Stargate SG-1/The Torment of Tantalus

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The Torment of Tantalus
Season 1, Episode 11
Airdate October 3, 1997
Production Number 110
Written by Robert C. Cooper
Directed by Jonathan Glassner
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The Torment of Tantalus is the eleventh episode of the first season of Stargate SG-1, and the eleventh episode overall.

Guest Stars: Gary Jones (Technician/Sergeant Walter Davis), Elizabeth Hoffman (Catherine Langford), Keene Curtis (Dr. Ernest Littlefield), Duncan Fraser (Professor Langford), Nancy McClure (Young Catherine), Paul McGillion (Young Ernest Littlefield), Sheela Megill (Martha the Maid)


Plot Overview

Daniel is watching a film of experiments done on the stargate in 1945 and sees that they actually manage to turn it on. A man wearing a diving suit goes through the gate. Daniel shares this information with Catherine Langford. She tells Daniel that the man who walked through in 1945 was Dr. Ernest Littlefield who she was supposed to marry. Her father told her that he died in an explosion. Daniel then shows her the address of the planet that Ernest went to.

Daniel returns to the SGC with Catherine. Captain Carter finds out that the planet was not on the cartouche found on Abydos. (Meaning the Goa'uld haven't been there, which also supports that the Goa'uld didn't build the stargate system after all.) Catherine comes with them to the planet. On the other side, they find an old castle on a cliff. SG-1 finds Dr. Littlefield in the castle. They find out that the reason Ernest hasn't tried to come back is because the DHD's central part (the dome) was broken by a piece of rock that fell from the castle years ago. It doesn't work at all.

While Carter and Teal'c try to fix it, Earnest shows them a room with four distinct alien languages. (Which are the Asgard, the Furling, the Ancients and the Nox, which we will later discover in the episode entitled "The Fifth Race".) There is a device that projects a holographic representation of the elements (146 of them). Daniel reads Dr. Littlefield's notes which helps him understand about the languages and the elements. Meanwhile, Captain Carter tries to link the DHD's power source directly to the stargate. It works, or so they think. It causes the castle to shake, then the DHD falls through the floor, and they have to find a new way to get home. SG-1 wants to break open the device that shows the elements. Teal'c shoots it with his Staff weapon but the device is left intact. Jack thinks that they should try "The old Ben Franklin thing" to provide energy for the gate to work. SG-1 hooks up wires and metal parts from the M.A.L.P. to the roof to attract lightning from the storm. Dr. Littlefield has Teal'c put his helmet at the top the roof. A bolt of lightning hits it, which transfers to the stargate, and Teal'c starts to dial Earth manually while Jack gets Daniel—Daniel wants to stay.

The gate is open. Dr. Littlefield gets Daniel to come with them. Catherine and Earnest return through the gate. O'Neill and Daniel are still on the planet. The wormhole is destabilizing, Jack and Daniel have only a few seconds left. They arrive on Earth at the last second.

They try to dial back to the planet but the castle fell into the ocean which buried the gate.


  • Syndication airdate: November 9, 1998.
  • Heliopolis was designated P3X-972.
  • Heliopolis means "City of the Sun".

Arc Advancement



  • Guest star Paul McGillion, who plays the young Ernest Littlefield in this episode, would later play the recurring character of Dr. Beckett in "Stargate: Atlantis"



The Show

Behind the Scenes

Allusions and References

Title: The Torment of Tantalus

In Greek mythology, Tantalus was a king who was punished for all eternity by having cool, clear water just below his chin and ripe, delicious fruit hanging just beyond his reach. His crime was generally said to have been dismembering his son Pelops (who, by the way, was mentioned as a Goa'uld in Brief Candle and serving him to the gods for dinner. His name is the basis of the word "tantalize".

Memorable Moments


  • At the end when they were dialing back to the planet, the computer displayed the Abydos symbols.
  • How did the scientists in 1945 get the address to P3X-972? Did they intend to go to Abydos but they mis-dialed since the address to P3X-972 is only slightly different than that of Abydos?
  • How did Dr. Littlefield survive on that planet if he'd been there since 1945? A supply of food and water can't last that long.
  • In the old video, they call the stargate the gate to heaven, but in movie, it was Richard Kind's character, Gary Meyers, who mistranslated the tablet as gate to heaven
  • When they are looking at the holograms of the various elements, Daniel incorrectly states that an atom can be determined by the number of electrons. I may have gotten a D in Chem 012, but I do recall that you can remove and add electrons to an atom, you will just leave it charged. What determines the atomic number is not the amount of electrons, but the amount of protons.


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


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