Monday, September 10, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Critical Mass"

Interesting. Both ‘Critical Mass” and the following episode have strong ties to Stargate SG-1. Was SGA fumbling at the time, so the powers that be brought in elements from the more popular parent show to boost ratings? ’Critical mass’ sends mixed signals on the issue. On the one hand, it is a budget saving bottle show that takes place entirely on existing sets, so it makes sense to add include something special to distract from the limited scope. However, so much stuf is packed in, it looks like “Critical Mass” was not an easy episode to write. I do not know which, if either, is the case. I can only review what is on screen.

The Goa’uld infiltrated Trust has planted a bomb on Atlantis to be set off the next time earth is dialed via stargate. Dr. Bill Lee figures out a way to relay a message to Atlantis not to dial the stargate, but the bomber has a back up plan. An automatic signal is sent to nearby wraith ships, forcing Atlantis to cloak itself for safety. The Zpm powering the cloak is set to overload if they do so. Our heroes have a short time to find the Trust operative and get the failsafe code from him to keep the Zpm from going kaboom.

The plot would appear straightforward from the description, but there are way too many subplots running simultaneously. The biggest is Teyla’s family friend dying of natural causes, which prompts a big funeral ceremony complete with Rachel Lutterll herself singing. The main plot is even more loaded. Rodney is hsving a hard time working with Cadman because of their shared body experience earlier in the season. There are red herrings everywhere, including cadman, but particularly Kavanaugh. Cavanaugh is still butt hurt over weir’s dressing him down last season. She is not one of his fans, either, and when he becomes the prime suspect, she is quick to authorize Ronon to torture him for the failsafe code. Not that there is much of a torture debate in the episode. There is simply no room with everything else going on.

In the end, it is revealed Caldwell has been taken over by a Goa’uld. A couple taser shots allow him to resume control of his body long enough to relay the coes, thereby keeping Atlantis shielded from the Wraith. Not to mention hopefully changing his ornery personality. I have complained about that already. At least now we know the cause of his over aggressive behavior.

What really gets me is the Teyla and torture debate subplots could have made for entire episodes individually, but they are instead crammed into one episode along with a ton of other stuff. Too much stuff. “Critical Mass” is another term for overload. I wonder if the writers were being ironic about the script when they decided to call it that.

A quick note on the subject of torture. I am a big advocate of terrorist incarceration at Gitmo “Enhanced interrogation” is a touchier subject, but I am generally in the mindset of these inmates want to kill as many Americans as possible, so sympathy from me is not very forthcoming. But the question of whether to brutally torture anyone--beating, electric shock, etc--in order to find the location of a bomb set to go off in twenty minutes is dicier. I am an advocate of greater good morality. In other words, steal a loaf a bread to feed your starving family if you have to do so, but accept the consequences. Weir and Sheppard draw that conclusion, too, but not much soul searching is done by the two later realize Kavanaugh is innocent. The episode avoids being preachy by dropping the issue so quickly, but it should have been afforded an entire episode to explore the ramifications. That is just my couple pennies.

I hope something terrible happens to Kavanaugh eventually. What a utter jerk. Someone tell me he gets devoured by a Wraith or something. I love it when hermiod casually tells him to shut up. The finishing touch is the passive aggressive thank you once Kavanauh does.

“Critical Mass” is aptly named. It is overstuffed with material. T least half the goings on could have been cut out without suffering any loss. That said, it is still an entertaining episode. It definitely should have been scaled back some, it is not bad at all. Zelenka’s small bit before and after being stuck on a planet full of children is enough to make the episode itself.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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