Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Tower"

It is pretty cool that after a long streak of Wraith arc and character drama episodes, “The Tower” comes along as a straightforward adventure laced with humor. The episode is such a fun adventure that it is easy to overlook the most blatant budget saving move I have seen in the Stargate franchise outside of a clip show--the tower of which the title refers to part of another city identical to Atlantis which serves as the bad guys’ lair.

The AR-1 team makes contact with a backwards agrarian society that has not been culled by the Wraith in centuries because of their Lord Protector living in his high tower. The tower turns out to be part of another city like Atlantis which has been largely buried for ten thousand years. The Lord Protector lives there with his noble court in lavish while the people, who also have to make harsh harvest offerings, starve. Otho, one of the lord protector’s advisors meets with AR-1 and separates Sheppard from the rest to enter the tower.

It turns out the Lord protector and his ancestors are the only ones with the ancient gene, which is how they have controlled the city’s weapons and, by extension, held onto power. It appears for a bit there the dying lord protector would like Sheppard to take his place when he passes on, but in reality, his death is by slow poisoning. The slow assassination attempt is traced to an ambitious idiot named Tavius, but the real culprit is Otho. Otho is killed by his own poisoned knife in a brie fight with Sheppard,. Beckett begins gene therapy on the planet’s population so that any number of them can operate the defenses against the Wraith, so all is well that ends well.

Well, sort of. You have to suspect considering the people have been crushed under a brutal dictatorship for centuries they do not understand freedom. The ones who have the Ancient gene and can work the weaponry are likely to enslave the ones who cannot. Take your pick for the reason; either those who have been bullied become bullies themselves when they gain the power to do so, or that newfound freedom is as paralyzing as slavery when slavery is the only thing the people have known. Perhaps it would be best to accept the supposedly happy ending without speculating beyond the closing credits.

I would not exactly label “The Tower” groundbreaking. It is obvious from the moment Otho appears on screen that he is the true villain of the story. It is obvious mostly because Otho is played by the great Peter Woodward. I may be biased here, because practically any character Woodward plays reminds me of his brief stint as Galen in Crusade. Thirteen years later, and it still burns me that show was cancelled after only thirteen episodes. Woodward is one of the biggest reasons I regret the show’s short life.

Other than Woodward, I appreciate the French Revolution feel to the lord Protector’s court. They are a bunch of aristocratic drunks an gluttons who dress up to the nines in a hodge poge of varying styles solely to amuse themselves. Seriously, someone threw open the doorrs to wardrobe an told the extras to grab whatever they felt like wearing. I noted all sorts of party dresses, what looked like American colonial gentlemen, and some wild costumes in the background. It may be strange to consier the costumes a highlight considering they are ancillary to the story, but there you go. I calls them as I sees them.

I liked the humor as well. Sheppard descends into full frat boy mode when a maiden drops her clothes for him. Rodney learns he ought not be dismissive about the people’s supposedly superstitious warnings about exploring the underground city because the actual danger is cave ins due to earthquakes. Beckett laments making house calls when he is thrown in prison by Otho. There are a lot of humorous moments like those. The lighthearted tone helps overcome some weak points in the story. I have the impression “The Tower” is not popular among fans, but I like it enough to recommend.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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