Fig Newton (sg_fignewton) wrote in redial_the_gate,
Fig Newton

0415 Chain Reaction meta: Passive-aggressive resistance

In Chain Reaction, the team spends most of the time fighting against the clock. Jack races to find the source for the threats against Hammond before the SGC is irrevocably damaged by Bauer, then has to find the answers before Kinsey can call for back-up. Sam tries to slow down the runaway train of testing before it can crash by protesting all the shortcuts Bauer insists on taking. Daniel (and Teal'c) try to find a good reason to stop the testing before the bomb can be detonated. And, of course, there's the 38 minute countdown, when they wait to see if the Stargate will close before the iris goes and deadly radiation floods the SGC.

Now, the passing of days in the ep, from the moment Bauer stepped on base until the Stargate shut down, isn't quite clear. There was time enough for him to reassign the team, set Sam to work on a bomb, and put Jack on enforced leave; for Jack to visit Hammond and discover just how dirty the NID has become, to arrange a visit to Maybourne, and to get Maybourne released to his custody; for Sam to build the bomb; for Teal'c to lead a mission to obtain weapon's grade naquadah; for a test site to be chosen; for Jack and Maybourne to play Spy vs. Spy; for Daniel and Teal'c to study the test site and discover traces of a mining operation; and for the showdown between Jack and Maybourne and Kinsey, at what was probably the same time as the bomb attempt in Colorado.

How long did that all take? Five days? A week, maybe? It doesn't take all that long to court disaster.

The thing is, there were ways that SGC personnel could have slowed events down. They couldn't have stopped it completely - not without risking courts martial, dismissal, and who knows what else - but they certainly could have stalled long enough to give Jack more time to find a solution.

I'm talking about passive aggressive resistance. Not open defiance, of course. Sam couldn't risk being removed from a project when she knew the next scientist assigned to the job might not ask the right questions - not only about what they were doing, but about how to build the bomb properly in the first place. SG-3 couldn't have refused to go to a Goa'uld stronghold in search of naquadah, and Siler couldn't have refused to program the MALP. Ethics questions aside (and they were big ones!), none of Bauer's orders could be classified as unethical enough to make it legal for a member of the military to refuse them.

But what they could have done was slow things down, just a little bit, by introducing that classic human error into the equation.

Sam could've taken a little longer to build the bomb - circuits accidentally fried, perhaps, or a welding job that needs repair. Teal'c could have made the mission with SG-3 last longer by taking a more cautious approach offworld, where Bauer couldn't interfere. ("We will stay undercover for 24 hours and observe the guards' routine before we attack.") Little "accidents" and complications could have easily delayed and delayed the testing... and it disappoints me that we didn't even see anyone try.

Yes, Sam did attempt to go by the book and raise objections to some of Bauer's instructions - "I'll need some time to run some simulations." - but we don't see any effort, by anyone, to be anything less than their usual streamlined efficient selves.

If you'll excuse the indulgence, let me offer one of my favorite fanfics as an example of how this could have been done: Eurydice Ascending, by butterflykiki. In this fantastic AU of Forever In a Day, Sha'uri survives and is taken into custody. The story begins as Sam and Daniel take her to Cimmeria, in an unauthorized attempt to have Amaunet destroyed in Thor's Hammer. The fic alternates between Sha'uri's struggle in the Labyrinth, Sam and Daniel's efforts to get to the Labyrinth to retrieve her, and - most delightfully - Colonel Kennedy (from The Enemy Within) trying to get a team to Cimmeria to bring the wayward trio back, and the entire SGC conspiring to delay things for long enough to give Sam and Daniel and Sha'uri the time to succeed.

Deliberate "accidental" crashing of the dialing computer. A science team "locked" in a room by an alien device. SG teams suddenly being absolute sticklers for the rules about hours spent on-duty. Imaginative interpretations of orders. A team member who goes AWOL at just the right (or wrong) moment. A few hours here, and few hours there, and they win enough time for Sam and Daniel, and a Goa'uld-free Sha'uri, to come home victorious.

Actually, I don't have to go to fanfic to find an example of creative delays in the face of slightly immoral orders, because Hammond provides us with some superb canon resistance of his own. Curiously enough, Maybourne is involved in both cases, which says something (although I'm not quite sure what).

In Enigma, while the SGC is busily attempting to be gracious hosts to their not-very-appreciative guests, Maybourne shows up with signed orders that will allow him to take the Tollan into custody, against their will, so they can enlighten the Tau'ri with their knowledge and technology. Maybourne is ready to grab Omoc and Narim and the others and march them out of the SGC immediately, but Hammond stops him:

"I can't release them to you."

Maybourne asks, very coldly, "I beg your pardon?"

Hammond answers blandly, "I don't believe the President meant to release these people until they have been through quarantine. We don't have any idea what kinds of diseases they might be carrying."

Maybourne makes some not-so-veiled threats, Hammond gives him back as good as he gets, and Maybourne stomps off by rather forced invitation. There is an appreciative pause before Jack says, "General? Didn't Doctor Frasier give the Tollan a clean bill of health?"

"Just don't let her tell Maybourne that," Hammond answers wryly. "At most, I've bought us a day, people. Find me some alternatives."

And the time that Hammond bought them proves to be enough, as they hit on the "I'm a civilian" loophole and get the Tollan to safety via the Nox.

Then there's the crisis in 48 Hours, when Teal'c is trapped within the event horizon and, despite Sam's frantic efforts (and with McKay's interference) to find a solution, the SGC is ordered to dial up the Gate and get back into business.

"I need more time," Sam pleads.

"I've been given a direct order," Hammond tells her gravely.

" I don't care what anyone says," Sam insists. "You open that gate and you are murdering Teal'c."

"My only other choice is to resign," Hammond says. "If I resign now, I will have no control over who will be running this facility an hour from now. Is that enough time?"

(Just... stop for a moment, and reflect on the awesomeness of Hammond, who is ready to resign his commission in a heartbeat if Sam tells him that an extra hour will spare Teal'c's life.)

"No," Sam confesses.

"Tell me what else I can do."

"I can't, sir."

...And only then, does Hammond give the order to dial the Gate.

So why is Hammond the only one who seems to know how to introduce delay without defying orders? The entire SGC fails at it here in Chain Reaction. We see a similar failure in Talion (with which I have many, many problems) when the team not only accepts an order to go after Teal'c, but actually seems to do their determined best to accomplish that mission - as opposed to, say, suddenly developing radio interference, or a conveniently turned ankle, or who knows what else.

So, I'm disappointed that the SGC chose to be its usual stellar best instead of quietly resisting bad orders by being just that little bit substandard. The storyline wouldn't have needed to change; it could have taken just that much longer for Jack and Maybourne to reach their confrontation with Kinsey. But if someone could offer a good reason why passive aggressive resistance wouldn't have worked here - or other canon examples of when it was used on the show - I'd feel a whole lot better about it.

Anyway, I'm sorry, but that just happens to be how I feel about it. What do you think?
Tags: 0415 chain reaction, meta, season four
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