Today we see the team experiment on the Wraith and the team meet their longterm human opponent.
Poisoning the Well
On a planet resembling an early-20th Century Earth the team are on a science and diplomatic mission to find a way to stop the Wraith. It turns out that the people of the planet, the Hoffans, are working on a new defence against the Wraith in the form of a drug that makes them immune to Wraith feeding. While the drug is a long way away from completion with their current tech the Expedition decides to put their considerable medical experience and resources behind making it work as it may provide a solution for all worlds.
The team return to the Hoff with Carson Beckett in tow to help complete the project. While Beckett is initially sceptical he is immediately smitten by Perna, the young scientist who is leading the project, and suddenly wants to help out all he can. Outside the leader of the Hoffans Chancellor Druhin, a true believer in the cause, shows that the drug is the result of generations of work that goes back before the last culling, with the knowledge of the Hoffans stored in vast vaults across the planet. To the team’s doubt Druhin believes that the Wraith will simply ignore the planet if the drug succeeds as they’d be a waste of effort to defeat, though the team having seen the Wraith destroy any civilisation of note believe they’ll destroy them anyway to prevent the drug’s spread to other worlds.
In the lab Beckett and Perna get to work, with the Hoffan revealing that the drug’s basis is in a unique genetic anomaly that one Hoffan had before the last culling that made him unable to be fed on. Beckett, using Wraith samples from Atlantis, confirms that despite the long period the weakness has been known for it’s still effective as a defence. Wanting to move forward as quickly as possible the Hoffans suggest they should move from lab tests to human testing as soon as possible, using the Wraith in custody on Atlantis as a test, to Beckett’s horror. While the Expedition have some ethical and moral dilemmas regarding the use of live prisoners for medical experiments the fact that the Wraith in custody will starve anyway and the Hoffan volunteer is terminally ill the team reluctantly agree.
The test goes ahead on Hoffan to what appear to be perfect results, with the Wraith unable to feed on the inoculated man. While the team celebrate the success things start to quickly go wrong, with the serum not just preventing feeding but also crippling and then killing the Wraith who attempts to feed, turning it from a defensive measure to an offensive one and thereby encouraging the Wraith to wipe out Hoffan to prevent the spread, and the initial volunteer also dies shortly after for unknown reasons. Given the new issue the Expedition attempt to get the Hoffans to stop but the leadership have already begun full-scale use of the drug on their own population. Soon after Hoffan hospitals begin to fill up with patients suffering from serious conditions from an unknown source, later revealed that the drug is having severe and fatal side-effects with a fatality rate of 50%.
Despite the best efforts of Carter and other medical staff from the Expedition they are unable to halt the deaths from the initial wave of inoculations, with Perna also falling victim to the drug. The team decide to leave, no longer wanting any role regarding the drug they created, but are stopped briefly by Druhin who reveals the result of a planetwide referendum on the drug, with 96% voting in favour of deployment despite the side-effects. As they leave Beckett and Sheppard discuss Churchill’s “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” speech, in particular the line “victory at all costs”, with Beckett remarking he never thought he’d disagree.
Well here we are once again with an incredibly dark and serious episode for the show, a run that sees no sign of ending any time soon. The big change however is the large focus on the character of Carson Beckett, until now very much a background player.
The story of the episode sees the team interact with the Hoffans, a society that has a long history of trying to resist the Wraith and planning for the future in the form of a defensive drug that should prevent them from being used as food by the Wraith. The story quickly turns into a look at two main ideas, whether science can go too far and whether the ends can always justify the means.
The former is largely seen through the eyes of Beckett as he meets and somewhat falls for a Hoffan scientist also working on the project. Almost in a need to impress her he gladly brings Atlantis’ advanced scientific and medical knowledge to bear on the creation of the drug, which until that point had been held back by the Hoffan’s level of technology, and see it work. While for a long time he’s just as looking forward to the outcome as the native, using living Wraith tissue as a testbed, it’s when they get to the idea of immediate human trials that he finally sees just how devoted to this one drug the Hoffans are, with them ignoring what would be regarded as basic safety protocols, but goes along with it still given how much effort they’ve put into helping the Hoffans. The final straw however is when the human trial is successful and the Hoffans widely disseminate the drug among the general population, leading to mass deaths amongst them as the problems were never refined out of the solution, eventually leading to the death of the Hoffan woman he fell for who even on her deathbed is still committed to the cause.
The latter of the two is largely played out alongside the previously mentioned science issue, mainly during the final stages of the episode, whilst focusing more on the Hoffans themselves. As a people they’ve long demonstrated that their sole desire is to find a way to defend themselves from the Wraith, storing knowledge going back centuries inside massive vaults underground to avoid detection by the Wraith. This obsession saw them lose their ethical and moral concerns over researching the cure and an almost non-caring attitude to the danger the cure posed to their people, with an unwavering denial that the cure killing off Wraith when used means that it’s a threat to the Wraith as a whole so they’ll wipe the Hoffans out to stop it. In the closing moments of the episode this devotion to the drug is shown first-hand via the announcement that 96% of the population were willing to take a 50-50 chance of the drug working, which is deliberately played against Winston Churchill’s speech about “victory at all costs” which ended with the line that “without victory there can be no survival”.
Poisoning the Well is yet another well-made and thought-provoking episode that doesn’t pull any punches with what it wants to say but is yet another entry in a long line of very serious episodes that are all starting to become a bit of a chore to be honest.
· The references to 1918 are likely to draw up the similarity in look to the Spanish Flu Pandemic during and following the First World War.
Quote of the episode: “He’s worse than Dr McCoy.”
“The TV character that Dr Beckett plays in real life.” – Sheppard and Teyla
We begin on Atlantis where Teyla is informing Weir about a group called the Genii, a group of low-tech farmers who would be good partners given that Rodney is causing a food shortage on the base. Venturing to the planet they are met by two members of the Genii, Tyrus and Sora. While the two of them are initially hesitant given the team’s armed nature they agree to bring them to the others, with Sora leading them on while her father stays behind for a moment, before revealing a communicator strapped to his wrist. In a basic hut they group are shown to Cowen, the Genii leader, to agree a trade which sees the team give medical supplies as well as C4 explosives, for “tree removal”, in return for Genii crops. While Ford and Teyla stay for the Genii “harvest ceremony” Sheppard and Rodney head back to confirm the deal with Weir who is less than pleased but agrees to it after Sheppard points out that they need the crops quite urgently.
When the two return from Atlantis with the deal confirmed Rodney gets anomalous readings of radiation, finding a small hut hidden away in the woods with a hatch at the bottom. After climbing down they find that the Genii are not simple farmers at all, but a highly-advanced society hidden away underground. The two are soon arrested by Genii troops and held in detention, with Cowen revealing himself as a military leader. Teyla and Ford are also taken into custody soon after by those still trying to maintain the illusion of being farmers.
Despite the breach in security Cowen has the team made aware he wants to keep the deal on the table, with the C4 in reality to be used as part of a nuclear weapons program. Rodney also volunteers to help the Genii with their issues in getting the nuclear weapon program fully operational when Cowen reveals that the target of the nuclear weapons are the Wraith themselves, with the Genii hoping to use strike teams armed with nukes to take out Wraith Hives while they’re still hibernating. This causes issues however as the Genii aren’t aware yet that the Wraith were woken up by the Expedition by accident and the alliance almost falls apart when this is revealed.
After the meeting gets back on track Tyrus shows them a data archive that contains the location of a number of Hive ships, revealing that they require the use of a Jumper to make the journey from a Stargate to a Wraith Hive to obtain intelligence on the Wraith’s strength. The team, along with Cowen and Tyrus make the journey to one of the Hives and manage to successfully infiltrate the ship, finding the bodies of preserved humans kept as a light snack for the Wraith. The group decide to split into two to cover more ground, with Teyla and Tyrus finding themselves in human storage where it turns out that many of the humans are still alive, with one begging for help. While Teyla wants to help them Tyrus refuses, knowing that doing so will give them away. As the two argue the Wraith are alerted to their position when Tyrus executes the prisoner, before being stunned by the Wraith himself and left by Teyla. This forces the mission to be abandoned before all data can be recovered and a retreat to the Jumper, barely escaping in the process.
When they arrive back to the Genii homeworld Cowen puts Tyrus’ blame on the team and double-crosses them, intending on keeping the intel and C4 plus the Jumper, but Sheppard reveals that they also brought backup in the form of two additional Jumpers with the two sides leaving as enemies while the Expedition keep everything. Back on Atlantis it turns out that from the intel they recovered that the Genii plan never would’ve worked anyway given the fact there are several dozen Hive ships around the galaxy, making a coordinated strike impossible.
Again another serious episode but here we see the setting up of one of the main enemies/rivals of the expedition in the form of the Genii.
The story follows the Expedition as they are already running low on critical supplies for the city and need to find a new source of supplies at short notice. This leads them to the Genii, a seemingly simple people with a big secret, which turns out to be a giant fucking cavern pumping out radiation. It turns out that the Genii are basically a fallen superpower trying to regain their might while the Wraith sleep and want to do this with nuclear weapons. The team decide to help them in this regard (because nuclear proliferation is always such a good idea) but the two sides end up backstabbing each other.
For a story that largely exists just to set up the midseason two-parter (coming in a couple of weeks) it doesn’t skimp out on the details, giving both sides a reason to end up distrusting each other, with the Genii very mission-oriented and ruthless while the Expedition lie and cause issues that shouldn’t have come up. It’s much more interesting this way rather than just another “ooh these guys are automatically evil and our guys are good”.
While the setup for the Genii is very interesting some of the setup for this episode isn’t exactly great. We are only eight episodes into the first season and yet this Expedition, which managed to interface Tau’ri tech with Ancient systems, basically had no plan for basic food supplies. For what is essentially a colonisation effort this is probably the most unbelievable part of the episode as even after taking a number of losses this season they’ve almost run out of food after in-universe would’ve been 2-3 months. If they’d found Atlantis with no working way to dial out it basically would’ve meant 200 of the best and brightest of Earth would’ve slowly starved to death which is pretty grim.
The episode also quickly at the end fills in a few blanks about the Wraith. While up to now we’ve seen a single Hive in the side of a mountain and a few Wraith grunts here we are made aware that there are dozens of these giant ships now flying all over the galaxy harvesting planets all because of the Expedition’s mistake in the pilot.
Overall again sadly yet another serious episode in a long run of them but here we see the episode placing more non-Wraith backstory into the mix and laying out confrontations for the future.
· Don’t really get how farming is a good cover when many buildings have obvious “secret” panels people easily found.
· Surprised Tyrus and Teyla’s argument didn’t give them away
Quote of the episode: “I built an atomic bomb for my sixth grade science fair exhibit.”
“They let you do that up in Canada?”
“Yeah then I was questioned by the CIA for six hours.” – Rodney and Ford