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RITE OF PASSAGE
 
RATINGS SCORECARD
GATEWORLD - * * 1/2
FAN POLL - 6.47
SYNDICATION RATING - 2.3 / 2.4 (-12)

Season Ratings
EPISODE NUMBER - 506
DVD DISC - Season 5, Disc 2
ORIGINAL U.S. AIR DATE - 08.03.01
SYNDICATION AIR DATE - 10.14.02
WRITTEN BY - Heather E. Ash
DIRECTED BY - Peter DeLuise
GUEST STARRING - Colleen Rennison
(Cassandra), Jacqueline Samuda (Nirrti), Richard de Klerk (Dominic), Karen van Blankenstein (Nurse)
Cassandra mysteriously falls ill, sending SG-1 back to her home planet -- where they uncover a dark Goa'uld secret.

In her nearly four years living on Earth, Cassandra has become a beautiful young woman. She's also become a typical teenager, preferring to go out with her boyfriend than hang out at home and have birthday cake with Janet Fraiser (her adopted mother) and Samantha Carter.

When she and Janet clash, Cassie meets young Dominic on the porch and asks him to wait a few minutes. He gives her a birthday present, and they exchange a kiss -- but Cassandra falls unconscious, and the porch light explodes overhead.

Sam and Janet rush her to the S.G.C. infirmary, where they discover that her body is generating a low-level electromagnetic field. And she is dying, having been infected with a retrovirus that has laid dormant in her system since she was taken from the planet Hanka four years ago -- after the Goa'uld Nirrti wiped out her people, and killed an S.G. team.

Dr. Fraiser learns that the retrovirus is rewriting Cassandra's D.N.A., transforming her into something else. Her brain activity rises to as much as 25 percent above normal. Janet tries to slow the virus down with medication, but has no ability to save her daughter. SG-1 must return to Hanka (P8X-987) to look for answers.

Jackson digs out video taken by SG-7 during their mission to Hanka, before Nirrti's attack. He finds video of a teenager who showed the same signs as Cassie -- something the locals call the "mind fire." When young Hankans reached this age, the condition set in, and they went into the forest as a sort of "rite of passage." When they returned a few days later, they were cured.

In her delirium, Cassandra herself speaks of "going into the forest." SG-1 checks out the woods near her old village, and makes a shocking discovery. There is a Goa'uld laboratory deep underground, reachable only by a ring transporter system. They theorize that Hankan children would wander into the forest and find their way into the lab, where Nirrti would study them, heal them, and return them to the village.

But why? What was Nirrti trying to create with the retrovirus? The only clue is the word "hok'taur" -- a slang term meaning "advanced human."

Back on Earth, Cassandra's fever rises as her condition worsens. She begins to exhibit incredible telekinetic abilities, and the electrical field she is generating affects every system around her. She pushes Janet away, telling her that she wants this transformation to happen. She knows that she is becoming something special.

But Fraiser pleads with her to fight the virus, arguing that her body can't handle what it's doing to her. If she doesn't fight, she may die.

SG-1 returns to Earth, believing that Nirrti was attempting to engineer an advanced breed of humans -- complete with telekinesis, and possibly other abilities -- to use as a new host. Children were healed and returned home so that they would pass on their genes, incrementally evolving the race. But when Nirrti found an SG team on Hanka, she destroyed the planet's population for fear that her experiment would fall into the hands of a rival Goa'uld.

Cassandra screams for help, and the team rushes to her side. She claims to have sensed the presence of a Goa'uld. Recalling that Nirrti had the ability to become invisible ("Fair Game"), and that she might be free now that Cronus is dead ("Double Jeopardy"), they break out transphase eradication rods (TERs, capable of illuminating her cloaking technology) and begin a sweep of the base.

With no place to hide, Nirrti attacks O'Neill and Fraiser in an attempt to get at Cassandra, but is captured. When SG-1 found her laboratory, it notified her. She followed them back to Earth, and has been watching Cassie's transformation ever since. The girl is a valuable key to starting her research on a new planet.

General Hammond demands that she use every means at her disposal to save Cassandra's life. Nirrti offers a deal: she will save the girl if they let her go, and give her a sample of Cassandra's blood. Hammond refuses, and locks her up.

But Cassandra's condition has grown steadily worse, and it appears that there is no other way of saving her life. When Janet realizes that she can do nothing, she knocks out Nirrti's guard and draws a pistol on the Goa'uld, demanding that she help.

Hammond orders the doctor to stand down, but she refuses. But he tells her that this isn't necessary -- SG-1 has already convinced him to let Nirrti go in exchange for her help. But she's refused a sample of Cassandra's blood.

The Goa'uld agrees, and is able to restore Cassie's body using a Goa'uld healing device together with a piece of technology that SG-1 brought back from her lab. Cassandra can return to being a normal teenager.

Nirrti is somewhat surprised when O'Neill escorts her to the Stargate and keeps their end of the bargain. But she promises to begin her experiments again on another world.


ANALYSIS
  • Cassandra's cake was missing a candle or two, if it was supposed to represent her age. There were 14. Daniel said that Cassandra was 12 (Season Two's "Holiday") -- though it's uncertain whether she was 12 then or 12 when she was rescued (nearly four years ago). Assuming the former, she is 15; if the latter is the case, she is celebrating her 16th birthday.

  • It's apparently possible to rig a Goa'uld ring transporter so that it doesn't transport everything within the rings -- but only the people. The fire, dirt and other material on the ground was not sent down into Nirrti lab with SG-1. (This isn't the first time that this is demonstrated, of course -- sand is apparently not transported in "The Tok'ra" or "Exodus." Perhaps the transport device is simply centered a few inches off the ground, and transports shoes because they are attached to people.)

  • What was the Goa'uld System Lord Nirrti doing on Hanka, and why did she destroy the entire population ("Singularity")? Those questions have finally been answered: she experimented with them in an attempt to artificially evolve human hosts, to give them telekinetic abilities (among other things, no doubt).

    Nirrti destroyed her experiment in order to keep it from falling into the hands of an enemy, once SG-7 arrived on the scene.

  • Jack's explanation of how Cassandra can make the chess pieces move -- "Magnets" -- is reminiscent of Season Four's "Window of Opportunity." He used the same explanation when trying to explain the geomagnetic storms on an alien world.

  • Nirrti believed that the children of Hanka were naturally evolving to this higher state -- so she used her Goa'uld retrovirus to speed the process along. The experiment was meant to be long-term: each generation of kids was healed of the virus' symptoms, so that they would pass on slightly advanced genes to the next generation.

    Her experiment is not exactly unique. The Goa'uld Pelops used nanocite technology to cause the people of Argos to rapidly age, living out an entire life in 100 days, in order to quickly study the life span of human hosts and stimulate rapid evolution.

  • Nirrti must have known to stay away from Major Carter and Cassie while she was hiding on the base, since they both have naquadah in their systems -- and thus the ability to sense the presence of a Goa'uld.

  • Standard T.E.R. scans failed to catch Nirrti when she followed SG-1 back through the Stargate. The S.G.C. has supposedly been sweeping the Gate Room with T.E.R. bursts whenever a team arrives through the gate ever since the Re'tu attack more than two years ago ("Show and Tell"). Either the S.G.C. has stopped doing the sweeps, or they aren't done very well.

    Nirrti does not appear to have modified her technology so that T.E.R.s cannot detect her, since one of the base soldiers later makes her partially visible with a T.E.R.

  • Nirrti failed to heal Cassandra on her first attempt. Knowing that her own life and freedom hung in the balance, it probably wasn't because she wasn't really trying (a stunt she pulled with the dying Cronus in "Fair Game").

  • Hammond's decision to let Nirrti go -- even keeping the agreement after Cassandra was healed -- will no doubt reflect poorly on his command in the eyes of some powerful people in the U.S. government. Only a few weeks ago, Colonel Simmons (apparently representing the N.I.D.) investigated the S.G.C. and threatened Hammond's command with his negative report ("The Fifth Man").

  • Nirrti threw another wrench into the ethics of whether or not they should have let her go: she pledged to start her experiments anew on a different planet. Hammond and SG-1 have demonstrated not only that they value the life of one person over the strategic advantage of having a Goa'uld System Lord in custody, but that they value the life of one of their own friends more than the security of the galaxy and the safety of someone else's planet.


  • CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
    CassandraCassandra - Cassie should be about 15 or 16 years old now, is no doubt in high school, and has a boyfriend named Dominic. Despite the fact that she is from another planet, she has become a fairly typical American teenager.

    Not only did a retrovirus threaten her life and force her to again face the death of her family and her entire village at the hands of the Goa'uld, but Cassandra also had to face Nirrti herself -- up close and personal. Life may return to normal for Cassie, despite the fact that the one who killed everyone she knew has now saved her life -- and despite the fact that she experienced telekinesis, and could discover additional effects of Nirrti's genetic manipulation in the future.

    It's also important to note that Cassandra knows exactly what Sam did for her four years ago, when it was believed that a bomb in her chest would kill her. In an abandoned military complex deep underground, Sam refused to leave her to die alone. Cassie knows that, and knows that Sam was ready to die with her.

    Now that she has been cured, Cassandra must also face the fact that she would pass on her advanced genes to any children she might one day have -- and put that child at risk for the same deadly rite of passage.

    Janet FraiserJanet Fraiser - When her adopted daughter fell ill, was transformed into an "advanced human" by a Goa'uld retrovirus, and was near death, Janet faced one of her most terrible moments. Her daughter was dying, and she could do nothing about it -- even the extreme measures that the experienced doctor took to bring down Cassie's fever were ineffective. Beyond this, she also had to deal with Cassandra seemingly rejecting her as a mother.

    But with the one person who could save her daughter being held in the S.G.C. brig, Fraiser made a shocking choice: she assaulted S.G.C. personnel and threatened Nirrti with a handgun. In the end, her extreme measures were successful, and Cassandra was saved.

    Janet will no doubt wonder whether or not Cassandra will suffer any further side effects from her ordeal, or if there are any more surprises in store for the young woman who was once a Goa'uld experiment subject. She will likely also receive a formal reprimand for her actions, at the very least.

    NirrtiNirrti - Nirrti escaped imprisonment by Cronus when he was killed by SG-1 and their robot doubles ("Double Jeopardy"). Whether or not her own army and territory remain intact and waiting for her is uncertain -- she apparently went to Hanka alone, and followed SG-1 back to Earth alone.

    Nirrti was conducting experiments to create a genetically advanced human host -- one who is telekinetic, at the very least. She wiped out the population of Hanka when SG-7 arrived, fearing that her experiment would be discovered by an enemy. Once caught at the S.G.C., she refused to save Cassandra's life unless she was set free with a sample of her blood -- until Cassie's mother held a gun to her head.

    Now that the Goa'uld has been set free, she has vowed to begin her experiments anew.

    Samantha CarterSamantha Carter - Carter was forced to watch two of her closest friends -- Cassandra and Janet -- go through an ordeal that threatened the young girl's life and brought them face-to-face with the Goa'uld who exterminated Cassie's people (and an SG team) less than four years ago. When faced with the choice of Cassandra's life in exchange for a powerful Goa'uld as prisoner, Sam unabashedly chose the former.

    George HammondGeorge Hammond - Hammond found himself with an extremely trying dilemma: whether to let a Goa'uld System Lord go free with a sample of Cassandra's blood for her experiments (helping her to create a super-advanced human host), or to let the young girl die and keep his prisoner. In the end, he was convinced to set Nirrti free in exchange for saving Cassandra's life.

    Jack O'NeillJack O'Neill - O'Neill made the same decision that Carter did -- that it's worth losing Nirrti as a prisoner (and even assisting her in her research to create an advanced host) to save Cassie's life.

    Cassandra makes an important observation about Jack: he pretends not to be as smart as he really is.

    Daniel JacksonDaniel Jackson - Daniel reached out to Janet Fraiser in the midst of this crisis, telling her that they were there to support her. It's an interesting exchange between two people who don't seem to socialize very much, implying that Daniel may regard her as potentially, one day, more than a friend.

    Teal'cTeal'c - When faced with the choice between Cassandra's life or a Goa'uld System Lord prisoner, Teal'c advised General Hammond to choose the latter, and sacrifice the life of one girl. He argued that the knowledge that Nirrti possesses -- and keeping her from experimenting on and killing countless others -- is of greater value than a single life.


    NOTES
  • "Hok'taur" is a slang term for "advanced human." The "taur" syllable comes from "Taur'i," the Goa'uld term for humans -- specifically, humans originating from planet Earth ("The Enemy Within").

  • A single shot from a zat gun can disable Nirrti's personal cloaking device, making her visible.

  • UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
  • Will Cassandra suffer any other ill effects from the retrovirus, or some other element of Nirrti's experiments?

  • Will Cassie's genetic advancement have any noticeable, lasting effect on her, or her children?

  • How did Nirrti get through the Stargate to Earth without being discovered by the T.E.R. sweep that is suppose to be occurring?

  • How did Nirrti escape from Cronus after his death?

  • Is Nirrti a loner now, or was her army and territory still waiting for her when she escaped from Cronus? Is she still a System Lord?

  • What consequences will Dr. Fraiser face for her actions?

  • Will the decision to let Nirrti go have repercussions for General Hammond?

  • Will Nirrti begin her experiment again? Where?

  • PRODUCTION
  • "This one offered us the rare opportunity to give Dr. Fraiser some screen time and touch on one of Carter's few onscreen non-romantic relationships. The unfortunately monikered Hanka children were named after then MGM studio exec Hank Cohen (who would make a cameo in this season's 'Wormhole X-Treme!' as, surprisingly enough, a studio exec)."
    (Writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)

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