Today we see the team put on an island and the team blow up a solar system.
The newly formed FART 2.0 is off exploring once more, finding a seemingly uninhabited planet with only an abandoned village nearby. The situation is revealed to be an ambush however when the primitive locals begin firing arrows and slingshots at them. Though the team attempt to retreat they become pinned down, only to be rescued by an advanced ground attack aircraft that uses its jetwash to blow the attackers away, allowing the team to retreat. Once back on the Jumper the team are hailed by the ship that saved them, asking them to follow them to the city of Olesia.
On arrival and welcome it turns out that the island they arrived on is a penal colony used to keep their unwanted criminals away without endangering the general population. The city’s leader, the Magistrate, explains away their advanced society as the result of their penal system, with the hardened criminals essentially used as a feeding ground for the Wraith in return for the city’s continued existence. Despite the harshness it appears to work as a highly effective deterrent, with crime virtually non-existent. Despite some moral concerns given the use of capital punishment the team agree to begin trade negotiations after returning to Atlantis to discuss it more within their own leadership.
While heading back towards the Stargate the team come under fire from the ground, with the prisoners using primitive mortar technology as AA fire, and is damaged which forces a crashlanding before they can reach the Gate. Despite all surviving the crash the group are taken captive before they can get to the Gate on foot. The prisoners who capture them also steal all of the supplies kept in the Jumper but quickly use up most of them in traditional “stupid native with machinegun” fashion. The leader of the prisoners, Torrell, however realises that the crashed Jumper is the key to getting the Gate to open and “persuades” Rodney to fix it so they can all escape.
Back on Atlantis the control room is confused by the unknown Gate dial and then shutoff several seconds later. Given that FART are overdue Weir decides to prep a team to go to the planet and talk to the Magistrate herself. The team fly through the Gate cloaked, thereby avoiding the prisoner threat altogether, before heading to the city to discuss a rescue mission for Sheppard and co.
At the crashed Jumper Rodney begins trying to fix the Jumper, with help from the prisoner’s foremost “scientist” Eldon (who claims to have been unfairly convicted), after Torrell threatens to kill the other members of FART if he doesn’t fix the ship. Eldon also reveals that the claims that only the hardened criminals get sent to the island is false, with the success of the deterrent forcing them to shove increasingly minor criminals to the island to make up the shortfall. After Rodney claims that he can’t fix the ship he’s returned to the others in holding only for Eldon to show up and buy an agreement from the team, his freedom for theirs. While they agree to the deal all are unaware that Torrell has planted a walkie as a makeshift bug in the tent.
As the team approach the crashed Jumper they spot the prisoners waiting in ambush for them in the treeline. As they plan what to do next the Gate begins dialling from an unknown source, only to reveal that it’s the Wraith dialling in for their next feeding. As the prisoners scatter the team rush to the Jumper to try and repair the dialling device. After the Wraith pass over and head towards the city however the prisoners return, with Rodney repairing the device just as they’re overrun. Several cruisers begin to appear however, with the prisoners agreeing to be sent to another planet by the team instead as it’ll allow them to escape while also exacting revenge on the city who the Wraith will attack instead.
Within the city the Magistrate talks with Weir and her team about rescuing Sheppard and the others on the island, claiming to have deployed teams to search for them but that they’ve had to retreat due to the Wraith incursion. After leaving the talks it’s revealed that the Magistrate is meeting with the leader of the incursion and is happy to offer those who are innocent as the Wraith continue bumping up the price of safety. The Magistrate’s assistant secretly goes to Weir however and reveals the sending of innocents to the island to bulk out the population, only to be arrested for treason. Given the turn of events Weir decides to call off any agreements and leave instead.
As both groups converge around the Gate the crashed Jumper is no longer able to power the Gate, with Weir instead first opening the Gate to a planet for the prisoners to go to before dialling Atlantis after they leave with the team barely making it out before the other Cruisers take out the Gate. Over Olesia the Magistrate can only watch horrified as the Wraith arrive to cull the rest of the city.
Talk about yet another serious episode. And today kids we learn about the issue of politicising the justice system. After quite a longtime without a major moral theme attached it’s a sudden turn of events for the show.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is a really great theme to look at and the show does do it quite nicely in my opinion, twisting the political aspect back and forth time and time again. In particular they weave quite a few hints in there early on about where the episode was headed, with the team looking over the previously identified issues because it gets them what they want. At first meeting the team are rather non-plussed at the idea of the Wraith being used for capital punishment purposes, even when the Magistrate not so subtlety says that the crime rate is practically zero already. Instead it’s only when FART get caught up in the mess they realise just how low the crime rates are, with prisoners claiming they were jailed for minor or no crimes at all, with the Magistrate eventually just rounding up the unwanted and political dissidents to be dumped on the island as the next wave of culling victims.
One of the best decisions the show makes when it comes to the prisoner characters is that you never actually find out if any of them are actually hardened criminals. Even their leader, Torrell, who was claimed to have killed nearly a dozen people comes off as surprisingly ordinary and honourable, suggesting more of a military background than a criminal one. While they have the chance to do so over the course of the episode none of the criminals significantly harm any of the main characters, only threatening them at times. On the other hand the supposedly good authorities repeatedly have people “disappeared” and sent to the island for an unknown time, knowing it was essentially murder given who was sent. For all we know the “hardened criminals” are resistance fighters of some kind.
The episode also makes a major change with the depiction of the Wraith, who until now have been little more than savages. Here however we get a Wraith leader who is more of a businessman in demeanour, gladly choosing to have an easier arrangement with the Olesians that is a trade as opposed to a simple culling. While this has risked an advanced civilisation appearing on the Wraith’s doorstep the Wraith still have such a clear superiority that they might as well take advantage of them rather than cull it completely. It adds a more clinical and sanitised element to both sides of the arrangement to as we see them happily discussing humans like livestock over dinner, with the Wraith seeing itself as more culturally aware because it eats food.
The episode is a more complex and serious one but without the dull take this took on season one. It takes a more cynical view of a real world topic while also adding more to the Wraith that makes them more complex than just mindless killers.
· This Magistrate looks eerily similar to a certain Christian Magistrate on SG-1.
· Christ Ancient ships really are made of cardboard aren’t they.
· You’d have thought someone would’ve noticed all the disappearances by now.
Quote of the episode: “The technology on this ship is far more advanced than the Olesians.”
“How ironic then to have been shot down by the cast of Braveheart.” – Elodan and Rodney
As the team conduct aerial recon above a world they were hoping to fide an ancient civilisation on the team come across the remains of a Wraith fleet destroyed in orbit. Flying down to the surface of the planet they find it covered in ruined cities apart from one site, a still standing Ancient Outpost. Landing the Jumper the team decide to explore the long-abandoned facility, finding that it still has power and operational systems despite its corpse-filled state. Given the fact that it seems to be the source of whatever took out the Wraith fleet Weir agrees to establish a science outpost there.
Meanwhile Teyla takes Ronon along with her on a more personal mission to gain supplies for the Athosians. Their initial missions gets siderailed however when one of Teyla’s contacts claims there is another survivor of Sateda on the planet. Finding the survivor, who is revealed to be an old friend and comrade of Ronon’s, he claims that several hundred survived in bomb shelters and eventually left the ruins of Sateda. Despite the initially happy reunion of the two Ronon’s friend reveals that their old CO is also alive, with Ronon wanting to meet him.
Back at the outpost the science team quickly deducts that they were working on some kind of weapon and power supply to use in the fight against the Wraith. Upon further investigation it becomes clear that the power supply issues they were working on was a successor to the ZPMs they previously used. Rodney and Zelenka manage to get Weir’s approval to continue the Ancient work, codenamed Project Arcturus, against the objections of Caldwell who fears that it was shutdown for a reason and points out that even the Ancients couldn’t crack it.
At Project Arcturus Rodney and Zelenka are able to get the system back online and begin to test it, with unexpected errors beginning to occur. Despite Zelenka’s worries Rodney decides to press on regardless until the system goes critical and kills one of the scientists, with Rodney barely able to shut the system down before it goes completely critical. Back on Atlantis Rodney paints it as an unexpected error that they could compensate for with another test but Weir denies him. In private Rodney shows signs of desperation when he comes to Sheppard to ask him to get Weir to sign off on one more attempt. Despite still being sceptical Sheppard agrees to take it to the Weir who agrees to allow one more try, with Caldwell backing up one more try due to the potential of the weapon and power source.
With Teyla and Ronon the Satedan asks Teyla to set up a meeting with his former CO, claiming that he can’t due to his earlier actions at the negotiations where he lost his temper. After setting up what she thought would be a happy reunion Ronon immediately kills the man upon his arrival, with the rest of his party letting the two go due to “what the man was”. When Teyla confronts him about his actions he reveals that his CO sacrificed several thousand men to their deaths to allow his escape during the fall of Sateda. While Teyla understands his reasons she warns him not to use her again.
After Rodney and Sheppard leave for the Arcturus Zelenka privately tells Weir that the test should be scrubbed as the physics of the experiment begin to interfere with reality itself, with the cannon a last resort to fire off excess energy rather than a dedicated weapons platform. Despite trying to share his concerns with Rodney the Canadian refuses, viewing it as an attack on his character and out of jealousy. Rodney’s confidence gets in the way of his thinking and decides to go ahead with the test anyway. After starting the test it begins to spiral out of control fast, with Rodney no longer able to shut it down, forcing the two of them to evac via Jumper. As they attempt to leave the weapon begins firing rapidly into the air, almost hitting the ship as they try and dodge it amongst the debris. At the last moment however the Daedalus appears and blocks several shots from the cannon, allowing the Jumper to reach the Gate safely, before Daedalus itself makes the jump to hyperspace as the solar system is destroyed as Arcturus goes critical.
After safely returning to the base Rodney apologises to the base and Sheppard, admitting that he probably lost his trust given his actions. Sheppard concurs, but admits he can win it back if he tries.
After Condemned this is more of a traditional episode of the show, looking at yet another Ancient artefact left behind for the team to discover. Where the episode spins off however is with a focus on Rodney and his ego once more.
The story sees the team find an abandoned Ancient outpost running an experiment that even they couldn’t get working. Despite this however and the signs that something bad went wrong Rodney decides to plough on ahead regardless, believing that he alone is smart enough to make it work where many Ancients fail. This time and time again puts his fellow Expedition members in jeopardy, with one man being killed in the process. Despite deaths and setbacks he increasingly views any attempt to stop him as jealousy at his genius, not stopping until it’s too late and he ends up destroying any knowledge they could’ve gained from the facility.
While it’s interesting to see Rodney in the situation it’s starting to get a bit tired though, with this storyline having been done several times already and each time the character shift from reasoned scientist to egotistical idiot becomes more and more pronounced and unbelievable.
Throughout the episode references are made towards the Manhattan Project and Los Alamos Laboratory, the site of the US-UK nuclear weapon research project during the Second World War, with the episode title itself a reference to the first ever nuclear test. One of the main references is by Rodney himself, which foreshadows the eventual outcome of the episode, when he brings up the case of Harry Daghlian who died in the process of an experiment during 1945. While Rodney talks up the heroics of his continued work while dying of terminal radiation poisoning he leaves out the cause of the accident which killed him, which occurred when Daghlian accidently caused a plutonium core to go critical during an experiment where he was manually interacting with the core. It’s this sense of foolhardiness that is present in the episode, with Rodney causing one death and the eventual destruction of a solar system by acting foolhardy with a system he didn’t fully understand.
This parallel with the Manhattan Project is also present in the issues between the civilian and military elements of the Expedition, with Caldwell mirroring Pentagon authorities who wanted a weapon fast while the civilians were unsure of the outcomes and ramifications of the device.
The episode also adds more to the Ronon character and the fate of Sateda in a short-running side mission. Here we see that while there were other survivors from the planet not all of them were deserving of such a fate, with Ronon killing his former CO who was a traitor to the cause. While this isn’t fairly detailed it does show that there’s a sense of honour that’s central to the Satedan way of life that still exists with the planet gone.
· Christ that overdubbing of the argument at the end is so obvious. That or Hewlett can do a damn good Weir impression.
· Satedans, what a bunch of drunks.
Quote of the episode: “Best case scenario?”
“I win a Nobel Prize.”
“Worst case scenario?”
“We tear a hole in the fabric of the universe.” – Sheppard and Rodney