Scorched EarthEPISODE #409
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 08.25.2000
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 11.05.2001
DVD DISC: Season 4, Disc 3
WRITTEN BY: Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie
DIRECTED BY: Martin Wood
GUEST STARS: Brian Markinson (Lotan), Marilyn Norry (Hedrezar), Alessandro Juliani (Eliam), Rob Court (Caleb), Nikki Smook (Nikka)
After months of searching, SG-1 has found a new home for the Enkarans: P5S-381. The lush, beautiful and uninhabited world has just the right conditions for the simple people – a high enough ozone concentration to meet their physiological needs.
After two weeks of helping the small civilization relocate to this world, SG-1 joins them in a feast of celebration. But the party is cut short; a young man comes running from the west, reporting a terrible danger. An enormous alien ship (some two miles in diameter) is slowly moving across the planet's surface, destroying everything in its path with a 20-mile-long energy curtain.
The team studies the situation, and concludes that the vessel is terraforming the planet for a type of life unlike any they know – sulfur-based life, rather than carbon-based. The terraformer will render this planet inhospitable to the Enkarans, and most certainly kill them if they are still there when it hits the village. And it is only a day away.
Led by their matriarch, Hedrezar, the Enkarans refuse to leave. They could not possibly evacuate the thousands of people they have, spread out over many villages, in time. And if they went to Earth, they could survive for only days without another high-ozone planet to live on. The only other suitable planet they know of is the original Enkaran homeworld, lost for centuries since the Enkaran's ancestors were kidnapped by the Goa'uld – who came in ships, since the planet does not have a Stargate.
When General George Hammond refuses to provide men and material for a military strike on the enormous ship, SG-1 has only one option: try and talk to them. They set up a transmitter, and soon the team is transported aboard the advanced vessel.
They are greeted by Lotan – a bio-mechanical lifeform created by the ship in the image of the Enkarans, to best interact with them and explain the danger they are in. Lotan looks Enkaran, but is determined to do nothing outside of its programming: to serve the life on board this ship.
The ship, he explains, carries the last hope of an extinct species. The Gadmeer were a 10,000-year-old, highly advanced and peace-loving people, overcome by a stronger military power. Rather than embrace extinction, the Gadmeer filled the ship with genetic samples of its race, and of plants and animals from their world. The ship's computers were filled with all the knowledge, art, music and philosophy of the Gadmeer.
The vessel was programmed to locate a suitable planet where the Gadmeer civilization could be reborn, far from their enemies. It selected this world, the new world of the Enkarans, and began terraforming it. Now that the process has started, it cannot be stopped. The ship does not contain enough materials to begin the transformation again on another planet.
SG-1 is faced with the extinction of the Enkarans, or the loss of an advanced civilization. It is a no-win situation. While Jack O'Neill is bent on saving the Enkarans, Daniel Jackson wishes he would consider some means other than destroying an advanced civilization that is trying to fight off extinction.
Jack considers attacking the ship, and orders Major Carter to convert the naquadah reactor (brought to power the Enkaran city for the next year) into a naquadah bomb. He is hesitant to order her to do it, and she is hesitant to agree. But the device is rigged to detonate,and placed in a strategic spot to impact the ship when it passes overhead.
Meanwhile, Daniel has returned to the ship to try and give Jack another option. He convinces Lotan to see the world that he is destroying, and to meet the people he is going to kill. He tries to get Lotan to think outside of his programming. Lotan agrees to go, and the two explore the gardens of the world below. The terraforming process, however, continues to march slowly toward the village.
Lotan sees Daniel's attempt to elicit sympathy for the Enkarans. He does not want to see them destroyed, but is not programmed to consider alternate solutions to their problem. Here turns to the ship – and Daniel goes with him – and the terraforming continues.
Jack is hesitant to start the reactor's feedback loop, with Daniel now back on board the ship – but he makes the difficult decision to activate it. The device is only minutes away from detonating.
Daniel continues to work on Lotan. How, he asks, can the peace-loving Gadmeer civilization be reborn through an act of mass murder? Lotan's true function, Jackson argues, is not simply to serve life on the ship – but to serve the integrity of that life. Lotan is convinced, and stops the ship just shy of the village.
The naquadah bomb is detected, and Lotan transports it up to the ship. Daniel tells him that he has no way of deactivating it. With only seconds remaining, they fire the bomb into the sky. The ship escapes the enormous explosion.
There is silence as the two parties wonder what to do now. Daniel asks Lotan if, while examining millions of planets, the ship found any that would suit the Enkarans. For the Gadmeer, 2,634 specific parameters had to be met. One world was rejected based on only three: its core temperature was too warm, it was too large, and intelligent life was already present – Enkaran life.
Daniel and Lotan return to the surface to offer a deal to the Enkarans. They will give up this world for the Gadmeer – and in exchange, Lotan will take them to the Enkaran homeworld, the world of their ancestors. The Enkarans are overjoyed, and accept the offer.
After that, the ship will return and finish the terraforming process. But Lotan will not be reabsorbed into the ship's systems. He agrees to stay with the Enkarans, since he is, in fact, an Enkaran himself.
- The Enkarans are descended from a group of people kidnapped from the original Enkaran homeworld by the Goa'uld. They have been slaves of the Goa'uld all their lives, but apparently have only recently escaped. The S.G.C. met them several months ago, living on a world unsuitable for them (causing many, such as Hedrezar, to go blind). Since they cannot survive on such a planet for very long, it stands to reason that they only recently escaped the Goa'uld.
- It is unclear if the Enkarans are human, originally descended from Earth. They may have evolved on the Enkaran homeworld to require a highly dense ozone layer; or, they maybe a different but similar species altogether.
If they are human, though, it would imply that they were originally transplanted from Earth to the Enkaran homeworld by the Goa'uld through ships, rather than through a Stargate. Alternately, the Enkaran homeworld may have once had a gate on it.
- The Enkarans were first mentioned in Season Four's "Watergate." The team was searching for a new world for the displaced people when the Stargate's seventh chevron would not lock.
- The Gadmeer appear reptilian rather than humanoid. They are about the same average height as humans, and have long tails.
- A naquadah reactor may be set into a feedback loop, where the energy created is held by the device instead of being released – in effect creating a powerful naquadah bomb.
- Jack O'Neill - O'Neill exercised his command authority to make a very difficult choice: choosing the existence of one civilization over another. He chose the Enkarans because the team had been working closely with them, because they were the ones who brought the Enkarans to this planet, and because the Gadmeer civilization was already extinct. Jack fully recognized that the choice was a hard one, and that his actions held serious repercussions: the permanent extinction of the Gadmeer race.
- Daniel Jackson - In spite of being faced with an apparent no-win scenario, Daniel chose to be proactive and continued to pursue Lotan, in the hope of finding a better way out. He finally convinced Lotan to stop the ship, saving the Enkaran people. He did this, however, while acting in defiance of Colonel O'Neill.
- Samantha Carter - Major Carter knew that O'Neill was the one faced with making an impossible decision: which civilization would live,and which would die. Though she did not want him to try and blow up the Gadmeer vessel, she did as ordered and provided Jack with the means of doing so.
- Where did the Enkaran tribe come from?
- Who destroyed the Gadmeer civilization? For how long have they been extinct? Or are there any Gadmeer still living somewhere?
- How far has the Gadmeer ship traveled, and for how long has it been searching? Where was their original homeworld?
- What was the device Lotan was using on board the ship? Perhaps some sort of healing technology, since he had recently exposed himself to the sulfuric environment?
- Which Goa'uld were the Enkarans serving? How did they escape slavery?
- Are the Enkarans on the homeworld more advanced than this tribe? It is implied that the tribe has been gone several generations, and would certainly not advance technologically while in the service of the Goa'uld.
- Would the naquadah bomb have damaged the ship at all, if detonated on the ground below it?
- How long will it take for the Gadmeer to reach complete development – where their civilization is again at the level it once was?
- Will the terraforming process destroy the Stargate? Or is later contact with the Gadmeer possible?
- Regarding fan reaction to Sam and Jack's developing relationship in "Divide and Conquer," co-writer Joseph Mallozzi had this to say to IGN.com: "In 'Scorched Earth,' certain fans were livid when Jack initiated the countdown sequence that would destroy the ship. Why were they upset? Not because he was about to blow up Daniel, but because, according to them – 'if Sam was on that ship, Jack would have never initiated the countdown.'"
- Mallozzi told fans in an online chat that the original ending of "Scorched Earth" was quite different – and much darker. In the original version of the script, Lotan blew up the ship and destroyed the Gadmeer civilization. There was to have been some closure dialogue between Jack and Daniel, along the lines of Jack saying, "When all is said and done, I'm glad I didn't blow up the ship." Daniel replies, "I'm glad you didn't either." They share a smile, and walk out.
- "'Scorched Earth' was the very first script Paul and I wrote for the show (even though 'Window of Opportunity' was the first produced) and it was what got us our staff positions. While I'd love to take full credit for the character of Lotan, it was Brian Markinson's brilliant performance that really made the episode. As a point of interest (beside the missing Jack and Daniel resolution), the original ending was bittersweet. Rather than the (what I felt was too convenient) solution at the end of the episode, the original script had Lotan deciding to stop the terraforming process, thereby dooming the civilization he had been programmed to seed. The closing scene ended with Daniel in his office, listening to a snippet of alien music, a parting gift from Lotan and the final memory of a distant civilization now extinct." (Co-executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a message at SaveDanielJackson.com)
- "The script was changed because it was felt the original ending was too downbeat. It didn't have anything to do with a desire to revisit the Gadmeer who, while cool-looking, would be a challenge to bring back as actual alien characters." (Writer-producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "The first script we ever wrote for Stargate, the one that got us our staff position, was produced as the fourth season's ninth episode. Before Paul eventually came up with the 'Scorched Earth' title, I was simply referring to the script as 'Whose Planet Is It Anyway?' The onscreen version of this episode differed in several respects from the early script, the biggest difference being the ending. In the original version, Daniel convinces Lotan to make a difficult decision and the caretaker does, destroying his ship and the building blocks of an entire race, leaving the planet to the Enkarans. In the episode's final scene, Daniel sits alone in his quarters, listening to Lotan's parting gift: the music of a now extinct race. The ending was changed to allow for a compromise that led to a happier resolution for all. While I didn't mind the shift to a more positive conclusion to the story, I still regret that the solution to the issue seemed, in hindsight, somewhat convenient and obvious.
"Another aspect of the script that didn't make it onto the screen was a resolution to the Jack/Daniel conflict at the core of the episode. At one point, Jack makes the painful decision to trigger a bomb that would destroy Lotan's ship, knowing Daniel is aboard. The bomb never detonates but the intention was there – an attempt to save an entire race by sacrificing the life of a close friend. A defensible decision? Fandom was split – and the divide was made even greater by the fact that there was no apparent resolution to the conflict. No apology from Jack. Nothing. Well, in truth, one had been scripted – an apology of sorts that saw Jack approach Daniel at episode's end and say something along the lines of: 'Just so you know, I'm glad I didn't blow up that ship.' To which Daniel responded: 'Just so you know, so am I.' For some reason, the actors found it too on the nose and suggested they would come up with something on the day. Which, unfortunately, never happened. That was a big learning experience and, from that episode on for as long as we did table reads, if I knew an actor didn't like a line, even if they didn't ask for an alternate, I would supply one." (Writer-producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)