Today we see a Game go wrong and a really really boring rescue mission.
In Atlantis’ mess hall Meredith is discussing everyone’s favourite Facebook theoretical problem of the trolley problem. While Meredith tries to tell everyone about its intricacies the others just quickly point out all the holes in such a problem. Their musings are cut short however when Lorne communicates from a world where they find Meredith’s face on a flag inside a village. It turns out Meredith and Sheppard had been playing what they thought was an Ancient version of Civilization for the last couple of years which saw them each command of a village on either side of a village and that this reveals that it wasn’t actually a game at all but an Ancient experiment on remotely creating a country.
The team take a Jumper down to the planet and land near one of the villages which turns out to be Geldar, named by Meredith after one of his ex’s and of which he’s the god of, which appears to be undergoing the Renaissance only with every woman is a terrible Carter lookalike. While initially everything seems quaint it turns out that Meredith and Sheppard’s little rivalry has become a bitter Cold War between the two villages they controlled, Geldar and Hallona with the latter a more militaristic though more primitive society. While the two “oracles” attempt to inform them of what’s actually happening and recreate the peace between both sides, bringing leaders of both villages back to Atlantis, their attempts fail with the leaders unable to come to terms with the reality of their way of life and instead both find themselves heading for war. Soon the Hallonan army attacks Geldar when the latter’s mine intrudes on their territory.
Elsewhere on Atlantis Lorne and Zelenka find the “game” terminals that the others had been using only to find that there are many other “levels” available. While waiting for orders on what to do with the thing the two find a civilisation slowly going hungry but with their advanced knowledge could easily tell them about fertile land only a few miles away which would save them. Pretty soon however Weir returns to check up on the two of them and finds that they’ve fallen into the same squabbles as Sheppard and Meredith had with their own villages and orders the room sealed and left alone.
The team bring both leaders back to the villagers only to find that the war is continuing unabated with the Hallonans moving from settlement to settlement on Geldar’s side of the river. Geldar strikes back however with bombs dropped from airships though Sheppard is able to use a Jumper to shoot down the closest airship before it can deliver its payload. As the situation deteriorates further the Daedalus arrives to provide support but soon explosions begin to go off in both Geldar and Hallona as the Ancient computers show each side destroy each other. As both sides realise they’ve lost the explosions stop, with it revealed that the entire “war” was simulated via Daedalus and that no one was hurt.
Sometime later Meredith and Sheppard are back in the mess hall, playing the more primitive game of chess with Sheppard beating him.
This is an episode that can be broken into two distinct parts hat both of which are very different in tone, a former more jokey part as the team discover the reality of the game and the latter part where two sides go to war. For me however both are parts that struggle to get the time they deserve.
With the first part of the episode it’s a shame so much of that jokey tone gets rushed over by the show in favour of the latter’s more serious part, with the setting up of the “Game” itself only a few short montages of Sheppard and Meredith playing it between themselves and some of the decisions they’ve made. At other points in the episode some small scenes with Zelenka and Lorne add to this slightly as we see them fall into the exact same pattern as their colleagues. Personally I thought this was the more interesting part of the episode and could’ve easily been the whole episode with the slow development of the game as they played it and then the final revelation that it was real and that their petty squabbles had actual meaning.
This direction could’ve seen the episode play as a satire or play on the idea that politicians treat their country’s system as a game as opposed to actually seeing it as something that effects people and therefore could’ve had something to say but it just feels like a wasted opportunity instead.
Talking of wasted opportunity even the latter part of the episode pulls its punches in what it could’ve done with the opportunities provided in the episode. The final 10 minutes see the two civilisations go to war with each other, seemingly resulting in mass slaughter on both sides. The revelation however ends up being that it was Daedalus just manipulating events all along. It’s a shame really as the idea they had created this situation and then they couldn’t stop it no matter what they tried would’ve been far more memorable and interesting than the team suddenly fixing everything and saving the day yet again.
Thankfully the issues with the story don’t affect the great character moments with the members of the Expedition. Throughout the episode both Sheppard and Meredith are constantly distracted like small children arguing over who’s been “cheating” at the game even when the bombs begin to fall, which take some of the tension off and add a little humour to the subject matter. Lorne and Zelenka also get a great series of moments between them too and demonstrate their own unique partnership. After this episode it’s a shame the two don’t appear more often doing their own thing.
The Game, an episode with an interesting premise that is sadly wasted on a plot that pulls its punches and avoids upsetting anyone though does contain some interesting character moments that make it fun despite this.
· This “game” really showed up a lot of Meredith’s issues.
· How can Geldar advance at all when they spend all their time painting Meredith.
Quote of the episode: “Okay see, I think I know where that comes from. Did the Oracle tell you that citrus fruit was bad?”
“He made us aware of its toxic properties, yes.” – Weir and Nola
We immediately pick up with Sheppard trying to sever a connection of some kind while flying a spaceship. We cut back to 8 hours earlier where the team are exploring a hollowed-out moon that contains a space station of some kind. Upon exploring and turning on the power they find that the station contains some form of stasis core and that someone was just rematerialized. Once the survivor, identifying himself as Herick, wakes up they find out that the space-station contains Wraith tech for the storing of several hundred people as an ark to continue their civilisation if the Wraith came, only to claim there was meant to be another core. Herick awakens the person who was to be their leader, Jamus, who reveals that the second ship that was meant to join the space station with the second core (that contained Herick’s wife) never made it when riots broke out on the surface of the planet preventing its launch by which time the Wraith showed up. Distraught at the loss of his wife Herick decides to fire the engine on the shuttle attached to the station thereby causing the moon’s orbit to decay into a planetary intercept and destroying the outer hanger doors which causes the Jumper to also detach, killing himself and trapping everyone on the station.
Lorne soon arrives in a Jumper to hopefully save the team by creating a pocket of air with the shield. After this is successfully established the separate groups attempt to evac only for Jamus to take Teyla hostage when he realises they can’t take the Wraith core with all the survivors on board with them. As the others try to cut through the hatch into the storage bay Jamus unlocks the door, only to put both himself and Teyla in the storage device, forcing the team to save it if they want to save her. Sheppard, with the storage device placed in the shuttle, chooses to glide it down to the surface while the others stay safe in the Jumper in orbit. Here we find ourselves back at the start of the episode finding that he can’t separate the shuttle and is now forced to stay with the moon as it falls into the atmosphere. Thankfully the moon breaks up on the way down and the shuttle separates automatically on the way down, allowing Sheppard to successfully land it to a juddering halt on the surface.
Later it turns out that everyone was able to be saved but Jamus who was too injured in the process. Sheppard meanwhile goes to see Teyla in the infirmary where she defends Jamus’ attempt to save his people.
The Ark is an episode that features the team trying to survive inside a space station losing atmosphere, a team member taken hostage, and Sheppard flying a shuttle through atmosphere to land without power. With all these moments somehow the episode still ends up being so mind-numbingly boring I almost fell asleep while watching.
This is an episode where no character comes off well, regular or guest, because they have nothing to do at best. The worst of all however is the character of Herick. I can see the show was trying to go for the sympathetic character who felt he had no point in continuing and took his own life. However instead of that the character is made the effective villain of the piece by having him effectively cause the deaths of everyone on the station and in storage by deliberately sabotaging the whole thing out of grief. It’s a terrible move character-wise and just pulls you out of it. The only other guest character of Jamus gets better treatment but his role is still all over the place going from friend to desperate hostage taker to not appearing again.
For the main characters they largely end up stuck in hallways for most of the episode doing bugger all as well, with Sheppard only really getting glory and that’s only at the very end of the episode.
If there’s one good thing I can say about the episode it’s definitely an interesting world they tried to build for a one-off appearance but overall this episode is a major misfire in an otherwise largely great season, with nothing going on and too many scenes of people sitting in hallways.
· Didn’t realise Snickers were made in the Pegasus galaxy.
Quote of the episode: “Personally, I’d rather die fighting.”
“I’d rather not die.”
“I’m just saying.”
“Look, if this rock burns up in the atmosphere I’ll fight you to the death myself. Deal?”
“You’re on.” – Ronon and Sheppard