Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 1: "The First Commandment"

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Episode Information

Title: "The First Commandment"
Written by: Robert C. Cooper
Director: Dennis Berry
Rating (out of 4 stars): **
Reviewed on: April 1, 2014

Synopsis from GateWorld


A Stargate team commander sets himself up on a primitive world as a god.

SG-9, commanded by Captain Jonas Hanson, is exploring a primitive world. As we join the events, two of the members of SG-9 are attempting to return through the Stargate to Earth. They are being hunted by natives that can shoot darts through tubes. Neither of the two fleeing team members returns to Earth. One escapes the natives, and the other is shot with a dart. He is surrounded by natives, who are then directed by two other "normal" humans - apparently the other members of SG-9. The first one directs the second one to shoot the would-be escapee, then burn the body.

The next thing we know, SG-1 arrives on the world, looking for SG-9. We learn that the UV radiation from the world's star is extremely strong, so it's dangerous to be there for long while it's daytime, even with sunblock.

Shortly SG-1 meets up with the member of SG-9 who escaped previously; his name is Lieutenant Conner. Conner has obviously seen some bad things and is at the end of his rope. He says that Captain Hanson has gone crazy and taken the role of a god to the natives. He's forcing them to work for him and punishing them arbitrarily; his favorite punishment is to stake people out in the harsh UV light and let them die slowly.

O'Neill decides that they have to find Hanson and stop him. He tries to send Carter back to Earth to explain the situation. Carter refuses to go because she knows Hanson (they had been engaged) and thinks she can help reach him peacefully. Conner refuses to go, claiming that he'll be helpful since he knows the planet and the people - they've been there weeks, at least. O'Neill has the great response "Does it say 'Colonel' anywhere on my uniform?" after two refusals, but goes along with it. So no one tells Stargate Command what's going on.

They set up camp for the night, and the natives attack. They chase them off with indiscriminate machine-gun fire, along with Teal'c's Jaffa staff weapon. However, Conner has been abducted. The next day, as they approach the entrance to the caves where the natives live, they see Conner staked out in the Sun along with other people being punished.

SG-1 surveills the situation from a distance: the entrance to the caves is in a wide valley. Hanson has the natives working on building a large structure. The other member of SG-9, Baker, seems to be acting as a foreman, directing the work and punishing the slackers. O'Neill goes off by himself for a little extra reconnaissance. While he's gone, the others witness Baker beating a worker. Carter won't sit still for it and heads into the valley to stop it, intending to be captured by Hanson.

Hanson seems to have expected Carter to show up, and I suppose it does make sense, since she knows him so well. He takes her into his lair and explains what he's doing. He's having the natives build him a temple, because he's a god. If some of them die, then they are the weak ones.

He's also discovered some technology the Goa'uld left behind on the planet; from the natives' stories, he thinks the technology can block the ultraviolet light from the star, making it safe to be outside for extended periods of time. He orders Carter to figure out how to turn it on. She refuses, and he threatens to kill everyone in a pro forma sort of way. She has the chance to grab a gun and shoot him, but she doesn't. I guess she can't make herself kill someone without an immediate threat, which is understandable. What about shooting to incapacitate? Maybe that's not as easy as it seems to do it right (without having the victim bleed out).

Meanwhile, the others have isolated one of the natives - I think it's the man who was being beaten when Carter interceded. They spend some time convincing him that they are neither a threat nor gods. He also happens to mention to him the tale of the technology that can shield the planet - he describes it as making the sky orange. Teal'c recognizes this Goa'uld technology and says that the forcefield involved requires two pieces of equipment. As far as the native knows, Hanson only has one piece, so presumably even if Carter turns it on, it won't work.

O'Neill goes to rescue Conner from being staked out in the sun and orders the others to find the other piece of the forcefield. They use some nice logic to deduce that the forcefield must be at the other end of the valley, although their "location" is still far too vague for them to find it as easily as they do.

O'Neill is captured while trying to free Conner, and he is taken to Hanson's lair. Hanson threatens to kill O'Neill, and Carter finally turns on the Goa'uld device. It spouts out some pretty lights, but no one seems to realize that it's not making the forcefield they are picturing. (O'Neill knows it takes two devices, but isn't telling.) Hanson orders everyone to meet in the jungle near the Stargate.

Meanwhile, Daniel, Teal'c, and the native do find the second Goa'uld device, nicely stored in some ruins. Carter and the native go to find O'Neill.

Hanson has had the natives lay the Stargate on its side. He activates it, so that the whoosh when it opens shoots up into the air, and you jump into it to travel through it. Honestly, I never get tired of seeing the Stargate like that - it looks so cool.

Hanson orates for a bit, telling the natives that he's sending these new people back to hell, since they are demons. He goes on to say that he will turn the sky orange and save them all from the killing light. Quietly, he tells Carter that he's just sending them back to Earth; of course, as Carter responds, they haven't signaled for the iris to be opened on Earth's end, so they will die. Hanson doesn't care.

Daniel and the rogue native arrive just in time to make a commotion and stop O'Neill and Conner from being put into the Stargate. In a shouting match, Daniel tries to tell the natives that Hanson is not a god. Hanson says that he is, and he'll prove it by turning on the device. He does, but nothing significant happens. Daniel proves that Hanson is not a god by signalling to Teal'c to turn on the second device - completing the forcefield and turning the sky orange.

Apparently this is sufficient to convince the natives. They grab Hanson and dump him into the Stargate. (The other SG-9 member had been killed in the firefight.) SG-1 shows the natives how the devices make the forcefield, and the natives being making plans for living outside of their caves. And SG-1 goes home!

This episode wasn't horrible, but it wasn't particularly memorable, either. It was just there. Some thoughts on it, in no particular order...

I find it odd that SG-1 never had any kind of communication with Stargate Command about their mission. When the arrived, they had no idea that Hanson had gone rogue - it could have been a rescue mission, for all they knew. O'Neill made a very quick decision that they'd bring Hanson back dead or alive after learning just the basics of the situation - no consultation with General Hammond or anything. Clearly, Stargate Command would want Hanson returned, but I would think this information should have been communicated.

Hanson was not a very compelling character. Carter painted him as being more controlling and manipulative than he necessarily appeared, given that now he was supposed to be crazy. I guess I just didn't find him very charismatic.

There's no doubt that Hanson was crazy, however. He didn't make sense. What future could he have rationally seen for himself on that planet? Even with the forcefield cutting out the UV, there's no technology, no medicial care, nothing to DO except survive. Even if he just wanted to survive there with the people waiting on him hand and foot, he was killing them off, so that wouldn't have worked. He also tried briefly to convince Carter that he was helping the native population, but that didn't really make sense, either. So he was definitely crazy, just not particularly interesting.

The influence of the Goa'uld on the planet was interesting. Teal'c mentioned at the beginning of the episode that the Goa'uld had terraformed many worlds, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised to see a lot of planets that can unexpectedly support humans. (I wonder if Teal'c learned the word "terraform" while on Earth? Seems unlikely that he'd know it otherwise, since it's taken from "terra", a term for Earth that he didn't know.) It's also interesting that the Goa'uld are relatively careless with their technology - they didn't bother to take with them the forcefield generators.

One interesting discussion the episode could have gotten into, but didn't, was what makes a god be a god? O'Neill, Daniel, and Teal'c had to convince the individual native theat they weren't gods. Then Teal'c tried to tell him that the Goa'uld were not gods, and said, "They had power, but power alone does not make one a god." OK, so as the viewers, we know the Goa'ulds are not gods. So if power does not make someone a god, what does? Does the power have to be omnipotent? Does the being also have to be omniscient? Is it required that the being has made the universe? At any rate, how are the undeveloped natives supposed to understand that Jonas is powerful because of technology and not because of his own mystical ability? If they can't tell the difference, does it matter? If they disobey someone who is so powerful, even if that person is not a god, they can die just as easily. This is something SG-1 is going to encounter a lot as they explore Goa'uld worlds, but they don't hit on it much here.

There is some nice character development in the show, as O'Neill and Teal'c continue to develop their banter, with Teal'c as the straight man - Teal'c trying to smile, for example. Daniel is still pretty subdued; we can tell that he's not sure how to interact with Teal'c when he and Teal'c are working alone to find the device. O'Neill and Carter may be able to read each other's plans without speaking eventually, but I don't think they really did hear - nevertheless, O'Neill doesn't do anything to belittle Carter's impetuousness. Carter continues her campaign to end individual violence, no matter the cost, as she did in "Emancipation"; I think she needs to think a bit more before she leaps.

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