Back again with two more episodes from season 4. Today we have the time Daniel went nuts and destroyed Moscow and the time Daniel went nuts and tried to throw himself from his balcony.
We start with the team visiting Abydos, where Daniel’s father in-law Kasuf is hearing names called from a sandstorm in a nearby series of dunes. While there Daniel also hears a voice calling his name as a sandstorm emerges before disappearing again to reveal a young boy dressed in Buddhist like robes, the Harcesis child who is now calling itself Shifu. The child, having clearly been manipulated by Apophis to mature quickly, is brought by the team back to the SGC to run tests to see if he is ok or not.
After returning to the SGC Fraiser confirms that Shifu was given the same nanites as O’Neill back in Brief Candle to increase his development. They also know he’ll have all of the Goa’uld genetic memories, which Oma (the spirit carer seen in Maternal Instinct) has likely helped the boy to suppress given the evilness of the Goa’uld and their behaviour, and decide that they should at least try to obtain that knowledge and use it for the benefit of the themselves and their allies against the Goa’uld. While Shifu is initially resistant due to what Oma taught him Daniel is able to convince him otherwise, with Shifu touching him on the head as his hand glows rendering the man unconscious.
Not long after recovering he starts to understand some of the advanced knowledge passed to him, quickly designing a state-of-the-art satellite defence system that could protect the Earth from any orbital threat from the Goa’uld, but also starts to act strangely. Carter in particular however starts to become suspicious when he not only deliberately shuts out help from allies, both on Earth and off-world, but also demands ‘perks’ for his work. Later when O’Neill questions Daniel about what he’s doing, including where Teal’c has disappeared to, Daniel suddenly has a vision of using the hand device to kill him.
We cut to one year later, with Daniel waking after having had a dream where he tortures Apophis while he himself is an archetypal Goa’uld, to find that the previously humble archaeologist is now living it up in a mansion with his own private security and staff along with Shifu who he treats as a son. Carter manages to confront him however, despite efforts to keep her away, claiming that he’s hiding something from everyone (Daniel once again has a vision of torture, this time of her) but Daniel uses his new found influence to have her sectioned. O’Neill however goes to see her, wanting to know what’s going on, and while initially defensive of Daniel he is also willing to look into her accusations, remembering how he used to trust her opinions as gospel.
O’Neill decides to gatecrash the final launch of the satellite system in Daniel’s control bunker. While all initially seems to go well, with a reveal of the Stargate on the cards, Russia and China understandably view the new system that is totally under US control a treaty violation, attempting to use a ‘killsat’ to take out one of the new systems but the system takes it out instead. While the Pentagon decides to pursue a peaceful solution Daniel decides to use a backdoor to steal control of the system and decides to use it to destroy Moscow. While O’Neill attempts to shoot him with a concealed handgun he is blocked by a Goa’uld shield, with Daniel mocking him for his stupidity. O’Neill makes one last plea that the Harcesis may have been a Goa’uld plant but Daniel claims power is what he wanted all along, before annihilating the Russian capital.
It’s quickly revealed however that Daniel never woke up in the infirmary but has rather been in a dreamlike state similar to that when subjected to Amaunet’s hand device back in Forever in a Day, and that meanwhile the Tok’ra have been there trying to establish whether Shifu is actually the Harcesis child. Daniel however wakes up in time to convince the others he is Harcesis and that all the knowledge he has is tainted by the Goa’uld and therefore the only path is to therefore not touch it at all. His mission accomplished Shifu turns into the same energy form that Oma did and leaves through the Gate to places unknown.
It’s easy to see the moral of the story in Absolute Power, it’s right there in the title which most likely alludes to the phrase ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men’ said by John Dalberg-Acton back in the 1800s and they perfectly demonstrate it with the most appropriate character imaginable, Daniel Jackson. While Daniel has always been shown as the human side of the team, looking to find a peaceful solution whenever possible, he slowly becomes a tyrant no different from those he proclaims to fight, having found the power at his disposal too tempting to use as an answer to all his problems, going so far as to view the immediate slaughter of millions in one city a viable alternative to a slow but bloodless diplomatic effort.
This abrupt change in personality by the character doesn’t go unnoticed by his colleagues but is largely ignored by them due to what he can now do and their past views of him as a person. No-one questions his control of the new technology or his increasingly autocratic orders until it’s too late and by then he has enough power to throw them away in jail on a whim, with Carter put in the psych ward as unstable, Teal’c having been killed off-screen, and O’Neill most likely would suffer the same fate in the end. Despite these changes however there is a noticeable exception which is Shifu himself. This could be hinted at some remnant of his former personality and wanting to have a fatherly relationship with him or could be down to his new thoughts and intends to use him as a host like Apophis initially intended.
In terms of other characters this episode also finally undoes one of the worst parts of Season 4 which is the transformation of the Tok’ra into a shadowy double-dealing group who will use allies to their own ends. Instead we return to the thankfully standard from here on portrayal of them as being far from perfect but trying their best and possibly a little bit too stuck in their ways, here accepting that they have no control over the Harcesis even if they did want his knowledge and letting him go.
Overall Absolute Power is an episode that largely focuses on its moral message of how power is wielded while also finishing the long running Harcesis subplot and bringing back the Tok’ra we know and sorta love.
· There was a cut plot thread that involved O’Neill discovering that Teal’c was actually alive but his blood was being harvested so that Daniel could use Goa’uld tech. This was most likely cut due to how grim it was.
· So all that hiding of the satellites was pointless as Russia obviously knew the game was up way ahead of time.
Quote of the episode: “If I may, Sir. I think what he means is the wick is the center of the candle and ostensibly a great leader, like yourself, is essential to the whole ball of wax. Basically what it means is that, it’s always better to have a big long wick. Right?” – O’Neill on Shifu’s cryptic talk of Hammond
The episode begins in the SGC with the Stargate being activated to a planet the base is researching. O’Neill and Carter are discussing a bet he made, which Carter works out is to whether she would end up going, but are interrupted when one of the SG members, Lt. Barber, kills himself by running into the vortex of the Gate as it activates. Daniel returns from off-world to take part in a debriefing but claims that Barber was fine while off-world which makes his turn in the few days he was back more unexpected. Daniel however becomes increasingly agitated while trying to get an artefact to work, demanding to go back to the planet immediately and seeing Hammond to do so even though they’ll go back the next morning. He goes so far to start insulting Hammond about his wastefulness who responds by telling him that he is struggling to write a death letter to Barber’s family given his classified assignment, heavily implying he’s very much aware of what is required at the SGC, and ordering Daniel away.
The next morning O’Neill heads to Daniel’s apartment after he fails to turn up for duty, finding him standing on the outside of his balcony seemingly in a stupor and ready to commit suicide and after raving about losing something he wakes from his state and expresses confusion at what happened. While Daniel is confined to the infirmary the rest of SG-1 make a trip to the planet in gas masks, which are quickly dropped when airbourne contaminants are ruled out, and quickly find a lone teenager whose shadow was seen in earlier footage by SG-5. The team however choose not to investigate and become enthralled to a device emitting a lightshow, eventually decide to look around again after deeming the device to not be a threat and find the den of the teenager, who identifies himself as Loran, who claims that he’s alone and looks to have been for some time. The kid denies any knowledge of what made Daniel and Barber sick but isn’t exactly believable and while O’Neill wants to ask more questions they are interrupted by Hammond. The general reveals that their ‘few minutes’ has actually been over an hour and that all of SG-5 are dead, with Daniel having lapsed into a coma. Carter attempts to take readings but is once again enthralled.
Meanwhile Teal’c attempts to get to know Loran, revealing his age of 101 when talking about gifts, and clues about Loran’s situation seem to emerge with photos and items belonging to him that only make sense for a much younger person. Teal’c however accepts one of his items, a toy gun, when Loran offers it as an early 102nd birthday gift. At the same time however Carter attempts to take readings but is once again enthralled by the machine.
O’Neill, who has returned to Earth to bring back samples and see Daniel, starts to show the same signs of addiction as SG-5 and begins to undergo withdrawal effects, with the others also likely effected by the condition. Daniel however crashes and in an attempt to save him and find the others, who are now unresponsive, O’Neill brings Daniel back to the planet. After successfully resuscitating him O’Neill finds that both Carter and Teal’c have been in the light room for hours without realising it. Realising their condition the team essentially lock themselves on the planet and Daniel asks for the SGC to send through supplies and the hand device he couldn’t get to work, which upon arrival he realises is a control device for the light machine, and finds the others have once again become enthralled by the device.
With the machine finally turned off O’Neill, having grown tired of Loran’s evasiveness, takes Carter and Teal’c on a search outside the building to search the nearby surroundings. While O’Neill and Carter start to argue about rank as the effects of withdrawal set in Teal’c finds what Loran wanted to keep hidden, the poorly buried remains of his parents who clearly died some years before judging from decomposition. On return, and starting to feel better, they realise that the cause of the drugged state is a field in the light device and that the light is merely to take advantage of drugged effect. O’Neill however puts two and two together, working out that Loran knows how to turn the device off completely, which is revealed to have caused Loran’s parents to go mad and swim out to sea when he effectively starved them to stop their enthrallment and then turned the machine off, now blaming himself for their deaths. Carter and Daniel meanwhile understand the machine can be turned down incrementally and the team, along with Loran, decide to wean themselves off the effect.
I don’t really know what to make of this episode as it really just doesn’t make any sense as an experience. There are lots of hints at interesting stories that could be told throughout the episode, such as Loran’s isolation on the planet or Hammond’s responsibility to inform families of the deaths of SG members, but instead we largely focus on one item alone, the light pedestal. While this could be some big allegory by the director, with the audience losing track of time in the episode just like those watching the light, it feels like a rushed mistake to be honest, with major plot points getting run over fast with the entire solution of the episode taking place in the span of only around 30 seconds.
I do however like a lot of the effects work during the episode, with the inclusion of the mesmerising lightshow being shown on their faces and Barber being engulfed by the Stargate vortex.
Overall though this episode seems like a massive misfire, suffering from major pacing issues and many small scenes feeling more interesting than the actual main plot, with good effects work unable to mask the failures elsewhere.
· So, what exactly was the kid eating while being trapped alone for several years? Maybe his parent’s flesh wasn’t stripped by bacteria and time.
Quote of the episode: “Nice digs. Kind of reminds me of my first apartment. How are the people upstairs?” – O’Neill on Loran’s den.