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)

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