Stargate SG-1 Episode 1.05: "The First Commandment"
Time for an episode centered on one of the show's main themes!
The Plot Thickens
SG-1 is sent offworld to investigate the disappearance of SG-9. After finding one of the team, Lieutenant Conner, Conner explains that Captain Hanson, SG-9's leader, has lost it. He's convinced the locals that he's a god and is now forcing them to build a temple. Anyone who disobeys gets left out in the harsh sunlight to die of exposure.
Sam decides to try speaking with Captain Hanson, since they have a history. He refuses to let her go and demands that she fix a Goa'uld device found on the planet, which should render the sun's UV rays harmless (and "prove" Hanson's divinity to his new people). Meanwhile, Conner gets captured. Jack goes to investigate, and he's captured as well, giving Hanson the leverage to force Sam's hand. Hanson then plans to execute Conner and Jack by dropping them through the Stargate to Earth--without using the GDO code.
Teal'c and Daniel, with help from one of the locals, go in search of the second Goa'uld device, necessary to activate the shield. Daniel shows up before Hanson can execute Conner and Jack and points out that Hanson is no god. Hanson is unable to make the shield work without both devices, but when the correct signal is given, Teal'c activates the second device and starts the shield. The locals toss Hanson through the Stargate. SG-1 returns home with Conner.
Themes and Thoughts
I love that one of the show's ongoing theme is divinity. What does it take to make a god? At what point is a being so far beyond another being that they become an object of worship? And is it healthy for less advanced peoples to worship more advanced peoples? It's Arthur Clarke's Third Law in action: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The show will come back to these themes time and again, from every possible angle.
This week, it's in the vehicle of Hanson. It's easy to hate Hanson for his despicable actions, and it's likely he has some form of mental disorder, possibly sociopathy or an extreme form of narcissism. He should never have been appointed head of SG-9 (which raises entirely different questions--Sam says she saw this behavior when they dated). But he shows us once again that with some clever lies and a little technology, it's easy to hoodwink people in believing you're more than you seem.
Not surprisingly, there's a corresponding theme in a lot of Stargate episodes--the rise of the downtrodden, those who have been taken advantage of finally realizing the truth of their situation. The Jaffa have the longest running arc of this, but it's here in miniature with the people of Avnil and personified by the character of Jamala, who defies Hanson to help SG-1 and save his people. It's hard not to root for him, and it makes the story much more satisfying as a result.
There's not a ton here for Jack, Teal'c or Daniel, at least in terms of development and arcs. But this episode brings in more of Sam's past. She dated Hanson once; she knows his flaws and exactly what he's capable of doing to these people. It's also a subtle indicator of emotional strength for Sam--she saw the potential for abuse in the relationship, and she got out.
There's also a strong emotional moment for her midway through the episode, when she's able to draw a gun on Hanson. It really speaks to the level of control he still has over her. Despite knowing she could fix this entire situation by pulling the trigger (even if she didn't kill him), Sam is unable to do it. Hanson takes the gun from her hands and leaves her crying.
And yet, there's no follow up for this later in the episode. With that kind of scene, I want the payoff of Sam being the one to stand up to Hanson. Yet Sam has very little to do with the climax of the episode. It's a missed opportunity, but at least there will be plenty more development for Sam later this season.
He Said, She Said, It Said
Holy Bad Guys, Batman!
I already talked a lot about Hanson above, so I'll just say one more thing here. He works as a villain because he's one of us. The SG teams generally think of themselves as the good guys, but that's not always the case. The call can come from inside the house (and will, several more times). Even when he leans toward being a caricature, he still brings a level of unease that alien Stargate baddies can't. We could be him, someday, maybe--and we have to hope that we won't succumb to the same temptation.
Not much to speak of here, except for those Goa'uld UV shields. Can we get some of those for our beaches on Earth, please? Then I could enjoy reading on the beach without burning to a crisp.
New Eyes, New Viewpoint
My best friend really enjoyed the human aspect of this story, that there weren't really any aliens involved and the villain was an SG team member. She liked that this episode played on how easy and tempting it would be to go "native," and she remarked that this plot felt more original than the episodes preceding it.