Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 10: "The Shroud"

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Episode Information

Title: "The Shroud"
Story by: Robert C. Cooper and Brad Wright
Teleplay by: Robert C. Cooper
Director: Andy Mikita
Rating (out of 4 stars): *** 1/2
Reviewed on: May 18, 2007. Revised January 4, 2008.

Synopsis from GateWorld


The single best thing about this episode: O'Neill is back! And with attitude!

SG-1 discovers that Daniel, who has been Adria's prisoner, has been transformed into a Prior, complete with a Prior's powers given by the Ori. They quickly devise a plan to capture Daniel, hoping to somehow un-Prior him.

Then the plot thickens. Daniel quickly reveals that even though he has been transformed into a Prior, he does not in fact believe in the Ori's goals and pretended to convert to Origin in order to deceive Adria, gain the powers of a Prior, and set off Merlin's anti-Ori weapon in the Ori's home galaxy. He's been waiting (!) for SG-1 to capture him, so he has a plausible reason to be away from Adria.

Daniel relates his story via flashbacks to his interaction with Adria. I really, really wish that these flashbacks has been used as contemporaneous scenes in previous episodes, rather than nearly ignoring Daniel's plight. Slightly altering the flashback scenes and setting them in "Line in the Sand" two episodes ago would've given some nice lead-in to this episode. Plus, the idea of Vala trying to un-brainwash Tomin at the same time Adria was trying to brainwash Daniel would have been very symmetric.

Daniel's plan is that he will take his anti-Ori weapon, steal an Ori ship, and send it through the supergate to the Ori galaxy, where it will detonate. The catch is that he has to get the SGC to shut down the supergate. They have been holding it open since "The Pegasus Project" in order to prevent more Ori ships from entering the Milky Way. Consequently, if Daniel's plan doesn't kill the Ori, then they will be free to enter the galaxy until the SGC can re-establish a wormhole. Daniel is also operating under a deadline: Merlin's memories are still in his brain, but Merlin has "programmed" Daniel so that Daniel's body and mind will change back to before Merlin was downloaded into him. This would also cause Daniel to be un-Priored, which is a good thing, but Daniel only has about one day left before this happens. If he doesn't have his Prior abilities, he cannot fly the Ori ship.

Needless to say, SG-1, Landry and the international committee that runs the SGC do not believe Daniel. General O'Neill is brought in to speak to Daniel, in a scene that is just wonderful. I have missed the interaction between them! O'Neill points out that Daniel may have been compromised. Daniel tries to draw on their past trust and actions to convince O'Neill that he's still the "real Daniel" and therefore trustworthy. Daniel even explicitly brings up his support of O'Neill in season 6's "Abyss", when Daniel appeared to O'Neill when O'Neill was being tortured to death by Baal repeatedly. This is not an occurrence that Daniel and O'Neill discuss much, presumably because it's obviously so painful for O'Neill. Clearly, Daniel is desperate to have actually mentioned it. O'Neill is not quite convinced that Daniel is telling the truth.

Teal'c also speaks with Daniel to try to ascertain his truthfulness. Apparently Teal'c has not yet developed Bra'tac's ability to stare someone in the eye and divine the true nature of his heart, so he must use conversation instead. Teal'c also concludes Daniel can be believed.

Woolsey, the representative of the international committee governing the SGC, is not convinced. He thinks Daniel should be executed, because once the anti-Prior device wears off on Daniel, he'll be too powerful for them. (It's explicitly mentioned that Woolsey may be overreacting to his mistake of not killing Khalek last season in "Prototype".) Generals Landry and O'Neill aren't partial to this plan, and so Woolsey compromises with the decision to place Daniel in stasis so that he can hopefully be un-Priored at a later date. They also devise an alternate plan: SG-1 (without Daniel) will take the anti-Ori weapon and an Ori ship and detonate the weapon themselves. Daniel agrees to provide instructions on the ship and weapon.

Vala also talks to Daniel. True to form, she does it while perched atop his lap. Usually she can't be serious to save her life, but she does realize how crucial the whole situation is for Daniel, Earth, and the entire Milky Way galaxy. She voices everyone's thoughts: they want to believe him, but they have to be absolutely certain of him when the stakes are so high. Vala can actually be mature! She also pledges not to let Daniel be executed (I guess she didn't hear about the change in plans yet) - exactly what would she have done to stop this?

Finally, Woolsey comes in person to inform Daniel of his decision, which I do respect, although I think Vala's description of him as a "weasel man" is pretty accurate. However, Daniel doesn't really like this idea. The anti-Prior device is no longer effective on him, so he uses his Prior powers to escape. He takes over the Odyssey, beams O'Neill in, and follows SG-1 to the Ori ship near the supergate.

Daniel and O'Neill on the ship together is also amusing: O'Neill is there against his wishes, but he puts up only a pro-forma protest. I think he enjoys being out in the field again. And, I think he trusts Daniel completely, despite what his good sense might be telling him. And besides, who can't understand Daniel's comment that he wouldn't let Woolsey freeze him? I also found it interesting is this scene that Daniel naturally took the command chair of the ship instead of O'Neill; this makes sense since he is in control of the situation, but he seems very comfortable doing it. I think Daniel may be the character that's changed the most since the beginning of the series, and it really shows here.

Things are proceeding well on the Ori ship: Vala and Mitchell have completed the weapon, and Carter and Teal'c take over the ship. However, it proves fortunate that Daniel also came, since Adria makes her presence known on the Ori ship. Daniel is able to knock her out so that the weapon's timer can be set and the ship set to head through the supergate to the Ori galaxy. O'Neill beams SG-1 back to the Odyssey safely. Not knowing about Adria's presence, he leaves her behind and she goes through the supergate on the ship. (Would he have beamed her back if he had known?)

The ship successfully goes through the gate. The countdown time elapses, but there is no sign that the weapon detonated. Frankly, I don't even know if there was supposed to be any kind of physical explosion, since it was designed to destroy ascended beings. However, some time later, several Ori ships enter the galaxy through the supergate. Are these ships under the direction of the Ori? Or are they just commanded by the very pissed-off followers of the Ori come to avenge their dead gods? We don't know. At the end of the episode, SG-1 and O'Neill debate whether they did the right thing, or if they've just made the situation worse.

Did Adria live? We don't know, but I'm guessing so, because it will make things more complicated down the road. Will the Priors still have their powers? I really don't know about that... do the Ori directly power the Priors, or do they just endow them with some kind of unseen technology? Daniel (I believe) says something to the effect that the Priors will still be powerful, which implies that they will stil have their powers.

Meanwhile, some preparations by Merlin while he was in Daniel's mind have timed Daniel's body to de-Prior naturally, so Daniel is back to normal. How convenient.

The SGC and its allies have its work cut out for them, even if the Ori are dead, just fighting their former forces. Even if the SGC somehow confirms the Ori are dead, how would they convince the Ori's followers that this is true? Certainly the higher-level Priors and Adria would know the truth, but they have enough of their own powers to keep up a charade that the Ori are still alive. In the long term, presumably the death of the Ori would be detrimental to the movement, but that might not happen soon enough to save the Milky Way.

I have to comment one more time on O'Neill's return. I think this is the best of his return visits (versus the one in "200" or his Stargate Atlantis visits), because he is actively involved in the plot in a way that makes sense. He and Daniel have been together since the beginning, so it makes sense that he would come to personally evaluate Daniel and the crucial information that he brings. And I have missed his attitude! He's the only character that is consistently snarky and irreverant; of course, he can only get away with it because he's done so much for Earth. It was a nice touch, also, that he showed up wearning the "casual" green fatigues that SG-1 often wears rather than the dress uniform like Landry. Seeing him again also reminded me about how he really did command SG-1, unlike Mitchell who must try to herd SG-1 into doing what he wants. (For example, O'Neill ordered Carter to leave Fifth behind in season 6's "Unnatural Selection" I can't see Mitchell managing to do that.)

What is the shroud referred to in the episode title? A shroud is used to wrap a body for burial. However, it can also be "something that conceals, protects, or screens" (according to Houghton Mifflin); I suppose Daniel's "use" of the Prior powers concealed him from Adria. One might also consider the episode to be preparatory for the figurative burial of the Ori.

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