Episode Review of Stargate SG-1 Season 9: "Collateral Damage"

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Episode Information

Title: "Collateral Damage"
Written by: Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie
Director: William Waring
Rating (out of 4 stars): **1/2
Reviewed on: September 24, 2007

Synopsis from GateWorld


This episode starts with one of the most startling teasers the series has ever had: Mitchell awakens from dreams (or flashbacks?) of murdering a young woman, only to find blood on his hands.

After that surprise, the story jumps back to the day before. SG-1 is visiting Galar, a planet they have recently contacted. The Galarans have only recently begun exploring through the stargate, but they have some very interesting technology. SG-1 is beginning the process of working out trade agreements.

A secret Galaran project (shared with SG-1) is that of memory replacement. From the study of a Goa'uld memory device, they have figured out how to insert memories from one person into another person. The utility of this is that useful memories, such as those of training a pilot, could be transferred from an expert into a novice, thereby speeding up the novice's training. Mitchell receives a first-hand demonstration of the device when an innocuous memory is implanted in his brain; the Galaran technology then leads him through reliving the "memory" and he testifies that it feels completely real. (I notice that none of the more experienced SG-1 members volunteered to have their minds messed with.)

Earth and the SGC are very interested in the technology and urge SG-1 to keep up negotiations. The more experienced members of SG-1 do express some concern about the possible abuse of such powerful technology. Relations seem to be progressing well until a cocktail party on Galar. At the party, the lead scientist, Reya Varrick, learns that the military is going to begin exerting more control over the project, which infuriates her. Mitchell, who is obviously attracted to Reya, tries to soothe her and ends up going back to her place. They begin to become more intimate than is probably wise - and then we jump to Mitchell awakening with blood on his hands. He has apparently murdered Reya in her home and is quickly taken into custody. Mitchell confesses, because he remembers committing the murder.

Fortunately, SG-1 is not stupid. When the others visit Mitchell in his cell, they quickly point out that they don't believe he did it, and his memory of the event could have been implanted. Mitchell knows this, but it doesn't stop the fact that he keeps running through the memory of beating Reya to death. The other members of SG-1 vow to get to the bottom of things.

The Emmissary of Galar (apparently an ambassador or some type of government official) works out a deal to return Mitchell to Earth without prosecution, even though the evidence (his confession, fingerprints at the scene, a sky-high blood alcohol level) is against him. The Emissary wants to keep cordial relations with Earth. Mitchell refuses, however, because he wants to clear is name. Both General Landry and the Emissary give him and SG-1 approval to pursue the case.

The first act SG-1 takes is to ask the remaining memory project scientists to try to determine if Mitchell's memory of the murder is genuine or implanted. Surprisingly, they find allies in the scientists: the scientists believe that Reya was murdered by someone in the military because she opposed increased military control. However, after running through Mitchell's murder memory numerous times, they can find no evidence that it is implanted.

As a last resort, the scientists ask Mitchell to relive a similarly horrible event to the murder so they can compare his responses. They finally detect evidence that the memory was implanted. With more effort, they figure out that the real murderer is Dr. Marell, one of the scientists. He is Reya's estranged husband. He had apparently drugged Mitchell, killed Reya, faked Mitchell's memories, and then used the memory device to replace his memory of the murder so that he would look and act innocent of the crime.

The remaining scientists then remove Mitchell's fake memory of that evening, leaving behind his real memories. (However, he still has all memory of the rest of the incident and the attempt to frame him.) The Emissary decides Dr. Marell is too valuable to the project to be punished, and so orders Marell's memories to be replaced so that he knows someone murdered Reya, but not that it was him. SG-1 returns to Earth; it's unclear if their negotiations with Galar will continue.

This episode had a number of good and bad points.

It's interesting to see the continuing attitude of the SGC toward other societies recently: that of a big brother watching over them and warning them that they might not quite be ready for the technology they've developed. At least in that sense, Earth and the SGC have matured enough to realize it's not necessarily a good thing to jump blindly into something new.

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