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The Torment of Tantalus

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The Torment of Tantalus
The Torment of Tantalus
Ernest Littlefield is alive.
Production
Series

Stargate SG-1

Episode

1.11

Original air date

October 3, 1997

Written by

Robert C. Cooper

Directed by

Jonathan Glassner

Cast
Guest stars

Elizabeth Hoffman as Catherine Langford
Keene Curtis as Dr. Ernest Littlefield
Gary Jones as MSgt. Walter Harriman
Duncan Fraser as Professor Paul Langford
Nancy McClure as Young Catherine
Paul McGillion as Young Ernest Littlefield
Sheelah Megill as Martha

Chronology
Preceded by

"Thor's Hammer"

Followed by

"Bloodlines"

SG1 season 1
SG-1 Season 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22
Stargate Season 2

"The Torment of Tantalus" is the eleventh episode of the first season of Stargate SG-1.

SynopsisEdit

Dr. Daniel Jackson sees a video documenting classified experiments from 1945 in which the Stargate was actually activated and Ernest Littlefield, Catherine Langford's love was stranded alone on a planet for more than 50 years. SG-1, and Langford gate to the planet and are surprised to find Littlefield still alive.

PlotEdit

In 1945, a group of scientists are busy working on the then newly discovered Stargate, trying to get it to work. Not knowing about the effect of stellar drift on the dialing (later discovered by Captain Samantha Carter), they should not have been able to turn it on.

In 1997, in the Briefing Room, Dr. Daniel Jackson is busy watching the footage when Colonel Jack O'Neil wanders in, telling Daniel that they've got two days of medical tests to do.

But both men are left stunned when they discover that the scientists managed to get the Stargate working and they're even more shocked when a man steps through the gate, the wormhole it created collapses, apparently trapping him on whatever planet he was transported to, causing Jack to whisper, "Holy cow" in disbelief.

Daniel visits Catherine Langford, the daughter of the man in charge of the program back then. She recognizes that the man who went through the gate was Dr. Ernest Littlefield, her then fiancé. Her father had told her that Littlefield died during an explosion in the lab. Jackson brings her back with him to Stargate Command, causing Major General George Hammond to berate Daniel for breaking protocol, ie, revealing classified information to a civilian.

In a briefing, Daniel reveals that he was able to extract the chevrons that the scientists dialed from the old footage. Carter mentions that this address is not on the list found on Abydos, which is direct proof that the Goa'uld are not the builders of the Stargates. Teal'c points out that this may mean that there will be technology unknown to the Goa'uld at the address that Dr. Littlefield has traveled to, and Daniel points that they have an obligation to bring back the first man who saw the Stargate for what it was. Hammond agrees that SG-1 should go to the planet and attempt to bring Dr. Littlefield home. Catherine insists on joining the mission.

A while later, SG-1 and Catherine depart.

Heliopolis Castle

On the other side of the wormhole, they find themselves in what appears to be something of a castle perched dangerously on outcropping rocks over a stormy sea and under a thunderous sky. Within, they find Dr. Littlefield, emaciated but alive.

Vlcsnap-2014-04-20-21h54m22s219

Carter examining the damaged DHD.

Carter then discovers that the Dial Home Device is broken and hence they are stuck. While she works on a solution, Catherine has her moments with Ernest - they are cold to each other at first (as they've been through a lot) but warm up to each other later.

The Torment of Tantalus

Ernest showing Daniel the Light display device (inactive).

Jackson also talks to Ernest, who has kept a journal all these years. He takes them to a special room where a central device, when activated by Jack projects a light-display into the air.

The light-display turns out to be a representation of atoms and basic elements. On the four walls are four types of writing, and both Jackson and Ernest believe this to be some kind of meeting place for four great alien races of the past. That is when Jackson realizes that the atoms are a kind of universal language - to ensure universal comprehension the language has been reduced to basic elements common to all life. There turn out to be many pages of this 'book' and Jackson becomes obsessed with copying it down.

While Carter and Teal'c are working on the DHD, a large wave hits the cliff, triggering a rockfall that causes the DHD to fall through the floor and into the ocean below. Carter works out that a lightning strike channeled into the gate may supply enough power to allow dialing it manually, enabling them to escape while hopefully not destroying the Stargate in the process. In the meantime, the storm is becoming rough, and it looks like the castle will collapse.

Heliopolis Lightning

Daniel's obsession with the book makes him want to stay to study it all. At the last moment, Ernest persuades Daniel to leave. Although the information held in the 'book' may be the source to understanding the very meaning of the existence of humans ("meaning-of-life stuff"), it would take more than a lifetime to study it all, as evidenced by Ernest, and there's no joy in knowing it all but having no one to share it with. Due to the obviousness of Ernest's wisdom on this matter, Jackson leaves the 'book' and they escape through the collapsing castle through the Stargate just before the wormhole destabilizes and shuts down.

Heliopolis

Later, an attempt is made to open another wormhole to the planet to see if returning is possible. The attempt fails, presumably because the destination gate has been buried. However, Ernest reminds them that their expedition was productive beyond rescuing him, because they also brought back his notes, which are being worked on as they speak. Ernest tells Daniel that one day he might meet the ones who wrote the book and tell him what it means.

After this, Catherine and Ernest finally share an emotional embrace with Jack and Daniel looking on.

ReferencesEdit

1945; Abydos; Alliance of Four Great Races; Alliance of Four Great Races database; Ancient language; Asgard; Asgard language; Atom; Barium; Beryllium; Dial Home Device; Dome device; Electron; Elements; Benjamin Franklin; Franklin D. Roosevelt; F.R.E.D.; Furling language; Goa'uld; Heliopolis; Heliopolis (city); Hydrogen; Iron; Lightning; Mecca; Neutron; Nox language; The Pentagon; Proton; Ra; SG-4; Silver; Sodium; Tea; Thor; United Nations; Universal language; Major General W. O. West; World War II; Xenon

Notable QuotesEdit

O'Neill: You know, you seem a tad obsessed with this stuff.
Jackson: This was transferred from film of experiments done on the Gate in 1945. You don't find that the least bit intriguing?
O'Neill: Oh yeah—nothing piques my interest more than repeated failure.

Jackson: The Pentagon said this was everything.
O'Neill: Oh please! The Pentagon's lost entire countries.

Catherine: (about Hammond) So far he actually sounds worse than General West!
O'Neill: Ah, he's a teddy bear!

Catherine: You speak?
Teal'c: When it is appropriate.

O'Neill: It's a piece of cake. Ready?
(all go through the Stargate)
Jackson: Are you okay?
Catherine: Huh, that was some piece of cake.

O'Neill: Ernest was showing him a new toy.
Carter: Really? What?
O'Neill: Some fancy light show that may be a key our existence or something.

O'Neill: All right, basic survival training. We know what we have, what do we need?
Teal'c: We have the Stargate. We need the dial-home device.
O'Neill: Thank you, Teal'c.

NotesEdit

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Stargate Wiki has 19 images related to The Torment of Tantalus.

GoofsEdit

  • After the rocks have fallen down in front of the Stargate, Colonel Jack O'Neill steps on one of the rocks, revealing that it's fake (it is light as a feather).
  • Jackson mentions that he can tell that the holograms of the elements are certain elements, because the number of electrons determines the element. The number of protons determines the element. The number of electrons can vary for a given element, giving a different ion. Then again he is not a physicist and may thus either not know or not care about the correct definition.
  • As Dr. Ernest Littlefield enters the wormhole initially, he is connected to a tether. The gate then inexplicably shuts down 'cutting' the tether. This should not have happened unless Ernest was 'in' the wormhole for more than 38 minutes, in which case he should not have rematerialized on the other side then only complete objects will materialize based on Stargate canon. However, according to Stargate canon, the active gate also has the capability to determine exactly what is going into the event horizon and is also designed to compensate for similar situations. This could have also been caused by insufficient power supply or technical problems due to limited technology available in 1945. It should also be noted that the issue regarding Stargates deleting objects that are incomplete was not raised until nearly 10 years after this episode aired, making this a retcon rather than a goof. 
  • Catherine Langford mentions she is 21 years old in 1945. However, in 1928 when the gate was found Catherine is at least 10 years old if not older. That would make her at least 27 years old in 1945 or older.
  • When Catherine says there are only 111 elements on the periodic table, Ernest retorts that there were only 90 when he last looked. In 1945, there were 94 elements on the periodic table, Promethium being the most recent. It may have been a general statement to point out that more elements were discovered after he disappeared, though.

In other languagesEdit

  • French: Le Supplice de Tantale
  • German: Die Qualen des Tantalus (The Torment of Tantalus)
  • Italian: Il Supplizio di Tantalo
  • Spanish: El tormento de Tántalo
  • Czech: Tantalova muka (The Torment of Tantalus)
  • Hungarian: Tantalus kínjai (The Torment of Tantalus)
  • Polish: Męki Tantala (The Torment of Tantalus)

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