Back again with another two episodes. The former features religious nutcases and the other a eugenics program. Obviously very light-hearted topics.
We begin with the team arriving roughly onto another world, getting thrown out of the Stargate. The world they’ve arrived on it turns out is another Asgard protected planet, much like Cimmeria, but this one is far more advanced judging by the locals they run into at the gate, who call the planet K’Tau. Unlike Thor being the main ‘god’ of Cimmeria in this case the people of the planet, advanced to a level similar to that of the first European settlers of North America, worship Freyr that is likely another of the Asgard. While the apparent leader of the village Elrad is welcoming another of the elders, a preacher called Malchus, is now, viewing them instead as a sign of bad things to come. Almost immediately after K’Tau’s sun changes colour, darkening the atmosphere.
The town’s population retreats to the townhall, looking to pray to Freyr at a stone similar to the teleport on Cimmeria. O’Neill and Daniel join Elrad and Malchus in meeting Freyr’s hologram, yet another traditional depiction of a Norse hero with pre-programmed responses. While Elrad attempts to take a measured response to the answers Malchus takes it as confirmation of his belief that SG-1 should be executed as demons and that the times of Ragnarok have come. While O’Neill and Elrad attempt to convince the townsfolk that this is a sign they should strive out on their own Malchus succeeds in scaring the population into preparing for death.
In the meantime Carter and Teal’c have been trying to work out exactly what happened to the sun. It turns out that Malchus is partly correct in SG-1 being to blame as their wormhole likely caused heavy elements to be deposited in the K’Tau sun, with the SGC dialling computer having bypassed safety features that would’ve prevented such an event occurring. The team decide to use the hologram to make direct contact with the Asgard, Freyr being the one they get in contact with who connects O’Neill to the Asgard High Council. While the Asgard are shocked by the turn of events they’re unable to do anything as if the Goa’uld were to find out they stopped the sun dying, thereby breaching the Protected Planets Treaty, then they’d be pitted in a war that they currently can’t fight.
Left to their own abilities by the Asgard Carter comes up with an idea to introduce more stable heavy elements to the sun to neutralise the ones they initially introduced, with only the delivery method to be decided. The SGC decide to build a rocket on K’Tau that is capable of inserting the element into the sun, which they manage to build in only three weeks. While Elrad attempts to keep peace Malchus continues to incite mistrust towards the team, hitting a head when he sends radicalised supporters on a suicide mission to destroy the rocket. The strike is successful, destroying the rocket and killing both the attackers and two members of SG-6. O’Neill, furious at the actions of the preacher who he also sees as a coward, almost executes the man before Elrad convinces him that he will face punishment on their terms. Despite this O’Neill begins to leave the planet to their fate before the others convince him it’d mean being no better than Malchus.
In a last ditch attempt Daniel tries to convince the townspeople to come with them to another world but the people, including Elrad, refuse to accept that their gods would abandon them and if they did then their fate must be accepted. O’Neill however decides to take a more blunt approach, revealing the truth of the Asgard as ‘little grey aliens’ but none of townspeople listen, now demanding the team leave if they insist of blasphemy. Knowing their attempt to evacuate the K’Tau people has failed Carter tries one last attempt to deposit the heavy element, this time by shutting down a wormhole as it passes through the sun, but this also seems to have no effect. As the team prepare to say goodbye to the townspeople the sun suddenly shifts back to normal, with Carter theorising the Asgard used the SGC as a cover to implement their own plan.
I quite like Red Sky as an episode as it’s one of those little ‘what if’ episodes about a real life topic, in this case depicting a what if scenario of a relatively advanced culture that still believed in the Norse gods. This alone gives the episode a unique flavour and separates it from other Norse believers in Stargate, such as the traditional view as seen in the Thor episodes back in seasons 1 and 2.
The main talking point of the episode however is the portrayal of religious beliefs, in particular those of a fundamentalist religious culture. The issue is portrayed from two different angles; that of the moderate and welcoming Elrad who while believing in his views has no problem with outsiders who may have others (as long as they don’t deliberately try to mock or degrade his own people’s) and that of the hardline Malchus who interprets outside as an evil who essentially should be forced out by force. One of the main and most interesting ways the episode provides a critique of both is having their point of religious reference be an Asgard hologram. While we, the viewer, know that it is simply a pre-recorded set of messages that understand general thematic input from those who talk to it both Elrad and Malchus interpret the words to fit their view of the world, with Elrad interpreting his talk of the end times as a long time off and a test while Malchus believes it to be a warning that SG-1 are demons sent by Freyr’s enemies.
Due to his fanatical believe in the gods Malchus becomes similar to the way we see extremists in our own world, with his actions growing from minor trouble sowing to eventually sending fanatical followers of his on a suicide mission to destroy the rocket that would’ve likely saved them simply as it was built by the outsiders. While this isn’t confirmed by the writers I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a commentary on religious extremist groups of the day, such as Al-Qaeda, who in similar ways sent radicalised followers on similar missions.
The reaction to this fundamentalism is also equally varied amongst the team. O’Neill the career soldier who has seen too many of his own die becomes openly hostile to the people of the village, even those who had nothing to do with Malchus’ action because they did nothing to stop it. By contrast the others on the team, more understanding of the fact these people have no reason to trust them and aren’t yet of an advanced stage to question ideas such as faith, would rather stay and try to make penance for their own mistakes, refusing to equate the ordinary civilian of the town with those who actually carried out the bombing.
Overall the episode is a good one. While it isn’t one of the most exciting or action-packed, with the special effects largely limited to a dodgy red filter over the camera footage, it does however seem to have quite a nuanced message about religious fundamentalism and views on those who are of the same culture as the religious extremists. This message would be found to be later ahead of its time, with the September 11th attacks only taking place a month later which has led to 15 years of debate over the very same topic in relation to the pursuit of terrorist groups by the US and allies.
· I love how much handwaving on the fact they just build a giant rocket, with no support facilities, in just three weeks. This is the military who don’t deploy advanced gear in low-level conflicts in case the locals nab it for crying out loud.
· Why oh why do the team turn a blind eye to O’Neill’s diplomatic shortfall. One day it’s going to come back and bite them.
Quote of the episode: “We made a mistake, a big mistake. And we’re very sorry. But we also saved your little grey butts from the replicators, and now we want your help. I’m not asking you to change the course of their cultural development. Just fix the damn sun! No one will know. We won’t tell.”
“Little gray butts?”
” Yeah.” – O’Neill, Daniel, and Carter, with the latter two overhearing O’Neill’s awkward comments to the Asgard High Council.
The episode begins with Carter over at Fraiser’s house to celebrate the birthday of Cassandra, the alien girl Fraiser took in back during season one, who has turned into a standard hormonal teenager with the usual affair of arguments with parents and desire for freedom. After going outside to meet her boyfriend she kisses him after receiving a gift and falls unconscious, the porch light exploding in the process. Upon waking in the infirmary she mutters about needing to ‘go into the forest’.
In a debriefing Fraiser reveals the presence of some kind of virus within her that must be having the effect on them. SG-7s initial survey of Cassandra’s planet found other teenagers suffering similar incidents of fits and unconsciousness and the only treatment was to send the teenagers alone into a forest on the planet and would later return medically fine. With little option the team return to the planet to find what it was in the forest that cured them.
Venturing into the forest on Cassandra’s world the team find a set of transport rings hidden in the undergrowth that transports them to a lab hidden underground. Daniel finds evidence that it’s a lab belonging to the Goa’uld Nirrti which she used to experiment on the children of the planet.
Back on the base Cassie starts to get worse, eventually wandering the halls and causing the lights to start exploding before falling unconscious again, forcing her to be moved to an observation lab. Carter returns to the base to report in and stays behind to help support Fraiser and take care of Cassie. Carter attempts to engage the girl in their shared pastime of chess, finding that Cassie is now able to manipulate the miniature chess pieces with her mind by interacting with their magnetic bases.
In the off-world lab the rest of SG-1 start documenting objects they find to bring back, only being disturbed by a seemingly random ring activation before heading back, not knowing that it’s Nirrti using her invisibility tech. Arriving back to the base to debrief they confirm more of Nirrti’s experiments which were an attempt to create an advanced host for herself via a selective breeding program, with Cassie being an advanced stage of the program. While Fraiser tries to find a cure to her condition it turns out that Nirrti had followed SG-1 to Earth.
Eventually Nirrti attempts to reach Cassandra, who manages to raise the alarm, triggering the base lockdown. Eventually Cassie detects that she’s in the observation room with them, allowing one of the guards to use a TER to reveal her location and O’Neill to zat her. During her subsequent interrogation Nirrti refuses to given any information as Cassie takes a turn for the worse. While the others debate what to do with the prisoner Fraiser, feeling hopeless at the situation, chooses to take drastic action, deciding to hold Nirrti at gunpoint and demand information on how to save her daughter. Nirrti, placing her own survival above her project, agrees to save her in exchange for being freed.
Rite of Passage finally brings back two characters that have largely been unheard of since their last appearance, Cassandra and Nirrti, and largely expands on their past connections with each other, with Cassandra once again becoming victim of the Goa’uld’s experimentation. Not only is this connection revealed to have been throughout Cassandra’s whole life, previously only been believed to have been the bomb plot and wiping out of her planet, but also for countless generations on the same planet as Nirrti essentially used it for a eugenics program.
Outside of these characters the main point of reference during the episode is Fraiser. Usually Fraiser is a side character on the show, largely being the cool under pressure base doctor having to deal with SG-1s medical issues. Here we see that not only did she adopt Cassandra after the events of Singularity but also that this personal connection with the teenager compromises her emotionally during the episode. Repeatedly she finds herself hopeless when it comes to treating her and eventually goes so far as to render a guard unconscious and threaten to shoot Nirrti if she does nothing.
Overall while the episode has these themes it never really explores them in depth here or again. Cassandra disappears from the show after this and Nirrti goes away for quite some time as well. In the end it, like many other episodes, starts to explore themes that never get properly resolved but is overall a decent episode.
· I do like everyone’s collective shock when O’Neill’s common ‘Magnets’ line is finally useful for once.
· That cake moment where Fraiser says Cassie will have a slice is probably one of the most relatable moments of the franchise.
Quote of the episode: “Magnets. Every one of those pieces got a little tiny magnet in the bottom to hold it on the board. Like when you’re driving so they don’t rattle off. Anyway every one of the magnets has a little electrical field around it. That’s how she was able to manipulate them. Magnets. They do look like horses.” – O’Neill