Today Sheppard meets his female equivalent and the team all lose their minds.
Sheppard and Meredith are talking via intercom as Sheppard flies a routine supply run to an Expedition outpost that just so happens to be described as “sexy lustful natives” stereotype only for the Jumper to come under attack from an unknown ship, quickly incapacitating the smaller vessel and taking Sheppard prisoner before jumping to hyperspace. Onboard the vessel Sheppard is interrogated by humans of an unknown allegiance for information regarding his ship. Eventually a woman, Larrin, reveals themselves as “Travelers”, an advanced race of humans who live on hyperdrive ships and keep on the move to avoid the Wraith altogether. It turns out Sheppard was captured simply by luck as they’ve been looking for someone who can use Ancient tech so that they can reverse engineer it for their own use. Taking him back to the hanger they reveal that their intended “reverse engineering” target is an old Ancient battleship left behind after the war with the Wraith.
On Atlantis the rest of the team try to work out what has happened to Sheppard. With Lorne’s help they take a Jumper to check out his last known position, finding no wreckage which means he must’ve been kidnapped. This good news however is tempered by the fact they have no idea where to look.
With the Travelers Larrin has brought Sheppard and her team over to the Ancient ship to begin repairing the thing though Sheppard is still not exactly a willing participant. Easily starting up the ship with his experience of Ancient interfaces Sheppard turns off the inertial dampeners causing everyone to hit the bulkheads, allowing him to nick a gun similar to Ronon’s from one of the unconscious crew. Sheppard attempts to take the ship back home but is forced to surrender when Larrin threatens to blow the ship to bits rather than lose it. Now confined to the hold the two sides reach a stalemate as Sheppard had disabled the ship before handing it back, leaving them stuck at their new position.
Returning to the city the rescue team come across a signal that Sheppard left when he disabled the battleship, transmitting a broken SOS signal.
On the battleship Larrin beats Sheppard when she discovers the signal as it’s caused the Wraith to come and check out the ship as well since they’ve picked up the signal. As the Wraith bombard the ship the two groups begin working together to try and take it out but it comes too late as Larrin’s two men are killed when the Wraith take out the Bridge. Using the ship’s limited supply of drones Sheppard belatedly manages to take out the Wraith ship. Sheppard however then locks Larrin inside a room while he waits for his team to arrive. She soon escapes however only to stumble across a Wraith officer, finding that the 4 Wraith have gotten over to the battleship. Now playing hide and seek the two kill one of the Wraith only for to realise the others can take control of the ship as Sheppard had left the ship with the keys in the ignition. Going back to the drone room Sheppard attacks the ship itself to take them out only for one to survive the attack and feed on Larrin. At gunpoint Sheppard forces the Wraith to put the life he took back in Larrin before letting him leave with his Dart. Larrin seems to share a moment with her saviour only to steal his stunner and take him out. Soon a group of Traveler ships arrive to help Larrin out. Back in the brig again Sheppard and Larrin talk, with Sheppard suggesting an alliance as now’s the team for them to attack the Wraith as they’ve been weakened by the Replicators.
A large scale Jumper team arrive at the closest system to the ship but it’s still 5 hours away from the battleship’s position by Jumper. By the time they get there however they are only in time to see the Ancient ship and the Traveler fleet leave them behind. Fearing they’d lost Sheppard again they instead find that they’d left him and his Jumper behind for his people to recover. Back on the city the team discuss their new “ally”, with Meredith complaining that he missed the chance to be taken prisoner by “the sexy alien”.
So after 3 and a bit seasons we’ve finally seen two critical developments to the world of Atlantis in the addition of Larrin and the Travelers as a people for the Expedition to interact with. Up until this point the only other recurring human group inside the Pegasus Galaxy was the Genii which was always kind of strange given how we’ve seen how many technologically advanced groups now who could’ve led some kind of alliance or groups similar to the Lucian Alliance or what have you back on the Milky Way yet it was pretty much empty.
Now however the Travelers appear who are a group clearly inspired by The Fleet from Battlestar Galactica, a race who’ve been flying in powerful warships to avoid the Wraith culling for countless generations but are unable to take losses in a direct fight because of their small numbers. It’s an interesting way to build up the race, speaking to the writing team’s years of experience, in that they manage to both create a powerful ally while at the same time avoiding the issues of “we’ve made them too powerful already” which saw them have to do things in previous years like “well they’re just dicks who don’t share” or “now they’re in a whole other galaxy and have a war to fight” after the fact to avoid those same issues. Now we can easily see why they can’t show up all the time as we see the ships are falling apart and are run on skeleton crews thereby immediately seeing the flaws with them as an ally as well as the strengths.
Larrin as a new character also finally adds what the show’s been missing until now which is a suitable foil for Sheppard to bounce off of. Until now the show has tried to present both Teyla and Weir as potential romances for the lead but they’ve never really gelled with Teyla too stuck with baggage from being the junior in rank and having a more family like dynamic while Weir just seemed too uninterested in him as a person and too professional at all times. Larrin as an outsider has none of those problems and in many ways is similar to Sheppard as a person. Both are headstrong and proud people who underneath share a strong desire to help those around them while facing the burden of command. This sees them butting heads throughout the episode but in a way that builds up chemistry between the two as opposed to being too angry or resentful. The scene where we see them fight over keeping each other silent while hiding from the Wraith is a great example of this where just with their eyebrows you see them fighting over who covers up the other one first. Unfortunately as we’ll come to see this romance also gets screwed over by casting and scheduling issues like other attempts have.
Outside of this the episode is fairly run of the mill in how it’s put together. You have some action packed space combat, tense hallway movement, some fun dialogue or character moments, and a satisfying conclusion that wraps up enough while leaving enough to be teased for future episodes. This by the numbers design however doesn’t take away from the episode however simply because it’s very well done inside of these parameters, with great set design and scenes that make use of what little they had for the episode. Even the B plot doesn’t feel unwelcome which on Atlantis can sometimes be an issue.
Overall this is a great episode continuing a so far great season with a well put together episode that introduces some much needed variety into side characters and factions on the show.
· Sheppard still thinking of himself as Mr Fantastic I see.
· Wonder if these Travelers ever take over Council car parks like the ones here do?
· This Ancient ship can take a lot of damage.
Quote of the episode: “Sure you want to go through with this? If you don’t make it I’m going to feel responsible and, well I really don’t need the guilt.”
“We’ll be fine as long as you don’t shoot too early. I’m sure that’s not the first time you’ve heard that from a woman.”
“On the other hand I might be able to live with it.” – Sheppard and Larrin
We start with Meredith waking up tied to his desk in a research lab on the city confused at what’s happening. Following instructions left for him he watches a video of himself telling him to find a woman, Teyla, and that it’s the most important thing and not to trust anyone else.
We cut back to 14 hours earlier where Meredith is visiting Dr Katie Brown in her lab to say hello, their time together recently having been rather short due to her work cataloguing new plant species on the planet’s landmasses and presents him with a plant she’s named after him. Their date is cut short however as Katie thinks she’s coming down with something and instead visits Dr Keller in the infirmary, with Meredith volunteering to come with her. It turns out a number of people are already falling ill with the same symptoms as Katie which is making Keller worried with the rapid spread. Keller soon puts out a quarantine of the infirmary as the medical staff begin to fall victim as well.
Cutting back to the present we find Meredith walking around the city confused with it seemingly abandoned. Soon he comes across a body slumped against the wall unresponsive only to be ambushed by an equally confused Zelenka who seems worried about “the soldiers” who are taking people away to an unknown purpose. When Meredith refuses to come with him Zelenka walks off angry and leaves him in the hallways alone.
Moving back to 10 hours earlier we find the infirmary on lockdown with the medics now in hazmat suits to try and stop it spreading. Meredith is largely keeping Katie company, who’s now confined to bed, only to find that she is struggling to remember basic things and doesn’t know who he or anyone else is anymore. Soon however even the hazmat teams begin to fall ill meaning either hazmat isn’t working or that quarantine was breached.
Back in the present Meredith finds himself confronted and stunned by “the soldiers”, revealed to be defence teams led by Lorne, who are rounding up people loose in the city. After taking Meredith down they begin taking pills of some kind.
Now 8 hours in the past Carter and Sheppard are talking about the fact the entire city seems to have been exposed and that after first signs of the illness its only 6 hours before people start to lose their memory. Sheppard meanwhile begins plans to have the mess hall turned into a triage centre to better contain those showing symptoms. While prepping the mess hall however with Teyla and Ronon Sheppard begins to feel symptoms. Teyla and Ronon talk about the fact neither of them seem to be feeling the effects of the mysterious illness unlike their Milky Way born friends. Meanwhile Carter is beginning to supply amphetamines to key personnel and Lorne’s security teams to stave off the effects of the illness. Meanwhile Ronon visits the infirmary to find Keller losing her memory and the team unable to save one of the first infected who’s crashing.
In the present Meredith wakes up in the mess hall with all those Lorne’s men are keeping contained, with Keller and Carter now amongst the interned. Meredith begins writing down what he knows on his arms as he is already regressing back again into nothing. With little choice while stuck in the mess hall the prisoners stage a mass escape when Lorne and his men return, allowing Meredith and Carter to escape as the others try to round up the prisoners.
Back in the past people begin to be moved to the mess hall as the civilians begin to get more violent as they lose more of their memories, forcing the security teams to arm up with stunners. The rest of the team however meet with Carter and Keller, with the medical doctor having found records of a disease similar to the one now affecting the base. Upon reading the name the Pegasus members of the base reveal that it’s a common childhood illness they had and so does everyone else with little to no side-effects and this is likely a mutated version that attacks those who’ve never been exposed to the milder version. Teyla also makes them aware of a simple remedy for the disease that can be made from plants on the mainland. As Sheppard gets worse he and Ronon go to the mainland to grab the plant while Teyla tries to keep Meredith’s failing mind on task in the city. Teyla however is soon forced to escape when Lorne attempts to apprehend her, unable to recognise her non-affected state. Left alone in the lab Meredith sets up the situation he found at the start of the episode.
Coming back to now Carter and Meredith hopelessly walk around lost in the city looking for Teyla, running into Zelenka once more who has found not only a stunner but also Meredith’s computer. Using it they continue trying to search for Teyla, finding themselves almost caught in the infirmary when Lorne comes for the last of the amphetamines, the security teams half delirious themselves now from taking so many. It turns out that Lorne has Teyla in the brig and can’t recognise her at all, seeing her as responsible for the illness. The others show up however to free her and with her help Meredith is able to complete the program needed to create the cure with the plants needed.
Also in the present Ronon and Sheppard arrive on the mainland, with Ronon enjoying the fact he has to stun Sheppard to keep him contained as he’s lost his memory completely. By the time he comes back with the plant however he finds Sheppard has escaped and armed himself, ambushing the Satedan when he enters the Jumper. Ronon however is able to talk Sheppard down and have him take them back to the city, only to be stopped by security teams who don’t remember them. Ronon however has Lorne check his pocket which has a pre-written note he wrote to himself just in case he forgot who Sheppard was, convincing him of who they are and allowing them to complete their delivery.
Sometime later Sheppard is recovering in the infirmary where Teyla comes to say hello, telling him Lorne wants to apologise for what happened. Elsewhere Meredith is sitting by Katie’s bedside waiting for her to wake up, refusing to leave in the meantime. When she wakes up Katie doesn’t know where she is but remembers who Meredith is.
Tabula Rasa is probably one of the most interesting and unique episodes of the show’s entire run. A two timeline tale where the main opponent of the team is themselves as they slowly succumb to the effects of a memory altering disease. These two timelines that slowly converge is definitely a strong aspect of the episode that time was clearly put into, almost perfectly contrasting with each other to keep the viewers in the dark long enough while slowly drip feeding the needed info. They also contain small notes to things we saw earlier on to show the progress of the disease, with Meredith sitting at Katie’s bedside for hours to only not even recognise her as she lay in the mess hall later on. What could’ve been just them without memory instead being the tale of them slowly losing it makes the episode fare better and more complete as a result.
Talking of Meredith this episode really does go to great lengths to add to his core character, in particular the background relationship he’s had with Katie Brown for the last season or two. Despite his previously selfish character we now see him willing to put some of that aside to spend time with Katie even when he really doesn’t want to, likely as a result of the events of Sunday. Though this could’ve been a strange complete character turnaround we still see the old Meredith there what with his constant obsession for food, hatred of hospitals and the ill, and hypochondria. As a result the Meredith we see in the episode is one who rather than being perfect is at least trying to make an effort for someone he cares about which feels more real and believable than it otherwise would’ve been and therefore much better to watch play out.
Even with the potentially deadly conditions at play on the screen there’s still a surprising amount of humour in the episode, going to show how well once again the show has developed. Much of that is understandably focused on Zelenka who is excellent when out of his goddamn mind, running around with his little pole and clearly beating several trained Marines with it. Alongside this we also have some slight humour with Ronon enjoying the fact he gets to stun his boss for once without consequence and treating him as you would a small child. When the rest of the episode is squads of stormtroopers and deadly illnesses, Star Wars kid and get your own back are great little excursions that don’t detract from the tension but instead give slight breathers ready for the next dose of intrigue.
It should go without saying this is one of the finest episodes the show ever made.
· Lorne a villain again I see.
· What a bunch of druggees.
· So out of everyone on the base Zelenka is the one who is actually able to fight off soldiers and yet he’s kept on the base?
Quote of the episode: “I am your commanding officer, so you should do what I say.”
“Yes sir. What are your orders?”
“Do what he says.” – Sheppard and Lorne