The ScourgeEPISODE #917
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 02.17.06
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 04.23.07
DVD DISC: Season 9, Disc 5
WRITTEN BY: Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie
DIRECTED BY: Ken Girotti
GUEST STARS: Robert Picardo (Richard Woolsey), Tamlyn Tomita (Shen Xiaoyi), Mark Oliver (Lapierre), Andy Maton (Chapman), Tony Alcantar (Dr. Myers), Gary Jones (Walter Harriman), Bill Dow (Dr. Lee), John Prowse (Col. Pearson), Guy Fauchon (Pullman), Jason McKinnon (Walker), Sean Hall (SF)
Discussing the fact that Earth has beaten back the Ori plague by delivering the cure to other worlds, Mitchell, Carter, Jackson, and Teal'c walk through the corridor into the gate room where they arm and start up the Stargate ramp. But General Landry scrubs their mission at the last moment, telling them that the Pentagon has assigned SG-1 the task of accompanying representatives from member nations of the International Oversight Advisory (I.O.A.) -- Shen Xiaoyi, Mr. LaPierre, Mr. Chapman, and Richard Woolsey -- to the Gamma Site. Though the support of the I.O.A. has become vital to the Stargate program, it's a babysitting job.
As they begin their tour, Carter explains that this planet was chosen for the base in part because of its radioactive ionosphere, which protects them from being detected from space. Pearson, the base commander, introduces them to Dr. Myers, head entomologist, studying an asexual, fast reproducing, voracious insect called R75. The bugs have devastated crops on several worlds visited by Ori Priors, and may or may not be the next salvo in the Ori arsenal. The bugs avoid predators and find prey via echolocation.
Myers has discovered that the bugs live longer when they are deprived of food. Later, he is surprised when they ignore a leaf he offers -- so he gives them a piece of meatloaf, which they devour. They have become carnivorous.
Also eating meatloaf are the I.O.A. delegates and SG-1. Jackson talks to Shen Xiaoyi, who notes that since China signed the Gate Alliance Treaty three years ago ("Disclosure"), they have received none of the technological benefits the U.S. military has had. Daniel is quick to acknowledge that the complaint is legitimate, and that with the U.S. military in charge she shouldn't expect things to change. But Shen suggests that the U.S. may soon have no choice.
Back in the bug lab, Myers and another scientist return to find that the bugs have reproduced enough to fill their containment unit. As the two watch, the bugs burst forth and swarm toward them. Myers quickly seals the door and activates the emergency biohazard disposal protocol. But one bug has escaped and bites Myers, who quickly kills it.
As the delegates prepare to leave, Myers collapses. Pearson locks down the base until they understand the source of Myers's illness. He is readied for transport back to Earth via the Stargate, while the increasingly agitated delegates are forced wait. But the soldiers drop his containment tube when bugs erupt from his mouth. The creatures swarm across the floor and the gate room is evacuated.
Carter, Teal'c, and Jackson decide the bugs are indeed Ori related, especially since the adapt to a new food type once they have devoured an initial source. Pearson pronounces the gate room lost, and orders the I.O.A. group taken to the surface. Woolsey insists SG-1s escort them.
On the surface, they head for an unmanned research station 10 miles away. Suddenly, Teal'c hears what Carter identifies as the bugs' echo-locating. They are traveling underground, and the team is their prey. As the bugs consume one soldier, everyone runs. The other soldier guides them to a cave. Carter indicates that gunfire directed toward the ground will create a concussive sound that should drive the bugs back.
On Earth, Chief Harriman tells Landry that they can only detect motion sensor telemetry when attempting to communicate with the Gamma Site, which Dr. Lee says emanates from R75. He tells Landry that the bugs were being studied for use against the Lucian Alliance's kassa crops. Fearing all human life has been lost, Landry orders Lee to create a neuro-toxin to be delivered by the Odyssey, per the extreme measures protocol CR-91. The bugs must be contained no matter the cost.
In the cave, Jackson and Shen Xiaoyi again discuss the Chinese government's position on the Stargate program. She confesses that her report will ultimately be meaningless, hinting that her leaders have already made up their minds.
Mitchell unsuccessfully attempts to communicate with the Gamma base. Walker, guarding the cave entrance, feels a bug crawling under his skin. When Carter says they cannot outrun the bugs on foot, Teal'c suggests F-302s. But Jackson soon announces that Walker is missing. Daniel, Cameron, and Teal'c find Walker some distance away, dead and full of bugs. Jackson returns to the cave, while Mitchell and Teal'c go for the 302s. But before they make it back to the base, they witness its destruction from the self-destruct mechanism.
Carter informs the delegates that the Odyssey may indeed be coming -- but CR-91, which presumes the planet is devoid of human life, will be in effect. Jackson suggests they'll be located because of their new transmitter implants, but Carter reminds him of the ionosphere interference. Given their location within the cave and the huge number of bugs around them, their life signs will be undetectable.
Jackson suggests relocating to the research station, five miles away, as it has a transmitter which Carter says she can modify to reach the Odyssey as soon as they enter orbit. They near the facility when LaPierre, obstreperous throughout, refuses to continue. Mitchell hands him a pistol so he can cover them. The bugs he will hear, says Mitchell, but not the silent, decapitating "tree ferrets." Carter smiles to herself as LaPierre reconsiders and hurries to join the others.
When they reach the station, Teal'c and Mitchell hold off the pursuing bugs with gunfire. As Carter boosts the transmitters power to penetrate the ionosphere, vibrations from the communications array attract the bugs. Mitchell, Jackson, and Teal'c rig an early warning perimeter of explosives and defend the station with the last of their ammo. As the team fires the last of their ammo at the ground to keep the carnivorous bugs at bay, Odyssey beams them all up as the bugs swarm over the station.
Back on Earth, Mr. Woolsey briefs Landry and SG-1 ... and reveals them that despite the formal reprimand they will probably receive over the incident, the I.O.A. is quite impressed with them. Landry informs the team that two more planets have been hit with the Prior bugs, and a way to fight them is being researched.
When Landry departs, Jackson asks if everyone is up for movie night. Mitchell he has the perfect movie picked out: Starship Troopers.
- The Asgard sensors with which Earth ships such as the Odyssey are equipped are not capable of distinguishing between different kinds of life forms, a la Star Trek (e.g. three humans and a Jaffa). Surrounded by a sea of insects, the team's life signs were effectively drowned out. The Odyssey was only able to pinpoint them because of the signal that Colonel Carter transmitted from the base camp, giving nearly exact coordinates for the ship's sensors to focus on.
- The U.S. government promised the governments of China, Great Britain, France, and Russia to share discoveries made through gate travel when the nations all signed the Gate Alliance Treaty three years ago ("Disclosure"). They later redefined this to cover only "non-military" technology, and have withheld a good deal from other nations. This is exactly how the U.S. treated Russia when the two became allies in the Stargate program -- which Russia was quick to point out when the U.S. later came to them for help ("48 Hours").
- The Chinese government may be preparing to make a move to take control of the Stargate program. Shen told Daniel that her report on this incident is really just a formality, implying that a decision has already been made as to China's position. She also asked if Daniel would have joined the Stargate program if it had been China that controlled the gate -- and when he said yes, Shen told him that she might hold him to that some day.
- R75 insects are not exclusively nocturnal, although they do prefer to be active in the dark. When they move about during the daytime, they burrow just below the surface -- and they can travel great distances that way.
- R75 is initially herbivorous, but when deprived of food for an extended period their physiologies adapt to become strictly carnivorous.
- In their normal life cycle, the insects eat themselves to death -- they binge on plant life and die within a matter of hours. But when deprived of food, they can survive for many days.
- Earth maintains a Gamma Site as well as a Beta Site. The Gamma Site base was built to resemble Stargate Command, and was home to a number of on-going experiments with alien plant and animal life -- perhaps deemed too dangerous to bring back to Earth for study at Area 51, such as the R75 insects. The base has been destroyed.
- Are the insects deliberately engineered and spread by the Priors as a new way to force people to convert to Origin?
- Were the bugs on the Gamma Site planet completely wiped out by the Odyssey's payload?
- Will Earth find a way to destroy bugs without harming humans or other animal and plant life on an infected planet?
- Will Earth establish a new Gamma Site base on another planet?
- What ramifications will Stargate Command see from the I.O.A. representatives' reports?
- Is China planning to make a power play to remove the United States military from control of the Stargate -- or even seize it themselves?
- This story was originally named "The Blight" early in production.
- "As for the 'Off-World Ambassadors' story -- well, I seem to be stuck in second gear. Once Martin and Paul's outlines are solid, I'll send them what I have so far and see if we can hammer something out. This story (which I've tentatively renamed 'The Blight'), is far removed from the last one I wrote, 'Ripple Effect,' which was a blast to work on. Hopefully once it all comes together and its time for me to sit down and write it, I'll be equally inspired.
"I think the linchpin is the Chinese ambassador and once I can establish her arc and relationship with Daniel, the rest should fall into place." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "'The Scourge' is coming along nicely, thanks. Act I is always the toughest and this script was certainly no exception. But now that I'm into Act II, its smoooooth sailing. No kidding. I should be in Act III by tomorrow.
"So -- what is this episode about? 'The Scourge:' SG-1 is given the seemingly menial task of escorting a team of foreign delegates on a tour of the Beta Site. However, the babysitting mission suddenly becomes a much bigger deal when an insidious new threat creeps onto the scene." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "Working on 'The Scourge.' Still in early Act I. Setting up the players and the off-world mission. SG-1 not particularly happy about it. Have to talk to Rob about Mitchell's background on Tuesday, and talk to Michael about his character's academic background as well, see if we can set something in stone." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "Had to do a bit of a rewrite for 'The Scourge,' cutting down on some of the heavier visual effects, trimming the dialogue, and re-jigging the ending. The bug-wrangler may be coming in on Friday to discuss some of the practical effects. I'll tell you right now, I have my heart set on mealworms." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "Paul and I were in editing today, doing a visual effects spotting session for 'The Scourge.' Lots of creepy bug sequences in this one. Guaranteed, these critters'll get under your skin. Overall, great performances from out guest stars, especially Tamlyn Tomita (who you played Waverly in my wife's favorite movie, 'The Joy Luck Club'), and the ever-solid Robert Picardo (who's wife Linda, incidentally, makes the most amazing rum cake I've eaten in my entire life)." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)
- "There's a certain amount of action in this script. We are on the run on the planet, avoiding these, in a sort of a 'Starship Troopers' scenario, trying to save ourselves from these ferocious, flesh-eating bugs. So there's a lot of running around. It was fun to be part of the A-plot this time instead of just the sitting-on-a-couch-in-the-President's-office B plot. So I had a good deal of time.
"Michael and Amanda and Chris and Ben are just great to hang out with. We had a lot of fun together and they're a really cool cast. We had an eating scene and Chris decided to try to crack us up with innovative and interesting ways to eat a corn dog. And I have to tell you, he really put his heart and soul into it.
"... Joe Mallozzi told me when he first mentioned the script to me that he thought we could have a little bit of fun tweaking Woolsey's character, and I think he did. And I certainly did. There's some humorous moments in it. There's some moments where we see a character who's reasonably unflappable and has a very fixed world view and what he's supposed to accomplish in that situation. Suddenly all that goes out the window, and it's a very threatening situation. He has his moments of, shall we say, barely controlled panic." (Actor Robert Picardo, in an interview with GateWorld)
- "'The Scourge' underwent a VFX rewrite. Apparently, doing those bug shots is costly, and that was why it was decided that they live underground." (Script coordinator Alex Levine, in a post at his SciFi.com blog)
- "Joe Mallozzi told me his absolute favourite Robert Picardo moment is when, at the end of 'The Scourge,' the team and the I.O.C. members are hightailing it to the tent, Picardo runs by everyone with his arms pumping. Hilarious." (Script coordinator Alex Levine, in a post at his SciFi.com blog)
- "One of the biggest challenges of this episode was the bugs themselves. In the original draft, they buzz along the ground like a giant moving carpet. I limited the cutaways to the swarm figuring that, while expensive, it would not be prohibitively so. The cold reality of the visual effects budget hit me like a punch in the face -- followed by three swift kicks to the mid-section and the subsequent removal of all the cash in my wallet. We simply couldn't afford sweeping bug swarms. And so, I came up with the idea of having the bugs travel underground which, while not as visually satisfying, lent them a certain creepiness.
"One of my favorite guest stars makes a return in this episode as Robert Picardo reprises his role as the insufferable Richard Woolsey. This, I think, was the first episode I wrote in which I gave the character a little humor -- and, as a result, really started to enjoy writing for him. Sure, he was a stuffed shirt, but he also reveals glimpses of vulnerability that make him amusing, even likable up to a point. And Bob, of course, did a terrific job of delivering those subtle and, sometimes, not-so-subtle nuances that -- like the point late in the episode where SG-1 and the I.O.A. reps are hurrying away from the bugs, only to have Woolsey speed by them, arms madly pumping." (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)