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At the end of the last episode, SG-13 was under attack on another planet and SG-1, Dr. Frasier, and backup were going to rescue them. Meanwhile, the reporter Emmett Bregman was trying to make a documentary on the SGC and was meeting with a lot of resistance from the personnel.
At the beginning of this episode, SG-1 and company are caught in a firefight with Goa'uld forces the likes of which we have not seen in the series for quite awhile. The fight is chaotic, fast-paced, and brutal. The original member of SG-13 that was shot down is being tended by Dr. Frasier and Daniel. O'Neill and Colonel Dixon (SG-13) realize that they must retreat through the stargate, but Dr. Frasier needs a little more time. Then O'Neill is shot by a staff weapon.
The next thing we know, all of the SGC personnel have retreated back to the SGC. Bregman is frustrated in his attempt to film the return or subsequent events. Carter stalks down the hallway in tears and nearly punches Emmett when he tries to question her. (I wish she had!) It's clear that something awful has happened.
Bregman gives an impassioned speech to his camera crew and support staff about how freedom of the press is necessary in a democracy to prevent the development of a dictatorship or military take-over. This speech is far more effective than all his blustering in the first episode. He actually seems to be serious and to care about what he's saying. He finally wins over the airmen helping him out, and they begin reporting to him what they hear from the grapevine. The gossip is that O'Neill has died. Other scenes between the main characters lead us to believe this is the case. Hammond asks Carter to speak at the memorial service, for example.
Meanwhile, Agent Woolsey of the NID has arrived to investigate the mission to rescue SG-13. How did he arrive so quickly? The gate's wormhole has barely shut off! Woolsey's contention is that letting SG-13 stay on the planet after the probe was destroyed was too risky, leading to the skirmish and the casualties. During his investigation, he interviews Carter, Daniel, and Teal'c about the mission and its background. This is a nice sequence of scenes where we keep changing between the interviewees. Needless to say, none of them are very cooperative, with their attitudes exacerbated by their recent loss. Woolsey completes his investigation; as he leaves, Hammond brings up some dirty laundry in Woolsey's past in the hopes of diverting the results of Woolsey's report - we're not clear if he's successful.
Hammond then decides that he will take advantage of Bregman's documentary project to provide a positive view of the SGC. He begins cooperating with Bregman. Bregman finds out that Daniel videotaped something important during the fight on the planet and convinces Daniel to give him the tape to use.
On the tape, we watch as the injured SG-13 member is tended by Frasier and Daniel. The airman believes that he's going to die, so he convinces Daniel to videotape a last message to his pregnant wife. On tape, we see the injured man writhing in agony and Frasier working on him. Then, suddenly, Frasier is shot by a staff weapon. She dies on the battlefield. (The injured man and O'Neill survived their injuries.)
The episode had deliberately mislead the viewers into believing that O'Neill died when it was in fact Dr. Frasier who died. I suppose we are supposed to feel "in the dark" like Bregman, but instead this approach just made me angry. It sets up a situation that when we find out O'Neill really isn't dead, we are relieved, since he is obviously the main character on the show. This belittles the death of Dr. Frasier. I feel like the episode was trying to manipulate the viewers.
After this revelation, we see more scenes between SG-1 where Frasier's death is mentioned specifically. These have a lot of nice character touches. Carter tries to find the right things to say at Frasier's memorial service, and Teal'c helps her out. We even have lots of hugging in mutual support! I think Carter, in particular, has become more free to express her bonds with SG-1 since the events earlier in the season in "Grace". At the memorial service, Carter lists the names of every person at the SGC whose life Dr. Frasier saved; this is an appropriate and touching tribute.
Bregman finishes his documentary, and Hammond praises it. The last request Bregman makes is to be able to interview O'Neill and add that to the documentary. Hammond makes it so. In a moving epilogue, Daniel visits the recovering SG-13 airman and discovers that he has named his newborn daughter Janet.
There are many positives and negatives to this episode, plus some unanswered questions. First, why did the Goa'uld (we don't even know which one it was) care so much about the planet SG-13 was on? Simply attacking the SGC team doesn't seem a sufficient reason, especially to bring that much manpower and firepower to bear. Was there something about the planet that the probe found out and transmitted before it was destroyed? We don't find out.
The next question is: why did Woolsey come to investigate this particular mission? Yes, it did seem to involve more fighting and casualties than usual, but is there more to it? He arrived on the scene so quickly it almost appears that he or his superiors were just waiting for the chance to strike. What will be the result of his investigation? Hammond tried to slap Woolsey down with the fact that he's overly concerned about finances, but Woolsey definitely had some good points. It's just that with the emotional state of mind of the entire SGC, no one is listening to him. In fact, Woolsey's point of view that such a huge project shouldn't be secret from the public is a point that really hits home - I would have to agree in general, it's just that the realities of the series force this plot point. Finally, it was a nice touch that Carter used her connections with Agent Barrett at the NID to check up on Woolsey.
Now my big problem with the episode: Dr. Frasier's death. Actually, I have two problems with it: how it was presented and why it happened. First, I can't overstate my disappointment with the misdirection in the episode to make us think someone else had died. This cheapens the effect of Frasier's death. The fact that we barely even saw her in this episode just added to muting the effect her death had on the viewers. If we had seen her chatting happily (like at the end of the last episode) and then BOOM, then that would be effective. But with half an episode spent on misdirection, that couldn't be done.
Second, she seemed to have been killed off randomly. I do not mean the fact that her death was unexpected. I mean that she seemed to have been killed purely to give the episode some deep meaning. But, really, her death was meaningless. Sure, she was killed in the line of duty saving an injured man - that part was meaningful. But where was the meaning in the series itself? We aren't likely to see much of SG-13 again. We don't know of anything crucial on the planet where the fight occurred. We don't even know which Goa'uld's forces were involved. Why pick now to kill off a major supporting character? Her death would have been much more meaningful if she had been doing something like saving Carter or Jacob during the events of "Death Knell" just a couple episodes ago, for one example. While every soldier's life is important, it would have been much more appropriate for her to have been saving someone crucial to the overall plot of the series when she died. It's true that in real life, death can happen randomly and not for "satisfying" reasons, but we know that this show is fictional, so why not put some meaning into it?
I rated this episode as highly as I did because of all the wonderful character interaction, some of which I mentioned above. There were also some other nice touches. When Daniel and Bregman talk in the dark infirmary, with just a light on the empty gurney, it was very effective. The scenes where Bregman is reviewing and editing his past tape were amusing and somewhat illuminating of the process.
The idea of Bregman interviewing the SGC members and putting together a documentary reminded me of the Babylon 5 episode "And Now for a Word...". In that episode, apparently innocuous interviews are manipulated after the fact by the reporter to present a completely different "reality". Hammond obviously hasn't seen that episode, or he would have had Bregman shot on sight! Seriously, though, one wonders if Bregman put together a documentary that showed Hammond what he wanted to see, but had another version in safe-keeping to be shown to the public. I think I'm probably being too paranoid, but it's an interesting thought.
So where will the show go from here? Will we get a replacement doctor? What will happen to Frasier's daughter, Cassandra? (She was mentioned, but not what was going to happen to her.) How will Frasier's death continue to impact the SGC?