Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 9: "Babylon"

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Episode Information

Title: "Babylon"
Written by: Damian Kindler
Director: Peter DeLuise
Rating (out of 4 stars): **
Reviewed on: September 14, 2007

Synopsis from GateWorld


SG-1 makes contact with Jaffa from legend, but the Jaffa want nothing to do with them.

As the episode begins, SG-1 is off-world, looking for a legendary group of Jaffa called the Sodan. The Sodan have somehow remained free of Goa'uld domination for thousands of years. Teal'c wants to establish relations between them and the free Jaffa nation, believing that it would provide a morale boost. (And would it also raise Teal'c political capital compared to Gerak?)

There's no sign of the Sodan until they are suddenly ambushed. Mitchell is wounded and then captured by a Jaffa warrior who can make himself invisible. Before he is carried away, Mitchell wounds another of these Jaffa, who is left behind. He is alive, but critically wounded, and the rest of SG-1 take him back to the SGC.

Mitchell is taken to the Sodan settlement via some type of Ancient transporting device (different from others we've seen before). He was seriously wounded by a staff weapon, and his wound has become infected. Jolan, one of the Sodan warriors, nurses Mitchell back to health with some herbal remedies. Mitchell is guilty of killing a Sodan warrior, so it is decided that he will be restored to health in order to fight a battle to the death with the dead warrior's closest relative. Jolan is also given charge of Mitchell's training in the Sodan's traditional fighting methods.

At the SGC, Dr. Lam conducts a marathon session of surgery on the wounded warrior, Volnek. His symbiote is too badly injured to heal, so it is removed and Volnek is put on tretonin. When Volnek awakens from surgery, he is completely uncooperative and contemptuous of the humans and Jaffa he meets. He doesn't care when Teal'c says that Jaffa have overthrown the Goa'uld and become free. He seems to care only about preserving Sodan traditions and dying honorably. Teal'c and Daniel try to question him about where Mitchell might have been taken, but they have no success.

During Mitchell's training in the Sodan settlement, he sees an Ori Prior visiting. He tried to warn the Sodan leader, Haikon, about the Ori, but Haikon seems convinced of the Ori's godhood. Mitchell then tries to sway Jolan's feelings about the Ori, but Jolan will not go against Haikon. Mitchell's training proceeds at pace: apparently he's an extremely fast healer, or Jolan's potions are extremely effective; in two to three weeks, Mitchell is running laps and fighting mock battles, all while his wound is still healing.

At the SGC, Volnek has revealed that a Prior has visited the Sodan. This leads Teal'c and Daniel to try to convince him that the Ori are bad news. They even bring in a Jaffa survivor from a destroyed world to describe the events, but Volnek will not believe him. Ultimately, the SGC gets no useful information from Volnek. It's actually kind of refreshing to see a character that will not be defeated or come around to the SGC point of view, and if anyone could do that, it would be a legendary Jaffa warrior!

The day of Mitchell's fight to the death arrives, and it turns out that Jolan is Volnek's brother and will be the one fighting Mitchell. Was anyone actually surprised by this? It seemed pretty obvious that there was more enmity on Jolan's part initially than was warranted. However, Jolan has come to respect Mitchell (at least a little bit) and also believe Mitchell's warnings about the Ori. He laces his blade with a knock-out drug, and then during the battle Mitchell passes out and Jolan claims to have killed him. (A classic TV SciFi trick going back to McCoy giving Kirk a knock-out drug so Spock would believe he was dead in "Amok Time".) Jolan then secretly returns Mitchell to the stargate.

When Mitchell arrives back at the SGC, they allow Volnek to return to the Sodan. He still hasn't believed anything the SGC has told him. And that's it!

My problem with this episode is that it didn't seem to have much of a point. Looking for the Sodan may have been a good idea, but then once they were found, the plot didn't really progress. We saw Mitchell fight back from a nearly mortal wound (just like in the flashbacks in "Avalon, Part 1" and "Avalon, Part 2", and Mitchell even references this original event) and learn some nifty fighting techniques. We saw Teal'c and Daniel do a lot of ineffectual talking. Carter didn't do much. Nothing resulted from all of this.

But, some more detailed comments. The Sodan leader, Haikon (played by the wonderful Tony Todd), had great charisma and gravitas... too bad we didn't see more of him. It was very odd to me that he didn't seem to care at all that the rest of the Jaffa had become free. (This is also true for the other Sodan we saw.) The Sodan seem to care very strongly about maintaining Jaffa traditions - you'd think they'd want to share and/or re-establish those traditions with the rest of the galaxy's Jaffa, especially since it's made clear they'd be treated as legendary figures.

I also found it inexplicable that Haikon would be so easily persuaded by the Ori. Sure, the Ori can do "miracles". However, haven't the Jaffa witnessed the "miracles" of the Goa'uld for their entire existence? Someone as intelligent as Haikon should see that parallel: it's the technology that's powerful, not the user. Haikon also seems to dismiss the stories of the Ori's atrocities too easily - isn't that something else that was a hallmark of the Goa'uld?

The Sodan in general didn't impress me. I didn't get the feeling that they were awesome warriors, for several reasons. We didn't get to see that much of a fight with them (just an ambush), they obviously have a huge tactical advantage with their invisibility cloaks, and Mitchell managed to beat one. The training fights between Mitchell and Jolan were not impressive. Actually, I found a lot of the camera work during the fights to be really annoying; I don't know whether the action was slightly accelerated, or if the lighting was different, or what, but it just looked more fake to me.

The plot with Volnek and the SGC was mostly pointless. There were some smaller things that were both good and bad. It was good to see Dr. Lam being such an effective surgeon, and also protective of her patient. Well, I guess that's it for the good. General Landry said that he was close to being ordered to stop the search for Mitchell because of the use of time and resources. He didn't seem to care that much! Maybe I'm just reading him wrong. Sure, he said he'd like to keep looking, but he didn't seem inclined to argue the orders or go against them. Can you imagine General Hammond or O'Neill capitulating to that in such a short time?

One last point: Volnek is now on tretonin. How will he get it? He didn't seem to say he'd be back for a refill. Did they give him a huge amount? Did they tell him which free Jaffa to contact for more? I wonder if the other Sodan will let him live, now that he has been altered this way.

Over all, Teal'c's original idea of finding the Sodan had merit, but I'd have to say that having found them, he should forget them.

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