The Other Side
"The Other Side" is a compelling, philosophical study which raises numerous questions about the role of the S.G.C. in the universe and the character of Colonel Jack O'Neill, raising a plethora of moral and ethical issues.
Past episodes have made it clear that the actions of S.G. teams can have a profound impact on the worlds they travel to. "Touchstone," for example, provides a glimpse of catastrophic effects, while "The Gamekeeper" shows that positive results can occur as well. In "The Other Side," we see SG-1 come awfully close to causing perhaps the most profound catastrophe to date.
What if Hitler had come into power in the possession of technologies superior even to what we have today? This is a question addressed in "The Other Side" -- and O'Neill nearly gives a Nazi-esque commander named Alar the resources not only to continue, but potentially to complete the "extermination" of "Breeders," the name given an enemy whose only real fault we are eventually made aware of is that they reproduce with no regard to what the Eudonrans consider genetic perfection.
This episode shows us another side of Jack O'Neill, who begins to bear the most striking resemblance to date to his hard-edged counterpart portrayed by Kurt Russell in the original "Stargate" movie. Unconcerned with the consequences of his actions, Jack insists on negotiating with the Eurondans in order to gain new technologies which could aid the S.G.C. in their war against the Goa'uld. Despite General Hammond's early statement that the S.G.C. could not and would not provide the resources to turn the tide in a world war, O'Neill seems prepared to do just that. Surely it is because of the general's statement that the colonel persistently counters Daniel's attempts to learn more about the war the Eurondans are fighting -- and especially about the enemy, whose identity remains curiously obscured.
Like the tree falling in the forest, it is easy to ignore truths we're not forced to hear.
O'Neill intends to keep himself blissfully ignorant. Daniel cannot. Thus Daniel becomes O'Neill's conscience in this episode. Although Carter provides somewhat of a counter-balance, the resulting struggle threatens to drive a permanent wedge between the two characters. Luckily, Jack comes to see the Eurondans hidden truths, but he does so on his own.
Can Jack's complete disregard of Daniel's concerns be forgotten with a simple apology? Or can we expect further tension between the two? It will be interesting to see what happens in future episodes, particularly with regard to O'Neill's character.
During Jack's blissful ignorance, it was fun to see his kid-in-the-candy-store look when asked if he'd like to pilot a drone fighter and shoot down an unmanned target. But the subsequent revelation that the Eurondans best pilot is a vegetable provides the colonel with the first tangible evidence that something is not quite right there. He could ignore Alar's cautious and perhaps even suspicious attitude toward Teal'c. He could ignore the elegant furnishings in this version of Hitler's bunker. He could even ignore Alar's ongoing refusal to justify the continued fight over a poisoned world, and Daniel's ongoing struggle to understand what might be left there to fight for. Yet the state of that pilot was real, and unavoidable.
Why is it that Alar recognizes the pilot's condition as well as the cause of that condition, but allows the man to continue fighting nonetheless? Jack should be asking this question. But O'Neill is still not prepared to give up his ignorance, not even when he sees the faces in the bomber he later shoots down (these faces, one black and one white, can be seen clearly on a slow, frame by frame video replay). This event angers him, but it is not until Alar asks Jack to return without Teal'c that he is fully prepared to learn the truth.
I have to say here that I am reminded somewhat of Ma'chello ("Holiday"). Ma'chello's entire life had been devoted to developing technologies to fight the Goa'uld. That this noble sacrifice leads his entire planet to complete and utter devastation in the attempt to ensure he and his inventions remained protected paves the way for phenomenal philosophical debate. Can the destruction of one entire planet justify whatever technologies are gained? Does such a sacrifice significantly differ from the Goa'uld's methods of obtaining technologies?
Colonel O'Neill did not think so, nor did he believe Ma'chello's knowledge was worth obtaining for the cost of one man's life. Had that man been anyone other than his friend and team-mate, Daniel Jackson, I don't believe his feelings would have been any different.
How then could the colonel justify the procurement of the Eurondans' technologies? Simply through his ignorance, which clearly explains his fervor to keep Daniel quiet and leave the questions unspoken.
At the end of this episode, Jack displays an intense, cold yet calculated hatred as he steps calmly back through the Stargate and casually orders the iris to be closed. Under the shocked glare of Carter, he not only allows but causes Alar's death. But what is he actually trying to destroy? Alar, or his own heedless attitude?
I missed Jack's barbs and witticisms in this episode. I was, for the most part, just as stunned, confused and angered by Jack's attitude as Daniel.
That I have spent the entirety of this review addressing the characters and the content of this episode is a tribute to both cast and crew of Stargate SG-1. "The Other Side" was wonderfully plotted and executed, and the acting was dead-on. I can only wonder at Jack's true motivations, and the shades of grey within him.
Disturbing and powerful, "The Other Side" was not a fun ride. I suppose, however, that the roller coaster does have to stop now and then to allow us all to get our bearings. Today, my feet are firmly on the ground. As are Jack O'Neill's.Rating: * * *