Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 7: "Birthright"

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Episode Information

Title: "Birthright"
Written by: Christopher Judge
Director: Peter F. Woeste
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***1/2
Reviewed on: June 6, 2007

Synopsis from GateWorld


"Birthright" has all the elements of a great Stargate SG-1 episode: SG-1 working together, character development, thorny moral issues, interesting guest characters, and evil Goal'uld actions.

SG-1 encounters a planet with a camp of rebel female Jaffa. They have fled from the control of the Goa'uld Moloc. Moloc has decreed that since only male Jaffa are the warriors he needs to populate his armies, any female Jaffa babies would be put to death immediately. The women present were either rescued from this fate to grow up in this camp, or are rebels that are secretly going against Moloc and smuggling away the female babies. The problem that the women have encountered is that when the children grow up, they must receive a symbiote or they will die.

It's been awhile since we have encountered arbitrary, blatant Goa'uld evil like this, and it's kind of a nice reminder about just why the SGC and its allies are fighting against them. The personal struggles of some of the Jaffa women against Moloc and his forces (who may be some of their male relatives) are also touching. Carter gets a lot of opportunity for some female bonding with the women. Since Moloc's regime seems to be particularly heavily male-dominated, the female Jaffa are extremely wary of all men.

The rebel female Jaffa, led by Ishta (Jolene Blalock, who plays T'Pol on Star Trek: Enterprise), purposely met up with SG-1 to request assistance. They want to ally with the SGC, providing intelligence on Moloc and their fighting forces in exchange for weapons and supplies from the SGC. Carter instead proposes that they cut their ties with the Goa'uld and try using tretonin instead of symbiotes.

Ishta and the other women are skeptical about the efficacy of tretonin. They prefer instead to continue as they have been: ambushing male Jaffa of Moloc and killing them to take the symbiotes. Teal'c feels very strongly that Jaffa should not kill Jaffa, so he tries to persuade Ishta to take the tretonin option instead. He ends up defeating Ishta in a private personal combat; when she realizes that he is using the tretonin, he proves his point on its effectiveness.

A few points here. Teal'c is against Jaffa killing Jaffa - that's a great sentiment, but it doesn't seem to keep him from organizing rebel Jaffa attacks where other Jaffa die. Or arranging for Yu or Baal to attack Anubis, which presumably involves Jaffa deaths. There's definitely a difference between strategic battles and small-scale ambushes, but I feel he is being somewhat hypocritical.

Next, Ishta accuses Teal'c of hiding the fact that he is on tretonin. Initially I agreed with her, but the I realized that Teal'c is not hiding it by not bringing it up - he's implying that it makes no difference, so it's not worth mentioning. However, this is certainly a new attitude that he has developed since earlier in the season in "Orpheus".

Finally, the fight scene did not look very good to me. Something about the film speed or the lighting made it look rushed and fake to me. Blah.

Ishta decides to proceed with small-scale use of tretonin and enlists four volunteers to go to the SGC to have their symbiotes removed (and stored) and replaced by tretonin. While the experiment is underway, she and Teal'c spend some time getting to know each other and "comforting" each other. Teal'c speaks glowingly of his late wife, Drey'auc, which I suppose just goes to show that Jaffa don't speak ill of the dead, either; while I don't doubt Teal'c loved Drey'auc, they certainly had their problems, and Teal'c had no reservations in having an affair with Shau'noc (in season 4's "Crossroads").

We also learn more about the role of Jaffa women. We haven't seen that much of them in the past - Shau'noc was a priestess, and it wasn't clear whether Drey'auc had a specific trade or job. Apparently Jaffa women receive warrior training, because when the male Jaffa are off fighting for the Goa'uld, they may be called on to defend their planet. However, female Jaffa are not allowed to be part of the standing forces of a Goa'uld. I also got the impression that Moloc was a particularly misogynistic Goa'uld and encouraged that in his followers, since Ishta and the other describe some pretty poor treatment on their homeworld at the hands of their male relatives.

Meanwhile, Daniel spends some time working his people magic and getting to know some of the Jaffa women, especially a girl who will be the next to need a symbiote. He wants to convince her to take the tretonin instead, even though her older sister is dead set against it.

Unfortunately, the SGC (and the Tok'ra, who make the tretonin) have not yet worked out all the potential adverse reactions, and one of the volunteers dies. At the same time, the girl comes of age and needs a symbiote, so Ishta curses Teal'c and the SGC and heads off with companions to procure a symbiote by ambush. I have to say that I admire the SGC's honesty and Daniel's urgency in informing the women of the death immediately, but I wonder if it could be more diplomatically done. In particular, I wish a Jaffa had witnessed the dying woman's refusal to take back her symbiote and to remain on the tretonin - perhaps a recording could have been made.

While the mission is gone, the girl tells Daniel she wants to take the tretonin instead, and so Daniel and Teal'c take her to the SGC and start the drug. Thank goodness she doesn't have a bad reaction - Dr. Frasier seems to think that since she never had a symbiote the adverse reactions were less likely.

Ishta and companions successfully ambush a group of male Jaffa. As Ishta goes to strike a killing blow to a Jaffa and take his symbiote, the Jaffa says that he wants freedom. Ishta realizes that this Jaffa could have been an ally, and is horrified to think about how many Jaffa she has killed that could have been allies. This thought clarifies her thinking, and she resolves that they will not kill any more Jaffa for symbiotes - if one is needed, then tretonin will be used instead.

In the end, the SGC supplies the female Jaffa with supplies, lots of tretonin, and training on using it. Presumably the SGC will be getting intelligence from the women in return.

This episode really let the strengths of the SG-1 members shine through: Teal'c moral convictions, Daniel's ability to relate to people, and Carter's resourcefulness and empathy. O'Neill did not have much to do, but then as the leader, he did have to set their course of action. It was good to see Teal'c get the chance for some female companionship, and the kiss between him and Ishta at the end certainly will be the story in the SGC for a long time to come!

The female Jaffa have certainly chosen to make a major change. One of them remarked how switching from the symbiotes to tretonin will just switch their dependency from the Goa'uld to the humans instead. That's a very valid point - we know that the SGC under General Hammond would never withhold the tretonin, but what if someone higher up orders it? And how would the women feel if they knew that the tretonin was originally created by the Tok'ra? (It's not clear whether the Tok'ra are still manufacturing it exclusively, or if Earth can now do that.) The women will also have a rough road ahead of them as they encounter problems like Teal'c did: longer healing times, the need for sleep instead of kelnorim, and possible psychological problems. And who knows if there will be any longer-term adverse effects, as seen in season 6's "Cure".

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