Asgard device that renders an individual completely invisible.

Now, they must get it back to Colonel Maybourne on Earth. When the team acquires larger items, they must reverse-engineer them and send plans back; but smaller items like this can be smuggled back to Earth through their sympathetic contact in the S.G.C. Maybourne alerts them as to when and where the mole is going to be, and they arrive on that planet before the SG team to leave the device.

Jack volunteers to take the Asgard device to the planet, and Neumann allows him — though he is uncertain. O’Neill arrives alone on the rendezvous planet and hides the item next to the dial-home device, but must retreat into the bushes when the SG team comes through the gate.

It is SG-1, now under the command of Colonel Makepeace. O’Neill lays low during their brief survey of the planet, but watches carefully when the team leaves. Makepeace stoops down to tie his shoe, and removes the stolen Asgard device, slipping it into his coat. He is the mole, Maybourne’s contact inside Stargate Command who has been compromising their efforts for months — perhaps even years.

After SG-1 is gone, Jack runs to the D.H.D. and returns to the rogue base. As he exits through the Stargate, an Asgard transports down to the D.H.D. and observes the secret address.

Soon after O’Neill’s return to the base, an Asgard mothership arrives in orbit of the rogue camp’s planet. They begin transporting their stolen technology away. O’Neill tells the group what is happening, and after punching out Neumann, dials the Stargate to Earth. The rogues have two choices: follow O’Neill, or be taken by the Asgard.

The group reluctantly follows him through the Stargate, and find themselves in the S.G.C., where they (along with Makepeace) are arrested for high crimes against the United States and its allies. Hammond and O’Neill reveal that the Asgard and Tollan had both come to the S.G.C. in the past two weeks, claiming that Earth has been stealing their technology. Along with the Nox, they threatened to cut all ties with Earth unless O’Neill and the S.G.C. could apprehend the thieves.

Restored to his command of SG-1, Jack is faced with the task of apologizing to Teal’c, Carter and Jackson, and mending the relationships he was forced to abuse.

ANALYSIS

  • General Hammond states that Stargate Command has been accused of stealing technology from several alien cultures. Who, other than the Tollan and the people of Madrona (“Touchstone”)? Certainly, the rogue team has been busy, as they have acquired many different objects from many different worlds. It is reasonable to assume that any culture that has come into contact with the S.G.C. believes (or suspects) them to be the culprits.
  • O’Neill describes a proposal he and Hammond allegedly made to the Pentagon: the creation of a secondary Stargate command off-world. He tells Daniel that he was going to command the base, but the Pentagon denied the program. While it is possible that O’Neill invented this to add to the plausibility of his change of heart, Maybourne would very likely have known whether such a proposal had been made. It is reasonable to conclude that such a proposal was in fact made, and denied.
  • Colonel O’Neill’s personnel record for the last three years at the S.G.C. includes five counts of direct insubordination to a superior officer and a U.S. senator (including “Politics” and “Within the Serpent’s Grasp”), two counts of refusal to obey orders, kidnapping an alien child (“Learning Curve”), and more.
  • The rogue S.G.C. program has multiple units, according to Maybourne. There were at least eight members stationed at the off-world base, all of whom have returned to Earth and been arrested. The rogue teams had access to all of SG-1’s mission reports, via Colonel Maybourne’s role at the N.I.D.

    Because of Maybourne’s vested interest in keeping his secret program discreet, diverse and effective — and because eight members barely constitute “units” (plural) — there maybe more than one off-world base. Though Maybourne himself may now be arrested and court-martialed, other teams may continue to function on Earth’s behalf from other planets. Though SG-1 chased four men through Earth’s second Stargate a year ago (“Touchstone”), only one of those has been identified so far as being a part of this team (Neumann).

  • It is also conceivable that O’Neill did not fool Maybourne with his change of heart over S.G.C. policy. Recruiting O’Neill to infiltrate the rogue base may have been a deliberate act on Maybourne’s part, as a way to get his people back to Earth. This seems unlikely, since they will most likely all be imprisoned, and since Maybourne himself will likely face a court martial. Most of their stolen technology was also taken by the Asgard. It is a very high price to pay to bring the team back to Earth.

    This hypothesis may be supported by the fact that Maybourne provided O’Neill with a time to make the drop on the world visited by SG-1 with just enough time to get him there, but not enough time for him to leave before SG-1 arrived. In specifying this time (Maybourne appears to have detailed and exact information on scheduled missions of the SG teams), Maybourne may have been handing the mole (Makepeace) into O’Neill’s hands.

  • O’Neill makes a not-so-subtle allusion to the 1990s sitcom, Seinfeld. When first meeting Neumann via the Goa’uld communication orb on Maybourne’s plane, Jack snidely greets him “Hello, Neumann.” Wayne Knight played Newman, Jerry’s “nemesis,” on the sitcom.
  • When O’Neill and Neumann first met, the rogue soldier apologizes to O’Neill for having to return fire in the Utah hanger (“Touchstone”). As a matter of fact, none of the four N.I.D. men cornered by SG-1 fired a weapon at them. This may be an oversight by the producers, but could be something more: perhaps Neumann was dropping a hint to O’Neill, one which will not be realized until a future episode. Neumann may have been hinting that he suspected O’Neill’s defection was false, or even that he himself did not wish to continue to be a part of Maybourne’s program and wanted away out.
  • The people of Edora (with or without help from the S.G.C.) appear to have moved their Stargate to another location. The area in which the gate was located was green and thriving — though an asteroid had struck near the gate only weeks before (“A Hundred Days”). It may also be that this episode takes place many months after the events of that episode (though the fact that one year of SG-1 is about equal to one year of real life time implies that only one to two weeks pass between episodes).
  • The rogue team steals the Asgard invisibility device from an Asgard-protected world. This is the third world encountered so far that is a part of the Asgard’s Protected Planets Treaty with the Goa’uld, including Earth itself (“Thor’s Hammer”, “Fair Game”). Though the Asgard protect the Cimmerians and the Tiernods with advanced technology, they do not provide Earth with any. Instead, the Asgard have protected Earth by allowing the Goa’uld access to a certain passage of space in return for a simple promise that the Goa’uld will not attack Earth (“Fair Game”).
  • There has been a mole in the S.G.C. at least as far back as “Secrets”, when O’Neill learns that someone with detailed knowledge of the program has been leaking information to a reporter. The reporter is killed before he can go public with the story, and O’Neill suspects the only person he told about the reporter (other than Carter): General Hammond.

    The fact that a mole existed within the S.G.C. also came up when SG-1 discovered that the second Stargate on Earth was being used in precise coordination with the S.G.C. gate (“Touchstone”).

  • The Asgard located the rogue base by looking at the D.H.D. after O’Neill dialed the address. This should have only told them the symbols used, not the order — leaving some 720 possible destinations if they knew the seventh (point of origin) symbol. It is reasonable to assume that the Asgard maintain a database of Stargate addresses, and cross-referenced these symbols for possible matches.
  • When returning to Earth, O’Neill tells the rogue team that he would “hold the door open” so that they could not disconnect the Stargate and dial to another planet. When the team returns to Earth, O’Neill has his left arm still submerged past the event horizon, and the wormhole disengages as soon as he removes it. Though it has not been established as to what makes a wormhole stay open and what makes it disengage when it does, this does bring up an interesting new principle of Stargate use:

    It is likely that O’Neill could not keep the rogue’s Stargate from disengaging by thrusting his hand back into the event horizon on the receiving end of the wormhole (Earth). The wormhole is one-way, and it has been implied that any matter sent the wrong way through a wormhole may be destroyed (or lost in space-time) — such as the M.A.L.P. probe that fell back into the event horizon in “A Hundred Days.” It is more plausible, therefore, that O’Neill managed to keep his arm in the event horizon after emerging on Earth.

    It stands to reason that a wormhole cannot be terminated by traditional means as long as there is matter still in transit. Jack held the door open because he had not fully emerged from the wormhole — it would not shut down until he was safely through.

    There are limits to this, of course. A wormhole can only be maintained for 38 minutes (“Serpent’s Song”), and would probably not remain open after that amount of time even with matter still in transit. The Stargate that established the wormhole can also be forced to shut down by removing its power source. (This was probably not an option for the rogue team, under the immediate pressure of time, since it appears that the D.H.D. itself powers the Stargate.)

  • Makepeace hinted at his identity as the mole when he arrested Neumann. Makepeace addressed him by name, revealing a familiarity he should not have had.
  • The Asgard, Tollan and Nox greatly prize control over their advanced technology. Each was on the verge of severing all ties with Earth because of the thefts. This seems especially odd for the Asgard, who have identified the human race as having great potential to become the next great race in the universe (“The Fifth Race”).
  • It is highly coincidental that the Asgard and the Tollan approached the S.G.C. about the stolen technology within a few days of one another. It is possible that the rogue team had recently acquired a major piece of technology, or done something else offensive enough to gain immediate attention.
  • Maybourne and the rogue team operated with a philosophy similar to that of the Goa’uld: they are parasitic, and take what they need to survive. They do not invent or create, but acquire through unethical and violent means.
  • O’Neill was forced to emotionally attack Daniel because he believed his house was bugged by Maybourne. His behavior was necessary to convince Maybourne that he was not opposed to his view of the Stargate program.

NOTES

  • The Asgard may have the ability to traverse tremendous distances in an instant. The Asgard who observed the address of the planet to which O’Neill gated may have communicated to another ship in the vicinity of that planet, or may have taken his own ship. If the latter, the distance was traversed in a matter of moments. (See also “Thor’s Chariot”, where Thor’s ship seems to have reached Cimmeria only moments after the Asgard spoke with Carter and Jackson.)

    Perhaps the Asgard have the ability to create wormholes in space, even without the use of such technology as the Stargate.

  • Before his arrest, Colonel Makepeace was the most senior field officer at the S.G.C. (after O’Neill’s departure).
  • Lieutenant Clare Tobias is an engineer who served on the rogue Stargate team. She was beat out for a position at the S.G.C. by Samantha Carter.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

  • Jack O'NeillJack O’Neill – In assuming his undercover role, O’Neill returned to the cold, hardened personality he showed before SG-1 was formed. Because of the death of his son, the failure of his marriage and his lack of direction in life, O’Neill was bitter and angry at the world. Faced with the loss of the Stargate program, O’Neill found himself resuming this same position.

    To uncover Maybourne, the rogue team and the S.G.C. mole, Jack put himself in the way of great harm — but more importantly, he was forced to compromise his friendships. O’Neill’s relationship with Teal’c was strained; he told Carter that she never really knew who he is; and he outright told Daniel that their new friendship had no real foundation. It may take O’Neill some time to restrengthen the relationships he tore down.

  • Daniel JacksonDaniel Jackson – Daniel’s friendship with Jack O’Neill has been shaken to its very core. Though Daniel will probably recognize that Jack had to treat him the way he did, he may still hold insecurities that Jack may have meant what he said on some level: that their friendship never really had much of a foundation, in spite of everything they have been through together in the last four years.
  • Teal'cTeal’c – Teal’c walked away from Makepeace when the Colonel was assigned to command SG-1, but he did not immediately quit the S.G.C. (as he did when the rest of SG-1 was lost in “Out of Mind”). Teal’c has a tremendous amount of confidence in Jack (“Children of the Gods”), but he still has vested interest in the Tau’ri (Earth).
  • Harold MaybourneHarold Maybourne – Maybourne’s true colors shine through: he has been operating a rogue Stargate program for more than a year, stealing advanced alien technology and working against the diplomatic efforts of the S.G.C. He believes that Earth must do whatever it takes to acquire the technologies with which to defend ourselves from threats. Formerly a thorn in the side of the S.G.C., it is likely that Maybourne will be court-martialed — though his operation likely has support and endorsement from higher up in the chain of command.
  • George HammondGeorge Hammond – General Hammond may be left-handed. He wears his watch on his right wrist.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

  • Why was the Asgard device given to the Tiernods (so that they could hide from predators) left out in the open in a cave? It was remarkably easy for the rogue team to locate and steal.
  • Was Makepeace the only N.I.D.-serving mole within the S.G.C., or did Maybourne have multiple contacts? Was Makepeace responsible — directly or indirectly — for the leaking of information on the Stargate program, or for the death of reporter Armin Selig (“Secrets”)?
  • When and where did O’Neill learn that he can keep a Stargate open by keeping his arm inside the wormhole?
  • What will happen to the rogue team members? Are they all military personnel, and thus eligible for court-martial? Or will some be prosecuted outside the military justice system? How would this be possible, given the top secret nature of the Stargate program?
  • What will become of Colonel Makepeace? A court-martial and prison time seems likely … if the military is able to apprehend him.
  • Will Colonel Maybourne be promptly arrested? Or, will he escape and go into hiding? Perhaps Jack’s testimony alone will not be enough to implicate him (though that seems unlikely).
  • How far up in the U.S. government does support of the rogue Stargate program go? Might this be one reason why the Pentagon denied Hammond and O’Neill’s request for an off-world S.G.C. base? Has the president given approval?
  • Are there other rogue teams operating from other off-world locations? What of the other three N.I.D. men whom SG-1 encountered in the Utah hanger (“Touchstone”)?
  • What other alien technologies were stolen by the rogue teams? What objects do Maybourne and the N.I.D. still possess?

PRODUCTION NOTES

  • Production Error? There appear to be seven symbols illuminated when Jack dials the gate from the drop point back to the rogue base. Jack appears to press only six panels before the center, and a second shot of the active D.H.D. (when the Asgard observes the address) shows only six symbols illuminated. The D.H.D.’s center panel is believed to always represent the seventh symbol (the point of origin — the symbol for the planet initiating the wormhole).