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)

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