If you have any comments on this review, please email me at the address at the bottom.
While exploring a new planet, SG-1 comes upon a civilization that seems to be a Christian village from the dark ages. The interesting aspect of this, as Daniel points out, is that the original humans must have been transported away from the Earth long after the Earth'r original Stargate was buried - so who moved them?
As SG-1 enters the village, the natives rush to hide, thinking that they are demons because they came from the Stargate ("the circle of darkness"). The only person who doesn't hide is Mary, a young woman who is chained to a post. Apparently she also has been accused of being possessed by demons, probably because she's sick. Only one native is brave enough to approach them, Simon. He begs SG-1 not to hurt Mary.
Of course, O'Neill doesn't take well to being called a demon and scoffs at the villagers. SG-1 releases Mary; Simon leads them to his house, where they care for Mary. O'Neill realizes that she has chicken pox.
While they are discussing what's going on in the village, an actual demon arrives...or rather, what passes quite well as a demon: an Unas. Apparently Unas is a race, not just one being, so the one O'Neill and Teal'c killed in season 1 in "Thor's Hammer" was not the only one. The Unas demands that five villagers be waiting for him upon his return the next morning. SG-1 realizes that the Unas is collecting hosts for Sokar.
SG-1 tries to convince Simon, Mary, and the other villagers that there are no demons, not even the Unas. However, they are unconvinced, especially the village canon, who has the authority to choose who will be sacrificed to go with the Unas. It's immediately clear from the canon's attitude that he uses his authority as power to make the villagers do whatever he wants. He has some actual power, too, as he activates one of his rings, which calls up a lightning storm. A bolt hits the ground in the middle of SG-1, knocking them unconscious.
When SG-1 wakes up, they are locked up and accused of being demons. Teal'c, in particular, has been singled out and removed for testing. These tests are some of the infamous catch-22-type tests that were made famous as being used during the Salem witch trials.
First, Teal'c is accused of having a mark of the devil that is impervious to pain. Sure enough, a hot poker is applied to Teal'c's forehead emblem, and he doesn't seem to feel it. I'm not quite sure why he doesn't; he doesn't seem to be just not expressing the pain - he really doesn't seem to feel it.
In the next test, he will be weighted down and thrown in the lake. If he sinks, he's innocent; if he somehow comes up to the surface and survives, he's a demon. Gotta love the logic in that - die to prove you can die. SG-1 can't do anything as they watch Teal'c be tossed into the lake, never to surface. His body is eventually recovered for a proper burial, since his death indicates he wasn't a demon after all.
That evening, while Teal'c's body is being prepared for burial, the canon tells SG-1 that they must all be innocent, so they are free to leave the village (and presumably the planet - I'm assuming the canon wants them gone). However, they discover that Mary is still thought to be a demon, and Simon is preparing to trepanate her in order to try to release the demon from her head. Of course, Daniel can't stand for that and offers to take Simon and Mary back to the Earth with them.
Meanwhile, Teal'c apparently comes back to life. It turns out that he wasn't really dead - his larval Goa'uld kept him alive while he was in a deep state of kelnorim. Of course, the villagers don't understand this at all, and the canon decides they must be demons after all. All of SG-1 and Mary are chained up in the village square as the sacrifices for the Unas in the morning.
The Unas realizes that SG-1 is not from this planet, but accepts them as sacrifices anyway. The Unas leads them away by their chain. They escape from the Unas by throwing themselves down a hill a la The Princess Bride. They meet up with Simon in the woods, and he's brought Teal'c's staff weapon. He shoots the Unas three times, but the Unas is barely slowed down; it chases Simon into the woods while SG-1 struggles to get unchained.
Strangely, Simon and the Unas encounter the canon in the woods. By the time O'Neill and Teal'c find them, the Unas is dead and the canon is praising Simon's bravery. It appears as if the Unas died because of the cumulative effects of the staff blasts. O'Neill, Teal'c, Simon, and the canon meet the others at the Stargate.
As Carter begins to dial Earth, we can see her realize something - she feels the presence of a Goa'uld. She realizes that the Unas died because its Goa'uld left it to enter the canon. That certainly does explain why the canon has become so pleasant and cooperative - the Goa'uld wants to get SG-1 off the planet. They kill the canon.
Finally, SG-1 is able to dial home. Before they leave, they make Simon and Mary promise to bury the Stargate immediately so that Sokar cannot return and take retribution upon them.
This episode was pretty blah to me. I don't enjoy dark ages lore and certainly not the idea of demons and witch trials and so on. The planet's culture and society really didn't interest me, especially since we only saw two faces of it: the canon and Simon. Even Mary, who was in a life or death situation here was pretty much a zero in the plot.
Perhaps it was supposed to be intentionally ironic, but it seemed like every time in the episode that SG-1 proclaimed there were no demons, something happened that seemed to discredit them. How else could a dark ages person interpret an Unas? Or Teal'c seeming to rise from the dead? Or the canon later going crazy? There was no way that SG-1 had time to seriously disprove any of these.
I was glad that SG-1 spend a little bit of time thinking about the effects that killing the Unas and stopping the sacrifices would have. It was good of them to note that a spaceship from Sokar was unlikely to arrive for years (and so he may not bother at all). However, burying the Stargate didn't seem that viable to me. This is mainly because of time: it's going to take the villagers quite a long time to place the Stargate horizontally, dig a hole big enough for it, and then cover it up. Meanwhile, Sokar is going to realize pretty quickly that his Unas hasn't brought the new hosts on schedule. It seems likely to me that Sokar will show up while the villagers are in the process of burying the Stargate. That's assuming Simon and Mary really follow through with it and are able to convince the villagers to approach the formerly-forbidden object.
Why does Sokar want a supply of new hosts, anyway? He can't be needing all of them for himself. Does he really have that steady of a supply of larval Goa'uld that are maturing and needing hosts? What else could they be for?
Overall, this episode was a dud.