Thursday, January 5, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The Broca Divide"

You learn something new everyday. “The Broca Divide’ is a reference to Paul Broca, a 19th century physician and anthropologist who identified the part of the frontal lobe of the brain, now called Broca’s area, responsible for articulated language. Broca abandoned his research into human speech when he discovered a fascination with anthropology. Broca became a pioneer in the field of comparative anatomy of primates. He is famous in anthropological circles for the theory brain size designates intelligence. Broca’s research relates to the episode in the sense that SG-1 brings back a disease which causes its infected victims to revert to primitive savagery.

The team is engaged in the process of determining which planet ro which Apophis escaped by process of elimination. They travel to a planet of perpetual night and are immediately attacked by savages. They run into normal people who lead them to the bright side of the planet in which a Bronze age society is thriving. The People of Light believe the gods have cursed certain individuals to become savages, so when it happens, they are exiled to the Dark Side like lepers. After determining the Goa’uld are not the gods the People of Light are referring to, SG-q leaves, albeit under Daniel’s protest. The society is a fantastic study opportunity.

Upon returning to Stargate Commands, team members begin exhibiting symptoms of the disease. They slowly give in to their base emotions and engage in extreme violent acts. Eventually everyone save Teal’c, Daniel, and Dr. Janet Frasier. Frasier sends daniel and teal’c back to the planet to get blood samples from the uninfected, but Daniel is soon captured by the savages. The other will not cooperate with Teal’c, so he has to punch a guard’s lights out to get a blood sample. That is one way to do it.

Frasier determines that she and Daniel have remained unaffected because the antihistamines they take for allegies starves the disease. (Teal’c’s symbiote protects him.) The cure is a large dose of antihistamines, which in accordance with television rulwes, works immediately with no consequences whatsoever. The team locates daniel, who has reverted to savagery without his allergy medication, and cures him. They offer the cure to the People of Light. In gratitude, they become frequent allies in the future.

“The Broca Divide” has several interesting points of note. One, the episode marks the first appearance of Teryl Rothery as Dr. Janet Frasier. This is the first of many times she plays the medical miracle worker. Two, Jack, while infected with the disease, expresses a desire to use himself as a guinea pig for Frasier to find a cure. So while the other infected team members are complete brutes, Jack still has enough sense of his strong moral character to offer himself up as a sacrifice to save others. Finally, SG-3 is added to the roster. The team is made up of Marines. No surprise they would be the first branch to join up after the Air Force.

While it is odd to have an episode which alters the main characters’ personalities so early in the series run, “The Broca Divide” is good overall. It still manages to demonstrate elements of Jack’s true character, as I note above. The episode’s greatest virtue is that it establishes a far better formula for first contact with new people than the previous clunker. For that alone, it deserves kudos.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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