Overall Rating: 8.8
A stunningly sweet and surprising episode - thoroughly enjoyable for this this viewer. Usually the Hollywood "that poor kid!" trope comes off as somehow cheap - you can generally tell when the producer is playing games with your heart and I tend to find that offputting. But not this time.
When the SGC loses contact with an off-world team (SG-7), their flagship team is sent to P8X-987 (a planet dubbed Hanka) to investigate and prepare for the viewing of a black hole during a solar eclipse. When they arrive, they discover that the entire population has been wiped out by a virulent bacterial infection, including SG-7. Thankfully, no one from SG-1 is affected, but as they search the planet in hazard masks, they discover a single human child alive in the underbrush. They return with her to Earth and Dr. Fraiser studies her blood work in an attempt to devise a cure for the infection while Teal'c and O'Neill remain on the planet to observe the black hole.
As the lone survivor slowly recovers from the shock of her ordeal, she bonds with Sam Carter - clings to her for dear life, in fact - finally revealing that her name is Cassandra. Her medical team soon discovers, however, that she's in more danger than she at first appears. Somehow, she's been altered so that her own body is forming a deadly explosive device within her chest that not only screws up her heart but threatens to annihilate the SGC. The brutal Goa'uld Trojan Horse is incredibly difficult for Sam to cope with, and when the source of this disaster (Nirrti) attacks Hanka, Teal'c realizes that the girl may be intended to destroy the Tauri stargate and O'Neill and Teal'c return to Earth (dodging weapons fire) in time to warn them not to send her back to Hanka. With time running out before the bomb in her chest explodes, they rush her to an abandoned nuclear facility, intending to leave her to her fate; but Sam is unable to bear the thought of leaving her alone to face certain death and stays below. However, as time expires, she does not explode - the trap failing to work, the device simply dissolves away and Cassandra is adopted by Dr. Fraiser.
The writers were unusually bold in their depiction of the bad guy as unquestionably and completely evil. Normally, you'd think it would be more daring to portray the adversary as complicated, but in this day in age, it is more and more rare to see Hollywood types acknowledging that not everything is complicated and that, yes...there really is pure evil in this world. The Trojan Horse device is among the most heinous things we'll ever see the Goa'uld do in the entire run of this franchise (and they do some pretty awful stuff). There are several very touching scenes between Sam and Cassandra (and other members of the team) that highlight the better parts of our heroes' natures. I am a sucker for real pathos, as any reader should know by now, and this episode is dropping with it.
I consider this episode one of Amanda Tapping's finest hours of work in the entire run of the series. If the Academy had any respect for Science Fiction, this is the kind of performance that would earn her Emmy buzz - and I don't say such things lightly. It would have been easy to become entirely too melodramatic with such an intense script...or to all-too-quickly show an attachment to Cassandra, but the doe-eyed Tapping was picture perfect here. Michael Shanks, Richard Dean Anderson and Teryl Rothery all had some solid moments here as well. The blemish - and this is sometimes hard to avoid when dealing with children on a TV budget - is Katie Stuart. Sorry to say, she was pretty flat and hard to watch, which is a shame.
I quite enjoyed the central message of this story - the quality of mercy. These are such good people we have working for us at the SGC...they take in the strays without even batting an eye, and they legitimately care about every innocent soul they encounter. It says something about the writing, the acting and the positive momentum all of these characters have gained in such a short time period that I did not come away from this episode feeling it was schmaltzy or over the top...just truly genuine and big-hearted. They may not have been trying to send a moral message as though this were a fable, but they certainly managed to send one loud and clear that these are heroes that deserve our respect and admiration.
DANIEL: So what exactly are we going to see after this eclipse begins? I mean...it's black...and it's a hole.
O'NEILL: Well it might be...a black hole...
DANIEL: OK, let me put it a different way...
CARTER: No, Daniel, you're right. You can't see a black hole - it's so dense that not even light can escape it; that's why it's black. But during the totality phase of the eclipse, we should be able to see matter spiraling toward it.
O'NEILL: It's actually called the accretion disk.
DANIEL: Well I guess it's easy to understand why the local population would be afraid of something like th...what did you just say?? - LOL
FRAISER: No, not until I examine you. We'll use the barracks room. Colonel, you said you touched one of the victims before putting on gloves?
O'NEILL: Yeah, but I washed my hands right away.
FRAISER: No, your first. (Daniel sneezes - everyone turns in terror)
O'NEILL: Allergies right? (He turns to Janet.) Right?
FRAISER: R-right. - I miss sneezy Daniel. :)
CARTER: How could they do this?
JACKSON: Well to a Goa'uld, she's not as we see her. She's a tool. Her death is a very cheap way to get rid of us. (Sam has tears running down her face. )
CARTER: I know I am supposed to be detached...
JACKSON: Who said that?
CARTER: Sometimes I forget you're not military. - awww
The entire closing sequence is highlight worthy...I'd quote it, but the text doesn't do it justice. Just watch for yourself...it's beautifully done.