Tonight FART get involved in Regime Change once more and decide that they’re now in the business of forced genetic manipulation.

Coup D’etat

Synopsis

FART are off-world responding to a distress call by SART, with Lorne’s team having been caught in a firefight while their civilian member was by the Stargate. Inside the nearby settlement they find burnt corpses with SART IDs on them, including Lorne’s. Soon after recovery of the bodies the city is contacted by Ladon Radim, a member of the Genii team that attacked the city the year prior, who claims to have defected from the Genii and wants their assistance in overthrowing the current Genii ruling government in return for a ZPM. While the team are open to this they decide to warn the current Genii leadership a coup plot is underway as they don’t know who to trust.

While this plot is underway Teyla and Ronon are placed in charge of finding out what happened to SART, a top priority given how Beckett found that the corpses aren’t those of the team, and go back to the village where they were “killed”. There a local tavern owner reveals that something did happen but that no one wants to speak out due to an unknown group keeping an eye on them. As they leave the settlement a young woman gives them a bag “they dropped”, containing information that someone is offering rewards for the kill or capture of key Atlantis personnel.

Back on the city Sheppard decides that they should ally with the current Genii leader Cowen, instead leading a raid on Ladon’s compound to steal the ZPM from him. When Ladon sends through a large group to collect the weapons, including his sister Dahlia, Weir has them arrested as the raid on their base takes place. While the raid initially goes to plan it all goes sideways when Ladon reveals he knew they were coming and uses some kind of stun gas to render them incapacitated. To make matters worse Beckett finds that all those sent by Ladon are suffering terminal radiation poisoning so are useless as hostages and that those used as stooges for SART are those that had already died. Beckett however thinks Earth’s advanced treatments can save those who were sent to the city.

At Ladon’s safehouse Sheppard wakes to find that the whole coup plan was nothing more than a ruse to allow the Genii to capture key personnel with the ATA gene, with Ladon working with Cowen from the start. It turns out that along with the Expedition personnel, Cowen also wants items including Jumpers from the base as well. Ladon takes Sheppard to the cells, finding that SART are still alive and are also Genii prisoners. When Cowen’s demands aren’t met he orders Ladon to kill Sheppard, only for Ladon to reveal to the captured Expedition members that the coup is real and he’s letting the members go in exchange for the lives of his saved people. The combined Genii rebel/Expedition force easily makes it to the Gate and evacuate while Cowen and his guards are killed by a nuke that Ladon had hidden beneath the building, allowing an almost bloodless coup to take place.

Analysis

This is probably one of the most complex and politically engaging episodes of the show in its run and is also quite eye-catching in that it’s the team who are on the backfoot all the way through, even when they think they’ve finally worked out what’s going on.

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The real show stealer of the episode is Ladon Radim, once merely a background Genii character who was punched in the face by Sheppard during season 1. Now we see him out-manoeuvre everyone in his path whether it be his fellow Genii or the Atlantis Expedition. His plan is one that sees twist and turn time and time again. What initially seems to be the team selling him out turns out to be him having organised a trap for the team, only for this trap turning out to be a trap for his own leader in the end so that he can take control of the Genii. The episode also takes time to set him apart from previous Genii characters, who’ve mainly consisted of those who were ruthless and would turn on you at a moment’s notice. Instead Ladon is shown to be someone with honour as a leader, saving the Expedition members he could’ve easily left to die as they’d saved the lives of his people, including that of his sister.

Once again the show touches on the tricky subject of Regime Change but this time it takes a much darker and also more true to reality version of it. Unlike in The Tower where everything happens more or less peacefully here we see that coups aren’t bloodless, with many dying both for the cause and on the side of those currently being fought against which in this case is seen with the use of those dying or already dead as bargaining chips with the Expedition and the violent removal of Cowen and his core supporters in one move. The episode doesn’t even try to have a diplomatic solution to the issues, with even the Expedition originally trying to root out Ladon by force, which is in stark contrast to the general tone of both shows which have always pushed the “talk whenever possible” approach.

The ending as well looks towards this feeling that things could become just as bad as they were under Cowen given that many of those who carry out coups are just as bad as the ones they replace, contrasting with the very hopeful ending of The Tower, but instead they focus on the fact that Ladon is a more trustworthy figure and that he may just buck the trend. All we’re likely sure of is that Ladon does intend to maintain an at least cordial relationship with the Expedition given that the team did save his sister’s life, remarking that he owes them a debt for doing so. Clearly this leaves the Genii-Expedition plotline largely wrapped up except for a certain commander.

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So in the end we see a new start for the Genii and their relationship with the team, clearly a more respectful one compared to the previous administration, and the team for once left out of control and forced to rely on another. A great episode that keeps you on your toes from start to end and takes a more dark look at the issue of Regime Change.

Assorted Musings

· The burnt bodies are a bit grim for the show.

· The Genii really like popping off nukes don’t they.

 

Quote of the episode: “The Genii have tried to kidnap you on numerous occasions to mine that big old brain of yours.”

“Yes.”

“Well, if we get into trouble I’ll just trade your life for mine.”

“Oh, funny.” – Sheppard and Rodney

Michael

Synopsis

On Atlantis a man is waking up in a lab with no recollection of who or where he is, with the Expedition leadership being immediately informed. Weir introduces herself to the man, who she identifies as Lt. Michael Kenmore, who they tell is a member of the Expedition who was heavily injured during a mission involving the Wraith which led to his memory loss. After leaving the room Weir tells Sheppard and Beckett that they need to keep an eye on him and it may just be “the start of our problems”. Michael quickly bonds with Teyla when she comes to see him, leading to her being chosen as his mentor/guide when he’s released back into the rest of the city.

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Over the next few days Michael begins to integrate back into the team, though with the odd tensions here and there with some of the members including Ronon, but begins to suffer nightmares involving visions of himself as a Wraith. Once again he goes to Teyla for help, with the Athosian reassuring him that night terrors of the Wraith aren’t that uncommon given the situation. Teyla however reports this back to the senior staff who can’t decide how best to deal with it, with Teyla hinting at finding it hard to maintain some kind of untruth with Michael. That night Michael seeks aids for sleeping from Beckett, only finding the man asleep at his desk. As he’s about to leave Michael finds suspicious items, such as his last name on a calendar of “scenic Scotland”, and takes a bunch of discs referring to his treatment which reveal the truth everyone’s been hiding from him, he’s a humanised Wraith.

Upon the truth being revealed he begins to seclude himself from the others, refusing to take the injections needed to maintain his human state, and feels betrayed at the illusion that’s been built up around him to stop him from finding out the truth. The others, rather than trying to help Michael reintegrate, focus on the use of the retrovirus as a weapon given the trial was so effective. Soon after Michael attempts to escape, killing a guard in the process, but is captured by Ronon and shipped off to the Expedition’s Alpha Site.

On the Alpha Site Michael easily convinces Teyla into releasing him, allowing him to take her hostage and escape into the nearby woods before heading to the Gate but not seeing that Teyla was able to leave the address he dialled behind. By the time the others catch up Michael has already begun to transform back into his Wraith form. Michael at first decides to feed on Teyla, but hesitates, allowing the others to shoot him and rescue Teyla though Michael is recovered by the Wraith on the planet.

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Back on Atlantis the team have to deal with the aftermath of the situation, with them now having given away to the Wraith that Atlantis still exists.

Analysis

Michael sets up one of the longest running arcs over the course of the series, though you wouldn’t really know it at this point. Instead the episode is largely self-contained and shows the team at one of its most morally empty its ever been.

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The story follows the journey of one Wraith who has been given the first “successful” treatment of the retrovirus being developed by Beckett as a way to revert the Wraith back to human form. The story is a fairly brutal juxtaposition of the two with Michael, a Wraith, being more human in many regards than the others around him. With Michael we see a fairly tortured individual, trying to come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t know what he is in the first place and then having to deal with his betrayal and the feelings of rage that come along with it. Even in his final acts with his taking of Teyla you can’t help but feel sorry for him as his causes are understandable.

On the flipside we see the team time and time again show no concern or real feelings for Michael as a person, despite what they’re putting him through, only instead looking at him as an experiment in making Wraith “good” or more focussed on the military applications of the retrovirus. Even the stances of Beckett and Heightmeyer seem more about continuing the charade to finish their work more than any true care for the patient. When the truth is finally revealed to Michael their first thoughts aren’t how to best earn his trust or undo the damage but rather how to make this inconvenient truth go away by redosing him or just dealing with him and using the virus as soon as possible to take out other Wraith.

In fact the only true spirit amongst all of them is Ronon as while he’s aggressively hateful of the Wraith he doesn’t try to hide it at any time or trick Michael into thinking he’s human. It’s not the nicest relationship between the two but at least it’s honest and truthful. Even Michael’s “kindred spirit” of Teyla lies to him on several occasions, also freeing him in the end as some form of atonement which immediately comes back in her face. For once if the team had done things Ronon’s way many future problems would’ve been avoided but instead they refused to see the monsters they’d become and the one they’d created in the process.

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In the end the episode shows the team at its very worst, with science run amok and with little regard for decency or ethics and being little more than the Wraith they claim to be better than.

Assorted Musings

· Seriously they leave so much evidence lying around. Surprised they didn’t just stitch a sign onto his back saying “I’m a Wraith, kick me”.

· Teyla’s very good at reverse writing complex symbols.

 

Quote of the episode: “Doctor Beckett gave me some pills, help me get some sleep. Thought I’d give them a try.”

“No alcohol or heavy machinery.”

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing. Sleep well.” – Michael and Sheppard