Monday, October 1, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Tao of Rodney"

“Tao of Rodney” is Stargate Atlantis meets Flowers for Algernon. In both stories, a character undergoes an experimental procedure which enhances their intelligence, only to lose the enhancement by the end. Flowers for Algernon is about the severely mentally retarded Charly Gordon You may better recall the film starring Cliff Robertson better than the Hugo Award winning novel. Kudos toy you if the reverse is true. “Tao of Rodney” features Rodney accidentally zapped by an Ancient device that is meant to help them ascend, but does not work properly. He will die if he does not ascend, but Rodney does not know how to do so..

I have already blown the whole plot for you, but that is all right. The entertainment value of the episode is not the plot device of Rodney’s plight, but the personal story of how he reacts. Rodney-centric episodes are improving immensely because they are exploring him as a complete character rather than clownish comic relief. “Tao of Rodney’ has him conflicted between indulging his scientific ambitions about leaving a great legacy with his exponentially increasing intelligence and eschewing that for the pseudo-religious experience of ascending. Learning to ascend is not something he would ever bother to worry with, and even to continue his existence he is still reluctant. However, he eventually comes around to making himself a “good” person by making emotional connections with friends and making amends where needed. His change of heart towards preparing for ascension make for some great moments.

The plot demands a reset button. We get one in the fact in his moment of death. Rodney has become so brilliant he telepathically tells Beckett how to save him. The merho works. One assumes there is another reset button in Rodney’s attitude that will return him to his old, obnoxious self by the next episode.

‘Tao of Rodney” is another bottle show that does not feel like a bottle show. It is always a good thing for episodes centered on established sets to not feel small. “Tao of roney’ does so by emphasizing character over plot. The episode also hit’s the right combination of humor and drama. There is a tendency to go overboard with David Hewlett’s abilities to ham it up with Rodney. But what we get is some fun stuff like Rodney stealing a donut through his new telekinesis powers and awkwardly fumbling through his friendship overtures to his colleagues. That I cam appreciate more than the usual slapstick.

I am not center “Tao of Rodney’ will wind up my favorite Rodney-centric episode, but I think it qualifies so far. Rodney is not my favorite character because of the way he is usually written in more ensemble episodes, but I efinitely appreciate efforts to humanize him when the story centers on him exclusively. “Tao of Rodney” does a better job with that than most.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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