Thursday, October 25, 2012

Red Dwarf--"Entangled"

Red Dwarf is back in fine form after last week’s often uncomfortable religious satire. The gags come fast and furious as the Dwarfers find themselves in one of their usual odd predicaments. Some fans may think the jokes rely too much on old stand bys--Lister’s incompetence, Rimmer’s rule quoting, Kryten’s info dumps, and Cat’s vanity--but I think the classic shtick is welcome after a decade long hiatus.

Lister flies of to check on some life signs in the hopes of finding Kochansky, but winds up finding a tribe of GEL instead. He plays poker with them all night, eventually losing both Starbug and Rimmer. To ensure Lister makes good on his payment, the GELF attach a groin exploder set to go off in 24 hours. Meanwhile, Kryten and cat discover they can cause coincidences to occur when experiencing high emotions together. The ability comes in handy when the GELF die before they can explain how to remove the groin exploder.

The newfound coincidence ability leads the Dwarfers to a research station where the groin exploer was created. The station was an experiment in bringing together people who are frequently wrong--referees, weathermen, and TV critics, et al--re-rain them in the sciences, an hope two wrongs make a right. The project failed big time. The scientist the Dwarfers need is in stasis and evolved back into an ape thanks to a blunder. She is restored and saves lister’s ’love spus’ by convincing Kryten to input the exact opposite of the deactivation code she says is correct. Because she is always wrong, you see. She winds up falling out an airlock before she can sleep with rimmer. Poor guy.

The last act of ’Entangled” had to be rewritten days before filming because union rules forbid the actor in the ape costume to work long enough hours to play the role as originally written. The scientist character was hastily added, as were practically all the jokes from her introduction until the end. It shows. The episode does peter out. The inputting the exact opposite of what she says gag got old by the second code. It is downright painful by the fifth.

But the rest of the stuff is great. The jokes are not particularly fresh, but old school fans will like the nostalgia. If there is any bonus, it is that Cat gets a lot of good laugh lines. He has so far been the weakest character this series, so there is a welcome change. The jokes come at you so rapid ire, you do not have time to over think them. “Entangled’ is the silliest episode thus far, but it may be the most entertaining.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Stargate Atlantis--"The Kindred, Part I"

I am going to have to recant some criticism because of “The Kindred, Part I.” I have complained about SGA’s habit of dropping storylines cold. A specific one I mentioned was the Hoffi immunity drug that poisons wraith upon feeding while sparing at least half the humans who take it. We have not heard anything about the drug since the first season until now. Aside from that pleasant surprise, ’The Kindred, Part I” is a lot of set up for the conclusion.

Keller is in the middle of an investigation of a seemingly random illness that is killing off humans and the Wraith that feed on them. Teyla begins having visions of her missing people calling for her help. The two storylines collide when it is revealed Michael is behind the use of the Hoffi rug to kill off the Wraith and calling Teyla towards a location in which he can kidnap her. He has sinister plans for her unborn child involving the elimination of the Wraith need to feed.

The cliffhanger is the discovery of the Beckett clone during an attempt to rescue Teyla. Michael has been using the Beckett clone in order to perfect the hoffi drug. Presumably, the Beckett clone helped with the genetic changes needed to end the need to feed on humans. I guess we will find out for certain later. It is a nifty cliffhanger, mostly because I am spoiler-free. I imagine Paul McGillion’s return had to be all over the internet and those incessant SyFy promos they run eight times an hour every hour.

“The Kindred, Part I” is a lot of set up for the conclusion. As such, it is difficult to judge without knowing the whole picture. The pacing I extremely slow. There is not much going on until the final act when AR-1 attempts to rescue Teyla from Michael’s clutches and finds the Beckett clone instead. Call me old fashioned, but forcing the very pregnant Rachel Lutterll to engage in a lot of strenuous activity kind of bugs me. The episode was filmed earlier in the season to avoid her being too far along, but still. Maybe I am a worry wart. It feels like part I’s purpose is little more than bring everyone together. The Athosiasns, Todd the Wraith, Michael, Caldwell, and the Beckett clone all put in appearances, but little else. The cameos build up anticipation for what it too come, but are not very satisfying in and of themselves.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Midway"

“Midway” breaks the string of mediocre Stargate Atlantis episodes with a straightforward action adventure which prominently features Teal’c teaming up with Ronon to defeat a Wraith incursion of Stargate Command. The episode is a lucky break. Its creation was the fulfillment of a promise by executive producer Joseph Mallozzi to Christopher Judge to write an episode for him in the back half of the season as a thank you for making a cameo for free in order to cut costs earlier in the season.

Ronon is set to be interviewed on Earth by a new International Oversight Committee head. Sam requests Teal’c come to Atlantis in order to coach him on how to act diplomatically. The two are so much alike, they immediately lock horns, both in argument and fisticuffs. The two declare a tense détente before they are set to be stuck on Midway for the required 24 hour quarantine.

A garrison of Wraith, who have learned of the McKay-Carter Gateway through Tod the Wraith, tracj their travels through the wormhole and invade Midway. After taking over, they open a wormhole to Earth, stun everyone at SGC, an establish a beachhead there. Teal’c and Ronon fight their way through midway to Earth in order to stop the Wraith there. Once Atlantis discovers what has happened, Sheppard leads a strike team into Midway. Midway is eventually destroyed do to Kavanaugh’s--yes, him again--incompetence during the Wraith’s defeat there, but Teal’c and Ronon manage to kill every Wraith at Sgc with no problem. They bond over the endeavor, naturally.

Kavanaugh is still the same old jerk as ever. Now he is stuck on Midway, presumably because still no one likes him. He arrogantly screws up the mission to retake Miway by inadvertently setting the autodestruct sequence. He even passes out under the threat of being fed upon by a Wraith. The character is being played far more for laughs now than as an obnoxious antagonist. I especially liked how Ronon shoved him out of the way when Kavanaugh was ecstatic to be rescue finally. The guy just cannot catch a break. Not that I sympathize.

There is finally a member of the Atlantis expedition from a Muslim country. I recognized a Turkish flag patch on one of the spectators during Teal’c and Ronon’s sparring match. So there you go.

“Midway” is pretty cool. It is a straightforward action piece meant to mostly entertain mindlessly, and it does. The whole purpose is to rack up a high Wraith body count and feature a large explosion in between antagonistic buddy cop humor between Teal’c and Ronon. It alll works very well, and I say that as one who is not the biggest fan of either Teal’c or Ronon.

Oh, and seriously--Teal’c does not realize how often he says “indeed?” Indeed.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Trio"

“Trio” is Stargate Atlantis meets Jean Paul Sarte’s No Exit. At least the homage are becoming classier, no? Sam, Rodney, and Keller do not discover hell is other people, but they do take the opportunity to et to know one another while practicing applied physics to escape an abandoned mine shaft on an earthquake prone planet.

Sam leads the tiny expedition of herself, Rodney, and Keller to a planet prone to earthquakes in order to convince them to relocate. The three fall through a sinkhole into an abandoned mining facility and spen time getting to know one another while devising means using various items in the room to climb out. Their conversations center around risqué, but not obscene sex talk and convincing Sam and Keller to take their clothes off. As good an idea as any, if you asm me.

Naturally, none of the plans go well, especially the one in which they stack crates into a staircase to climb out. I have seen chimpanzees successfully build those in order to reach a dangling banana.. I do not know what the failure says about our heroes. Okay, I am kidding. The crates simply would not hold Sam’s weight. That is not a fat joke, either. Amanda Tapping is one fit MILF. The real complication comes on a second attempt to make a sturdier stack. Sam falls and breaks her leg.

The trio eventually finds their way out by climbing down a rope--Sam on a makeshift seat--towards an adjacent shaft which leads to the surface. Sam wonders out loud why they did not think to look for another shat before, which makes one wonder if that truly was the loical thing to do first. Whatever the case, Rodney winds up the hero for helping sam and Keller escape. Keller ends the episode strongly hinting she has a thing for Rodney. How lucky can a guy get?

The oddest part of “Trio” is our heroes fall 25 feet through a hole in the ground to land on a hard surface without becoming injured. Any fall over ten feet is potentially fatal, so the act none of them are injured at all is tough to swallow, particularly when Sam eventually breaks her leg falling from a lesser height. But all that is necessary for the sake of drama, so I must let it slide. It is amazing on a show in which aliens from another galaxy speak perfect English, it is an implausibly easy fall that bugs me.

I know there were grumblings from fans during the first run of SGA that characters had no direction. Presumably, that is why so many recent episodes center around characters getting to know one another rather than confronting an antagonist. I was apprehensive when I learned the plot of “Trio” because these character explorations have not been all that good, and a cheap, locked room escape that is essentially a one act play did not sound promising. However, I am pleasantly surprised with the final result. It is a simple episode, but the humor makes it absorbing. “Trio” exceeds my expectations. Any episode featuring Jewel Staite prominently is worthy of attention. <,p> Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Outcast"

“Outcast,” the second episode co-written by journalist turned actor Joe Flanigam, is a mil character study of Sheppard’s estranged family situation an an overt homage to the Terminator series, particularly Robert Patrick’s (Col. Sumner) portrayal o the T-1000 in Terminator II: Judgment Day. There is a joke dropped in to that effect, carrying on with SGA’s tradition of acknowledging from where it lifts many plot elements.

I describe it as a mild character study because, while it is set up to be an intimate Sheppard story, the personal drama falls to the wayside for an adventure involving a Replicator loose on Earth. In fact, there is more poignancy in the scientist who create the Replicator’s “family’ issues. His young assistant, Ava, turns out to be a Replicator copy of the real Ava after she died in a car accident. Is it not strange for Ava’s story to be a more emotional element than that of Sheppard’s family troubles?

Consider it even stranger because the catalyst for Sheppard returning to Earth is his estranged father’s funeral. Patrick Sheppard had planned every element of his son’s life right up until the point the rebelled by joining the Air Force. They never spoke again. Sheppard’s brother has taken over his father’s company, but has not only resentments over his brother running off to join the military, but apparently he was still dad’s favorite son regardless. Sheppard also runs into his ex-wife (?!) at the funeral.

Have you got all that? Do not worry if you have not, because once Sheppard learns there is a Replicator on the loose, he runs off yet again regardless of family obligations to pursue it It is pretty much action film time as the Replicator channels the T-1000 in several battles with out heroes and a climactic fit with Ava. I will admit the idea of teleporting the Replicator into low earth orbit so he will burn up on entry is a creative way to defeat him, but it feels so od for the pursuit of the Replicator to be sch a focus.

Bates returns as an agent of the International Oversight Committee after receiving an honorable discharge due to injuries he sustained battling the Wraith. He is far less of a jerk than he used to be, so that is a relief. He states that he was in the Air Force. I am pretty sure bates was a Marine instead. I am also reasonably sure Sheppard told Ronon he had never been married. Dear heavens, Sheppard was once married to Kari Wehrer:
How could he let a lovely creature like her get away from him?

I think ’outcast’ is meant to be a better Sheppard-centric episode than it turns out. His father’s death does not play as an important part of the story passed the first act. All we really see is a deep sigh and acceptance from his surviving family members that seppard is going to run off to play adventurer. He leaves his father’s wake in order to hunt a Replicator, for heaven’s sake! Sheppard has not learned anything by the end, either. There is nothing but the hint that his brother and ex-wife accept him for what he is because he is not going to mature no matter what happens in his life. “Outcast” is a decent action piece, but a real disappointment as drama.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Harmony"

W. C. Fields once quipped you should never work with children or animals. In my experience, the first half of that statement is true in the sense that when a television series has an episode centered around a child guest star, it is usually bad. But I am like Fields. Children and I have a difficult time together. The point is “Harmony” has a strike against it already for focusing so much on a child guest star. Your mileage may vary.

Sheppard and Rodney, whom I swear are attempting to channel Hope and Crosby minus the musical numbers, are conned into escorting a thirteen year ol named harmony on a rite of passage through a forest to rach some ruins. Something in those ruins will prove Harmon has the right to be queen. Harmony has been betrayed by one of her older sisters who wants the thrown for herself. She has hired genii mercenaries to kidnap Harmony. Actually, they are probably hired to kill her instead, but murdering a child is a bit too much for a episode leaning way far on the comedic side.

You can probably fill in the blanks yourself. Harmony is a precocious brat who develops a crush on Sheppard, annoys Rodney, and listens to neither one of them even when her safety is at stake. She winds up with a crush on Rodney instead after he puts himself in danger to save her. The ruins turn out to be the remains of an Ancient structure. Harmony is able to operate it, so she becomes queen. Her first act is to lock up her conniving sister. There is a happy ending for you.

Yikes. An older sister hiring mercenaries to murder her barely in her teens sibling, Harmony. Harmony is a little terror herself, relishin the idea of flogging and executing her enemies, including Rodney at one point, once she is queen. At least Harmony is somewhat satiated by locking her sister up for life. One big, happy family. Methinks Harmony’s people are in for a rough time.

I will say this for “Harmony‘--the self-titled character is cast perfectly. Jodelle Ferland looks and sounds every bit like the hellion her character is supposed to be. Ferland has made a niche for herself portraying creepy kis in horror movies and video games, so there is your confirmation she can play an unholy terror.

“Harmony” is obviously not a favorite. Kids and science fiction are a toxic mix as far as I am concerned. It is even worse when the kid is annoying on purpose. I am also less enthused when SGA centers around only a couple characters instead of the ensemble cast. There are some humorous moments and, as noted, Ferland plays an unappealing character well, but those two points are only enough to make “Harmony” mildly entertaining.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Stargate Atlanris--"Quarantine"

“Quarantine” is a bottle show that can best be summed up as Stargate Atlantis meets a ‘70’s disaster flick. You have seen the plot dozens of times. Some sort of accident occurs that traps odd pairings of characters together to overcome obstacles, technical and personal, in order to survive. “Quarantine” is not a whole lot different, but it is amusing how it takes certain situations you would expect--pregnant teyla giving birth while trapped in a locked room, for example--and turns turns them into jokes instead. At least the writers are not just painting by numbers here.

After the last medical outbreak, Rodney beefed up Atlantis’ lockdown protocols to be more sensitive. Too sensitive, as it were, because the city lockdown under a false alarm. The lockdown causes some strange pairings. Rodney, who was about to propse to Katie, is locked in the botanical lab with her. Sheppard and Teyla are trapped in a computer lab with him freaking out she will give birth any minute because that is what happens in the movies. Sam and Zelenka are stuck in an elevator. Finally, Ronon an Keller are in the infirmary.

The various predicaments allow for the characters to relate to one another to varying degrees of effect. The best is Rodney and Katie, as it becomes clear his fatalism in the face of what he believes is imminent death convinces the two of them marriage is not a good idea right now. It is really sad as it dawns on them both that fact is not likely to change. Neither of them are inclined to grow emotionally towards one another any more than they already have. The other pairings are rather boring or strange. Nothing much happens with Sheppard/Teyla or Sam/Zelenka, but ronon and Keller wind up almost smooching. It is because keller reminds ronon of his deceased girlfriend/fiance, but the scenario just did not resonate with me. Jewel Staite is being handled quite badly on this show.

The complication happens when the city believes the “outbreak” is out of control and sets the autodestruct. Zelenka saves the day by shutting the city off and on again. Yes, the go to method for repairing any an all computer problems. But hey, Zelenka gets to be the hero for once, so there you go.

“Quarantine” suffers a lot of missed opportunity. The chance here is for a lot of personal moments wherein we get to learn about the characters on a personal level, but the writers fumble the ball. We learn Zelenka raises pigeons and has such a logical mind, he cannot understand much humor because he takes jokes too literally. Keller is a prodigy who missed out on her childhood, which might explain her immaturity. That is about it. Rodney coming to understand his own flaws is about the only high point with these quiet moments.

The episode is not all bad. The story does take the typical scenarios you would expect ti find and either turns them on their ear or mocks them outright. That is a refreshing change, but still does not make ’Quarantine” anything special. There is no escaping--no joke intended--that it is a budget saving bottle show that does the best it can under the circumstances. I am very surprised more emphasis is not placed on exploring the characters. It looks like offering insight would be the mine focus. Alas, no.

Rating: *** (iut of 5)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Spoils of War"

“Spoils of War” is considered the final part of the Replicator War trilogy, but feels more like an epilogue. The story deals with Tod the Wraith stealing a ZPM during the battle of Asura only to have it stolen from him by another wraith faction to power a cloning facility. This is just an excuse to put Teyla in danger so she can realize the safety of her unborn child comes before her desire to fight the wraith, which is the real heart of the story.

While captured, Todd activates a signaling device in the hopes of attracting the attention of his kinda sorta allies on Atlantis for a possible rescue. Sheppard decides to check the signal out, but he benches Teyla because of her pregnancy. She take it personally because of her desire to continue fighting and she believes Sheppard is just mad he kept her condition from him. Nevertheless, when the AR-1 team discovers Todd’s signal is coming from an adrift Wraith Hive ship, Sheppard returns to Atlantis to request her assistance in getting it moving again. She agrees, but with a passive aggressive contempt.

One thing leas to another, and AR-1 discovers Todd is being held captive in a Wraith cloning facility where thousands of new soldiers are being grown. The rescue attempt fails, and the AR-1 team is captured. Teyla uses the extra strength her unborn child grants her to take over the Wraith queen’s body and free her friends. They manage to recover the ZPM, destroy, the facility, and knock out a Wraith Hive ship during the escape. The Wraith Queen, however, reasserts herself enough to threaten Teyla’s child before Sheppard kills her. In the end, Teyla realizes Sheppard was right to take her off the team. Lesson learned.

What is it about Stargate aliens an cloning? The Asgard, Anubis, the Replicators, Ba’al and now Wraith have all been interested in genetically engineered copies even though the pursuit ultimately never helps them achieve their goals. You woul think one of them would develop a plan B by now.

“Spoils of War” is a good episode. I imagine it will be difficult to put the in real life pregnant Rachel Lutterll in a whole lot of situations now that do not seem forced, so it is cool to see in a plausible tory why teyla will not be in action for a while. There are accouple puzzling matters, such as why the Wraith would leave one of their sips adrift with all it valuable intel there for the taking or how it was just dumb luck Rodney discovered the cloning facility, but those are minor quibbles. ’spoils of War” is a decent, mostly action oriented episode that still has some nice personal moments.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Red Dwarf--"Lemons"

When I read the plot summary of “Lemons” as the Dwarfers becoming stranded in 23AD and having to track down lemons in order to build a battery to return home, I was not expecting the story to turn into a blasphemous satire of Christianity. But that is exactly what we got. I laughed quite a few times in spite of myself even though these are the same old skeptic criticisms used as frequent laugh lines.

Kryten finds a Swedish Rejuvenation Shower, which must be assembled like IKEA furniture, that can restore anyone to his natural prime. Naturally, the Dwarfers put it together incorrectly, so that when the use it, they are transported back to 23 AD Albion. The handheld control device has no battery, but rimmer says he can build one with lemons and copper. The easiest place to get lemons in this time period is India, so they start hoofing it.

After acquiring lemons, the Dwarfers inadvertently run into Jesus. This is during his lost period when some speculate he traveled throughout the world perfecting his traching or stealing concepts from Eastern philosophy, depending on how harsh you want to be. Rimmer wants to meet jesus because his mother was part of a church that believed Judas switched places with jesus and was crucified so Jesus could ‘resurrect’ three days later. The other dwarfers do not want to affect the future, but they wind up not only hooking up with jesus to escape some Roman soliers, but take him back to Red Dwarf in the future.

Kryten winds up performs kidney stone surgery on Jesus with every penis joke you can imagine flying fast an furiously. during his recuperation, Lister gives jesus the history book he was reading as entertainment. Jesus reads it, becomes upset by the things done in his name throughout history, and returns to the past in order to destroy his own reputation. The Dwarfers catch up with him, though not before a long analysis on the alleged contradictions of the Ten Commandments, and convince jesus he will do good things even if some of his followers et it wrong. It turns out this is not Jesus o Nazereth, but another. The Dwarfers have to retrain rimmer when the real jesus shows up in order to avoid any more mess.

The blasphemy was a surprise as far as my understanding of what lemons was to be about. I cringed at some of the humor. Other jokes I recall atheists actually presenting as argument back in my apologetics days. Hearing those had their oewn personal amusing factors. The easily offended Christian should avoid ‘Lemons’ like the plague, but since they are already avoiding Red Dwarf, it likely matters naught. The jokes are exactly what you would expect, but not stale regardless. Interesting. Anyway. “Lemons” certainly will not be my favorite episode of the tenth series, but I like it well enough.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Stargate Atlantis--"Be All My Sins Remember'd"

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
[...]Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
--Hamlet, Act III, Scne I

“Be All My Sins Remember’d” is the premiere episode for the back half of the fourth season. It is said to be the most expensive episode of the series in terms of visual effects. I definitely believe it. The episode features some epic CGI work, but is far more than mere eye candy. There is a solid, well-executed story as well as some surprises.

Daedalus and Apollo arrive at Atlantis fully equipped with the Asgard upgrades left behind after their mass suicide. (a moment of silence for Thor, Freyr, Heimdall, Hermiod, et al/) The asard weaponry will not be enough to handle the replicator fleet, so they are counting on Sheppard to build an uneasy alliance with the Wraith via Todd and Rodney to come up with a WM that will wipe out the Replicators once an for all.

Sheppard has the easier time. Todd convinces seven Wraith hive ships to join in an attack on Asura once a WMD has been created. Sheppard works his charm to bring larrin and the travelers into the alliance. The only snag is Teyla’s revelation she is pregnant. Sheppard immediately removes her from the team. He says he is angry with her for not telling him about her condition sooner, but he really seems hurt that she has been with another man he does not know about. Not that he does not flirt with Larrin later when the opportunity presents itself. Well, that is how we men operate. There is always another woman in the binder.

Rodney’s plan to create a magnet for Replicator nanites to drop in the middle of Asura, then blow up the huge blob that forms, does not come into fruition until he uses the nanite creator to build a bare bones Replicator as the magnet. Surprise--it is pretty woman named FRAN to whom he becomes at least somewhat attached to because of sympathy over her willing sacrifice to wipe out the Replicators. I am not certain how emotionally invested the audience is supposed to be in the matter, but very little time is spent getting to know FRAN that it is not all that moving. If her loss is supposed to be an issue, then it is the weakest part of the episode.

The climax is a massive space battle and CGI bonanza on Asura as the nanites all come together to form a massive blog centered on FRAN. Its is The Thing That Ate New York, folks, and pretty cool. The big ka-boom o Asura is pretty, cool, too. The episoe ends with the revelation Elizabeth Weir is still alive and leading a faction of Replicators who are up to no good and are happy the rest are out of their way. Torri Higginson looks hot in black leather, too.

“Be All My Sins Remember’d” features the infamous colonels scene. Someone was gracious enough to post it on YouTube:If there is any big issue with “Be All my sins Remember’d,’ it is how crowded the episode is. There is a lot going on. So much so that very little has a chance to be fleshed out. I have already mentioned FRAN, but Larrin only has three scenes herself. So much for a big splash for her second appearance. Nevertheless, the episode is a good start. Its fast pace may not lrave much room for developing story elements to their fullest, but it does create a tense excitement that culminates in an impressive climax and the thrilling revelation about Weir. I cannot complain a whole lot. It is not worth four or five stars, but it is one of the best this season so far. Oh--and sam actually takes assertive command! It is about time.

Rating:*** (out of 5)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"This Mortal Coil"

“This Mortal Coil” is the fourth midseason finale. It also features the all to brief return of Torri Higginson, although she does not play the real Weir. The episode has a plotline involving duplicate versions of our heroes. While it is more like the awful "Course Oblivion" from Star Trek: Voyager than the mediocre "Tin Man" from Stargate SG-1, "This Mortal coil" handles the plot the best out of the three.

“This Mortal Coil” is like VOY‘s “Course Oblivion” in the sense we are introduced to the duplicate characters as though they are the real deal and follow along as both they and the audience learn what they really are--Replicators. We learn that only AR-1 and weir, whom they eventually discover whil looking for the truth about their identities, are nanite creations. Their entire environment was created by a faction of Replicators who have broken away from the collective in order to study ascension. Specifically, they want to know what quality humans possess that allows them to ascend. They used images from weir’s mind to create a second Atlantis.

But things are not perfect. The duplicates are being subtlety sabotaged in their daily routines by the Replicators, which raises their suspicions. They also exhibit the rapid healing ability. The realization they can regenerate practically any injury is the point of no return. Therefore, it is also something the Replicators should have foreseen. People get cuts an bruises all the time even when they are not adventurers living in outer space. The dead give away should have been foreseen as a fatal flaw.

AR-1 and weir are thrown in the brig and are about to have their memories wiped to start the experiment again when the Replicators attack the city. This is the destruction of Atlantis Davos foresaw. Is it a cop out that the target is not the real Atlantis? Meh. Avos’ gift of prophecy was ambiguous enough for it to not be a big deal as far as I am concerned. I am feeling generous today. Mitt Romney is in the lead. The duplicates appeal to RepliKeller that the human qualities her faction are seeking is compassion. They convince her to not only let them go, but leave with intelligence that can help prevent the Replicators from killing off all the humans in the Pegasus galaxy.

The duplicates escape and make contact with their real counterparts in order to hand off technology capable of tracking Replicator ships. Their meeting is both funny an bittersweet. Rodney likes the idea of working with his genius counterpart. Ronon is not happy to see himself as he is. They all feel awkward about Weir. They assumed she was dead, and even though they are happy to see her duplicate, they are sadly aware it is not really her. As anyone who has seen any amount of television knows, the duplicates must sacrifice themselves, and they do as a diversion for the real McCoys to escape a Replicator attack. The cliffhanger is the revelation the Replicator ships are everywhere poised to devastate scores of planets

If it were not for two aspects of the episode, “This Mortal Coil” would probably go down as a bad idea. One, RepliKeller is a cool idea. Who really pictures Jewel Staite portraying a menacing villain? She is dear, sweet Kalety Frye, for heaven’s sake! But she pulls of the character with a cold demeanor that she is believable. The other point is the return of Weir. I am surprised, considering how little proactive roles Weir played in later episodes, what a gaping hole Higginson’s departure let behind. It is touching to see how much Sheppard and Rodney missed her, particularly Rodney. He carries such a pronounced torch for her, one wonders why shippers have not latched onto to it more adamantly.

“This Mortal Coil” is a winner for those two reasons. The cliffhanger is an exciting one, too, though it could have done without the “Oh, crap!” right after the fade out. The ominous implication of a Replicator armada is good enough to end on without adding a laugh line. No matter. None of these small problems are enough to detract from the episode as a whole.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Miller's Crossing"

“Miller’s Crossing” features the return of David Hewlett’s real sister Kate as Rodney’s sister, Jeannie. The episode has no similarities whatsoever to the 1990 coen brothers film other than the name an they are both set on Earth. I am quite fond of “Miller’s Crossing,’ or at least more so than the previous McKay sibling team up in “McKay and Mrs. Miller.”

The scientists on Atlantis are stuck on an issue regarding the Replicator virus, and Zelenka nags Rodney about contacting his sister to the point the finally acquiesces. Jeannie’s e-mail account has been monitored for months by Henry Wallace, a brilliant tech company CEO who has contracts to work with alien technology taken by Stargate Command and a young daughter dying from leukemia. Because of his SGC connections, he has known about the Replicator nanites and used them on his daughter. They have not functioned properly, but with Rodney’s e-mail to his sister, Wallace can kidnap her in order to blackmail Rodney into helping him.

Rodney returns to Earth with Sheppard and Ronon, but conveniently splits up to follow a lead with NID agent Barrett in order to follow a lead and winds up Wallace’s prisoner. Jeannie, who is te mother to a little girl, wants to help Wallace’s daughter in spite of the circumstances, but Rodney convinces her to join in an escape attempt. They are recaptured. To ensure the two work on repairing his daughter’s nanites, Jeannie is injected with the little buggers, too.

Matters take a turn for the worse when Wallace’s daughter dies when the nanites run out of power repairing a heart efect. Jeannie is epileptic, so there is a fear of the same happening when the nanites take on the task of curing her of the disease. The two are rescued and Wallace arrested, but Rodney is at a loss how to help Jeannie in time.

Jeannie’s legs are purposefully broken in or to give the nanites something less serious to work on besides her epilepsy. Er legs are broken under anesthetic, of course, but what a gruesome thought regardless.

Rodney requests tod the Wraith’s help. He does not care about any of roney’s pleading on behalf of his sister, but he does agree to help in the name of eventually stopping the Replicators. Todd needs to feed, however, and Rodney offers up himself. Sheppard says he is too valuable, then proceeds to guilt Wallace into sacrificing himself instead just before Rodney makes to have Rodney feed off him anyway. Todd repairs the nanites and Jeannie is saved. For whatever reason, SGC buys Sheppard’s story Wallace’s death was an accident when Todd suddenly got the upper and.

The DVD features an amusing delete scene. Someone graciously posted it to YouTube:I enjoy the foresight of Sheppard knocking on Battlestar Galactica being more boring than their lives--Stargate Atlantis--consider SGA would be cancelled a couple years later in favor of Battlestar Galactica clone Stargate Universe, which ultimately flopped. The casual Doritos product placement has its humorous element, too.

I do not usually mention deleted scenes in these reviews, but there is another in which Rodney is packing for earth when Sheppard and Ronon join him. Rodney is not interested in their help, but they insist on helping their friend. The scene would help explain why Rodney went off to follow a clue without them and wound up captured by Wallace. Therefore the scene’s deletion is a big loss, both in story an in showing the friendship bonds Rodney has formed in spite of himself.

“Miller’s Crossing’ may be further proof the Stargate franchise has gone on so long it must recycle itself. There has already been an Earthbound story in which a character has been kidnapped by a tech company CEO in order to use aliens to cure a disease in SG-1. “Miller’s Crossing” is still different enough and good enough to not fret over it. Jeannie is a great character because the real sibling bound between Kate and David shines through. The episode has its funny and disturbing moments in the proper mix, which is not always easy to do. I like it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Seer"

“The Seer” is an o creation. There appears to be two or three plots rolling at the same time, all of which coul have made for their own episode, but none do anything but fizzle out. The episode serves only to foreshadow future storylines. Turning a script into a stew to dump all the ingredient you cannot use anywhere else is not the wisest way to draft an episode.

Teyla requests AR-1 visit a planet lead by a man named Davos who can allegedly see the future. She wants to ask him what happened to the missing Athosians. Davos has foreseen their arrival and requests medical help from them for his lingering illness. As a sign of his power, he shows skeptical Rodney a vision of AR-1 being captured by the Wraith.

They return to Atlantis with avos to find Woolsey running a routine inspection and word Todd the Wraith wants a meeting with Sheppard. Their meeting turns out to be a fruition of Davos’ vision, but since Davos did not see the outcome the vision did not reflect the actual result--Todd is taken prisoner. He reveals the Replicators have shifted tactics and are now wiping out worlds in habited by humans to destroy the Wraith’s food supply. He has the Replicator virus. He wants Rodney to re-write it before all humans are killed off.

Meanwhile, Davos is dying of cancer. Before he dies, he offers two visions--one of Atlantis being destroyed by Replicators an another of a Wraith hive ship attacking. Both cannot be right, which sets up a conflict between Sam and Woolsey when another Wraith hive ship is on it way to investigate why a hive ship loyal to Todd is in orbit around a supposedly uninhabited planet. Davos, by the way, is a genetic anomaly and possibly the future of human evolution.

Todd is not on the up and up. He has been holding back part of the virus as a bargaining chip. He only wants the virus to regain his old status among his people, anyway. Sam trusts the prophecy of Atlantis being destroyed by Replicators is true, so leaves the city cloaked rather than shielded. Woolsey, fearing the worst, relieves her o command, but no one follows his orders to attack the Wraith hive ships. They destroy each other, thereby leaving Woolsey with egg on his face. No one is quite sure when the vision of atlantis being destroyed will come true. Oh, and Teyla is pregnant.

Davos is played by prolific British actor Martin Jarvis. Jarvis appeared several times in the original run of Doctor Who, therefore the Davos/Davros similarity in name amuses me. Probably only because geeks like to latch onto such dubious connections and squeeze the life out of them in orer to solidify our nerd credentials.

So what is ‘The Seer’ al; about/ Davos’ gift of prophecy? A Human/Wraith alliance to prevent genocide? Maybe Woolsey’s threats to Sam’s command authority? Or is the episode just an excuse to foreshadow future events? All of the above and none of the above appear to be the best answer. The various running plot elements do not compliment each other very well. It is literally like the writers took an act from three or four diferent scripts, dropped them in a hat, and then drew them out at random until they had a new script. Some sense is made out of it, but not much. The virtue is much every running plot thread would have made a decent episodes in it. The question is why did that not happen instead of what we got? Personally, I would prefer Todd’s story arc to have been more fleshed out while dropping Davos’ prophecies altogether. The weakest element is what the episode is named after. Hoe is that for a kick in the butt?

Rating: *** (out o 5)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Missing"

It is interesting fourth season episodes have thus far turned out to be focused on one or two characters rather than the ensemble mostly frequently utilized in the first three seasons. The result is a diminished feel that I hope will be alleviated by larger stories as the season progresses. I have not much been interested in the ’insight” offered by single character-centric episodes.

“Missing” is no exception, and I feel particularly bad in acknowledging that because the episode offers up exactly what I asked for last time around--an in depth look at Keller. How did a doctor so young land such a choice, top secret assignment in deep space? The answer is even more mysterious, because she turns out to be a whiny, wimpy prima donna in a survival situation. I cannot emphasize enough that “Missing” had mean reassuring Teyla that killing Keller would be considered justifiable homicide. This episode has me rationalizing the murder of my beloved Jewel Staite’s character! How could such a thing happen?

The problem is the episode is intended too emphasize character over plot, but forgets to make the character stuff interesting. Or even tolerable. You have seen the plot a million times before. Two characters who cannot get along are stranded together in a harsh situation in which they are hunted by an enemy as well as suffering in the environment. Somehow, they learn to work together. In this case, it is Teyla escorting Keller, whom she gets along with great in a comfy environment, to New Athos in order to provide medical care for her people. When they arrive, they find the Athosians likely culled completely by the Wraith. They ave to go on the run until their check in time with Atlantis passes without word from them in order to avoid primitive hunters called the Bola Kai.

Do you have any idea how many times I heard Bola Kai as bolo tie? Not only do the two terms sound familiar, but the Bola Kai leader, Omal, is played by the unfortunately wasted Danny Trejo, so I have the whole American Southwestern style of mixed Mexican and Native American culture frequently seen in states like Arizona and New Mexico. Bolo ties are associated with the fashion. The train of thought along these lines is distracting.

Fortunately, I am shaken out of those thoughts by Keller’s constant whining. She sprains her ankle, because at least one character in these situations must be wounded. It is a television/movie rule, but complains les about the pain than she does Teyla killing several Bola Kai that try to kill them, having to cross a rope bridge to safety, and the only food Teyla can find to sustain them. One would expect Keller to harden during the experience as character development, but she does not. There is one sharp turn at the end in which she shoots a fellow Bola Kai prey whom she believed was genii, but turns out to be a Wraith worshipper. How Teyla tolerated Keller until that point is beyond me. I would have killed her myself and blamed it on the Bola Kai.

I do find it funny keller reminds us she knows everyone liked Dr. Carson Beckett more than they do her, and she doubts she can live up to his legacy. It is not wise to remind people of that, my dear. The thought is already floating near the surface of every fan’s mind. If Jewel Staite was not so darn cute, I would be more vocal in complaining myself.

“Missing” is a big disappointment Even the revelation Teyla is pregnant, promising some future mysteries, does nor save it. We do not get any insight into keller. In fact, she goes from likable in previous episodes to annoying now. She regresses! I also think Danny Treejo is waste. He only has one seen with Teyla and keller to show off his menacing acting chops. Otherwise, anyone could play Omal. He--and the Bola Kai--are forgettable villains. Unless you are a huge--huge--fan of the two hottest actresses on SGA, skip “Missing” in good conscience.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Tabula Rasa"

“Tabula Rasa,” roughly translated from Latin to “blank slate,” is a Rodney-centric episode that is an odd cross between Outbreak and Memento. a contagion infecting Atlantis is nothing new, but the addition of the illness causing memory loss which turns the infected crew againt one another adds an extra zing. Sorta.

Rodney’s botanist girlfriend returns from the mainland with a new plant and an infectious disease which rapidly spreads throughout the city. Atlantis is quarantined after everyone is infected but Ronon and Teyla. The disease causes flu like symptoms that get worse until total memory loss and eventually death. The illness is caused by a common childhood ailment both Teyla and Ronon had, but from which they recovere and now have an immunity. They know the cure is found rom a plant on the mainland, but have a difficult time getting and distributing the cure because of everyone’s memory loss.

The story is split between the first twelve hours after the contagion’s discovery, which is filmed normally, and the present in which an amnesiac Rodney as to find Teyla even though he has no idea why or who she is, filmed in a washed out dream-like style. Complicating matters is Lorne having rounded up everyone infected in his own quarantine and locked away Teyla under suspicion she has released a biological weapon on Atlantis. Meanwhile, Ronon has taken an amnesiac Sheppard to the mainland in order to retrieve the plant, which has its own difficulties when Sheppard becomes violently suspicious of the mysterious to him Ronon.

Matters are cleared up by clues left from before our heroes had completely lost their memories. The contagion is cured easily by sending plants spores through the ventilation system. Everyone is saved but for a lone red shirt who had to die for dramatic effect.

“Tabula Rasa” is bottle show filler. It certainly is not a bad episode, but there is not much to elevate it, either. That is unless you are particularly touched by Rodney’s budding romance with Dr. Katie Brown, for whom he shows an unusually strong for him emotional connection. Keller gets a lot of screen time, too, but without being the one to perform the “Bones” McCoy miracle cure in a few hours trick. That is refreshing, but one kind of wonders if it ought not have happened this once to establish her as a miracle working, medical genius. If nothing else, establishing Keller as a genius would explain how someone so young got such a lofty job as sawbones on Atlantis. Anyway, the time shifts can be difficult to keep straight, but that is a minor quibble. “Tabula Rasa’ is just kind of…there. Dissecting it further seems unfair.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Travelers"

“Travelers” is a Sheppard-centric episode which puts special emphasis on the swashbuckling, James T. Kirk aspects of the character. The episode serves as little more than an opportunity for Sheppard to spar with guest star Jill Wagner as Larrin The action and sexual tension between the two is reminiscent of the early Daniel/Vala encounters.

Sheppard is kidnapped by a race of nomadic, technologically advanced humans called Travelers. The want to use his Ancient gene in order to repair a captured Aurora class ship that will help alleviate the overpopulation problem on their generational ships. Sheppard and the Traveler leader, Larrin, go back and forth with who has the upper han until the Wraith attack the ship, forcing the two to team up in order to defeat the Wraith boarding party. In the end, larrin escapes with the Aurora ship, but creates a loose alliance with the Atlantis crew to battle the Wraith in the future.

If that sounds like a wafer thin recap, that is because “Travelers” has a wafer thin plot. The main purpose of the episode is to show off the chemistry between Sheppard and larrin. Fortunately, that happens to be highly amusing. Joe Flanagan and Jill Wagner are having a good time playing off one another. There really is a great deal of the old Daniel/Vala dynamic there. In fact, the powers that be are maybe trying a little too hard to turn Larrin into a Vala-clone. Whether you think that is too unoriginal, you should have little time to dwell on the issue considering your primary thoughts are on how hot Jill Wagner is:
Wagner is currently the eye candy announcer for the game show Wipeout.

“Travelers” is fun viewing and Larrin is smoking hot in her tight, leather outfit. Flanagan and Wagner play off each other well. If you like Daniel and vala, you will dig Sheppard and larrin. It is also cool to see the wraith back in action, though one wonders how they could identify the secret Morse code SOS Sheppard sent out when it is especially emphasized the aliens Teyla and Ronon could not. Only Rodney identified it. Oh, well. “Travelers” is for mindless entertainment, not nitpicking.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Red Dwarf--"Fathers and Suns"

“Fathers and Suns” establishes a connection with past episodes, in as much as Red Dwarf cares about continuity, by revisiting Lister’s strange parentage and installing a new computer program to finally replace Holly. The result is a mixed bag less amusing the series premiere last week.

Lister gives himself a Father’s Day card every year because he was the one to dump himself as an infant in a box at a pub. Rimmer points out that Lister is being an awful father to himself, so Lister decides to record a drunken video message to himself, father to son, in order to force himself to grow up. “Father’s’ tough love winds up causing lister to be expelled from Red dwarf by the new computer, Pree.

Pree is initialized by Rimmer and Kryten in order to better maintain the falling apart ship. Pree is programmed to anticipate what the Dwarfers would do in any given situation do it before being asked. Unfortunately, the Dwarfers are grossly incompetent, so pree manages to make their lives miserable with her actions. In the end, she scrubs the mission to return to Earth and plots a course for a nearby sun instead. Lister returns to Red dwarf to ave the day, therefore feeling as though he has made something of himself like ’dad’ wanted.

I am only half-hearted about “Fathers and Suns.” If series ten is going to revisit a past storyline, Lister being his own father is far from the one I would choose. Pree is nowhere near as great a character as either of the actors who played Holly in the past, so I am let down by her introduction. More likely her sole appearance, but we shall see. I cannot imagine her shtick carrying more than one episode without some changes in her dry demeanor.

Some of the running jokes were not up to par. The longer than Rapunzel’s pubic hair” gag literally makes me cringe thinking about . The debate over whether using Chinese as an adjective is racist goes on far too long only to be capped off by the Dwarfers asking a Chinese food dispenser for the answer and receiving it in angry, pigeon English. If it were not for the exchange between video Lister and himself, there would be hardly any laughs at all.

My introduction to Red Dwarf was a little over a year ago when I got the chance to view the show straight through. I got spoiled being able to watch all the episodes back to back, so watching only one episode a week for a scant six weeks is near starvation. Because there are so few--and no guarantee of more, truth be told--I have to grade on a curve. Bad Red Dwar is still new Red Dwarf. I can only award two stars for “Fathers and suns,” however, and hope the problem is merely a sophomore slump.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Stargate Atlantis--"Doppelganger"

“Doppelganger” is te only episode of SGA to be restricted for ages fourteen and up. For whatever value it is to arbitrarily say one has to be at least fourteen years old to purchase the DVD. Extreme violence is the issue here, as our heroes suffer from alien induced nightmares that are incredibly disturbing even to my jaded soul. The episode is not particularly original--as noted by character references to past episodes--but the weir nightmare sequences are effective.

While exploring a jungle planet, the AR-1 team comes across a crystal that Rodney believes is a new power source. Sheppard feels compelled to touch it and is thrown back for his curiosity. He is given a clean bill of health after returning to Atlantis, but he actually brought back an alien presence with him that bounces from person to person giving each one vivid nightmares. The common element in each nightmare is an evil version of Sheppard.

The nightmares can become fatal, as evidenced by Dr. Katie Heightmayer jumping to her death in her dream while dying of cardiac arrest in the real world. Yes, I do note the irony of someone named Heightmayer leaping to her death for a high building. I am also curious why a psychologist would dye her hair. Does changing one’s natural appearance not indicate some emotional issue with self-image that she ought to have a good grasp? Or am I just being hypercritical? Regardless, the most compelling reams to watch happen are not the fatal ones. Keller, for instance, dreams an iratus bug bursts out of her stomach while Sheppard stands aside and laughs. Ronon dreams Sheppard is burying him alive. Lorne sleepwalks with a loaded gun after he dreams Sheppard is a Replicator. Why some nightmares are fatal while others are not can only be explained by obviously not wanting to kill off major characters.

The alien eventually hops into Rodney. Using a virtual reality device, Sheppard travels into Rodney’s nightmare, which involves rowing a boat with a clown to avoid being eaten by a whale, to convince the alien to leave. When it believes it has killed Rodney, the alien enters Sheppard’s dreams and forces him to fight himself. The alien is defeated by being thrown threw the stargate. It is all very existential. Our heroes return the crystal back to it home planet and depart with due haste.

References, references. Have we got references? Sheppard jokes about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when asking if 42 is the answer to a significant question and Mirror Spock when inquiring if his evil nightmare self has a goatee. Rodney mentions the Iratus bug bursting out of Teyla from Keller’s dream is reminiscent of the famous scene from Alien. The Sheppard v. Sheppard battle reminded me of the Clark Kent v. Evil Superman duel in Superman III. (Talk about nightmares! Who wants to remember that film?) Several SG-1 episodes are referenced. The crystals are similar to those from “Cold Lazarus.”, Sam recalls being taken over by an alien in “Entity,” and the device used to transport Sheppard into Rodney’s nightmare is a version of “The Gameskeepr” device. I suppose since characters verbally acknowledge these thigs, they cannot be considered unoriginal rip offs.

“Doppelganger” is definitely not the most original episode one could hope to see, but it is entertaining. The nightmare sequences are effectively ethereal. Joe Flanigan looks like he is having a ball chewing up the scenery while torturing his friends. I confess I am not certain whether the crystal actually did just want to go home or if it is an evil jerk that gets its jollies killing people in their dreams like Freddie Krueger. It could not be reasoned with, so I will guess the latter. But then it is interesting the ancients would not have put up some kind of warning. Well they were absentee landlords there towards the end. I will stop over thinking and award “Doppelganger” a solid rating.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Reunion"

“Reunion” is an interesting critter. It has to introduce Sam as the new leader of the Atlantis expedition, but it is not a Sam-centric episode per se. Instead, the focus is on Ronon. He discovers several members of his old unit have survived. He is turn between loyalty to them and to his friends on Atlantis until the plot twist is revealed and sam, reentering the picture, saves the day.

While Ronon and Teyla track down rumors of several Satedans roaming about on a backwater planet bragging of their Wraith kills, Sam is appointed head of the Atlantis expedition. It makes sense to appoint a military officer in charge considering Atlantis is now in the middle of the Replicator-Wraith War zone, one has to note weir’s comments about the military’s dissatisfaction with civilian leadership has come to a head. Gone is the diplomat to replaced by the air force colonel. The early strain of the change at the top is pointed. Sam nixes a recon mission to discover weir’s whereabouts to which Sheppard reacts badly. Sam and Ronon get off on the wrong foot when she does not allow his Satedan friends unto Atlantis.

Speaking of, the Sateans provide the action of the episode. They want to hit a Wraith research facility with AR-1’s help. Our heroes do not think it is worth the risk even for some advanced Wraith technology until it is revealed the Wrath are working on eliminating the Replicator attack command. Ronon plans to take part in the joint operation, then leave with his old unit. The plan is a double-cross, however. The Satedans have been promised eternal life through the sharing of life force if they lure Rodney to the research facility to shut off the attack code himself. Sam does her best Rambo impression in rescuing everyone, so she automatically wins everyone’s respect as the new leader. Ronon kills his Satedan friends, so he naturally decides to stay on Atlantis.

Christopher Judge makes cameo appearance as Teal’c when he sees Sam off to Atlantis. Judge is the last of the original members of SG-1 to make an appearance. Although ’Reunion” is the third episode aired, it was the seventh produced. Rachel Luttrell is quite preggers by this point. The powers that be hide her baby bump with a bulky jacket, lon shots, and close ups exclusively of her shoulders and above. It is humorously conspicuous Luttrell is framed differently than the other actors, but I must say her growing belly is being hidden better than many other series with a pregnant actress whose character is not supposed to be expecting.

I think it is a good idea to introduce tension between the old crew and Sam, but have her win their respect right off the bat by having her be the rescuing hero. By her actions, she has proven to Sheppard she will take a risk to rescue weir if the opportunity presents itself and proved to Ronon loyalty to her people. There is still room for friction, but I can accept that it will not take half a dozen episode for the new status quo to sink in. I am thinking back to how long it took Jonas Quinn to become part of SG-1 an Cameron Mitchell to get the team back together. Those two elements ragged on seemingly forever.

The best thing that can be said about “Reunion” is it gets the job done. The idea is to make Sam a vital part of the Atlantis crew, and it does. I am still not a huge Ronon fan, but I appreciate his conflict of loyalty and eventually acceptance of who his true friends are. The Wraith laboratory set is quite impressive, too. Gaters will probably like “Reunion” solely for the short Teal’c appearance, but it is an entertaining view all around.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Lifeline"

“Lifeline” is the final part of the Replicator trilogy. It also features what to anyone who is not aware of the continuing Torri Higginson will she/will she not continue with the series the final fate of Weir. So much of the plot feels like an excuse to give her a good send off--as it is for the moment--that much o the episode comes across as an addendum to the other two parts. Yes, our heroes are still on a deadline behind the shield fails, but the problem is mentioned once at the beginning and never again. The episode is all about the heist of a ZPM from the Replicators and weir’s prominent role in it.

The AR-1 one plans to take a modified Puddle Jumper to the capital city an, using weir’s Replicator nanotech to guide them through, steal ZPM. There is a underlying fear the nanotech could take over weir at any moment, so Rodney always has his finger on the kill switch. Sheppard bounces between reluctance to have a kill switch or her to adamantly commanding Rodney to use it when she leaves the Puddle Jumper at one point to clinging to hope she is not really dead in the end when everyone else assumes she is. Hanging out with Sheppard is definitely a rollercoaster ride of an emotional experience.

The heist goes quickly with Rodney having utilized the same disrupter shield he used on the Replicators before and weir guiding the way with her disturbing interface with the collective mind. With the ZPM in hand, AR-1 is ready to flee, but Rodney discovers the attack the Wraith command code. They decide it is worth the risk to activate if it means a Replicator-Wraith war. While having problems interfacing with the central computer, the Replicators adapt to the shield. In order to buy more time, weir uses her connection to freeze the collective and confront Oberoth. She presumably sacrifices herself holding off Oberoth until the rest of AR-1 can escape. Apollo arrives in the nick of time. With the ZPM powering Atlantis, our heroes enjoy a splashdown on New Lantea.

“Lifeline” is another episode for which I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, it is a good men on a mission action tarn. Every now and then, those are cool to see. But on the other hand, the episode feels padded. It is like a two part episode has been dragged out into a trilogy. The tension of the shield keeping Atlantis safe from the vacuum of space failing in a few hours is practically ignored. Weir provides Oberoth and the audience with a hallucinatory sequence as the distraction for AR-1 to escape that almost made me groan when I realized what I had been watching for half an act was not real. Sam could have been completely written out without much consequence. The execution of the story is awfully strange.

If anyone thinks I am being unfair about the above criticism, I confess it is largely due to the repeat plot element of allowing the replicators to engage in a war with the main villains as a way of resolving the conflict. If you really want to pick nits, Michael is filling the role of Anubis, too, so the Wraith are being set up to go down just like the Goa’uld. When the plotting is so unoriginal, the other flaws become less forgivable. If there is a more interesting resolution coming down the pike, I will retroactively flog myself with a wet noodle as penance for my Gater heresy.

I am still awarding “Lifeline” a solidd star rating because I do dig men on a mission stories. I also think, had this been the final appearance of weir, it would have served as a n appropriate send of for her. I may even decide later it is a mistake to bring her back and ruin the poignancy, but we shall see. “Lifeline” has flaws with it scripting, but it is still a cannot miss.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Adrift"

“Adrift” is the fourth season premiere. We are rolling right along in our SGA reviews. “Adrift” features the first appearance of Amanda Tapping as a cast member. She reprises her role as col. Sam Carter. For all intents and purposes, she replaces Torri Higginson’s Dr. Elizabeth Weir. Weir is reuced to a recurring character, but she promises to be part of an interesting story arc. Until Higginson bails on the series entirely for the final season, that is.

Now is a good time to mention that beyond the third season, I have no idea what is coming story wise. When the series originally aired, I stopped watching regularly sometime during the second season an saw only scattered episodes from then through the third. While my knowledge of the series from seasons two and three were limited, there was still an air of familiarity as I reviewed them for The Eye. Not so anymore. We are now entering charted territory.

“Adrift” takes up right where we left off in the season three cliffhanger. The teaser is a manic back and forth between Rodney attempting to shut down non-vital systems so the shields on the lost and adrift in space Atlantis will remain active that much longer and Keller performing emergency brain surgery on Weir to save her life. Aside from two brief interludes with Sam attempting to locate Atlantis, the entire episode shifts between attempts to boost power to Atlantis and save weir’s life.

What is great about the one-two punch is how both stories measure up. Getting power back online involves all sorts of high action sequences like a crew racing the vaccuum of space as the shield shrinks, Puddle Jumpers blasting away at an asteroid belt to clear a path for Atlantis, and a spacewalk to repair asteroid damage on the city from one they missed. It is a Murphy’s Law day on Atlantis. Weir’s medical condition goes from bad to worse until Keller gets the idea of reactivating the Replicator nanotech inside her to repair the damage. Sheppard refuses to allow that to happen, but roney reactivates them anyway in order to keep her alive. When weir awakens, she is perfectly healthy, but not thrilled to now be part Replicator. The episode ends with our heroes needing another ZPM. The only way to get one is to steal it from the Replicator home world. To be continued…

I am not certain if there has been a member of the Atlantis expedition from China in a previous episode, but this is the first time I have noticed a Chinese flag emblem on a uniform. I saw one from Spain, too, which is kind of cool. The series out to include more background characters from a variety of countries. So far, there have been lots Americans, Canadians, British, and Germans, but not many others. Zelenka is from the Czech Republic and one of Rodney’s put upon underlings is from Japan, but that is about it. Where is Russia, India, or even Israel? Sure, the French are not going to go anywhere near the Wraith, but there are plenty of countries out there who could contribute to space exploration if given the opportunity.

“Adrift” does not disappoint. In every way the previous episode failed to strike a balance between spectacle and heart, “Adrift” succeeds. There are plenty of neat special effects sequences with the city flying through space, the asteroid belt blasting, and the space walk, but there is genuine emotion with weir’s failing health. I particularly liked Ronon sitting by her bed and whispering thanks for allowing him to stay on Atlantis. I also liked the bit of quiet continuity from weir expressing love for Rodney when she believed he was dying last season and his disobeying Sheppard to save her now. The emotional connection is not specifically mentioned, but that is exactly why Rodney did it. Sheppard is angry, but also relieved Weir is alive without the Replicator nanotech being his responsibility. “Adrift’ is a goo episode all round.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"First Strike"

“First Strike” is the third season finale and the final episode in which Torri Higginson appears as a regular cast member. The story features the return of the Pegasus Replicators. Specifically, David Ogden Stiers briefly reprises his role as Oberoth. I use the term “reprises” very loosely. Oberoth has a conversation with Weir via view screen in which his part was clearly filmed during his previous appearance. Too bad. A more prominent role for Stiers might have added some substance to an episode full of little more than special effects eye candy.

A new Eaeth ship called Apollo arrives at Atlantis. Its commanding officer, Col. Abraham Ellis, announces recon of the Asuran home world has discovered they are building a fleet a warships in preparation to retake Atlantis and likely attack Earth. He has orders to nuke the construction facilities in a joint operation with Atlantis military forces. Weir protests under the idea they should try diplomacy first. She is overruled by Ellis. Sheppard, who thinks nuking the Asurans is a fantastic idea, readily aids Ellis

I understand Higginson appears a few times throughout the fourth season with some reluctance on her part and refused to appear at any point in the fifth. There is some behind the scenes drama of which I am only vaguely familiar, but I believe there was a certain Robert Beltran-esque problem going on here in which Higginson did not like being on a science fiction show, did not like the direction of her character, an thought SGA fans were weird. A familiar song and dance. Outside of some well publicized comments by producers about how gracious they were in attempting to accommodate Higginsn’s desires while keeping her as a recurring character and some thinly veiled irritation at fifth season rewrites necessitated by her refusal to appear, I can only guess how the powers that be feel about her. If the treatment of her character in “full Strike” is any indication, they are slightly…miffed.

Weir is completely undermined by Ellis with the enthusiastic support of Sheppard and the help of Rodney and Zelenka. All weir can do is slink into her office and complain to Teyla she is considering resigning because any big decision that needs to be made is given over to the military instead of left up to her. With Sam taking over next season, there will be an Air Force colonel directly in charge, so Weir is dismissed as a near useless city administrator. When the Asurans seek revenge, Weir’s attempt at diplomacy fails. Any effort at diplomacy would have likely failed anyway, but to add an unnecessary insult, Ellis tells weir he respects her even though he does not like her. Talk about killing with faint praise. The matter is her inexplicably resurfacing pacifist distaste for the military, so I understand his sentiment, but geez. As I that was not enough, weir is caught in an explosion right before the cliffhanger. She suffers a head injury that Jeff Foxworthy jokes will ensure she is receiving coloring books for Christmas the rest of her life. If it is possible to slap a character around more in 45 minutes, I have no idea how. A nude scene is about the only other indignity I can imagine.

Yes, I wrote that for the search engines. The Eye is a classy joint.

I hoped you enjoyed that rant, because there is not much else of substance going on in first strike. The story bounces from one special effects shot to the next. There is the nuking of the Asuran home world. There is the Asurans launching a satellite in orbit around Lantea that fires a laser beam towards Atlantis. There is half a dozen shots of the shields holdin up. Our heroes submerge the city in order to weaken the laser. Then they large into into space after hauling an asteroid between the satellite and Atlantis so they can drop the shield a moment for the extra power to the engines. The laser wings part o the city. There is a huge explosion which sends weir flying backwards and conking her noggin. Atlantis falls out of hyperspace and is adrift in the middle of nowhere. All this stuff is really cool looking, but that is all it is. Lots of neato things to look at as a distraction for a bare bones script.

Maybe it is because Connor Trinnear, who played Trip “Hold M Beer While I Try Ths” Tucker on enterprise, is now playing a recurring villain on SGA, but the image of the Asuran satellite’s laser burning up the ocean before hitting Atlantis brought back bad memories of the Xindi super weapon for that series’ ill-fated third season. I am also reminded of Riker whining about his career standing still when Shelby arrived on the Enterprise to help prevent a Borg incursion into the Federation. Shelby, like Ellis, is doing his job and humoring the butt hurt main character as much as reasonably possible while an overwhelming enemy force is gathering. Both Weir and Riker come off as self-absorbed and petty under the circumstances. “Sure, Earth is in peril, but what about my career?”

I have a suspicion “First Strike” is a better episode when viewed as originally aired--a roller coaster ride with a cliffhanger the audience has to wait months in order to see resolved. Stripping the series down to an episode a day robs me of that anticipation. When seen as a regular episode, that is all it is--a regular episode. The special effects are nifty to see, but there is no story to go along with it. All the episode has is weir suffering kicks in the ribs, both metaphorically and in actuality. There is one good point--Jewel Staite joins the cast as Dr. Jennifer Keller:
I love Jewel Staite. She is purty. But even Staite is not enough to give the season finale the extra oomph you would expect such a pivotal episode to have. It is an entertaining episode, but it is nothing special.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Vengeance"

“Vengeance” features the return of Michael in the beginning of what promises to be a long story arc of both his plans for conquest and the Atlantis crew seeking to correct their mistake of creating Michael in the first place. The episode is a pretty cool action oriented piece that is even more of an homage to Ridley Scott’s Alien than the previous episode.

When the Taranians, last seen in ”Inferno,” fail to return communications for a long period of time, the AR-1 team is sent to their relocated settlement to investigate. They find the settlement empty, but read life signs from tunnels underneath the settlement which had been built by the previous occupants as a place to hide from the Wraith. In the tunnels, they find the corpses of a number of Taranians and a lab with an Iratus bug in an aquarium.

The life signs they were reading are from Iratus Wraith, man size bugs they quickly discover Michael has been developing by modifying the retrovirus that failed to correctly expunge the Wraith DNA out of him. We o not get a particularly good look at the Iratus Wraith because the tunnels are dark and the attacks on AR-1 are chaotic, but they are mostly men in suits with some CGI elements in certain scenes. The idea of an Iratus Wraith is a neat idea--Sci Fi movie Mansquito not with standing, but the powers that be took a big risk going the Godzilla costume route. I can see why the Iratus Wraith only appear once.

The Iratus Wraith’s physical appearance is the only weak point of ’Vengeance’ and even that is mitigated by never being able to really see one in it entirety. There is a lot of sounds of the iratus Wraith stalking our heroes and the outline of one in the shadows. Otherwise, the direct battles with them happen fast in close quarters. They are still hard to swallow, however.

What makes “Vengeance” good, in addition to the claustrophobic atmosphere is the continuing moral question of using the retrovirus on Michael. So far exploring the morality of altering Michael from a Wraith to human has been the hottest discussion the series has generated at The Eye. The original issue was compounded when our heroes nuke an entire planet of former Wraith in order to keep them from regressing back to their former selves. Michael survived, but is now an outcast among the Wraith. So his actions in creating this new bug army, not to mention the slaughter of the Taranians, whom he discovered through the Atlantis database, is a result of our heroes’ actions. Ronon points that out in an act of near insubordination when he convinces Sheppard they need to hunt down an kill Michael to clean up this mess. I am pleased the whole storyline was not dropped thanks to a nuke and have high hopes for the eventual resolution.

“Vengeance” is an entertaining episode. The look of the Iratus Wraith is the only weak spot. I must note the tunnels are clearly the same set as Kolya’s safe house in “Common Ground,” right down to the escape hatch Sheppard and Todd used. In hindsight, the set has been used quite a bit in the franchise. I believe the set was also used in “Icon” as well, so actors are not the only thing being recycled between shows. “Vengeance” is a nifty adventure, and the return of Michael promises a new, formidable villain. I would call the episode a winner overall.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Submersion"

“Submersion” can best be summed up as SGA meets The Abyss. It features an underwater theme, a drilling platform, and an alien. In this case, it is a Wraith Queen, so those buggers finally make a return. You can consider "Submersion” Teyla-centric, so she moves into the spotlight after being essentially a background player for…wow. I have lost track of how long.

The AR-1 team leads a group of scientists and Weir deep under the ocean ro investigate an abandoned Ancient drilling platform. Unbeknownst to them, a Wraith Cruiser that was the flagship of the fleet attacking Atlantis 10,000 years ago is sunken nearby. The Wraith queen has survived all this time by feeding on her crew in between long periods of sleep. She is awaken by Teyla’s Wraith DNA and sets into motion trapping our heroes while beginning the self-destruct on her ship. Teyla implants the thought in her mind the ship is still flyable in order to convince her to shut off the self-destruct. The Wraith Queen does, and is killed by Sheppard and Rodney for her efforts.

“Submersion” has about as straightforward a plot as a story can have. Having no particularly interesting twists is a mistake when you consider there are so many oddities in the episode we really need to be distracted from recognizing. Why is weir coming along on an underwater exploration mission? Why was the fleet commander Wraith Queen using a cruiser as her flag ship instead of a Hive ship? Why was her ship so far away from Atlantis when it crashed? How does the Wraith Queen survive multiple rounds from a P90 but die from three pistol shots in the back? Does anyone else notice the interior of the Ancient drilling platform is parts of the Atlantis and Daedalus sets with the lights turned off to disguise it?

I have a lukewarm feeling about “Submersion.” it is meant to be a paranoia laden homage to The Abyss and Alien as the Wraith queen stalks our heroes through darkened, claustrophobic corridors beneath the ocean surface, far from rescue. It does not do enough of that to be thrilling, however. The Wraith queen is captured soon after the required killing of two red shirts. The rest is mental sparring between her and Teyla with a ticking clock for good measure. “submersion” is not much more than action oriented filler with glaring plot holes the viewer is hard pressed to ignore even in the name of enjoying a relatively frivolous episode.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Red Dwarf--"Trojan"

Red dwarf finally makes its welcome return for a six episode stint. The boys from the Dawrf have not missed a beat. The character dynamic is still there, as is the goofy comedy bits. “Trojan” feels much like one of the great early season episodes.

While investigating an abandoned and no longer flight worthy adrift Space Corps vessel, the Dwarfers receive a distress call from another ship captained by a hologram of Rimmer’s overachieving brother, Howard. Howard tormented Rimmer growing up, and there is no way he can let his brother find out he never became an officer. Rimmer crams for the officer’s exam in the time it takes to travel to his rescue his brother, but knows he cannot pass, so he convinces the rest of the Dwarfers.

Howard transports over with his robot assistant, Crawford. He falls for the ruse, becoming insanely jealous of Rimmer. Rimmer’s success prompts the confession that Howard is not a captain, but the same level technician as his brother. His ship was attacked, so he hid until the attack was over, then assumed command. The confession clears Howard’s conscience, but Rimmer continues his lie in order to rub it in.

It is revealed Crawford attacked the crew of Howard’s ship as the first strike in a robot rebellion. Howard sacrifices himself in order to save Rimmer from one of Crawford’s laser blasts after Cat attacks her. Because of Howard’s bravery, Howard is awarded the highest medal of service the space corps offers. The Space Corps further suggests Red Dwarf be renamed in his honor. The news causes a breakdown for rimmer.

The character dynamic is definitely back after all these years. These guys have a natural chemistry with one another. Rimmer is still smarmy, dishonest, and contemptible. Lister is still the grizzled slob with the weight of being the last man alive on his shoulders. His partner in crime, cat, remains vain and dumb. Kryten is still the long serving mechanoid who puts up with rimmer’s abuse.

“Trojan” has some really fun elements. There is a running gag about Lister being put on hold by a home shopping network and being so incensed at his treatment that he risks being shot by Crawford in order rto pick up the phone out of general principle. There is also a running joke about a trivia question regarding 20% of traffic accidents in Sweden being caused by moose that is pure Red Dwarf weirdness. “Trojan’ is definitely a good start to a new series.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Stargate Atlantis--"Sunday"

I noted way back in the Stargate SG-1 seventh season episode ”Heroes, Part II” the virtue of watching a series I have virtually no previous knowledge of is the genuine surprises. In this day and age of omnipresent spoilers, particularly in science fiction where geeks are obsessed with opening their Christmas presents before putting them under the tree, it is refreshing to be surprised by events. Mercy, was I surprised by the turn of events in “Sunday.”

I knew Beckett was not going to make it to the end of SGA. Of course, I knew Janet Frasier was going to depart before the end of SG-1. Nevertheless, both deaths came at what in television terms regular episodes rather than premires or finale as one would suspect. The unexpected deaths are a punch in the gut because of the surprise element. I am extra pained because Beckett was the character I foun most amusing. He was used sparingly enough that most all his screen time was something special. Such was my feelings about Frasier, too. It does not pay to be an play an appealing, recurring doctor in the Stargate franchise, does it?

Comparisons with “Heroes, Part II” are inevitable considering both kill off their respective series’ doctor character while in the midst of saving a life. Both episode are also told in less traditional form. I appreciate the effort to differentiate them. “Heroes, Part Ii” is a tense battle scene in which it is not revealed until the end Frasier has been killed. “Sunday” is a character driven, humor laden story of what the characters do on a lazy Sunday told in non-linear fashion. We see the events leading up to a cataclysmic event from everyone’s different perspective unil the climax when fatal tragedy strikes Beckett.

Up until that pnt, the episode presents the impending disaster as a bomb going off in the teaser, than going back eihth hours for the first act to show our characters happily going about their day beforehand. Weir has a date with Dr. Michael Brandon, Sheppard and Ronon bounce around from activity to activity like bored schoolboys, Zelenka enjoys a chess tournament, Teyla goes off to play volleyball, Lorne paints a landscape, and Rodney rekindles his kinda sorta romance with Dr. Katie Brown. The latter is poignant because roney arranges the ate so he does not have to go fishing with Beckett. In fact, Beckett cannot convince anyone to go fishing with him, so he goes back to work. It is because he is working that he is killed.

The explosion in the teaser is caused by one of two AR team members who recently discovered an Ancient evice an turned it on before realizing it was exposing them to high levels of radiation. The device creates tumors in people that eventually explode. The first one, in a woman, explodes in a hallway. The second explodes after Beckett removes it safely from the other team member. Beckett is caught in the blast. To make his death more tragic, we are supposed to have a sense of relief the surgery is successful. We are not supposed to think the tumor is going to blow up anyway.

An emotionally touching point is Rodney’s guilt over weaseling out of going fishing. Had he gone, Beckett would still be alive. Ronon, of all people, offers words of encouragement. In what could either be a hallucination or evidence beckett ascended, he an Rodney have a conversation to close out the episode in which Rodney admits Beckett is the only best friend he has ever had. Beckett assures him his death is not Rodney’s fault, and the two say goodbye.

I am having a hard time rating “Sunday.” It feels like the wriers were trying to lull the audience into thinking the episode will be about gaining insight into our characters by way of their downtime interrupted by a bombing plot device that will not have much impact. Then we are blindsided by the death of a major character instead. The light character moments are funny and entertaining,. Beckett’s death and memorial service are effectively moving emotionally. “sunday” ought to be on of the best in the series. But it is not.

Two things can happen when a series kills off a beloved character. The death can be a bittersweet experience that elevates the series. Or it can be a big mistake. You have to make your own judgment how you feel about these things. You may believe Beckett’s death kicks the series up a notch by creating a very sad episode. As much as I liked Frasier, I think her death added a seriousness to SG-1 that had not been around in a while. Others think her death was a mistake in light of the series being renewed. I am of the opinion that Beckett’s death is a mistake. There is much more interesting things that could have come from him. His death, while well done, should not have happened. Since it does, I have to rate ‘Sunday” down a notch. Not too bad. There are still no major flaws with it, but killing off Beckett is a bad move.

Rating: *** (out of 5)