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Agent Barrett of the NID has called in SG-1 (sans O'Neill, who is still recovering from his injury in "Heroes, Part 2") to Los Angeles. He has discovered a rogue NID operation after most of its operatives have been massacred. Thirty-two agents and supporting staff are dead. The only survivors are a young woman, Anna, and one of the NID scientists, Dr. Keffler. Surveillance camera tapes show Anna calmly shooting everyone dead.
So why have SG-1 been called in? First, Anna denies she is the killer and claims no memory of what happened. Second, she only has memories dating back a relatively short period of time, maybe just a couple years. Third, Barrett shows them to a room where lots of Goa'uld artifacts are being stored - the NID procured them from the son of a Nazi war criminal. Then things really start getting weird: Barrett shows Carter a laboratory in the building with a large number of preserved, partly-developed human fetuses. Just what was the NID doing?
The team quickly splits up to take advantage of their strengths, with Barrett coordinating. Carter works on breaking into the computer system. Teal'c and Daniel search through the Goa'uld artifacts, with Daniel taking side trips to visit Anna, who is being held in a cubical plexiglass cell that was conveniently there already.
From the computer system, Carter discovers that the NID had also possessed a canopic jar preserving the Goa'uld symbiote Sekhmet. The scientists there were working on a way to add Goa'uld DNA to a human so that the human would have the genetic knowledge of the Goa'uld and the NID could learn about it. So they cloned a human, added Goa'uld DNA, then they used the rapid-aging nanotechnology from Argos (season 1's "Brief Candle"), stolen from Area 51, to grow the human to adult age quickly. There were apparently some 45 failures before the success with Anna.
Carter and Barrett deduce that not only does Anna possess some Goa'uld DNA, but that somehow the Goa'uld Sekhmet's personality is able to emerge and control Anna's body occasionally. They don't really understand how this is possible, but I think about it as being similar to having multiple personalities. Sekhmet's personality is the one that killed all the people.
Barrett and Carter have also been interrogating Dr. Keffler, the other survivor. Dr. Keffler comes across as one of the most naturally evil characters we have encountered in Stargate SG-1. He's not physically brave, or intimidating, or charismatic, just quiet and oh, so slimy. He clearly enjoys being in control: of the conversation during the interrogations, and of Anna. He strikes me as a sociopathic personality that has found a way to channel his urges into a semi-legitimate occupation (working for the NID, whose own morals are a little loose). He gradually confirms their conclusions concerning Anna, but claims he was doing everything in order to help defend Earth. How many times have we heard that? I have to say, even with how despicable Keffler is, Barrett and Carter do a horrible job with their questioning. That's not really Carter's line of work, but one might have though Barrett would have some experience in it.
Meanwhile, Daniel has been talking to Anna. He manages to gain at least a little bit of her trust with his empathetic manner. I always marvel at how Daniel at least seems to be able to understand the motivations of other people. Anna reveals that she has occasional blackouts (when the Goa'uld is in control) and often sees images in dreams, which she draws. She also has never been out of her cell (except to kill the people) and has never been outside. Her whole life has been within the cell, interacting with Keffler. Talk about a miserable existence! Daniel promises they will help her restrain the Goa'uld and make a somewhat-normal life.
While Teal'c and Daniel continue to look through the Goa'uld artifacts, they discover a fancy Goa'uld lock box. They find the combination for it in Anna's dream drawings. When they open it, they find that it is counting down - it is a bomb, and there is less than a day until it explodes. This adds some needed urgency to their investigation. Dr. Lee arrives to help try to disarm it (with Teal'c expertise), and Barrett orders an evacuation of the surrounding area of the city.
Keffler denies any knowledge of the bomb. Carter puts together some bits of evidence and realizes that Keffler let Anna/Sekhmet out of the cell and let her kill the others, although it's not clear why. She also realizes that Sekhmet set the bomb to use as leverage against her captors. Daniel tries to get Anna to visualize the bomb's disarming code. They have little luck. While he watches some of Keffler's past work with Anna, he realizes that Keffler has a remote control device that shocks Anna and causes the Goa'uld to take over - he can control when the Goa'uld appears
During Anna's attempts to remember her dream images, Sekhmet takes over and sets fire to all the drawings within the cell. Daniel and the guards open the cell to help her, and are overpowered and Daniel is knocked unconscious. Anna/Sekhmet escapes with a gun, looking for Keffler. When Daniel comes to, he finds Anna's drawing of the code to disarm the bomb and gives it to Teal'c. Then everyone else searches for Anna. However, they don't find her until she has gunned down Keffler, and then used the instant-kill device Keffler has planted in her brain. The city is saved, but she is dead.
First, I give this episode a lot of credit for atmosphere. The warehouse where the NID operation was situated was very creepy and dark, and we initially see it when dozens of bodies are being recovered. The mood was only added to when we got the room filled with preserved fetuses. Brrr. Although I did sometimes wonder why they didn't just turn on all the lights in the building. Keffler's personality also enhanced this feeling - where does the NID find these people? The visuals of Anna's cell and then the fire within it were very distinctive.
There are lots of moral quandries in this episode. First, there is the whole issue with cloning. The NID was creating humans at whim, and from the number of failed experiments (some even after birth), it was clear that they had no moral issues with arbitrarily creating and killing off people. Do they believe that clones aren't human and therefore have no rights? Or was it just because the clones also had some Goa'uld DNA? Since no one outside the NID knew the cloned people existed, there was no one to look out for their interests and protect them.
Then there is the treatment of Anna. She spent all of her short life in a see-through cell, with no privacy. She apparently interacted most (possibly exclusively) with Dr. Keffler, who abused her physically and emotionally. This really goes along with the fact that the NID apparently did not consider Anna to have the same rights as a "real" human. Frankly, I'm amazed that Anna was as normal, well-spoken, and empathetic as she was. With only a completely amoral adult figure to learn from, and the evil Goa'uld personality lurking within, it seems like she should have become as asocial as they are. In truth, I do not think that she made the effort to try to disarm the bomb because it was morally correct, but because she was trying to please Daniel and didn't want him to stop visiting her. There really isn't any evidence for this, but it makes sense.
Finally, Keffler's claim that the NID's moral irregularities would have been overlooked had the experiment been successful is disturbing. One wonders how true it is. If the NID had presented Anna, offering Goa'uld knowledge freely, as fait accompli, it's hard to believe the government or SGC would turn them down. After all, as Keffler says, one life balanced against millions doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice. If the SGC accepted this knowledge, would they use it wisely? Daniel mentions his experience in season 4's "Absolute Power" as proof that the Goa'uld knowledge can never be fully possessed without becoming evil, but would that be true in this case? One might imagine that the control of Anna and her knowledge by a committee or chain of command might mitigate the corrupting effect somewhat. At any rate, this is speculation, since Anna died.
Anna's death is tragic, but essentially fated. Carter had found out that the experiment didn't provide for a long life for her anyway, so she was doomed to die soon. Anna managed to take control of her own life, at least at the end, to find a relatively painless death and to rid the world of her tormentor. The world certainly will not miss the likes of Dr. Keffler, a point illustrated nicely when Daniel rushes to the dying Anna and doesn't even bother to check on Keffler.
Moral quandries aside, this episode was also a pretty nice team effort, even with O'Neill missing. Barrett basically stepped into his place, coordinating the simultaneous efforts of the rest of the team. I appreciated seeing Barrett again as a recurring character, although I don't find him all that compelling. The return of the rogue NID was also welcome; obviously splinters of that group will be around for a long time. Carter is also still seeing Pete Shanahan ("Chimera"), or at least she used him as an excuse to turn down Barrett for dinner.
The bomb plot seemed a bit contrived, in order to give Teal'c something to do and to give more urgency to the episode. (I did enjoy Dr. Lee's comment, "Do I look like a practical joker?") However, it was rationalized pretty well as a scheme by Sekhmet. This time the setting was Los Angeles, not Colorado Springs, so I have to wonder what reason was given to evacuate such a large area.
What did this episode do for the overall series? It's not clear. It seems like it would take some time for SGC/good-NID personnel to go over the records and determine if there's anything worthwhile in them. The store of Goa'uld artifacts could also produce more surprises. But nothing here directly impacted the SGC's current struggle with Anubis.