By Morjana Coffman
After watching the intense, absorbing events set up in "Summit," the first viewing of the events of "Last Stand" seemed somewhat disappointing. On a repeat viewing, I realized I had been tantalized with the promise of a quick resolution of the Goa'uld threat by the use of the Tok'ra poison -- and the disappointment was born from the reminder that there is often no easy, or swift, solution to any one problem.
"Last Stand" is an episode about compromises and stalemates, sacrifices and excesses ... and Goa'uld symbiote sushi?
The scene at the summit space station, where the System Lords cannibalized on the Goa'uld symbiotes was unnerving, to say the least. To offer it up as an explanation as to why the Goa'uld are suddenly experiencing zero population growth seemed a bit excessive to me ... that's an awful lot of snacking to be going on to achieve a Z.P.G. effect.
If, however, you could factor in the damage done by frequent sarcophagus use (to the soul, or perhaps mental health), and possibly a disease created by the cannibalism, then the Z.P.G. plot point gains some merit. For example, in the 1950s, among an isolated native population of cannibals on New Guinea, they developed a fatal rare disease, Kuru, that stemmed from their practice of mortuary cannibalism. Could the Goa'uld be participating in their own eventual demise by their choice of snack?
As Daniel compromised his belief structure by accepting the mission in "Summit," in this episode we see O'Neill compromise his belief structure in the no-man-gets-left-behind scenario, when Lieutenant Elliot is left behind to cover their escape from the approaching Jaffa. Granted, both Elliot and his symbiote Lantash are dying and volunteered (and O'Neill earlier volunteered to make a run to the Stargate), but as ingrained as this is in O'Neill's psyche, it was an uneasy scene to watch.
What affect will this have on O'Neill, or the other members of SG-1?
The performance of Courtenay J. Stevens as Elliot was wonderful. He powerfully portrayed a vital young man mortally wounded on his first mission, something that he had told O'Neill he felt he had trained for his whole life. Watching him realize his death was imminent -- and not only volunteer to remain behind to save his comrades, but to also attempt to alleviate Carter's sense of guilt over the deaths of Martouf and Lantash -- was a marvelous bit of writing and acting.
I was impressed by the special effects in "Last Stand." The creation of the Tok'ra tunnels, the flight of the cargo ship and the death gliders through the Revanna atmosphere, and the crash of the cargo ship on Revanna were stunning. And the illuminated container that held the Goa'uld symbiotes was fascinating. I also noted the addition of the Stargate to the special effects shot of the Al'kesh landing site on Revanna that was first used in "Summit," and shown briefly at the beginning of "Last Stand" -- perhaps to reinforce how contained the area around the Stargate was.
The open ending of "Last Stand" allows, hopefully, for the resolution of several plot elements to develop in future episodes. Now that we've seen Anubis' attack plan against the Tok'ra, what does Anubis have in mind for Earth? Will Anubis and the System Lords honor their agreement? Did Yu and/or Osiris survive their fight?
How many Tok'ra survived the attack on Revanna? Was Revanna their only base, or did they have other outposts?
Was the practice of cannibalism the reason for the Goa'uld showing zero population growth? The last time Z.P.G. was mentioned, it was in reference to the Tok'ra ("Crossroads") who don't have a queen Goa'uld to create new symbiotes. Hathor was a queen -- however, Klorel mentioned a "Queen Mother" ("Within the Serpent's Grasp") -- has something happened to this Goa'uld queen, or to all of the Goa'uld queens? (Hathor mentioned there were others like her.)
Who is the Tok'ra operative that Zipacna captured? What methods did Anubis use to interrogate him? What other secrets did the Tok'ra reveal?
How did the Tok'ra test their new poison? Or more importantly -- on whom did they test it?
Was Lantash's za'tarc conditioning ("Divide and Conquer") resolved? If not, could Lantash be acting as a spy for the Goa'uld?
"Last Stand" left more questions unanswered than answered. And it was an excellent display of futility in the art of strategy -- because of the losses on both sides, instead of a clear victory by either faction, clearly a stalemate was reached again in this ongoing battle between the SGC, their allies, and the Goa'uld.
Rating: * * 1/2