Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Game"

“The Game” is arguably evidence Carl Binder is attempting to become to SGA what joe Menosky was to the Star Trek series set in the 24th century. It is a high concept episode which does not stand up to much scrutiny, but since it is supposed to be an ethical exploration rather than an adventure, it does not have to be. Or something like that. I kind of imagine the powers that be circling the script cautiously while occasionally poking it with a stick before deciding to film it. Some pot might have been smoked along the way.

Lorne’s recon team discovers a primitive planet with an advanced satellite floating in orbit and a national flag with Rodney’s face on it. The discovery leads to a realization a Civilization-like game Sheppard and Rodney discovered shortly after arriving on Atlantis and have been playing since is not a game at all. The actions they have been taking have been playing out for real between two nations on the planet. Worse, Rodney’s country has been secretly building a tunnel in order to mine resources in Sheppard’s country. Because Sheppard has been suspicious, he has doubled the size of his country’s military. The two sides are on the verge of war for real.

The two countries leaders are brought to Atlantis in order to be shown the truth about the simulation, but the realization Sheppard and Rodney are not all knowing oracles does not stop escalating tensions. Uber treaty negotiator Weir cannot make headway, either. Sheppard’s country eventually launches an attack, but Rodney has advanced his to the point they have highly effective bombs. The only way to stop the war is to use Daedalus to simulate the conflict for both countries so they can see the horrors of war for themselves. The plan works. The two sides hammer out their differences at the bargaining table instead of the battlefield.

Returning to the subject of Star Trek, The plot of ‘The Game” is similar to the Star Trek: the Original Series episode “A Taste of Armageddon” in which two sides have been fighting a simulate war in which casualties are calculated after each “attack” and the “dead” willingly commit suicide. James Kirk ends the war by destroying the simulation, so if the two sides want to continue fighting, they will have to do it face to face on the battlefield. The prospect brings both sies to the negotiating table. At least it does if you have only seen the episode. DC comics produced a graphic novel years ago called “The Trial of James T. Kirk” in which it is revealed peace talks broke down, an a nuclear war ensued. The comics are not considered canon, so if you want to take the happy ending as fact, Gene Roddenberry is on your side. For whatever that is worth.

I am really puzzled by “The Game.” it does not make a lick of sens on any level. There are simple questions like how does it make sense that Rodney created a character to be the leader of his country who looked like Sam, then *poof* there is a blonde woman in charge? Di the people randomly find a blonde woman and put her in charge? Was there a woman already in charge who dyed her hair blonde because Rodney told her to do so? There are big questions like how did Rodney’s country develop advanced technology so quickly even why, if the Ancients had this simulator technology to guide civilizations, how did they neglect the development of the Wraith? If the Ancients were this hands on, they should have nipped the iratus bug in the bud instead of allowing them to become so powerful. You just cannot put much thought into critiquing “The Game.’ The episode falls apart way too easily.

The way I see it, ‘The Game” is either an excuse to put Rodney’s face on a flag or an opportunity to explore the absurdities of war. Maybe both. The tensions began when Sheppard’s country made an offering of citrus to Rodney’s country which was refused due to Rodney being allergic to citrus. Rodney convinced his people citrus is poison even though they had been eating it for thousands of years. The mining incident is merely the excuse for fighting a war. So which is worse--building an entire episode around a joke flag or a heavy handed moral lesson?

I do not know the answer to that one myself. “The Game’ is one of those episodes you kind of hope someone in charge of the Stargate franchise denies is part of canon. It feels poorly planned. There is a subplot added after the fact that Zelenka and Lorne have started using the simulator after they have learned the trouble it is causing in real life solly because the episode runs short. It is not like either of those two to disobey a direct order from Weir to do something so foolish. It does not feel right to have Daedalus appear only in stock footage with Caldwell only being referred to in passing. Cheap padding, there. “The Game” is something of a novelty. It is not awful, but it does not feel right, either.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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