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Teal'c is trapped in a virtual reality simulation, in which he must defend the base from a Goa'uld super-soldier incursion.

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EPISODE #806
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 08.13.04
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 10.24.05
DVD DISC: Season 8, Disc 2
WRITTEN BY: Damian Kindler
DIRECTED BY: Martin Wood
GUEST STARS:

Bill Dow (Dr. Bill Lee), Andrew Airlie (Dr. Carmichael), Gary Jones (Walter Harriman), Dan Shea (Sergeant Siler), Dan Payne (Kull Warrior)

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Sergeant Walter Harriman calls out a threat level as Teal’c and several soldiers pile towards the Gate Room. Once inside it is clear that a single Kull warrior has invaded Stargate Command. General O’Neill is shot down, and Teal’c snatches a Kull disruptor-armed weapon from a fallen comrade and fires at the drone, disabling it.

He awakens, attached to a virtual reality chair obtained from P7J-989 (“The Gamekeeper”), Dr. Bill Lee beaming with excitement. Teal’c reports that he found the simulation unrealistic, but agrees to work with the team to modify the device further in the hopes of making it more realistic. Lee’s team has engineered software to use the V.R. chairs for training purposes, and the technology is capable of learning from the player and continually adapting.

Teal’c soon goes back into the game, but almost immediately is taken out by the super-solider in the Gate Room, who has anticipated his entrance and kills him immediately upon opening the door. The game resets and he tries a new tactic, this time going around to the other side of the missile silo. But when he enters all he finds is O’Neill, dead at the bottom of the ramp. The drone kills Teal’c again, this time from the opposite entrance.

In the real world, Teal’c is being jolted by a small electrical charge each time a plasma blast hits him. Dr. Lee did not anticipate this, and is relieved they did not apply anything to the game that could be lethal. Still, Colonel Carter is concerned.

Teal’c is no longer taking risks. He goes straight for the armory, puts on a vest and obtains a disruptor-armed weapon. Down the hall two warriors flank him from both ends, and he is shot down again.

The game continues to reset to the beginning each time Teal’c is killed. He has been told that there are two ways to end the game: beat the scenario and save the base, or head to the elevator and take it to the surface to give up. When he seemingly wins by defeating the warrior, he learns (fatally) that the objective has changed — there are more warriors, for example.

In the eleventh round Teal’c gains aid from the game’s simulated versions of Colonel Carter and several Airmen. They corner the two drones in a corridor, but this time they are unexpectedly invulnerable to the Kull disruptors. As Carter is killed, Teal’c orders the men to fall back — but he is shot as well.

In the real world, the S.G.C.’s Dr. Carmichael notices that Teal’c’s adrenaline levels are slowly rising, as well as his heart rate and blood pressure. The modified V.R. chair itself cannot kill him, but the danger now is that if the game does not quit, each time Teal’c is killed will accumulate to his eventual death by an unavoidable heart attack.

The game resets, and Teal’c and Carter proceed to her lab to obtain a frequency modulator chip to counteract the Kull’s new adaptive armor. Teal’c succeeds in destroying both warriors just as the base self-destruct activates, but after Carter shuts it down, the game does not automatically shut off. They haven’t won.

Teal’c tries to figure out why the scenario has not ended as he is treated for an arm injury in the virtual reality infirmary. Without warning the self-destruct begins again. This time Carter can’t shut it off, and Stargate Command is destroyed. The game resets. Realizing that the game’s objective is changing every time, Teal’c finally gives in and hurries to the surface via the elevator shafts.

The real Carter, Jackson, and Lee watch the game display monitor, relieved that Teal’c is willing to give up and exit the V.R. simulation. But when he reaches level one, the game resets again; Teal’c is unable to escape.

Outside his teammates are clearly worried that the game is not going to let him win, as it continually provides new twists, essentially moving back the “finish line.” Dr. Carmichael provides Teal’c with an injection of adrenaline to keep him going, but it will not sustain him indefinitely. Teal’c is literally playing for his life.

Not only has the game added a third Kull warrior, but this drone possesses an invisibility device. Teal’c and Carter manage to take them all out, but as that is done Sergeant Siler reports a naquadah generator is overloading. When Carter and Teal’c attempt to activate the Stargate and throw it through, Dr. Jackson zats Sergeant Harriman before the dialing sequence is complete, revealing himself to be a Goa’uld! The naquadah generator explodes and the program resets once more.

Teal’c, suffering from exhaustion and realizing that he cannot win, slouches down against the concrete wall of the corridor and lets the game reset again and again. He cannot play any longer.

Meanwhile, Carter conducts experiments on an identical chair using an imprint of Teal’c’s memory taken six years ago on P7J-989, but the results are virtually the same. She fears that the game will not let him win the game until the Goa’uld themselves have been totally defeated — and that, six years ago at least, Teal’c might have truly believed the Goa’uld could never be defeated. If his views have not changed, and the game he’s trapped in is serving as a microcosm for the battle against the Goa’uld as a whole, it might never let him win.

O’Neill suggests hooking up a joystick to another chair to help Teal’c, giving Carter and Lee an idea. They devise a means to add an additional player into the game, but with a two-second advantage to help Teal’c win. Jack, Daniel, and Sam all volunteer, even knowing that if they can’t beat the game they will be trapped with Teal’c. Daniel is chosen and joins in the simulation, with the ability to see events two seconds before they happen (thanks to the interface’s time lag from the game’s processor) — and is immediately killed by Teal’c, who still believes that Daniel is a Goa’uld.

The game resets and this time Daniel tries to reason with him, but Teal’c shoots Daniel again. In the next round, Jackson takes up his own strategy and zats Teal’c to the ground to force him to listen. Soon Teal’c understands the truth — this is the real Daniel — and the two join forces to defeat the game.

Their first attempt is a failure, and Teal’c’s heart stops. Carmichael is able to get him moving, but that the agent he just injected will not work again.

This time Teal’c and Daniel successfully take down all three drones, but find Carter and O’Neill in a storage locker trying to deactivate the overloading naquadah generator. Sam swears that Siler (unconscious in the corner) was the Goa’uld, but the two players don’t know who they can trust. Teal’c and Daniel raise their weapons and end off in a tense stand-off with the virtual Jack and Sam. With the generator counting down to overload, Teal’c and Daniel decide to lower their weapons.

Carter manages to deactivate the device — but Siler leaps to his feet, revealing that he is indeed a Goa’uld. Teal’c takes him out, and the game finally ends.

– D. Read

ANALYSIS

  • Dr. Lee and his scientists have been working on the game chair for over two years, hoping it would one day enhance the training of SG team members.
  • Since the incident on P7J-989 six years ago, the residents built in a shut-off switch within the V.R. chair technology to ensure that no one can be trapped inside against their will. In this S.G.C. simulation, a player must simply proceed to the secondary elevator and head for the surface in order to exit. (Unfortunately for Teal’c, the game’s adaptive programming overrode the exit protocol.)
  • A thermographic sensor is capable of detecting a Kull, even with its invisibility shield active. The virtual Samantha Carter had also developed a modulator chip capable of destroying a Kull warrior should they adapt their armor to the energy weapon created from Ancient healing device (“Death Knell”).

    Fortunately, there is no evidence yet that the real-world super-soldiers are capable of invisibility (without the aid of a personal cloaking device) or of adapting to the energy weapon.

NOTES

  • Stargate Command’s threat level “FA-6” (“Foxtrot Alpha Six”) signals an invasion of the base by Kull warriors, though this threat level may only exist within the virtual reality training simulation.
  • The game’s memory core is adaptive and accumulative, as it essentially learns from its user with each replay.
  • There is a 2-second delay between the chair’s processor and the user’s experience.
  • P4M-523 is an uninhabited world (at least in the game).

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

  • Will Stargate Command continue to use the V.R. chair technology for training scenarios? Can the fundamental flaws that trapped Teal’c be overcome?
  • Does Teal’c truly believe that the Goa’uld cannot be defeated? Did he really believe that six years ago?

PRODUCTION NOTES

    (Read more on this episode “In the Making …” by Joseph Mallozzi)

  • Actor Andrew Airlie, who plays Dr. Carmichael, first played the Orbanian Kalan in Season Three’s “Learning Curve.”
  • The computer-generated video game footage in this episode was created by Perception, the same Australian company that developed the Stargate SG-1 PC / console game Stargate SG-1: The Alliance. (The game itself was scrapped late in production, and never released.)
  • “It’s a V.R. game. They’re using the chairs from ‘The Gamekeeper.’ And now we’re back in those chairs and we’ve modified them, and they are allowing us to program our own V.R. game to check out how certain scenarios can be played out. In this case, Teal’c gets trapped in a scenario of his own making because he never gives up and the game is playing until he gives up — and it’s not going to happen. It’s a very cool episode.”

    “‘Avatar’ repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats, and looks a little bit like ‘Groundhog Day’ or ‘Window of Opportunity.’ But it has a twist to it in that it completely resets brand new every time. So it’s not like we just start again; Teal’c goes through and resets his game every time he gets killed. But there are subtle differences because the game is adapting to him.” (Director Martin Wood, in an interview with GateWorld)

  • “We’re doing an interesting story, working with the people who just got the rights to do the games. I don’t know if you read about a company in Australia that just signed a multi-million dollar deal with MGM to do a PlayStation2 platform game? We’re doing a story where we’re using the chairs from ‘Gamekeeper,’ and we’re working with those scientists. We’ve created what we think is a virtual reality simulator, a combat scenario, for training S.G. soldiers. Teal’c is testing it out and he gets trapped inside of it. A programming error gets him caught in this simulation. And we’re actually using footage from the video games as representation of what he’s going through. It’s inter-cut throughout the show.” (Executive producer Robert C. Cooper, in an interview with the Richard Dean Anderson Web Site)
  • “‘Avatar’ is the video game, the ‘Gamekeeper’ simulation. The V.R. chairs have never left. If you look really closely at ‘Point of View,’ you’ll see them in the Area 51 lockup. The chairs are on the shelf as we go through Area 51, when we end on the quantum mirror, and long-hair Carter and Kawalsky come through. You quite clearly see that the chairs are on the shelf there, because we recovered those chairs from the planet. We took them, from Dwight Schultz, who’s very upset! Dr. Lee and his group of scientists program a V.R. chair for the purposes of simulation, for training purposes.

    “And Teal’c is in there, and he’s playing his first person shooter video game, trying to deal with potential foothold situations that they might come across. In this particular scenario, it is if an Anubis drone got onto the base, how they would handle that battle. It’s the same premise as Tron. He can’t get out, Matrix, if you will, he won’t give up, the game is getting harder and harder, and then suddenly his life is at stake.” (Director and consulting producer Peter DeLuise, in an interview with the Richard Dean Anderson Web Site)

  • “I’ve never been a huge fan of virtual reality episodes as there are only so many ways you can go with them. Still, what makes an episode special isn’t so much its premise but the light it sheds on our main characters — in this case, Teal’c. So, what do we learn about Teal’c in this episode? Well, for starters, we learn he has a really big head. There were two versions of that V.R. helmet he sports in the episode. The first was built prior to any proper head measurement and, as a result, would only fit us mere mortals. The prop department had to come up with a completely different helmet to accommodate Chris’s, er, roomier head.” (Writer / producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)