Somewhat later than normal but today we see the team deal with some demons and then the Ancients make a brief return before dying again.
FART are being deployed off-world along with a team of Marines and Beckett to search for a missing team that had been investigating an anomaly for Meredith. Pretty soon they start finding corpses littering the planet belonging to the Genii who have been dead for months. Inside a cave they find the source of the anomaly, a strange Wraith device pumping out some form of radiation that it seems the dead Genii had also found and begun playing with. Nearby outside however they find the bodies of most of the team along with a video recording of theirs. Playing it they see the team slowly cut down by their team leader Major Leonard while calling for evac by the Prometheus, which had been destroyed a year earlier.
Fearing that whatever caused the Genii and the other team to turn on each other will begin to affect them the team pickup their dead and attempt to retreat through the Stargate, only for Leonard to have sabotaged the DHD which causes it to explode killing and injuring the marines before opening fire himself. Exposed and in the open the survivors fall back to the cave. Meredith begins working on shutting down the Wraith device but its effects begin to affect the team, with Ronon running away in chase of Wraith he sees in the woods. Teyla and Sheppard go after him leaving Beckett with the injured marines and Meredith, with one of the marines deciding to sit in the doorway and keep an eye out.
In the woods the three members of FART find themselves fired upon by Leonard who hits Teyla in the leg. Ronon runs after Leonard, seeing him as a Wraith, only for Sheppard to start having his own hallucination seeing Teyla as an injured pilot. While taking shelter with Teyla Sheppard hears Leonard firing outside. Though he tries to get the confused Major to come with him Leonard only sees him as a Kull warrior before starting to see others nearby and decides to take his own life with a grenade. When he goes back to Teyla Shepard begins to hear vehicles nearby.
Meanwhile back in the cave Beckett starts to suffer effects from the Wraith device seeing the marine he was operating on as dead when he was still very much alive, only realising this when the other marine comes back in for a break. Speaking to Meredith the scientist claims he hasn’t begun to feel the effects of the device and that Beckett just made an honest mistake.
Outside in the forest Sheppard finally loses the plot completely and begins to see himself in Afghanistan when he was a Major. It turns out that Sheppard’s “black mark” on his service record was when he bucked orders to go rescue a friend because he felt the official effort was taking too long.
With the rescue team now also overdue Atlantis decides to try and make contact but are unsuccessful by radio, instead sending a UAV to scout instead. This however just plays into the hallucinations with Sheppard seeing it as an A-10 Warthog and attempts to make contact with ISAF while Ronon sees it as a Wraith Dart and shoots it down. Eventually the two men comes face to face with Sheppard seeing him as a Taliban fighter while to Ronon his former commander is a Wraith, with Sheppard shooting Ronon in the arm.
Back at the cave Beckett begins to think the man on the table is crashing again, having the other marine assist him when he comes back in. Meredith however comes over, needing help himself, to find that Beckett has been hallucinating the other marine the whole time, with the “guard” having bled out a longtime ago slumped against the cave wall. Meredith tries to get Beckett to help him stop the device but it becomes clear it has some form of self-defence mechanism, with is tricking both Beckett and Meredith into leaving the cave, in the latter case causing him to be shot by a hallucinating Sheppard. Meredith manages to tell Teyla, who has remained unaffected, to shut off the power inside the cave. Teyla, still too injured to do it herself manages to get the still out of it Sheppard to do it for her just before Ronon would’ve killed him.
Eventually the city dials in again and with the generator shut off are now able to make contact with the team. Sheppard informs Weir they’re ok only for the rest of his team to complain about being shot by him. Teyla asks him about the hallucination whereupon Sheppard reveals that his comrade didn’t make it despite the rescue attempt.
When Phantoms first starts as an episode it quickly appears to be adaption of the events of the SG-1 episode The Light, with an insane Expedition team suffering negative effects from a strange EM radiation source. However it quickly turns into a more tightly focused look at Sheppard’s until now rather blurred background. While we knew that the FART commander had a black mark on his record and had “bucked the rules” we finally see that it was less being a malcontent as first thought but rather emerged from his desire to help a downed friend not going according to plan. It’s funny how if this had been the TV rescue we usually see then he’d likely have been let off and promoted, having saved a life at great personal cost. Instead however the mission went wrong with his friend dying from his wounds and, in their desire to hush it up, the powers that be pin the blame on Sheppard’s action as a “rogue” soldier who disobeyed orders and getting posted to the sightseeing trip of Antarctica for his troubles.
It’s one of those surprising depictions of the military on the show that I’m surprised got through the office though it seems that Atlantis, being less militarised, is able to get away with more “off message” stories than SG-1 could. While the parent show has seen its fair share of dickhead officers who piss off the lower ranks the idea that it’d ever have a military shush campaign regarding a dead soldier in the field is very doubtful.
Outside of Sheppard the episode is the first in a long while to give Beckett a starring position in an episode. His story of trying to keep the marines alive is brilliantly well done in how it misleads you for a surprisingly long time as to the status of both men, with the camera moves of having the hallucinated marine just out of shot whenever Meredith enters the room so that his lack of interaction doesn’t give the game away. Even after the truth is revealed, even when it was in front of the man the whole time, he still refuses to believe it and trusts the hallucination when it comes to the status of the man on the table. His aspect of the episode also shows this strange ability for the device to act in self-defence, altering its hallucinations to stop people turning it off, which suggests on some level it was self-aware though it’s a shame this is never really explored as an item.
Overall the episode is a nice change of pace, with the threat becoming each other as they lose themselves in nightmare scenarios, while still allowing some exploration of what motivates two of the main characters on the show.
· Oh look, a camera rail in shot.
· Oh look, camera cables in shot.
· How the hell did they get that UAV in the air?
Quote of the episode: “You shot me!”
“Yes Rodney I shot you, and I said I was sorry.”
“You shot me too.”
“I’m sorry for shooting everyone!” – Meredith, Sheppard, and Ronon
The Return, Part One
The Daedalus is enroute for the first test of the McKay-Carter Spacebridge using a Jumper from Atlantis to the SGC, stopping off briefly at the still half complete Midway station. While the test is completed as expected, with Sheppard arriving at the SGC to Landry and O’Neill’s expectation. Meredith however is already focusing on a new issue which is an object travelling between the two galaxies at just under the speed of light. After scanning the vessel they realise it to be an Ancient warship, a fact that is confirmed when they notice the Tau’ri warship and decide to stop. While the team decide to help this quickly comes back to hit them on the arse when the Ancients decide to take back control of the city from the Expedition.
While the team attempt to request they can at least share the city with O’Neill and Woolsey’s help but they’re unable to negotiate such an agreement, instead only allowing Woolsey to stay behind as the IOA ambassador to the city. Teyla and Ronon, along with the Athosians, also find themselves removed from Lantea and sent away to other places. As the teams all pack up their equipment and head for home some begin to find it difficult dealing with sudden change of circumstances. Not before long Meredith finds himself at Area 51, Sheppard on an SG team, and Beckett as a surgeon at the SGC while Weir sort of drops off the map entirely.
The SGC receives word from Woolsey and O’Neill, both still on Atlantis, who tell them that the Replicators are heading to the city to attack it once again but the Ancients claim that the Replicators are unable to harm their own creators. Unfortunately this turns out to be cocksure idiocy and the Replicators easily attack the unshielded city. The team, who were meeting up for dinner, are alerted and brought back to the SGC to watch the last transmission O’Neill and Woolsey sent through before being cut off from the control room. Rather than a rescue mission as they’d thought they were there for the team are instead there to provide target data for a Daedalus nuclear strike.
Wanting to instead save the city the team decide to go rogue by gaining access to the Jumper and stealing before rushing back to Pegasus. This sadly involves Weir claiming to be into World of Warcraft to distract serial nerd Dr Lee. After successfully stealing the Jumper though they’re able to make it to Midway station and are able to head for the new Athosian settlement to pickup their Pegasus comrades. The episode ends with the team ready to hit Atlantis itself.
There’s not really that much to say about the episode as it really is very much a set up to next week’s knock ‘em down. I think the real thing to get out the way is look who’s back, it’s RDA and this time he’s not just Weir’s mindgames. I much prefer this return to form for the old commander as he’s forced into a negotiation room that clearly makes him uncomfortable. It’s quite fun to watch him forced to play second fiddle to someone like Woolsey for a change, with the beleaguered bureaucrat the one doing both the talking and gun firing this time around. Instead O’Neill is very much everyone’s second fiddle when it comes down to it but yet doesn’t sacrifice his standard behaviour in the meantime.
Outside of this the one thing that comes across this episode is how much the Expedition has come to mean everything to the team and others. While they enjoyed the return to Earth that turned out to be a lie in Home they never really to the same degree had that proper gutpunch of believing to have done the right thing only to be forced out of their adventure at the same time. Weir is very much the heart of this as while she has the most choices absolutely none of them fit like leading the team did while the others, who do get posts given to them elsewhere, slowly but surely begin to readjust better. Without everything the Expedition gave to them in terms of opportunity you quickly see the holes in their lives the decision to leave created and they’re now trying to cope in their own ways.
Finally we get to the Ancients, who return for all of 20 minutes, and we finally continue the Atlantis storyline of the fact the Ancients were to be honest overconfident dicks who created their own failures more times than not. We’ve seen experiments go awry and their idiotic battleplan handing victory to the Wraith. Now however we see it with the Replicators. Simply because they created them over 10,000 years ago they refuse to see them as a threat, not even putting up shields over the city when they see them approaching in warships and are almost immediately cut to shreds. This approach to the Ancients as incredibly fallible people is probably what separates this show from SG-1 the most and sometimes goes too far with how stupid they are as a people and I think this is one of those times as they sacrifice what could be a multi episode story for a quick buzz.
In the end we have a well put together if underwhelming buildup to the second part that sees the Ancients return and somewhat underdone as characters to the point of absurdity while O’Neill and even Woolsey make an on form return to the show.
· Woolsey firing weapons? Must’ve been very desperate.
Quote of the episode: “They emit a directional energy beam that disrupts the connection between nanites.”
“Not what I asked.”
“Yes they “work good”.”
“Good.” – Meredith and Ronon