The Serpent’s Venom

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

SG-1 must stop Apophis and Heru'ur from forming an alliance of their powerful forces, while Teal'c is captured and tortured by the Goa'uld.

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EPISODE #414
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 09.29.00
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 01.21.02
DVD DISC: Season 4, Disc 4
WRITTEN BY: Peter DeLuise
DIRECTED BY: Martin Wood
GUEST STARS:

Carmen Argenziano (Jacob Carter), Obi Ndefo (Rak’nor), Paul Koslo (Terok), Peter Williams (Apophis), Douglas H. Arthurs (Heru’ur), Art Kitching (Ma’kar), Daniel Bacon (Technician), Wren Robertz (Red Guard), Nicholas Harrison (Red Guard), Kyle Hogg (Jaffa Boy), Chris Duggan (Heru’ur’s Jaffa)

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Teal’c has returned to his home planet of Chulak to continue his work of turning the Jaffa against the powerful Goa’uld who enslave them. His rebellion is well-known; some respect him as a freedom-fighter, others despise his as the “shol’vah” — the traitor who betrayed their god.

Teal’c’s work on Chulak has never been more important. Since Apophis attacked and slaughtered many of their people (“Maternal Instinct”), many have become more receptive to his ideas. He meets with two men — Ma’kar and Rak’nor — at night. Rak’nor is a Jaffa warrior with many followers. But Rak’nor betrays Teal’c, calling in a guard. The guard shoots Teal’c with a zat gun, rendering him unconscious. He is captured.

On Earth, Jacob Carter and the S.G.C. receive a transmission from the Tok’ra through the Stargate. There is an important mission for them to undertake immediately: a transmission between the two most powerful Goa’uld — Apophis, who now controls the army of Sokar (“The Devil You Know”), and Heru’ur. The two will meet in the Tobin system to discuss an alliance.

Jacob explains that the Tobin themselves are extinct, but their legacy includes a vast minefield surrounding their homeworld. The mines are programmed to target certain energy frequencies, including Goa’uld weapons fire. It is the perfect neutral ground for the Goa’uld to meet; if one fires, his ship will be pummeled by the large explosives.

But the Tok’ra have come into possession of a Tobin technical manual for the mines, which they cannot entirely translate. It is based on ancient Phoenician, so Daniel can lend a hand. Jacob, Sam, Daniel and Jack set out in the Tok’ra cargo ship to reprogram one of the mines so that it will hone in on a specific frequency. When an undercover Tok’ra operative on board Apophis’s ship sends out the proper signal, the mine will be attracted to the ship and Apophis will believe Heru’ur is attacking him.

But the ultimate goal is not to destroy Apophis’s mothership. Jacob believes that Apophis’s next move will be to withdraw and gather his forces for an attack on Heru’ur’s homeworld. All-out war between the two great armies is the goal. Their forces will be diminished, returning the balance of power to the collective System Lords — which is preferable to one all-powerful Goa’uld.

Teal’c is dragged into a long, dark room, and chained. He hangs helplessly as a notorious Goa’uld torturer, Terok, welcomes him. He tortures Teal’c with a pain stick while Rak’nor watches in anger. Terok is recording the torture sessions for posterity; his goal is to break Teal’c, and make him say that he was wrong in turning against the gods.

Jacob and the rest of SG-1 arrive at the Tobin system, and transport one of the mines aboard. Carefully, Sam and Daniel discover how to open the access panel. Using the Tobin manual, Daniel instructs Sam on how to input the correct combination that will allow them to reprogram the mine. But the combination doesn’t work; the mine begins a 5-minute countdown to destruction.

Teal’c continues to be tortured, and Rak’nor is shocked to see him endure it without showing any hint of breaking. He discovers that Teal’c would rather die and condemn his soul to eternal punishment than to acknowledge the Goa’uld are gods. Rak’nor is confused, but so far unsympathetic with the traitor. In fact, he has a deep hatred for Teal’c. When Terok leaves the room, Rak’nor tells Teal’c that many years ago Teal’c spared the life of Rak’nor’s father, Delnor, after Apophis ordered him killed. His father became a believer in Teal’c’s anti-Goa’uld philosophy when Teal’c left the service of Apophis. He even seared off the mark of Apophis from Rak’nor’s forehead.

But when Apophis returned to Chulak and attacked, Rak’nor’s father and the rest of his family were killed. For this, he blames Teal’c.

Apophis and Heru’ur arrive in the Tobin system and discuss their alliance. They control the two largest armies of the Goa’uld, and together they can easily defeat the combined System Lords.

Sam and Daniel discover a discrepancy in the Tobin manual: there is no zero in the ancient Phoenician numerical system, but Sam explains that the Tobin must have added a zero at some point in their development — it would be necessary for any race to create such advanced technology as the mine. “Trust me,” Sam tells him — “it’s a math thing.” They alter the access code by one digit, and are able to reprogram the mine. It is launched back into space, as the cargo ship remains in stealth mode — hidden from Apophis and Heru’ur.

Teal’c’s painful torture is halted, momentarily. Terok has been unable to break him, and grows frustrated. Teal’c now finds himself dragged into Heru’ur’s throne room. He is no longer on Chulak, he discovers, but has been on board Heru’ur’s mothership. The Goa’uld offers him as a gift to Apophis to seal their alliance. Apophis accepts.

But Terok is not finished with Teal’c yet. Knowing Apophis can revive his prize with a sarcophagus, the torturer takes a Goa’uld hand device and moves to kill Teal’c. But Rak’nor has been convinced by Teal’c’s steadfast resistance to the torture. He approaches Terok from behind and stabs him with the pain stick, rendering the Goa’uld unconscious. He and Teal’c transport his body to Apophis’s ship in Teal’c’s place.

On board Apophis’s vessel, the Tok’ra operative actives the beacon. The reprogrammed mine responds, hurtling toward the ship and exploding. Believing Heru’ur is attacking, Apophis does not withdraw as Jacob had expected: instead, he reveals an entire fleet of his ships, cloaked all around him. Heru’ur knows that he is helpless, and his ship is quickly destroyed by Apophis. As the rest of the minefield collapses in on Apophis’s ship, his fleet surrounds him — sacrificing themselves so that he can escape.

A death glider emerges from the ship before it explodes: it is Rak’nor and Teal’c. Rak’nor responds to Jacob’s radio hail with a Tok’ra password, and they agree to rendezvous on the third moon of Tichenor. The team is relieved to learn that Teal’c made it out alive.

But their mission has been a failure, with the worst possible result. With Heru’ur dead, Jacob’s symbiote Selmak tells them, Apophis will easily absorb Heru’ur’s forces into his own. He is now a greater threat than ever before.

ANALYSIS

  • Teal’c has begun to raise a larger following against the Goa’uld on Chulak. Those who agreed to meet with him are Kol’na of the High Cliffs and Hak’nor of the Cordai Plains. They were to meet in the Chompka Groves (the same place where Rya’c was rescued in “Family”).
  • When contacting the S.G.C., the Tok’ra sent their iris code — though it was not necessary. A transmission can be received with the iris closed. It was likely done in order to positively identify the sender of the transmission.
  • Jacob Carter has been vacationing on Earth, probably since rescuing O’Neill and Teal’c a few weeks ago (“Tangent”). His cargo ship has sat cloaked on a classified U.S. military airstrip. It stands to reason, then, that he did not return to the Goa’uld naquadah mine (where Sam and Daniel found him) to destroy it.
  • The Tok’ra intercepted the transmission between Apophis and Heru’ur thanks to Tanith, a Goa’uld spy in their ranks. Jacob does not specify whether or not Tanith volunteered this information to the Tok’ra to prove himself to them, or if the Tok’ra observed the transmission without Tanith’s knowledge. Either way, Tanith (who is probably loyal to Apophis, since he himself came from Chulak) is either in contact with Apophis or knows how to monitor his transmissions.
  • Apophis sought an alliance with Heru’ur in order to topple the System Lords — although Sokar’s army (which is now Apophis’s army) was powerful enough to do that a year ago (“Jolinar’s Memories”). This indicates either that Apophis was not 100 percent successful in bringing Sokar’s forces into his own service when Sokar was killed (“The Devil You Know”), or that he just wants a more assured victory when attacking the System Lords.

    Remember also that part of Apophis’s new army — including several thousand warriors — were killed by Oma Desala when they came to take Apophis’s Harcesis child from the protection of the advanced alien being (“Maternal Instinct”). This was no doubt a setback for Apophis’s goals of galactic domination.

  • Heru’ur controls (or controlled) one of the two largest armies of all the Goa’uld, probably comparable to that of Apophis. Most likely, Heru’ur assumed control of the great army of his father Ra — called the “Supreme System Lord” by Hathor (“Hathor”) — when Ra was killed (“Stargate” the Movie).
  • The Tobin civilization has been extinct for hundreds of years — but it originated on Earth thousands of years ago (in ancient Phoenicia). The Tobin were very advanced for a human civilization, to have constructed these mines several hundred years ago. Were they to still exist today, their technology might rival even that of the Tollan.
  • Jacob has removed the bulkhead and escape pods from his cargo ship, anticipating the need for extra room when bringing the Tobin mine on board. When he had time to do this is a mystery, since he only recently learned of the meeting between Apophis and Heru’ur in the Tobin system.
  • Rak’nor’s loyalties are a strange matter to consider. He was branded with the mark of Apophis, though his father later seared the seal from his forehead. Rak’nor apparently lives on Chulak and has a great following there (though the latter may have been a deception), but is in the service of Heru’ur — one of Apophis’s greatest enemies. It is possible that Heru’ur has moved in on Chulak (perhaps secretly) since Apophis attacked, or even as early as Apophis’s death (“Serpent’s Song”).
  • Teal’c had a pain stick jabbed into his symbiote pouch during his torture. His symbiote is either dead (in which case he will need a new one immediately), or can itself endure great torture even in its immature state. The latter is more likely.
  • The Tobin system is only a few hours travel from Earth, via a Goa’uld cargo vessel.
  • A member of the Tok’ra has been sent to attempt to reprogram a Tobin mine once before, and was never heard from again.
  • Teal’c’s betrayal of Apophis is apparently well-known by other Goa’uld. Heru’ur was well aware that Teal’c was the shol’vah who turned on Apophis.
  • Teal’c challenged Terok’s claims to be able to save his soul. In an important scene, Terok tells Teal’c to beg for forgiveness so that his soul might be saved before he is killed and handed over to Apophis. Teal’c recognizes that Apophis can use a sarcophagus to bring him back from the dead, and he laughs at Terok. He knows that the Goa’uld, in fact, have no power over his body or his soul.
  • Rak’nor responded to Jacob’s communication with a Tok’ra password. Most likely, he got the password from Teal’c — and is not himself involved with the Tok’ra.

NOTES

  • Jaffa religious belief includes concepts of sin, a soul and an afterlife. By repenting of his “sin,” Terok claims, Teal’c could free his soul and those of all who followed him from eternal punishment.
  • A Goa’uld transport vessel can transport an object out through the transport rings while cloaked, but cannot receive a matter stream while still in stealth mode.
  • The Goa’uld have never been able to cloak an entire mothership before. Apophis has now acquired the technology to cloak not only a mothership, but an entire fleet. (This may have been technology already possessed by Sokar, though, when Apophis took over his fleet.)

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

  • Teal'cTeal’c – Teal’c has spent some time on Chulak, trying again to raise the Jaffa against the Goa’uld in the wake of Apophis’ invasion. He was betrayed by Rak’nor, and delivered to Heru’ur. There he was tortured and nearly killed, and almost handed over to Apophis. But Teal’c did not give in, did not compromise his beliefs, and declared that it would be better to suffer and die at Apophis’s hand a thousand times over than to state that the Goa’uld are gods.

    Years ago, while he was still First Prime of Apophis, Teal’c spared the life of Rak’nor’s father (probably a Jaffa under his command) after Apophis ordered his death.

  • ApophisApophis – Apophis attempted to negotiate an alliance with Heru’ur in order to more easily topple the System Lords, most likely intending to turn against Heru’ur after that. But not trusting his enemy, he took a fleet of cloaked ships into the mine field negotiations. After he was convinced that Heru’ur was attacking him, Apophis destroyed Heru’ur’s ship, presumably killing him. His fleet sacrificed themselves to the mine field to allow Apophis to escape.

    But instead of going to war with Heru’ur, the event makes Apophis a greater threat than ever before. With the System Lord dead, Apophis will easily absorb Heru’ur’s fleet into his own.

    Apophis has also had some cosmetic surgery since escaping from Ne’tu. His face plate, which one covered nearly half of his face, now covers only two small portions.

  • Heru'urHeru’ur – Though he was allied with the System Lords against Apophis, Heru’ur attempted to form an alliance with him. He wanted to maintain his own territories and take over those of Cronus after the System Lords were defeated. Heru’ur’s army was one of the largest of all the Goa’uld, but now that he is presumed dead his army will be taken over by Apophis.
  • Jacob CarterJacob Carter – Unlike most of the Tok’ra still alive, Jacob has demonstrated that O’Neill and the S.G.C. can trust him. He’s human, he’s from Earth, and he’s a retired Air Force general. He knows how they operate, and where their mistrust of the Tok’ra comes from.

    And while he is loyal to Earth, Jacob realizes when there are larger, more important issues at stake. He was willing to sacrifice Teal’c, for example, in order to ensure that the war between Apophis and Heru’ur took place.

  • Bra'tacBra’tac – The Jaffa master continues to work against the Goa’uld on Chulak. He arranged for Teal’c’s meeting with Rak’nor, once he learned of Rak’nor’s strong following amongst the Jaffa and his apparent openness to their anti-Goa’uld ideas. The Goa’uld Terok, however, claims that Bra’tac himself was captured and tortured, and that he died after confessing that the Goa’uld are gods. This was most likely a lie, as it would be so out of character for Bra’tac.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

  • Why did the Tobin go extinct? Was it the Goa’uld’s doing?
  • From where did the Tok’ra acquire the Tobin mine manual? Does the material contain other insights on Tobin culture or technology?
  • How did Teal’c come into Heru’ur’s possession?
  • Is Heru’ur dead, or did he escape his ship (via an escape pod or an on-board Stargate) before it was destroyed?
  • How did Apophis acquire the ability to cloak his fleet? What will Apophis do with his new, great army?

PRODUCTION NOTES

  • “To be honest, I don’t remember much about this episode outside of the Mallozian mines (named after yours truly), the ‘intercepting the transmission’ beat, and the uber-cool pain stick used to torture Teal’c that now resides in my garage.” (Writer-producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog