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SG-1 arrives on another planet, called Hanka, where they have a small research base, with SG-7 awaiting them. There is some kind of native settlement there, but the real attraction is that an eclipse will be occurring soon, which will allow them to study a black hole and its accretion disk. I have to admit, that would be really cool.
However, they arrive on Hanka to find that everyone is dead, both SG-7 and the natives. The bodies are bloody, and we get the feeling that they had some kind of disease. Whatever killed them must have happened quickly, since no one on SG-7 had the chance to contact the SGC.
SG-1 returns to Earth quickly to be decontaminate and examined. Fortunately they did not contract whatever killed the others. They return to Hanka in full protective gear in order to investigate. They discover a young girl, who apparently survived whatever killed the others. They take her to the SGC's base on Hanka, which has apparently been decontaminated, as people are working in it unprotected.
Dr. Frasier examines the girl and finds that she is perfectly healthy, despite the oddity of having naquadah in her blood. Carter has been shepherding the girl, who becomes very attached to Carter. The investigation wraps up, and everyone prepares to leave Hanka for Earth, except O'Neill and Teal'c, who will remain to watch the eclipse occurring the next day.
Once everyone else returns to the Earth, the girl's attachment to Carter continues. Carter shows her to a very bare guest room, but the girl is afraid for her to leave. Gradually, Carter brings her toys and furnishings for the rooms and continues to keep her company.
Dr. Frasier is afraid that the SG teams inadvertently took some type of bacteria to Hanka, where it mutated into something deadly. However, since the girl survived, she is optimistic that she might be able to study the girl and find some kind of cure for the disease.
Sometime later, Carter's duties require her to leave the girl - Daniel shows up to stay with her. However, the girl doesn't want Carter to leave, and finally speaks in order to get her to stay - she had previously not talked at all. We find out that her name is Cassandra. Now she says that her chest hurts.
Carter takes Cassandra to the infirmary. Initially, there seems to be little wrong with her, but the she passes out and her heart stops. Dr. Frasier and assistants get her heart started, but clearly something is seriously wrong with her. An odd heart sound causes Dr. Frasier to order (another) chest x-ray on Cassandra, which reveals some type of device attached to her heart.
Dr. Frasier has no idea what the device is, but knows that it wasn't present in her initial examination of Cassandra just 10 hours ago. She and a surgeon do a procedure to insert a viewing scope into Cassandra to look at the device and take some samples. Examination of the samples shows that it is made of iron/potassium and naquadah, separated by tissue between them that is slowly decaying. Experiments by Carter show that if the potassium and naquadah touch, they will react with enormous explosive power. (Incidentally, Carter says that they have a "nuclear" reaction, which is incorrect. A nuclear reaction would involve fusion or fission, neither of which was possible in this situation.) Frasier has determined that they have a little less than 2 hours before the materials inside Cassandra meet, and she explodes. (I appreciate that Dr. Frasier said the tissue was decaying at an unusually steady rate, like clockwork, thus rationalizing the arbitrary absolute deadlines that often occur in SF.) Unfortunately the device will not let itself be removed from Cassandra, as they discovered when doing the procedure to take samples.
Daniel and Carter realize that the whole situation is a set-up by a Goa'uld. The Goa'uld killed everyone but Cassandra, knowing the SGC would bring her back to the Earth. Then the Goa'uld designed the explosive device to build itself inside Cassandra. Apparently the Goa'uld's goal was to destroy the SGC and the Stargate. They realize they have to get Cassandra away from the SGC and anyone else before she explodes, so they decide to take her back to Hanka. I guess the reasoning is that everyone else there is dead, and at least she'll be in familiar surroundings.
On Hanka, O'Neill and Teal'c have been observing the eclipse. While the eclipse special effects are quite nice, the accretion disk around the black hole does not seem to be shown at all. While observing, they notice a Goa'uld ship approaching Hanka. Soon, Goa'uld death gliders arrive on the surface and begin attacking O'Neill and Teal'c, who are evacuating to the Stargate. Teal'c recognizes the fighters as being those of the Goa'uld Nirrti; once he makes this connection, he realizes that the events on the planet have been manipulated by Nirrti. He reveals that one of Nirrti's strategies is to destroy Stargates controlled by the enemy; he and O'Neill both realize that Cassandra could somehow be a used by Nirrti to make Earth's Stargate explode, so they re-double their speed back to the Earth.
Fortunately they arrive back on Earth just before Carter and the other leave for Hanka with Cassandra. When Cassandra enters the gateroom, she passes out. O'Neill and Teal'c warn General Hammond about taking Cassandra through the Stargate, so they devise an alternate plan to get her away from the gate.
Hammond sends Cassandra to some abandoned nuclear facility that is relatively nearby. SG-1 quickly transports Cassandra, who is still unconscious, to the facility. Carter will take her deep into the Earth - 30 levels down - and leave her there. They are very close to the detonation time.
Carter descends in the elevator with the unconscious Cassandra. And then, horrifyingly, Cassandra wakes up - and she's feeling pretty good. Carter realizes that she's now going to have to leave a very alive and conscious little girl by herself in a deep cave to die. I can't express how awful this would be to have to do. I have to think that if Cassandra had been awake when they made the decision to place her in the facility, they would have sedated her sufficiently to make her unaware of what was happening; however, with how fast they had to move, they neglected to think about the fact that she might wake up.
Carter tries to act like nothing is wrong, puts Cassandra into this completely bare, dirty room, and tells her that she'll be right back. Cassandra goes along with it, but clearly she knows everything is not all right. Carter closes and locks the door, then starts up in the elevator. But she can't just leave Cassandra to sit there by herself until she explodes. Without her superiors around, she's free to vent her anguish, and it's heartbreaking. Before long, she makes the decision to go back down and wait with Cassandra. O'Neill calls on the intercom and orders her to the surface, but she just says, "She's awake." Daniel voices the horror they all feel at finding that out.
Carter returns to Cassandra, locks them both in the room, and hugs her. We follow the countdown with O'Neill and the others on the surface. O'Neill tells Daniel and Teal'c to leave - I guess there may be some danger even on the surface? - but they show no inclination of leaving. Time runs out...and nothing happens.
In my opinion, they don't wait very long before deciding that the explosion is not going to happen at all. O'Neill and Carter talk on the intercom; Carter says she knew that Cassandra was not really going to explode. You could've fooled me! Apparently she realized the device had some kind of proximity detector for the Stargate: when Cassandra was closest to it, she passed out, and when she got farther away, she felt fine, meaning that the device wasn't working.
Sometime later we see SG-1 and Cassandra in a park, presumably in Colorado Springs near the SGC. Everyone is very happy. O'Neill gives Cassandra a puppy, telling her it's an Earth rule that every kid has a dog. We learn that Dr. Frasier will be fostering Cassandra until parents with the proper security clearance are found. The Goa'uld device in Cassandra shrunk and was absorbed by her body and is no longer a threat.
This episode is extremely affecting, as it completely plays on human instincts to protect children. Nirrti clearly counted on this and was extremely cold-blooded in her plans to use Cassandra to destroy the Earth's Stargate. The biological technology that the Goa'uld have available to them is pretty amazing - Nirrti was able to program this explosive device to assemble itself from Cassandra's body, have a self-defense mechanism, a timer, and some kind of proximity device. It's also possible that Nirrti manufactured the disease that wiped out the planet's inhabitants. As Daniel said in the episode, the Goa'uld don't see humans in the same way as they see themselves - they see humans as slaves or tools to be used.
However, Nirrti's plan was also the biggest problem in this episode. It was a very complicated plan, and it seems like a lot of things could've gone wrong. What if SG-1 didn't take Cassandra back to the Earth? What if they killed Cassandra when they discovered the device? And in the end, they didn't keep Cassandra close enough to the Stargate for the plan to succeed. It seems like Nirrti must have put a lot of effort into a plan that had a small chance of success.
I also don't understand why Nirrti put in a proximity detector to the device. Why not just the timer, and let the bomb explode where it will? Ideally, Nirrti would want it to explode by the Stargate, and the short countdown means that if the device wasn't discovered, there was a good chance Cassandra wouldn't get too far from the Stargate in that amount of time. But even if Cassandra was moved away from the Stargate, why wouldn't Nirrti want the bomb to explode and just kill as many humans as possible just because? It seems like it would still create terror on the parts of the humans affected.
Cassandra really has a tough road ahead of her, despite the happy ending of the episode. Besides the fact that her family was killed, she saw all the inhabitants of her world die around her. In addition, she was altered by Nirrti. Does she remember that? I wouldn't think Nirrti would do much to spare her trauma, but possibly she was unconscious that that point. In addition, now Cassandra has to adjust to life on the Earth in a different culture. I would think she would have a lot of psychological problems in her future, and any adoptive family will have their work cut out for them.
We had a lot of good character development in this episode. Obviously Carter got to shine as the center of Cassandra's attention. Even though she doesn't seem particularly comfortable around children, she really got attached to Cassandra. Which did lead to an interesting interaction late in the episode when Carter was chastising herself for not remaining detached. Daniel wondered why she would expect that, and Carter replied, "I forgot you're not military." Obviously soldiers would be trained to remain detached from civilians they have to interact with, because they need to protect them (or at the other extreme, kill them) without bias and on orders.
Daniel's position throughout this episode was interesting, because he's usually the character that takes on the touchy-feely roles, such as interfacing with the natives. He did try a couple times to take some of the burden off of Carter, but she wanted none of it. It did show nice awareness of Carter's situation on the part of Daniel, and how much of a team they are.
I can't end a review of this episode without commenting more on the eclipse event that precipitated the episodes. I enjoyed seeing O'Neill's astronomy hobby elaborated upon, after we saw in "Children of the Gods" that he has a telescope on his roof. However, his explanation to Teal'c about what a black hole is was horrible. Ha. Also, astronomers don't generally observe through large telescopes by eye at all; the data are recorded on CCDs (sensitive digital cameras) and analyzed later.