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The Road Not Taken, Series 10, Episode 13


The Road Not Taken may be, in my opinion, one of the best episodes of Season 10. The writing, directing, acting (especially from Ben), the very concept of the story - all of it is nearly perfect. In fact, the only real flaw in it is that we don't get to see more of Ben. However, what we do have is an Emmy-worthy performance by Ben which took everyone including Amanda Tapping (who is quoted as being "astonished" by his work) by surprise.


The story opens with Samantha running an experiment on Merlin's Ancient cloaking device (which previously sent Cameron, Samantha, and later Daniel to an alternate dimension in Arthur's Mantle). There's a humourous scene as Cameron walks face first into Samantha's force shield which she has erected around her lab since she forgot to put up the warning sign. Cameron tries to get her to come for lunch and as usual, Samantha insists on one last test. She sends him to the observation room, turns on the cloaking device, and to his alarm, doesn't return.

The next scene lays out the problem: Samantha has somehow been transported to an alternate reality, where she is a Major and the ex-wife of Rodney McKay; Major Lorne of the Atlantis expedition (which doesn't exist in this reality) is leader of SG-1; Daniel has been captured by the Ori (true in both realities); Teal'c is long since returned to the Jaffa; Vala is in prison; Dr. Bill Lee is actually a relatively serious guy (as opposed to bumbling scientist); General Hammond is in charge of the SGC; Hank Landry is the President of the United States, who has his Oval Office inside the SGC at Cheyenne Mountain, uses Prometheus as Air Force One, and has declared martial law on the US, after revealing the Stargate Program to the world (which is teetering on WWIII) three years previously. Additionally, there is no mention of Jack O'Neill, but Cameron in this reality is no longer in the Air Force nor was he ever part of Stargate Command.

When the people of this reality realize their Samantha Carter is dead, they initially promise Samantha that if she helps them protect Earth from the Ori invasion coming in a few days, they'll let her go. She cloaks the whole planet Earth with Merlin's device and saves the world. But President Landry goes back on his word and tries not only to force her to stay but to become a poster child for the United States, which is no longer a democracy. In fact, Landry rules the country with an iron fist, and his Secret Service agents take down any protesters with Goa'uld pain sticks and control the media like a Communist nation. Samantha refuses to go along with any of it and sets out to return home, which she eventually does with the help of Rodney McKay. The end scene where Cameron, Teal'c and Vala sheepishly confide they believed her to still be present in another phase and spoke to an empty room for two weeks to keep her company is very funny.

Before she returns home, however, Samantha seeks out one specific man - and surprise, it's not Jack O'Neill, as we might have expected, but Cameron Mitchell. She is horrified to discover him bitter, broken, and unable to walk, living in a rundown apartment, smoking and drinking, and alluding to being severely mistreated by the military and government when he called them out on their injustices.

Amanda Tapping called The Road Not Taken her "favourite episode of season 10," (TV Zone Special #74, January 2007), and part of the reason was because of her scene with Ben.

Amanda said: "At one point, Carter runs into an alternate version of Mitchell, and Ben and I got to play this really cool, intense scene together. We get to see what happened to Mitchell after he decided to buck the system and stand up for his principles."

Ben's performance in this two-and-a-half-minute scene is remarkable. Watch it here.

According to the Stargate SG-1 Season 10 Companion Book, writer Alan McCullough's first idea for the script was to have Cameron Mitchell in a wheelchair and depressed, as a kind of "antihero," but in his first draft he initially held back on the despair and dark tone of the scene. Producer Robert Cooper wanted it to be done like Born on the Fourth of July however, so McCullough revised the scene, and Ben gave him that and more, going so far as to smoke and even change his voice.

Director Andy Mikita cites the scene and Ben's extraordinary interpretation as a highlight of the episode, and it certainly is.

Mikita said: "When Carter went to Mitchell's apartment, Mitchell's smoking, has long hair, and he's in a wheelchair. I thought Ben did a great job of it. It was interesting because I'd never seen Ben do Method acting before, but it was really interesting to watch him. He was working it over in his head and after we'd rehearsed it, he was standing outside and actually smoking these cigarettes - he doesn't smoke! It was quite neat to see him really invest himself into the role."

Ben has said he channeled Lieutenant Dan from Forest Gump for the fallen hero scene, which was a refreshing departure from Mitchell's usual eagerness.

Ben also said: "I was smoking cigarettes because I was afraid if I stopped I was going to throw up! I figured as long as I kept smoking it would be okay. It's more difficult to stop and start again. I was literally smoking cigarettes for about three hours and for days afterward I was scraping tar off my tongue - I don't recommend that as a method! But I wanted to visually show how far Mitchell had fallen, and it's not something I think we've ever seen from any Stargate SG-1 character in any episode anywhere. I was like, 'Gump, you ruined my life! Gump, I was supposed to die in 'Nam!'"

The work Ben put into it certainly paid off - it is perhaps his most powerful performance of Cameron Mitchell since Babylon and Flesh and Blood, and equal to the performance he gave later in Continuum.

Ben has said in the Stargate Season 10 Companion Book that "Mitchell still has lots of secrets." That is true of his character in both realities, and what really stands out for me is that when one sits down to watch Stargate SG-1 seasons 9 and 10 as well as Ark of Truth and Continuum in full, one can see the deep, subtle layers Ben added to his character and gain a sense of the "secrets" Cameron Mitchell has, often via Ben's eyes and countenance.

If only there had been another season or two...

External Publication

  • Ben Browder Network
  •   Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Talion: Series 10, Episode 17
Prayer, Series 4, Episode 18
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We are a fan site completely unaffiliated with Ben Browder or his management. We created the website to augment our fan page on Facebook, Ben Browder News, as a place where you can read the reviews, opinions, and news published for the past few years as well as gain access to the other wonderful websites concerning the career of Ben Browder. The editors of Ben Browder News wish to thank our fellow fans for their talent and creativity and we hope we are adding to the accumulated information supporting Ben's amazing acting, writing, directing and producing career.

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