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THRESHOLD
 
RATINGS SCORECARD
GATEWORLD - * * *
FAN POLL - 8.45
SYNDICATION RATING - 1.9 / 2.1 (-17)

Season Ratings
EPISODE NUMBER - 502
DVD DISC - Season 5, Disc 1
ORIGINAL U.S. AIR DATE - 07.06.01
SYNDICATION AIR DATE - 09.16.02
WRITTEN BY - Brad Wright
DIRECTED BY - Peter DeLuise
GUEST STARRING - Tony Amendola (Bra'tac), Brook Parker (Drey'auc), Peter Williams (Apophis), David Lovgren (Va'lar), Eric Schneider (Dr. McKenzie), Karen van Blankenstein (Nurse)
His mind altered by Apophis, Teal'c must undergo a ritual that takes him to the edge of death itself, in order for him to rediscover who he is.

Colonel Jack O'Neill and General George Hammond join Dr. MacKenzie in visiting Teal'c, who expresses pleasure at seeing them again and testifies that his mind is free of Apophis' control ("Enemies") -- he is again loyal to the Tau'ri. They agree to let him out, but the Jaffa master Bra'tac meets Teal'c in the hall and looks into his eyes. "He is deceiving you," he proclaims.

Teal'c tries to escape, but is captured and held in restraints in the infirmary. Bra'tac has removed Teal'c's larval Goa'uld symbiote -- and without it, he has only hours to live. It is the Rite of M'al Sharran, intended to force Teal'c into a near-death experience so that he may rediscover the true path he has walked. It is the only way, Bra'tac says, that Apophis' powerful brainwashing can be overcome.

Teal'c pleads for his life and argues the validity of his "faith" in Apophis as a god, but is soon forced into a state where he drifts from consciousness to unconsciousness, the pain of his condition forcing him to be receptive to the memories buried deep within. He remembers his time as a Jaffa apprentice under Bra'tac, when he served in Apophis' personal guard.

It was then that Teal'c proved himself in battle, and was first introduced to Apophis as the one whom Bra'tac intended as his successor -- the next First Prime. But when Teal'c tells his god that his father was First Prime to Cronus and was killed by the System Lord after failing to win an impossible battle, Apophis punishes him for his loyalty to his father.

Teal'c recounts the incident to his friend, Va'lar -- also a member of Apophis' army. Va'lar encourages him to not question his god, though Teal'c wonders what kind of a god would punish a son for loving his father.

Dr. Janet Fraiser is stunned that General Hammond would allow this procedure to continue. As a doctor, her job is to save lives -- not put them in danger. Bra'tac argues that Teal'c's life is not worth living in his present condition, cursing and paying homage to a false god against his will.

The rest of SG-1 take turns sitting with Teal'c through the night, challenging him and forcing him to face his past. He recalls Bra'tac's forceful training sessions, teaching Teal'c to use all of his senses -- and not to rely on his belief that Apophis will always protect him. The old warrior was fertilizing the seeds of doubt that he saw in his young apprentice.

Years later, with doubt about Apophis' godhood growing in his heart, Teal'c reached a turning-point: his friend Va'lar returned defeated from battle, and Apophis ordered Teal'c to kill him. He brought him down to the planet's surface where the great battle had been fought against the forces of Ra -- and Teal'c spared his life. He told Va'lar to escape to a nearby village, and returned with the dead symbiote of another fallen Jaffa.

Apophis was fooled. A flash of realization hit Teal'c: this was no all-knowing god.

Later, Teal'c succeeded Bra'tac as First Prime. But Bra'tac tempered his jubilance: he now had a great responsibility. Bra'tac and Teal'c both know that the Goa'uld are not gods -- but they are enslaved to them nevertheless. They are forced to do horrible things in Apophis' name. They live for the opportunities they have to do good -- to bend Apophis' will and temper his wrath, and thereby save lives.

But as First Prime, Teal'c continues to commit atrocities in Apophis' name. Years later, he returns to the planet where the previous battle against Ra was fought. Following an order from Apophis, Teal'c burns a village of Ra's followers to the ground -- the same village where he had sent his friend to live. He had spared Va'lar's life only to take it again, for fear that Apophis would discover what he had done.

This plagues Teal'c's conscience, though his wife encourages him to serve Apophis with all that he is, and to be proud of the deeds he has done.

Teal'c is near death in the S.G.C. infirmary, and Dr. Fraiser moves to try and save him. But Bra'tac blocks her path, telling her that if she saves him now, his suffering will have been in vain. When he reaches the threshold of death, Teal'c will have to choose whether or not to renounce Apophis once again.

It is still many years later in Teal'c's memory -- four years ago, when he discovered O'Neill, Jackson and Carter in a prison cell on Chulak ("Children of the Gods"). He sees in them something that he longs for: they have tasted freedom. Virtually all other humans Teal'c has known have been enslaved to some Goa'uld -- but these, these have lived free.

When O'Neill pleads with Teal'c for his help in saving the crowd of prisoners from Apophis' death sentence, the Jaffa warrior agrees. He turns and fires on his own men, and helps the prisoners escape.

Bra'tac shouts at his dying friend, commanding him to choose whether he will die now in Apophis' name, or choose freedom from false gods. Teal'c's life flashes before his eyes, as Fraiser is finally allowed to return his symbiote and try to restart his heart. When it appears that it is too late for Teal'c, his eyes open. "I choose freedom," he says.

Teal'c has stepped back from the threshold of death, having rediscovered his true path and pledged himself to Earth once again.


ANALYSIS
  • Teal'c claimed it was the sarcophagus -- which healed the staff weapon wound that nearly killed him -- that turned his mind back to Apophis. It's more likely that Apophis also employed some form of brainwashing technology -- as he did with Teal'c's son, Rya'c ("Family"). Although repeated, long-term use of a sarcophagus has been shown to make a person evil ("Need"), one use will not have such an affect.

    A second possible explanation is that the sarcophagus has a very unique affect on a Jaffa, wiping out their will and making them instantly subject to their Goa'uld masters. Either way, it seems evident that Apophis did this to Teal'c deliberately.

  • Bra'tac is very much alive -- the Goa'uld torturer Terok lied to Teal'c when he claimed that Bra'tac "repented" under torture before dying ("The Serpent's Venom").

  • Teal'c is the first Jaffa to have survived the Rite of M'al Sharran, in the three times that Bra'tac has overseen the ritual. Though the other two died, he is confident that they died free of Goa'uld control.

  • O'Neill is 99 percent sure that Apophis is dead. Why? After all, he crashed into a planet while surrounded by a swarm of Replicators ("Enemies"). But the team has been fooled three times before: he was believed to have died in the destruction of his ship over Earth ("The Serpent's Lair"); he died in the S.G.C.'s infirmary, but was later revived by Sokar with a sarcophagus ("Serpent's Song"); and he was believed to have perished when the destruction of the moon of Ne'tu destroyed Sokar's mothership -- though in fact he escaped to the planet Delmak ("The Devil You Know").

  • Apparently, Teal'c and Bra'tac have the molten gold seal of Apophis branded on their foreheads because they served as his First Prime. Other Jaffa in this episode, and in the past, did not have a gold seal -- nor did Teal'c, until after he was made First Prime.

  • Several things contributed to Teal'c's eventual rebellion against Apophis, including Apophis punishment of Teal'c for defending his father's honor; Bra'tac's influence; Apophis ordering him to kill his best friend for retreating from battle, as Teal'c's father had died in the service of Cronus; the subsequent discovery that Apophis is not all-knowing; the horrible things that he was ordered to do, and the people he was ordered to kill or to capture at hosts to the Goa'uld; and the discovery of SG-1, people of Earth who have lived in freedom from the Goa'uld for thousands of years.

    Though this is certainly only a sampling of Teal'c's path, they were instrumental in leading to his eventual defection.

  • Teal'c first referred to Apophis as a "False god. Dead false god." in Season Three's "Into the Fire."

  • Apophis was in battle with Ra while Teal'c was in his service. Apophis was, in fact, the mortal enemy of Ra. Apophis was known as the serpent god of the underworld, who ruled the night; Ra was the sun god who ruled the day ("Children of the Gods"). Ironically, Ra was eventually defeated and killed by O'Neill, Jackson and the first team from Earth to go through the Stargate ("Stargate" the movie).

  • Teal'c freed Va'lar in part to test Apophis, who claimed to be an all-knowing god. When Teal'c successfully convinced his "god" that Va'lar had been killed, he seemed to reach a turning point -- realizing that Apophis was not all-knowing.

  • Va'lar is not the only one whom Teal'c set free after Apophis ordered his death. Teal'c also saved Del'mor, the father of Rak'nor ("The Serpent's Venom"). Because of this, Rak'nor's father became a follower of Teal'c's belief that the Goa'uld are false gods, and seared the gold seal off Rak'nor's forehead. According to Rak'nor, his father died when Apophis attacked Chulak ("Maternal Instinct").

  • Watch for director Peter DeLuise's signature in the scene where Hammond and O'Neill are speaking from the observation room, overlooking the infirmary. The reflection of a group of candles -- forming the letters "PD" -- can be seen in the lower left corner for several seconds.

  • If the Rite of M'al Sharran had failed and Teal'c had survived anyway, he was to be sent to a high-security prison facility and locked away. General Hammond stated that he would not let Teal'c be revived in such a case, since he would die or become host to his symbiote when it matures in another four or five years.

  • Teal'c burned the village where his friend was hiding about 13 or 14 years ago, when his wife Drey'auc was pregnant with their son. He was in his late 80s then, and had been in the service of Apophis for several decades. (This is extrapolated based on the assumption that Rya'c was about 9 or 10 years old when he first appeared in Season One's "Bloodlines.")

  • What happened to Bra'tac when Teal'c replaced him as First Prime? He apparently remained in the service of Apophis, where he continued to serve until he rebelled against Apophis and his son Klorel and helped SG-1 stop an attack on Earth ("The Serpent's Lair").

  • Bra'tac was present on Chulak with Teal'c when he turned against Apophis and joined SG-1 ("Children of the Gods").

  • Teal'c joined SG-1 not because he saw that their level of technology was more advanced that most humans (when he examined O'Neill's digital watch). Instead, he chose to help them because he saw in them that they had tasted freedom -- something he wishes that all Jaffa could know.

  • Scenes that flash through Teal'c's mind at the end of the Rite of M'al Sharran include shots from "Family," "Singularity," "Bane," "Holiday," "Crossroads," "1969," "Children of the Gods," "Bloodlines," "The Gamekeeper" and "The Serpent's Lair."


  • CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
    Teal'cTeal'c - Teal'c entered the service of Apophis as a young man, but Bra'tac (Apophis' First Prime) saw in him a spark of doubt about the Goa'uld, and took him under his wing. He improved his skills under Bra'tac and proved himself in battle, eventually serving with Bra'tac in Apophis' personal guard before being elevated to replace his master as First Prime. But through his journey, he had become convinced that the Goa'uld are not gods at all.

    Teal'c struggled emotionally with the terrible things he had to do for Apophis, though his wife Drey'auc tried to console him as having done great things in the service of his god.

    His father was named Ro'nak, and was First Prime of Cronus. When Apophis ordered Teal'c to kill his best friend Va'lar for returning defeated from battle with Ra's forces, Teal'c let his friend go -- then convinced his "god" that he had carried out his order. Teal'c believed that Va'lar certainly did not deserve the same fate as that of his father, who was murdered by Cronus for returning defeated from an unwinnable battle.

    Now that he has faced death and been shown his true path, Teal'c is free of Apophis' mind-control. His larval symbiote will mature in another four or five years.

    Bra'tacBra'tac - Master Bra'tac is now 137 years old, and believes that his life is coming to a close. His larval Goa'uld symbiote will mature in two years, and will be his last.

    Many years ago, upon Teal'c's ascension to First Prime, Bra'tac revealed to him the reason that he did what he did -- serving Apophis, though he knows him to be a false god. He did what he did as First Prime because he was enslaved, and has no choice but to serve -- and because he can do good, and make a difference. Bra'tac took it as his responsibility to temper Apophis' anger and bend his will, so that some small good might come of the evil he is forced to do.

    And Bra'tac has done many things for which he can never forgive himself, but he lived for those times where he could make a difference -- and encouraged Teal'c, as First Prime, to do the same. He took the young Jaffa under his wing because he saw the spark of doubt in him, as well as the wisdom to keep it to himself.

    Janet FraiserJanet Fraiser - Dr. Fraiser strenuously objected to the Rite of M'al Sharran, where Teal'c was deprived of his symbiote and allowed to slip to the threshold of death. She felt that they were standing by doing nothing, which went against everything she is. She even threatened to resign if Hammond allowed Teal'c to die.

    ApophisApophis - In Teal'c's memories, the System Lord continued to display his evil, power-thirsty character and utter contempt for the men who served him and died for him. He punished Teal'c for defending his father's retreat from battle, and later ordered Teal'c to kill his best friend when he returned defeated from a battle. Apophis proved to Teal'c that he was not an all-seeing god when the Jaffa convinced him he had killed Va'lar, when in fact he let him go.

    George HammondGeorge Hammond - General Hammond confessed to O'Neill that he would let Teal'c die rather than lock him up and have him die later, or become a Goa'uld host, when his symbiote matures in a few years. Though the general usually plays thing by-the-book, he has demonstrated again that he is willing to step out and act against the system when he believes it is in his people's best interests.

    Drey'aucDrey'auc - Teal'c's wife fervently believed that Apophis was a god, and argued that Teal'c should be proud of the deeds he has done in serving Apophis. She encouraged him to honor Apophis over Bra'tac, his Jaffa mentor.


    NOTES
  • The Rite of M'al Sharran -- "the last rite" -- is a ritual wherein a Jaffa is deprived of his larval Goa'uld symbiote (which functions as his immune system and sustains his life). As death inevitably approaches, it is said that the Jaffa's life passes before his eyes. He is brought to the threshold of death and forced to see the true path he has traveled, thus breaking mind-control. If the Jaffa survives the process, the Goa'uld brainwashing is thwarted.

  • A larval Goa'uld symbiote takes between eight and nine years to mature when incubated in a Jaffa pouch.

  • Goa'uld symbiotes give a Jaffa long life -- but far from eternal life. The average male Jaffa apparently lives to around 140 years of age. If he tries to take another symbiote when he has reached the end of his natural life, it will reject him.


  • UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
  • Is Teal'c really, completely free from Apophis' brainwashing?

  • What after-effects will Teal'c suffer -- physically, mentally or emotionally?

  • Is Apophis dead?

  • Does Major Carter believe in God?

  • What will happen to Bra'tac when his symbiote matures?

  • Was Va'lar killed when the village was burned to the ground? Could he still be alive somewhere?

  • What does Drey'auc think of Teal'c now? Does she still believe Apophis is a god?


  • PRODUCTION
  • "You'll get to see a lot of Teal'c's back story. The pilot started with Teal'c turning on his people, but why was never addressed. We know that Bra'tac [Tony Amendola] planted the seeds of knowledge, so to speak, of what the goals truly were, but you never saw the journey Teal'c had to make to get to the point where he said, 'If I'm ever going to do something to free my people, I've got to do this now.' We devote a whole episode to that in the new season and I was very happy to see that."

    "We have some other good stuff coming up, too, but I'm happiest so far about this one particular episode. The more we know about Teal'c's past, I think, the more interesting everything else he does is."
    ("Teal'c" actor Christopher Judge, in an interview with syndicated columnist Ian Spelling [via Starlog magazine])

  • "One of my favorite moments of these early fifth season episodes is the Larry David stare-down Bra'tac gives Teal'c to discern whether he is lying or not. That bug-eyed gawk would always leave me chortling. A great Teal'c episode, though less so for Chris Judge who had to brave the elements on this one. On the day they headed out to shoot the exterior scenes, they discovered a thick blanket of snow on the ground. Oops. It provided what I imagine must have been a somewhat uncomfortable bedding for the shirtless Chris to lie down on."
    (Writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)

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