Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 7: "Death Knell"

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Episode Information

Title: "Death Knell"
Written by: Peter DeLuise
Director: Peter DeLuise
Rating (out of 4 stars): *** 1/2
Reviewed on: June 21, 2007

Synopsis from GateWorld


This episode has a lot of action, plus a lot of political development that has followed from events earlier in the series.

Carter and her father, Jacob, are working on an anti-Kull soldier weapon at the SGC's alpha site. The weapon is almost working, but Carter is fixing up the power supply for it. There is still a mixture of humans, Jaffa, and Tok'ra working together at the base.

The base is attacked by Anubis's forces, including at least one Kull soldier. Some people are evacuated to Earth. The base commander is forced to set off the self-destruct to prevent the enemy from acquiring too many of their secrets and technology. A small additional number of people manage to escape the self-destruct by fleeing into the surrounding countryside.

The rest of SG-1 gates to the base from Earth to assess the damage from the attack and look for survivors. They find a crater in place of the base, which was created by the self-destruct explosive. This was quite impressive-looking, and really gave a good feel for how seriously the SGC members take their duty to not give anything to the enemy. It also sets the deadly serious tone of the remainder of the episode, which is certainly appropriate.

Some search turns up a small number of survivors, including Jacob Carter. Jacob gives O'Neill and Teal'c the anti-Kull weapon, but says it isn't fully effective without the new power supply that Carter has. Carter's status is unknown, but the last Jacob saw her, she was on the run, pursued by a Kull soldier. O'Neill and Teal'c continue to search for her.

Meanwhile, General Hammond is investigating how Anubis knew where the alpha site was. It also seems that Anubis attacked because he knew of the work being done on the anti-Kull weapon. The Jaffa and Tok'ra immediately blame each other. The hostility that they had shown toward each other in season 6's "Allegiance" has still been below the surface and tempers quickly erupt here.

A nice touch with this plot is that both groups have good reason to suspect the other group. The Tok'ra had an operative high up in the ranks of the Goa'uld Olakon's forces. The Jaffa claim that this operative could have been compromised. Plus, they are enraged by the fact that this operative didn't try to help free Olakon's Jaffa so they could choose to join the rebels. The Tok'ra claim that the Jaffa compromised the alpha site when the Jaffa sent a small team to meet with Olakon's Jaffa. As Jacob says, there's probably no way to tell whether the Jaffa or the Tok'ra are right.

These suspicions are the straw that broke the camel's back in regard to the alliance between Earth, the rebel Jaffa, and the Tok'ra. The Jaffa don't like being ordered around by humans (who control the alpha site) and don't like putting up with Tok'ra arrogance (who does?). The Tok'ra have a long-standing distrust of Jaffa, and they don't like revealing information about their operations to Earth. General Hammond and Daniel desperately try to hold the alliance together, but they have no success. As Daniel says, it makes no sense to dissolve the alliance now, when an anti-Kull weapon is nearly ready to use and enable them to win some real victories against Anubis.

In the past, Jacob has been one person who has been able to connect the three factions, and I believe he is respected by even the Jaffa. However, Jacob finds out that some Tok'ra no longer trust him, believing that he is too close to the humans of Earth and is being unduly influenced by his human host. Consequently, he is unable to represent the Tok'ra to the Jaffa like he could in the past, and he can't patch things up. This is a place where Bra'tac is missed - he and Jacob made a good team for holding the alliance together, but Bra'tac is inexplicably absent.

I have to admit that the Jaffa, at least have a point. The Jaffa leader says that they want to do things for themselves - run their own bases, devise their own missions, set up their own free society. They are eager to enjoy their freedom, not to be curtailed by the SGC. The Tok'ra, on the other hand, just seem to be following their usual arrogant tendencies; they should be wise enough to realize that full disclosure of relevant operations to Earth is a small price to pay for mutual assistance.

While this is going on, back at the alpha site, we learn that Carter is alive, but is seriously injured. She draws on all her survival skills to stay alive and evade the Kull soldier tracking her.

The chase by the Kull soldier made me wonder just how smart they are. Could a Kull soldier plan a trap for its prey? Could it conceive that its prey might try to trick it? We don't see any evidence that the soldier does any more than track Carter by footprints, sight, and sound.

We do learn from Jacob that Kull soldiers can be injured or killed if they are hit with something with enough kinetic energy. I had complained in previous episode reviews (such as "Evolution, Part 1") that hitting a Kull soldier with bullets should at least be transferring momentum to it and pushing it, even if it doesn't hurt it. Apparently bullets just don't have enough kinetic energy. Jacob thinks a missile might be energetic enough, so General Hammond orders a UAV armed with missiles to join the search for Carter.

The Kull soldier shoots down the UAV (I guess it's smart enough to realize that the surveillance is bad). This lets the SGC know the general location it is in (and presumably so is Carter), and its gives Carter some resources. Carter quickly hot-wires the downed UAV so that she can fire its missile. The Kull soldier conveniently steps into the target zone, but the missile only manages to bury him in rubble, not kill him. I think the missile looks like it would have hit him a little low, so possibly its kinetic energy didn't transfer to him very well - I don't think this completely rules out the possibility of missiles.

O'Neill and Teal'c arrive on the scene just in time to use the anti-Kull weapon on the soldier. It kills him - nothing like field testing! Carter and O'Neill have a nice moment where she leans on him for support after such an ordeal.

As Carter recovers in the SGC, Jacob tells her he's going to be away for awhile, trying to rebuild his reputation with the Tok'ra. The alliance between Earth, the Jaffa, and the Tok'ra is essentially over, the "death knell" for which the episode was named.

Where does the series go from here? The SGC now has a weapon to use against Anubis, but they may have more trouble using it effectively without support and intelligence from their former allies. Since they are no longer sharing information and coordinating operations, it's possible that they will start stepping on each others' toes and running missions that interfere with each other. I had just recently in my review for "Evolution, Part 1" been saying how effective and useful the alliance was for them, but now they've gone and ruined it. However, the tensions behind this break have been obvious for some time, and it's very realistic.

What about the characters? Carter has suffered her second ordeal and near-death in just a handful of episodes (the previous being "Grace") - she's not been having a good year. Besides the physical injuries, it has to be very emotionally draining. How much do you suffer before you decide the job's not worth it? Now she's also found out that her father will be out of touch for an indeterminate period of time, just when their relationship was growing.

O'Neill and Teal'c are more focused and no-nonsense than we've seen them in a long time in their search for Carter. They know the stakes and are set on finding her. Fortunately they do so just in time.

Daniel sees his diplomatic efforts fail yet again (as they had recently in "Fallout"), but the effects on Earth could be much more severe. While it's not his fault he couldn't keep the alliance together, he must be frustrated.

Jacob Carter gets a lot of development. Some of the only humor in the episode is when he reveals that he has given up coffee because Selmak doesn't like it - clearly he hasn't adjusted to it yet. It's also an interesting facet of the Tok'ra that they consider the free humans of Earth to be too willful to be good hosts. Apparently even though they claim that the Tok'ra blend symbiote and host personalities, they prefer the symbiote to be the "alpha personality", so to speak. Jacob and Selmak seemed to be completely surprised at the distrust in him that has developed. He's wise to try to fix that.

Although I feel like the dissolution of the alliance was probably inescapable, I do feel like there were some avenues that were not explored. Where was Bra'tac? Even without him, why didn't Teal'c try to convince the Jaffa leader to change his mind? Teal'c has fervently believed the alliance between the Jaffa and Earth to be crucial to defeating the Goa'uld. I know Teal'c was busy searching for Carter, but I feel like the SGC may have been able to either delay the discussion on the alliance or persuade Teal'c to return.

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