Avalon, Part 2

Summary | Analysis | Notes | Characters | Questions | Production | In the Making | Review

An Ancient communications device renders Daniel and Vala unconscious, sending their minds to another galaxy -- where they inhabit the bodies of two people persecuted by the followers of an evil religion.

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EPISODE #902
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 07.22.05
SYNDICATION AIR DATE: 09.25.06
DVD DISC: Season 9, Disc 1
WRITTEN BY: Robert C. Cooper
EXCERPTS WRITTEN BY: Robert C. Cooper
DIRECTED BY: Andy Mikita
GUEST STARS:

Claudia Black (Vala), Obi Ndefo (Rak’nor), Bill Dow (Dr. Lee), April Amber Telek (Sallis), Mark Houghton, Steven Park (Harrid), Lexa Doig (Dr. Carolyn Lam), Paul Moniz De Sá (Fannis), Martin Christopher (Lt. Kevin Marks), Greg Anderson (Administrator), Brahm Taylor (Villager), Silya Wiggens (Therapist)

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With the first attempt to solve the puzzle resulting in failure, Daniel Jackson reasons out the Ancient proverb recorded in the underground chamber: “There is only one truth: The universe is infinite.” Therefore, the statement “The treasure is in this pot” must be false. He resets the pots by replacing the lids and pulls the lid of the pot of “The universe is infinite.” Lifting that lid, a gold coin appears inside. The ceiling halts its collapse and begins to recede.

Daniel and Vala race to Cameron Mitchell’s aid, where the Colonel tries to describe the Ancient text. Daniel recognizes one character from Mitchell’s shouted description, meaning “reflect.” Covering his thumb over a portion of one of the stones, Mitchell realizes it is a mirror image of the number four. In fact, the stones are the mirrored numbers one through eight. He places them in order and saves himself and Teal’c from being crushed.

The four return to the main catacomb where Mitchell finds he can now extract the sword from the stone, and a holographic knight appears to challenge him. When it strikes him he is not cut, but it still hurts, and Mitchell is almost disabled. Remembering a time when he didn’t allow a physical therapist to help him during his recovery, Mitchell regains his footing and takes the knight down.

Jackson wonders if the others’ presence is preventing the treasure from being revealed, so he, Teal’c, and Vala return to the Prometheus via the ring transporter. Once they disappear the catacombs begin to collapse; Vala has taken the gold coin. Mitchell quickly returns with it in hand and returns it to the pot. Replacing the sword in the stone, mounds of treasure fill the empty room!

Among the artifacts Daniel discovers a book detailing the history of the Alterans, a race that made a home called Avalon and built many “astrea porta” — the Stargates. He believes this book contains the first evidence that the Ancients did not originate in the Milky Way Galaxy, but instead came here from somewhere else entirely. Nearby, Lieutenant Marks uncovers an odd-shaped Ancient device.

Back on Dakara, Rak’nor updates Teal’c on the turmoil churning in the new Jaffa government as leaders press for control. Rak’nor is uncertain why Teal’c has chosen to spend so much time with the Tau’ri at this critical stage, but Teal’c assures him that what he is learning about the Ancients will greatly aid the new nation.

Daniel has determined the Ancient device that was discovered is a long-range communicator, and it is designed to work in conjunction with the Ancient telepathic stones recently discovered by SG-1 (“Citizen Joe”). He tries to convince General Landry that pursuit of the Ancients and their origins ought to be the S.G.C.’s highest priority from this point forward. After Dr. Lee resets the devices, Daniel and Vala each take one and insert them into slots at the base of the unit. The crystal on top begins to glow, and the two collapse into unconsciousness.

Daniel and Vala’s consciousnesses are now in control of two individuals in another galaxy, a married couple named Harrid and Sallis who live in a village populated by descendents of the Alterans (the Ancients). Back on Earth, the S.G.C.’s new chief medical officer, Dr. Carolyn Lam, examines the two and determines that they are in a sleep state.

A large crowd gathers at the center of the town as a priest lights torches for Prostration, a ritual of worship to the Ori. Daniel and Vala, appearing as Harrid and Sallis, attend the services. While kneeling in prayer another member of the town tells them they must meet by the “portico of light at the hour of bly.” After six hours of services they return to Harrid and Sallis’s home. Vala finds a copy of the Book of Origins, the local’s holy book, and inside it two communication stones like the ones they used on Earth.

The villager who spoke with Daniel and Vala at the service arrives at their home, worried and curious as to why they did not meet him. Daniel explains the situation, and the man reveals that Harrid had suspected the devices were for communication purposes. Their secret group is comprised of historians who uncovered the stones at a dig site. They have gathered evidence that proves humans predate the supposed creation of man by their gods, the Ori — and they are thus heretics. Those Alterans left behind when the Ancients migrated to our own galaxy also learned how to ascend, leaving worlds inhabited by humans, too. But unlike the Ancients, the Ori do meddle in the affairs of those mortals. Because they have powers like the Ancients, the Ori are virtually indistinguishable from gods.

Meanwhile, Teal’c returns to Dakara and learns that the fate of the new nation has already been decided (though Rak’nor voted for Teal’c by proxy). They have chosen to govern by high council rather than elected officials, with votes distributed based on military power. This arrangement has effectively made the Jaffa leader Gerak the new head of the nation.

Not long after Vala left to “take leaves” with the Administrator’s wife (as Sallis would), the village administrator takes her and chains her to the sacrificial altar. A large crowd gathers to see Sallis’s possessed body “cleansed.” As Daniel’s new friend flees he decides to go with the truth, and explains to the administrator that they are from another galaxy, using communication technology to speak through Harrid and Sallis. But their cries fall on deaf ears. Daniel tries to save Vala from the altar but is restrained by the villagers. A fuel-lit fire soon overtakes Vala and she, in Sallis’s body, is burned to death.

Back on Earth, Dr. Lam pronounces Vala dead.

Soon a great gust blows the flames away. At the other end of the courtyard stands a robed man with a tall staff. Everyone present bows to him except the freed Daniel, who climbs onto the altar and wraps himself around Vala / Sallis’s burnt flesh. The man approaches and raises his staff, cleansing the body and clothes of all wounds. Vala has returned to life, both there and back on Earth.

Daniel thanks the mysterious, cloaked figure. “Thank the Ori,” replies the man, and beckons the pair to follow him out of the village.

– D. Read

ANALYSIS

  • The book discovered in the Glastonbury Tor cavern is the first evidence suggesting that the Ancients came to our galaxy long ago from somewhere else, and did not originally evolve anywhere in our galaxy, let alone on Earth.
  • If the Alterans made Earth their homeworld when they arrived in the Milky Way Galaxy, they may have named the planet after the one they left — “Terra,” the Latin word for Earth. Connections between the Ancients and Latin have already been established (“The Fifth Race”), including the fact that the Ancients called Earth “Terra” (“Lost City, Part 2”).
  • There is an influential Jaffa leader named Gerak, who is at odds with Teal’c. Rak’nor believes that Gerak is power-hungry.
  • There are political machinations at work on the Free Jaffa Nation homeworld of Dakara, as the new Jaffa High Council seeks to form its new permanent government. At least two distinct factions have emerged — one led by Gerak, the other by Bra’tac and Teal’c. Since civil wars often follow wars of independence, the future of the Jaffa people looks grim. Bra’tac and Rya’c are currently negotiating with various Jaffa coalitions who have yet to declare their allegiance.
  • It is likely that the long-range communication device translates for those who are using it, and that the inhabitants of this planet in a distant galaxy do not speak English.
  • New base commander General Landry and chief medical officer Dr. Lam have a personal familiarity, and he calls her by her first name.
  • Harrid and Sallis (the two people taken over by Daniel and Vala) are curators, historians of a sort, members of a secret group that has uncovered evidence that their species predates their alleged creation by their gods, the Ori. Because of their scientifically-demonstrable beliefs, they have been branded as heretics. (The stones they possess were found in the remains of an ancestral burial ground not far from the village, and they suspected that they were a means of communication.)
  • Vala theorizes that the Ori are those people left behind in this galaxy by the Ancients, who like the Ancients in our galaxy learned to ascend. The two may even be of the same original species — the Alterans.
  • If that is the case, the less advanced humans of this world in their galaxy may have been created by them as a second evolution of the human form, just as the Ancients went on to seed the Milky Way and Pegasus Galaxies with human-form life.
  • The Ori are philosophically opposite from the Ancients. The Ori not only interfere in the lives of mortals; they also play the role of gods, enforcing their religion on their human subjects.
  • Gerak’s motion has been accepted by a slim majority: The Jaffa have voted to rule their new government by a high council. Votes will be attributed to the various coalition representatives based on military assets (versus a democracy of officials elected by the people). This makes Gerak himself the new leader of the Jaffa Nation, as the one who controls the most military assets following the collapse of the Goa’uld empire. He is a political adversary of Teal’c and Bra’tac.
  • The village priest proclaimed that the Ori “will cleanse your being and you will be taken to be with them forever.” Does the religion of the Ori include the promise of ascension as the ultimate goal of human existence? If so, this would put them even more fundamentally at odds with the Ancients, who believe that lower beings must find their own way to ascension and not be aided in any way on the path to enlightenment.
  • The man who saved Vala apparently represents the Ori. He possesses technology capable of restoring life and regenerating flesh (and even cloths). The Ancients developed similar technology — the Ancient healing device — which the Goa’uld Telchak later used to develop the sarcophagus (“Evolution, Part 1”). The Ori version of the technology is apparently much more controlled, able to be directed at a single target rather than radiating its energy in all directions.

NOTES

  • The “Alterans” (or “Altera”) is the original name of the ascended beings we now know as the Ancients.
  • “The Book of Origins” is the name of the Ori holy book.
  • Ancient communication stones (“Citizen Joe”) link the users psychically, allowing them to see through each other’s eyes. Dr. Lee was able to reset the stones, so they are no longer connected to Jack O’Neill and Joe Spencer; but they are still active. The devices only needed to be initialized by someone with the Ancient gene, and can now be used by anyone.
  • Actor Greg Anderson, who plays the village administrator, originally played Webber in Season Five’s “Fail Safe.”

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

  • Daniel JacksonDaniel Jackson – Daniel was understandably beside himself upon discovering a vital clue about the true origins of the Ancients, who have become such an important part of his own life. His rush to use the communications technology discovered in the Glastonbury Tor cavern led him to a distant galaxy, where he and Vala inhabited the bodies of a married couple.

    Daniel may personally dislike Vala, but he was extremely distraught when she was burned to death in front of him. The experience may help to bridge the gap between them.

  • Vala Mal DoranVala Mal Doran – Vala had the rare chance to visit a distant galaxy thanks to the Ancient long-range communications device. There she was eager to learn more about the history of the Ancients, who have played such a major role in our own galaxy (such as building the Stargate network). But when she couldn’t keep up the act of playing the person whose body she inhabited, Vala was taken before the religious leader and the town and burned. Only the intervention of a servant of the Ori brought her back to life and restored her body.
  • Teal'cTeal’c – Teal’c has continued his association with Earth and Stargate Command because he is pursuing Ancient knowledge, believing that it will one day unite the Jaffa in a nation of peace. But some Jaffa, including friends like Rak’nor, are questioning Teal’c’s decision to continue to spend time with the Tau’ri.
  • Carolyn LamCarolyn Lam – Lam couldn’t resist the job offer to become Stargate Command’s chief medical officer — plus General O’Neill didn’t tell her that Hank Landry would be in command of the base. The two have a personal history that is not yet clear.
  • Cameron MitchellCameron Mitchell – Mitchell took fencing in college.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

  • Did any of the Ancients return to their home galaxy after coming to our galaxy? After the war with the Wraith in the Pegasus Galaxy?
  • What are Gerak’s goals and motives for taking control of the Jaffa High Council? What will he do now that he is in charge?
  • How did the Ancient communication stones wind up on P3R-233 (“There But For the Grace of God,” “Citizen Joe”)? Was it a colony of the Ancients? If the stones were found by explorers from 233, where were they found? Was there also a pedestal device there?
  • Where is the ship the Alterans built to travel from the homeworld to the Milky Way Galaxy?
  • What is Landry’s relationship with Dr. Lam?
  • Why do Harrid and Sallis possess Ancient communication stones? Do they also have a pedestal device? If they used it, would they be able to take over the bodies of anyone in the Milky Way Galaxy?
  • Why did Daniel and Vala end up in these two people specifically? Is there a connection with Harrid and Sallis’s possession of communication stones?
  • Is the planet visited by Daniel and Vala the Ancients’ original homeworld? If not, what is its significance?
  • Why do the Ori conceal from their human subjects the truth of their existence? What are the motivations of the Ori?
  • If the Ori are ascended, do they not know about the underground group? Are their abilities and access to knowledge in any way more limited than that of the Ancients?
  • Is the man who arrived at the last moment to save Vala an Ori, or another of their servants? Where is he taking Daniel and Vala?
  • Are there any remaining Alterans who did not ascend? Did the Alterans leave behind anyone in this galaxy who do not follow the Ori?
  • Did all those who ascended in this galaxy join the philosophy of the Ori? Could some ascended beings in this galaxy be more sympathetic to the Ancients’ views?

PRODUCTION NOTES

  • “Check out ‘Avalon II’ and ‘Origin’ in which Daniel takes center stage and ‘opens up a huuuuge can of worms.'” (Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a message at GateWorld Forum)
  • “As you’ve no doubt become aware, ‘Avalon Pt.’s 1 & 2,’ and ‘Origin’ is a three — count ’em — three-parter. Very unusual, very serial. But! It was not originally intended to be so. It was intended to be a two-parter. So that might explain to you why the structure is so avant-garde, so new-age, so … 21st century. The original show-break, or half-way point, or cliffhanger, was when Vala and Daniel go to another galaxy and meet the worshippers of the Ori. But there was so much material and story, and Cooper was so white-knuckled about all of his witty character moments (the new SG-1 member interviews, the flashbacks in the hospital) all of which were well-liked by all of the writer/producers, that they decided to make it a three-parter, which is what we ended up with … so the unusual structure is because of that.

    “Also, there was originally a more interesting and involved role for Teal’c in the story. The way ‘Avalon’ was originally written, the book discovered in the treasure cavern in ‘Avalon’ was supposed to indicate the existence of an Ancient communication device which was to be found by Teal’c on Dakara. In order to get his hands on it, Teal’c was going to have to cede power over the high council to Gerak. Teal’c, like everybody else, would see the importance of the Ancient communication device that would lead SG-1 to the Gatebuilders (the Ancients or, as referred to in Avalon, the ‘Alterans’), even at the expense of the democratic future of the Jaffa. This subplot, however, had to be cut because of time, and the Ancient communication device was therefore found in the treasure cavern with the book in ‘Avalon, Part 2.’

    “Another fan also mentioned that the number-puzzle that Mitchell solves in the caverns in Avalon uses Arabic numbers. We actually shot a Daniel scene which explained the connection to the use of Arabic numbers. But, again, that scene had to be cut for time.

    “Lastly, the Daniel/Vala puzzle may have seemed simplistic and a 50/50 chance (pick the pot with the coin in it) but in actually, the important part of the test was ‘truth of spirit’ — to see whether anyone would steal the coin, which Vala, of course, did. Gotta love those second chances …” (Script coordinator Alex Levine, in his blog at SciFi.com)

  • “When we did the episode where Vala gets burnt by the Prior, it was incredibly hot and I was sitting in the center of that circle and the rings got closer and closer and we knew they weren’t going to come into the two closet rings. And I was actually pregnant for some of that sequence because we shot some of it before the break, and I found out I was pregnant. Then after the break I came back and I was a little more nervous about being there and it was very smoky, and they were using different fire that day, and I didn’t know what to say.

    “I went up to Michael Shanks and I said, ‘I think I have to tell you something and I think I might have to tell the director [that] things have changed a little bit.’ It was a bit more intense. And Dan Shea, our stunt supervisor, caught on fire trying to get me out of there, and I think I said something that wasn’t very polite. I was a little shocked that he was on fire, I just remembered the heat.

    “I think that was sort of … quite a challenging sequence, but fun! I like doing that sort of stuff. It’s a nice adrenalin rush.” (Actress Claudia Black, in an interview with The Scifi World)

  • “Claudia Black demonstrated her talent for comedy in previous episodes, but this one showcases her considerable dramatic range as well. I remember watching this episode thinking, ‘Damn. She WOULD make a great series regular!’ And the onscreen chemistry between her and Michael was electric.

    “A bit of controversy surrounding this episode’s fiery death scene. It was pretty damn horrific — the original edit even more so — and we went back and forth on how much we wanted to show. In the end, I’m surprised that the network allowed us to show as much as we did. It was by far the most unsettling scene in my 11+ years on Stargate.” (Writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi, in a post at his blog)