Serpent’s Song

Summary | Analysis | Notes | Characters | Questions | Production

Apophis, SG-1's greatest enemy, seeks sanctuary from a rival Goa'uld and ends up near death in the S.G.C. infirmary -- completely at the mercies of his human foe.

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EPISODE #218
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 02.12.99
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 02.21.00
DVD DISC: Season 2, Disc 4
WRITTEN BY: Katharyn Powers
DIRECTED BY: Peter DeLuise
GUEST STARS:

Peter Williams (Apophis), Teryl Rothery (Dr. Janet Fraiser), JR Bourne (Martouf), Tobias Mehler (Lt. Simmons), Peter Lacroix (Ashrak), Dan Shea (Sergeant Siler)

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SG-1 has received a strange transmission consisting only of coordinates for a planet. Believing the signal came from the Tok’ra (“The Tok’ra, Part 2”), the team visits the desert world and waits for them to show up.

The Tok’ra do not appear — instead, a Goa’uld death glider appears in the sky, racing toward them. It is being pursued, and is quickly shot down. The small craft crashes into a hill near the Stargate, and SG-1 runs to investigate. There they find a bloodied Apophis, lying on the ground and pleading for help.

The team grabs the fallen Goa’uld System Lord, and brings him back through the gate to the S.G.C. General Hammond is shocked to see him, and Apophis is brought to the infirmary to have his severe wounds treated.

Because of his defeat in his attempt to attack Earth (“The Serpent’s Lair”), Apophis has lost his place among the System Lords. The balance of power has shifted, and another Goa’uld captured the weakened Apophis.

Apophis finally reveals his name: he was captured by Sokar, who pursues him even now. Apophis signaled the S.G.C. and sought sanctuary among them, because he knew Sokar would follow him and kill him, and he wanted to take all of Earth down with him.

Hammond is not anxious to give Apophis back to Sokar, even when the Tok’ra arrive and tell them that they must. Not only has Apophis sought sanctuary and offered Earth a chance to learn valuable Goa’uld secrets, but they must recognize that they are dealing with two life forms in one body. The host is an innocent scribe from ancient Egypt, who has spent thousands of years trapped inside his own mind. The S.G.C. is not about to turn him over to be tortured by Sokar.

Martouf, the Tok’ra representative, cannot convince the team to send Apophis back to the place they found him. They wish Earth well, but before they can leave Sokar dials to the Earth Stargate. He cannot penetrate the iris guarding the gate, but instead fires a particle accelerator at the iris, causing an image to appear. A voice booms out: “People of the Tau’ri — you have taken what is mine. For this, you will be destroyed.” The beam’s intensity increases, super-heating the iris.

Meanwhile, each member of SG-1 has taken the opportunity to interrogate the helpless Apophis, dying and chained to a bed in the infirmary. Apophis expresses his love for his queen Amonet, the Goa’uld who inhabits the body of Daniel’s wife Sha’re. Jackson strikes back by telling Apophis that it was not the Goa’uld Heru’ur who stole Apophis’s child, but Daniel himself (“Secrets”).

Apophis threatens Carter, refusing to tell her how they might guard against Sokar’s weapon. He tells her that she will make an excellent host for Sokar’s new queen. Carter is disgusted. And when Apophis begins to cry out in excruciating pain, Teal’c tells Dr. Fraiser to let him suffer.

Teal’c himself is delighted at the current situation. He has waited for this day for many years, and tells Apophis that this day, the day of his death, will become a holy day on Teal’c’s home planet of Chulak. The Jaffa there no longer follow Apophis, Teal’c tells him. Now, they will use the Goa’uld as they have been used — they will discard their larval Goa’uld when they mature, leaving them to die.

Because a Stargate wormhole can only be maintained for 38 minutes, the S.G.C. has an opportunity: if they can dial out to a planet before Sokar can dial in a second time, they can avoid his weapon. But the S.G.C. computer is too slow, and Sokar reestablishes his attack. The temperature in the Gate Room rises to more than 200 degrees — with S.G.C. personnel firing massive amounts of coolant at the red-hot iris — before the next window of opportunity arises.

Hammond knows that the immediate threat from Sokar is just the tip of the iceberg. If he fails to penetrate the iris, Sokar will simply come in a ship and attack Earth from space — he, or any one of numerous other Goa’uld who wish to get their hands on Apophis. After consulting with the president, Hammond announces that Apophis will be sent back to the planet where he was found.

In the infirmary, Apophis’s host has emerged. He is a terrified young man, who has lived thousands of years in a waking nightmare. Speaking in his native language, Daniel promises the man that he will be taken back to Egypt and be buried with honor, and that he will soon be with his wife and children again in the next life.

With a helpless cry of pain, Apophis asks for a new host. O’Neill refuses. “I am afraid,” the fallen System Lords says. Moments later, Apophis breathes his last.

Thanks to Captain Carter’s rapid-dialing program, the S.G.C. manages to beat Sokar at the next interval, and an outgoing wormhole is established. Apophis’s dead body is taken to the Stargate, and sent back to Sokar.

The attack is over, and Earth can be reasonably assured that no Goa’uld will come for them. Sokar was interested in Apophis, not the Tau’ri. As for Apophis, Martouf warns, Sokar can use a sarcophagus to revive him even from death, and torture him as much as he pleases.

ANALYSIS

  • When the Goa’uld death glider fired at O’Neill as he fled through the Stargate, the blast must have impacted on the ground in front of the Stargate (in spite of the apparent angle it had). Otherwise, the blast itself would have traveled through the gate to the S.G.C., and impacted in the Gate Room on Earth.
  • Hammond states that he and Apophis have met before. In fact, they encountered one another briefly — when Apophis first invaded Earth and captured a female solider from the gate room.
  • Carter remembers the pain and torture when the Ashrak, a Goa’uld assassin, killed Jolinar, the Tok’ra Goa’uld who possessed her. She believes the same device was used on Apophis. The device is not used to extract information, but is a method of torture.
  • Apophis spoke of “another” who would destroy Earth. He was most likely speaking of Sokar, who he knew would come to Earth looking for him if he failed to penetrate Earth’s Stargate. By coming to Earth for sanctuary, Apophis deliberately put the planet in great danger.
  • The last of Apophis’s loyal Jaffa died stealing him from Sokar. There are many on Chulak who do still follow and worship Apophis, though he does not seem to know that. (Teal’c would have him believe that the entire planet of Jaffa have turned against him, and against all the Goa’uld — though this is an exaggeration.)
  • The Unas, a race of beings who served as the original hosts of the Goa’uld before humans were discovered by Ra (“Thor’s Hammer”, “Stargate” the Movie), may have once lived with humans on Earth under the rule of Sokar. Sokar’s current host may even be an Unas.
  • Apophis and Amonet have discussed Daniel Jackson in the past, so that Apophis knew him by name.
  • Apophis tells Daniel that he “loved” Amonet (past tense). This may indicate that something has happened to her, or at least to their relationship. She may be dead, or Apophis may simply not know where she is. Alternately, Apophis may simply have been acknowledging that his own death was imminent, and looking back in retrospect on his life.
  • Apophis experienced withdrawal symptoms from the sarcophagus, as Daniel went through after becoming addicted to its use (“Need”).
  • The people of Chulak no longer worship Apophis — at least that is what Teal’c told him. It is likely that Teal’c was exaggerating for Apophis’s sake.
  • Apophis was able to sense that Carter was once host to a Goa’uld (“In the Line of Duty”). This supports the idea that one Goa’uld can sense whether or not a person is possessed by another Goa’uld (“Need”).
  • The Tok’ra are allies with the Tollan (“Enigma”), and have given Earth a Tollan communications device in order to contact the Tok’ra. What of the Tollan law against sharing technology with less advanced beings? The Tok’ra and the Goa’uld may indeed be as advanced as (or more advanced than) the Tollan. It may also be that the Tollan are concerned about the Goa’uld, and have reached an agreement with the Tok’ra to share information and technology. It is not clear whether the Tok’ra are allies with the new Tollan homeworld, or with the refugees saved by SG-1 who currently live with the Nox (“Enigma”).

NOTES

  • “Kelmah” is the Goa’uld word for “sanctuary.”
  • Earth’s Stargate address is well-known among the Goa’uld.
  • The Tok’ra now possess a G.D.O. device, in order to signal the S.G.C. to open the iris guarding the Stargate.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

  • ApophisApophis – Apophis’s failed attack on Earth, where he lost two of his ships and the armies that were on board (“The Serpent’s Lair”), has weakened his place among the System Lords (a fact first revealed in “Family”). Other rival Goa’uld, such as Sokar, are taking advantage of that.

    Apophis showed fear in facing his own death, and remained helpless during his stay on Earth. He is now dead, and his body has been sent to his enemy Sokar — who could potentially use a sarcophagus to resurrect and torture him.

  • Daniel JacksonDaniel Jackson – After nearly two years, Jackson was given the opportunity to confront Apophis about the abduction and possession of his wife, Sha’re. Apophis showed no remorse, and expressed his love for her (or rather for Amonet, the Goa’uld possessing her). Daniel, though unsuccessful in learning of her whereabouts, took great pleasure in revealing to Apophis that he — and not Heru’ur — stole Apophis’s child (“Secrets”).
  • Teal'cTeal’c – Since defecting from his position as First Prime of Apophis’s nearly two years ago, Teal’c has long awaited the day when the System Lord would be defeated and killed. He enjoyed watching Apophis’s pain and misery, telling his former god that the day of his death would become a holy day on Chulak. Teal’c rejoices that Apophis is dead, but is concerned about Sokar’s ability to resurrect him.
  • SokarSokar – Sokar is an ancient Goa’uld who once ruled the System Lords. He was conquered by an alliance of Goa’uld, including Ra and Apophis (two mortal enemies, according to “Children of the Gods”). Apophis himself believed Sokar to be dead.

    Sokar was the original god of the damned on Earth, and may have even ruled the entire planet at one point. He was the original “Satan,” throwing his enemies into pits of burning fire. He was the most feared deity in ancient Egypt, and his host may be an Unas — the original hosts of the Goa’uld (“Thor’s Hammer”).

    Sokar is presently at war with Heru’ur.

  • Samantha CarterSamantha Carter – Carter struggled with her memories of being possessed by the Tok’ra Goa’uld Jolinar of Malkshur (“In the Line of Duty”). She remembered being tortured by the Ashrak assassin. Sam also was repelled by Apophis’s suggestion that she might be forced to become a Goa’uld host again.
  • MartoufMartouf – Martouf now acts as a liaison between the Tok’ra and the S.G.C. He is mild mannered, kind and wise. His symbiote, Lantash, is much more stern and opinionated.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

  • How exactly did Apophis escape from Sokar? How did he communicate via radio with Earth? Did he dial Earth’s Stargate and send the signal before fleeing from Sokar? And if he had access to a Stargate, why not use it to escape and recover his empire?
  • How did Apophis know that Earth had recently become allies with the Tok’ra? How was he able to fake a Tok’ra signal … particularly in his rush to escape from Sokar?
  • How did Carter know that the Ashrak device was used on Apophis?
  • Where is Jacob Carter, and what is he doing? Why is he not serving as the Tok’ra liaison to Earth?
  • Did Apophis have an iris-like barrier guarding his own Stargate before being captured by Sokar? (He stated that Sokar used the same weapon on him.)
  • To what planet did the S.G.C. gate in order to keep Sokar from dialing in?
  • Will the S.G.C. continue to use the rapid-dialing program, or will they dial Stargate addresses normally? Does the program require additional resources, such as energy?
  • Have the Tok’ra established relations with the Tollan homeworld, or with the refugee Tollan living on the Nox homeworld? If the latter, have they also established an alliance with the Nox?
  • Are the Tollan at war with the Goa’uld, or actively opposing them? If the Tok’ra have nothing valuable to offer them, why else would the Tollan agree to share their technology?
  • Will Sokar revive Apophis with a sarcophagus? Can a sarcophagus even revive a Goa’uld symbiote from death, as well as the human host?

PRODUCTION NOTES

  • “I had fourteen pages of scenes in which Apophis is slowly dying in the infirmary’s I.C.U. Now, that amount of pages is daunting to begin with but considering the subject matter it had the potential to be boring. I’m talking Snoresville! Remember my metaphor about the hovering thumb over the television remote control? I thought, ‘God, the fans are going to be changing the channel in droves. What am I going to do?’

    “I decided to visually stimulate the audience. First off, I put Apophis in a bondage jacket because he was an intimidating foe, a la Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Next, he was supposed to have broken both his femurs, so we strapped some heavy-duty braces on him and that looked cool, too. The character also began aging at an accelerated rate and his eyes were glowing, which gave viewers that much more to look at.

    “Poor Peter Williams was completely blind during the scenes in which Apophis has aged into a super-old man. We put white fogged-up contact lens in his eyes and all he could see were shadows. I’d go over and talk with him and, of course, I’d just be a voice in the darkness, so I’d touch his arm as if he really were blind and tried to make him feel comfortable. I remember thinking, ‘This is quite a lot to ask of an actor. He’s gone through three hours of make-up, we’ve blinded him and now we’re asking him to act.’ Peter was a real trouper, though, and really gave all of himself and more in his performance.”

    “Teal’c carries Apophis’s body, which is all wrapped up, through the Stargate and places him in a puddle of water. The ‘body’ was, in fact, a dummy, but it was stiff to the point that it looked phony. We couldn’t have that, so we unwrapped it and broke its arms and legs so that it would bend more like a human being. Then we rewrapped it, Chris picked it up and we reshot the scene. Can you imagine? Our stiff was too stiff.

    “Most of this episode was shot on the show’s standing sets, but we did have one day out on location on what we call the Richmond sandpits where we film a lot of ‘otherworldly’ action. We set off quite a few explosions that day and we also had to bring the Stargate with us, which is a major financial undertaking. There was a death glider crash in the story and we had an actual glider mock-up complete with fire and smoke, which was pretty neat. Traditionally on this show you’ll have two or three days out on location. Sometimes you won’t be working in standing sets at all and you’ll do the entire episode somewhere else.” (Director Peter DeLuise, in an interview with SciFiAndTvTalk’s Steve Eramo)