Today we get a horror show and then a space spectacular.
The episode starts in the training room on Atlantis with Meredith having taken the stupid decision to learn blade combat with Ronon. The fighting is interrupted however when Weir and Sheppard turn up to tell the two they’re going to check on the settlement of the Taranians, the people they found living on a super-volcano. Ronon decides to take a cheap shot on Meredith before they leave.
Arriving at the settlement they find it abandoned except for a life sign registered in underground passages left by another long gone civilisation. Searching the tunnels they find an empty cocoon of an unknown life-form. Nearby however they find a room full of bodies, clearly of the dead Taranians, along with a lab filled with Wraith equipment and an Iratus bug. After Weir makes contact with the team regarding the situation she sends a group of Marines who are promptly captured by a Wraith Dart. Unaware that their would be backup is gone the team continue hunting the creature in the tunnels, only for it to ambush them. Despite taking significant fire from the team it only loses an arm when Ronon cuts it off. Continuing to try and hunt the creature down after it runs off the team instead find a huge room full of unopened pods. The team use explosives to destroy the pod before continuing onwards after the armless bug. After realising that the other team still aren’t responding and aren’t on sensor they decide to fall back to the Stargate.
The team make their way back to the Gate, wondering what it was they found and who’s making it, only to find that the DHD has been sabotaged by someone or something. Inside the settlement it’s revealed that the answer to all their questions is Michael. The team decide to head back to the settlement and find another lifesign, unaware of who it is. Deciding it could be one of the Marines lost they head back inside, only for Teyla to be kidnapped when she steps into a sideroom while the others are distracted by a gas leak and then the creature again. After dealing with the creature they attempt to find where Teyla and the other lifesign have gone.
Meanwhile Teyla eventually awakens in Michael’s lab where he begins to monologue, revealing that he’s been rejected by the Wraith and is now creating the bugs as a weapon to use on both Human and Wraith. Teyla once again encourages Michael to live as a human on Atlantis (because that worked out so well before) but he refuses unsurprisingly. Michael also reveals that Atlantis won’t be sending anymore help as one of the Marines had helped fake a message that the situation was fine.
Searching for Teyla the others find Meredith’s theorised shielded section along with the now long dead Marines taken by Michael. Once again they’re ambushed by a bug but this time they’re able to kill it. The others are able to find Teyla and save her just before an Iratus Bug leaves a hickey on her. Despite wanting to leave Meredith vetoes the idea, wanting to get as much info as possible from his computers. The team splits up with Meredith and Teyla staying in a lab while Sheppard and Ronon try to fix the Gate. Sheppard ends up running into Michael and demands the control crystals. Unfortunately Sheppard misses the chance to kill Michael when they end up chatting too long.
Soon throughout the facility the team are swamped by bugs as more and more clusters begin waking up. As they all make their way to the surface Sheppard finds Michael’s Dart and requisitions so they can use its DHD to get home. Piloting the ship he manages to beam up the others before they’re overrun by the creatures or captured by Michael and gets back to Atlantis. Unfortunately for Atlantis they’re unable to deal with the threat left on the planet as when the Daedalus arrives to clear the site they find it scrubbed and that Michael’s been using planets that he recovered from Atlantis’ database.
Vengeance is probably the first straight horror episode on the entire Stargate franchise up to now, with previous attempts on SG-1 nearly always been a send-up or homage to other films. Here however the show tries to do its own thing in the clear style of Alien but without being too obviously like that film.
Most of the episode takes place in a series of dark industrial concrete hallways that has a clear sense of claustrophobia as the show deliberately keeps the camera close to the team and avoids showing off too much that’d reveal just how little was there to the set and the “threat” the team was facing and it really works. Rather than jumpscares and other crap most of the episode bar the odd ambush is the ominous feeling that something is going to happen anytime soon so when the odd attack does happen it really feels worth it.
Towards the end the show does drop the ball slightly when the slow tense atmosphere turns into bad bug costumes staying on camera for long periods and they just swarm the characters mindlessly. The creatures in shot looked more like a bad Doctor Who costume from the classic days than a real threat so it’s a shame all that build-up went a bit laughable.
Of course narratively it’s the return of Michael that dominates the episode, having survived the mass bombing of the retrovirus camp at the start of the season and understandably he’s pissed. Finally the show starts to make Michael into an actual threat rather than just “some guy” that the team keeps fucking up plans regarding, with Michael now creating all these monsters to start his own rulership of the Pegasus galaxy after being rejected by both the Wraith and Humans. The show however isn’t able to shake the issues that have dogged the character since his introduction regarding the Expedition. The team still seem focused on this “they want to be turned into us” retrovirus plot that is just going nowhere and the team once again make a stupid decision to allow him to escape. It’s part of the character that won’t be lost until deep into next season which is a shame but at least they’re attempting to undo the crap that has buried the plotline until now.
Outside of this narratively the setup is a bit precarious. The Marines randomly selling out their own as well as getting captured seems a bit of a rushed subplot just to explain why the Expedition didn’t turn up sooner to help the team. The fact that the settlement happened to be quiet for so long to allow an army to be built just before the team arrive as well is a bit of a stretch given how it’s implied they were heavily reliant on the Expedition for supplies as part of their deal for the Orion.
Overall Vengeance is a great little horror piece that falls apart at the edges a little if you think too much about it.
· Well those Marines were stupid. All spread out but choose to then stand next to each other.
· Anyone seen a TARDIS around?
Quote of the episode: “You thinking what I’m thinking?”
Sheppard: “I fly it, pick you, Rodney, and Teyla up, we use the dart’s DHD to dial the Gate.”
“I was saying blow it up but, your idea’s better.” – Ronon and Sheppard
Weir is walking the halls when joined by Dr Keller, the acting Medical Chief, who wants to be replaced as she doesn’t feel she’s living up to Beckett’s legacy. Weir tries to talk her out of her nerves but Keller seems deadset on returning to a lower role in the department. After Keller leaves Meredith makes himself known to Weir asking not to do his department’s employee reviews as he finds them dull and boring while Weir wants him to do it properly, a message she also gives to Sheppard when he claims to be done after giving everyone top marks. Thankfully the talk about documentation is interrupted by the arrival of the Apollo, the newest BC-304 that has been assigned as the second to help Expedition, under the command of Colonel Ellis.
While the team were expecting the usual orientation it turns out that the Apollo arrived ahead of schedule to deal with the growing Asuran threat, with the Replicators now building a substantial fleet of warships, by launching a first-strike against their staging grounds. While the team agree the Asurans need to be dealt with some are worried such a small strike could cause problems but Sheppard and the more military minded Air Force along with the scared IAO believe that the intended target with the ship’s is Earth so needs to be dealt with now. While inspecting the devices Zelenka and Meredith briefly consider rendering the nuclear weapons unusable but know that it’s better to strike now and deal with it than break them and leave themselves defenceless. Despite misgivings the strike is launched and succeeds in destroying all ships as well as many other targets of opportunity.
The atmosphere on Atlantis following the return of the Apollo is of cautious optimism as the immediate threat to Earth has been eliminated but this is soon broken by the appearance of a satellite in orbit with a Stargate at the center. This is soon dialled by someone unknown and a beam weapon emerges from it which first hits the Apollo and then focuses on the city, which barely raises the shield in time. The satellite continues facing the beam at the city and blocks the city’s Stargate from working. While Ellis and others hope the satellite will shut off after 38 minutes Meredith pours cold water on this by correctly guessing that the beam platform is likely powered by a power source large enough to keep going indefinitely similar to the effects of a Black Hole on the Gate. Weir attempts to negotiate with the Asurans, represented by the newly replicated Oberoth, but this fails and hostilities continue.
While the city waits for the science team to come up with an idea the usual power dynamics between the civilians and the military rear their head, with Ellis mentioning he thinks the military need to take control of the Expedition in the future while Weir is sick of the military “stepping in” when things get tough. This is interrupted when Meredith and Zelenka come up with a plan to submerge the city to hopefully weaken the effects of the beam and buy them time to come up with something better. While the plan is successful it only buys them another nine hours on top of the 6 they had left before the shield breaks and they’re crushed by the ocean.
Though the extra time is little the team use it to thankfully come up with a new plan. Using an asteroid to block the beam for some time and the geothermal powerstation to provide enough extra power the team begin prep to fly the city to another world. While waiting for the final prep to be made Ellis swallows his pride and apologises to Weir for his conduct earlier on towards her. As they’re set for launch Sheppard takes his place in the control chair to fly the city which soon takes off as hoped and begins to take flight but eventually isn’t able to get the power necessary to fully take off. As they sit there aimless Sheppard proposes turning off the shield for an extra power boost just long enough to get to a higher altitude before turning it back on as needed which successfully begins flight once more. Unfortunately for the city the beam breaks through the asteroid earlier than expected and hits the control tower severely damaging it and injuring Weir badly.
As the city finds itself floating through hyperspace the injured are tended to but Weir is practically comatose while Ronon is too stubborn to get help for his major injuries. Unfortunately the city then falls out of hyperspace, finding itself floating in the middle of space stranded without help and only 24 hours before the shield collapses.
So here we are at the end of season 3 and what a doozy of an episode to go out on. Probably the best multipart storyline since The Siege starting with the first act of the final battle with the Asurans that will dominate the first half of season 4.
We start off with the introduction of the Apollo and its commander Colonel Ellis who is the latest military recurring character on the show and is a bit of a strange one. In essence he largely marks a combination of both the initial and current states of Caldwell on the Daedalus with him being a bit of a hard-edge, stuck in his old dogmatic chain of command thinking that separated Civilian and Military, but still with the sort of later respect and compromising that the other commander later displayed full-time. It’s interesting to get the mix of the two that we haven’t seen before, with him able to carry out his believed duties while still having the guts to apologise when he was wrong in the past. In just this one appearance he demonstrates more complexity than many of the main characters had for a season. Sadly however he never got the same prominence as the other commander.
The Asurans also make their return again after two previous appearances that failed to make them any different than the Milky-Way Replicators. Now however they do change themselves to quite a degree with an ability to plan plots that are different than just sending ships to attack the enemy, with the use of a beam weapon against the city. While this has been done on SG-1 before during the Anubis saga the key change is that there isn’t an outside force that can save the heroes narratively, instead they have to do it themselves for once. This ends up making the Asurans far more sinister and calculating than before as previously there’s been some deus ex machina that saved them while now instead the team had no choice but to leave, one of the rare times the villains either won or caused a stalemate on the show.
This is a very strong episode that doesn’t have much to do, with most of the episode being a fairly simple escape plan, but what it does do is very strong with almost perfect consistent world logic and the characters interesting and complex. A strong end to a season that’s been fairly mixed at times.
· That nuke shot is hands down spectacular.
· They really did splurge their VFX budget this episode.
Quote of the episode: “We were throwing some ideas back and forth, well he was throwing them forth and I was throwing them back, and while he was droning on about some idea that might have worked it suddenly occurred to me, This city has encountered problems like this before. So I…”
“We don’t need the history of your idea Doctor, I’ll let that be a surprise when I read your autobiography.” – Meredith and Ellis