Tonight the team retake the city and then have a whale of a time.
The Return, Part Two
Deep in the bowels of Atlantis Woolsey and O’Neill are making do with what they’ve got while trying to avoid the Replicators, with O’Neill revealing that he gave standing orders for the city to be nuked if taken. Thankfully for them at that moment FART arrive in a Jumper and drop off a bomb that takes out the control room while they fly away from the central tower, somewhat levelling the odds but not immediately helping the two trapped in the city.
In orbit around the planet the team are looking for something while discussing their options, eventually finding their target of Niam floating in space. As hoped they find the Replicator practically frozen, his power levels drained from his walk in space, and begin their plan which involves using Niam to freeze the others in the city for several hours but this requires extreme close-range to work. On their return approach to the city the Replicators launch a wave of drones and find they can’t get close enough for the plan to work. Instead Sheppard takes the Jumper for a little dip in the ocean.
Back in the city O’Neill is busy dealing with a panicked Woolsey only to be contacted by the team, somewhat annoyed by the lack of “strapping Marines” to save them. O’Neill is also kind of pissed that their adhoc plan requires his help as they’re unable to get the flooded secondary Jumper bay to empty without manual help. O’Neill is forced to go for a small swim to the control room, which is controlled via a deadman switch just to make it more fun, but is eventually successful in completing the task while Woolsey keeps watch. By the time O’Neill completes the task however he finds Replicators waiting for him along with a captured Woolsey, with both being subjected to the old “hand in head” torture.
By the time the team enters the city and finds Woolsey and O’Neill’s former location all they find are spent shell casings from Woolsey’s last stand before capture. Things get worse however when Niam wakes up forcing Meredith to use an Anti-Replicator Gun on him. Eventually however the team come up with a new plan involving the placing of C4 on key systems and attempt to rescue the others but don’t have enough time after telling them the whole plan as Replicators draw near again. As the team place the C4 the city begins to take off, with the intention of heading back to the Replicator homeworld, forcing the team to use the control chair to fire drones at the stardrive to stop it from taking off. While they are successful in both placing the C4 and taking out the stardrive the team are almost immediately captured following it.
The group soon find themselves all locked in a cell with O’Neill and Woolsey. It turns out that Woolsey was interrogated once again and gave away the C4 plan, which has now been removed. As Daedalus arrives to nuke the city the Replicators attempt to activate the shields, only for all the Replicators to be dissolved. It turns out the real plan was to place the ARG crystals all over the arrays, the C4 a distraction, which will cause a massive Replicator dissolving wave once the Shield is activated. Woolsey was deliberately told the C4 plan to give away the distraction but leaving the ARG plan intact.
With the city now back under Tau’ri control the team are able to contact Daedalus and call off the nuke strike with O’Neill’s help.
So there we go, the immediate return of the team to the control of the base and probably the best two parter since The Siege.
Despite the large focus on FART the real show stealers was the unlikely comedy double act of O’Neill and Woolsey. I very much enjoyed this new version of O’Neill who’s clearly tired of dealing with people, treating Woolsey like one would treat a child with lines like “I’ve been here the whole time”, but still enjoying the return to the action that he’s been away from for a longtime now. The juxtaposition of Woolsey as this panicky Civil Servant made both acts funnier, with him bouncing around the room desperately trying to understand what’s going on and listing every action that happens. Even though they could’ve left it there I did enjoy how they continued with the growth of the character into a willing ally of the team with us seeing that he had indeed made a heroic/desperate last stand given the dozens of shell casings left at the flooded entrance, a surprising action for a man only last season on SG-1 refusing to use the pistol he’d been given.
In terms of the storytelling the show tried something unique for it by deceiving the entire audience as well as the Replicators at the same time. This can be quite risky as it can end up insulting the viewers or be used for the introduction of Deus Ex Machina into the episode climax but here the plan is well thought out, with the audience plan being only a slight diversion from the real one. The plan also works with the Replicators being full of themselves and expecting to win given they captured the whole team, something members of the audience likely expected too, so it’s nice to see that overconfidence played against them for a change where in the mother show this usually came down to who had the biggest guns.
One part of the episode I didn’t really get was why Landry and the SGC kept appearing, given none of their plans were needed. This part did feel like they were there just because they appeared in part one but keeping the action on Atlantis alone probably would’ve kept the episode more focused without the cutaways to plans about the Midway space station and the like as 30 seconds of dialogue ended up taking several minutes of episode runtime that could’ve been used elsewhere, such as avoiding the rushed stardrive plan in the final act.
Outside of this I think a little more of Woolsey would’ve been a good thing as a lot of his stuff happens off-screen and is only implied or then told in dialogue. Scenes such as him desperately trying to hold off the Replicators or accidently giving away the diversion plan would’ve given more insight to the character in more serious moments rather than the admittedly still fun comical stuff near the start.
Despite these couple of shortcomings the episode itself is a great one. Full of action and comic relief moments which also sees one of the best executed surprise twists the show ever did. One of the rare gems in the run that makes you wonder why season three also has awful junk like Irresistible.
· Why didn’t O’Neill just wedge a shoe in the mechanism.
· I think hands in head may breach the Geneva Convention.
· Who doesn’t like thinking of England?
Quote of the episode: “He put his hand in my forehead, how can you resist that?”
“Well, I like to close my eyes and think of England.” – Woolsey and O’Neill
Sheppard is on the way back from picking up Zelenka and Ronon from the mainland, with the former very happy about his tests while the latter is peeved due to his hunting trip having gone badly. That night Ronon takes part in Teyla’s meditation session only to fall asleep in the middle of it. Teyla leaves him to it only to find a vision of an Ancient in the hallway speaking gibberish. The next morning after the two spar Teyla sees the vision again, this time extended with a burned man appearing from a doorway, though Ronon insists he doesn’t know what she’s talking about being unable to see it himself.
Elsewhere in the city Meredith is saying hell to his “friend” the whale who’s come back to the city after a failed meeting with Weir to keep all three Replicator ZPMs (two are being sent back to Earth to help against the Ori). Deciding he wants to research more into them he and Sheppard decide to take a Jumper excursion.
Teyla’s issues begin gaining attention from the others who question what it was she claims to have seen, the visions continuing that night, with the psychologist Dr Heightmeyer unable to provide much assistance for her problems other than believing it might be about some of her issues regarding recent missions. Teyla’s issues being the cause however is soon dismissed when Weir and others begin to see visions of their own.
In the Jumper Sheppard takes it out to see the pair of whales outside the city but soon find that an increasingly large number of whales are moving towards the city. As they get closer and closer Sheppard and Meredith begin to experience intense headaches, with Meredith eventually falling unconscious suffering from nosebleeds. Both are confined to the infirmary after going partially deaf while the whales continue towards the city unabated causing more in the city to become unwell as a result. With the Daedalus having arrived in orbit the city is soon forced to use it as a lifeboat of sorts to evacuate people to.
Elsewhere in the city Sheppard and Meredith, having broken out of the sickbay, find a biolab that was used to study the whales by the Ancients that reveals why the whales are there. The whales are taking shelter beneath the city and are projecting the visions to warn the city about the system’s star having a mass ejection that’ll kill everything on the planet outside of the city’s shield. Without the ability to extend the city shield like the Ancients did given only a single ZPM they instead decide to put the ZPM on the Daedalus and fly close to the star, blocking the ejection at close range to save the entire planet. Despite minor damage to the ship and significant draining of the ZPM they’re able to block the entire ejection.
Back on the city the whales begin dispersing, with some of those who stayed behind now suffering slight deafness too such as Weir. Later Ronon decides to have another stab at meditation.
After the previous closing of the two-parter Echoes seems to be a step down in terms of tine, being largely a filler episode, but that was likely part of the plan. The story of the episode is fairly pedestrian for the subject matter on display, with very little happening until the last 7 minutes or so, and in some ways is hard to keep track of because of that slowness. On rewatching you realise very little happens and the 43 minutes is only comprised of a dozen or so scenes of note. This works both for and against the episode in that it allows many of the scenes to be cut to what matters with pointless extensions, an issue in the previous episode, but it also means that character development moments can be lost in the process. One of these in this episode is undoubtedly Meredith’s whale stuff which feels shortened at the end and to a lesser extent the sudden insertion and removal of three ZPMs that magically appeared while the Teyla/Ronon stuffed moved rather fast.
Despite this the episode does still manage to insert enough comedy in there to keep it light, the main recurring gag being characters rendered slightly deaf at times due to exposure to the whales with Sheppard using it as an opportunity to mock Meredith without consequence. The show has always been at its strongest when it can be serious but not lose itself in that part of the story, instead giving the viewer enough breathing room to recover slightly.
If there was one thing about the episode that could’ve been different it would’ve been Meredith being involved after falling unconscious. An episode where he’s out the game and instead Zelenka and others had to do all the grunt work isn’t something we’ve really seen so it’s a shame he’s always played second-fiddle to the man even when said man is deaf.
In the end the episode is a harmless and quite well put together filler piece that sadly doesn’t really take an risks or opportunities presented regarding the use of certain characters.
· But how would he know which whale was his when he was out of it last time?
· Ancients needed to stop leaving shit lying around.
Quote of the episode: “Canadian Football League’s a joke… Celine Dion is overrated… Zelenka is smarter than you are!” - Sheppard