Fragile Balance

Summary | Production | Transcript | Review

A teenage boy shows up at the S.G.C. claiming to be Jack O'Neill, sending the team on a mission to uncover his true identity.

FAN RATING - 8.53 
NIELSEN - 1.8 
DVD DISC: Season 7, Disc 1
STORY BY: Peter DeLuise & Michael Greenburg
TELEPLAY BY: Damian Kindler
DIRECTED BY: Peter DeLuise
GUEST STARS: Carmen Argenziano (Jacob Carter), Michael Welch (Young Jack), Teryl Rothery (Dr. Janet Fraiser), Gregory Bennett (Lt. Col. Harlan Beck), Tom Heaton (Werner), Poppi Reiner (Pamela), Ed Hong-Louie (Zyang Wu), Theresa Lee (Interpreter), Ralph Alderman (Shop Owner), Evan Lendrum (Pilot #1), Chris Kramer (Pilot #2), Noah Beggs (SF #1), Dan Payne (SF #2), Michael Shanks (Voice of Thor), Peter DeLuise (Voice of Loki)
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General Hammond introduces Major Carter to a young man who has breached the based security, using Colonel Jack O'Neill's own security pass. He's about 15 years old, and sitting in a holding room wearing baggy, adult-sized clothes. He claims to be Jack O'Neill.

SG-1 is obviously skeptical, but young "Jack" certainly talks and acts like their fearless leader. And he knows things that no civilian would know: Carter's experience as Tok'ra host ("In the Line of Duty"), Daniel's ascension and punishment ("Fallen"), and Teal'c's new reliance on tretonin after the loss of his symbiote ("The Changeling"). Jack is granted limited access to the base while Dr. Janet Fraiser runs tests to support or disprove his story.

It seems to check out. His DNA is a nearly identical match for Colonel O'Neill's, except for a small abnormality. Jack wants to know why he woke up 30 years younger, and who has done this to him. SG-1 visits Jack's house to retrace his steps, asking him what he did the previous night. They come up empty – but Jack does have a memory flash, and sees a group of swirling green lights ... and an Asgard.

O'Neill is scheduled to conduct a briefing with the new F-302 pilots – but Hammond has removed him from active duty, and Carter conducts the meeting. Despite the decision, Jack interrupts the briefing. At first, the pilots won't take him seriously – but when he obviously knows what he's talking about, they listen up and begin to take his instructions.

Dr. Fraiser soon reports with additional test results: young Jack's genetic structure is inexplicably breaking down, and he is dying. Jacob Carter arrives from the Tok'ra to present him with the only option they have. They offer to put Jack into stasis to save his life, until they better understand what is happening to his body. After his previous experience putting his life in the hands of the Tok'ra ("Frozen," "Abyss"), he asks for a few minutes to think about it – then escapes the base and flees into the nearby town.

Jack is unable even to buy a simple bottle of beer, even when he runs into an old Air Force friend and pretends to be O'Neill's nephew. The rest of SG-1 finally tracks him down sitting by a creek, fishing. They tell him what Jacob determined after looking at his test results: he is a clone of the real Colonel, who is probably still being held by the Asgard. Jack refuses to hand himself over to the Tok'ra again. But his friends have been doing some digging, and have a new plan.

Daniel and Teal'c have discovered that the details of Jack's abduction memory are striking similar to several other U.F.O. abduction stories. They visit several alleged abductees, who tell very similar stories – being taken in their sleep, held motionless in mid-air, four swirling, green lights ... and an alien resembling an Asgard. The last such abduction was 19 years ago; and with each abduction, the person was taken again seven days later.

Armed with a zat gun, young Jack waits in his bedroom on the seventh day, while the rest of the team monitors him from outside the house. There is a flash of light, and an Asgard transporter brings him onto a ship in orbit, returning the real Colonel to his bed. The unknown Asgard approaches young Jack, suspended in mid-air, and tells him not to be afraid. Jack zats him, escapes his restrains, and transports SG-1 aboard.

They signal Thor for assistance. When the Asgard wakes up, they confront him. His name is Loki, and he is a scientist who has been studying human evolution to try and solve the Asgard's own fatal cloning problem – which will eventually result in their extinction ("Revelations"). He says that their bodies were once much like humans are now, and that Jack O'Neill is legendary among the Asgard as representing the next stage in human evolution (as his brain was capable of receiving the library of the Ancients ["The Fifth Race"]).

Thor arrives, and tells SG-1 that Loki is a renegade who was convicted of performing unsanctioned experiments on humans 19 years ago. Loki replaces his abductees with a clone for one week, so that he may study the person he has taken – but the clones are unstable, and never survive. Jack's clone failed to properly reach the correct maturity because the Asgard have tagged his DNA to prevent tampering – thus the anomaly that Dr. Fraiser found.

Thor agrees to try and correct the flaw in young Jack's DNA, and the procedure is a success. Young Jack decides to live his life over again, and returns to high school. He and the Colonel agree not to stay in touch – it would be too weird.


  • "We've just shot 'Fragile Balance,' which is a fun one. It involved a young actor playing Colonel O'Neill as a younger version of himself. It was a lot of fun to work with a kid who was trying to get all the O'Neill-isms we all know and love so well. Peter DeLuise, of course, was right in there giving line readings, which I have to tell you weren't off the mark. It was hilarious, because in doing a character for so long you almost become caricatures, and watching somebody do Rick's character for a whole episode was a lot of fun." (Actor Michael Shanks, in an interview with Sci-Fi Magazine)
  • "'Fragile Balance' is an excellent example of a creative way to shoot a Rick episode where Rick may not necessarily be available to us as much. This was the first week of production, and he wasn't available to us that week, so we came up with this story in which a kid shows up at the S.G.C. claiming to be O'Neill. Of course we don't believe him at first, and then when we begin to look into it, we realize that, yes, this guy's story seems quite legit. He seems to be, apparently, O'Neill.

    "The actor we got to play young O'Neill is a young actor by the name of Michael Welch, who is terrific in the role. I think he brought home tapes and tapes of the show, and he just studied Rick. And he's got the mannerisms down, the rhythm, I mean, it's like watching O'Neill, but 40 years younger. Rick was available for a day or so, so we shot the episode in a way where this young O'Neill drives the action. And then there's, ultimately, a very funny scene where O'Neill ends up meeting his younger self. So that's a really fun and funny episode, and that became a quick favorite among a lot of people on set." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in an interview with the Stargate SG-1 Explorer Unit)
  • "We would love to see young Jack return and there were attempts to come up with a late Season Seven episode for him. I don't think we'll be seeing him again in Season Seven but if we do another season of Stargate SG-1, we will definitely see him back." (Co-executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a chat at StarGateNews.De)
  • "Peter DeLuise and I wrote the original story. It was kind of to attack the Asgard and their obvious physical and intellectual evolution. When you look at these creatures, they have big heads, big brains, and their bodies are kind of genderless. We wanted to examine that and we came up with cloning. They were just cloning themselves and cloning themselves and cloning themselves, with the potential of the vicious cycle that that would create, and then un-create, meaning they reached a point where they couldn't reproduce on their own, so they solely had to resort to cloning and the diminishing returns of that kind of continuation.

    "So that's what the story was about. And our antagonist in the original story was this character Odin, who was half-human and half-Asgard, and he was out there in this renegade ship in space. Because of this cloning continuum that was showing diminishing returns, he kidnapped O'Neill, who had the mind that they wanted to tap into, and the DNA that they wanted to tap into, to try to abate the diminishing returns of cloning. So that was sort of the foundation and the genesis of that story. And then it got completely changed!" (Executive producer Michael Greenburg, in an interview with the Stargate SG-1 Explorer Unit official fan club)
  • "Yes, revisiting Young Jack was suggested on a couple of occasions but we were never able to find the right story for the character." (Writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
  • "Actor Michael Welch delivers one of the show's most impressive guest performances in the role of a young, cloned Jack O'Neill. He captures (Rick as) Jack's mannerisms and rhythms perfectly and so wowed us that, in the following months, we tried to spin several different stories that would have seen Young Jack make a return. Unfortunately, none of these stories panned out. I did end up running into Michael Welch at the that year's Saturn Awards (Best Award Show Ever!). He told me how much he'd enjoyed his experience on the show while I told him how much we'd enjoyed having him.

    "Interestingly enough, it was the same night I first met actor Ben Browder. We discussed Farscape, sci-fi, and the possibility of him doing a guest spot on the show. I ended up writing a part for him as a potential recurring character on Atlantis but a scheduling conflict prevented him from accepting the role – which, in the long run, was a good thing because it allowed him to accept the more substantial role of SG-1's Cameron Mitchell two years later.

    "This episode also sees an appearance by the beautiful Theresa Lee, a friend and huge film and TV star in Hong Kong and China (where she recently headlined their version of Dancing With the Stars). Whenever Theresa comes into town, we try to grab dim sum and rare is the occasion when she is not recognized by someone at a neighboring table. The last time we grabbed a bite, I glanced up from my sticky rice purse to catch her on the restaurant's TV screen, starring in some Hong Kong comedy. Loved in Big Bullet!" (Writer / producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
  • "Having him return wasn't the problem. He may be a teenager, but he's still got all the skills and savvy of our Jack. It would have been a simple matter of being faced with a situation that required Jack's expertise – and making the original Jack incapable of offering his assistance. What, exactly, that 'situation' was is the question that stumped us." (Writer / producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)