In the penultimate episode of the season, Daniel Ascends while dying of radiation poisoning.
Last time on Stargate SG-1: The team had to help clean up a mess caused by the NID.
The episode opens with the quartet coming through the wormhole, Sam reporting to Hammond that Daniel’s been exposed to radiation. Walter calls for a medical team over the intercom. When the general asks, Jack and Teal’c have to admit that they don’t know the details of what occurred. Janet’s among the medical personnel that gather in a hallway. Sam explains the situation to Janet, causing the brunette serious concern. I lack a scientific background, but I could tell that those numbers seem high (of course, even a low number seems like bad news when it comes to radiation to me). The blonde admits to Hammond that “It’s a lethal dose, sir.”
Hammond is with Jack, Sam, and Teal’c in the briefing room. Kelona is a country on the latest planet. The level of technology is roughly the 1940s and there are two other countries; Jack likens the situation as to the Cold War. Kelona found the Gate fifteen years ago with some Goa’uld technology in an Ancient temple (I’m assuming the capital letter there). The credits give special credit to Mel Harris (Oma Desala) as well as to Teryl Rothery.
There’s a flashback to Jonas Quinn greeting the quartet in a hallway, as he’s a “special advisor to [the] high minister”. The city’s technology and appearance makes me think steampunk. Daniel introduces himself and then Jack introduces himself and the other two.
Sam and Jack talk to Hammond about Jonas’ role as their ethics person for their research, the latter calling him a “nerd” and that Jonas and Daniel got along great. As the five walk down a hallway, Jack is grumpy- but with reason, as he makes a metaphor about having been ‘burned’ in past ‘relationships’ so he’s cautious about sharing technology with a relatively unknown society. Clearly, he’s learned from “The Other Side”.
There are four people in heavy-duty suits doing experiments in a chamber. When the lights change, Jonas tells the team it’s safe to go in. Once in the room, he introduces them to Tomis Leed, the chief physicist. Among the ruins they’ve found some naquadah as well as something called naquadria, which is similar but different to the element known to Earth. The scientists are working on creating a bomb to use on the other nations in ‘self-defense’.
Hammond is uneasy about getting involved in such a scenario. But apparently the Kelonians are now upset with Earth. Daniel was still at the research facility while the others toured the city when the incident occurred. They’re claiming that Daniel tried to sabotage the research and if he lives they want him to face charges.
Daniel is in the infirmary, ticking off everything that will rapidly happen to him due to the level of radiation he was exposed to. Jack is the one he’s talking to. It turns out Daniel is resistant about contacting their off-world allies since he doesn’t feel his life is more valuable than anybody else’s. According to Daniel, there was an accident and the scientists are blaming Daniel to cover their butts. The brunet suspects that a Goa’uld tried the same experiment ten thousand years ago and it nearly blew up the planet.
Wait, the Goa’uld were visiting Earth that long ago? I mean, it’s possible, but that’s an interesting bit of galaxy-building if true. Of course, there’s no confirmation that the other two nations on this planet have human populations. Kelona could be the youngest of the nations, further highlighting the parallels to the USA using nuclear bombs in WWII.
In any case, Jack goes to visit Hammond in the general’s office. The Asgard haven’t responded yet and Jacob’s off on a mission to help out “the last remaining undercover Tok’ra”. Suddenly I suspect there’s a very interesting arc going on off-screen regarding that group trying to recover from the events of “Last Stand”. They bring up the idea of using a sarcophagus despite the risks. However, the one a team spotted off-world a few months ago is under heavy guard and thus Hammond didn’t order a recovery mission then due to the likelihood of heavy causalities.
Yeah, it’s not worth multiple people dying in an effort to save one person. That’s the opposite of Spock’s comment in The Wrath of Khan. Daniel probably wouldn’t forgive anybody involved if they went ahead with that plan. Possibly Jack realizes that, since he doesn’t argue for it further. Hammond tries to get Jack to realize he’s not only in his feelings but Jack doesn’t respond beyond a “Yes, sir”.
Instead, he goes to visit Sam in her lab. There’s some technobabble based off of readings she got. Evidently naquadria is a likely aspect in how the Goa’uld power their defense shields and hyperspace windows.
Trying to Save Daniel (And His Reputation)
Jack, Sam, and Hammond meet up in the briefing room. While Jack’s priority is saving Daniel, Sam balances that personal desire with the professional one to obtain naquadria. Hammond understands why even if they could prove Daniel’s innocence, the Kelonian government wouldn’t be willing to lose face in that scenario. The general will use loopholes, as he too believes Daniel is innocent, in the letter he’ll write. He wants Jack to send it, which the colonel grudgingly agrees to.
In the almost London-like capital, Jonas Quinn is with a blonde in a hallway. He tells Jack that two of the scientists are dead already, with the other two dying. Jack is honest with Jonas about what’s going on diplomatically as well as that Daniel is dying. He doesn’t want his friend’s name tarnished and thus wants the truth told to clear it. Quinn knows how badly Kelona needs this weapon and that the other scientists aren’t willing to be honest about their mistake.
It turns out that Jack agrees with Daniel that weapons of mass destruction are dangerous and often used at least once. Maybe he’s picked up on the WWII parallels as well. Jack brings up that Earth (or at least SGC) wants naquadria to create defense shields. What, no hyperspace windows? Or just not yet?
Daniel’s in an infirmary room. In the adjoining room, Sam and Janet are gazing at him through the glass wall. The brunette is troubled to admit that she thinks it might be easier if… she trails off, but the conversation makes the implication clear. It’s pretty brave of the show to bring up the idea of assisted suicide. Of course, in this case, it’s more of a question of speeding up Daniel’s death since he’ll be dead pretty fast anyway.
Sam goes to her safe (somewhere on base, I think) where she’s been keeping the Goa’uld healing device that she received from Gairwyn due to Kendra’s death back in “Thor’s Chariot”. She goes to Daniel’s room; Hammond, Teal’c, and Jack are in the adjoining room while Janet’s with Sam and Daniel.
The blonde confesses that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with the healing device, which is why she didn’t suggest it before. It turns out that was the right idea, as Sam did only make matters worse by trying heal Daniel.
At this point, Daniel is out of it and is somewhere dark to his confusion. The lighting for the shot makes it look as if he’s glowing. A woman is standing on the ramp before the Gate, telling him “Your fate is in your hands”.
There’s a close up on his bandaged, bloody hand before the camera pans up to reveal that Daniel’s head is covered in bandages now. A worried Jack goes to check on him, as he’s conscious again. Cautiously Jack sits down and is awkward before admitting that he tried to get through to Jonas. Daniel understands that Jonas is in a tough position but doesn’t get why Jack feels so strongly about clearing his name.
“Because despite the fact that you’ve been a terrific pain in the ass for the last five years, I may have… might have, um… grown to admire you a little. I think.”
“This will not be your last act on official record,” vows Jack, unaware of just how true that is.
As he slips back into unconsciousness Daniel goes “Oma…” to Jack’s confusion.
He’s standing before her again, having recognized her. She speaks in metaphoric riddles like the monk in Kheb did. The show’s subtitles alternate between Keb and Kheb depending on the episode. Daniel realizes that she’s referring to Ascension. Oma Desala wants him to complete the journey he began in “Maternal Instinct”. To his confusion and annoyance, Oma Desala continues to speak in riddles. There’s a bit of a red herring here about lies, which made me briefly concerned that Daniel had sabotaged the research.
Daniel’s Heroics (and Self-Deprecation)
Jack is still sitting by Daniel’s side when Hammond and Quinn show up in the adjoining room. Crankily he goes to them. It turns out that Jonas has brought all the naquadria he could to Earth as footage of the accident showed the weapon’s potential. Jonas admits he doesn’t know which was worse: the fates of his colleagues or his leaders’ glee about the weapon’s power.
There’s a flashback to Jonas and Daniel walking down a hallway. Apparently, Jonas read a book leant to him by the other man in a night. I’d be more impressed if we’d seen just how thick (or dense in content) said book was. Daniel exposits on his theory about what could have happened ten thousand years ago, but the current belief is that there was an asteroid. Also, it took me a couple of tries to get a screen-cap where Jonas doesn’t look like an arrogant jerk. Because he’s not one (at least, he doesn’t seem be) when in motion. Then again, Jonas was being a big smug in this scene about his brains.
Daniel refers back to the events of “Absolute Power” regarding his fear about people receiving such a leap in weapons technology. There’s an acknowledgement that weaponry is needed to protect planets, but that’s different from wanting to use it preemptively on foes.
Jonas and Quinn are in the adjoining room as the scientists do an experiment. Something goes wrong and there’s a shockwave. The four scientists fall down and apparently the core needs to be removed or it’ll explode. Tomis Leed bolts for the hallway while Jonas is crouched down, afraid as well. Briefly other scientists are seen bolting due to hearing the alarms.
Daniel gets up and shoots repeatedly at the glass separating the rooms. He leaps in, the weakened glass shattering, to remove the core from the device. That is how he was exposed to the radiation. To Jonas’ horror, Daniel is already showing signs of its poisoning.
In the present, Jonas admires Daniel for saving his planet (or at least a very large portion of his homeland in a best-case scenario [or worst…?]).
Daniel is sitting with Oma, who reassures him as he half-wanted to destroy the device. He doesn’t get what his journey has been for.
Sam is sitting by Daniel’s side, talking about what Jonas did and how he was inspired by Daniel. Apparently, Daniel can see/hear a version of her as she tearfully tells him about how he’s changed people, including her, by sharing his worldview. Already grieving for him, Sam starts to break down.
Daniel confesses to Oma that he’s unsure that he’s worthy of enlightenment.
Janet replacing the bandage on Daniel’s arm when Teal’c comes in. She leaves to give him privacy with the prone Daniel. Teal’c has with him a small statue Daniel gave him in the past. Daniel sees Teal’c as the two of them being in his study as Teal’c tells him that he’s awesome in the fight against the Goa’uld and as a friend.
Oma Desala reappears to speak in riddles, including one the monk said in Kheb, (which is pointed out in-show) before pointing out all Daniel has done. Looking at a photo of Sha’re, Daniel sees it shift into a flashback of him learning of her capture. He unburied the Gate and thus blames himself for what happened to Sha’re and Sarah. I get the former, but I suspect Sarah would have gotten possessed regardless (she was already into Egyptology when she met Daniel, I believe). Also, the screen caps for next episode’s scenes reveal that this is foreshadowing for that.
Daniel feels he hasn’t changed anything and his grumpiness amuses Oma. She points out that deeds alone don’t matter, that intent and strength do as well, as well as that his friends know that Daniel has changed things for the better.
“Not enough,” he counters.
She tells him that all they can truly control in this universe is whether their self is “good or evil”.
Jonas is now stuck on Earth due to his actions being deemed treasonous, but he still wants to change his nation’s plans for the war when/if possible. There’s a wormhole and Walter reports that there’s a Tok’ra ID. The guards are on high alert but the iris is opened.
Jacob Carter comes through so Hammond has the guards stand down. He leaves the control room to speak with him. There must have been an off-screen explanation while on the way, since the show cuts to Jacob hugging his daughter upon his arrival in Daniel’s room.
“We’ll do our best,” Jacob says, clearly including Selmak. He uses the device to do a diagnosis, with Selmak warning the others that they might be able to keep Daniel alive but definitely won’t be able to fully heal him.
Oma reveals that anybody with an open mind can reach enlightenment. After a moment of indecision, Daniel decides to go with her.
Jacob/Selmak tries to heal Daniel as Jack, Sam, Teal’c, Hammond, and Janet watch on. Daniel is having an out-of-body experience as he’s there spiritually yet his body is prone. At first only Daniel is moving but then Jack is blinking.
Jack is suddenly there with Daniel and Oma Desala before the Gate. Confused, he goes, “Did you want something?”
Daniel is ready to leave to Jack’s hurt. The brunet assures his friend that he’s not giving up. Going into her glowy tendrily mode, Oma goes through the Gate and it’s now glowing. Daniel clarifies that was Oma and that he wants to do more as an Ascended being. Reassuring Jack that it’ll be okay, Daniel wants Jack to stop Jacob.
Back in the infirmary, Jack tells Jacob to stop. The older man goes, “Are you serious?”
“It’s what he wants,” Jack states. Okay then. The parallels to assisted suicide just went from subtext to text. As it’s a touchy subject, I won’t delve into it further.
Everybody is stunned, but Jacob isn’t sure that Jack means it. Jack repeats it so Jacob stops. To Janet’s astonished horror, Daniel flatlines. But then he Ascends to everybody’s mingled astonishment and grief (the exact mixture varies from person to person).
Back in the mystical Gate room, Daniel tells Jack, “I’m gonna miss you guys.”
“Yeah… you too.”
“Thank you… for everything.”
“So… what? See you around?”
Daniel nods, teary-eyed, before admitting, “I don’t know.”
As Daniel starts up the ramp, Jack asks, “Hey, where are you going?”
“I don’t know,” Daniel repeats. They smile at each other and Daniel goes through the glowing portal.
The Ascended Daniel leaves through the ceiling to Jack’s quiet sadness.
The tribute special feature on the disc turned out to be mostly various clips of Daniel, with a handful of remarks from the cast- mostly Michael Shanks. It’s confirmed that Daniel acts as SG-1’s “moral center” as well as the one to think outside the box. Quite possibly that’s due to him being a civilian and not military like the other core characters. Of course, that might make up for the fact that a lot of flashbacks from previous episodes got cut from the final version of this episode. Said flashbacks were to be used to showcase Daniel’s character development over the past five seasons.
At least I know that Daniel will be coming back after one season (ish). But that didn’t make it any easier to watch his friends’ reactions to his impending death. I’m assuming that the title is due to Daniel reaching a higher plane of existence, but maybe the commentary will have more detail on that.
The commentary jokes about how it’s tough to recover from a lethal dose of something even on this show. Plus there was a minor spoiler about how there’ll be a new opening credits soon. Yay!
As pointed out by the commentary, part of why this episode is so intense is because it goes back and forth between ‘then’ and ‘now’ as more details are revealed or needed to be shown. Plus, there are the scenes of Daniel with Oma.
This episode is where I first got an inkling why so many fans ship Jack/Daniel. Jack had the strongest reaction to Daniel’s impending death and Daniel contacted Jack telepathically (instead of the passive version seen elsewhere in the episode) at the end to ‘let’ him go. Their bond has been a low-key but constant presence in the series.
This was a very emotional episode for the characters, with his teammates saying their farewells to Daniel and Daniel coming to terms with going onto the next portion of his journey. This means that Jonas Quinn got short-changed regarding his introduction, but the commentary hints that this episode might not have had a clear idea that Jonas was Daniel’s replacement despite it being clear in hindsight. For example, they’re both idealistic scholars. Maybe Jonas is where Daniel was during the movie. This should be interesting. I wonder where I’ll fall- will I like Jonas more or less knowing that Daniel will return.
Daniel has now ‘died’ twice. It was faked for him in “Fire and Water” but this death is real. I have to wonder when in the commentaries they’ll know/reveal that Michael Shanks will be returning.
Next time on Stargate SG-1: It’s Osiris versus the Asgard.