Monday, September 24, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Common Ground"

I have learned to be wary of a script from a first time Stargate franchise writer. Freelancers have always seemed to not get the characters quite right on top of their episodes generally serving as filler. Ken Cuperus has broken out of the mold with a story that makes the Wraith a more sympathetic villain. It is a change that needed to be done in consideration of not only the stereotypical beyond redemption animals they have become, but how callously how heroes have dealt with many moral issues surrounding them.

Kolya secretly tricks the AR-1 team into an ambush where upon he captures Sheppard. He plans to hold Sheppard hostage in exchange for Ladon The scheme is a way of cleaning up the problem of Robert Davi being unable to reprise the role of Kolya for last season’s ”Coup D’etat.” Originally, Kolya was supposed to murder Cowen and take over the Genii, but the mastermind was switched to Ladon instead when Davi bowed out. Admittedly, the fix is odd--kolya was planning a coup, but ladon decided he would make a better leader and ditched his boss to conduct one himself--but what can you do?

Sheppard is imprisoned along with a Wraith dubbed Todd. Every three hours, Kolya sends a live transmission to Atlantis which shows Todd feeding on Sheppard with the threat this will continue until ladon is handed over. No one on Atlantis cares what happens to Ladon, but they maintain both the never negotiate with terrorists policy and Sheppard’s orders to maintain the alliance with the Genii. Aside from a failed attempt to find the safe house where Sheppard is being held, our heroes cannot do much of anything but watch as Sheppard rapidly ages with each feeding.

Slowly but surely, Sheppard and tod form an uneasy alliance to facilitate their own escape. They are certainly still enemies who do not trust one another, but they come to a tense understanding that each does what they need to do in order to survive. They successfully escape and are recovered by a rescue team from Atlantis after it is strongly implied Ladon tortures the safe house location out of two traitors still loyal to Kolya.

We have a Star Trek: Voyager Magic Reset Button for Sheppard’s rapid aging as his life force is drawn from him throughout the episode. Todd saps the life out of two Genii soldiers, then transfers those lives into Sheppard when he appears to be somewhere in his nineties. Kudos to hiring a shorter, skinnier actor than joe Flanigan to portray Sheppard at his oldest to emphasize is depletion after several feedings. I do not think Sheppard’s restoration is a cop out. Todd says extended life is the reward for trusted human slaves, so there is the explanation for why some humans ally with the Wraith . It also demonstrates Todd is willing to go an extra step to honor his agreement to cooperate with Sheppard in their escape if they can go their separate ways unharmed afterwards. Todd even acts with surprise when Sheppard goes through with his end of the bargain, implying Todd restored his life without expecting a reward for doing so.

I am not sure how well the background plot stands up to scurrility. Kolya has two loyalists in Ladon’s inner circle who arrange for the ambush in which Sheppard is captured. But if Kolya has men in Ladon’s inner circle, why not have them kidnap or kill Ladon kolya goes so far as to tell Sheppard his kidnapping is nothing personal. He would just as soon have Rodney as a prisoner as anyone else. If revenge against Atlantis is not a factor, why go to all the trouble to involve them? It does not make any sense to go to all this trouble when Kolya already has people in ladon’s inner circle. Kolya has demonstrated strong strategic instincts. It does not feel right for him to devise such a wacky, unnecessarily complicated plan.

The strangeness of Kolya’s plot can be overlooked. It is merely an excuse to ho our heroes involved in the matter, and that has to be done somehow. Broadening the Wraith as characters is worth any questionable steps to get us there. I am even excusing the Magic Reset Button even though I figure the Wraith ability to restore sapped life will never be mentioned again, much less used to save anyone. Yikes1 I am feeling uncharacteristically generous today.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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