Back again and we’re near the end of season six, with two of the more experimental episodes today, one that sees multiple realities and another that sees the team face no threat whatsoever.
The story begins inside a typical hospital as well follow a doctor as he heads for surgery, only to reveal that the patient is Teal’c and that the lovely surgeon is in fact Apophis. Instead it turns out this is a nightmare Teal’c is having though not Jaffa Teal’c but an ordinary human version of him. This then also pulls out to reveal Teal’c conducting kelno’reem in his room and startled by the visions he just had. Teal’c decides to talk it through with Carter, who believes it may due to his worries about the rebel Jaffa, before suddenly transitioning back to his human version’s point of view.
It turns out that the human version Teal’c works at a Canadian firehouse and that the whole of SG-1 also works there with O’Neill the Chief, Carter and Teal’c as experienced firefighters, and Jonas as a trainee. Here Teal’c, called ‘T’ by the others, is worried about an up-coming kidney transplant where he’ll donate a kidney to a human version of Bra’tac as he’s the only match. The team are called out to a serious crash on a bridge where several cars have collided and one about to blow due to a petrol spill. On the bridge however Teal’c sees one of the dead victims as Apophis and a man who dies when the car goes up in flames as Bra’tac, only to be caught in the blast before waking back at the SGC having fainted while talking to Carter in the canteen.
In the SGC Teal’c is admitted to the infirmary where both Fraiser and Carter can’t understand what would cause him to faint, with Fraiser deciding to keep him under observation for a while just in case. Upon lying down however he reawakens back in the human reality in a hospital watched over by O’Neill, who informs him that they’re thinking of delaying the transplant. Upon being let out Teal’c meets both Bra’tac (Brae) and his wife Shan’auc (Shauna), with Bra’tac criticising him for his actions and also pointing out obvious problems with the reality he’s in, such as his complete lack of injuries despite being caught in an explosion. Before he can look at the situation further Teal’c finds himself back in the SGC in the infirmary. Here he has a brief conversation with Fraiser and O’Neill about his odd dreams before quickly finding himself back in the other reality, this time to be greeted by the hospital psychologist Daniel Jackson.
Joining Daniel outside for a walk to discuss his issues around the operation and the crash, including his visions of the different people being there. Daniel also reveals that he’ll stop the operation until he admits his issues. The meeting is cut short however and Teal’c finds himself back in the SGC gateroom about to head off on a mission with the others and walks through the Gate only to find himself in the hospital but still in his SGC gear. Making his way through the rooms he finds himself confronted by Apophis before transitioning to his human version and seemingly shouting at a bunch of old men. Confused by what’s going on the human Teal’c stumbles through the hospital, being confronted by the Apophis surgeon before finding himself back in the SGC reality once more before collapsing and believing his symbiote to be gone. At this point it’s revealed that both realities are fake and that Teal’c’s mission to a rebel Jaffa base turned into a massacre, with only himself and Bra’tac as the only survivors with Teal’c sharing his symbiote between them to keep them both alive until rescue comes.
Teal’c falls back into the human reality at home with Shan’auc after the kidney operation and that he no longer understands which of the two realities is meant to be real, unable to recall his true situation from inside the dream. The next day Teal’c goes to visit Bra’tac who says that the kidney transplant isn’t working and that he’s once again dying. Teal’c once again meets with Daniel who seems to know all about both realities without any possible way of knowing. Despite this Teal’c reveals all his issues about both realities to Daniel who tries to guide him towards the truth of both realities being a dream before leaving him as O’Neill comes along, revealing that the team successfully rescued him and Bra’tac on the mission. In the briefing with Hammond it turns out that the meeting of rebel Jaffa was an ambush set up to wipe them out once and for all.
Despite attempts to keep Teal’c, Bra’tac, and the symbiote alive all three are dying under the strain of sharing one symbiote between two heavily injured Jaffa. The SGC however make contact with the Tok’ra who have managed to engineer a modified version of Tretonin, introduced in Cure, that replaces the need of a symbiote in Jaffa providing them with the first true path to freedom from the Goa’uld once and for all. Upon recovery Daniel visits Teal’c one last time to say goodbye.
As an episode The Changeling is quite an interesting new take on the show. Taking inspiration from films like Sliding Doors the episode puts together two different narratives that you’re never quite sure for most of it which is real until the twist is that neither is real.
The way the plot is told through the two dreamworlds is done to great effect, with both situations related back to what really happened. In the SGC world references are laid out to Teal’c is soon going to be going on a mission to meet with the rebel Jaffa as the war isn’t going well while in the Firehouse world Teal’c is about to give a kidney to keep Bra’tac alive. This relates back to reality with the mission hinted at in the SGC reality having been the cause of the whole mess while the Firehouse dream is heavily influenced by his sharing of his symbiote with Bra’tac to keep them both alive, with the “kidney” standing in for the symbiote. In both cases Teal’c’s issues in the past once again come back to haunt him with Apophis popping up in the Firehouse reality multiple times whenever he gives up the symbiote for some time. The episode centric plotline is full of imagery and very little of it is wasted, with both realities demonstrating Teal’c’s wanting to help people and what he’s having to give up to do so.
Outside of this bubble however the show introduces one of the final key mechanics into the show to enable the downfall of the Goa’uld once and for all, the newly improved tretonin. Until now it’s always been clear that the Jaffa would be reliant on the Goa’uld even if they broke their power as the symbiotes keep them alive. Now however a daily injection of this new drug is all it takes to keep a Jaffa healthy and allow them to destroy their reliance on symbiotes. Despite this however the episode also shows us that the Jaffa Rebellion is quickly dying, with leaders being routinely killed by the System Lords and their manpower dangerously low so whatever impact the new drug may have could end up being lost in the process.
Overall the episode is one that lives and dies by its concept and thankfully it’s very much alive, with a story that is a fresh breath to the show’s usual monster of the week formula, a nice guest appearance by Daniel Jackson who helps keep Teal’c alive, and the continuing moving forward of the show’s mythos that shows that even after six seasons the show still has tricks up its sleeves.
· It’s a dream, within a dream, within a moral message, within a dying last gasp.
· This episode does seem really seem like part of the inspiration for the Doctor Who episode “Amy’s Choice”.
Quote of the episode: “Hey, let’s go. You know how much it costs to keep that thing open?” – O’Neill
The episode starts with the crew of the Prometheus sounding General Quarters to the annoyance of O’Neill and Teal’c, with O’Neill in particular sick of the constant drills by the commander of the vessel Colonel Ronson. O’Neill contacts Hammond to air his displeasure but the General encourages him to enjoy the experience of taking part in the ship’s shakedown run with the rest of SG-1. While everything seems to initially go fine the ship drops out of hyperdrive too soon due to the naquadriah generator going unstable leaving them stranded with no way to go back home. With no ability to jump back home the ship takes the risk of a short jump with the hyperdrive to the nearest world with a Stargate, hoping that they don’t jump somewhere unknown.
Upon exiting the jump they find themselves in the right place but the reactor is going critical, forcing them to dump the reactor and put as much distance as possible between them and the dumped reactor. While they survive the shockwave it knocks out all key systems including shields and thrusters and also under attack by missiles from the planet’s surface, indicating it’s inhabited by unknown beings who believe they’ve just been attacked. With little choice the ship broadcasts on all channels that they’re defenceless against the missiles and that the explosion was an accident and while they hear no response the planet detonates the missiles early before being contacted and told to land at a certain location which they proceed to do so once systems are restored.
Sent as an advance party to introduce themselves, SG-1 head over to the waiting security forces where they’re met by the no-nonsense military commander of the planet Kalfas who disarms them and brings them to the planet’s civilian leader Ashwan, with the two of them having two very different views of the team with the former wanting to evict them as a threat while the latter is interesting to learn more. Unfortunately for the team the planet’s leaders seem to have no understanding of the Stargate but Ashwan allows them access to what little historical data they have as the planet, Tagrea, seems to have destroyed most of it after an unknown event. While researching the planet’s history at a library Teal’c and Jonas notice an elderly man poorly hiding his spying of them.
Back on the Prometheus Carter and O’Neill give a guided tour to the leaders of the planet before having a sit down meal with them, along with Ronson. While Ashwan makes attempts to improve relations and is curious about Earth Kalfas on the other hand routinely clashes with the others, still believing this whole scenario is some trick to attack them. At the lunch Ashwan reveals more details about the reason for the loss of all historical data, stating that it was Dark Age best forgotten but that even if they wanted to know it seems the destruction has been almost entire. After the dinner Ashwan reveals that the planet is undergoing a political shift and the arrival of the ship hasn’t helped.
Back in the Tagrean capital Teal’c and Jonas confront the man who was watching them, who reveals himself as a professor at the local university and is also interested in the mysterious past of their people. It turns out that the Goa’uld who ruled the planet was Heru’ur and that a secret society that includes the professor have been studying what they can from artefacts they’ve discovered, with hints at a location of the Stargate in a desert to the north. Taking a trip to the site with some Tagreans they quickly find the site of the long buried Stargate and manage to excavate it. Nearby however Kalfas watches with trepidation. As the joint excavation team is about to get the Gate working Kalfas makes his move, using troops under his command to seize control of the site.
O’Neill and Carter go to Ashwan to get his help, with him already attempting to get the troops to stand down. Ashwan however gives them permission to use the Prometheus to force Kalfas and his troops to give up as the gun batteries being used to guard the Prometheus are loyal to the government. While Ronson is disbelieving of Ashwan’s words he agrees to the plan when Ashwan appears on board, taking the same risk as everyone on the crew by taking off. The ship approaches the site of the excavation and sends Ashwan, Carter, and O’Neill down below to force Kalfas’s surrender with Ashwan making an impassioned speech about the new world the Stargate has opened up, with the troops arresting Kalfas as a result. After saying goodbye to both Ashwan and the professor the team head home.
Memento is one of my favourite non-stupid episodes of the whole show as it does takes the show and slows it down. There’s no real threat, no imminent danger bar an eleventh hour threat for all of two seconds, and instead focuses more on the mythology and origins of the show.
While the setup of the episode is a fast-paced one, with the ship in danger of being destroyed by first their own hyperdrive and then the planet they arrived at, the mainstay of the plot itself is a much more relaxed affair, with the team instead having to try diplomacy with a civilisation on the same level as Earth. Tagrea, the planet of the episode, shows many of the same problems as here on Earth, with a rampant military and civilians trying to hold together too many different groups while fearful of causing resentment. The one key difference however is that while the Ancient Egyptians wrote about the Stargate on Earth the Tagreans, in an act of revenge towards those who they were made to worship, destroyed all traces of the Goa’uld. This lack of history becomes the main plot, with the team trying to find the location of the Stargate on the planet from what little remains, which they do in good time. Here at the eleventh hour the planet’s military leader suddenly attempts a tiny coup which is quickly put down and the people of the planet and Earth depart as friends.
Ashwan, despite being the tantamount politician, is probably the most interesting character of the episode as he represents much of the wonder that has been lost since the very first days, with his constant curiosity and desire to learn more about Earth making him seem more like Daniel Jackson than a one-off character. Despite starting off as one of those who isn’t too worried about the loss of his people’s history by the end he makes a turnaround, realising just what the new world can mean for the people of the planet. It’s this optimism of the show that doesn’t always appear very often in the later seasons, with much of the screentime devoted to the war with the Goa’uld. While this negativity isn’t a bad thing it does make this episode stand out even more amongst its peers.
In the end the episode is a happy one, more about one group’s journey to self-discovery than any real threat to the team or the Prometheus. Amongst a season that has seen threat after threat after threat it’s a nice change of pace with the good guys being good guys and not everyone being a lying traitor at every turn.
· Floating orb guns was a bit weird.
· The Tagrean weapons would later be reused for the Genii in Stargate: Atlantis.
Quote of the episode: “Teal’c, prepare to assist in damage control.”
“I am prepared, O’Neill.”
“See how melodramatic that sounds? It’s unnecessary.” – O’Neill and Teal’c