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)

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