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General Hammond arrives at the SGC and whisks away Daniel and Sgt. Harriman (and possibly other SGC personnel) for Prometheus's trip to Atlantis in the Pegasus galaxy. Apparently the Atlantis personnel have not been heard from since shortly after their arrival there, so Hammond is commanding the mission and bringing along scientists and SG-3, under Colonel Reynolds. Prometheus was equipped with Asgard hyperdrive technology, enabling them to make the trip to the Pegasus galaxy in a reasonable amount of time.
While en route, Prometheus picks up a distress call from someone who sounds human. (Please, tell me, how do humans and Jaffa sound different over the radio?) They stop to investigate and find a seriously damaged al'kesh and a nearly-destroyed cargo ship that apparently were in a fight. SG-3 uses the ring transporter to investigate the al'kesh. While they do that, a Kull soldier from the al'kesh rings over to Prometheus. The Kull soldier is a little unusual, though, because it uses a zat gun to disable the SGC personnel, rather than killing them. The Kull soldier sends all the crew over to the al'kesh, except Daniel, who managed to evade detection.
The Kull soldier then pilots the Prometheus away at sublight speeds. Daniel tries attacking the soldier with the anti-Kull weapon, but is unsuccessful and captured. The Kull soldier demonstrates more oddities, when it begins chatting with Daniel, and then makes a pass at him! (That's a really weird thing to see.) We discover that the Kull soldier is actually a human woman, named Vala, in a Kull soldier's uniform and armor. She is a former Goa'uld host. She wants to use the Prometheus to get to a scheduled rendezvous, so she begins questioning Daniel about how to use the communication systems and hyperdrive. Daniel is uncooperative, naturally, and Vala has no problem slapping him around a bit (even shooting to injure him) to try to persuade him; in between, she continues to flirt.
When Vala leaves Daniel unattended to figure out the hyperdrive, Daniel manages to escape. He gets the drop on Vala with a zat gun and tries to persuade her to unlock the computer control of the hypderdrive, which she has reprogrammed. She refuses, and they end up in, well, a bar fight. Vala is very capable in hand-to-hand combat, but in the end Daniel manages to zat her and throw her in the brig. Unfortunately, he still can't control the ship and so must travel to Vala's pre-programmed destination.
During a moment of pity, Daniel releases Vala temporarily so she can eat. She tries to capitalize on his sympathy (or maybe she's trying to distract him) by telling him her life story. About 10 years ago, she had been a minor Goa'uld whose enslaved people were incited to rebel by the Tok'ra. Once the people conquered her, the Tok'ra removed her symbiote and let her go. Now her people are in trouble again because the Tok'ra have left and the Goa'uld Camulus (last seen in "Zero Hour") has tried to conquer them. Her people resisted and fled on stolen ships. Now they are stranded and Vala was on a mission to rescue them in the al'kesh; when it was damaged in the fight with the Jaffa and then the Prometheus showed up, she decided to use it. Daniel is obviously skeptical of this story, since it doesn't all fit together quite right. He puts her back in the brig.
Meanwhile, General Hammond and the rest of the crew stranded on the al'kesh begin fixing it. They cannibalize some parts from the cargo ship, and manage to get it working again. Then they head off after the Prometheus.
When Daniel arrives at Vala's rendezvous point, he does not find refugees for transport. Instead, he finds two traders with a large amount of weapons-grade naquaadah that Vala had promised to pay for by giving them the Prometheus. Daniel obviously is not going for this deal, but is having trouble convincing the trigger-happy traders. However, Goa'uld ships arrive and begin attacking, which disrupts the meeting.
Daniel cannot get the Prometheus to safety without allowing Vala to remove her programming changes, so he releases her. The Prometheus lifts off, but has taken too much damage to use its shields. Fortunately, General Hammond's cavalry arrives and destroys the attacking Goa'uld ships. Vala is returned to the ship, and the Prometheus's crew (except SG-3, who will pilot the salvaged al'kesh) return the ship.
In short order, Vala breaks out of the brig, overcomes a corridor of crewmen, and rings onto the al'kesh. She neutralizes SG-3 and returns them to the Prometheus, then sends the al'kesh into hyperspace, making a clean escape. The Prometheus was damaged too much for the long trip to Atlantis, so they are forced to return to Earth.
Well, this episode was fun, but also a little silly in places. Vala's character is resourceful and a classic con artist, but also a bit irritating. Although she stuck to her "save my people" story for most of the episode, she clearly was lying through her teeth most of the time. How much of her story was true? Since she can use Goa'uld technology, she really probably is a former Goa'uld host - but everything else could have been a lie. Most likely she was just out to make some profit from selling the naquaadah - although how she was going to move it after she traded away her ship is a good question. Maybe the trader's ship was also part of the bargain. Another good question: how did she get ahold of a Kull soldier's armor? It appeared to be real, since it could absorb energy weapon blasts with no effect on the wearer.
Vala also seemed to have a preoccupation with sex. Was this really only because she was interested in Daniel, or is that just part of her personality? It was gratifying that Daniel had no interest in her, which is a real switch from most male TV characters. Will we ever see Vala again? Did Daniel make sure he still had his wallet after she left?
Another character that was introduced was Dr. Lindsey Novak, who is apparently a Carter-protege, and was heading for Atlantis. She had the amusing problem of uncontrollable hiccuping when she was scared or tense - which was most of the time in this episode. This is a pretty realistic touch: many people have such problems, like stuttering, dry mouth, or dizziness, in those situations. Her problem was just a little funnier, and fortunately she wasn't on-screen enough for it to become annoying. It's also always a pleasure to see a smart woman on TV - Dr. Novak directed the repairs of the al'kesh - although they are almost a cliche on this series, and can never live up to comparison with Carter.
General Hammond was back to take some action in this episode. As head of Homeworld Security, he ordered himself to command this mission. Frankly, this seems very unlikely; he's too important to head off on such a potentially dangerous mission. But it's nice to see him again. He lets his desire for action go too far, though, when he insists on being the one to ring over to the almost-uninhabitable cargo ship to get necessary engine crystals. If there's barely enough oxygen to breathe, shouldn't a younger, more fit person go? Also, once he's on the ship, he gets instructions about what crystals to get. Shouldn't that have been practiced ahead of time? While he is rescued and does get the proper parts, this incident just seems silly and forced.
Sgt. Harriman also gets to leave the gateroom and pilot both the Prometheus and the salvaged al'kesh. He obviously is having the time of his life when the al'kesh rescues Prometheus.
The Prometheus really seems to be proving itself to be a bad-luck ship. It was captured by a Goa'uld before its official launch (season 6's "Prometheus"); on its first trip it accidentally went off course and got stranded around an unknown world (season 6's "Memento"); and on its way back from that world after being repaired, it was attacked by another alien ship (season 7's "Grace"). Frankly, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned this string of bad luck. I suppose it has had some good luck, too, such as fighting off Anubis's fleet.
In the end, the mission to Atlantis was scrubbed. How soon before they try again? What is going on in Atlantis, and how desperately do they need to contact Earth? (I haven't actually figured out just where this episode falls in the chronology of Stargate Atlantis.) Incidentally, since Daniel obviously didn't leave on this mission until this episode, his absence during most of the previous episode is pretty inexplicable.
O'Neill and Daniel had a good scene at the beginning of the episode, with Daniel begging to go on the mission, and even threatening to quit the SGC, and O'Neill saying he should just hold his breath instead - like a little kid. This is some great interaction between friends, and it's also funny to see it come to a screaming stop when General Hammond makes his presence known.
What are the consequences of this episode? Well, there are potential consequences for Atlantis, but we don't really know what they are. Otherwise, there don't seem to be any real ramifications for galactic politics - barring whatever Vala might do!