Absolute Power

Summary | Analysis | Notes | Characters | Questions | Production | Review

Jackson's teammates notice a disturbing change in him when he is reunited with the Harcesis child and given the Goa'uld genetic memory.

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EPISODE #417
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 01.19.01
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 02.18.02
DVD DISC: Season 4, Disc 4
WRITTEN BY: Robert C. Cooper
DIRECTED BY: Peter DeLuise
GUEST STARS:

Lane Gates (Shifu), Peter Williams (Apophis), Colin Cunningham (Major Davis), Gary Jones (Technician), William deVry (Aldwin), Erick Avari (Kasuf), Stephen Williams (General Vidrine), Teryl Rothery (Dr. Janet Fraiser), Michelle Harrison (Assistant), Yee Jee Tso (Left Tech), Jenn Forgie (Right Tech), Barbara Fixx (Rear Tech), Coleen Christie (Reporter), June B. Wilde (Maid)

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Kasuf has heard a voice. SG-1 returns to the desert planet of Abydos, where Daniel Jackson’s father-in-law leads them out to a barren plain. He tells them that he saw a whirlwind come out of an active Stargate, and heard it speak the name of Sha’re, Daniel’s deceased wife.

The team sees an almost magical whirlwind arise suddenly. Daniel identifies himself to the storm, which disappears — leaving the form of a young boy. He identifies himself as Shifu, the Harcesis child of Sha’re and the Goa’uld Apophis.

To Earth, the child represents the promise of one day defeating the Goa’uld. As the product of the forbidden union between two Goa’uld hosts, he contains all the genetic knowledge of the Goa’uld who fathered him — but no symbiote or evil desire for galactic domination. SG-1 takes the boy back to Earth, and Daniel begins to question him about his Goa’uld memories. Shifu wants to learn about his mother, and Jackson answers his questions as best as he can.

Shifu has spent the last year with Oma Desala (“Maternal Instinct”), a highly advanced alien being who taught him to bury the genetic memories deep within his subconscious. They are too powerful, too evil to be overcome, she taught him. The only way to gain victory over that evil inside him is to deny the battle.

But Daniel wishes to learn the secrets of the Goa’uld — so Shifu offers to “teach” him. He places his hand on Jackson’s forehead, and a burst of light renders Daniel unconscious.

He awakens sometime later in the S.G.C. infirmary. It is not long before Daniel discovers Shifu’s gift: he has given him some of his Goa’uld memories. Jackson begins to take advantage of the knowledge, forming a top secret government project to create a network of dozens of weapons satellites. Once in Earth’s orbit, the powerful system will provide a powerful defense against alien attack.

But the knowledge is changing Daniel, and his friends soon take notice. He has flashes of Goa’uld memory: Teal’c kneeling before him as First Prime of Apophis, Sam being tortured with a pain stick, angrily striking out at Jack with a Goa’uld hand device, and even torturing Apophis himself. Jackson begins giving orders, and assigns himself as head of the new project.

One year and $160 billion later, the satellite network is almost ready for launch. Shifu has been living with Daniel in a posh mansion. There are servants and assistants to cater to him. Teal’c has died mysteriously. And Jackson has removed Carter from the new program, apparently because she figured out that his motives were not pure. When Sam confronts Daniel in his home, he has her thrown into prison.

Colonel Jack O’Neill visits Major Carter, who convinces him that something isn’t right with Daniel. He’s arranged every aspect of the weapons project so that he controls it all, but one group doesn’t know what the others are doing. She believes he has been corrupted by whatever Shifu did to him — and he is planning something very dangerous.

O’Neill visits his old friend on the day of the satellite launch, and finds himself transported (via Goa’uld rings Daniel has installed in his mansion) to a secret underground facility. From his command chair, Daniel personally can monitor and troubleshoot the deployment of the system. General Vidrine appears on the large screen to participate in the launch from Washington.

The launch is a success — but Russia, China, and the other world powers object to the United States’ secret launch of a powerful weapons network. Jackson tests the system by destroying a Russian satellite, shocking the General. But Russia doesn’t get the hint. Rather than consider sharing the technology with the rest of the world, Jackson uses a backdoor in the programming to seize control of the satellites from the government and turns the powerful weapons on Moscow itself.

O’Neill watches the events unfold in horror and pulls a handgun on his friend, unloading several rounds. But Daniel has taken precautions, installing a Goa’uld defense shield around his command chair. With Jack helpless (and his disloyalty exposed), Daniel destroys Moscow.

As the energy wave floods across the city, Daniel’s eyes flutter open again. No time has passed, and he is back in the S.G.C. infirmary.

He has learned the lesson that Shifu wanted to teach him: the knowledge of the Goa’uld is too evil to be used — even to fight them. The power of the Goa’uld is part of what corrupts them; and as Daniel has learned, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

He stops his teammates and the Tok’ra from extracting any information from Shifu (using the memory recall device and za’tarc detector (“Divide and Conquer”), telling them that they must let him leave. Only by releasing his burden — to obtain the Harcesis’ genetic knowledge of the Goa’uld — can Daniel find his own way again.

Shifu is transformed into a being of pure energy, like Oma Desala herself. Thankful for the memories about Sha’re that Daniel shared, he leaves through the Stargate.

ANALYSIS

  • There is a deliberate tie between “Absolute Power” and “Forever In a Day,” the episode that saw the death of Sha’re. “Dreams teach,” Shifu learns from Daniel. Just as a vision given to him by Sha’re taught Daniel to forgive Teal’c, and that he must find Shifu, so now does he learn through a dream that the Goa’uld genetic memories cannot be used by good people. Dreams are depicted as the battleground of the conscious and subconscious minds.
  • Apophis used nanite technology to cause his Harcesis child to mature quickly, in order to be used as his next host. Shifu is, in fact, about two and a half years old — he was born in Season Two’s “Secrets.” The same technology once caused Colonel O’Neill to rapidly age (“Brief Candle”).
  • While the team considers the possibility that the nanites went inactive because Shifu had reached the pre-programmed age, their second suggestion is more likely: that Oma Desala was able to disable the nanites after the boy had aged to where he is now. Apophis would certainly not wish to take as a host a boy who appears to be not much more than 8 years old.
  • Teal’c states that all Goa’uld are born evil because of their genetic knowledge. This is certainly supported by Tanith, who even before he was fully matured plotted to deceive, betray and murder the Jaffa who carried him (“Crossroads”).

    But some Goa’uld can certainly overcome this. The Tok’ra were born with the genetic knowledge of their predecessors, but overcame it to spawn a rebel faction to oppose the Goa’uld and their way of life. Certainly, other factors beyond genetic knowledge play into the equation. The Goa’uld sarcophagus (which the Tok’ra refuse to use), for example, is part of what makes them so evil (“Need”).

  • Buried in his subconscious, Shifu possesses all the knowledge of the Goa’uld who fathered him (Apophis), from the day when he was conceived — a little over three years ago (“Secrets”).
  • Shifu’s statement to Daniel that he must release his burden before he’ll find his own way again is similar to Sha’re’s final message to him — a fact that Daniel acknowledges when he tells the boy that someone had told him that before. In “Forever In a Day,” Sha’re told Daniel that he must forgive Teal’c for killing her — and move past her death — before he can pursue the Harcesis.
  • “If the instrument is broken,” Shifu says, “the music will be sour.” In his own cryptic way, he was trying to warn Daniel that one cannot use evil knowledge for good ends, nor can a good person acquire this evil knowledge and hope to remain good.
  • Oma Desala has given Shifu extraordinary powers — including the ability to cause very specific dreams, and to transform into a being of energy. At the very least, this certainly gives him the advantage of never being host to Apophis. He can also activate a Stargate — even dial a specific address — without accessing the dialing computer or being in the same room (an ability Oma also displayed in “Maternal Instinct”).
  • One inaccuracy of Daniel’s dream: Carter states that she has never heard of liquid naquadah. The substance, though, is what powers a Goa’uld staff weapon, and was discussed by Major Carter and her twin from an alternate reality in “Point of View.”
  • Assuming that the details of Daniel’s dream were accurate, the Russians still possess Earth’s alpha Stargate (“Watergate”), though they have agreed not to use it.
  • If one must have naquadah in his or her bloodstream to use Goa’uld technology, is it possible to artificially insert naquadah into the blood of someone who has not been host to a Goa’uld? Probably not (at least not permanently), since even a protein marker unnaturally injected will eventually be washed out of the system (“Legacy”).
  • Jack theorizes (in Daniel’s dream) that Shifu may be a Goa’uld operative. It’s certainly a reasonable theory, considering that the Goa’uld Nirrti put a bomb in the chest of a young girl (Cassandra) to try and destroy Earth’s Stargate (“Singularity”), and that Apophis brainwashed Teal’c’s son Rya’c and gave him false teeth filled with a toxin to wipe out all life on Earth (“Family”).

NOTES

  • “Shifu” means “light,” according to Dr. Jackson. Perhaps not coincidentally, it is also Chinese for “teacher.”
  • The Earth-Tok’ra treaty (negotiated in “Divide and Conquer”) includes the requirement for a full exchange of all potential sources of information related to the Goa’uld.
  • One needs naquadah in his or her blood to make Goa’uld technology — such as the Goa’uld hand device — function.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

  • Daniel JacksonDaniel Jackson – Jackson finally found the Harcesis child for whom he has been searching, after having sent the boy away to safety with Oma Desala. Shifu came to learn of his mother, and Daniel was happy to answer his questions. But when he sought the genetic knowledge of the Goa’uld that Shifu possesses, Daniel learned that evil knowledge can never be used for good. The power that it brings corrupts by its very nature. His lesson came in the form of a very real dream, where he watched himself spend a year of his life slipping into power-hungry corruption, to the point where he alienated his friends and killed countless people by destroying Moscow.

    Shifu told Daniel that he must release his burden — the desire for secret Goa’uld knowledge — before he can find his own way again. Now that he has, what path will Daniel choose? Now that his wife is dead and he is no longer searching for Shifu, what purpose will he find in the Stargate program?

  • AldwinAldwin – The Tok’ra Aldwin made his first trip to Earth (that we know of), in order to help extract Goa’uld genetic memories from Shifu with Tok’ra technology. Aldwin was hesitant to let Shifu go, considering the great value he had to the struggle against the Goa’uld — but really didn’t have any choice.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

  • Was Oma Desala on Abydos, or had Shifu come alone?
  • What other abilities did Oma give to Shifu?
  • On what mission did Daniel send Teal’c?
  • What happened to Teal’c? If he died, how?
  • For how long was Daniel dreaming?
  • Was Daniel in control of his own decisions during his dream? Would the Goa’uld knowledge really corrupt him, or was he passively watching Shifu’s understanding of its effects?
  • Was the information in Daniel’s dream (including the specifics of Goa’uld knowledge) real? Is there such a thing as liquid naquadah? Does he know a way to disable the Russian’s Stargate?
  • What will Daniel’s “new path” be?
  • Where will Shifu go now? To learn of his father, Apophis?

PRODUCTION NOTES

  • “Two years old is way too young to make a story where he is interacting with other characters,” director Peter DeLuise wrote of the Harcesis child. “We will see the Harcesis child, but he will be much older than two years old.”
  • SG-1 writer Joseph Mallozzi posed some teaser questions several months before “Absolute Power” aired: “In ‘Absolute Power’ we find out what happens to a presumably ‘good’ individual when they are given that genetic memory. Will they use this knowledge to effect change? Or will they allow this corrupt knowledge to change them?”
  • “That was a deleted scene from ‘Absolute Power.’ Jack makes a horrifying discovery: It turns out Daniel has been keeping Teal’c a prisoner, experimenting on him, transfusing himself with his naquadah-rich blood which, ultimately, allows him to use the hand device. It was a dark revelation that was cut at either the script stage or in editing.” (Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at Our Stargate)
  • “[‘Absolute Power’] … corrupts absolutely. Actors love to play bad guys and, in this episode, Michael Shanks delivers a terrific portrayal of our Daniel gone dark side. Destroying Moscow is pretty bad, but one of the most unsettling acts he commits never found its way into the finished version of the episode. In an earlier version, there is mention of the fact that Teal’c inexplicably vanished years ago. The truth about his mysterious disappearance is revealed when Jack stumbles upon his old friend, a prisoner of Daniel who has been experimenting on him, transfusing blood from the Jaffa in an effort to master control of Goa’uld technology.” (Writer-producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog