And here we are almost midway through season 5, with space France getting destroyed and seeing the return of the evil space accountants.
Between Two Fires
We start off-world with the team visiting the Tollan, Earth’s long-time allies/annoyingly snobbish neighbours, to take part in the funeral of Omoc, the team leader of the Tollan group they rescued all the way back in season one’s Enigma, before being approached by the Tollan leader Travell who asks them to come back tomorrow to the confusion of both SG-1 and Narim, the Tollan who has been a long-time friend of theirs. As they leave Narim passes Carter a device which they play on return to the SGC, displaying a message from Narim that Earth is in danger.
The team return to the planet the next day, with O’Neill and Daniel playing diplomacy while Teal’c and Carter talk to Narim about his supposed threat to Earth. At the meeting with Travell the Tollan leader states off the record that Omoc’s death means that the Tollan political authority would now be able to pass trade deals that allow the trading of Tollan defence technology with Earth in return for Trinium supplies, in particular making the long ought Ion Cannon technology available for the defence of Earth. O’Neill and Daniel meet with the others outside, informing them about the deal to Narim’s shock. Carter works out that to provide minimum global coverage they’d need 38 cannons, which Travell to the team’s surprise agrees to provide.
Due to his shock at the new Tau’ri-Tollan trade agreement Narim decides to do more digging finding that on the night of Omoc’s heart attack emergency services took a suspiciously long time to respond, believing that Omoc may have been murdered to silence him. Teal’c and Carter help him dig deeper into the public records which include minutes and logs of political meetings, finding off-log meetings and unscheduled weapons tests. In response to these findings the SGC decide to tag the first Trinium shipments with radioactive isotopes so they can trace where they go.
Splitting up once again O’Neill and Teal’c follow the shipment while the others break into Travell’s office. In her office they find more complete records detailing the Ion Cannon test, finding that they fired at a Goa’uld Ha’tak to no effect but that the ship left peacefully, though the records end there. O’Neill and Teal’c find out more however, discovering that the Tollan are now constructing Weapons of Mass Destruction and that the Trinium is being used to make them be able to pass through defensive measures like the SGC’s Iris. Soon after however Narim, Carter, and Daniel are captured by Travell and their new overlord, the Goa’uld Tanith who is representing an unnamed Goa’uld of greater power. Narim however is able to escape and inform the rest of SG-1 about the Goa’uld.
After meeting with Narim O’Neill and Teal’c decide to destroy the weapons, to which Narim eventually agrees knowing it will cause the destruction of Tollana. Narim uses an Ion Cannon to destroy the weapons and distract SG-1s captors to rescue them. Tanith almost immediately attacks the now defenceless planet from orbit as Narim escorts the team to the Stargate, while Narim decides to stay behind and fight with his people as he bears responsibility for what has happened. Despite remaining hopeful the SGC later receives a garbled transmission from Narim that their Stargate and ships have been destroyed, heavily implying that the Tollan have likely been exterminated by the Goa’uld.
So here we are almost mid-way through season 5 and the Tau’ri’s first ever off-world ally has been killed off by the Goa’uld, in a turn of events many saw coming.
The Tollan have in many ways been similar to France before the outbreak of the Second World War, having sat on their laurels and believing that their advanced defensive technology makes them impervious to any attack by the Goa’uld. Instead their reliance on the Ion Cannons has made them weak as one Goa’uld has found a way to protect their fleet against it, meaning that the Tollans are now defenceless to them and secretly have been turned into their slaves, forced to be complicit in their crimes and provide their new overlords with advanced technology to eradicate the enemies of the Goa’uld, such as the SGC. Unlike the real-world analogy there are no valiant Allied Nations to save them from this tyranny and they are instead undone when one citizen finds out the truth and destroys the new weapons before they’re used to kill billions.
Probably the most interesting character of the episode was that one citizen who was recurring character and friend of SG-1 Narim. Narim has long been unique amongst the Tollan as while he understands their technological isolationism he has questioned their cultural snobbery. It is he who first alerts the SGC to his suspicions about Travell and the Tollan government and finds himself caught between the safety of his people and the moral choice of saving countless other worlds at the cost of his own. Unlike the politicians however, who choose servitude to save themselves, Narim makes the moral choice and goes so far as to sacrifice his own chance to escape to pay the consequences of his actions along with the rest of his people, which is their presumed extermination at the hands of the Goa’uld who cut off all means of escape almost immediately.
The episode also includes the introduction of the new ‘big bad’ among the Goa’uld that the team will face but so far remains nameless, only interacting through his emissary of Tanith. Clearly however he is far more advanced than any other Goa’uld they’ve encountered thus far including former nemesis Apophis as they all were technologically inferior to the Tollan defences, having to rely on subterfuge instead and almost succeeding at one point again due to Tollan carelessness.
Overall the episode is one of the better ones of the season 5 and the series as a whole, featuring the final act of a major ally of the SGC and the introduction of a new enemy, in an episode that features a good standalone storyline with political intrigue and conspiracy at its very heart.
· Can we talk about how fucking creepy Narim having Carter’s voice as his House AI is.
· Travell as a character seems to be one of those that switches between good and evil with every episode.
· O’Neill and Teal’c’s awkward hand holding has to be one of the best moments of the episode.
Quote of the episode: “In exchange we get?”
“A Tollan Ion Cannon.”
“One of those big honking space guns that shoots Goa’uld ships out of the sky?”
“Cool.” – O’Neil and Travell
The episode starts with a jubilant SG-1 returning from an off-world mission, proclaiming that they’ve completed their Standing Orders of finding technology or peoples to defend the Earth as they’ve made contact with an advanced race who want to help them out. This race is the Aschen. At a following briefing by the SGC to diplomats and politicians Carter and the ambassador to other worlds discuss the SGC’s plans for the negotiations, with the SGC continuing to search for the Aschen homeworld (as the planet they discovered was of a client group to the Aschen) while the rest of SG-1 explore the planet more to get intel on the Aschen while Carter and the main negotiator Joseph Faxon, who is Carter’s alternate future husband in the episode 2010, negotiate the terms of an alliance with the Aschen.
The group make their way to the planet, revealed to be a fairly basic agrarian society of a group of people called the Volians, with the Aschen provided advanced tech such as floating ships called Harvesters which deliver grain through the Stargate. While Carter, O’Neill, and the Ambassador talk to the Aschen Teal’c and Daniel meet up with a Volian farmer they met before, who speaks highly of the Aschen. Saying nothing threatening about the Aschen he instead asks them to inform them that he has ‘iron root’ in one of his field which he needs advanced tools to remove, with Teal’c and Daniel instead offering to help themselves. The two of them instead find that the iron root leads to an underground cavern.
On a nearby Harvester negotiations begin, with the Aschen making the principle offer of trading advanced technology for a complete map of the Stargate network, this includes the offering of a customisable bioweapon that can be used to target people of only a specified genome. The Aschen however express issue with the large and quickly growing population of Earth and the current secrecy of the Stargate. While the negotiations ends well O’Neill states that he has a bad feeling about the Aschen.
While negotiations are underway the SGC continues searching for the homeworld finding a ¼ chance that the homeworld is P4C-970, the world a bloodied note told them to never visit a year previously. Worried about this Hammond plans to have SG teams sent to the other three planets first. Before this can happen however general pain in the arse Senator Kinsey has the plan blocked by convincing the President to halt the order over fears that it’ll ruin negotiations with the Aschen.
On the planet, having clambered down the metal structure, Daniel and Teal’c find the ruins of a much more advanced society, equivalent to the early-to-mid 1900s. Finding documents written in a form of Celtic that tell of a vaccine having been provided by the Aschen to combat a sudden and deadly plague to the celebration of the Volians. In later documents it turns out that the Aschen vaccine had a side-effect that only became known too late, causing wide-spread riots.
The group returns to the SGC with what they found on Volia, with O’Neill deciding to use his pass to the President to get through the political stonewalling. Kinsey gets word however and manages to block these attempts also. With little choice the SGC decide to instead trick the Aschen into revealing their intentions, with Carter getting Ambassador Faxon to agree to the plan, while placating them with a ‘gift’ of several Stargate addresses. The trick works as intended, with the Aschen revealing that the word means ‘sterility’ confirming that the Aschen wiped off most of the population and then converted Volia into a backward farming world to act as a breadbasket for the Aschen. The Aschen however lock the doors and plan to use the bioweapon they previous revealed to quickly and effectively wipe out the population. Carter uses a rope to lower herself from the balcony to allow them to drop through the horizontal Stargate before the bioweapon is used but they’re discovered, with Faxon sacrificing himself to allow Carter to warn Earth, arriving moments before the bioweapon is used. While Daniel fears the list of addresses would allow the Aschen to attack other worlds it’s revealed by O’Neill that the list of addresses was made up of places you don’t want to go.
And there we have the prequel/sequel to the alternate timeline episode 2010 where we see a version of events where catastrophe is only averted by the team being cautious right from the start.
Once again we meet the Aschen, the secretly sinister society of humourless humans who don’t mind if it takes many generations for their plans to reach fruition. Unlike least time when the team only find this out when it happens to them this time they discover an off-world version of the Westcountry where this fate has already been suffered, where an advanced Breton/Celtic society was reduced to a planet of farmers whose only purpose is to feed the Aschen capital world. In revealing this the episode makes great use of dramatic irony, with the audience knowing exactly how everything will work out from the start while the team are oblivious until the final few minutes.
The most interesting turn of the episode however has to be the character of Joseph Faxon. In 2010 he is portrayed as a slightly insidious man, having kept the truth about the Aschen vaccine to himself and only really looking towards his own career. Here however, while he initially starts the same way, he is a much more heroic character, agreeing to the SGC plan to test the Aschen’s true intentions and then sacrificing himself to save Carter and the planet while he himself is likely captured and killed by the Aschen.
Overall it’s another good episode, largely relying on the viewer’s advance knowledge of the Aschen, and once again featuring the SGC saving the world from nefarious sources.
· I wonder what happened to the Aschen after this as we never see the Confederation ever again. Maybe they got destroyed by connecting to a Black Hole Gate.
Quote of the episode: “They don’t get excited in general, General. It’s like an entire planet of accountants.” – O’Neill on the Aschen