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)

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