From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Crossing Lines: Stargate Atlantis — The End Has Come…And It’s Not Pretty

I want to acknowledge that my last column infuriated more than a few folks. Some had some valid complaints, some were just too obsessed with Joe Flanigan’s gravity defying hair to listen to reason but this is a new column, the last column on Stargate: Atlantis (at least until the movie comes out!) and I have a lot to say and possibly more folks to piss off, so let’s get cracking!

First of all, I avoided “Brain Storm” for quite a while. Last column I expressed my distaste for episodes that focus simply on John Sheppard, well I also feel annoyance with ones that focus on the Rodney McKay/Jennifer Keller relationship. I just think that David Hewlett and Jewel Staite are much better actors than Flanigan so I can watch more easily through my annoyance. But I will again send up the question I have asked myself so very many times this season: Where are Ronon and Teyla? At least this episode we get a little something on where Ronon is, Teyla’s whereabouts are an unaddressed mystery.

McKay and Keller go to a super-secret science gathering where an unstable invention once again threatens lives. The highlight of the episode for me was the inclusion of Bill Nye, the Science Guy in the gathering of scientific geniuses. Not only does the mocking of his persona and scientific knowledge provide some of the biggest laughs of the episode but his facial reactions to the insults are hilarious. The relationship between Rodney and Keller seems exceptionally more unbelievable as time goes on, I don’t know what it is but the whole thing feels so pasted on. It’s almost as if the actors themselves are tired of the storyline or no longer care about it.

Conclusion — An overconfident scientist must bow to the genius of McKay, Keller almost dies but Rodney saves her which leads to the overconfident scientist claiming all the credit for stopping the horrific machine he invented in the first place. It, like many episodes this season, feels like filler and honestly in the last few episodes of the show altogether I expect a little bit better.

“Infection” is actually another one of my favorites from this season, not just because I thought it had a lot more to do with the overarching plot lines of the season and show as a whole but also because the team is finally back together! Like an earlier episode this season, “Survivors”, “Infection” hearkens back to old school horror tropes, this time instead of the abandoned-foggy-city-with-monsters-on-the-loose it’s the creepy-haunted-mansion-with-monsters-on-the-loose…well, a decaying bio-mechanical ship and starving mutated cancer ridden Wraith, but same diff’.

Here’s where Keller began to really annoy me: the character decay was supremely evident with her whole attack of Emo-Sad Panda-Insecurity in regards to the gene treatment she created for the Wraith. I mean yes, she’s infected a bunch of sentient beings and yes, if the military ever declassified the Stargate project and the AMA found out what she’d done they’d probably take her medical license away, but none of that bothered Carson, he just kept right on with it. C’mon Keller, there is nothing more annoying in the Pegasus galaxy than a doctor with morals! Shape up or ship out.

So the episode ends with them having to fly the decaying bio-mechanical Wraith hive ship down through the atmosphere and Todd the Wraith going off to try a probably-deadly cure for the Keller created virulent cancer throughout his body. I really hope he comes back before the end of the show, he’s one of my favorite recurring characters.

So the whole crashing of a piece of the Wraith Hive ship gave me a supreme case of deja-vu in regards to that one episode a couple years back where the team is trapped on an asteroid-ship with a decaying orbit and John has to crash-land it on the planet surface. I know I’m not the only one who noticed that, right? Stargate Atlantis take note: Repeating story-lines from your own show? That is the saddest sign of lack of creativity ever.

“Identity”, what can I say about the episode “Identity”? It was…about identity…and Keller and some criminal switching bodies! Yeah, that’s what it was about!

Okay I admit it, I couldn’t watch “Identity”. My hand hovered above the play button and though I kept thinking press it, press it my finger simply refused to move, my body rebelled against the episode. Alright it wasn’t quite that but it was damn close, the reason? It’s a Keller episode.

Now let me say straight off the bat that I like Jewel Staite. I think she’s an excellent actress and I’ve been a fan of hers all the way back to the Nickelodeon series, Space Cases. This is less about her acting and more about the character devolution that’s occurred with Keller. When the character first appeared I actually enjoyed her quite a bit. I thought she was resourceful, funny and a stable recurring character. And then the Ronon-Keller-McKay love triangle became a story point and an awfully large one–at first I even found this amusing and then I realized that Keller was getting considerably more screen time than Ronon or Teyla; she was becoming a main character.

While I’m not completely adverse to a supporting character transitioning to a main one if it fits the show, this didn’t. Keller didn’t become a main character on the basis of her medical skills or usefulness in the field, she became a main character simply because two men were fighting over her. For me it was another case of a woman only being useful to advance the character development of males, while their own character is twisted and altered to fit the needs of the romantic storyline.

Also, it annoys me that so close to the end of the series, as we watch the team we’ve followed go out, there are so many individualistic episodes. I could understand if each team member had one episode a season that focused on them but this season the episodes where the whole team actually was there felt like a rarity. Bottom line, I resent the character of Keller for having one of the last three episodes centered on her and the producers for approving the move.

In accordance with my inability to watch “Identity”, I resent John Sheppard for “Vegas”. Now, I know I’m going to get a lot more anger because of this opinion, but “Vegas” was an excuse for Flanigan to play a maverick cowboy cop, like Dirty Harry or similar. Before I go any further let me say that production value wise this episode was the absolute best of the season bar none. This makes sense as this episode was actually filmed last so they simply blew the remainder of the budget on making this episode look amazing. I don’t begrudge that choice but part of me wonders if they couldn’t have used that money to hire some new writers and make the season better overall.

In any case the ultimate highlight of the episode had to be the Wraith stranded in Las Vegas putting on make-up and prosthetics to look human while Marilyn Manson’s The Beautiful People blared in the background.

Overall Flanigan was passable in the role–note that I don’t think this because I’ve changed my opinion of his acting ability. The character he was playing was just a very good fit for him: stereotypical maverick cop who doesn’t share feelings or emote. Perfect. My main critique of the episode… I really can’t say it better than my friend who exclaimed upon watching “Vegas”: This is the whitest Stargate episode ever. She was so right.

It’s is the next to last episode, where are Ronon and Teyla? Okay, so we’re in an alternate universe to our own, that’s all well and good, but a Rodney who’s still with the Stargate program shows up and mentions his team but we never see them. It seemed like everyone got at least a cameo in the episode: Keller, Woolsey, Todd the Wraith (in a hilarious turn as a captured, crazed, starving Wraith driven to beat poetry), and Zelenka, but no where in there was the opportunity for Ronon and Teyla to show up? I mean, we even had Sam Carter from SG-1 and the producers of the show themselves show up as poker players, but there was no way for any character of color to show up?

That disgusted me so much that it was hard to enjoy the episode for what it was, which was pretty well written, well produced, and the plot was not only really intriguing it also tied into the main story line in a great way. It was a good episode, but the anger I feel over the characters of color–two members of the main team and focus of the show–consistently being left out of episodes has taken it’s toll and it’s hard for me to enjoy an episode when there are such glaring absences. It also says a lot about how the characters of color and actors themselves are viewed by the producing and writing staff, because why include actual stars from the show when you can write yourself into the episode play poker, right?

“Enemy at the Gates” — one word: underwhelmed. I thought the tie in to the previous episode was very well done and I applauded the return of Todd the Wraith but I think the episode felt supremely rushed. It was like it should have been a two hour show finale and it wasn’t. There were so many things going on in 43 minutes and I felt rushed along by the story as opposed to carried along with it.

One thing that I was pleasantly surprised by was the short discussion that took place between Woolsey, Teyla and Ronon about whether they wished to stay on Atlantis as it was piloted back to Earth. It’s one of the few times that I can remember someone from Earth acknowledging that maybe Pegasus residents have other responsibilities and lives. Maybe that’s the crux of why I was underwhelmed by this episode–Atlantis has always been a show about the Pegasus galaxy and the difficulties in that place. Making the finale all about saving Earth just felt not in line with the show for me.

And let me just say if I was a resident of the Pegasus Galaxy? I’d be so supremely pissed right now. Not only did you wake the Wraith up fifty years ahead of schedule, screw with their physiology, and act like colonialists for five years but now you take the best line of defense the Pegasus galaxy has against the Wraith out of the Pegasus galaxy! I swear the upcoming two hour movie better deal with getting the city back where it belongs.

Though they left plenty of other plot lines to tie up: whether John kills captive and helpful-but-not-friendly Todd the Wraith, how the world governments are going to explain the ball of fire that was Atlantis landing in the ocean, where exactly are they gonna keep this huge city if they can’t plunk it down in Antarctica any longer, and most importantly, why did the Superhive’s weapons hitting Atlantis’s shield sound like some old school Atari game?

Otherwise the episode wasn’t that memorable oh except for Ronon DYING! It was only a temporary death, but still quite traumatizing for me. My notes for the episode have the line “If Ronon is really dead, Ima kick someone where the good lord split them” underlined multiple times.

So the show, in my opinion, ended with a whimper instead of a bang. But given a season that was more lows than highs I can’t say I’m surprised by that at all.

Naamen Gobert Tilahun is an aspiring speculative writer and essayist based in the Bay Area. He currently is attending Mills College to earn his M.F.A. in Fiction. His essays have appeared in the Aqueduct Press collection – The WisCon Chronicles: Volume 2 and online at Fantasy Magazine, The Angry Black Woman, Feminist SF! – The Blog and on his personal blog Words From The Center, Words From The Edge.

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