Two ‘monster of the week’ episodes today. One an example of the show at its best and the other an example of a misstep.
We begin with the team off-world exploring a forest in search of a downed UAV that had been hit by a Staffblast. Upon finding the wreckage however the team become trapped inside an energy dome by the bounty hunter, Aris Boch. O’Neill tries to use the ‘slower moving object’ trick to throw a knife but it fails to penetrate the shield, leaving them forced to give up their weapons. Aris takes them back to his cloaked Goa’uld cargo ship, where he locks them inside the cargo hold before leaving them alone for unknown reasons only to return hours later injured. Aris has Carter patch him up while he reveals his real reason he’s on the planet was hunting down a rogue Goa’uld for Sokar. Daniel decides to enquire about how much they’re worth with Aris revealing that Teal’c and Carter are worth the most due to their knowledge (and to make an example of Teal’c, followed by O’Neill who is a pain in the arse, and Daniel at the bottom (only worth a day’s rations). Despite this however Aris suggests that if they help him capture the Goa’uld he’ll let them go as Sokar is paying him ‘twice as much as you lot put together’ for the Goa’uld.
Aris takes Daniel and O’Neill with him, keeping the others as collateral in the ship, and gives them a Zat to capture the Goa’uld with which they use against Aris before running off back to the ship. What they don’t realise is that Aris planned for their betrayal (being immune to the effect of the Zat) and arms the ship self-destruct. Aris promptly returns to the ship and regains their cooperation, this time taking all of them with him. During the journey he reveals to Carter and Daniel that his people were resistance to Goa’uld symbiotes and technology and, perceived as a threat to their dominance, were almost wiped out and the rest were enslaved, with Aris’ son being held hostage to ensure compliance. O’Neill, Daniel, and Teal’c head to the Goa’uld’s base, taking out the Goa’uld sentry guns hidden nearby before capturing the Goa’uld. However the Goa’uld claims to be Tok’ra.
While waiting for the Tok’ra to recover both groups discuss the situation at hand. In the Tok’ra group they discuss what happened, with Aris having worked out the Tok’ra plan of escaping Sokar and beating his planet. He also reveals that Aris doesn’t have a son but the real reason for his compliance is that his race were to be dependent on a substance called Roshna, the blue liquid Aris has been drinking. Meanwhile Carter tries to get Aris to work along with them, working out that his brash persona is an act to cover up his displeasure at the job he does. Despite this he still renders her unconscious when he realises the others are planning an escape and, using her as bait, is able to recapture O’Neill.
A few hours later Aris captures the others, willing to keep his word about setting SG-1 free. The Tok’ra however attempts to commit suicide which Aris manages to stop but also makes him question his assertion all Goa’uld are the same. He agrees he’d let the Tok’ra go but Sokar’s men are already on the way expecting a prisoner. Teal’c, knowing he’s the most valuable volunteers to go instead, a trade Aris agrees to. Moments after take-off however Aris, after talking with Teal’c, engages the self-destruct with the two of them escaping via the pods. Aris makes his leave, but not before revealing to Daniel that the price on his head is actually very large and giving Carter a sample of Roshna which she can use to maybe synthesise a cure for his people, saying it would be something worth trading for.
Deadman Switch that is largely summed up by its main episode character Aris Boch. It’s a tale of that begins in the predictable way but then flips it on its head, firstly by presenting itself as the standard ‘find a Goa’uld, kill a Goa’uld’ story and then turning into a tale that focuses on a group suffering under Goa’uld control. The episode comes to focus on a single character who we barely even get to know but manages to pull it off.
Aris Boch is an enigma of a character we the audience never quite understand. He’s a man who likes his job but hates his employers, a man who knows wants to do the right thing but only for a good price, and a man who will gladly reveal information to others but like, cheat, and steal from them at the same time. He’s a very rare, complicated episode character on the show and it’s a shame we only see him this one time as there’s so much you could work with regarding his situation and backstory. The fact he’s a very charismatic and likable villain also adds to his allure as a character, joking around and treating SG-1 with respect despite being his prisoners and unlike previous villains not being a man prone to violence, only using it when necessary.
Apart from the focus on his character the only other focus of the episode is really that of what the Goa’uld do to the peoples they take over. While most are resigned to the fate of being servants and hosts to the Goa’uld Aris’ people are said to have suffered a worse fate through no fault of their own, as their natural ability to resist symbiotes means they’re useless as hosts and a threat if another group manage to synthesise a cure from them. As a result they’ve been forced to serve via drug dependence which is arguably a worse fate than being made to revere them as Gods.
Overall a nice little episode that largely explores a single guest character that is extremely likable and takes a breach from the more nefarious villains the show likes to indulge in.
· Despite introducing them this episode I don’t think we ever see the Goa’uld sentry guns ever again. The Tel’tak Cargo Ship however becomes a mainstay on the show.
Quote of the episode: “Ooh tickles” – Aris Boch Zatting himself
This episode starts with the team arriving off-world and finding a settlement that contains a Christian church, signifying a medieval culture, much later than those previously encountered. The team enter the village, who hide when they try to interact with them, finding a young woman, called Mary, chained up in the centre. When they free her a scared man confronts them, bearing a cross, begging them to take someone else instead as he believes them to be the ‘Demon’ who has been taking people from the village. The team manage to calm the man, called Simon, down and try to treat Mary’s illness but the Demon arrives, which is revealed to be a Goa’uld possessed Unas, like the one found in Thor’s cave, demanding five souls for the devil. While planning what to do the leader of the village, the ‘Canon’, decides, after using Teal’c as a scapegoat and feeling threatened by their claim to be able to defeat the Unas, to use SG-1 as the sacrifice, abusing his power as leader and the powers his Goa’uld ring gives him which he uses to knock them out.
The team wake up in a cage with Teal’c missing. Simon comes to talk to them, revealing that the Canon is to give Teal’c a medieval witchcraft trial to see if he’s a demon (unsurprisingly these trials had a tendency to kill the person regardless). The first of which is to see if Teal’c’s golden emblem is impervious to pain as a ‘mark of the devil’ which he fails. The Canon then has him thrown into a lake chained to rocks and, as would obviously happen, he drowns. During the night the Canon tries to justify his actions but clearly demonstrates his enjoyment of power and lack of morality, calling those he sends ‘chaff’, and sending off any who may be a threat to him. The team however are released and manage to help Mary before Simon trepans her to free her of ‘demons’ (in fact a simple illness). Teal’c however is revived by his symbiote which the town see as a further sign of the devil. As a result the entire team and Mary are to be sacrificed to the Unas.
The next morning the Unas comes to take the group through the Stargate, leading them through the woods. The group manage to escape by rolling down a hill but are recaptured by the Unas. Simon shows up with the team’s weapons and manages to injure the Unas with the Staff weapon but is chased away by the Unas, encountering the Canon along the way who is also attacked. The chaingang however are able to grab the forgotten device and free themselves, managing to find the Canon and Simon along with a dead Unas. The Canon claims that Simon managed to kill the beast before the team head to the Gate as a group. While dialling the Gate however Carter becomes suspicious, realising the symbiote left the Unas and took over the Canon instead, who they finally kill along with the symbiote. After convincing Simon and Mary to bury the Gate the team set off home.
Demons is an episode I’ve always found to be dull. It doesn’t really seem to have a purpose to the story beyond being filler and none of the characters are explored in any meaningful way, with it only really having 3 distinct ‘scenes’; the team’s arrival, Teal’c’s trials, and the final confrontation with the Unas. Many of the side characters as well, in contrast to the previous episode, are just unlikable and tedious, with Simon being utterly useless, Mary not saying anything of use than just shouting ‘Simon!’ every few minutes, and the Canon being generically evil, which reduces the enjoyment of the episode as those in need of saving don’t exactly have the viewer rooting for them.
This episode’s setting marks the last time we see a group descended from Earth that is pre-Renaissance and I wouldn’t be surprised if this episode had something to do with that as it introduces a group several thousand years after the Egypt rebellions which makes no sense in the continuity of the show. From here on in we are largely restricted to people’s who are either of a similar advancement to Earth or are only a couple of hundred years behind, having existed in isolation from the Goa’uld for various reasons.
Overall this is a pretty mediocre to bad episode that doesn’t add anything to the show and is more to fill the episode order than to be of any note.
· The Stargate is some difference from the village, making it very hard for the Goa’uld to get there which makes no sense if it’s meant to offer sacrifices.
Quote of the episode: “Trees, trees, and more trees. What a wonderful green universe we live in, eh?” – O’Neill