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)

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