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Baal's impending domination of the system lords has caused many of the remaining system lords to scurry off and hide in worlds they have neglected for centuries. The Tok'ra warn the SGC that Ares may soon return to a world in his empire where Harry Maybourne had been left after the events in season 6's "Paradise Lost". If Ares were to capture and interrogate Maybourne, he may learn crucial information about Earth; this convinces O'Neill to send SG-1 to the planet to retrieve Maybourne.
When SG-1 arrive on the planet, they discover that Maybourne has become king of a medieval village. Apparently, the villagers made him king after he successfully predicted the future on a few occasions. In fact, Maybourne has "foreseen" that the Goa'uld oppressors of old will return, but that someone else from off-planet will save them - he immediately leads the villagers to believe SG-1 are their saviors. Because of this, Maybourne will not listen to SG-1's attempts to get him to leave with them.
Privately, Maybourne reveals to SG-1 that his "prophecies" are actually translations of Ancient writings on ruins outside the village. SG-1 investigates, and confirms that the Ancient writings are a history of the events in the area: they range from some years in the past through the present time, and into the future. Apparently the Ancients used some kind of time-traveling device to study the course of history on this world, then recorded it.
After studying the ruins, Daniel believes the time-traveling device is on a small spaceship and may still be located near the ruins. Carter agrees to a brief search of the area, because they still don't know when Ares and his forces may arrive. Teal'c finds the ship, and when they enter it, it begins to activate. (Those Ancients really built things to last!) However, they cannot operate the ship because none of them possess the Ancient gene.
The Ancient spaceship represents a huge potential leap in technology, so Carter immediately realizes it is imperative to bring it to Earth. She contacts General O'Neill so that he can come and try to fly the ship. O'Neill is amused at "King" Harry, to say the least. He convinces Maybourne to prepare to evacuate himself and his villagers.
O'Neill is able to start the spaceship, but it keeps losing power. Carter wants some time to work on the ship, but O'Neill vetoes the idea. He rigs the ship up to be destroyed (so Ares doesn't get it), and then they head back to the village to get the villagers and Maybourne and leave.
Maybourne tries to convince the villagers to leave with him. In a shocking turn of honesty, he tells them that he can't really tell the future and he deceived them in order to become king. Curiously, this doesn't make the villagers mad. Instead, they point out the other benefits that he has brought (medical knowledge, agricultural knowledge) and insist that he deserves to be king. They refuse to leave.
O'Neill and SG-1 throw in the towel and prepare to leave, with or without Maybourne. Daniel and Teal'c leave to secure the stargate, and O'Neill and Carter go to blow up the Ancient ship. However, just then Ares's first prime and a contingent of Jaffa arrive, taking control of the stargate. They stomp into the village and re-assert Ares's control of the area. While Maybourne tries to be completely cooperative, his villagers are much less so.
One of the villagers reveals the existence of the Ancient ruins. Some of the Jaffa investigate, and they start a firefight with O'Neill and Carter. O'Neill and Carter have no choice but to power up the ship (Carter had time to make some repairs); in the village, Daniel and Teal'c are captured, but manage to escape and take out the Jaffa in the village. O'Neill uses the ship to head into space and destroy Ares's mothership, presumably with Ares aboard. The village is saved, fulfilling the prophecy.
At the end of the episode, Maybourne stays on the planet, continuing as king. SG-1 and O'Neill return to Earth with the Ancient spaceship, which is quite a technological coup.
The high point of this episode was all the snappy dialog. Carter clearly shares O'Neill's complete disgust with Maybourne, and lets him know about it in no uncertain terms when they come to rescue him. Daniel gets to name new fruit by royal decree (the "guango"?). When O'Neill arrives, the words really fly. Maybourne congratulates O'Neill on making general, while O'Neill congratulates Maybourne on making king. Ha!
One thing I very much appreciated in the conversation between O'Neill and Maybourne was O'Neill pointing out the assumptions Maybourne was making about the Ancient "prophecy". The Ancient writings did not spell out a lot of detail about the events; they said the village would be saved. However, as O'Neill pointed out, it didn't say how many casualties there would be in that process: would Maybourne survive? Would most of the villagers survive? Maybourne naturally interpreted the prophecy to be as positive as possible.
It was a pleasant change to see Maybourne taking responsibility for his actions with the villagers, even though they didn't decide to tar and feather him when he revealed his deception. When Ares's Jaffa arrived, he obviously tried very hard to keep the Jaffa from hurting any of his subjects. Actually, I thought he was obviously trying way too hard and appeared very false because of it - I suspect Ares's first prime also noticed this, but he didn't live long enough to do anything about it.
The episode faltered a little bit when it came to the Ancient time machine plot. There are too many unanswered questions. We know that the Ancients experimented with time travel (seen in season 4's "Window of Opportunity"), but were unsuccessful. OK, so maybe Ancients after that made were more successful. Why did they pick this planet to study in such detail? We don't know of anything exceptional about it. Even if they were just studying a run-of-the-mill planet, why did they record what they learned on the planet itself on the stone pillars? They would run the risk of one of the natives learning to interpret the language and thereby possibly learning about their future, then changing it. This seems irresponsible.
My biggest problem with this plotline is the fact that the SGC did wind up with the Ancient spaceship and time traveling device at the end. The time traveling part is apparently nonfunctional at the moment, but presumably scientists will be studying it and possibly repairing it. Is it really a good idea for the SGC (and Earth) to have time traveling capability? In the past, time travel on Stargate SG-1 was limited to freak, unpredictable occurrences, such as solar flares (as in season 2's "1969" and season 4's "2010") and malfunctioning Ancient technology (as in the previously-mentioned season 4 "Window of Opportunity"). Besides the fact that this kept the SGC from accidentally altering the past and creating problems, it also kept the series' writers from using the "reset button" of time travel to make major changes and then set things back to normal at the end of the episode. I am very leery of a functional time travel device on the series for this reason. We'll have to see where it leads.