Blurb: Teal’c’s past as First Prime of Apophis comes back to haunt him when Colonel O’Neill and Daniel Jackson are taken captive by the system lord’s forces. As Teal’c struggles to free them, he finds himself confronted by an old friend and fellow Jaffa, Sebe’t. Can this warrior really be trusted? Or has Teal’c reopened an old wound that can never be healed?
Format: Limited cast audio drama recounting a story in the life of Teal'c. Published by Big Finish Productions and released May of 2009.
Setting: The planet known only as P5J818.
Continuity: This story takes place between the television stories Upgrades and The Serpent's Venom.
Discussion: "First Prime" is a term charged with meaning in Stargate SG-1. It's the title for the commander of any particular System Lord's Jaffa. Yet, "First Prime" has a special meaning in SG-1. It's the title that Teal'c held until he decided to side with the Tau'ri and be branded as a traitor among his own people. What always surprised me about that, though, was that the series never capitalized much upon that fact. Yes, in a global way he was an inspiration to other rebellious Jaffa, and the series did deal with how his decision effected his immediate family. It was just surprising that Teal'c never seemed to meet any former friends among the Serpent Guard. He was the commander, so he should have known many of them, personally. The series also never addressed who became first prime after him. Thankfully, author James Swallow takes the opportunity to address all of these issues with his story.
First Prime deals with Teal'c's rebellion on a far more personal level than the show ever did. It showcases Apophis' hatred of his former first prime and the lengths that he'd go to ensnare him. It also shows how Teal'c's decision effects a good friend and distant family member, Sebe't. It also answers the question of who became First Prime after Teal'c left. It's all placed against the backdrop of Teal'c's trying to find balance through Kelno'reem and being unable to find it. Swallow admits that it seems odd for Teal'c to narrate a story given his taciturn nature, but that actually heightens the interest in the story. What would be so important that Teal'c would feel the need to recount it? Some choices did seem to stretch credulity a bit. How would Apophis know that P5J818 would be a planet that the SGC would visit anytime soon? Did he have Sebe't camping out for months or years or did he scatter multiple snares and SG-1 was just unlucky enough to find the one that had Teal'c's former friend on it? Yet, it doesn't feel like it's a plot that wouldn't have popped up in the TV series, so it's only a minor nit. The challenge that Teal'c undergoes is an interesting one; since it not only speaks to the heart of who he is as a character but also puts into focus the consequences of his choices and ties back to his meditation and his reasons for internalizing the events that happen during this story.
So much of the joy of this story, though, is in the performances. It's no surprise that Christopher Judge is sought after for voiceover work and voice acting, because he is simply tremendous. Teal'c speaks mostly in monotone, but Judge gives him subtle inflections of intonation that speak volumes. It's incredibly subtle, but so consistently well done that it's a pleasure to listen to him. It's also nice that Swallow seems to "get" Teal'c's manner of speaking, giving his narration and his dialog the right verbage, so that it sounds authentic for how Teal'c would speak to himself versus how he would speak to others. Another beautiful highlight of Judge's performance is that when he has to recount what Daniel and Jack are saying he gives their dialog in the flat, Teal'c monotone. It seems so authentically like what Teal'c would do that you can't help but smile when you get to those parts.
While long time fans know that Judge would most likely give a great performance, the real surprise was Noel Clarke as Sebe't. I really enjoyed the cadence of his accent and thought that it sounded exotic but authentic. I have no idea if he imitated a real accent or if he just made something up, but it sounded like the way someone from a foreign country might speak, which was the important part. It fooled me enough that I was surprised to discover late that this was "Mickey the Idiot" from the new series of Doctor Who. Clarke does a good job at making Sebe't feel sympathetic. As a former friend and a family member of Teal'c's, he should. Yet, Clarke also effectively makes use of the relationship between the two warriors that is related to us through flashback. They always had a friendly, competitive spirit. Clarke builds on that relationship and twists it just enough so that when Sebe't in the present must feel enraged by Teal'c betrayal that it seems just a natural extension of what the listener has already heard. It's a really great performance and there's a definite chemistry between Judge and Clarke that is probably worth the price of the CD alone.
The music was really effective in this one. There's a lot of use made of the wistful Stargate riff that Big Finish has used as a main theme. Since this is a story that's told through the bookends of meditation, it helps to give the story a slightly surreal and melancholy aspect that helps to develop the atmosphere of the story. The sounds are good as always. Stargate activation, Stargate travel, staff weapons, zats, jungle noises, fight sounds, clanking chains, prison bars, and others help to flesh out the setting. It's become almost a cliche to talk about Big Finish's sound library, but it is done particularly well in this one.
Final Rating: 9/10
Recommendation: An outstanding story for Teal'c. It answers some questions about the character and the consequences of his actions that the series never managed to answer while also maintaining an interesting story and letting two voice actors really spark off each other in an emotional story about men who were almost brothers that now must come to blows. I highly recommend it.