Prodigy

Summary | Analysis | Notes | Characters | Questions | Production | Review

Carter must help keep a promising young cadet from throwing away a future at the S.G.C. O'Neill and Teal'c encounter a dangerous life form at an offworld research base.

RATINGS SCORECARD
OUR RATING -
FAN RATING - 7.37 
EPISODE #419
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 02.02.01
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 04.22.02
DVD DISC: Season 4, Disc 5
STORY BY: Brad Wright, Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie
TELEPLAY BY: Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie
DIRECTED BY: Peter DeLuise
GUEST STARS:

Elisabeth Rosen (Jennifer Hailey), Hrothgar Mathews (Dr. Hamilton), Bill Dow (Dr. Lee), Michael E. Ryan (Himself), Keith Martin Gordey (Professor Monroe), Michael Kopsa (General Kerrigan), Roger Haskett (Dr. Thompson), Russell Ferrier (Major Griff), Ivon R. Bartok (Cadet)

DOWNLOAD NOW:
  Amazon    iTunes

Colonel Jack O’Neill and Teal’c are on a less than pleasant assignment to another planet — a moon, actually. They are watching a group of scientists from Earth, who have been working at an offworld research base for the past six weeks. General Hammond is proposing that the facility be made a permanent base.

Dr. Daniel Jackson, meanwhile, is offworld with SG-11, and Major Samantha Carter is giving a lecture on theoretical astrophysics at the United States Air Force Academy. One student in particular — Cadet Jennifer Hailey — catches Sam’s eye when she points out an error in a complex equation.

Carter speaks to her professor and to the Academy’s General Kerrigan about her, and learns that although Hailey is brilliant, she has discipline problems. She’s bored, and though her intelligence and physical skills are exemplary, they are worried that Cadet Hailey just doesn’t have what it takes to be an Air Force officer. Seeing her potential contributions to the top-secret Stargate program, Carter takes it upon herself to speak to the young woman.

Back on M4C-862, O’Neill is losing his patience with Dr. Hamilton and his team of scientists — who themselves are frustrated with the military overseeing their research project, and telling them where they can and cannot go. But Colonel O’Neill and Teal’c soon make an amazing discovery: they encounter a small, insect-like creature that can pass through solid matter. The scientists soon encounter another one of the creatures, and capture it for study. They believe it is an energy-based life form — and perhaps one of the greatest discoveries in human history.

On Earth, Major Carter confronts Cadet Hailey and is met with her self-righteous attitude. Hailey says that she has been in Sam’s shadow ever since she got to the Academy; Carter has the highest grades in every class Hailey has been in, and has won every award she’s ever been up for. Her professors have been comparing her to Carter in everything that she does. Sam tries to convince her not to give up on the Academy program, and on the Air Force. But before Carter has left the campus Hailey gets into a fight while defending a classmate, and breaks the nose of an upperclassman. General Kerrigan intends to throw her out of school, but Carter intervenes on Hailey’s behalf.

She takes the young cadet to the S.G.C., deep within Cheyenne Mountain, and convinces General Hammond to give her clearance. If Hailey can get just one glimpse of her possible future, Sam argues, she will graduate at the top of her class and become an officer worthy of serving under Hammond’s command. The young woman presents the S.G.C. with an opportunity they cannot afford to pass up.

Carter shows her the Stargate, and they travel to meet the team on M4C-862. Colonel O’Neill greets them, and leads them back to the research camp — where Hamilton and his team are studying the captured life form. They have found that a magnetic charge will keep one contained in a glass vessel.

Carter and Hailey are astonished. But O’Neill orders Hamilton to let this one go, and the scientists begin to look for another life form to study. One of the men, Dr. Thompson, is surrounded by a swarm of the light bugs — which begin to attack him, passing right through his body with a violent jolt of electricity. When O’Neill and Teal’c find him, he is dead.

The Colonel orders everyone back to the Stargate for an immediate evacuation, but a swarm of hundreds of the life forms block their path. They take refuge in the research building, and electrify the thin aluminum walls to keep the energy beings out. A few electrical discharges from zat guns help to defend the building against incursion.

Hailey and Carter come up with two competing theories on why the creatures are attacking them, which lead to two very different courses of action. Carter believes that they are responding to the capture of one of their own, and that staying inside the building won’t protect them once the generator fails and the walls are no longer electrified. Someone must make a run for the Stargate and activate it; the electric field generated by the active gate should ward off the life forms and allow everyone else to make it safely to the gate.

Hailey disagrees. Having studied Dr. Thompson’s astronomical research, she concludes that the life forms entered an aggressive state because the moon they are on passed through the polar region of the gas giant it orbits. The increased magnetic field changed the life forms’ behavior, and if they wait a few hours they should return to normal.

With no conclusive evidence, O’Neill decides to make a run for the gate. Hailey is irritated, believing her equally valid theory is being ignored. But Jack and Sam tell her that it doesn’t matter who is right: if he goes for the gate, he’s only risking his own life. If they wait a few hours and the generator fails, he risks the lives of the whole party.

A painful shot from Teal’c’s zat gun alters Jack’s electrical field enough to ward off the swarm as he runs for the gate and begins to dial out. But before he can activate the Stargate, his body re-adjusts, and the swarm begins to attack him. But Teal’c has followed, and a shot from the zat gun at the ground around the D.H.D. keeps the life forms at bay. Colonel O’Neill finishes dialing, and the gate activates. The swarm flees into the woods.

SG-1, Cadet Hailey and the scientists escape through the gate, but must abandon all of their work. Hailey is impressed with what she has seen, and has been given a new goal in her work and her studies.

ANALYSIS

  • Before the life form was encountered, General Hammond was proposing M4C-862 as a permanent offworld research station. This would be a first for Earth, though Hammond and O’Neill had previously proposed setting up a second Stargate command facility on another planet — and were denied (“Shades of Grey”).
  • Major Carter is confident in her conversation with Professor Monroe that parallel realities occasionally overlap. It’s something she has experienced firsthand, but could not share: Dr. Jackson found himself in a parallel reality (“There But For the Grace of God”), and the S.G.C. met another Samantha Carter from another reality (“Point of View”).
  • Production Goof: Haley is standing to Carter’s right when they enter the wormhole from the S.G.C., but she emerges through the other side on her left.
  • As seen previously (Daniel in “In the Line of Duty,” Fro’tac in “Family,” and Martouf in “Divide and Conquer”), one shot from a zat gun stuns a person — but does not always render him or her unconscious.
  • A zat blast temporarily alters the electrical field of whatever it hits, be it a person, an inanimate object — even the ground and surrounding air. When Teal’c shot the ground next to O’Neill and the dial-home device, the energy beings were unable to approach it within a few feet.

NOTES

  • Major Griff is unit commander of SG-2.
  • The Stargate is essentially one big superconductor. When activated, it generates an electrical field several meters around the immediate area.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

  • Samantha CarterSamantha Carter – When Sam recognized Cadet Hailey’s brilliance and the contributions she could one day make to the S.G.C., she intervened on her behalf. She saved Hailey from being kicked out of the academy, and even petitioned General Hammond to give her clearance to the S.G.C. itself. Clearly, though Hailey considered Sam an impossible standard to live up to, Sam considered her to be a prodigy.

    Not only is Sam a brilliant member of the Stargate program, but Professor Monroe also refers to her as “the leader in the field of astrophysics.”

  • Jack O'NeillJack O’Neill – O’Neill was understandably frustrated at having to watch a group of scientists on a world where nothing exciting was going on — so much that he would almost welcome trouble, to give him something to do. But when that trouble arose, he stayed true to his character, risking his life to save his team and the group of scientists.

    Jack was star-struck upon meeting General Ryan, and was surprisingly at a loss for words.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

  • Will her experience change Hailey for the better? Will she stay in the Air Force Academy program?
  • Will Hailey wind up assigned to Stargate Command after graduating?
  • Will the S.G.C. attempt to return to M4C-862, at least to collect the scientists’ research material?
  • Are the energy-based life forms sentient? Why did they really attack the team?

PRODUCTION NOTES

  • Actor Michael Kopsa (General Kerrigan) is not new to Stargate SG-1. He played a news anchor who appeared briefly on the television screen during an alternate-reality Goa’uld invasion in Season One’s “There But For the Grace of God”.
  • This episode features a cameo appearance by General Michael E. Ryan, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force.
  • “In ‘Prodigy’ we learn that Sam is not perfect and is even prone to moments of self-doubt,” said writer / producer Joseph Mallozzi. “We’ll also be running into a cool alien life form with an equally cool means of dispatching of its enemies.”
  • Mallozzi expounded on “Progidy’s” B-plotline in an online chat. The episode “deals with the clash between the military and civilian mentality as Jack is assigned to babysit a bunch of offworld scientists. They don’t appreciate his high-handed military ways while O’Neill thinks they’re a bunch of whiners.” “Unlike a lot of the other sci-fi shows out there, SG-1 has a fairly rigid structure. So, yes, it does make it difficult at times. ‘Prodigy,’ for instance, was tricky because we focus on a young cadet at the Air Force Academy. We wanted her to go AWOL and get punished. The Air Force came back and said, ‘You can’t do that. She’d be kicked out for sure.’ We had to find another way to tell the story. It happens on occasion.”
  • “In the case of an episode like ‘Prodigy,’ Paul and I were bleary-eyed researching the science behind that one.” (GateWorld chat with writer / supervising producer Joseph Mallozzi)
  • “This one was another disappointment. I believe I’ve already mentioned elsewhere how the character of Jennifer Hailey was originally conceived as a younger version of Carter (Samantha, Jr.) but, in the end, came across as petulant and unlikable. Without a doubt, our weakest script of the fourth season, but an episode notable for the very first onscreen appearance of Ivon Bartok who plays the cadet, in opening tease, who asks: ‘Did you say TEN dimensions?’ Brilliant. “The role of Hailey came down to two extras, Elizabeth (who eventually won the part) and an actress named Jennifer Halley. It stuck in my head because, in my first draft of the script, the character had been named Jennifer Halley before Paul changed her last name to Hailey. Anyway, Elizabeth was better suited to the role of the young ingenue, but Jennifer would later land the role of Lieutenant Tolinev in Season Five’s ‘The Tomb.’ “The seemingly distant cousins of the alien life forms (zapping bugs) that complicate matters in this episode put in an appearance in Stargate Atlantis‘s ‘The Defiant One’ and Stargate Universe‘s ‘Water.’(Writer-producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog