Friday, January 6, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"The First Commandment"

“The First Commandment” (Thou shall have no other gods before me) can best be described as Stargate meets Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Or Apocalypse Now, if your allusions run more towards the cinematic than literary. The episode firmly establishes the running theme of the series, which is what it means to be god worthy of reverence. A hint for the future--we are going to run into many, many false gods unworthy of reverence.

The team is sent to the planet Avril to retrieve the Mia SG-9. When they arrive, they discover a lone member of SG-9, Lt. Lawrence Connor, who the previous night witnessed his team leader, Capt. Jonas Hanson, murder another team member, Lt. Thomas Frakes. (Lt. Thomas Riker/Jonathan Frakes, for those of you suffering the Star Trek DTs.) Hanson has set himself up as a god among the natives. At first, he believed he was helping them by coaxing them out of the caves they lived in to avoid the intense ultraviolet radiation of the sun, but he has come to believe his apotheosis. Hanson has discovered a Goa’uld device which will create an orange shield in the sky to protect them from the radiation. In order to buy himself time to figure out how to use it, he has forced the people to build a temple in his honor. He is literally working them to death as slaves.

The SG-1 team has orders to either bring Hanson back or kill him if necessary. To further complicate matters, Sam was once engaged to be married to Hanson. She remarks that he always had a need to control, which both explains why she broke off the engagement and why he easily slipped into the role of a supreme ruler. Jack fears her lingering feelings for Hanson may prevent her from taking the extreme measures that may be necessary to stop him. His fears are valid. After Sam is captured while saving a slave worker from being beaten to death, she cannot bring herself to shoot Hanson when she has the chance. In fact, she is forced to decipher the writing on the shielding device in order to get it working for him. Hanson continues to have some swat over her. Jack is ultimately forgiving for Sam's lack of action. Killing another man is no badge of honor, he tells her.

Unbeknownst to Hanson, it takes two of those devices in order to raise the shield, so SG-1 uses talc’s knowledge of the technology to find the location of the other. In the interim, Jack is captured along with Connor, and the two are set to be sent into the portal to hell--the stargate programmed to send them back to Earth, but with the iris not open. Daniel and Teal’c intervene and demonstrate it is not magic, but technology that creates the shield. The people realize they have been duped by hanson, so thet throw him into the portal to hell instead.

I have to give credit to “The First Commandment” for, as I mentioned above, establishing the theme of opposing false gods that will run throughout the remainder of the series. The episode is generally solid, It probably will not wind up a favorite of mine, but definitely solid.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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