Stargate SG-1: “Past & Present”

“Past & Present”

Written by Tor Alexander Valenza

Directed by William F. Gereghty

Guest stars: Megan Leitch as Ke’ra, Jason Gray-Stanford as Orner

Do memories make us what we are? Are we nothing but the sum of all our past experiences? And if we are, does forgetting make one a different person? How do you hold a criminal accountable for deeds she has no knowledge of?

The SG-1 team faces a moral dilemma when they try to save an entire race suffering from mass amnesia, only to find themselves face to face with a mortal enemy. On a world that looks like it was designed by Jules Verne and Charles Dickens, O’Neill and his team find that everyone on the planet has lost their memories; worse, they have lost their children and their elders. All that remains after the “Vorlix”, an event that left them wandering clueless on their own world, are a few hints of the before time, and a large library. The team finds an ally in Ke’ra, a brilliant young woman who vaguely remembers enough chemistry and biology to be searching for a cure. She immediately finds a sympathetic ear in Jackson, whose interest in her rapidly exceeds his interest in archaeology.

The real problem comes when the team realizes that Ke’ra is probably Linnea, the Destroyer of Worlds. The team met Linnea and was betrayed by her in an earlier adventure, in which she was revealed as a brilliant but homicidal biologist. Now it appears that Linnea has been caught in her own net, and that the experiment in life extension she was trying on an entire population backfired and caught her in the backwash. Now she, too, is as innocent of her past as the entire planet. She is now, in fact, relentlessly pursuing a means to save “her” people, the very ones whose minds she erased. General Hammond wants her imprisoned, Jackson wants to pardon her, and the rest of the team don’t trust her. Who is this woman? Is she Ke’ra, the hard-working and noble young leader, or Linnea, the evil tyrant whose sole focus in life is destruction? “There are two people inside of me, and one of them is a monster,” sobs Ke’ra as realization dawns on her. Horrified to learn that she is a devil, she tries to take her own life.

Moral questions based on technology we don’t even have yet are one of the most interesting facets of science fiction, and one of the things that draws fans back time after time. Unfortunately, writer Valenza opts for a high-tech solution to a moral dilemma, which leaves standing the questions he raised himself: what is identity? How do we hold people accountable for deeds they do not remember? What commits a crimeƑa body, or a soul? These highly abstract questions may become realities some day for the younger viewers in the audience; it would be nice if television didn’t always sidestep the hard stuff. Kudos to Valenza for raising the issue, however, and enlivening what was an otherwise mundane episode.

Three stars out of five for this episode.