Chain ReactionEPISODE #415
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 01.05.2001
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 02.04.2002
DVD DISC: Season 4, Disc 4
WRITTEN BY: Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie
DIRECTED BY: Martin Wood
It's been another action-packed mission for SG-1, who return to the base taking enemy fire through the Stargate. Jack O'Neill is barely fazed, but General George Hammond has had enough. Stating that he's had his fill of sending good people into great danger (and often death) through the gate, he announces his retirement.
O'Neill doesn't buy it, and privately he presses Hammond for the real truth. But the General refuses to discuss the matter further, and departs the S.G.C. He is replaced by Major General Bauer, a hard-nosed bureaucrat from the Pentagon. Bauer seems to take little interest in the men and women of the S.G.C., hardly looking at them as he passes them by at his arrival.
Days go by, and Bauer's new policies are put in place. He breaks up SG-1, assigning Teal'c to SG-3 and giving Daniel Jackson an unwanted desk job. Samantha Carter is assigned to participate in a project developing a naquadah-enhanced nuclear bomb. Jack is quickly fed up, and confronts the new commanding officer with his usual level of tact and insubordination.
Soon after, O'Neill visits the newly retired General Hammond, and finds Hammond's two granddaughters (Tessa and Kayla) playing in the backyard. Jack pushes the general for the truth behind his surprise retirement, and finally gets it: two weeks ago he received a phone call from the N.I.D., telling him to get his act together and be more cooperative with their (legally and morally questionable) agenda. The Stargate, they believe, must be used to acquire advanced technology for Earth by any means necessary ("Shades of Grey").
Hammond flatly refused. The next day, two men dressed in plain clothes picked up his granddaughters from school. The kids weren't hurt – the men just drove them around the block a few times and dropped them off. But Hammond got the message, he tells Jack.
Having a connection to only one former member of the N.I.D. (a government organization philosophically at odds with the S.G.C.), O'Neill decides to do whatever it takes to get Hammond's job back. He pays a visit to Harry Maybourne, now under lock and key after being convicted of treason. Maybourne is awaiting the death sentence.
He doesn't seem to know anything about the effort to blackmail Hammond, but he does know how to get hard evidence to hold over the heads of those responsible. Against his better judgment, O'Neill pulls every string he's got (mainly in the form of a call to the President) and gets permission to take Maybourne out of prison for a few days. The two proceed to one of Maybourne's personal hideouts.
Back at the S.G.C., General Bauer is making a mess of things. One officer is dead in a mission to retrieve refined naquadah for the bomb's testing. And when Carter helps to finish the project, she is informed about the plans to test it off world. She raises serious concerns when Bauer tells her that the planet supports plant and animal life, and that the Stargate will remain connected to the planet during the detonation.
What's more, there are traces of naquadah in the soil of the planet. Unbeknownst to Carter, this was the General's intention all along (as well as those pulling his strings – no doubt with the N.I.D.). The explosion will initiate a naquadah chain reaction that could destroy the entire surface of a Goa'uld-controlled planet (since many Goa'uld worlds are rich in the mineral). Major Carter warns that causing such a chain reaction with the gate still open could have disastrous consequences, especially if the gate is not destroyed by the blast, as Bauer seems convinced will happen. But the General refuses to listen to Sam's better judgment and orders the experiment to proceed.
Pursued by the N.I.D., O'Neill and Maybourne fail to access the N.I.D. computer network, where they can find data linking key individuals to the blackmail of Hammond, plus other illegal N.I.D. actions. So they pay a visit to the home of Senator Kinsey, who Maybourne knows (and Jack suspected) to be connected to the organization. The two interrupt a dinner party, sweet-talking Kinsey's unsuspecting wife and taking him aside into his study. Jack holds the Senator at gunpoint while Maybourne uses Kinsey's computer to access the N.I.D. files.
Bauer's detonation goes forward, but the blast does not disconnect the wormhole as predicted. Though the iris is quickly closed, radiation begins to pour into the base. Stunned, Bauer orders an evacuation of the mountain. Sam reminds him that the gate may still shut itself off once the 38-minute window has expired (the maximum amount of time a wormhole can be maintained); they monitor the gate from a station on an upper level, and are relieved when the Stargate automatically disconnects from the destroyed world. Bauer apologizes to Sam, realizing that his gross negligence almost devastated the planet.
With hard evidence of Kinsey's involvement in the blackmailing of General Hammond, and in Maybourne's covert actions off world ("Shades of Grey"), and in supporting the Russian Stargate program ("Watergate"), Jack demands that Kinsey get Hammond reinstated. Soon after, the General makes his triumphant return to the S.G.C.
As for Harry Maybourne – Kinsey arranged to have him transferred to a nicer prison facility. Shortly thereafter, the Colonel escaped. The fugitive Maybourne contacts O'Neill to thank him; he is now enjoying himself in a tropical paradise, far away from his death sentence.
- Little has been revealed about the N.I.D. in past episodes. We know that when the Stargate program was first conceived, there was a debate over how it should be used. Some believed that the military should use the gate to acquire advanced technology, by any means necessary. General Hammond opposed that position, and never even knew the names of those who supported it ("Touchstone"). Now, it seems apparent that the people who supported that position (including Colonel Maybourne) threw their influence into the N.I.D.
The N.I.D. is based at Nellis Air Force Base, and operates Area 51 – the top-secret facility where technology discovered by S.G. teams is sent and analyzed ("Touchstone"). Now, we learn that the N.I.D. is an organization "as powerful as the C.I.A.," and operates "above the law," according to Hammond. Maybourne also confirmed that the N.I.D. was behind the off-world operation he oversaw, where remote teams stole alien technology and smuggled them back to Earth ("Shades of Grey"). SG-1 has suspected this all along, of course.
Truly, the N.I.D. is being built up as the S.G.C.'s opposite number. Their goal is the acquisition of advanced technology by any means necessary, no matter how illegal or unscrupulous, in order to defend Earth. But they have been robbed of all their means of obtaining it: the second gate on Earth is apparently out of the hands of the Russians, their operative within the S.G.C. has been apprehended ("Shades of Grey"), and O'Neill is holding damaging information over the head of Senator Kinsey, who is a high-profile key player in the N.I.D.'s activities – which prevents them from blackmailing S.G.C. personnel.
- The N.I.D. is made up of cells of individuals, who communicate with each other via Internet bulletin boards. The systems are firewall-protected with assigned user names and passwords.
- After the disastrous events of "Watergate", the Pentagon forced the Russians to cancel their Stargate program in exchange for the continued sharing of information and technology. Presumably, Earth's alpha Stargate and its D.H.D. have been confiscated by the U.S. government. The gate may even be replaced at the S.G.C., since it has certain advantages over the beta gate that has been in use since "Small Victories" (i.e., priority over the beta gate for receiving incoming wormholes).
- One of Maybourne's log-in names was "Menard" (probably a production nod to long-time Stargate cinematographer Jim Menard). Rather than a handle or alias, this could be the name of a fellow N.I.D. member whose account he was trying to hack. If so, who is Menard?
- It seems unlikely that Kinsey could influence the N.I.D. that heavily for too long. At some point, the group may either act against Kinsey's wishes and continue its work against the S.G.C. and its "soft" policies, or recognize that Kinsey is the "weak link" – that someone at the S.G.C. has something on him – and cut him loose.
- The Stargate shut down just past the 38-minute mark (at 38 minutes, 34.12 seconds). The radiation pouring through may have slightly extended the duration of the wormhole. But more than likely, the 38-minute time limit is not an exact figure.
- Kinsey's online activities link him to N.I.D. actions over the last year and a half – including Maybourne's illegal off-world operation ("Shades of Grey"), the Russian Stargate program ("Watergate"), and the blackmailing of General Hammond. This would date back to the beginning of Season Three – long after he shut down the gate in "Politics," and after the beta gate was recovered from N.I.D. personnel in "Touchstone" – though his involvement with the group may predate what his computer records indicate.
- Maybourne tells O'Neill that Kinsey arranged for him to be transferred to a nicer prison facility to await his execution for treason (because Maybourne e-mailed himself a copy of the evidence against Kinsey), and that "the rest was easy." He apparently escaped the prison and it now at large, though Kinsey himself did not help him escape.
- S.G.C. procedure dictates, apparently, that the iris be closed when the base begins to take enemy fire through the Stargate.
- On Chulak, when a great warrior retires from the field of battle, it is customary for his fellow Jaffa to sing a song of lament.
- Major Waite of SG-3 was killed in the line of duty, sent on a suicide mission by General Bauer.
- There is a security station on Sublevel 16 of Cheyenne Mountain that is equipped to monitor the Gate Room (on Sublevel 28).
- The N.I.D. funneled money into Senator Kinsey's election campaign.
- The world designated P3S-452 is a Goa'uld stronghold, where refined naquadah can be found.
- George Hammond - Obviously, Hammond places his family before his career. When the N.I.D. threatened his granddaughters, he hardly hesitated before deciding to resign from the S.G.C. He refused to compromise his principles, though -- that the Stargate should not be used to steal or otherwise unethically acquire advanced technology.
After a number of days in retirement, George Hammond is back in charge at Cheyenne Mountain. He owes a great debt to Colonel O'Neill, who requested only that he continue to grant him leniency and patience. O'Neill also revealed a lot about Hammond's personality: he's good at what he does, and he loves it. He told Hammond that he would never be convinced that the general left the Stargate program because he lost his taste for it.
- Jack O'Neill - O'Neill risked his career and his freedom to go one-on-one against the N.I.D., in order to save General Hammond's job. He's not just a good commanding officer -- Jack considers him a friend. He's also a familiar friend of the general's family (Hammond's granddaughters addressed Jack by his first name, and greeted him with enthusiastic hugs).
O'Neill showed just how far he was willing to go for his friend, holding a United States senator at gunpoint in order to acquire evidence of Kinsey's illegal activities. Jack has retained this information, in order to have the necessary leverage with Kinsey and the N.I.D.
O'Neill has quite a bit of pull with the president of the United States, probably due to the number of times he and his team have save the world. He was able to get the president to grant permission for him to take a convicted traitor on a personal fact-finding expedition.
Jack also nicely expressed the reason he came out of retirement (twice), and why he continues to risk life and limb in support of the Stargate program: "Some things are worth changing your plans for."
- Harold Maybourne - Maybourne was arrested after the events of "Watergate", and convicted of treason. He was awaiting the death sentence in a federal penitentiary when Jack O'Neill found him, and convinced the president to let him out for a few days. After Maybourne helped O'Neill acquire evidence against his former N.I.D. associates, Maybourne blackmailed Kinsey into transferring him to a nicer facility -- and escaped soon after. He is currently at large, though all his ties with the N.I.D. are severed (save the possibility of blackmailing Kinsey).
Maybourne has many aliases (a hundred, if one is to believe the man himself), one of which is "Charles Bliss." He said that he and Senator Kinsey "go way back," perhaps implying a connection between Maybourne and the N.I.D. and Kinsey's attempt to shut down the Stargate program two and a half years ago ("Politics").
- Samantha Carter - Carter continued to follow orders and obey the chain of command, despite her objections to Bauer's naquadah bomb project and her belief that the test would have disastrous consequences. She was proved right, of course, when all of Cheyenne Mountain was nearly destroyed.
Sam expressed her disagreement with General Bauer much more directly than she has done in the past. (Perhaps some of Jack's insubordinate nature has rubbed off on her.) But in spite of Bauer's colossal foolishness, she did not cross the line. She did her duty and stuck around, perhaps because she knew that she'd be the person with the best chance of getting the S.G.C. out of whatever mess Bauer was creating.
- Teal'c - Surprisingly, Teal'c showed a willingness (though perhaps temporary) to remain a part of the S.G.C. when he was reassigned to SG-3 after Hammond retired. He even obeyed Bauer's orders to participate in a mission to a heavily-guarded Goa'uld world to obtain a naquadah sample for a risky experiment. Teal'c saw the life of one S.G.C. officer lost in that mission.
His willingness to stick around may have resulted from the changing dynamic on his home planet of Chulak: the planet has been decimated by Apophis ("Maternal Instinct"), and recently Teal'c was betrayed and captured there by a fellow Jaffa ("The Serpent's Venom").
- Who ambushed SG-1? Obviously Jaffa, from the looks and sounds of the blasts coming through the Stargate. But Jaffa in the service of which Goa'uld? Did they know SG-1 would be there, or was it a chance encounter?
- Where is the alpha Stargate now?
- Will the N.I.D. back off Hammond and the S.G.C., now that O'Neill has info on Kinsey? Or perhaps because their replacement nearly destroyed Cheyenne Mountain?
- Will the Goa'uld (or anyone else) notice the planet that the S.G.C. incinerated? What ramifications might that have?
- For how long will Kinsey be able to keep the N.I.D. from blackmailing S.G.C. personnel? What, if anything, will he reveal to his cohorts about O'Neill and Maybourne?
- Will Kinsey run for President?
- How did Maybourne escape from prison? Where is he now?
- The original ending to "Chain Reaction" saw Maybourne walking free and Jack there, looking the other way, according to writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi, but the show's writers and producers decided that would be out of character for Jack.
- Senator Kinsey's dog, Oscar, was played by Richard Dean Anderson's real-life dog.
- Mallozzi also told fans in an online chat that the similarities between this episode and the film Silence of the Lambs were not accidental.
- "The original idea had nothing to do with Maybourne, Kinsey, or the N.I.D. It involved Hammond facing a court martial for presumably having a hand in the death of an S.G. commander. Like many stories, it became radically different during the 'spinning' stage. We simply wanted to do a story that, in part at least, focused on Hammond. Don lists this episode as one of his favorites and I'm very happy to hear it. He's a wonderful actor and a very good friend." (Co-executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a message at SaveDanielJackson.com)
- "The fact that the late Don Davis considered this episode one of his personal favorites makes me exceedingly proud. It was one of those rare episodes that explored Hammond and offered us a peek of the man behind the uniform. Don was his usual brilliant self and the palpable love and respect SG-1 held for their commander reflected the similar love and respect Don commanded, not only from his fellow cast members, but the entire crew as well. Although I got along well with the entire cast, Don was the one I would occasionally go out to dinner with, sharing a love of food with the fine, Southern gent." (Writer-producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog