Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stargate SG-1, Season 1, Episode 15

images used above are courtesy of Gateworld and MGM

Overall Rating: Very Good

Signs of recent activity are evident when SG-1 arrives on a planet, but no people are in sight.  Curious, the team searches the area.  Suddenly, SG-1 is surrounded by people armed with crossbows.  The people, who call themselves Byrsa, are human, snatched from Earth by the Goa’uld at some point in the past.  The Goa’uld continue to return to the planet via the stargate to forcibly take people, which is why the Byrsa hid from SG-1.

One of the Byrsans, a man named Hanno, recognizes Teal’c as the Jaffa who killed his father.  Hanno’s father was killed when Teal’c was still Apophis’ First Prime -- the top rank for a Jaffa, identifiable by the emblem on their foreheads being raised and gold, rather than a flat, black tattoo.  Teal’c must face Cor-Ai, the Byrsan’s version of a criminal court.  Teal’c is found guilty, and the penalty is death.  Without support from Earth, or Teal’c, the remaining members of SG-1 struggle to prevent Teal’c’s death.

Superficially, the episode is a straightforward “I won’t let you kill one of my people” story.  However, the underlying aspects are complex.  Jack is a warrior, who like Teal’c, has done unsavory things while following orders.  Jack’s orders were from commanders who were literally not as inhuman as Apophis.  Jack does not think Teal’c accepting punishment for actions ordered by Apophis is justice, and he is very frustrated by Teal’c’s acquiescence to the Cor-Ai.  O’Neill tries to get Teal’c to believe that staying alive to fight the Goa’uld is a better legacy for his victims than quietly going to a Cor-Ai mandated death.

Based on what is learned about the Goa’uld, and the Jaffa, in previous episodes, it is not difficult to believe that Teal’c committed some heinous acts during his time as Apophis’ First Prime.  This episode shows the toll those acts take on Teal’c’s soul.  A scene late in the episode demonstrates that Teal’c is not suicidal; he is not actively seeking death.  Teal’c accepts the Cor-Ai sentence not just for killing Hanno’s father, but in his mind, for every being he harmed, or could not help.  Teal’c mourns for his victims, and knows that no amount of atonement will bring those people back to life.

A very thoughtful episode.

15th episode broadcast.
14th episode in the DVD set.

Byrsans are afraid of who comes from the stargate, so why live right next to it?  They don’t use the stargate, so why not move farther away from it?  They take measures to avoid the Goa’uld, but those measures are not always successful.  Their proximity to the gate is necessary for the story, but not logical.

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