Red SkyEPISODE #505
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 07.27.01
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 10.07.02
DVD DISC: Season 5, Disc 2
WRITTEN BY: Ron Wilkerson
DIRECTED BY: Martin Wood
SG-1 emerges from the Stargate after a rough ride to an alien world. Major Samantha Carter tells Colonel O’Neill that they had to bypass some of the normal dialing protocols in order to get a lock on this planet — K’Tau, a peaceful, agrarian world populated by a very spiritual people. The locals have developed from an ancient Norse people, and worship the benevolent Asgard as gods.
K’Tau, in fact, is an Asgard-protected planet — named in the same treaty as Earth, in order to protect it from the Goa’uld (“Fair Game”).
SG-1 soon realizes the reason for their rough ride through the wormhole. The K’Tau sun shifts toward the infrared end of the light spectrum, threatening to destroy all life on the planet. While the local leader, Elrad, consults the god Freyr (along with Malchus, a spiritual leader who is skeptical of the outsiders), Major Carter tries to get to the bottom of things.
Colonel O’Neill and Daniel Jackson accompany Elrad and Malchus, and are transported to an underground cavern where they are greeted by a holographic projection of “Freyr,” a mighty Norse warrior. While the recording is vague and not specific to their situation, Malchus believes that the arrival of the “evil” visitors has signaled the beginning of Ragnarok — the Norse version of Armageddon.
Back on the surface, Carter fills in the team on her theory. It’s possible, she believes, that the wormhole created by the Stargate passed right through the K’Tau sun. A super-heavy element piggybacked on the wormhole and bonded with the sun … leading to its imminent destruction.
Jack and the team face the fact that they are responsible for the K’Tau’s deadly problem, and return to the Asgard chamber to seek help from the advanced alien race.
O’Neill is granted an audience with members of the Asgard High Council, who continually rebuff his apologies and his pleas for help. Their treaty with the Goa’uld prevents them from using their technology to artificially advance the people of K’Tau — even if it means saving them from destruction. If the Protected Planets Treaty is violated, the Goa’uld would be free to attack any planet named in it — including Earth.
Jack suggests that they might be willing to take the chance. But the Asgard turn him away, pointing out that he could never make that decision for every planet named in the treaty.
SG-1 is on their own. The only way that Carter can think of to stop the process is to introduce an element with an atomic weight above 200 into the sun, rendering the foreign matter inert. She returns to the S.G.C. to begin work on a plan to deliver “Maclarium” — a super-heavy element created in a lab on Earth — into the K’Tau sun, using a rocket that the Air Force was planning to launch from nearby Vandenburg Air Force Base in a few weeks. Over the course of the next three weeks, the rocket is brought through the gate in pieces and reconstructed.
Malchus’ opposition to SG-1 and their efforts to save K’Tau soon comes to a deadly head. An explosion destroys the rocket, killing two K’Tau extremists and two members of SG-6.
O’Neill nearly kills the man before regaining his composure. Jack intends to leave the world to perish, having done all he could — but the team convinces him that not all of the local people supported Malchus’ actions. Elrad, for instance, has prayerfully accepted their fate as the will of Freyr — and SG-1 as his messengers.
Elrad and his people refuse Daniel’s request that they relocate through the gate. And when Jack stands up in front of the village and tries to convince them that their gods are little grey aliens, they ask him to leave. Left with no options, he obliges.
But Major Carter suggests one final alternative. If the Maclarium is delivered through the Stargate to K’Tau, it may rematerialize inside the sun if the wormhole is prematurely cut off at precisely the right moment. It’s a long-shot, but it’s all they have left.
The element is sent, and SG-1 waits on K’Tau for the results. When it appears that the plan did not work, Daniel offers a final prayer for the people as SG-1 prepares to leave. But the sun shifts back to its normal state, almost miraculously. The team speculates that the Asgard may have helped out after all, having been provided a way of stepping in without the Goa’uld knowing. But they realize that they will never really know for certain.
- Right off the bat, Sam notes that the S.G.C. had to override some of the normal dialing protocols in order to get a lock on the K’Tau Stargate and successfully establish a wormhole. This is the first we’ve heard of any special protocols that a D.H.D. (which normally operates a gate) apparently has built-in. What protocols can there be, other than simply dialing seven symbols on the gate?
- Cimmeria (the planet where SG-1 first encountered the Asgard, in “Thor’s Hammer”) may not actually be in the Protected Planets Treaty. If they were, Jackson speculates, they wouldn’t have need of a hammer device to trap Goa’uld who venture onto the planet. The Goa’uld have a vested interest in maintaining the treaty (a sort of peace with the Asgard, not to mention various concessions the Asgard apparently make every time a new planet is added), and would therefore not invade a world mentioned in the treaty — Hammer or no Hammer.
- It’s interesting to note that although Norse culture evolved to a pre-industrial stage on K’Tau, the people there continued to worship the ancient gods and maintain their belief system. They were taken from Earth by the Goa’uld, and later liberated by the Asgard — who assumed their pre-existing Norse beliefs.
How, then, did the people of K’Tau view the Goa’uld? As gods? Were they seen as evil gods, or is there a Goa’uld equivalent of Thor, Freyr and other Norse figures?
- The Asgard believe that the K’Tau’s religious belief system was essential to their development. But Colonel O’Neill makes a striking point: the “benevolent,” advanced race is posing as gods, just as the Goa’uld do. While the Goa’uld do it for their own self-indulgent interests, though, the Asgard do it in the interests of those races — or so they claim.
- The Asgard Protected Planets Treaty allows them to protect worlds from the Goa’uld — but they may not interfere with them in any other way, such as protecting them from anyone or anything else. They are not allowed to artificially advance a protected planet through Asgard technological means … or even save them from natural disaster or a non-Goa’uld attacker (stipulated in Subsection 42 of the treaty). Doing so would be a treaty violation, rendering it null and void.
It’s a frightening thought, but it doesn’t seem to coincide with the Asgard’s promises to Earth. Thor has pledged to help Earth fight the Goa’uld when their conflict with the Replicators is over (“Small Victories”). Perhaps a provision of the treaty allows the Asgard to assist a protected planet to some degree, since they themselves were indirectly responsible for the Replicators attack on Earth (“Nemesis”).
But it seems unlikely that the treaty would allow them to all-out equip Earth with advanced technology, and join the fight against the Goa’uld. Any help they can one day offer will probably be curtailed by the treaty — “limited benevolence,” as Jack puts it.
- The leading Asgard governmental body is apparently the Asgard High Council. It may consist of as few as four members (who spoke with O’Neill), although the chamber includes dozens, perhaps hundreds of seats. These may be provided for spectators or other governmental bodies to meet with the council — or the High Council itself may be a much larger body.
- The Asgard have the technological means to affect stars, including the ability to return the K’Tau sun to its normal state after it was contaminated with a super-heavy element from a wormhole.
- The Asgard’s forceful refusal to compromise the treaty has an unsettling implication: the Goa’uld may be monitoring protected planets to ensure that this provision of the treaty is not violated. They could even be actively observing Earth.
- The war with the Replicators still rages in the Asgard galaxy, and Thor is apparently out fighting it.
- A controlled shut-down forces the Stargate to disengage prematurely, causing the energy that is in transit in the wormhole to dissipate midway between gates and rematerialize in its base form (elements). In the case of a person, this is obviously deadly.
This raises questions about the Stargate’s natural “auto-off” feature, and how long it takes matter to travel from one gate to another. It’s obviously not instantaneous (as Jack’s trip to Eudora in “Shades of Grey” might imply), and is probably based on the physical distance between the two planets.
Can’t a gate be held open if there is still matter in transit? O’Neill once forced the gate to remain open by leaving his arm in transit (“Shades of Grey”). This appears to be another of the gate’s built-in fail safes, which is only over-ridden by the S.G.C.’s deliberate forced shut-down of the gate. Presumably, if the Stargate reached its 38-minute maximum, the wormhole would also be forced to disengage — regardless of whether or not there is still matter in transit.
It’s easy to conclude, then, that the D.H.D. does not allow for a forced shut-down of the gate — at least not very easily. Otherwise, the rogue Stargate team captured in “Shades of Grey” would have been able to disconnect the wormhole and redial, escaping to another planet (assuming they’re smart enough to figure it out).
All in all, viewers should keep in mind that the Stargate’s tendency to know exactly when the last person has stepped through and close behind him (rather than always staying open for 38 minutes) is a creative decision on the part of the producers, and may never be explained technically. The fact that the wormhole disengages right after someone goes through obviously does not mean that their atoms were scattered across the cosmos.
- The margin of error in calculating planetary shift (necessary to find a valid Stargate address on the millenia-old network) use to cause the rough ride through the wormhole, but the S.G.C. has since fixed it.
- The Stargate system has a safety protocol built in, to prevent a wormhole from passing through a star (and presumably, other dangerous interstellar bodies). But this can be bypassed — at least with the supercomputer that the S.G.C. has rigged to control Earth’s gate.
- Freyr is the Norse god of sun and rain. He is also apparently on the Asgard High Council.
- The super-heavy element “Maclarium” (a word coined by Samantha Carter) is named for its pioneer developer, Dr. MacLaren. Its scientific designation is HU-2340, and it does not exist naturally on Earth.
- This isn’t the first SG-1 role for Brian Jensen, who voiced Freyr in this episode. He played the Jaffa high priest back in Season One’s “Bloodlines.”
- Jack O’Neill – When he learns that his team has caused the imminent destruction of the K’Tau civilization, Jack does everything within his power to save them — from pleading with the Asgard (even expressing a reluctant willingness to nullify the Protected Planets Treaty and return the threat of Goa’uld invasion to Earth), to approving Carter’s low-chance plans, to attempting to destroy the K’Tau belief system to convince them to evacuate. But he is helpless to resolve the situation.
And when a K’Tau religious extremist destroys their means of saving the planet — murdering two S.G.C. officers and two K’Tau citizens in the process — O’Neill assaults Malchus and nearly kills him. He comes close to then leaving the whole planet for dead, until he allows his team to temper his anger and frustration.
- Samantha Carter – With the destruction of the K’Tau sun imminent, Carter was forced to face the fact that her own theories and actions caused the disaster. She spent her entire time desperately seeking a solution, no matter how lousy the odds were that it would pay off. In the end, her plans failed, and Sam found herself helpless to undo the damage she had helped cause.
- Daniel Jackson – Helpless to solve the dire situation, Daniel fell back on his true strengths: giving the people of K’Tau the only options he could, then respecting their decisions and the faith that informs them. In fact, Daniel’s most striking character trait here is seen in his support of the K’Tau belief system — in contrast with O’Neill, who attempts to shatter it to save their lives.
- Thor – Thor has apparently received a new ship to command, since the destruction of the Beliskner. His rank is commander.
- What other safety protocols are built-in to the Stargate system? Is the S.G.C. in danger of similar incidents occurring, since they don’t use a D.H.D.?
- How many planets are named in the Asgard Protected Planets Treaty?
- What fate will Malchus suffer because of his actions?
- Will Jack suffer any consequences — be it from the S.G.C. or the Asgard — for telling the K’Tau people about the Asgard’s true nature?
- How was the K’Tau sun restored? Did the Asgard intervene?
- Will the Goa’uld take notice of K’Tau, and suspect Asgard involvement?
- “The irony is these people don’t want our help and even fight against us, and it’s left to Daniel to suggest that maybe there’s more to their faith than we can conceive. We had a fantastic time shooting this one because it’s all done in period costume and looks spectacular.” (Executive producer Brad Wright, in Cult Times magazine #69)
- “We had to create an environment with a sky that progressed from blue to red. You can’t do that just with filters. We ended up building an exterior set, an Amish-type village, in fact, on a sound stage so that we would have complete control of the lighting. We also shot some live-action footage on location that involved using filters, blue screen and some trick photography. That material then went through what’s known as a bleached bypass, which is a neat visual effect. Visually, ‘Red Sky’ is a beautiful show to watch.” (Executive producer Michael Greenburg, in TV Zone Special #42 [July 2001])
- “One of the things we’re doing more of now than we ever did in the past is deal with some darker aspects of storytelling. In Season Five there are going to be some shows where I don’t think you’re going to believe the endings. I mean, ‘Red Sky’ and ‘Beast of Burden’ embody very much the ‘Stargate’ philosophy, which is we’re not perfect. We’re humans from the year 2001 who make mistakes and get into situations that can’t be solved by snapping your fingers or reversing the polarity of a device on your spaceship.”
“We certainly don’t have a Prime Directive. Our heroes will go ahead and poke their noses into things. They do their best to help and/or fix a problem but they’re not always successful. Hey, if you knew things were always going to work out you wouldn’t wait around for the end of the story, right?” (Executive producer Robert C. Cooper, in TV Zone Special #42 [July 2001])
- “Ron Wilkerson’s first and best script is a terrific SF tale anchored by one of Richard Dean Anderson’s greatest performances. It’s a darker side of Jack O’Neill we rarely get to see — angry, intense, and deadly serious. The episode also offers up a side of Carter we rarely glimpse as well: fallible and wrestling with self-doubt. Many layers in this one and it all plays out in very counter-Star Trek fashion as the team attempts to force a solution upon the planet’s inhabitants. Tres Anti-Prime Directive, no?” (Writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)