Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 1: "Emancipation"

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Episode Information

Title: "Emancipation"
Written by: Katharyn Powers
Director: Jeff Woolnough
Rating (out of 4 stars): 1/2
Reviewed on: March 8, 2014

Synopsis from GateWorld


SG-1 explores a planet that subjugates its women, and Carter is abducted.

This awful episode is not worth too much analysis. SG-1 arrives on a new planet and immediately save a young man from wild dogs. Why is he being chased by random dogs? We never find out.

The young man, Abu, is amazed and aghast that one member of SG-1 is a woman. Abu's father and companions arrive presently, and they are similarly horrified. The people on this planet seem to follow ancient Mongol customs, and their women are not allowed to show their faces in public, nor to speak unless spoken to.

Even so, Abu's father, Mughal, is grateful that SG-1 saved Abu and invites them back to his village. The village seems primitively perfect and even the women are happy in their near-slave state. Daniel convinces Carter to play along with the role of women in the village, even to the point of wearing the native costume. This leads to a horrible scene of the men of SG-1 being amazed that Carter looks pretty. Given that O'Neill in particular is her superior, this is pretty inappropriate.

Abu is also amazed by Carter's beauty and kidnaps her during the night. He takes her to the village of a rival clan. His plan is to trade her for the clan leader's daughter, whom he loves. Turghan, the clan leader, is impressed with Carter but refuses the trade, since his daughter is going to marry another clan leader. He gives Abu some gold and forces him to leave.

Turghan is much less civilized than Abu and Mughal, and takes Carter to task for speaking out of turn and defying him. He threatens her with physical violence, including knives, many times. When Carter manages to sneak away and try to escape on a horse, Turghan threatens to lash the woman who was supposed to be supervising Carter. He sexually assaults Carter with kisses, but somehow she doesn't seem to be concerned about rape.

Meanwhile, SG-1 has realized that Carter is missing and comb the village for her. Teal'c is able to track Abu's horse, so SG-1 and Mughal follow the trail. Somehow it seems to take them a lot longer to get to the other village than it did for Abu and Carter. When they realize that Turghan has Carter, Mughal confirms what should be obvious: Turghan will rape her come nightfall. However, the writers carefully don't call it that. To SG-1's credit, they decide to rescue Carter before nightfall.

When SG-1 arrives at the camp, Carter hears them and creates a distraction by starting a fire. She slips out and meets up with SG-1, and they escape. Turghan's daughter also runs off in the confusion to meet up with Abu.

SG-1 and Mughal are heading back to Mughal's camp when Abu finds them and asks for their help. Turghan's daughter was caught with Abu and returned to her father. She is to be stoned to death. Although it pains him, O'Neill decides that they can't go back to rescue her because it would cause a war between Mughal's and Turghan's clans. Carter can't live with that, but fortunately Mughal comes up with a solution that follows the ancient laws.

SG-1 and company return to Turghan's village and challenge him to stop the stoning. The challenge involves a fight, but Turghan refuses to fight Mughal because he's old and cripples. Carter steps forward to challenge him, since SG-1 had said that she was a "chieftan" of their peoples earlier. Of course, unbeknowst to our characters but knowst to everyone that's ever watched TV, the fight is to the death. And it can involved knives, as Turghan draws his. Carter puts up a good fight and finally gets her knife at his throat. She makes him promise to let his daughter go with Abu and not to start a war with Mughal's clan before she lets him live.

At the end of the episode, Mughal strikes down the restrictive customs on women in his village. SG-1 has a good laugh at Carter's unfortunate situation in this episode, and everything ends happily ever after.

Ugh. My biggest problem is the obvious objectification of women, specifically Carter, in this episode. Her primary value to the natives is her exotic appearance. No one cares about her talents as a warrior or scientist. Obviously this is how the natives would view her, since that's how they were raised. However, the men of SG-1 seem to fall right in with this. After Daniel encourages her to fit in my wearing the native clothes, SG-1 promptly decides that in order to not rock the boat any more, she should just stay in the tent and not interact with the villagers. So what's the point of having her there? As was suggested at the beginning of the episode, why not go right back through the Stargate and bring back a men-only team? But then there would be no plot.

Once Carter is given to Turghan, she's remarkably short-sighted about her situation and the situation of the other women. First, she shows no sign of being aware that Turghan is going to take advantage of her sexually. I think it was in character for her to be stubborn and resist his orders. However, she seemed to not understand at all why the other women were so cowed. When one of the women says that Turghan is good and only punishes them when they deserve it, she says women never deserve to be abused. A great sentiment, but does she not understand how the women have been brainwashed their whole lives to think that way? The woman also says that Turghan is good because they are always given food and protection. Carter seems to scoff at that, too. Does she not realize that the women in the native society are not taught any skills about how to provide on their own? And in addition, in a primitive society, simply getting enough food is a significant accomplishment? This is frustrating. Perhaps it shows how much Carter has to learn about visiting all of these different societies through the Stargate, and this is the beginning of her education.

The final annoyance in this episode that I'm going to discuss is how happily it ends. SG-1 makes jokes as they had back home through the Stargate. Carter has experience verbal and physical abuse and sexual assault. She has been involved in a fight to the death. This should have some serious effects on her, but we see nothing of that. Of course, maybe this does make sense, as it fits in with her seeming lack of recognition of the seriousness of her situation in Turghan's village.

Happily, most episodes are not this bad.

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avondale@astr ;o.umd.edu