From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Crossing Lines: Stargate Atlantis — There’s No “I” In Team

One of the strengths of the final season of Stargate Atlantis so far has been the focus on the team. In the episodes: “Whispers”, “The Queen”, “Trackers”, “First Contact” (Part 1) & “The Lost Tribe” (Part 2) that strength has been tossed with questionable results to say the least.

“Whispers” introduces us to an all-female Stargate Team we’ve never met before – Major Anne Teddy (Christina Cox), Sergeant “Dusty” Mehra (Janina Gavankar), Captain Alicia Vega (Leela Savasta) and Dr. Alison Porter (Nicole de Boer) who are accompanied by John Sheppard and Carson Beckett on a visit to a planet where one of Michael’s early research facilities lies. Although I must say I enjoyed the inclusion of an all-female team in the Stargate universe and they were all fantastic in their roles it felt a bit “too little, too late” for my tastes. Some of us have been complaining about the roles of women and People of Color on the show since the beginning and to finally do something in the last season seems more patronizing than anything else. ‘Cause it’s not like we’ll get to see them again. Despite all that, Sgt. “Dusty” Mehra may be my favorite one episode character ever on the show, her propensity for violence and sarcastic attitude were great and really show what they could have done had they been invested in portraying Women of Color in a more interesting light from the beginning.

“Whispers” has all the hallmarks of a bad horror film, you know those ones they show on Sci-Fi that have names like The Deep or The Abandoned or Stay Out of The Creepy Fog You Damned Morons!

Checklist:

Eerie silence – check.

Abandoned town – check.

With a history of random disappearances told by the last person left – check.

Research facility where horrible experimentation has happened – check.

Fog so thick you can’t see your hand in front of your face – check.

But I like those bad movies so for me it worked really well as a one off episode.

Lt. Colonel Sheppard seemed completely superfluous to the episode though. I kept wondering why he was even there. His only role seemed to be to come up with a dimwitted plan that all the female officers knew was dimwitted and then order them to silence when they attempt to inform him of his idiocy. I don’t know if they were trying to make him look a little slow or just sexist by not listening to good advice but either way I started cheering for the monsters to eat him at that point. He sticks to his plan and then of course needs to be saved when it fails. Dr. Beckett does the same thing too! Not listening to Sgt. Mehra when she says to stay put he leaves the relative safety of the indoors and begins to wander. Of course, he almost ends up as a monster’s lunch as a result. Maybe they both should have died or at least been injured, it would have been a great moral for the episode – ‘Act like an ass and something will come out of the fog and eat your face’. But in the end they survive and we only lose one team member to the experiments which makes the body count seem pretty low but overall the episode was passable.

The next episode “The Queen” is my favorite of this lot. It focuses on Teyla, who we don’t get a lot of focus on in general, undergoing a procedure to make her look and sound like a Wraith Queen. All of this so that she can masquerade as the Queen of their Wraith ally Todd’s hive to try and convince the Queen of Queens, the Primary to allow them to alter the DNA of all Wraith so they won’t have to feed on humans anymore. Yeah, about genetically modifying the Wraith? You would think that the Atlantis team would have learned their lesson after their previous experimentation unleashed one of their most persistent enemies yet. But the leaders of Atlantis seem to have a big hard-on for experimentation, they’re just lucky there’s no ERB (Ethical Review Board) in the Pegasus galaxy.

Despite the somewhat convoluted plan the upside of this episode is Rachel Lutrell’s stunning performance as one of the Wraith. She growls and strides with the best of them, confronts those who are supposed to be allies, and when Todd kills the Primary thus installing Teyla she works the situation for all its worth. She wanders the line between crazy and sane making us wonder if the Wraith DNA she was born with now has control of her body. It’s all very Hamlet, is he crazy, is he sane, does he now have a taste for human meat? Well maybe not that last one. The rest of the team spends a lot of the episode rushing around trying to figure out where the Wraith ship she is on has disappeared too and when they finally find it end up captured and in jail cells. Teyla gets them out of the hot mess they’ve landed in and leaves Todd as her regent, to rule in her stead. A somewhat unsteady episode overall, the pseudo-rescue and presence of the rest of the team felt really grafted on but Lutrell was a delight to watch.

In comparison “Trackers” was my least favorite which is quite a surprise because I love Ronon Dex, Dr. Rodney McKay and Dr. Jennifer Keller and all the actors gave solid performances but the whole episode just felt like filler and not entertaining filler like “Whispers” either. Dr. Keller is kidnapped by a Runner – Kiryk (Mike Dopud). McKay and Dex try to find her while they’re all being hunted by the Wraith. Of course, Keller eventually befriends the Runner who took her and we realize he has a “heart o’ gold” and is just trying to get her to treat a sick young girl – the only survivor of a village he brought the Wraith down on. The interplay between McKay and Dex was nowhere near what I thought it would be when this love triangle story line was started, it just felt stilted, awkward and unnecessary.

McKay and Dex find Keller, Kiryk and the girl – the inevitable misunderstanding ensues until they all team up. They arrive at the gate to return to Atlantis and Kiryk “sacrifices” himself to distract the Wraith guarding it so the rest of them can get away but as I’ve said before – this is Stargate and even if you see a body you can’t count on the character staying dead. The best and worst part of the episode was definitely the discussion between Dex and McKay at the end about their mutual interest in Keller. It was the best because the supreme awkwardness of the conversation made you want to laugh and curl into a ball at the same time but then they agree not to fight over her which really was what I was waiting for this whole time! Without the possibility of a hilarious prank/pseudo-violent Atlantis wide war between McKay and Dex I find myself bored and uninterested in the romantic aspects of this triangle because really? We’ve only got about 11 episodes left at this point hardly enough to bring the romance where it needs to be to get the audience invested.

Then we have the midseason finale cliffhanger episode “First Contact” – although the gap between the first ten episodes and the last ten this season was so small compared to previous seasons that there was actually very little suspense built up at all. I think the reason we were all supposed to care about this two-parter was the appearance of Daniel Jackson. I need to confess something at this juncture – I am not a Daniel Jackson fan. He has his moments don’t get me wrong but mostly I find him arrogant and annoying. Anyway Daniel Jackson shows up looking for the secret lab of some Ancient scientist, Janus. He and McKay find the lab and trip a subspace signal that ends up with a new alien race showing up in battlesuits and kidnapping the two of them and some device.

Meanwhile Woolsey, Keller and Ronon are on the Daedalus to meet with Todd and research the genetic experimentation talked about in “The Queen” You know so Wraith won’t have to feed on humans. At this point I admit I’m confused. What will they feed on? Can they stop feeding altogether? If so couldn’t this be an amazing discovery for humans too, giving us perpetual body energy? Or will the Wraith now have to eat regular food? And just because they don’t have to eat humans doesn’t really mean they’ll stop we are a very delicious species after all. Maybe it’s like vegetarianism, sure you can choose to not eat meat but that doesn’t mean you will.

At this point another question reared its head – Why is Daniel Jackson here? He’s a linguist. And they’re looking for a piece of technology, I just don’t see his usefulness. The smart move would have been to send Sam Carter or Dr. Lee but I guess they don’t have the fan cache that Daniel does?

Anyway the new, still covered aliens ask Dr. McKay to activate a device. He says no, they threaten to shoot Dr. Jackson so he does it. At this point he discovers there’s a side effect of the machine. *sigh* Isn’t there always? I mean damn you’ve been in the Pegasus galaxy for four years now when have you ever come across a piece of equipment that didn’t have some sort of horrific side effect? The main purpose of the device seems to be that any Wraith ship that enters a hyperspace window explodes. Awesomesauce!

But Todd, aboard The Daedalus sees it happen and accuses the Atlantis expedition of activating some machine that sounds like the Atreyu device – so now all I’m thinking about is “The Neverending Story” and big pink fluffy dog-dragons. Anywho, Todd takes over the Daedalus using some nifty glowing rods that knock all the humans out and we discover what the side effect of the Atreyu device is, when the Atlantis expedition’s Stargate won’t turn off and then explodes fantastically. They’re lucky in that they can put a shield around theirs because apparently those gates pack a punch – up there with a dozen nuclear bombs. So yeah all the Wraith won’t be able to open up hyperspace windows but then again a lot of humans will die. Lamesauce.

The second half of the two-parter “The Lost Tribe” was more blah than the first. We discover the brand new species they’ve been touting are ~dum-dum-dum~ the Asgard. Okay, so while it was a really cool surprise and all the Asgard are supposed to be dead so it’s a shock I still call bullshit. We were promised an all new race and the Asgard have been around in the Stargate canon for years and years now. I was hoping we’d finally get to meet the Furlings or that weird alien race they met in “The Daedalus Variations”. So Dr. Jackson talks with one of the Asgard and explains about the side effect of the device leading to billions of human dying. Now this might make me a bad person but this is where I start to get interested again because the Asgard? Do. Not. Care.

For those who don’t know, the Milky Way Asgard were allies of the Stargate program and cared about humans and all that. In fact the reason they are called the Asgard is because they imitated the Nordic Gods and did a bunch of good on earth in olden times (the fact that mostly the evil aliens on Stargate imitated the gods of People of Color – Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, Sumeria and the “good” aliens imitated the gods of white people is very disturbing and unnerving but that’s an essay for another time).

Anyway the Asgard of the Pegasus galaxy? They are hard. They question Daniel on where the other Asgard are now. The answer – dead – does not seem to convince them that being touchy-feely human lovers was the greatest plan. These Asgard have solved the genetic problems of their race. See, the Asgard stopped having sex way back when and actually reproduce by cloning. The problem is that all copies of copies eventually the wear down and start exhibiting genetic damage. But by settling in, not really giving a shit about anyone else in their galaxy and focusing on their own problems these Asgard solved it while the others did not and had to commit mass suicide. I’ve got to admit these Asgard and their self-involvement tickle me and Daniel’s self-righteous attitude annoys me. Go Away Daniel Jackson!

Meanwhile, Todd and his Wraith have control of the Daedalus and fly to Atlantis to order them to turn off the Atreyu device all the while threatening to feed on Woolsey. Personally I would like Woolsey to be eaten but I never get my way and so Todd gets the coordinates to the ice planet where the device is and heads off to fire on it and kill everyone there including Jackson (Yay!) and McKay (Boo!). Apparently the Wraith missed Ronon and Keller when they rounded up everyone so they go on a sabotage mission which leaves the Daedalus compromised. Keller has issues with this course of action from the start however as she offers no alternative really I’m left yelling at her to shut up and get with the program.

So the Wraith get everything but weapons operational again and so their plan becomes to ram the Daedulus into the planet’s surface while they streak out in their ship. Good job Ronon. Meanwhile one of the Traveller (space nomads!) ships has shown up at Atlantis to ask why gates are blowing up everywhere, uh-oh busted. Sheppard and Zelenka hitch a ride with the Traveller leaving Teyla in charge of the city, which is an excellent choice I agree but means we won’t see much of her for the rest of the episode which saddens me. Anyway by this time McKay and Jackson have escaped confinement, found Asgard battlesuits and gone to shut down the device. Jackson takes a lightening bolt to his chest (Yay!). In the end everyone is saved and it’s happy times all-around except for Ronon Dex who gets the whole “Let’s just be friends.” speech from Keller. He plays it off like he was just inviting her to eat as friends but still…ooooh burn. It seems like she prefers her men a tad less violent and reckless. It’s never said that she’s picking McKay but I think this is where the love triangle endeth and all I can say is thank goodness, I was done with it a couple of episodes ago. And don’t be that sad Ronon I know plenty of women who’d be happy to go on a good old fashioned violence spree with you I can send you a list of names if you want.

All in all the season continues to decline from its pretty awesome beginnings. I can only hope the upcoming episode where Atlantis is put on trail by the Pegasus galaxy lives up to my expectations and puts us back on course.

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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