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As the episode opens, Daniel is briefing SG-1 and General Hammond on a new hypothesis he's made concerning mythological pantheons. He believes that the Goa'uld were not the only alien race to visit the Earth and pose as gods. He thinks that Norse mythology was also based on visiting aliens, but based on the traditions of Norse mythology, he believes these aliens were benevolent toward humans and even protected them.
When Daniel shows an image of Thor's hammer, Teal'c recognizes it. He says it is the symbol of the planet Cimmeria, which Goa'uld have forbidden anyone (including themselves) to visit. Apparently something bad happened to the Goal'uld there in the past, which places the planet firmly at the top of the SGC's to-explore list. Hammond approves an exploratory visit to the planet, which Teal'c knows the address of.
SG-1 arrives on Cimmeria with very little grace, tumbling through the Stargate. The primitively-dressed natives laugh at them, and then begin chanting Thor's name. In front of the Stargate is a tall obelisk topped with Thor's Hammer. It directs a beam at SG-1, sweeping over each team member, passing over each until it stops at Teal'c, who reacts in pain. O'Neill had ordered Daniel to start dialing home for a retreat, but clearly it's going to be too late. O'Neill tackles Teal'c to knock him out of the beam, and both of them disappear. It's not clear if they are dead (vaporized) or transported away.
A woman, Gairwyn, rides up on horseback and greets Carter and Daniel. When Carter asks about what happened to O'Neill and Teal'c, Gairwyn confirms that Thor's Hammer has found them to be Goa'uld and gotten rid of them. However, she also doesn't know if they are dead or simply transported. Gairwyn agrees to take them to someone who may know what has happened to them.
After some walking, they approach Kendra's homestead. From a distance, they see Kendra use a Goa'uld hand device to heal a teenage boy. Carter and Daniel are upset, but Gairwyn assures them that Kendra is benevolent. They approach Kendra, and after some discussion, find out about her past.
Kendra was originally from another world and was taken as a Goa'uld host. She had received extensive mental training as a temple priestess, so was able to retain some control over her mental abilities. She claims she taunted her Goa'uld master about what must be hidden on the forbidden planet of Cimmeria until the Goa'uld came here. The Hammer by the Stargate transported her inside a mountain into a labyrinth. At the end of the labyrinth was yet another device called Thor's Hammer, which killed the Goa'uld and left her free.
Daniel is ecstatic about this information, for two reasons. First, it means that something of the host can/does survive when a Goa'uld takes it over - the host's personality and memories are not irrevocably destroyed or absorbed by the Goa'uld. Second, it means that it is possible to remove the Goa'uld parasite from the host and have the host survive - something that the SGC failed miserably at in "The Enemy Within" at the beginning of this season. Both of these facts means that there is hope for retrieving and saving his wife, Sha're.
More immediately, Kendra believes that both O'Neill and Teal'c should be alive in the labyrinth right now. O'Neill should be able to simply leave, since he doesn't have a Goa'uld. Teal'c, however, cannot leave with his Goa'uld larva. He will die without the larva, which presents a problem. Carter and Daniel ask Kendra to take them to where she exited the labyrinth. The trip by foot is very long, especially since Kendra left there a long time ago and doesn't remember the route well.
Meanwhile, O'Neill and Teal'c have beamed into the labyrinth. In the initial cave, a vision of Thor appears, with full viking regalia. However, he talks in English and certainly doesn't talk about Viking or Norse topics. He addresses them as a Goa'uld, announcing that he is the supreme commander of the Asgard fleet. He declares that the Asgard have designated Cimmeria as a safe world for developing sentient species, and the Goa'uld were warned to stay away. Thor sentences the Goa'uld to death for crimes against the host and all other beings it has presumably injured and killed. Thor goes on to say that Goa'uld technology will not function in the labyrinth, but there is basic sustenance. He reveals that when the Goa'uld gets tired of living like this, it can go and face Thor's Hammer in the labyrinth, which will kill the Goa'uld and release the host.
Throughout this speech, O'Neill tries to talk to Thor, but it becomes obvious that the message is a hologram recording. They can't explain that Teal'c isn't a Goa'uld, but a Jaffa that is helping them. Teal'c implores O'Neill to leave without him, but O'Neill rejects that out of hand. They begin exploring the labyrinth to find a way out.
As they explore, they find some human and Goa'uld remains. Clearly this trap has been effective in the past at killing Goa'uld, at least. However, Teal'c says that it appears that they were killed by something and then eaten. Strangely, neither of them seems very bothered by this.
Later, O'Neill asks Teal'c to try shooting his staff weapon. Unsurprisingly to either of them, it doesn't work. However, O'Neill's machine gun does shoot - apparently its technology is too primitive to have been blocked by Thor. We see some kind of being wake up and begin to track them.
After some time, the being reveals itself. In broken language, it identifies itself as Unas, "the first one". He recognizes Teal'c as a Jaffa, and orders him to kill O'Neill. Teal'c is shocked almost beyond words. The Unas attacks Teal'c, and O'Neill shoots him. O'Neill and Teal'c check the Unas's body, and thinking it dead, leave it.
Teal'c later explains that the Unas was the original host being of the Goa'uld; in legend, they originated on the same planet as the Goa'uld. Teal'c says that the stories say an Unas can be very long-lived and have great regenerative powers, but he believes they are just stories. Unfortunately, the Unas doesn't know its powers are mythical, and it heals itself and follows them.
O'Neill and Teal'c reach the final room of the labyrinth, with the opening to the outside in the shape of Thor's Hammer. O'Neill can walk right through it, but Teal'c is paralyzed in place. O'Neill pulls him out.
The Unas arrives to threaten them again. All they can do is shoot it with O'Neill's machine gun and pistol, which are nearly out of ammunition. Teal'c begins wrestling with the injured Unas, and eventually forces him into Thor's Hammer, where they are both trapped. O'Neill pulls Teal'c out - he is safe, and his Goa'uld still alive. The Unas eventually falls out of the hammer - its Goa'uld is dead, so it will no longer heal and dies.
Carter, Daniel, and Kendra have arrived outside the labyrinth with fortuitous timing. They enter the labyrinth from Thor's Hammer and introduce Kendra. Daniel can hardly keep his words from tripping over themselves in his excitement as he explains how Thor's Hammer could save Sha're and Skaara. But O'Neill has already figured it out, and the problem is that Teal'c is trapped here now. O'Neill refuses to abandon Teal'c and refuses to let Daniel even consider it. He orders Daniel to take Teal'c's staff weapon to the other side of Thor's Hammer, in order to shoot the Hammer and deactivate it so Teal'c can leave.
They walk back to the Stargate. SG-1 warns Kendra to seal up the exit to the labyrinth. They reason that the Goa'uld don't know Thor's Hammer doesn't work any more, and if they do arrive and get sent into the labyrinth, at leas they won't be able to escape. SG-1 departs the planet on good terms with Kendra and the other natives.
This episode has major implications for the series. Personally, for Daniel and O'Neill, it means that they have some hope of getting their loved ones back from the Goa'uld. Even if Thor's Hammer was deactivated her, it means that there is an alien race out there with technology that can remove a Goa'uld parasite. Now they just have to find that race and take Sha're and Skaara to them. No problem! Sarcasm aside, it's the biggest hope they've found since Sha're and Skaara were abducted.
The hologram message from Thor was a hoot, seeing a huge Viking talk about regulations and protecting sentient species. However, the message has implications beyond its basic meaning. The Asgard are apparently a race with very advanced technology. They are also apparently highly organized, with numbered decrees and a high council that makes decisions. And, perhaps most importantly, they have no problem telling the Goa'uld where to stick it. They seem to be able to hold their own against the Goa'uld.
The Asgard also seem to be protective of "less-developed" sentient races. If they are protecting the humans on Cimmeria, and according to legend transported them there, why have they stopped protecting the Earth? Maybe they don't realize the Earth's Stargate is back in working order - until then, the Earth was protected by its isolation. One of the big questions this episode leaves is: how can Earth contact the Asgard?
Thor's message also mentioned the Goa'uld "system lords". This implies that there are a number of powerful Goa'uld out there. Earth may need to be careful in their exploring in order to not draw their attention.
The introduction of the Unas was interesting back-story on the Goa'uld. So far, we haven't run into any other Goa'uld in non-human hosts. Do Goa'uld choose humans preferentially now? If so, why? It may be wise for SG-1 to remember that just because a being isn't human doesn't mean it's not Goa'uld-controlled.
There was a pleasing and apt detail in this episode: Daniel had requested that greeting boxes be made to give to new species that they meet. We saw the first one here - there were stylized human figures on the front. Daniel says that inside the box is information about Earth culture and history, and it was made by the Sagan Institute.
The "Sagan Institute" doesn't exist, but it's a clear reference to Carl Saga and the SETI Institute. Carl Sagan was a famous astronomer and science popularizer, who died in 1996, the year before this episode originally aired. Sagan was an astronomer involved with the Voyager spacecraft and was instrumental to getting the "golden records" sent along on each spacecraft. Each golden record contained images, natural sounds, music, and greetings, all from many Earth cultures. The purpose of the golden records was to provide information about Earth in the extremely unlikely case that the spacecraft were ever discovered by aliens. If the Stargate program really did exist, I think Sagan would find it very appropriate to have greeting boxes to give to alien cultures.
While this episode was seminal in the information we learn about the Goa'uld and the Asgard and was technically well-done, I didn't find it as exciting or compelling as it could have been. Perhaps it's just because it's not new to me at this watching (although it's been several years at least since I've seen it), but I did not find it very suspenseful. O'Neill and Teal'c didn't really seem to be all that worried about being stuck in the labyrinth. The Unas didn't seem that scary; once we saw how Thor's Hammer worked, we knew how the Unas would have to be neutralized. So I enjoyed this episode a lot intellectually, but viscerally it wasn't quite as impressive, hence only a three-star rating.