Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 3: "Rules of Engagement"

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Episode Information

Title: "Rules of Engagement"
Written by: Terry Curtis Fox
Director: William Gereghty
Rating (out of 4 stars): ** 1/2
Reviewed on: January 1, 2015

Synopsis from GateWorld


SG-1 discovers a planet where young soldiers of Apophis are practicing to infiltrate the Earth.

SG-1 arrives at a planet to search for SG-11, which has been missing for some time. (I think I missed exactly why it's taken so long for SG-1 to go looking for them.) They come upon what looks to be a battle between an SG team and Jaffa. When O'Neill can't contact the SG team via their communication system, he leads SG-1 into the fight to try to help. In short order, all of SG-1 is shot by an ambush.

Now, we can't have all of SG-1 killed off at the beginning of the episode, so clearly there is something more going on. SG-1 wakes up in a military tent. Apparently they had been hit by some type of stun weapon. They are informed that they are "dead" by a very young-looking solider.

After some back and forth, SG-1 is able to talk to the commander of the forces, Captain Rogers, who is also quite young. In the course of the conversation, Teal'c realizes what is happening and takes control of the conversation and the situation. The soldiers, both SG-marked and Jaffa, are recruits of Apophis. They have been put on the planet to have continual war games and training for the recruits. Their weapons are intars, meaning that they look identical to actual weapons, but instead give a stun to the target. Intars are identified by a red crystal, and can be things like machine guns and staff weapons.

Teal'c assumes the rule of a Jaffa master visiting the soldiers in order to inspect and test them. A good number of the soldiers are dressed like Earth SG teams or military and are practicing their English skills and colloquial speech so that they can infiltrate the Earth at some future date. Teal'c realizes that this was a back-up plan by Apophis, but all of the Jaffa instructors left to aid Apophis in his last fight against Sokar and the training planet has been forgotten.

Once he's endorsed by Teal'c, O'Neill tries to convince the young soldiers that Apophis is dead, but they think he's just testing their faith. Apophis is a god, so of course he can't die.

In the meantime, a bit of drama is provided by the fact that SG-1's real weapons have been inadvertently mixed up with the intars, and so some of the training soldiers are out in the battle games with deadly weapons. They tap Rogers to help them track down the real weapons, but Rogers is struck by a real staff weapon blast and badly injured.

SG-1 wants to take Rogers back to Earth for treatment, but the rules of engagement state that he can't leave. Daniel smoothly lies about how Rogers will be visiting Apophis in person to report on the status of the training, and Rogers agrees. The other problem is that Rogers's real injury has prompted the "final challenge" of the training: the young soldiers will fight with real weapons to the death, and the survivors will become part of Apophis's personal guard. (Apparently this is what Teal'c did.) Of course, SG-1 doesn't want all of the trainees killing themselves for no reason.

SG-1 returns to Earth with Rogers, who is very ticked off to find Apophis isn't really there. Dr. Fraiser fixes him up, so he will survive, but he's not cooperating with the SGC in solving the problem of what to do with the trainee soldiers. Finally, SG-1 hits upon the idea of showing Rogers Apophis's death (earlier this season in "Serpent's Song"); they pull out the trusty VHS video of Apophis's dying words and show him. This does in fact convince Rogers that Apophis is not a god, but is dead.

SG-1 and Rogers decide that the best way to stop the final challenge and convince the other soldiers that Apophis is dead is to also show them the video. Conveniently, we had previously seen a sort of public-announcement video device used by Apophis and the Jaffa masters to speak to the soldiers. Carter will tie in the video to this device, and voila, all the soldier will see the video.

Of course, when they return to the training planet, the final challenge is already underway. SG-1 and Rogers have intars, so they can shoot people down with impunity. They make their way to the base camp, access the PA device and show the video. As one, the soldiers agree that Apophis is dead. Rogers tells them that they will all go home now.

I think that the idea of Apophis having a training camp for infiltration soldiers is reasonably clever and logical, although it does seem rather devious for a Goa'uld. I feel like most of them prefer a brute-force approach to their enemies, but I suppose Apophis was in a lot of trouble and had to be creative.

However, the episode was too simplistic in how it dealt with the soldiers. First, all of the soldiers seemed way too similar and had very little in the way of personalities. Second, given how devoted the trainees were to the rules of engagement and Apophis, I find it highly unlikely that they'd believe some video that purports to show his death. I think it's much more likely that some would believe it and some wouldn't, thereby leading to fighting among them.

How are they all going to get home? Are they all from worlds with Stargates? Do they know the appropriate Stargate addresses? Do they have homes to return to, or did Apophis destroy them? What will the reaction to the soldiers be when they return home claiming that Apophis is dead? There are a lot of unanswered questions to this that aren't even hinted at.

I think this episode had a huge missed opportunity: as soon as I realized the place was a training camp, it seemed like SG-1 should take control of it by bringing Bra'tac in to take charge. He would've provided a familiar face and attitude for the trainees, while also being able to convey the message that Apophis was not a god and that he was dead. But that wasn't in the cards.

The plot point of having SG-1's real weapons mixed in with the intars seemed pretty silly. Really, absolutely no one noticed that they got weapons that were different from usual? And they didn't notice that when they shot those weapons their targets actually bled and/or died? This seemed just strange to me and a way to take up some time in the episode.

As I said in the episode description, I think I missed the situation with SG-11. It was good that SG-1 finally learned their fate, but why hadn't anyone looked until now? After all, according to the description in the episode, SG-11 was killed some time prior to the events in "Serpent's Song".

This episode didn't really tell us anything new about our characters or the Stargate universe. It was amusing to see O'Neill get yelled at drill-sergeant-style at the beginning of the episode (and clear that he was no longer used to it). Teal'c had some fun assuming the Jaffa master role. Even so, none of the characters really pushed their boundaries.

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