Stargate SG-1 Episode 1.07: "Cold Lazarus"
Finally, some much-needed character development for Jack!
The Plot Thickens
SG-1 travels to a planet of yellow desert, interspersed with broken blue crystals. Colonel O'Neill finds an intact crystal out of sight of the rest of the team, and it blasts him back, leaving him unconscious. A copy of O'Neill generated by the blast returns through the Stargate to Earth.
No one on the base seems to notice O'Neill has been replaced by a doppelganger. The copy leaves the base to go find O'Neill's family, his wife Sara and son Charlie. When the doppelganger asks Sara to see Charlie, Sara takes it as a sick joke, but Sara's father invites the doppelganger inside. The doppelganger cries in Charlie's room as it feels Jack's pain over the death of his son. Just when it looks like the doppelganger might repair Jack's relationship with Sara, it collapses with bolts of lightning arcing over it.
Back at the base, Sam and Teal'c determine that the crystals were broken by staff weapons. One of the more intact crystals manifests a face and explains what they are: beings of energy. It also warns that they are running out of energy on Earth, which could have bad consequences. The real O'Neill returns through the Stargate, and SG-1 sets out in search of the doppelganger.
Sara, meanwhile, has taken the doppelganger to a hospital, but he becomes so dangerous that the hospital is evacuated. SG-1 shows up--confusing Sara terribly as the real O'Neill heads into the building--and the two O'Neills meet. The doppelganger explains that he felt Jack's pain and wanted to help him get better, so he went to find Charlie. As a being of energy, the doppelganger did not understand the permanence of death. The doppelganger turns into a replica of Charlie.
O'Neill escorts the fake-Charlie outside to an emotional Sara. Then the fake-Charlie and the rest of the alien crystals are returned through the Stargate.
Themes and Thoughts
I've always thought this was one of the better episodes of season one, and it stands up well to repeat viewing. I've said before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, that SG-1 is often at its best when it works with quiet, emotionally powerful episodes.
That's certainly the case here. There's no looming danger; even the doppelganger's death throes aren't really that threatening. Our heroes are never in mortal peril, and there's no planet to save. But this episode works and works well because of how deeply it delves into Jack, how emotionally resonant it is. We can't help but feel Jack and Sara's pain, because we've seen similar stories in real life. I'm going to explore this deeper below, but this is an episode that stays with you long afterward.
Oh, Jack. Jack, Jack, Jack.
This is probably the single most important episode for his character development in the entire show. Prior to this, we've known in basic terms what happened to Jack's son: he found one of Jack's guns and he shot himself. No parent should have to bury a child, least of all one who died in such a way. Jack blames himself, always has; he was on the verge of suicidal in the movie that preceded the show.
But up til now, the show hasn't really waded into that backstory except in offhand remarks. The doppelganger here gives us a direct conduit to Jack's hidden emotions. That scene of him sobbing in Charlie's room--it's all the emotion Jack can't bring himself to express. We get hints of his relationship with his son, how much he loved him, and the absolute abject horror of that gunshot.
Then there's Jack's relationship with Sara. They reacted to their grief in different ways. Jack locked himself down emotionally, trying to numb the pain and the blame he placed on himself. Sara mourned more openly and needed to see Jack sharing her feelings. It's not surprising that she left him, then, and it's equally unsurprising to see her warm to "Jack" when she finds him sobbing in Charlie's bedroom, finally letting out the emotion she herself has felt.
This episode is textbook catharsis, not just for Jack himself, but also for Sara. At the episode's end, they know that the doppelganger isn't really Charlie, but the doppelganger gives them both something they desperately need: a chance to say goodbye to their boy. Closure, and an easing of the pain.
Oh, and you know, Sam, Daniel, Teal'c, and Hammond are around.
He Said, She Said, It Said
Holy Bad Guys, Batman!
There's no real villain this week, so there's not much to discuss here. The episode does give us a bit more knowledge of the Goa'uld, though--namely, that they will wipe out anything they see as a threat. We already knew that, sort of, but this episode shows the extreme lengths to which they'll go. It serves as a very prescient warning of what's coming for Earth.
Not too much for the techie talk, either. Apparently, Jaffa staff weapons cut in a distinctive way, enough that Sam and Teal'c can determine how the crystals were destroyed.
This is only on the verge of tech, but these creatures are our first encounter with aliens who are composed of pure energy. Pure-energy beings are going to become a Big Deal later on.
New Eyes, New Viewpoint
Not surprisingly, this was my bestie's favorite episode of the show so far. According to her, it had the strongest writing and the most emotion. For the first time, Jack felt like a person to her, rather than just a name and a rank.