The team finds a planet of Apophis-ruled male youths running war games in training for the real deal.
Last time on Stargate SG-1: A village under fear of a Unas believed the team were demons as well.
Playing SG and Jaffa
Evidently as he began to lose influence and power among the system lords, Apophis had his Jaffa gather up a bunch of male youths from planets he ruled over. The boys were dumped on a planet and began training as the next generation of warriors for Apophis. Teal’c tells his teammates at one point this is standard practice for Goa’uld facing defeat- to use humans as “battle fodder” to supplement their Jaffa warriors. The captured SG-11 was tortured into giving up considerable information on the SGC but ended up dying because they wouldn’t reveal something- possibly their code to open the iris, or something else just as critical. Since Rogers doesn’t know why they died, SG-1 can’t learn the why either. But as Apophis suffered defeat after defeat, the Jaffa mentors began to abandon their charges- quite possibly to go serve their lord by dying for him. Since that point until this episode, the boys have continued their training.
Captain Kyles Rogers (real name: Rophiapgisy) is in charge, usually of the SG side. His second-in-command, Captain Nelson, leads the Jaffa. While admittedly true to life, it’s uncomfortable that the white guy leads the ‘good’ guys while the black guy leads the ‘bad’ guys. It’s not really mitigated by the fact they were raised to believe the reverse when Apophis was an evil dictator. When ‘first blood’ is accidentally occurs, as the youths use mock-weapons that only knock out the target, SG-1 must find a way to prevent these kids from killing each other for a now-dead ‘god’.
I can’t believe that ‘Captain Rogers’ is an accident, considering how well known his character is. Maybe the writers got away with it since before the MCU his name wasn’t well-known in mainstream culture. He even looks vaguely like a pre-serum Steve.
Somehow he and the other soldier don’t pick up on the fact that the quartet are strangers and also considerably older than everybody else left on the planet. Jack even has largely grey hair. I’m not sure how long “five cycles” of this planet is in Earth time, but surely they haven’t completely forgotten how people outside their age range look. And didn’t they realize Sam was (gasp) a girl? And wouldn’t they have learned enough about Jaffa to know what the gold symbol on the forehead of Teal’c meant? Also, wouldn’t they have seen images of Teal’c to know that he is the shol’va?
Even after suffering an injury from a real staff weapon, Captain Rogers remains poised and determined. After being transported to the SGC out of the team’s concern he’s suffering from internal injuries (luckily he’s not), he’s stoic about having been so betrayed. Janet’s mostly annoyed about his refusal to eat and him calling her a “shol’va”. She has a point- she never betrayed Apophis, mostly since she never obeyed his principles. Actually, maybe she’s remembering how the actual Apophis was a better patient than this kid.
VHS Footage and Holograms
Jack brings in a portable TV on a stand to show Rogers footage of the dying Apophis. Now aware that Apophis is not a god and has died, Rogers wants to help SG-1 prevent the senseless bloodshed that’s about to begin. One of the Jaffa masters showed where the cave of real weapons is to him and Nelson, so they will have access to real weapons for the final battle.
Teal’c explains the warrior culture under the Jaffa throughout the episode as the others need the context. There are “rules of engagement” that are strictly followed as the youths train. There are two sides for the final battle with the real weapons- the side that wins gets to join Apophis’ guard. Death is acceptable- and it’s never said that happens to any survivors of the losing side.
Taking the VHS footage with them, the five sneak into the SG camp so they can use the giant hologram projector (which is used to summon everybody with a huge image of Apophis) to show everybody the footage of a dying and afraid Apophis. While now aware the fight would be futile, they’re at a loss about what to do now. Rogers suggests to Nelson that they go home. Hopefully they’ll be able to use their training to defend said homes from other Goa’uld.
While an interesting concept, “Rules of Engagement” fell rather flat for me. SG-1 is clearly older than the youths in the camps, so the soldiers shouldn’t have ever believed them having wandered over from another quadrant. I strongly suspect Apophis had his Jaffa select young males since they’d be rather malleable and easily controlled as well as more energetic. It’s possible the youths weren’t told about Teal’c as to maintain Apophis’ position as a perfect god, but considering how well known Teal’c is across the system lords’ hit lists it’s a rather glaring plot hole. Then again, matters really would have spiralled out of control had the youths recognized the quartet as the infamous SG-1.
Now I’m really expecting Apophis to return, particularly since the sarcophagus can revive the dead. Or maybe he’s truly dead like SGC thinks. Sokar could be smart enough not to revive such a potentially dangerous enemy, especially given his own history of hiding out of sight from his foes until the time is right to strike.
Next time on Stargate SG-1: Daniel grieves for Sha’re.