Stargate SG-1 5.9 – Between Two Fires

No exaggeration, I really, really like this episode a lot, even if it does have the same name as a Paul Young record for some reason and now I’ve got the title track stuck in my head. We go back to the planet of Tollana, and the campus of Simon Fraser University, for what turns out to be the final time, so this is Garwin Sanford’s last appearance as Carter’s admirer-from-space Narim. The Tollan have always been depicted as fiercely isolationist, but for some reason, they’ve decided to negotiate with Earth. It’s a deal that could bring them some easily-mined minerals, and could bring Earth some powerful new weapons to defend us from any attacks from space… and it doesn’t make any sense whatever. The Tollan are hiding something, and our heroes have to figure out what it is, quickly.

So one reason I like this one is that it toys with the idea of introducing some major game-changing technology to Earth. If the United States gets an ion cannon, it’s not going to be a secret. This is precisely why the Tollan are isolationist in the first place, because centuries ago, they did interfere in the advancement of a more primitive planet, and watched them destroy themselves. And the other big reason I like this one is that the conspiracy of what the Tollan are doing is incredibly well done. It’s about as taut a political thriller as a fanciful program like this can do in an hour, with another culture breaking all the rules for what turns out to be something really unpleasant: they’re ready to sacrifice Earth to save their own skins.

Of course, their pal Narim is on their side and horrified, but there’s not a lot he can do when Tanith, the mid-level villain played by Peter Wingfield and introduced last season, shows up. Turns out he did the old sci-fi baddie trick of using an escape pod when we last saw him, and he’s found a new lord and master, and has done what none of his other rogues’ gallery has ever been able to manage and put the frighteners into the Tollan. Our son enjoyed this one despite it being a lot more political than action-packed, and speculated – bafflingly and wrongly – that Tanith was working for Apophis. No, we reminded him, Apophis is dead (we promise), and whoever he’s working for now, he won’t name.

The other thing that I really like is that the episode ends with the revelation that Tanith and his boss wipe out the Tollan entirely. This is a pretty big and daring game-changer because these guys have been one of Earth’s most powerful allies, and even though the show is quiet about it, this is honestly the biggest defeat that the heroes have suffered in the war against the Goa’uld. I do kind of wish they’d have talked about this a little bit more. You get so used to the good guys making advances and taking major villains off the table that a setback this enormous needs a little more room to breathe.

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