Today the team solve some issues and then cause more of their own as we reach the end of Atlantis season two.
The team are once again off-world meeting with a society very much on a similar level to themselves. It turns out that this society has been requesting help about a shield generation facility they’ve found that’s clearly Ancient in origin that also contains an inactive Ancient warship. Despite the priorities of their mission both Rodney and Sheppard find themselves attracted to the Taranian chief scientist Norina Pero. To make things worse however there is growing tectonic activity nearby that worries Rodney in particular. After he overcomes his original issues with working with Pero Rodney finds why the shield, which the Taranians had been using for over a year at max power, has stopped working which is due to the continued use causing the supervolcano it was using as a power source has now become active and is likely to erupt soon.
When Rodney reveals this to the Taranian leadership they’re understandably sceptical given that the outsiders found it just after the Taranians revealed they had the ship they wanted. As the tremors continue however the Taranians agree to evacuate. Soon after the evacuations begin however the Stargate itself is engulfed by magma which leaves many civilians and Atlantis personnel trapped in the Ancient outpost. Soon after the Daedalus, enroute back to Atlantis from Earth, arrives to assist with the evacuation but can only hold enough that it would require 4 trips at least. Given the situation Sheppard sets Rodney to getting the Ancient warship, now dubbed the Orion, back online to act as a lifeboat if they can’t evacuate everyone prior to the Daedalus making all of its journeys.
Outside the facility in one of the nearby villages Teyla, Ronon, and Beckett, who were helping with medical issues, find themselves hard-pressed to keep order amongst the refugees waiting for evacuation. Pressures reach a head when they’re asked to bring the remaining refugees to the Orion as some groups start to think they’d rather take their chances walking across the landscape to supposed safety. While Beckett is able to bring the remaining refugees to the facility Teyla and Ronon are cut off in the village with a family who were lost in the ash. Thankfully before they choke to death the Daedalus makes it back to rescue another group, finding them as the only group left alive on the surface of the planet.
Unfortunately for those on the Orion there’s no way to fix the engines in time. Instead Rodney decides to power the shields for long enough to allow them to ride the eruption and use that to launch them into a hyperdrive window that’ll put them in orbit. Despite the adhoc nature of the plan it somehow works, putting the ship safely in orbit. Rodney however is put immediately back to work fixing the Orion as a Hive Ship is on the way to the city and they’ll need every weapon available.
This is one of those very rare episodes on the show where there’s no real sentient threat or hostile group for the team to face up to. Instead the episode is a deliberate play against this where everyone from all sides helps each other to sort out the problem at hand, in this case a giant supervolcano eruption. Despite this however there are a couple of deliberate attempts to cause “issues” in the cooperation, such as the Taranian leadership doubting the team for all of five seconds and refugees saying they’ll leave by themselves, but then immediately gets paved over which makes you wonder just why they were included. It really does come off as some desperate attempt to cause friction in the episode when this really wasn’t necessary at all.
The threat of the volcano definitely gives the episode a Pompeii vibe to it and this is replicated throughout in the dialogue and actions of the characters, with refugees and the team almost being choked to death first by ash and then the toxic gases released by the volcano. Throughout much of the episode the primary threat isn’t the magma but, much like in reality, the other things that come with it.
The episode also sees the return of the already annoying staple for the show of “hot female character for the team to be into”. Thankfully however the episode is self-aware of this and instead plays the angle for laughs instead of a serious conclusion for once, with Sheppard and Rodney actively competing for her attention and affection with Pero moving from blissful ignorance of this fact to instead getting tired of it. This is definitely a smart decision by the show but is sadly one that doesn’t get replicated that often when these characters show up and the overuse of the trope on Atlantis in particular does start to age rather quickly, especially watching it now as opposed to when it first came out.
With the end in sight for the season it’s clear this is a one off largely designed to add the Orion to the team’s inventory for what is to come. Despite this simple need for the episode it instead expands upon that with a story involving global tragedy and a desperate attempt to survive, succeeding in creating tension throughout but also suffering from dated tropes and some scenes of deliberate conflict that doesn’t feel believable.
· Oh look, it’s the DGC fill-in doctor.
· The Ancients really did just leave shit lying around didn’t they.
Quote of the episode: “That’s the plan.”
“That’s the plan?”
“That’s the plan!”
“That plan sucks!” – Rodney and Sheppard
The city is readying their cloak for the arrival of the lone Hive Ship about to arrive, believed to be simply checking whether the city still exists or not, while the Daedalus and Orion wait nearby to help if needed. The Hive however sends an audio message from Michael who seems to want to talk to them on behalf of the Hive. Upon responding Michael reveals that the Wraith are embroiled in a Civil War over feeding grounds as there are too few humans to sustain the current Wraith population. The Hive Michael is with wants the retrovirus to allow them to feat on converted enemy Wraith in return for the Wraith jamming codes that have prevented the use of nukes as weapons. The Expedition senior leadership decide to agree to the terms almost unanimously, with even Ronon agreeing. Teyla however remains against the idea due to the ethical concerns.
Upon arrival in the city the Wraith seem surprisingly willing to get to work on using the retrovirus, with both the Expedition and the Wraith scientists agreeing on the use of an aerosol delivery via a Hive’s life support system for maximum effectiveness. The Wraith also test the new retrovirus on one of their own to test just how long it takes to work and to see if they can still be fed on, with its increased effectiveness being to their liking. This just leaves it up to Rodney to breakthrough the jamming codes to allow the use of an aerosol canister in the first place. Before they get it working however the Hive decides to test it on another Hive by manual delivery. Given the situation the Daedalus decides to go as well.
As predicted the attempted operation on the other Hive goes badly, with the friendly Hive’s team searched and killed on arrival, forcing the Daedalus to intervene before the friendly Hive is badly damaged, allowing the two ships to get away. On arrival back at the city Rodney demands the Wraith send him all the information they have on Hive ships so he can better break the codes and send the gas to the main life support. Rodney, along with Ronon as his bodyguard, go on board the Hive to check just where the best place to send the gas is. After locating this and agreeing to a plan for another test, this time by beaming the gas over to a Hive, Rodney and Ronon stay on the Hive for the test.
When the Daedalus exits hyperspace at the rally point they’re immediately attacked by the friendly Hive and another and find their codes to breach the jamming no longer work while on board the Hive Rodney and Ronon can’t beam back. Sheppard leads a squadron of F-302s on an attack run on the Hives only for the Hives to jump to hyperspace when the squadron gets near, with Sheppard’s F-302 going missing. Meanwhile on Atlantis Zelenka reveals that the Wraith planted a computer worm that deleted all the information the Wraith had sent over while also sending to them the Aurora mission files and the location of planet in the Ancient Database, which includes Earth.
And so we return to the arc of “problems the team create for themselves and actively avoid trying to solve”, this time working with a Wraith Hive of dubious nature to give them the retrovirus so that they can turn Wraith and then feast on them. Despite the fact that Michael, the very symbol of why this is such a bad idea is with them, the team still go “let’s do it” and surprise surprise it all goes to shit for the team.
We are now 0-3 for times using the retrovirus has gone well for the team with it first turning Sheppard Wraith, then creating Michael, and now it being used as a cover for the Wraith to steal data from the Expedition. This is one of the rare occasions where the Wraith actually try to deceive the team and they really pull it off without a hitch, easily selling the story and making the sacrifices necessary to make it seem they care about the deal at all. No one, not even Ronon, ever thinks that maybe the Wraith could be up to something as, hey, they attacked another Hive at one point so how could they have something up their sleeve. It’s this action that allows them to upload the computer worm in the first place to the Expedition network as they get sloppy with cyber security and end up giving away the location of Earth.
I know this whole thing is meant to set up next season’s opening but so much of it seems dependent on the team making obviously bad decisions time and time again. Letting the Wraith access to the their computers, not using anti-malware software, allowing Rodney to stay on board the other Hive with only their word he’ll be ok. In many other episodes this would never happen, the team would obviously know something was up but here clearly the Wraith had a dumbing ray as the team all go along with it. At the start Teyla rightly raises objections given what happened last time but just goes “I think this is a bad idea but let’s do it anyway”. It’s ridiculous and makes it grating to watch at times as you know something’s going to go wrong but no-one questions it.
Thankfully many of the situations do have humour between the Wraith and Expedition, especially in the science department as they’re forced to work together despite both sides being uncomfortable with the arrangement from the start.
In the end it’s an obvious cliffhanger episode that puts the action largely in the next season. Compared to season one it’s an obvious letdown in expectations as while season one used two episodes at the end to give both set up and payoff this only really has the setup with some light action here and there. Thankfully with home release this doesn’t make it an issue but at the time it would’ve been a real bummer.
· Surprised the Asgard put up with this shit from the team still.
· And Ronon could’ve killed Michael and solved three season’s
worth of problems.
Quote of the episode: “It’s like being handed a Wraith encyclopaedia. It’s hard to know where to start.”
“When I was a kid and I got my first encyclopaedia I started with the letter “S”.” – Zelenka and Sheppard