So here we are after one year, six months, and three days we reach the end of the Stargate recap series.
In the desert a crime scene team is gathering evidence of a murder when Detective Sheppard turns up to look over the scene himself. It turns out a spate of killings have left bodies around the area of Las Vegas with the life sucked out of them with a handmark on the chest and traces of radiation. Sheppard goes to the local morgue only to find the normal coroner replaced with Keller who downplays Sheppard’s ideas of a link. Sheppard instead goes off the books rogue and talks to the local hospital to ask about anyone suffering radiation poisoning.
At a seedy motel on the outskirts of town a man is talking to his partner in between throwing up and having nosebleeds, thinking he only has the flu despite the obvious signs of radiation poisoning. He’s unable to get to sleep however because of his neighbour playing loud music who he goes to confront. Unfortunately his night gets worse when it turns out his neighbour is the Wraith feeding on everyone.
At his precinct Sheppard is met by FBI Agent Woolsey who wants his cooperation in dealing with the case but blows him off to see his contact at the local hospital who reveals a man with “flu-like” symptoms came in but was later released though Sheppard is able to track down his motel location. At the motel itself that night Sheppard follows the Wraith, who’s now wearing heavy prosthetics to appear a punk, but is unaware the man suffering from radiation poisoning has already been his latest lunch. Deciding to follow him into the casinos he joins the Wraith playing a high-stakes poker game where eventually one of the other patrons gets tired of the Wraith’s winning streak, leading to a chase between the Wraith and Sheppard through the hotel until Sheppard corners him on a roof only for the Wraith to easily jump several stories to the floor and keep running.
Sheppard heads back to the motel to check out the Wraith’s hideaway, finding the dead body of the neighbour and a bunch of money before Woolsey turns up and “asks” Sheppard to come with him, taking him to Area 51. Despite refusing to sign an NDA of some kind Woolsey lets Meredith talk to Sheppard about the investigation. It turns out in this alternate reality that Sheppard’s black mark was the deaths of 12 people in an off the books rescue mission to save a medic he was involved with. When Sheppard still refuses to talk Meredith instead tells him about the Stargate Program, revealing that the only real difference here is that Sheppard didn’t join the Expedition. Meredith also reveals the “true form” of the Wraith by bringing him to see a captive Wraith, Todd, who now has a penchant for poetry, and that the loose Wraith is building a device of some kind with supplies funded via his gambling winnings. Soon Meredith lets Sheppard go, commenting that he met an alternate Sheppard who was a hero and that he knew this Sheppard could be the same person.
Back in the precinct Sheppard resigns his job, looking for a fresh start with the money he took from the Wraith, and drives off into the desert only to recall conversations regarding the Wraith’s plan, realising he intends to use the electrical grid to power his device, and instead turns the car around to instead stop him. Sheppard phones Meredith with the Wraith’s location and proceeds to go confront him.
Out in the desert in a trailer the Wraith recalls how he ended up on Earth, a survivor of a Hive that had somehow reached the planet but was easily destroyed with the Drone Chair. Instead he now intends to alert other Hive’s to Earth’s location so that he can also be rescued. Hearing Sheppard’s car approach he arms up and comes out firing, keeping the detective pinned down behind his car after wounding him in the shoulder. As the Wraith walks up and intends to feed on him two A-10 Warthogs approach on a strafing run. The Wraith runs back to the trailer and starts his transmitter moments before it’s destroyed.
Back in Area 51 Meredith and Zelenka find that the transmission didn’t go through in their reality but likely leaked through to other realities. Out in the desert Sheppard attempts to get away from his car but collapses in the desert to an uncertain fate.
It’s quite surprising that it comes right now but Vegas is probably the most unique episode Atlantis and maybe even SG-1 ever put together after 15 years combined of TV experience, not only in style but also substance, in what is the last alternate reality the show puts on screen.
Here for the first time as far as I’m aware this is the only time we ever see an alternate reality that isn’t visited by the prime universe and instead it’s a largely self-contained story that acts as the final real character piece of the show, this time finally seeing Sheppard get the treatment he so desperately needed in the last 5 years. Sheppard has largely been this “cool guy” persona who’s haunted by that black mark we found about some time ago but here we see that even though in this universe it went even worse for him and saw him hit rock bottom he’s still that same at his core honourable man who wants to help others. Yes he’s a little more cynical, stealing money from a crimescene, but when push comes to shove he realises he still needs to make a positive difference in the world even if that ended up costing his life. The episode largely portrays this through his actions rather than meaningful dialogue, which it has surprisingly little of, but that seems to make it stronger and stand out compared to other episodes of character growth where there’s been a lot of talking. The outcome would be the same either way though, that Sheppard is the sort of person who belongs on the Expedition due to his good nature.
The other way the episode really stands out however is that unique style in terms of the show as they put this deliberate police procedural CSI look and setting to the show. The whimsical score is replaced with real world music and small gritty pieces, the shots are no longer colourful but are focused on harsh contrasts and down to earth feeling to suggest this could be literally anywhere on the planet right now rather than sci-fi. That previously mentioned score is a bloody masterwork for the show, with the use of Johnny Cash’s Solitary Man throughout to set up the nature of Sheppard and who he is as he goes out in a blaze of glory a real standout moment for the show as a whole. The whole effort gives a very realistic look and feel to an episode that still deals with intergalactic aliens and maybe here was one of those times that helped push the creators towards the serious approach they then took with Universe. Still the whole CSI thing makes you wish that Teal’c: PI made a small cameo.
The new take on the established formula does obviously mean some things had to be jettisoned and that sadly is the larger exploration of the world that usually came with these episodes and the wider differences but if that’s the price for this episode it’s one very much worth paying. An amazing episode that could’ve probably served as a season finale in any other.
· With Brad Wright and most of the Stargate crew playing casino games I think I know where season 6’s budget disappeared to.
· So The Sopranos and Stargate have a shared universe.
· Where was the iconic A-10 brrt?
Quote of the episode: “he probably got a job as a Klingon at Star Trek: The Experience.”
“That shut down.”
“Really? Damn, I wanted to see that.” – Meredith, Woolsey, and Zelenka
Enemy at the Gate
The city receives word from Todd, who has successfully survived his treatment, to be told that he’s been betrayed by one of his own. While the Expedition initially blow him off Todd reveals that this underling has managed to get access to at least one ZPM and use it to power a Hive ship. To help prove it’s not a trick Todd willingly puts himself in Expedition custody while they hunt down the underling’s still vulnerable Hive, which they agree to do so despite their misgivings given Todd’s nature.
Caldwell takes the team and Todd to the location on the Daedalus, with Todd locked in the brig because of his previous actions which he accepts (if not the fashion). As they get close the team decide to take a Jumper out first as a scout which at least from sensor readings seems to confirm Todd’s story. Unfortunately the ZPM’s upgrades amongst other things allow them impenetrable armour and also to detect cloaked vessels. As it attempts to retreat the Jumper is hit but thankfully the Daedalus appears to take the hits but isn’t able to do any damage even with Asgard weapons while shields are torn apart easily. Just as the Hive has them dead to rights it suddenly jumps away, leaving them to try and figure what happened. Turns out Kavanagh was onboard and for once actually useful, finding that it received a beacon revealing Earth’s location (from Vegas) and are headed for it.
As the Hive heads for Earth the Daedalus heads back to the city while Apollo and Sun Tzu attempt to intercept the Wraith only to suffer catastrophic damage to both ships, leaving Earth open to attack. The team realise their only hope is the city itself but need Todd to provide them a bunch of ZPMs to power the city which he happily does so which SART recover. Sheppard however is sent home early to take control of the Ancient chair back on Earth leaving Beckett to take control of the city once again which for once he does without so much as a whimper.
Back on Earth Sheppard meets with Carter who’s there to help lead the anti-Wraith efforts while Landry is away. She also informs him that they’re renaming the Phoenix to the Hammond after George Hammond who’d died of a heart attack sometime prior. In the adhoc command center in the old Briefing Room Sheppard encourages Major Davis to outfit the only planetside squadron of F-302s available with nukes while he also flies with them given his experience. Unfortunately a wave of Darts is headed for Area 51 where the Chair now resides and despite a heavy dogfight a kamikaze Dart hits the base, taking the chair with it. Given the situation Sheppard takes his F-302 to try and board the Hive with his nuke on yet another suicide mission.
On the way back to Earth Woolsey offers both Teyla and Ronon the chance to avoid the fight to come but they both standby their friends and comrades in the Expedition by choosing to stay. Unfortunately the measure is possibly pointless as the city comes out of hyperspace early somewhere in the Milky Way. The city attempts to dial Earth and contact them but instead they dial a Stargate the Wraith had taken with them to lock out the Milky Way system. Lorne and the rest of FART volunteer to go to the Hive and sabotage it while they can. Zelenka meanwhile finds a possible solution to their stranded situation in the form of an experimental wormhole drive.
Inside the Hive the team attempt to sabotage key systems but are ambushed, with Ronon taking a stab to the back and seemingly dying. The others fall back and manage to make contact with Sheppard as he flies onboard with his nuke. While they meet up and cry over Ronon a Wraith officer brings him back to life for interrogation only for the others to stop crying and come back for him. Just as the team prepare to escape however the Hive powers up, forcing them to begin prepping the nuke for immediate detonation when lo and behold Atlantis shows up to save the day. As the two ships exchange fire the team onboard attempt to make it through the Gate to safety while the city itself slowly falls into the atmosphere. After escaping as planned the nuke goes off, finishing off the Hive.
While the immediate threat is destroyed the city is forced to land on Earth, splashing down just off of San Francisco, bringing the cloak up to avoid detection. Sometime later Sheppard goes to visit Todd while inside the infirmary Amelia and Ronon share a moment before they head out to the balcony to join the rest of the team, Keller, Beckett and Woolsey in seeing their new home.
And there we have it, the final ever episode of Atlantis and for most of the cast their final ever appearance in the franchise and what an adventure that really stands in stark contrast with SG-1s series finale Unending. While that was a lot more intimate and to be honest a lot more moving a way to go this feels like an equally fun “one last ride” piece that sees characters new and old come out for that last episode. It’s definitely an ensemble piece in that regard and everyone gets that one moment to make it feel worthwhile for their appearance. Hell even Kavanagh finally does something actually useful on the show for the first time since trying to get Ford sucked into space.
The action throughout is really well put together, feeling like a final demonstration of all they’ve learnt in that regard as we see a couple of final spacefights, a last F-302 dogfight, and the team assaulting an 80s Horror film set too. It all comes together to show what Atlantis really was at its core which was a more modern and exciting Stargate show if not as good on the character exploration side of affairs.
Even with all the action however the show does find time for a rather fitting and touching tribute to the amazing Don S Davis who sadly died the year prior in naming a piece of the show’s mythology after him. Of course it’s a sad kind of irony in that the show predicted Hammond’s cause of death back in 2010 but that doesn’t make the move any less moving or deserved for both Davis, the crew, and the fans.
Unlike its SG-1 counterpart this episode, more by luck than design, does wrap up a lot of the story threads and thankfully didn’t end on a cliffhanger which gives a sense of closure and does feed back into that “one last ride” feel to it. This probably works in its favour as previous Atlantis finales have been shakey at times trying to set up next season’s arc while here the definitive end makes it a stronger piece and prevents it getting tired and stretched. Despite this however you can clearly see sadly the plot threads that never were, with Todd and Amelia seemingly headed for a move from recurring to lead characters on the show, Todd’s relationship with the Expedition coming to a seemingly strange placement of him with them now. It would’ve been a nice shakeup to the established order and probably the first that wasn’t due to actors wanting to leave or fed up with roles.
Even with that sadness the episode still remains a great finale to the show, seeing the city itself finally in the frontlines at full strength and the team in one last hurrah to save the world.
· Don’t treat Todd like that Sheppard, he’s one of the few friends you have left.
· Genuinely typed dead to rights before Caldwell said it.
· The show just subtlety hinted at Universe with the “secret mission”.
· Ah the SGC’s final appearance.
· They should’ve had that wormhole drive be all Zelenka’s work as a final “this is what he’s been doing the whole five years”.
· Whatever they do don’t let an Essos witch heal Ronon’s wound.
Quote of the episode: S: “Get those down to Zelenka immediately.”
L: “Yes sir.”
S: “Or maybe they’re going to blow up when you plug them in.”
W: “Have Doctor McKay check them first.”
L: “Right...” – Sheppard, Lorne, and Woolsey