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SG-1 and SG-3 (a team of Marines) visit a new world, where the Stargate is located in permanent night. They are immediately attacked by beings that appear to be primitive humans. They scare off the beings by firing their weapons. They later observe a group of the primitives assaulting a young woman. As they debate what to do, others begin attacking and chasing off the primitives. The Earth people then meet up with natives that appear to be normal-looking humans.
The "normal" natives lead the SG teams to the "Land of Light", which is permanently in sunlight. These natives are friendly and have what Daniel classifies as bronze age type technology. These natives explain that bad gods have put a curse on the planet so that some people become cursed and become violent and primitive. These people are called the Touched and are forced to live in the "Land of Dark". The young woman that was rescued is put into quarantine until it's clear if she's been Touched, or if she's still among the Untouched.
SG-1 confers privately and agrees that the Goa'uld are probably the evil gods, but the Untouched say they haven't visited in years. O'Neill aborts the mission as having no immediate value, and they return to Earth through the Stargate.
Upon return to the Earth, Daniel protests cutting short the mission because there was still a lot to learn from the two different cultures on the planet. General Hammond reveals the President has asked the SG teams to also consider the scientific and culture significance of each mission, along with strategic and military significance.
One of the Marines that had been on the mission suddenly becomes violent toward Teal'c. He's subdued and sent to the infirmary. Later, two other soldiers from the mission begin fighting and fall a storey in the facility. A little later, Carter sexually assaults O'Neill in the locker room and is also taken to the infirmary.
As more and more people begin acting aggressively, it's clear something bad is happening. The people that have been affected the longest are starting to have their physical appearance change - it's becoming more primitive, with brow ridges and a hunched-over posture. They also seem to be losing their rationality, continuing to be pointlessly aggressive in the cells in which they are held. O'Neill himself is the next one we see fall to the effect.
Dr. Fraiser explains to General Hammond that the affected people have some kind of disease, which she's isolated in their blood. She explains that the virus shuts down all but the most primitive parts of the brain and stimulates the primitive parts, causing the observed behavior. Daniel and Teal'c realize that this description fits the Touched on the planet that they just visited. Hammond sends the two of them back to ask the Untouched for knowledge about the Touched and to get a blood sample from the Untouched.
On the planet, Daniel and Teal'c encounter the body of the same young woman near the Stargate. She's been put in the Land of Dark because she is now Touched. Daniel insists on bringing her along. When they become surrounded by the Touched, Teal'c scares them off with his machine gun, but they abduct Daniel and the woman.
Teal'c continues on to the Land of Light. The leaders there explain that nothing can help the Touched (the young woman is the leader's daughter) and refuse to give up any blood. They order Teal'c to leave. Teal'c knocks out the guards and takes a blood sample from one before returning to the Earth.
Teal'c gives the blood sample to Dr. Fraiser and then goes to visit the primitive O'Neill, upset at having lost Daniel. Despite the disease, O'Neill seems to be able to communicate to some extent with Dr. Fraiser and Teal'c. He ask to be used for experiments to find a cure.
Dr. Fraiser quickly realizes that the virus feeds on histamine in the blood, and since the Untouched don't have histamine, they are immune. She hypothesizes that if a patient is given a drug to remove histamine from his body for long enough, the virus will die. She gives O'Neill the appropriate drug, and they wait to see its effect.
Some time later, O'Neill is completely recovered. The doctor begins giving the drug to the other affected people. After some time, everyone is recovered, and SG-1 is embarking on a mission back to the planet with tranquilizers to drug the Touched for long enough for them to also be cured.
Once on the planet, they track the Touched until they find Daniel - now affected by the virus - and the young woman. They drug the two and bring them back to the Land of Light as a demonstration of the cure. The Untouched are astounded and ecstatic, since they all have relatives and friends among the Touched. SG-1 promises to teach them how to cure all the Touched. Earth has made some new friends.
Well, I will say that this episode isn't quite as bad as I remembered. It still reminds me of a bad Star Trek: The Next Generation disease of the day episode. However, it's a step up from that because it doesn't dwell too much on the dumb things the people do while afflicted by the virus, and the cure is found pretty quickly after the blood sample is returned.
However, there is still the typical SF TV idiocy regarding the disease. How can any disease change the facial and physical features of a person so dramatically in such a short period of time? This just isn't plausible. And similarly, there's no way that a cure would so easily revert each person back to his/her original appearance. It's just silly, but this show isn't the only one to do this.
One has to wonder why the Goa'uld infected the people on this planet with this disease. Did they originally provide the people with a cure that they could then take away from anyone who displeased them? Were they simply experimenting with the disease for their amusement? No matter the reason, this disease does tell us that at least some Goa'uld have talents with biomedical engineering to design this disease. What other diseases have been designed and seeded in different populations?
Will Stargate Command change any of its procedures now that a team has brought back a disease from one of the first missions? I'm not sure what they could do besides having lengthy quarantines after the return of each mission, but it seems like they need to do something. It was nice to see Dr. Fraiser for the first time in the series.
The planet in question had an interesting characteristic: from the descriptions of a "Land of Light" and a "Land of Dark", it would seem that the planet's rotation is synchronous with its orbit. That means that the same side of the planet always faces its star, so one side is always in day and the other is always in night.
This is not an uncommon astronomical situation, but it's not clear that such a planet would have conditions suitable for life. The point on the planet's surface closest to the star would be receiving direct sunlight constantly and would therefore be quite hot. Around the terminator, where the people lived, it would be cooler. On the far side of the planet, where it is always dark, it would be quite cool. One would think that this temperature differential would cause very strong winds, and there was no evidence of that. Also, where we saw the Land of Light, near the terminator, the shadows should be very long, like at sunset and sunrise, which we did not see. Consequently, I don't think they executed the situation very well, but I will give them credit for an interesting idea.
The people of Earth did a tremendous good deed on this planet, providing a cure for the disease and returning many relatives and friends to the Land of Light. Neither Stargate Command nor the people of the Land of Light will forget about this, and we will see the SGC call on the people of the Land of Light for favors in the future.