Friday, August 31, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Runner"

“Runner” pays farewell to ford as a main cast member while welcoming Ronon Dex in to fill the void, both within the backdrop of an Androcles and the Lion fable. “Runner” may be another case of my lack of familiarity with SGA causing issues. I do not recall if there were any issues prompting the major cast change, nor any hype leading up to either change. I can only judge “Runner” based on its own merit with any lingering fan sentiments tainting.

When a science team investigates the effects on a planet of long term ozone depletion, they discover a dead Wraith. The Wraith was killed by a P-90, so Ford is the prime suspect. A team, lead by Sheppard heads to the planet in order to locate their ailing friend. Caldwell in particular is wary of Sheppard’s intentions in the matter. Caldwell believes ford is beyond help, but Sheppard will not bring himself to eliminate him over personal feelings rather than allow Atlantis to be compromised. The confrontation between Caldwell and Sheppard recalls the mercy killing of Sumner. Caldwell appears to ave the double whammy of resentment for Sumner’s death and doubt Sheppard can do what must be done to protect Atlantis’ secrets ford might reveal to the Wraith. Sheppard cannot win for losing.

Before anyone can find Ford, Sheppard and Teyla are captured by a man named Ronon Dax. Ronon is a Runner, which means one who has a tracker stuck in his back that allows the Wraith to track him. For seven years, he has been on the run while being hunted down for sport. In negotiation for their freedom, Sheppard says beckett can surgically remove the tracker. Beckett does so while being the one to allude to Androcles and the Lion onscreen. If the title does not ring a bell, it is the story of a roman named Androcles who removes a thorn from a lion’s paw. To thank him later, the lion refuses to eat Androcles later shen he is condemned later in the story. Ronon ultimately follows the lion’s lead.

Meanwhile, Rodney runs into Ford as he traipses through the forest like Rambo. The interaction between the two is more enjoyable than Ronon’s scenes. Ford suffers violent shifts from his old self to the Wraith influenced, paranoid psychopath and back again. Rainbow Sun Francks is not the best actor--perhaps why he is being written out-- but he does an impressive job here. His mood swings from youthful enthusiasm for the adventure of rescuing Sheppard and Teyla to deadly violence when he loses patience with Rodney and back again is incredibly scary. It is also great how Rodney, who really does not care about ford, has to fake it in order to save himself while still compelling the audience to sympathize with his plight. It is no easy task to pull off with such a normally obnoxious character.

Ford escapes capture by leaving with the Wraith who have come for Ronon. Although Sheppard shot him in the leg, doubts linger he has the nerve to do what must be done to stop Ford once and for all. Ronon travels back to Atlantis, but winds up stuck there when a recon mission shows his home planet has been razed by the Wraith with no apparent survivors.

“Runner’ is an entertaining episode that strikes a good balance between action and character moments. It serves the purpose of exiting Ford while introducing Ronon well. That is high praise coming from me. Neither character reaches out and grabs me, although I am going to be fair and wait awhile before passing final judgment on Ronon. My favorite parts of the episode involved Rodney.

There are a couple issues, as well. If it is relatively easy for the tracker to be surgically removed, why has no runner ever done it before, much less Ronon? Beckett performed the operation as a field medic might, and was still successful. The ease at which Ronon’s problem is resolved has to be overlooked in order for the episode to work. The other is much of the episode takes place at night, but is filmed during the day and digitally altered. This is certainly a matter of personal taste, but the results generally nag me. It is something about the shadows cast. I do not know. I am not going to count it against the episode. Just know that I am lightly grinding my ax over here about it. As with a few episodes back when Teyla fought the Genni woman, the dark is used to disguise the fact the ford v. Ronon knife fight is two stuntmen instead.

“Runner” is good, but not great. Perhaps if I had a stronger emotional connection with Ford or latched on immediately to Ronon, I would feel better about it. As it is, I appreciate the action scenes and the comic relief involving Rodney. Francks does a good job portraying the increasingly crazy Ford. One wonders if he had been able to act up a storm from the beginning, would his character have made it all the way to the end?

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Intruder"

What kind be said of “The Intruder” other than it is highly unoriginal? Not only is the plot a direct lift from SG-1’s “Entity,” but a character specifically mentions the incident from the episode in case you were under the mistaken impression this is something fresh and new. There are a few problems with the storytelling technique of flashbacks as well which damage the episode.

The Atlantis command staff is taking the Daeadalus on a return flight from Earth to Atlantis after a debriefing and gathering of new staff. This flight is the return trip to Atlantis daniel missed because of vala in “Avalon, Part I.” The action plot begins almost immediately when a crewmember is killed by what we soon learn is a Wraith virus designed to take over Daedalus and fly it towards a Hive ship. The rising action and resolution of the battle against the virus is identical to “Entity” save for the use of a X-302 instead of a MALP is the main hiding place for the virus. The conflict with the virus is broken up by black and white flashbacks from the command staff’s time on Earth done with varying degrees of success.

I do not want to sound terribly down on the virus story. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with it. The writers present it effectively as a mystery at first. Perhaps there is a saboteur on board. Even after the truth is discovered, there is a HAL homage afoot as the virus uses the ship’s systems to defend itself. The ending dogfight in which Sheppard’s F-302 destroys the one infected by the virus in time to save Daedalus from a lethal dose of radiation from the corona of a nearby sun is quite thrilling. But it has still been done beore. It does not feel quite right for a spin off to literally reuse a script from its parent series, acknowledge that is what they have done, and not have fans irritated that more effort was not put into making the spin off more unique. Call it ultimately disappointing over lack of effort.

The flashbacks are a bigger problem, mostly on a technical level. Why mwntion in the ’present” Sheppard has been promoted from major to colonel, then show in flashback the generals in command wanted to boot him out in favor of Caudwell, but weir insisted otherwise,, and got her way because she has the president’s ear? Maybe that is a moment exclusively for the shippers, since the emotional impact is Sheppard’s promotion is solely due to Weir going to bat for him, but it does not resonate with me to find out he has been promoted first, then learn why. I guess the whole Sheppard/Weir thing is not grabbing me like it is everyone else. As if Weir’s advocacy of Sheppard does not grab you, her engagement to Simon is called off, too, so no barriers left for you shippers. Sheppard visiting Ford’s family is a well done way of demonstrating his guilt over ford’s fate and his dedication to finding the missing officer. There is a bright spot there.

“The Intruder” is unoriginal with some flaws. Is it really wise to show how vulnerable Daedalus is in its second appearance? Or establish a trip from Earth to Atlantis takes only 18 days, thereby removing the stranded in another galaxy aspect so soon? I do not know. A wait and see attitude is necessary. One thing I can say for certain is how much I like Hermiod. The Asgard have always been my favorite stargate aliens, and Hermiod jas thus far been the most colorful with his condescending snark. He is an inspired character. I hope he is frequently utilized, though I suspect he will be used as sparingly as his compatriots on SG-1. The best way to rate ’The Intruder” is mediocre. It has all been done before. The only aspect that saves it is very few character moments.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Siege, Part III"

Wait…have we finally reached the end of the Wraith invade Atlantis story? After something like seven episodes and a few months hiatus to boot? Yes! We have been dragged across the finish line! The interesting part about “The Siege, Part III” is how many foreshadowed plot elements from the set up, which has dragged out so long, I nearly forgot all of them until they showed up, are woven together for the conclusion. I will give major props for the ending, as well. Anytime a story ends with a mushroom cloud, all the stops have been pulled out.

As expected, Daedalus arrives in the nick of time to not only deliver the ZPM, but teleport Sheppard off the Puddle Jumper before the nuke goes off inside the Hive ship. The cavalry rescue is only the beginning of a breakneck speed first act which sees Daedalus teleport nukes onto other Hive ships, ground forces engage Wraith in Atlantis, and Rodney properly hook up the ZPM while still serving as comic relief. The guy is a multitasked, what can I tell you?

The shield works to defend Atlantis, but even after the Wraith fleet is destroyed, a dozen more are on the way. Our heroes go on the offense by ambushing the second wave, but they are going to face a similar continual bombardment that convinced the Lanteans to abandon the city millennia ago until they get the idea exploding a nuke over Atlantis while the shield is up, then cloaking the city to make it appear it has self-destructed. The plan works, and the Wraith leave under the assumption they now have no easy route to Earth.

Subplots resolved: Teyla is alive. She rushes in to save Rodney from a couple Wraith after his security detail is incapacitated and his Keystone Kops routine in his defense does nothing more than amuse the audience. Everett was not killed in the first season finale. He does, however, have half the life sucked out of him before one o the men under his command shoots the Wraith. The experience causes him to empathize with Sheppard’s decision to mercy kill Sumner, and he expresses the epiphany with Sheppard. One presumes Everett dies off screen shortly thereafter. Teyla uses her mental link with the Wraith to inform them of the ‘plan” to destroy Atlantis so they will stop their bombardment while the shield is down.

Subplots begun: Daedaluis arrives, expanding both the cast and firepower of SGA. I cannot decide if I am happier to see Mitch Phileggi have a recurring role, or that a smart aleck Asgard named Hermiod. Novak shows up, too. She was not a major player on the parent show, but memorable nevertheless. Shippers should take note of the warm reception weir offers Sheppard upon his return after fearing he was dead. Finally, in what I assume is at least part of the second season arc, ford is infected with Wraith enzyme which makes him some sort of psychotic hybrid. He escapes to menace our heroes another day.

It has been a long time coming, but “The Siege, Part III” is a fine ending of the Wraith invasion arc. I am inclined to think there was only enough material for about half as many episodes as the powers that be chose to use, but no matter. The conclusion wove in dangling plot threads from past episodes, introduced new characters, and concluded the storyline in exciting, slam bang fashion while introducing elements for the new running plot, and all without feeling cluttered. I even thought Rodney’s comic relief moments were well placed and less obnoxious than usual. He and Hermiod are presumably going to comedically spar with one another, no? “The Siege, Part III” has me cautiously optimistic about a season which I have heard is generally considered the weakest of the series. We shall see.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Siege, Part II"

“The Siege, Part II” is the first season finale. Amazingly enough, the story, while continuing the long, drawn out invasion of Atlantis story, does not conclude it. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, thereby promising at least another episode in the story arc. It may even have brought up fears the remainder of the series would be about this huge, single battle.

Okay, I exaggerate. But the powers that be have dragged out material for a trilogy into twice as many episodes. I fully understand now that it is all in the name of continuity. The ZPM SG-1 stole from Ra in “Moebius, Part II” needs eighteen days to reach Atlantis as its ultimate salvation, so the real story up to the cliffhanger becomes whether a battalion of freshly arrived Marines can hold off the Wraith for the remaining four days until the Daedalus rides in like the cavalry amid personal conflict. At least there is good no to continuity?

As preparations for the hopeless battle continue, Atlantis receives an incoming wormhole transporting marines under the command of brash Col. Dillon Everett. Their orders are to hold Atlantis at all costs until the Daedalus arrives with the ZPM. The predictable happens. Everett and weir clash over who is actually in charge. Sumner was a close friend of his, so Everett is not fond of Sheppard for his mercy killing on top of the general Sheppard does not follow orders animosity everyone in the military other than the fawning Ford has for him. Everett also has strong misgivings about Teyla, even when she an her people volunteer to join his forces.

What is really amusing about the set ups I just described are that only weir and Teyla win Everett’s respect during the episode’s events. Weir riskes her life to acquire nuclear bombs from the Genii. They turn out to be the only real offensive capabilities Atlantis has against the Wraith. Teyla uses her abilities to sense the wraith to warn that a group of them are already in Atlantis in preparation for an ambush. Alas, poor Sheppard’s act of heroism--a suicide mission to plant a nuke on a hive ship--is lost on Everett, as he may or may not have been killed by a Wraith. Sheppard cannot win for losing, folks.

If I sound a bit snaky about "The Siege, Part II,” it is almost entirely because the story has been dragged out too long. Certainly, it is also predictable Everett is going to clash with the powers that be on Atlantis. I am also unclear why the whole sequence with the Genii planning to hold weir hostage in exchange for C$ until she convinces the morons they can test their nukes safely on the Wraith if they stick with the original deal had to be put in there for anything other than filler. But besides those two points, “Te Siege, Part, II” is an exciting start to the battle against the Wraith. The CGI of the initial attack from the air are impressive for a cable show. They also forgo the George Lucas urge to fill every inch of the screen with explosions for as long as the money holds out. That has been a pet peeve of mine post Prequel Trilogy, so your mileage may vary.

But the thing that really sells "The Siege, Part II” is the legitimate fear certain characters may not survive. It is tough to pull that dreaded feeling off for a show, and while I know Teyla and Ford--the two characters I mostly have in mind--do survive, I could see it not happening on a show with such an extensive and growing ensemble cast. You cannot oversell it when a series can pull that feeling off with the audience.

The bottom line for a season finale is whether it convinces you to come back for more. “The Siege, Part II” does for me. Sure, we already know Sheppard is not going to die. We already know Daedalus is going to swoop in the nick of time to save the day. Yet I still want to see it all unfold. If for no other reason than to justify all the grey hairs I have grown waiting for the resolution to come. Not grey hairs because of stress, but because it has taken that freaking long to come around.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Siege, Part I"

“The Siege, Part I” is the penultimate episode of the first season. It continues the often glacially slow slide towards doomsday at the hands of the Wraith. As sch, the episode features reams of dialogue up until the final act. The final act manages to elevate the story beyond the point at which I wondered why the powers that be decided to draw such a thin story out over so many episodes. Of course, that simply means the action is a distraction from dwelling on that question, but does not eliminate the question altogether.

Rodney gets the idea to use the Ancient weapons platform discovered in “The Defiant One.”. Conveniently, weapons platform can be powered by a naquadah generator instead of a ZPM even though other Ancient technology of that magnitude requires a ZPM. Speaking of, there are two other ZPM out there according to the list Old weir left behind, but Our heroes have not bothered to look for them even though one of them will offer a necessary defense. Are we just supposed to forget this fact and go with the inevitable doomsday scenario? I suppose so. Rodney and Peter Grodin travel to the platform to hotwire it while Atlantis discovers the Wraith pilot of the recon ship is still alive somewhere in the city.

Such is the plit in the two stories that comprise “The Siege, Part I.” Rodney an grodin’s expedition involves a lot of techno babble and humor at the expense of Rodney’s extreme arrogance interrupted by a spacewalk that counts as an action sequence. On Atlantis, the tension between Teyla and bates escalates when he continues to believe she is an inadvertent traitor thanks to her psychic link to the Wraith. When Bates is found severely beaten, Teyla is the natural suspect, but suspicion evaporates immediately when Bob the Wraith is discovered.

The weapons platform story is slow an fairly boring. The Teyla/Bob story has a couple issues that kill it. For one, how does Bob resist sucking the life out of Bates? It could be because he does not want to be discovered yet, but he could have done the deed and hidden the body. The only reasons bates is left alive is to create some drama with Teyla and allow bates to continue on as a character. I dwelled on those two points the entire time rather than accept them as a logical part of the story. Frankly, the idea teyla is suspected of being under the control of the Qraith while an actual Wraith is responsible for the incidents of which she is being accused could have/should have been an episode in itself rather than falling in the middle of a larger, more important arc, but whatever. This is what the powers that be decided to run with, so okay.

The final act saves bth stories from the doldrums. The weapons platform becomes operational long enough to destroy a Wraith ship, but then overloads so it cannot fire again. The other Wraith ships destroy the platform with Grodin inside. While he was not a majorly active character, Grodin had been there from the beginning and was in practically every episode in some minor capacity, so his death is more meaningful than a typical red shirt. In the other story, Bob the Wraith is captured and does his usual threats before Sheppard shoots him to death in his cell. Sheppard’s brutal act shocks the rest of AR-1, but I assume the matter will not be heard from again. The episode ends, like every episode since the Wraith began advancing towards Atlantis, with a threat against Earth. A little on the redundant side.

The biggest problem with ’The Siege, Part I” is how much the invasion story arc is being dragged out. The tension has been maximized to the point it has already peaked and gone down some. I can imagine how ineffective the storytelling method would be if I was waiting a week between episodes. I would have made the arc much shorter. Three episodes tops,. The way things are now, I have time to poke holes in the plot, such as why our heroes are not seeking out the other two ZPM or the convenience of the naquadah generator being useful or Teyla’s subplot slowing proceedings down. Some of Rodney’s bits are funny, and watching Bates get his rear end kicked is satisfying in consideration of his attitude, but most of the episode is just kind of there. Not bad, necessarily, but distracting from the overall gloom and doom purpose.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Gift"

I was apprehensive when the Wraith invasion storyline was introduced halfway through the midseason events would be dragged out to the point the tension would break. It may not be fair to say such has happened yet, but “The Gift” feels like it is misplaced in the episode order. Teyla certainly deserves an episode centering on her, but now is a strange time for it. Not only that, but there is an awful loyt of padding as well.

Teyla is suffering nightmares in which she imagines she is a Wraith. Upon consulting with a psychologist who is overworked thanks to the impending invasion, Teyal tries coming to terms with her “gift.” Like only a few Athosians, she can sense the Wraith coming. Following a hunch from an old family friend, she and her teammates visit a long abandoned planet upon which some of her family members lived. There she stumbles upon an lab in which a rogue Wraith had been performing experiment on humans to expedite the feeding process. He inadvertently created the ability in humans to telepathically connect with Wraith. The Wraith attempted to wipe out the indigenous population to avoid the trait spreading, but some escaped.

The psychologist uses hypnosis to remove a suspected mental block on Teyla so she can utilize the telepathic abilities to gather intelligence. She does this not once, not twice, but three times, with each attempt ending more dramatically than the last. These attempts are what I consider filler. The writers seem to run out of material, so they repeat the same sequence with a different result for the entire penultimate act. All that is for a payoff we already knew--the wraith want to attack Earth. We knew that from sumner’s interrogation in the first episode. I suppose it is new information that there are too many awaken Wraith and too few humans to feed upon, but did we need to waste a whole episode waiting on that revelation?

We do learn more about the Wraith’s origin. They evolved from those insects from “Thirty-Eight Minutes” when the Ancients allowed humans to settle on a planet infested with them. Eventually, bug and human DNA became mixed. Thus, the Wraith were born. The exposition regarding the Wraith’s beginnings had to go somewhere. “The gift” is as ood a spot as any, I guess.

“Good” being a relative term. While I am far more interested in Teyla than I was with Teal’c--they are essentially the same character--and Rachel Luttrell’s smoky voice calls up fond memories of Michele Carey, I do not think “The Gift” is a good showcase for her. There is not much material, hence the repeat hypnosis sessions when when one extended would have sufficed. “The Gift” appears to be largely an exposition dump for everything you ever wanted to know about the Wraith, but wree afraid to ask. Why such a dump should come in the middle of an invasion storyline is anyone’s guess. The effect is a near derailment. One wonders not only why that is thought to be a good idea, but why ford jabbing Rodney with innuendo regarding his manhood is necessary. A penis joke? Seriously?The joke does not downgrade “The Gift” to the cellar, but there is not much lifting the episode out, either.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Letters from Pegasus"

“Letters from Pegasus’ is the first clip show for SGA. As such, I was apprehensive about watching, particularly considering the running storyline has established a ticking clock with them impending Wraith invasion. Stopping to look over the events of the past fifteen episodes could potentially destroy the tension. But I am happy to say the episode does the exact opposite. By offering our heroes to send what may be their last words to loved ones back home, one barely notices the reuse of old clips among the personal feelings among our heroes this is the end.

While out heroes are brainstorming options against what is almost certainly a hopeless battle against the Wraith invasion, Rodney proposes a risky idea to send all the information they have gathered, along with personal messages, back to SGC in the event they are all killed. Ford sets about recording everyone’s messages to home while Sheppard and Teyla go on a recon mission to assess the Wraith fleet.

It is the letter to home which utilize the clips, but as I said, one hardly notices because the emphasis is on the individual character’s message to family, friends, and colleagues back home. We have the funny, such as Rodney sending an hour long, rambling message imparting his wisdom to all humanity and Zedenka chattering away excitedly in Czech about Atlantis rising from the ocean only to have it scuttled because his family lacks security clearance, and the poignant, such as Beckett unable to talk to his mother without breaking down and Weir offering condolences to the family of crew who died in the line of duty and cutting her fiance loose to live the rest of his life. The way the messages toy with your emotions from the funny to the sad and back again is masterfully done. Carl Binder may wind up my favorite SGA writer.

The majority of new scenes take place on the recon mission, which is equally emotionally raining. The Wraith are stopping periodically to feed on populations on their way to Atlantis. In order to gather intel, Sheppard and Teyla stake out a planet with which she is familiar because a family friend, Orin, lives there. Against Sheppard’s wishes, she promises to save orin and his family before the Wraith attack. Her promise leads to a conflict between her and Sheppard. Teyla is motivated by saving her loved ones at all costs. Sheppard is a military man who knows you cannot save everyone. In desperate times, the situation calls for sacrifices for the greatest number of survivors.

When the two become stranding for the culling because the stargate is blocked, Sheppard reassess the situation to save as many as possible, but is only convinced to wait for Orin himself when Teyla opts to stay behind for him otherwise. Sheppard and Teyla’s conflict is a microcosm of the show’s conflict as a whole. You have both military and non-military personnel throw into a hopeless combat situation with opposing philosophies on what sacrifices ought to be made in the name of survival. “Letters from Pegasus” deals with the importance of family. The letters to home significance is obvious, but it is also a matter of Teyla considering Orin family. She is willing to lose her own life in an effort to save his. Her intention is a small issue in a grand tragedy, but that makes it all the more poignant.

“Letters from Pegasus” is inspired by the documentary Dear America: Letters from Vietnam (YouTube link) which featured the letters American soldiers wrote home during the Vietnam War. The letters range from idealistic to mundane to sad and back again as the young men and women reveal their perspectives on life in a war zone. It has been years since I have seen it, but I am now inspired to watch it again because of “Letters from Pegasus.” I provided the link above in case you are inspired, too.

Do I really need to say how much I enjoyed “Letters from Pegasus?” This episode is about the best one can make of a budget saving clip show. We get to know the characters on a personal level so that we care even more about the devastating battle they face in the coming days. The balance between drama and comic relief is near perfect. There are some blatant issues, such as it being a bi deal no classified information can be revealed, yet mission patches are clearly visible in the video recordings as well as alien equipment, but no matter. “Letters from Pegasus’ is too good to nitpick harshly.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Brotherhood"

“The Brotherhood’ is a cross somewhere between a small scale Indiana Jones adventure and a Dan Brown novel. Throw in a dash of continuity with the search for a ZPM identified by Old weir and foreshadowing of a dreaded Wraith attack to come, and you have an episode that overcomes that aforementioned dan brown influence to become a decent story.

Our heroes chase down the location of one of the ZPM to a long extinct group of monks known as the Brotherhood of Fifteen. The Ancients entrusted the Brotherhood with the ZPM with the idea they will get it back once the Ancients returned. One of the planet’s inhabitants of the planet, Allina, offers to help them find the ZPM under the assumption they are the Lanteans. Unfortunately, Kolya discovers the expedition and intervenes in order to take the ZPM for himself.

The Indiana jones homage ought to be obvious. There is a treasure hunt for an Ancient artifact with religious significance to the indigenous population. There are deadly puzzles to be solved in an underground chamber. Kolya and the Genii take the place of Nazis pursuing the artifact in order to power their war machine. The Dan Brown influence is a little less obvious. The main obstacle to finding the ZPM is a Magic Squares puzzle. Magic Square games have been a part of mysticism for thousands of years, but Brown’s use of one has brought them back into pop culture. Well, brown and Sudoku, which is pretty much the same concept.

Allina double crosses our heroes once they have the ZPM after defeating Kolya. She is part of the New Brotherhood. They are charged with keeping the ZPM for the Ancients return. Since Rodney let it slip earlier in a conversation with her they are from Earth, not originally Atlantis, she will not let them have it. Which is a bad thing, because the b-plot reveals the Wraith have discovered Atlantis. Three Hive ships are on their way to attack.

“The Brotherhood” is an amusing episode, although it feels much like an excuse to bring Kolya back and little else. I have it on good authority our heroes make no effort to track down the other two ZPM even though Old Weir left clues to find them, also. I guess the search for ZPM is not as desperate as it appears to be in this episode. Or maybe they have their hands full with the wraith. I do not know. We shall see. Whatever the case, ’The brotherhood” is fun to watch on its own merit. Kolya is a cool recurring villain thanks to Robett Davi’s portrayal. Treasure hunts are always a nifty plot idea, too. I dig it, even if the foreshadowing is the only aspect that keeps “The Brotherhood” from being considered filler.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Before I Sleep"

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening--Robert Frost

I am a sucker for the science fiction concepts of time travel and alternate realities., so ni was looking forward to “Before I Sleep.” the episode exceeded all expectations. First time franchise writer Carl Binder weaves a story that is both wide in scope and deeply personal revolving around the as yet underutilized Weir in what is so far my favorite episode of the young series.

While exploring more of Atlantis, Sheppard’s team discovers a laboratory with an old woman in stasis. Rodney estimates she has been in stasis for 10,000 years, so she must be an Ancient. He urges her revival so they can find out what she knows about the city. Against medical advice, weir allows the stasis to be turned off. The old woman turns out not to be an ancient, but Weir herself having time traveled back 10,000 years ago.

Old weir begins telling the story, with both clips from “Rising” and new footage seamlessly added, of how the expedition’s original arrival triggered an energy surge that caused the shield surrounding the submerged city to fail. Everyone except Weir, Sheppard, and Zalenka drowned. The three escaped in what is revealed to be a Time Jumper which takes them into the distant past. The time Jumper is immediately attacked by Wraith. Only Weir survives the attack.

She awakens to find the Lanteans around her. Janus, the inventor of the Time Jumper and presumably a two-faced sort of fellow, is thrilled to know his ship works and Atlantis survives far into the future. Weir wants to return to the future, but the city leadership does not want the timeline polluted any further. They are on the verge of evacuating ahead of imminent Wraith attack. They offer to allow weir to go to earth with them. She refuses, and Janus helps her instead arrange for a way to keep the shield going when her team arrives in the future. The catch is she will have to remain behind in stasis, waking up every 3,300 years in order to adjust the ZPM power source. In the event this plan fails, he plans a failsafe in which the city will surface itself in the event of shield failure, which is why the city inexplicably surfaces in the first episode when the shield fails.

Old weir is thrilled her sacrifice has given her younger self and colleagues a second chance to explore Pegasus. She leaves them the addresses of several ancient outposts with ZPM and dies in a hospital bed with her younger self holding her hand. The episode ends with Weir spreading the ashes of Old weir into the ocean.

As noted above, the title “Before I Sleep’ comes from the famous 1923 Robert Frost poem about a traveler riding through the woods as the snowfall becomes heavier and heavier. He is riding towards the forest owner’s house and cannot stop to rest until he arrives there. The same could be said of old weir’s lonely watch over Atlantis as she slowly ages in anticipation her actions will keep her alternate self and friends alive when they finally arrive.

“Before I Sleep” is a fantastically poignant episode. It is difficult to believe carl Binder is a newcomer to writing for the franchise. He weaves so many things perfectly into the mythos. It is Janus who invented the Time Jumper discovered in Stargate SG-1’s “It’s good to be King.”, the time Jumper is used by SG-1 to retrieve a ZPM from Ra, and Moros, the leader of the Council of Atlantis, is the Merlin featured prominently in the Ori story arc, etc. pretty cool continuity, there. Flashbacks and new scenes are fit together perfectly, including some impressive flooding effects when Atlantis is overtaken after the shield fails.

The best part is how Weir interacts with her old self. Torri Higginson plays both roles, which has to be tough considering how often they share screen time during some powerful moments. What would it be like to find out you have it within yourself to slowly sacrifice your life over 10,000 years in order to save other people, then watch yourself die of extreme ld age? It is difficult to imagine. The make up job done on old weir is great, too. It is far less fake and rubbery than the work used to age the SG-1 cast in “Unending". The difference in quality is strange, since “Before I Sleep” was made two years prior by the same make up team. The artists regressed, folks!

I cannot say at this point where “Before I Sleep” will wind up among my favorites, but it is at the top of the handful of episodes I have seen thus far. There are some of the usual issues with time travel stories. A couple matters like how weir survives the Time Jumper attack are ignored. There is even a blatant technical error when weir refers to Sumner as general rather than colonel. But I enjoy the episode too much to quibble over such matters.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Sanctuary"

Any streak of good fortune has to end sometime. A stretch of thirteen episodes is quite good for a series. If I was a superstitious soul, I would point out unlucky number thirteen is the end of the streak. “Sanctuary” is just kind of there. I suppose if one is into Sheppard shipping, the episode might mean more, but I am skeptical even about that for reasons Rodney keeps pointing out. More on that in a moment.

Our heroes’ puddle Jumper is being attacked by a Wraith ship while they are out on some exploration mission. Over the planet Proculus, the Wraith have the Puddle Jumper dead to rights, but a beam of energy destroys it. Believing they can find a weapon against the Wraith or the ZPM that powers it, our heroes go down to investigate. They find a race of primitives who worship a goddess named Athar. The people claim no knowledge of the wraith or any weapon, but direct them to Athar’s hih priestess for further guidance.

The high priestess, Chaya, is a hot babe played by Leonor Varela. She and Sheppard quickly develop the hots for one another, causing Rodney and me to make James T. Kirk jokes. The remainder of their relationship development does not help the case for taking it any more seriously than Kirk hustling to get in the loincloth of a green Orion slave girl. Geez, the last line of the episode is Sheppard remarking, ’This is cool’ about bonding with an Ancient about the same way a frat boy would say the same when the head cheerleader takes off her bra in his dorm room.

Yes, I have just blown the only plot point in the episode, but the fact Chaya is an Ancient is painfully obvious to anyone who has been following the Stargate franchise. Chaya is pretty much Orlin. She helped protect these primitives from the Wraith in the last culling. As her punishment, she is stuck on Proclus as their protector forever even though she is not allowed to intervene in the affairs of the unascended. There is a rule she follows rather adamantly, no?

Sheppard asks for the planet to be used as sanctuary for other people devastated by the Wraith. Chaya/Athar--they have a good scam going here--refuses, but accepts Sheppard’s invitation to come back with him to Atlantis. Rodney alternate between mocking the religious belief in Athar and Sheppard’s Kirk routine. We are back to the old, unpleasantly obnoxious Rodney of SG-1 rather than the one who has grown more well rounded of SGA. His hostility towards and suspicion of Chaya puts him at daggers drawn with Sheppard, but even he cannot figure out chaya is an Ancient until the final act in which she leaves to defend Proclus from a Wraith invasion.

“Sanctuary’ is pretty well pointless. It is no mystery that Chaya is an Ancient, so that is wash. We know she can easily defeat the Wraith, so their attack is no threat. Sheppard really is going after Chaya like a frat boy. No matter how deep you dig, you cannot find any emotion within their relationship. I am thinking about the Kirk parallels the entire time just as Rodney is, but I am disturbed to do so because he is being such an unpleasant jerk the entire time. Even Weir hangs her head in her final scene as if Torri Higginson herself is upset over the bad script.

If there is a bright spot in “Sanctuary," it is this:
Leonor Varela is hot. But there is nothing else worth mentioning.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Hot Zone"

The plot of ‘Hot Zone,” as you might guess, is that of a contagion infecting Atlantis. I am wary of such episodes because I often fear the miraculous dr. McCoy miracle cure conveniently in the nick of time when real outbreaks cannot be handled so easily. But ’Hot zone” surprises me, both in its resolution and the addition of chain of command drama that elevate the episode beyond another episode, another escape from widespread doom.

While investigating remote parts of the city for hurricane damage, two members of the team die violently from a mysterious ailment. The team is quarantined over fears the ailment might be the plague that wiped out the Ancients. Weir requests every else to stay put while medical teams sort things out, but when a member of the quarantined group flips out and escapes, Sheppard undermines Weir’s authority by ordering bates to unlock the door to the room in which he is stranded in order to recapture the guy.

The ailment turns out to be a nanotech virus created by a mysterious source to kill humans. Only humans without the Ancient gene can be killed by it. Because the nanotech is machinery, a large enough EMP will disable them all. Sheppard jury rigs a naquadah generator to overload in a nuclear explosion in orbit in order to do the trick. It works. The day is saved. Woo hoo! The solution is a big explosion, too, rather than a miraculous medical cure just in the nick of time. That is definitely a bonus.

Another bonus is the scene in which Rodney, who believes he was infected at the same time of another man who just died, is going to pass on himself goes into a panicked soliloquy about his only family member, advice for everyone else on how to maximize efficiency, and his legacy before realizing the Ancient gene will protect him. His pushed last words make for one of the best Rodney moments thus far.

The real drama of “hot Zone” is the rift between Sheppard and Weir. It has been well established Sheppard is the reckless sort who does what he thinks is best even if it means disobeying orders. Bates, ironically, has had a tough time respecting Sheppard’s command because of it, yet follows his orders here over weir’s objection. It is true that ultimately Sheppard’s breach of conduct lead to the cure, but that is a matter of hindsight 20/20. The fact is there is a tension growing between weir and Sheppard over his general nonchalance regarding her authority. The problem is jarring considering the two reaffirmed their loyalty to one another professionally in ”Home” and personally in “The Eye.” but our heroes do not always act heroically, do they?

The personal conflict between Sheppard and Weir as well as some good character moments from Rodney save “Hot zone” from my usual aversion to contagion needing immediate cures or else stories. I am all for the nuke solution, too, even though it is grossly simplistic. There is also the foreshadowing of another villain out there bent on exterminating humans. The series can always use a widening rogue’s gallery. I do not think "Hot Zone” is all that great, but it is a notch above general filler.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Defiant One"

"The Defiant One," like "The Eye," is another action oriented episode highlighted by good character moments. I was afraid judging by the title and the authorship of Peter DeLuise the story would be Sheppard and some Wraith handcuffed together after escaping an alien prison, but fortunately, the title merely refers to the featured Wraith's willingness to survive most anything thrown at it.

Sheppard and Rodney take two scientists, Gaul and Abrams, to the edge of the solar system in order to investigate a Wraith weapons platform the two have discovered. Upon arriving at the platform, they receive a distress call from a downed Wraith ship that has been stranded on the planet for 10,000 years. Thinking it has to be an automated signal because of the ship's advanced age, they go down to investigate. They soon discover they are wrong. One Wraith has survived all this time by way of cannibalism. The lone wraith kills abrams, drains half the life from Gaul, and duels with sheppard over the Puddle Jumper.

The bulk of the episode involves Sheppard battling the Wraith over control of the Puddle Jumper. There are several Star Trek jokes peppered about calling attention to Sheppard's possessiveness regarding the Puddle Jumper as James T. Kirk's attachment to the Enterprise. The Wraith survives 10,000 years of isolation, harsh elements, gunshot wounds, and a landmine before getting blown up from the sky by a rescue Puddle Jumper. Truth be told, there is a certain Wile E. Coyote vibe to this Wraith, but i much appreciate his much more feral personality in keeping with his living circumstances over the last few millennia.

But it is not just the Sheppard v. Wraith show. Rodney has many good scenes which demonstrate his character growth since the beginning of the series. Gaul is half eaten by the Wraith and must remain in the ship while Sheppard runs off to defeat the Wraith. Rodney stays with him because he is not an adventurer. Nor is he muxh of a nurse, but he stands by his colleague to encourage him while he is likely dying. the circumstances are even more poignant because gaul is much like rodney. e is an arrogant genius with no field training in way over his head, and look what has happened to him. He knows rodney wants to get out there and help Sheppard even if Rodney does not know it himself, and commits suicide in oter to allow Rodney to do so.

Gaul's suicide is a brutal moment for Rodney. not only is there the gruesome scene of a dead man, but the realization he was so much like Rodney that he could share the same fate if he does not develop more of an edge. Rodney goes after the Wraith, but is still out of his element. i liked the bit where he ran out of bullets and asked sheppard what to do now. "Reload!" is Sheppard's answer. Rodney is still largely the comic relief character, but he is growing on me as a vital member of the Atlantis team. He certainly does not have Daniel's scientist/swashbuckler combo going, but it is fun to watch his continuing journey to that point.

Let us just skip the fact a guy named Gaul, the ancient name of France, surrendered to pressure and shot himself, all right? We should also skip the fact Sheppard's pants change color four times during the episode from black to grey to green and back to black. There is no way he would change pants while battling the Wraith over the fifteen hour period, so the wardrobe malfunction is a really strange production error.

I am happy to see another environment besides the forests outside Vancouver, as well. "The Defiant One" takes place in the same sand dunes which have served as ancient Egypt, abydos, and Lantash, but I do not recognize any specific spots from the parents show. Or, worse yet, the spot where mulder found the buried railroad car full of alien hybrids, for instance. for that matter, this place must have doubled for Afghanistan back in the MacGyver episode, the name of which escapes me after 24 or so years.

"The Defiant One" is a highly entertaining episode that manages to put Sheppard and Rodney into predicaments to highlight their true natures. There is a lot of action, but it is not mindless violence by any streth. certain elements, such as this Wraiths incrreased healing abilities, seem to foreshadow discoveries about their trues powers, but we shall see if and when that pans out. Quite a good show, pants switching in the heat of battle notwithstaning.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Eye"

With a title like ‘The Eye,” you would almost suspect the episode is tailored made for me. I am not that arrogant--no, really--but ’The Eye” is the most thrilling episode of SGA since “Rising.” It is a slam bang action oriented story that satisfactorily concludes all plot threads begun in ”The Storm“ by way of a nifty Die Hard homage. Interestingly, Kolya actor Robert Davi has a role in that film.

Rodney has a sudden flash of bravery and steps in front of Kolya’s gun in order to nake a compelling argument he cannot take over Atlantis without both Weir and him. Kolya relents, but radios Sheppard he has killed Weir in revenge. Sheppard vows to kill him, then goes off John McClane style to do as much damage as possible while evading Kolya’s men. Rodney and weir collude to delay repairs to the shield as long as possible to buy Sheppard time. Meanwhile, when the eye of the hurricane passes over the Puddle Jumper on the mainland, Teyla, ford, and Beckett take advantage of the calm to risk flying off to Atlantis as reinforcements.

You can likely fill in the blanks how all these events converge. The happenings are incredibly tense and exciting. You can tell because the accompanying music is the most over the top I have heard in a television episode in a while. Even when Sheppard is sneaking about as a covert saboteur, a time when quiet subtlety is called for, he might as well be guns blazing as far as the soundtrack is concerned. The mismatch is more humorous than anything else. I almost expect for Sheppard to break the fourth wall and say, ’would you all tone it down? I’m trying to sneak around here!”

What makes the episode good, besides the solid resolutions to eah cliffhanger, are the personal moments for virtually every character. Rodney is not a heroic man, and you can see how terrified he is in jumping in front of Kolya’s gun to save Weir. Ford’s gung ho loyalty to Sheppard causes him to recklessly fly inside a hurricane just to help his commanding officer. He and Beckett are at each other’s throats over the matter. Beckett is thrown into this assault on Atlantis even though he is fr out of his element and resents taking orders, especially for young Ford. Teyla and Sora finally confront each other over Tyus’ death. Sora is convinced to end the fight because her father would not want her to be killed seeking revenge. Teyla certainly kicked her tushie, too. The shippers must be excited over the revelation Sheppard has a deep emotional connection with Weir that emerges when he believes she is dead. There is a flash of recognition of it her after Sheppard takes out Kolya with sniper fire before he can escape with her through the stargate. I am aware Kolya survives the gunshot wound. I hope his recurring appearances as an arch villain are equally memorable.

“The Eye” is a fantastic way to conclude all issues established in the midseason finale and is a great start to the backend of the first season. The script is solid action without feeling like anything is dumbed down. I mean, pretty much every issue other than Rodney raising the shield in the nick of time to prevent a tidal wave from destroying the city is resolved by gun, knife, or a carefully timed stargate closing to kill sixty Genii reinforcements. The special effects regarding the tidal wave striking the shield are enormously impressive, too. Some of the musical accompaniment could have matched the scenes better. I am also amused how much of the fight between Teyla and Sora took place in the shadows so as to disguise the stuntwomen doing the action. But those are small quibbles in what is otherwise my favorite episode so far in the young series’ history.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Storm"

“The Storm” serves as the midseason finale for SGA’s first season. The episode ends in a cliffhanger, so it is difficult to judge without seeing the whole story. For now, the first installment stands well on its own merit. The tension built up compels the viewer to come back for the conclusion. One cannot ask for more, no?

While flying to the mainland, Sheppard and Teyla discover two hurricanes have converged into a massive storm headed straight for Atlantis. Such a storm occurs every thirty years or so. The Ancients had shields to protect the city and it was sunk far enough beneath the ocean’s surface after they left for the storms to not be a problem. Neither of those defenses are available now. Atlantis run the risk of sinking until Rodney and Radek come up with the idea of harnessing lightning strikes to power the shields.

A skeleton crew will have to stay behind. Sheppard and ford arrange for all but a few to be evacuated to the home world of their trading partners, the Manarians. Once everyone has been evacuated, the Manarians betray Atlantis to the Genii. Cowen sends Kolya, one of his top commanders, the raid the city for weapons, supplies, and to eliminate Sheppard. Sora comes along with her own plan for revenge against Teyla, whom she mistakenly believes killed her father during the recon mission in “Underground.” Speaking of Teyla, she ford, and Beckett are forced to wait out the storm in a puddle jumper on the mainland when some evacuees take too long.

All this set up takes up about two-thirds of the episode. While it involves reams of dialogue with very little action to break it up--our heroes are literally boarding up the windows in preparation--the story never gets boring. You can chalk some of that up to personal experience. I have survived hurricanes Hugo, Floyd, and Isabelle. I am intimately familiar with the before, during, and after major storms, so I empathize with our heroes Another aspect that helps make the episode for me is Robert Davi‘s portrayal of Kolya. Davis plays a fantastic villain, particularly one like Kolya who is more than a snidely whiplash mustache twirler. Kolya is doing his job to protect his people. In fact, e even alters the plan to raid Atlantis into one to take it over instead because it will give the Genii a better position against the Wraith. His methods are warped, but you cannot argue with his motivation.

Plus Davi is a regular contributor to Big Hollywood.. One has to support the outspoken conservatives out there in Tinsel Town.

The best part about ’The Storm” is the cliffhanger. Sheppard beats the ambush set up for him. Kolya threatens to kill weir in revenge. There is no way weir is going to be killed, but it is difficult to see how she will be saved. We also have to wonder how Rodney is going to save the city from the hurricane, Sheppard is going to defeat the genii single-handed, and if Teyla, Ford, and Beckett can get off the mainland in time to be of any help. One just hopes the resolution is not a letdown.

There is not much to complain about in "The Storm.” Raedek’s Czech accent is not used for some recent. Has it not been established at this poin the is from the Czech Republic? There are many similarities between “The Storm” and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Invasive Procedures,” but the two are unique enough to not fret over. An interesting point to note is ’The Storm” aired nearly a year prior to Hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans. The real life parallels--a storm nearly destroying the city, the military helping secure the place, evacuees refusing to leave, looters, etc--are starling enough to wonder if political correctness would have allowed “The Storm” to be made a year after Katrina rather than before.

As I said above, “The Storm” is dialogue intense and low on action until nearly the final act, but it still is never boring. The story keeps the tension up until the slam bang action of the final act. The personal moments are great as well. Weir attempts to appeal to Kolya’s military sensibilities in talking him out of seizing Atlantis. Ford shoots beckett a nasty look when he indicates he does not trust Teyla did not kill Tyrus because she has earned ford’s trust as a comrade-in-arms. Sheppard surrenders his military training to his personal feelings when he bargains with kolya to spare weir’s life in the cliffhanger. These points show how the dynamics of character relations have formed in such a short time together. It is all good. Now if the pay off is comparable.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Home"

When I learned the premise of ‘Home,” I became apprehensive for the first time I may be watching Stargate Gilligan’s Island. I know that travel to and from atlantis becomes possible at some point in the series, but tell me we o not have half a dozen episodes in which our heroes come so close to going home before it is snatched away from them. I am going to hope it does not happen or else the poignancy of ‘Home,” will be lost. Finding a way home only to have the price be too high needs to only happen once.

While exploring a planet covered in a dense fog, Rodney determines the stargate can draw enough energy from the fog to dial back to Earth. After some debate over whether to give it a shot, which includes weir and Sheppard reassuring each other of their commitment to defending Pegasus from the Wraith, Weir, Sheppard, ford, Rodney, and Teyla return to Earth and are greeted by Hammond.

Allow me to go ahead and ruin the plot--this ain’t Earth. The audience can already figure this out by the different wormhole effect on the trip to “Earth.” Our heroes ought to have figured something was up when Hammond was there to greet them instead of Jack. Jack is the one who gave the all clear for the Atlantis mission in the first place. Hammond’s presence as head of the SGC, as a Lt. General instead of the correct Maj. General, is another tip off. I cannot help but think the powers that be wanted Jack, but with Richard Dean Anderson’s reduced schedule, that did not happen. The SG-1 episode “Prometheus Unbound”, which also features Don S. Davis as Hammond, was filmed around about this time. Davis must have filmed scenes for both that and "Home” at the same time.

Our heroes are living out fantasy lives created by the mist, which is actually aliens who lose numbers of lives every time the stargate is dialed. Dialing earth would kill millions of them. The fantasy worlds seem to cater to everyone’s desires for the most part. Weir comes home to her longtime beau. Sheppard is a swinging bachelor. Rodney has a tryst with a hot woman. Teyla learns all about shopping. Ford visits his grandma. But things start to go sour when every effort to return to Atlantis, which is our heroes’ priority, go sour.

The illusions unravel when each of our heroes encounters a fantasy version of another Atlantis crew he or she is more than willing to abandon the effort to return to the Pegasus galaxy. Sheppard in particular learn he has some special ability to control his fantasy by imagining he owns a huge house and a party with several friends who were killed in Afghanistan.

When the jig is up, the mist aliens reveal about how using the stargate murders many of them. They trapped our heroes in fantasy worlds to keep them from really dialing Earth. Our heroes explain their desire to get home would never compel them to kill millions of lives. If the mist aliens were truly in their thoughts, they would know that. The aliens do read their minds. Being satisfied of our heroes good intentions, allow them back safely into reality.

I have already explained Hammond presence is an irreconcilable problem, but I also wonder why, if the mist aliens can read our heroes minds well enough to create near perfect fantasy worlds for them, they cannot read their minds well enough to note their good intentions. It seems like the whole issue could have been solved with a single conversation rather than an elaborate hoax. The mist aliens’ decision to deceive is hard to swallow.

While that is true, I have a hard time knocking “Home.” there are some really good subtle bits that do not necessarily jump out at you immediately and the fantasy v. reality. For instance, weir and Sheppard see Hammond in his full dress uniform while Rodney sees him in the blue shirt and tie workaday uniform. The difference fits with their normal perception of Hammond. Likewise, weir views Rodney in a lab coat while he junks around in a tee shirt and boxers in his fantasy. He sees her as he does on Atlantis while she sports a tee shirt and jeans in her fantasy. I barely caught these points, and repeated some scenes just to make certain. I imagine there are more clues things are not right in everyone’s world that could be caught on repeated viewings. I respect the craftsmanship with respect to small details.

I appreciate the emotional bits as well. Weir reuniting with Simon. She is happy to see him, but steps all over his feelings with her desire to return to Atlantis. It has to be disturbing for Sheppard to call up several dead buddies in his fantasy in order to determine something is not right. The oddity of including his sixth grade teacher and a girl who refused to date him adds a macabre sense to his fantasy. Why do we not see ford’s fantasy? He only winds up in everyone else’s. Or is that indicative of his personality as more of a background character? “Home” has flaws, but it is still a decent episode because of these personal insights.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Underground"

“Underground” proves our heroes have just as much trouble winning friends and influencing people as the SG-1 team does. Someone needs to teach a course on dale Carnegie at the Air force Academy. Or at least Stargate Command. Even the usually mild mannered Colm Meaney plays an ornery chap who turns against them.

When Atlantis begins running short on food supplies, weir orders the crew to seek out trading partners. Teyla suggests the Genii, a planet of simple farmers whose society resembles the Amish. Trade negotiations go fairly well after our heroes demonstrate the art of stump clearing via C4 But Rodney and Sheppard soon discover signs of radiation coming from a barn. Upon entering a hatch buried by a haystack, they find themselves in a bunker in which the genii are building a nuclear bomb.

Cowan, the colm Meaney character who appeared to be a simple farmer, reveals to them the Genii used to be a powerful military union of worlds, but it was nearly destroyed in the last Wraith attack. They plan to use the bomb to destroy the Wraith ships in their area while they hibernate. Our heroes reveal the reality the wraith have awakened now, so the genii are in immediate danger. Sheppard offers to help speed up the process of building the bomb and helping gather intelligence by infiltrating a Hive ship as an act of good faith in their new alliance.

The recon mission goes badly when Teyka discovers a human in a cocoon being prepared for food is still alive. Tyrus, the Genii with whom she is partnered, insists this mission is intelligence gathering and nothing more. They cannot allow the Wraith to know they have been on the Hive ship or the Genii will face retribution. Tyrus kills the cocooned man before his pleading for help alerts the wraith. He is too late. Out heroes come under attack. Tyrus is killed in the ensuing firefight before our heroes can escape. As a result, there is no alliance with the Genii. On the plus side--if you can call it that--our heroes now know there are sixty Hive ships out there poised to attack.

It is pretty cool to see Colm Meaney playing a much darker, unscrupulous character like Cowen. He is a fair cry from the battle scarred, yet man of peace Miles O’Brien was. Cowen is a recurring character of a degree to which I am unsure, but I am eager to see him again. Hearing the way he calls Sheppard “Major” berings back good memories of O’Brien and Kira.

“Underground” is the first of only two scripts Peter DeLuise wrote for SGA. His scripts for SG-1 ried up shortly thereafter, too, so it would appear his directing and producing duties ate up too much of his time. That is a shame. ’Underground’ in particular features a good mix of action, drama, and comedy for a highly entertaining episode. As I recall from SG-1, his scripting abilities got better as the show went along. He should have found more time to devote to penning scripts. It is our loss he did not.

As I just mentioned, “Underground” is an entertaining episode with equal parts comedy and drama. The story does jot get bogged down in a moral dilemma, although one does see both Teyla and Tyrus have a point in their positions on saving the guy about to become a Wraith snack versus the recon mission. One must remember they are planning to blow up all these ships, human victims and all, so it is probably best not to dwell on the small stuff. “Underground” exists mostly to foreshadow future events with both the Wraith and Genii, but it is good standing on its own, as well. Npt earth shattering, but definitely watchable.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Poisoning the Well"

“Poisoning the Well’ turns out to be both the introduction an effective delving into a moral quandary that I had hoped “Childhood’s End” could pull off. It is a powerful episode that manages to mix some incredibly horrific moments effectively with comic relief. Interestingly, the story centers around Beckett, a character who is not yet considered a regular cast member. But after this episode, I can see why his status changes.

Our heroes are visiting the Hoffan, a race once devastated by the Wraith, when they learn the existence of a possible immunity drug. Sheppard volunteers Beckett to help develop the serum ahead of the Hoffan’s schedule. Beckett works with a beautiful scientist named Perna, with whom he quickly falls in love.

This is the point at which the moral issues arise. The Hoffan want to use the captured Wraith, dubbed steve by Sheppard, in their experiments. They need cells from him. Weir initially objects because using a prisoner for medical experiments is forbidden by the Geneva Convention. While weir does not articulate her rationale, it is pretty clear the idea they will never make it back to earth again to face punishment for violating the Geneva Convention prompts her to say go for it. How much of her decision is spurred on by the fact she is starving Steve the Wraith to death anyway along with Sheppard’s assurance he has no pity for him is up to interpretation. There is a notion between weir and Sheppard that Steve the Wraith is dying any, so his death out to have meaning. Rationalizing wrongdoing or making the best of a bad situation? I am going to call it the latter.

When the drug is successfully created, it is going to be tested on a terminally ill volunteer. It is surprising how willingly everyone goes along with the idea. Even Beckett, who is torn over his “do no harm” dutye from the Hippocratic Oath, but goes along with the plan regardless. The immunity drug works, and the Hoffan waste no time inoculating people from Wraith attacks. But the drug has terrible side effects. It is poison to Wraith who attempt to eat anyone inoculated with it, but half of the people inoculated also die. Perna is one of the first to pass away. The Hoffan consider even the high casualty numbers acceptable in killing off their mortal enemy. Our heroes leave the planet immediately rather than assist in the genocide of half the Hoffan just to kill some Wraith.

There are some incredibly disturbing elements in “Poisoning the Wll.” the combination of Sheppard coldly taunting the starving Wraith by dubbing him Steve while claiming no pity for him sets the tone for some dark moral choices to comer later. Since when does Weir, an expert peace treaty negotiator, dismiss the Geneva convention at all, much less so easily? No one blinks when a terminally ill patient volunteers to perhaps die violently at the hands of steve the Wraith if the drug does not offer immunity as planned? It is not until everything goes south our heroes demonstrate any chane of heart. Sheppard is upset when Steve falls ill. Beckett regrets his part in the drugs development when Perna dies. They want to halt use of the drug when the Hoffan start dying, and leave the planet when the Chancellor and the rest of the government express not only a willingness to go forward in spite of the costs, but want our heroes to help diatribute the drug to all human planets. Not a happy ending, folks.

It does not have a happy endin, but “Poisoning the Well” is a compelling episode. The only weak point is the overlong montage sequence that switches between beckett and perna’s work developing the drug and Sheppard taunting Steve the Wraith. The latter appears to serve no purpose other than to offer splits in the former. Steve the Wraith has already proven he is not going to break. His tough refusal is the whole reason our heroes are going to go through with the dangerous drug test with the terminally ill man in the first place. We do not even get a sense of how much time passes, either, so what is the point of the montage?

The questionable montage is a very minor nitpick. The rest of the episode is great. Its greatest is due in no small part to Paul McGillon’s portrayal of Beckett. He is a brilliant scientist wrestling with his conscience while acting like a lovesick schoolboy around Perna. The atmosphere is equally good. The Hoffan home world has a certain world War II era feel in tone, style, and atmosphere. Picture a European people still reeling from World War I so terrified of the Nazi menace, they are willing to sacrifice half their people in order to wipe the Nazis out. I also liked how every discussion of moral implications took place in darkened hallways or rooms to give the conversations a shadowy, illicit feel. It all comes together splendidly.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Childhood's End"

“Childhood’s End” is Logan’s Run meets Lord of the flies in the middle of a political science lecture on the theories of political economist Thomas Malthus. U wrote my undergrad thesis on Malthus, but I will mercifully spare you any longwinded discussions on his theories of overpopulation outstripping resources causing constant human misery. I shall justify wasting four years earning a BA in Political Science. Besides, the episode skips much of the grey morality behind any of the related issues it raises. A cop out? Meh. Maybe.

A Puddle Jumper carrying our heroes crash lands whilwe investigating an energy field. They soon run into a tribe of children who believe sacrificing themselves on their 25th birthdays has kept them safe from wraith attacks for five hundred years. In reality, it has been the energy shield which will not allow equipment to work properly, so the wraith have not bothered to show up in half a millennia. Rodney finds the shield is powered by a ZPM and takes it back to Atlantis to find out if it is usable. Meanwhile, the tribe elder, Keras, is planning to commit suicide because it is the eve of his 25th birthday.

We have our two moral dilemmas here. One, Rodney thinks it is fine to take the Zpm should it work for Atlantis. If worse comes to worse, he says they can just uproot the kids to Atlantis, too, since it would be a step up from living in trees. Two, Sheppard feels compelled to convince these kids ritualistic suicide is not necessary to keep the Wraith away because it is the energy field protecting them. However, the ritualistic suicide part o their religion. Our heroes have no business attempting to alter the religious beliefs of aliens they encounter.

The former issue is solved when the ZPM turns out to be too weak to use on Atlantis. It only has enough power to create a relatively small energy field. However built the energy shield also introduced the ritualistic suicide in order to keep the population low enough so the people would not make settlements outside the energy field. Convincing the kids it is the energy field and not the ritualistic suicide keeping the Wraith away becomes easy when Wraith probes attack while Rodney has the ZPM disconnected, but fall out of the sky once it is hooked back up. In perfect television logic, five hundred years of religious tradition is abandoned on the spot with no trouble whatsoever.

All right. There is a minor power struggle between keras and the next in line for leadership, Ares, but it is so superficially presented, one suspects it is thrown in just to pad out the climactic scenes. The matter is resolved even more easily than the dropping a five hundred year history of suicide.

I am never eager to be preached to by a television writer, particularly if he is not going to leave the issue presented up to me to decide. But presenting issues and then dropping them like a hot potato can be just as bad. What if the ZPM would have worked for Atlantis? Would out heroes be right to take it because they can make better use or can relocate the kids to a safe place against their will? Maybe it would have been interesting to explore that rather than all complications getting wrapped up conveniently in the end without any messy consequences whatsoever. The resolution is awfully pat, especially when Rodney finds a way to increase the energy field to allow for steady population growth. Fairy tales do not end with this perfectly.

I am hardly ever impressed when science fiction shows do stories centered around kids. Star trek does the theme the worst. The Stargate franchise has done a more decent job over the years, but not well enough to et over my personal aversion. “Childhood’s End” is no exception. Any interesting issues raised are dealt with unsatisfactorily in the hopes, I assume, the emotionalism of having children involved will carry the story for the audience. It does not.

I will say this, though--the main characters are really coming into their own. Sheppard is growing on me as a looser version of Jack. Rodney as toned down his obnoxious behavior enough to pass himself off as a hero while still retaining the humor surrounding the character. Ford is a likable guy. It is a shame something awful is going to happen to him. The weakest point is Teyla. She reminds me much of Teal’c as the stoic one who clearly states the obvious so the other characters can be witty and sarcastic. I fear she will become frequent wallpaper as teal’c did in many episodes during the middle seasons of the parent series.

The bottom line is the script is weak. Too many interesting possible moral quandries are raised only to be dropped unceremoniously for an implausibly pat ending. Some fun character moments keep “Childhood’s End’ out of the basement, but not by far. Hey, we are six episodes in before I have any serious complaints. That is a good sign of things to come.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Suspicion"

“Suspicion” lives up to its name. the plot is essentially about rooting out a possible traitor, most likely among the Athosians, but everyone winds up at everyone else’s throat in a struggle over who is really in charge of what. It is a bit jarring to see an animosity among the SGA characters after 213 episodes of SG-1 as a pseudo family, but it could be an interesting change if not always as overdone as it is here. Mercy, mercy me.

The Wraith have ambushed off world teams on five of the last nine missions. Such a high number is more than a coincidence, particularly since some of those planets were uninhabited, and security chief bates suspects a traitor among them. More specifically, he suspects an Athosian. I will grant you it would make more sense to suspect one of them as a traitor, but Bates goes far beyond mere honest suspicion. There is a snide since of bigotry towards Athosians at times that is incredibly unreasonable. Are the writers trying to make us dislike the character? If so, they are doing a good job. At times throughout, he is contemptuous of the way weir and Sheppard are handling the situation.

What are weir and Sheppard up to? They are at metaphorical daggers drawn, too. Weir’s solution to the suspicions of a traitor is to confine the Athosians to a certain part of Atlantis and interview them one by one. Naturally, this move becomes more a witch hunt than an investigation, largely due to bates’ over enthusiasm and weir being, well…a b*tch. Was she not a never hurt a fly pacifist back on Stargate SG-1 who did not even want to fight off Anubis? She got a burr under her saddle pretty quickly. Sheppard is on the Athosians side. More specifically, Teyla’s. He comes across as whiny at times over the fairness of it all.

Weir finally decides to exile the Athosians to a newly discovered land mass. Before I could say history is repeating itself from the Nisei during world War II, agree to leave on their own before being asked. Halling becomes the leader of his people behind Teyla’s back. She is not going to go with them. She winds up in no man’s land when it is suspected she is the traitor because of another ambush after the Athosians have left. It turns out the necklace Sheppard put on her back in the first episode unknowingly has a homing device in it. Out heroes use the device to capture a wraith on their next off world excursion.

As I said above, it is off putting to see the main characters dparring with one another both personally and in a power struggle. I can appreciate much of it. Weir is under pressure to protect her people. Loyalty to comrades is important to Sheppard. The Athosians have suffered under the Wraith for generations. It is insulting to be under suspicion of collaborating. Bates is the only guy I do not entirely understand. He sounds as though he has an ax to grind with Athosians in general. I do understand his animosity for Sheppard, whom he jabs at one point by saying Sumner would handle the current situation much better than him. The tweak reminds me that Sheppard is persona non grata over disobeying orders in Afghanistan to save his comrades. The series has not forgotten many of Sheppard’s military colleagues do not think much of him yet. They surely do not want him in command.

There has only been one episode thus fire that has not involved the Wraith. I have to admit I am not particularly impressed with them. Their design is fantastic. They are some scary looking critters. But they do not come across as terribly formidable. The Wraith were supposed at war with the Ancients at one point, but our heroes have not only been mowing them down with relative ease, they have now captured ne. Perhaps it is because we have only seen them in small numbers thus far. I want to see the Wraith show some menace soon to justify the hype.

I will give this for “suspicion”--it proves the writers are willing to shake things up more so than on SG-1. These characters wear their flaws on their sleeves. They do not necessarily trust, much less like one another. A little dramtic tension over personal issues is great, but I hope future episodes tone it down some or there is going to be a full scale civil war on Atlantis. Forget the Wraith. These guys are their own worst enemy.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Thirty-Eight Minutes"

"Thirty-Eight Minutes” is the first--and to my knowledge, only--episode to occur in real time. Dedicated Gaters ought to know thirty-eight minutes is the longest time a wormhole can stay open, so that has to be a plot point. It is, but with a goofy looking bug attached to Sheppard’s throat in order to add a medical emergency to the situation. The results are a mixed bag.

A recon team is surveying a planet when they are ambushed by Wraith. Sheppard provides cover for the others to escape, but winds up crashing into the web of a huge insect which subsequently attaches itself to his neck. In the haste to get Sheppard back to Atlantis for medical treatment, the puddle jumper becomes stuck halfway through the open stargate. Our heroes have thirty-eight minutes to get unstuck before the wormhole closes, chopping the puddle jumper in half. To make matters worse, a complication with the bug means it has to be removed in order for Sheppard to enter the stargate. What ensues is a load of techno babble and emergency surgery on the fly. Think Apollo 13 meets E/R.

There is good and there is bad within ’Thirty-Eight Minutes.” The best thing about the episode is how the characters are coming together to fill their roles in these situations. Sheppard risks himself to save his comrades. McKay the genius devises a way out of their predicament in the nik of time. Cool, calm ford has to perform the field medical procedure on Sheppard that may well kill him, plus he comes up with the final 9literal) push to send the Puddle jumper through the stargate. Weir demonstrates heavy is the head that wears the crown as she has little patience for issues rising up to prevent a solution to save her people. A ticking clock is also a great way to add tension.

What is bad? The bug, for one. I will admit the idea of any creepy crawly attaching itself to a person and literally sucking the life out of them is incredibly disturbing in concept alone. But this bug is not as intimidating in appearance as one would hope. Someone else may think a scary parasitic bug is a scary parasitic bug, but considering the plot involving it killing Sheppard is the main focus of tension, I expect something a little nastier than a rubber critter from Toy ’R Us. Another weak point is how much of the back story is told in out of sequence flashbacks. It is disjointed and a tacit admission there is not enough real time material to fill the thirty-eight minutes.

When it comes down to it, the bad points I listed above are technical flaws rather than those of drama. In regards to drama, ’Thirty-Eight Minutes” is effective. If nothing else, it rises above its typical sitcom plot of characters being trapped in an elevator and having to deal with a crisis. Some of the trappings are there. Rodney is claustrophobic. The No Exit, hell is other people of clashing personalities trapped together in cramped quarters under stress is there, too. At least no one had to deliver a baby.

The bottom line is “Thirty-Eight Minutes” is worth watching as a character piece. It will likely wind up a so-so episode in the long run because there is not that much to recommend about it. I am still learning about these characters and the overall set up of SGA, so I am going to be merciful in rating it with three stars. I will bet had it come later in the series when I am familiar with everything, it would have been a two at best.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Hide and Seek"

“Hide and Seek” plays on the mysterious nature of the unexplored Atlantis combined with the superstitious nature of the Athosians in order to tell a haunted house story. This is a brilliant idea to establish atmosphere so early in SGA’s run. It is also a highly Rodney-centric story that, while in keeping with his obnoxious ways, also beings out his heroic ways. The combination is very effective.

Our heroes have only been on Atlantis for a few days by the start of the episode. They are still wary of handling much of anything in the city for fear of what ancient technology can do. But that fear does not stop Rodney from testing a personal shield that subsequently will not turn off. He spends most of the episode fretting his impending death by dehydration. The matter is mostly played for laughs as Beckett doubts the ancients would build a protective device that kills the user.

That night, Jinto, one of the Athosian children cannot sleep, so he sneaks out to play a game of hide and seek with his friend. When the game gets boring, Jinto begins plundering through a hall closet and winds up transported to another part of the city wherein he accidentally releases a trapped entity the Ancients were studying centuries ago. The entity feeds on energy and it is not happy about having been locked up.

The main action of “Hide and Seek” involves two men teams conducting a citywide search for Jinto while dealing with power drains and encounters with the incorporeal entity that play like a haunted house ghost story. We do not discover the truth about the entity until the fourth act, so there is at least a plausible sense the city is haunted by the ghosts of the Ancients as the Athosians fear.

Once Jinto is found and the truth about the entity made known, our heroes try to lure it back into its prison using a high energy source as bait, but the entity does not fall for it. Next they plot to trick it into going through the stargate with a naquadah generator. It does not take the bait then, either, but Rodney reattaches the personal shield, which fell off after the writers ran out of jokes about Rodney starving to death, to protect himself from the entity while throwing the generator through the stargate. The entity follows and becomes trapped wherever our heroes dialed.

Beckett is experimenting with illegal gene therapy to induce others to use ancient technology. This is how Rodney is able to use the personal shield. The experimenting sounds a wee bit unethical, but I also have the suspicion it is a one off plot device to place Rodney in comedy gold dire peril. At least I hope so. Genetic manipulation for the heck of it makes me uneasy about how these guys operate. Our heroes also establish a self-destruct plan for the city. I assume that will be a plot point down the road.

“Hide and Seek” aired the same night as Stargate SG-1’s “Lockdown.” You may recall that episode involved Anubis appearing as an incorporeal being haunting the SGC. Anubis is eventually defeated by sending him through the stargate to a world upon whih he becomes entrapped. The two episodes are virtually identical, right down to the same special effects being used for Anubis and the entity. I imagine viewing “Hide and Seek” on any occasion other than its original airing when “Lockdown” is fresh in your mind would improve your opinion of it. In regards to originality, if nothing else.

“Hide and Seek” stands on its own merits apart from “Lockdown” as far as I am concerned. The latter relies on the paranoia of who Anubis might be inhabiting while “Hide and Seek” plays a more ethereal angle. Atlantis becomes a haunted house. If you really want to stretch it, “Hide an Seek” is a Scooby doo episode with a meddling kid exposing the “ghost’ and Rodney constantly noshing on junk food like Shaggy once the shield drops. Do you think Rodney ever smoked pot? He spent a long time in grad school, so there is the possibility.

I would not call “Hide and Seek” great by any means. It will probably go down as an average, largely forgettable episode in the long run, but I like it well enough. Rodney, like Vala on SGA’s sister show, Rodney is becoming a more well-rounded character instead of obnoxious comic relief, although he is still that, too. I find him more likable on SGA than elsewhere, so there is that. Perhaps there will be no further cringing on my part at the prospect of Rodney-centric episodes.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Rising"

Here we are, folks. Moving on to the Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis. I have seen even fewer Sga episodes before beginning these reviews than SG-1 when I began those, so this is going to be an almost completely new experience for me. One hopes it is as much an engrossing discovery as SG-1 was. So far, so good.

I have several points to make before diving in. One, I have seen Stargate Atlantis spelled both with and without a colon between the two words. I am going to leave out the colon because an unofficial fan site count conducted by yours truly measures the majority of fans do. More often than not, I will abbreviate the title SGA, so it will not matter a heck of a lot. Two, I had a habit of referring to most SG-1 characters by their first names unless it felt wrong. For example, I could not refer to Gen. Hammond a Gorge. The characters in SGA are going to be all over the place. It does not feel right to call John Sheppard by his first name, but it does feel right to use Rodney McKay’s first name. I do not know why, but I am going with it. You will get used to it. Finally, “Riding” was aired as a two hour movie, so that is how I am reviewing it rather than splitting it into two episodes like in syndication. So if you are a stickler for such things, the tag number will forever be one behind the actually episode number. But ve not skipped anything!

Now that all that is settled, the episode begins with SGC personnel exploring the ancient weapon facility in Antarctica shortly after the defeat of Anubis. Daniel discovers a gate address he believes to finally be the location of Atlantis. It is in the Pegasus galaxy, so it requires the eighth chevron and enormous power. Elizabeth Weir, who was placed in charge by Jack, convinces him to green light a one way expedition there and let her have his personal pilot, John Sheppard, a disgraced pilot who disobeyed orders in Afghanistan in order to save his comrades, because he has the gene to control Ancient technology.

The expedition travels to Atlantis, and are cut off from Earth for what maybe forever. Their arrival causes a power drain which is affecting the shield protecting the submerged city from the surrounding ocean. Marshall Sumner, the colonel in charge, leads an expedition to a nearby planet to scout out a place to relocate the expedition before the shields fail. They run into local people who tell them of an old enemy called the Wraith that feed on humans. Naturally, the Wraith are alerted to their presence and attack, kidnapping many of the military personnel and villagers.

Sheppard leads the survivors back to Atlantis. The problem of the shields failing is easily solved when the city automatically rises to the surface in an impressive special effects sequence. No one the bends for some reason. I assume there is some Ancient pseudoscience explanation for that. With that out of the way, Sheppard convinces weir to allow him to conduct a rescue operation. She is reluctant but agrees. Sheppard is a reckless guy who does not appear to take things too seriously, but he has his own moral code about the honorable thing to do. Leaving people behind, even if rescuing them would be a suicide mission or might lead the wraith to Atlantis, is too immoral to consider.

The rescue attempt involves some of the best special effects in “Rising.” the initial battle with the Wraith in which all the prisoners were kidnapped in the first place is impressive enough, but now we have a stargate floating in space, ship to ship battles, a well designed Wraith hive, and not the least of which, the Wraith themselves. Though I will confess the female wraith looks too much like late ’80’s era Marilyn Manson. Overall, I am impressed.

Sheppard quickly establishes himself as the one man army heroic type. He runs off to rescue Sumner upon hearing his screams from Marilyn Manson sucking away his life force. Seeing sumner rapidly age, he decides to shoot him as a merciful act, but he does not get to do that before Sumner reveals earth has six billion humans. A veritable feast for the Wraith. Our heroes escape before an army of Wraith awaken and narrowly make it back to Atlantis in one piece. Weir appoints Sheppard as the commanding officer of the military forces. I imagine he keeps it to himself he is the one who killed his commanding officer, even though it was a mercy killing.

It suits me fine. Sumner is played by Robert Patrick. I know he is not a regular on the series, so something has to happen to him. His character is such a jerk I was thrilled to see him pass on painfully, especially after he revealed Earth’s existence to the Wraith. John dogett would never do such a thing. Of course, Doggett never believed in the aliens he encountered, either, so maybe there is no comparison.

“Rising” is quite an exciting, fast paced start to the series. It is far more a Sheppard-centric story than I was expecting from what is supposed to be a large ensemble cast. The powers that be assume we already know Weir and Rodney from SG-1, so there is no ned to bog the story down with introductions for them. I do not feel lost, so it works at least for me. I understand the Sheppard/weir shippers out number the Sheppard/Teyla shippers even though saving the latter is a big part of his motivation for undertaking the rescue mission, so what is up with that, Gaters?

I am going to award ’rising” four stars because it does everything a pilot is supposed to do and more. A pilot has to set up everything without boring the audience with too muh exposition and offer some action to keep things interesting. “Rising” lays it all out there for us without slowing down. Hitting the ground ruinning is not always the easiest thing to do, but "Rising” handles the task admirably.

Rating: **** (out of 5)