Today Stargate SG-1 decides to go Cider drinking in the Westcountry and then join in the burning of witches.

Synopsis

The SGC is welcoming a new member of the team, Lt. Col Cameron Mitchell, to the base. Mitchell, a former F-302 pilot who fought and was severely injured during the battle over Antarctica is here to lead SG-1 but is disappointed to find that all he’s getting is the name SG-1 as the original team has been broken up with Carter at Area 51, Jackson on the way to join Atlantis, and Teal’c on Dakara with the Free Jaffa Nation. The CO has also changed with Major General O’Neill having been promoted to Homeworld Command and the new leader Major General Henry Landry a bit more hard-edged when compared to his predecessors. Bu still maintaining the more relaxed command style. Despite his best attempts to get the others to rejoin SG-1 they refuse, each having moved on to their new goals in life.

Pretty soon Mitchell is swamped by the process of having to put together a new team to replace the others, finding that all the candidates are either too academic or too military grunt to be part of the team. Instead the team are surprised by the arrival of an old adversary, Vala Mal Doran, who has an Ancient tablet she needs decoded that leads to some kind of treasure. While Daniel is decoding the tablet Vala slips a bracelet onto Daniel and then another on herself, linking them together as a guarantee that she’ll get her share of the treasure. It turns out that the bracelets have a link that requires the wearers to stay together or else they’ll slowly start to die. While they recover in the infirmary Teal’c returns to explain what the bracelets actually are which is used for transporting POWs and slaves, with the effect on the two wearers a punishment if they get separated. For Mitchell however the situation is a godsend, with SG-1 practically reformed due to the situation but with Vala instead of Carter. Upon decoding the tablet Daniel is able to discover that the Ancient it refers to is in fact one of those who returned to Earth from Atlantis, more commonly known as Merlin.

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With the new information the team use the Prometheus to travel to one of the greatest places in the known universe, the Westcountry, to search for the treasure under Glastonbury Tor. Using their more powerful alien tech they’re able to find the location of a hollow point hidden by Ancient tech, which they are able to use Transport Rings to access. Upon entry they find nothing but a sword in a stone, which they aren’t able to retrieve, and a hologram of Merlin which speaks the usual Arthurian legend words about proving yourself worthy. After searching the cavern the team are split into two rooms, Daniel and Vala in one while Teal’c and Mitchell in another, with both presented with a riddle to test them. In both rooms they rush the puzzle, causing the roofs to start caving in. With Daniel’s knowledge of Ancient first his and then Mitchell’s problem are able to be solved, proving the team’s worth and stopping them from being crushed to death.

Rushing back to the main room Mitchell pulls the sword from the stone which causes another hologram, this time of a medieval knight, to show up. Mitchell is forced to fight the knight to prove his worth as a leader, eventually overcoming the hologram. The cavern begins to collapse however, forcing a retreat to Prometheus, as Vala had kept the coin from her riddle, showing her as unworthy. When Mitchell place both the coin and then the sword back to their rightful places the cavern is transformed to reveal a vast treasure hoard. Inside the hoard Daniel finds a book that tells of a great civilisation who travelled through space to the Milky Way and built the Stargates, confirming that the Ancients came from another galaxy altogether. They also find a strange Ancient device that acts as a communication device.

Soon after Teal’c is forced back to Dakara as this situation there has fallen apart rapidly, with power soon to be placed in the hands of the Jaffa warlord Gerak who wishes to see a single unelected High Council based on military strength (which he has the largest control of) as the system of government for the Free Jaffa Nation.

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Back at the SGC the team decide to try making contact with the relatives to the Ancients who may have stayed behind wherever their origin was. Daniel and Vala use the communication stones recovered last year to interface with the device and immediately find themselves controlling the bodies of two people in an entirely different galaxy while their Earth bodies remain in a coma. On this other world they’re surprised to find a rather low-tech civilisation that, while communicating in Ancient, is more akin to medieval Europe both in technology and where religious worship is still central to everyday life. The religion the people worship is called Origin, with the gods called the Ori and the daily prayer known as Prostration. When Daniel and Vala try this prayer to fit in a man tells them to meet him later on, but they don’t understand his instructions.

After they return to the home of the people they control they realise that they can’t actually shut off the connection, meaning they’re stuck here until they find a solution. Their panic is interrupted however by the arrival of the man who tried to talk to them at the prayer meeting, wondering why they didn’t meet with him as planned. After he grows suspicious the two reveal their true identity to him and are surprised by his relaxed response. It turns out the two people they’re controlling and the stranger are part of a group who collect and study artefacts they find in secret, with their study seen as sacrilege by the others and punishable by death if they’re caught. The stranger, Fannis, reveals that there are Ascended being in their own galaxy, the Ori themselves, who are worshipped as gods by the humans. Daniel theorises that this fundamental split in the two groups of beings led to their eventual separation and the Ancients leaving the galaxy for the Milky Way.

That night Vala is forced to pose as Sallis at a dinner with some of the higher-ups on the local settlement. This goes awry however due to Vala not matching Sallis’ usual behaviour, which is taken as a sign of her being “overcome” (possessed by evil demons no doubt) and therefore is ritually burnt to death to “cleanse” her. Despite Daniel’s explanations the leader of the settlement refuses to listen and Vala is killed. Sometime later a man bearing a staff, known as a “Prior”, uses his power to resurrect Vala and takes the two explorers away.

Analysis

So here we are, witnessing a show trying to create an entirely new story after closing off the previous one and the result is both good and bad depending on who you ask.

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The opening two parter is largely world building in nature, trying to set up all the characters and begin to introduce the plotlines they’ll follow for the next season. Here it decides to largely ditch the Ancient Egyptian themes of the last eight seasons but now takes a brand new direction by using the Arthurian legend as a base for the new foe and honestly, I quite like it (the fact it’s very much centred around the Westcountry and Wales doesn’t hurt either of course). Arthurian-based shows are usually quite stilted, just going forward as generic sword and sorcery style affairs set in a fantasy Europe of the past. Here however the immediately decide to blend the tales of the Britons fighting the Anglo-Saxons to one of Ancient involvement as well, which meant that at least some of the Round Table had advanced weapons or knowledge for the time.

The Arthurian stylings of the show make it into a stark contrast to the previous seasons visually as well. Many of the locations and foes took on a Greco-Roman or earlier tone with golden drapes, robes, hieroglyphics, and the like. Now we’ve moved forward to the Medieval period when we go to earlier period planets and the villains themselves are more likely to have stone castles-like buildings and proper housing than tents in the middle of nowhere or the same Ha’tak corridor we’ve seen for so long. The Medieval theme also applies to the look of the new villains, the Ori, as well, with their civilisation very much being the worst of the time period that includes mandatory religious services and persecution of free thought. This is kicked into overdrive with the fact it turns out the gods have real power too.

Alongside the main changes to the show’s setting we also see the introduction of two major characters to the show, newcomer Cameron Mitchell and previous one-shot Vala Mal Doran. The former still hasn’t had much time to shine and is admittedly filling dead man’s boots right now, having to take over from O’Neill. What he does show is promising with more of the laidback manner if more traditional “All-American Hero” style sadly to go along with it. Vala however is once again enjoyable from the getgo as Daniel’s foil, played brilliantly by Claudia Black, with over the course of the 90 minutes driving Daniel both slowly mad while also coming up with solutions of her own.

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Outside of this the show does add a realist twist to the supposedly dreamy ending to season eight. The end of the season seemingly saw the Free Jaffa Nation born and ready to move out but here we see the true reality of building a nation once the strongman has gone. It’s very easy to see the parallels with both Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, with strong warlords trying to take power for themselves while opposing factions want different styles of government entirely, and just like in real life hope is quickly fading away as the internal fighting risks tearing apart the new nation before it’s even been born.

If there’s a problem with the opening it’s probably the fact they had to change up the team so fast due to outside commitments, with the reasoning for two new members of the time a bit of a stretch. It doesn’t stall the episode too much but having both Mitchell and Vala having to prove their worth obviously takes some time and tat couldn’t always be given it seems, with Vala of the two having the least backstory time.

Overall the two parter is a good foundation to build on for the new arc of the show, even if it comes on the course of eight years of history.

Assorted Musings

· A Yank pulling the sword from the stone. Bullshit!

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· That knight hologram’s armour is way too modern to fit the timeline of Arthurian legend, which is set during the Anglo-Saxon invasion of the British Isles after the end of Roman Rule during fifth century AD (400-499).

· And none of the treasure is never handed back to the UK even though it’s ours.

· If prayer lasts six hours how is anything meant to be done?

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Quote of the episode: “There could be an icky creature down here left to protect the treasure.”

“For hundreds of years?”

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“Some sort of stasis or hibernation? What if it senses our presence and awakens hungry for human flesh?”

“That doesn’t sound quite like the Ancients’ style.”

“Still.”

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“I’m sure if there is a monster down here it’s going to be much more scared of you than you are of it, especially once it gets to know you.” – Vala and Daniel.