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

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Episode Information

Title: "Orpheus"
Written by: Peter DeLuise
Director: Peter DeLuise
Rating (out of 4 stars): ***
Reviewed on: May 22, 2007

Synopsis from GateWorld


This episode is unusual in how much time it apparently covers. Teal'c is injured seriously in the abdomen. Since he lacks a symbiote, his healing powers only function at a normal human level. Some weeks (maybe even months?) pass as Teal'c heals and then undergoes physical therapy.

It's a pleasure to see the interaction of the team in the base gym; one had to assume the team members have regular exercise regimens to keep in shape for off-world duty, but this is the type of detail that is often overlooked in TV series. Of course, the emphasis is on how Teal'c is not dealing well with his slow healing. He eventually returns to superb human physical levels, but during the process he has lost confidence in his abilities. The cause of this loss is the fact that Teal'c is now dependent on tretonin to support his immune system, and he believes the drug has been slowly weakening him.

In a wonderful scene, O'Neill and Daniel try to talk to Teal'c about his lass of confidence (or his "mojo", as O'Neill says). Daniel tries to get Teal'c to discuss the problem and to get Teal'c to agree to go back on duty - presumably thinking that if Teal'c is out on the job again he'll regain his confidence. Daniel is unsuccessful, and turns to O'Neill. O'Neill simply accepts Teal'c's statement that he's not fit for duty, much to Daniel's dismay. Daniel wants to help, but O'Neill realizes that Teal'c needs to work through his problem himself.

Meanwhile, Daniel has been slowly recovering memories of significant events involving Bra'tac and Rya'c while he was ascended. He eventually puts the memories together and realizes that when he was ascended he watched Bra'tac and Rya'c be captured on a Jaffa slave labor planet. He could not take any action because of the rules of the ascended. Somehow he managed to "take" these ascended memories with him when he became corporeal again.

How long has it been since Bra'tac and Rya'c were captured? Did these events happen before or after Daniel's confrontation with Anubis at the end of season 6 in "Full Circle"? To this point, we had more or less assumed that Daniel's attempt to attack Anubis was what got him sent back to human form. Was he instead just pulled away from Anubis by Oma Desala and given a slap on the wrist, only to later witness Bra'tac and Rya'c's capture? Did Daniel choose to be human again? We don't know. The episode is pretty careful not to give any specific time frames. However, at the end of the episode, Daniel seems to say that he realized when he was ascended that he could do more good in human form.

SG-1, including Teal'c despite is "weakness", undertakes a rescue of Bra'tac and Rya'c. The labor camp is exceedingly harsh, where Jaffa who wear out and cannot work are executed. Bra'tac has run out of tretonin and is near death. Rya'c is attempting to protect him, but there is little he can do.

Initially, Teal'c and Rak'nor infiltrate the camp in an attempt to sneak out with Bra'tac and Rya'c. However, they are discovered. Teal'c is whipped extensively by the camp leader. Since SG-1 is hugely outnumbered, they cannot even stop this punishment, a fact that obviously is agonizing for the other team members.

The next day, Carter and Daniel create a diversion by knocking out the antigravity units supporting the partially-built ha'tak ship near the camp. This was a pretty nifty effect, although I do wish they had sabotaged all of the antigravity units at once so the ship would have dropped like a rock.

When the diversion takes place, many of the camp guards run off, and Teal'c and associates quickly take advantage of this to mount an escape. During this time, Teal'c regains his mojo and kills the camp leader who had whipped him, despite his injuries. Everyone makes it back to Earth with nothing more than minor injuries.

Something that struck me as odd: it never occurred to Teal'c, Rak'nor, or SG-1 that the other Jaffa in the labor camp might be either an asset to the rescue or potential allies. It was stated that the labor camp is not for "bad" Jaffa, but for Jaffa who were captured in battle and will not switch allegiance to their new Goa'uld. It seems that these would be perfect candidates to join the rebel Jaffa. However, it falls to Rya'c to point out that it's morally wrong to leave the others there under the grueling conditions.

At the end of the episode, Teal'c credits Daniel with providing the information to enable the rescue of Bra'tac and Rya'c. While this is true, I also wouldn't fault Teal'c for basically saying, "what took you so long?" After all, his son and his mentor were suffering on the planet for months while Daniel decided whether or not to remain ascended, and then once he became human again, dealing with the imperfections in his memory. O'Neill in Teal'c's place would have demanded that Daniel take action while he was ascended (if he knew about the situation), much as he did in season 6's "Abyss" (unsuccessfully) and "Full Circle" (successfully).

Many people rate this episode more highly than I have. I think that the open-and-shut character development in Teal'c detracts from the episode a bit: Teal'c says he's been losing faith in tretonin for some time, but conveniently didn't mention it until now, and then by the end of the episode he no longer doubts the drug. I also have some issues with the timeline of the episode with Daniel being ascended/human (as I discussed above). We last saw Bra'tac in season 6's "The Changeling", which was toward the end of the season. These events left Bra'tac in very serious medical condition; apparently he recovered and immediately went and got himself captured on the labor planet.

There are a lot of good, small touches in the episode, such as O'Neill bringing Teal'c copious amounts of Jell-o as he is recovering, Carter discussing the shortcomings of science fiction movies, and Teal'c revealing to Bra'tac that he has been letting Bra'tac win in their sparring matches (although I believe Teal'c was kidding about this).

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