Today Woolsey has a people skills disaster and then Bill Nye does his thing.
Woolsey is prepping for an upcoming performance review by the IOA to look into his first few months of command, knowing just how intricate they are having performed one for Carter himself the previous year. While he declines to sit for his morning meal with the team he instead bumps into a Professor Vanessa Conrad who he takes an immediate liking to. Soon however he finds his focus back on the visit when the Chinese IOA delegate Shen Xiaoyi arrives to perform the review only to quickly find out he’s being “graduated”, aka promoted out of the post, to make way for someone new due to his recent questionable decisions.
Elsewhere Sheppard is on the mainland “helping” out a group of botanists, one of whom just so happens to be a young woman, only to get tired of babysitting them after they go mad for some plant. As he walks off to the Jumper to prep it he suddenly finds himself stunned by an unknown person. When he wakes up he finds himself tied up though quickly breaks his bindings only to find the Jumper out of action. The nearby scientist camp is also found to have been destroyed. As he continues to explore the woods he finds himself suddenly confronted by his old nemesis Kolya.
Meanwhile in the city Zelenka approaches Meredith in the lab asking to scan the ocean floor due to temperature variance. While Meredith to begin with is dismissive Zelenka manages to prod his ego into at least scanning the surface once. The scan quickly turns up something of interest to Meredith’s annoyance. A recovery team soon finds a mall pod like item which is brought back for the two scientists to examine. Meredith struggles to make progress however only for Zelenka to continue stroking his ego to keep him working on it.
Back in the woods Kolya interrogates Sheppard, revealing his plans to attack Atlantis once more and needing Sheppard’s IDC to unlock the Gateshield. Sheppard refuses to break however and gives Kolya nothing despite the beatings. Instead Kolya has two of his men hold Sheppard down while Kolya has him give them a hand, quite literally. Despite his injury Sheppard takes the chance to escape when Kolya and his men turn their backs for a moment.
On the city Professor Conrad visits Woolsey to find him not in a good mood due to have been told he’s getting the sack. While Woolsey seems lacklustre at the prospects of changing the outcome Conrad instead gets him to fight the attempt to push him out causing him to realise that Xiaoyi hasn’t written a report yet but intends to cause him to lose his post, knowing that she’ll get the post if she does right an unhelpful report. Later on Woolsey meets with Conrad again who he ends up asking out to dinner only to be called to Meredith’s lab. As he leaves however it turns out Xiaoyi had been listening in the whole time.
In the lab Meredith reveals he finally cracked the code on the module and finds it filled with all kinds of helpful technology the team could use but also the building blocks needed for another lifeform, revealing that the device is some kind of ark or seeding pod. Meredith finds that you can’t access the data without killing the ability for it to repopulate the lifeform meaning they either take the data or help the pod on its way. Deciding to think it other Woolsey has Amelia in the control room contact Conrad to cancel their date but Amelia is unable to find any record of a Conrad on file. Woolsey attempts to tell Amelia about Conrad, who he was with earlier, only for Amelia to say he was alone on the balcony. Woolsey ends up going for a brief medical screening only for Conrad to appear and reveal that she’s not real, only a visualisation caused by the signal the seeding pod was putting out.
Out in the woods Sheppard begins cutting down Kolya’s men with guerrilla warfare tactics, easily taking out a number of them through ambushes. Eventually Sheppard confronts the man himself only to end up hanging by his hand over the edge of a cliff. As he hangs Kolya begins telling him to use his other hand which is suddenly not cut off. It turns out that Kolya is in fact dead but that this version is a hallucination of the device back in the city intended to keep Sheppard too busy to get in the way due to fears his military background would make him the most likely to take the contents of the pod for himself. After recovering Sheppard takes the botanists, who’d been waiting by the Jumper for hours, back to the city.
Elsewhere in the city Woolsey attempts to confront Conrad in his quarters only for Xiaoyi to turn up and question him, asking about why he was talking to himself on the balcony. Xiaoyi decides to push Woolsey on sacrificing the seeding pod by taking the data but Woolsey isn’t in favour and instead wants to let the pod go on its way. The discussion is interrupted by Meredith who finally found that the pod is causing the hallucinations but Woolsey sends them both away while he talks more with Conrad. Pretty soon Xiaoyi receives a call from Earth that she won’t be getting Atlantis after all but is given the post that Woolsey would’ve gotten.
As Xiaoyi leaves for Earth she tells Woolsey that he’ll be remaining the leader of Atlantis, choosing to get revenge on the reneged deal by leaving him in charge, only for it to turn out Conrad had created the Earth update as a favour to Woolsey for letting the pod continue on its journey. At dinner that evening the team are joined by Woolsey whereupon Meredith begins mocking Woolsey and Sheppard for not realising they were hallucinations they were having earlier on, only to be told that Zelenka had been a hallucination all along too.
Compared to the recent spate of episodes this is a fun little one that largely confines itself just to the team going about a normal day really, something we haven’t seen on the show for a very long time now. Even the “threat” that Sheppard faces doesn’t even turn out to be real but is simply his mind playing tricks on him.
As he has done in his guest spots and for most of the season once again it’s Woolsey that steals the show as Atlantis continues to expand him as a character and his day to day personality. We’ve never really seen Woolsey outside of work until now but here we find he’s charmingly awkward as it were when dealing with people he may like, with a clear lack of recent experience when it comes to dating and the like. It’s an interesting parallel to a man who normally likes everything to be constant and structured in his normal work and even his off-time is kept to a more formal level in terms of his dress. We also get to see his slow attempt to fit in better with the team as while he knows their names (or at least most of them) he doesn’t know them as more than colleagues it seems, preferring his own company and work to off-duty interactions. Unlike his more romantic aspects of his life it’s clear he has no problems when it comes to being friendly with people, easily fitting in with the team during dinner, but just that it’s not his first port of call. Woolsey still remains very much a type A introverted person but more and more we see him “dressing down” when compared to previous appearances.
Then we come to the other main path of the episode which is Sheppard and the showing that even with his on the outward chummy and easy going style there are still serious problems internally that end up providing ample food for the hallucination. Ever since Kolya died in season 3 he hasn’t been brought up again but now we see Sheppard still worries about the idea that the threat is still out there and he still feels he needs to personally suffer for the mistakes he’s made over the years. This development seems a longtime coming to be honest as multiple times in the past Sheppard is shown to have demons of his own but were never really explored in detail unlike O’Neill and others were on SG-1. It’s a real shame as there’s clearly material to look into but they didn’t seem to want to risk the “cool guy” image Sheppard had.
Elsewhere we also stop in with Meredith and while he isn’t given any serious character development in the episode it’s fun to watch as the obvious not Zelenka easily controls the oblivious Meredith for the entire episode. It’s the perfect way to show up this character who claims to know everything repeatedly missing what’s right in front of him, not realising until the literal last minute of the episode. Compared to the rest of the episode it’s a nice deviation that counters the stuff like the Jaime Lannister tribute act.
Outside of the characters we also see the triumphant return of the IOA and their constant need to politik with everything. Ever since the removal of Weir in season 3 they’ve largely not appeared in any real depth but here we see a whole attempt to have Woolsey removed due to another country effectively wanting control of the Expedition and Atlantis. It’s a nice little Earth-related plot movement on a show that’s been largely Pegasus only for a while now.
Overall it’s a more laidback affair after the recent spate of Expedition threatening plots that put emphasis on more personal dealings with the characters on display and doesn’t feel the need to create big bads.
· Chuck’s line is probably my favourite in the whole series.
· Atlantis really needs a better film collection.
· And that’s how we find out the last 12 years of Stargate were all Woolsey’s insane hallucination.
· So the story of the episode is that Meredith, Woolsey, and Sheppard are all mentally screwed up.
Quote of the episode: “Hello there Chet.”
“It’s Chuck sir. My name is Chuck.”
“Oh, of course! Chuck. Chet’s on the late shift.”
“There is no Chet!” – Woolsey and Chuck/Chet
The team are discussing what they’re going to do on their upcoming annual leave with Sheppard and Ronon heading to the mainland to surf while others such as Keller and Meredith head back to Earth. Given the situation Meredith invites Keller to a conference hosted by a bunch of people within the academic community he used to know that he wants to show up. Meanwhile back on Earth a scientist, Malcolm Tunney, is confronted by his boss about fears over an upcoming device turn on but Tunney asks that he trust him.
After arriving on Earth Meredith begins almost immediately to ruin the event for Keller, constantly moaning about the treatment and how everyone’s out to rub his face in it simply because they are given a private jet trip to the facility. Once arriving it doesn’t get much better, with Meredith embarrassing Keller in front of Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Finally getting to the start of the conference itself Keller starts to see somewhat what Meredith had meant about Tunney, who it turns out is the host who invited him, with his Bono-levels of self-schmoozing presentation only for Meredith to make an even bigger tit of himself by claiming he’d stolen his research on the Inter-Dimensional Matter Bridge for a climate change machine. While Meredith attempts to have Tunney not turn the machine on Tunney does so anyway, with the facility shielded from the outside world.
Back outside the patrons wait to see if the temperature is indeed lowered by 10 degrees while Meredith drags Keller into the closed off section of the facility so that he can “prove” he stole his research but can’t find anything on his system. Unfortunately for them the device begins to malfunction, going below the desired 10 degree drop and can’t shut it down, leading Tunney to believe that the two sabotaged the machine. During the subsequent interrogation Meredith reveals that he had written the initial paper on the matter bridge and Tunney lets on to that fact. The two awkwardly attempt to work together on shutting the machine down before anything awful happens but they’re too late when a guest is suddenly frozen solid.
Deciding to make use of the audience they all begin to try and fix the problem with the machine before more people are turned into popsicles the endeavour quickly falls apart due to the collective ego being bigger than the collective brain power. Keller also attempts to get Tunney’s boss, Kramer, to turn the phones back on but by the time they get to the comms room it’s already been damaged by extreme weather effects. Thankfully though the shield around the facility may have weakened enough for a mobile call to get through so Keller leaves to make it. Unfortunately while the call goes through it sadly isn’t understandable.
In the control room Meredith finally comes up with a way to potentially close the bridge by simply flooding it with energy but this causes a mass uptick in “freeze lightning” in the process, one of which causes the room Keller is in to begin flooding and the door blocked off. The process doesn’t work in time to shut it down before the field itself collapses and tornadoes begin to form outside. Instead Meredith and Tunney instead try starving it of energy by creating another bridge, or rather Tunney does it while Meredith runs off to save Keller from freezing to death. While Tunney, with help from Bill Nye, manage to shut down the device finally Meredith is able to save Keller, who finally reciprocates his feelings by repeating his message from The Shrine.
On the way back to the SGC via private jet the two discuss what they’ll do in the future, with Meredith considering leaving the SGC for the private sector. Keller however suggests they take advantage of the flight.
Brain Storm is an episode that feels more like the shows that Syfy would start doing after Stargate, more family friendly affairs like A Town Called Eureka, but it’s still a fun little episode in part because of that. Despite the threat of people dying and turned to ice it’s a rather laid back fun affair of scientists being rockstars with humongous egos that know no bounds, a far cry from the standard view of tweed suits and begging for lab funding. The extensive Bill Nye cameo really does add to that fun feel regarding to the scientists, being presented as a serious scientist who is right up there despite his TV start, and is treated with a great deal more content than small cameos in the past. Thankfully it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome as a joke, coming together at just the right moments in the wider episode not to feel like attention-seeking while not feeling underused.
Outside of this aspect the episode is really dominated character-wise by Meredith once again, this time really bringing back the arrogant man from the SG-1 days and showing that while he’s greatly changed there’s still some of that in there when he deals with the past. Despite that however we finally see him willing to drop the last shreds of that part of him by repeatedly risking his life and then giving all credit to his former rivals instead to go and save Keller which is the most important thing to him. In that it very much feels like the end of the road for his main character arc over the many years he’s been part of the franchise and well-deserved given his journey.
And that’s Brain Storm, an episode that portrays scientists as the heroes while also a bunch of whiny egotistical manchildren in a funny non-consequential episode. Classic Stargate.
· Bloody Firefly reference.
· Given the allegations against him that Tyson (and Bill) being a player skit hasn’t aged well.
· Tunney and Meredith could be a double act that gets cancelled after 6 episodes.
Quote of the episode: “I never said it was going to be easy.”
“It’s going to be impossible.”
“I’m Dr. Rodney McKay alright. Difficult takes a few seconds, impossible a few minutes.” – Meredith and Tunney