ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 07.19.02
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 10.27.03
DVD DISC: Season 6, Disc 2
WRITTEN BY: Brad Wright
DIRECTED BY: Martin Wood
An unknown figure hurries through the dark woods of an alien world. He leads a young woman, afraid, as they are pursued by a squadron of Jaffa warriors. She stumbles, and he tells her to wait in hiding until the Stargate is opened. He makes his way to the gate and begins to dial, but is struck in the back by a staff weapon blast.
He is revived with a Goa’uld sarcophagus, and brought before his captor: the Goa’uld System Lord Baal. A heavy-gravity field pins him against the wall in Baal’s chamber, as the System Lord slowly tortures him for information. Who is he? Why did he infiltrate Baal’s top secret base and steal his personal slave? What is the name of the Tok’ra that possessed him? He dangles a menacing knife into the gravity field, toward Jack.
Jack can’t answer any of his questions, and despite his condition takes a few humorous jabs at the mighty System Lord. Baal releases the knife and kills him.
On Earth, the Tok’ra Thoran arrives with word of O’Neill’s fate. His life was saved from a mysterious virus when he was blended with the Tok’ra Kanan (“Frozen”). But a few days ago, O’Neill/Kanan walked out of the Tok’ra base and through the Stargate without explanation. The Tok’ra blame O’Neill; SG-1 thinks Kanan seized control of his host and used him. Nevertheless, they have no idea where he is.
O’Neill wakes up inside the Goa’uld sarcophagus once again, and is taken to a prison cell. The cell has no door or bars; instead, at the flip of a switch, the gravity in the deep cell shifts, and Jack falls to the back wall — which has now become the floor. He is alone in the deep pit, and helpless.
Back at the S.G.C., SG-1 asks Thoran to provide Kanan’s recent mission reports, in the hopes of figuring out where Colonel O’Neill may have gone. He refuses, despite the treaty between Earth and the Tok’ra that allows for such exchange of information. General Hammond refuses to allow him to return to the Tok’ra until he agrees.
In Baal’s prison cell, Jack is greeted by someone he never expected to see again: Daniel Jackson. His friend and former teammate has ascended to a higher plane of existence (“Meridian”), and though he is a powerful being he has shown himself now only in order to comfort O’Neill. Jack pleads with Daniel to help him escape, but his friend insists that he cannot interfere. As an ascended being, he is forbidden to use his powers in that way — even when he’s sure it’s the right thing to do, even when it concerns the people he cares about.
Jack is taken before Baal again. The Goa’uld tortures him with acid, demanding to know the name of his Tok’ra symbiote. O’Neill finally remembers it, and tells him. But he cannot remember anything about their mission, and Baal kills him again.
Back in Jack’s cell, Daniel offers him a way out. Baal is going to keep torturing him to death and reviving him, over and over again. Each time he goes into the sarcophagus, it steals away a part of his soul. SG-1 doesn’t even know where Jack is — and even if they did, it’s a fortress, so they’d never be able to rescue him.
Jack’s only way out is to ascend, like Daniel has. All he has to do is release his burden. O’Neill isn’t willing to let go of his life and try to ascend, and instead asks Daniel to make sure Baal can’t revive him again — to kill him for good. Daniel refuses, and the Jaffa come for him again.
Thoran finally agrees to share Kanan’s mission reports with SG-1, and the team searches the records for any hint about where O’Neill might have gone. They learn that on one recent mission, Kanan used Baal’s most trusted personal slave — a woman — in order to access secret information. Why would the woman risk everything to help him, unless she became personally involved with Kanan?
Jack, the team reasons, must have subconsciously influenced Kanan. The moment they were blended, the symbiote would have been confronted by everything that makes the Colonel who he is — including the deeply-rooted conviction not to leave anyone behind. Kanan had gone back to Baal’s fortress to rescue her.
“He loved her,” Jack confesses to Daniel after another torture session. And if Daniel lets him go back in there, he’s going to crack. He’s going to tell Baal everything, and then the Goa’uld is going to do to her what he’s doing to O’Neill.
The team knows of no way to free O’Neill from Baal’s clutches; General Hammond refuses to allow them to attempt it themselves. But Teal’c has a revelation, and convinced Hammond to agree to a daring plan: they deliver information about the location of Baal’s secret base to Yu, a rival System Lord. Yu has the power to attack the base with his powerful warships, giving Jack a chance to escape.
Yu’s attack begins at that moment, and the base loses power. The gravity field is deactivated, giving the Colonel an opportunity to escape. It is Jack’s fighting chance, and Daniel tells him that if anyone can make it out, it’s Jack. He overpowers a Jaffa on his way out, and finds the slave woman — Shayla — in another cell. He takes her with him.
He makes it back to Earth, where his friends attend to him in the infirmary. Though none of the others can see him, Daniel shows up one last time to say goodbye to Jack. His withdrawal from sarcophagus addiction will be hard (“Need”), but he knows Jack can handle it. But now, Daniel must leave — he has his journey, and Jack has his. Daniel is suddenly gone, and O’Neill whispers, “Thank you.”
- “If I’m going to earmark any episode so far this season, its ‘Abyss,’ which is an episode we just finished that I did with Michael. I’m trapped in a small space without my memory and Daniel pays me a visit.”
“I think out of all the actors, and this is not meant as a slight to anyone else but rather as a practical comment on the dynamic between Michael and I, he and I had the most fun and trusted each other the most to be able to pull off the kinds of things we did, particularly in ‘Abyss.’ The episode has scenes between us that overlap, where we’re both going on and the dialogue is fast and intense in content. We were able to pull the scenes off because we work well together and had had a lot of practice doing it. That’s an episode I thoroughly enjoyed doing and it was good to see Michael again.” (Richard Dean Anderson, in Dreamwatch magazine #95)
- “The scenes between Rick and Michael are, honestly, as good as we’ve ever had on Stargate. The two immediately gelled. Michael was a prince and it was terrific to have him here. I’m looking forward to bringing him back at least a couple more times this year. I think, though, when viewers watch this episode they’ll realize that it isn’t that easy to come up with stories in which Daniel can just come flying back into our midst. That said, we already have two very good ideas that include Michael. I just hope he’s available and when he reads the scripts he chooses to do them.” (Executive producer / writer Brad Wright, in TV Zone magazine)
- Will we see Jack talking about his experience with someone, perhaps Carter? “That is definitely a subject that Carter can and should talk to him about — but the events of ‘Abyss’ didn’t really allow it. Presumably, it would have happened off-screen but then again, if the circumstances arise (i.e. — the right story) that is definitely something that should be explored.” (GateWorld chat with writer / executive producer Joseph Mallozzi)
- “So far as Jack is concerned, his blending is ancient history and he would like nothing better than to forget it ever happened. The prospect of being able to use Goa’uld tech or any residual memories (faint as they may be) do not sit well with him.” (Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at GateWorld Forums)
- “This was a great episode for all sorts of reasons, but chiefest among them was the terrific onscreen dynamic between RDA and Michael. I know that both of them had a great time, as did Brad Wright who wrote and produced Abyss. Brad, as the show’s co-creator and longtime show runner, had written some of the best Jack-Daniel scenes in the series, so I was surprised and disappointed when angry fans targeted him. I thought it immensely unfair given all he had done to build the friendship between the two characters but, this business, it’s often less of ‘Thanks for what you did for us in the past’ and more of ‘What have you done for me lately?’
“One issue I had with the script was the idea of Jack being killed, then brought back from the dead. I thought it opened a can of worms re: memories of the afterlife. I was told the ship had sailed on that particular subject. I don’t know if I agree. I always considered ascension a very different matter, an experience specific to an isolated group.” (Writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
[The entire team had already been shot dead and revived by the Nox in Season One’s “The Nox;” and Daniel had been supposedly killed and brought back to life with the Goa’uld sarcophagus in Season Two’s “Need.” – Ed.]
- “There were some things I physically couldn’t do or chose not to do in ‘Abyss’ because of my knee injury. I wanted to be able to tumble down the sides of the walls and out onto the floor. Not to give away any secrets but one of the sets was built to move, so I could roll down and look like I was splattered up against a vertical wall. That was kind of cool.
“Besides those technical tricks of the trade, I had a great time working with Michael. First of all, I always had good moments with him. Michael is a very competent and capable actor. He’s also flexible enough to deal with my irreverent spontaneity and inability to stick to the script. I was really glad to have him back in ‘Abyss.’ It was just the two of us doing a lot of talking in a jail cell that was the size of a kitchen. As intense and, perhaps, as convoluted as those scenes were to me, Michael helped make them a good experience.
“[Director Martin Wood] and I have been through quite a wonderful sociological ark. We both fancy ourselves relatively bright, although I think Martin is smarter than I. The two of us butted heads once early on and it was over an ethical scenario. From that point I think we both realized we had met in each other an intellectual equal, although, again, with the preface that he’s smarter than I. I should say ‘smarter than me,’ so he’ll get the message.
“I love working with Martin. First of all, he’s someone who’s up on technology and technique, and over time has created a [filming] style all his own. Conversely, he’s remained flexible enough to make adjustments on the fly. A big part of the problem with directing episodic TV is that you’re under not one but two guns. There’s the time clock plus the financial responsibility, both of which are under the larger umbrella of being creative. You have to juggle a lot of things, and Martin knows how to do that quite well. He understands what the game is all about, as does Peter DeLuise. Peter has grown by leaps and bounds in this business. He started out as an actor, then became an actor’s director and continues to flourish that way. Again, when I talk about flexibility in this genre, Peter knows how to do that very well. He also makes sure I get out early on Fridays so I can go see my daughter … so I give him a lot of Tommy Bahama shirts.” (Actor Richard Dean Anderson, in an interview with Steve Eramo)