Today the team have a pretty forgettable experience and a truly memorable one.
Ghost in the Machine
The team are heading for a Spacegate after having explored a planet with “flying monkeys” only to see the Jumper suffer a sudden glitch and then lose power before hitting the Gate. As they pass it a drive pod comes back online allowing them to quickly make for the Gate and successfully make it through. Back on the city while they initially put it down to an isolated incident the city soon begins facing glitches of its own, seeing Woolsey stranded on the far side of the city by a transporter and power disruptions shutting down computers all over the city. Soon a terminal begins attempting to communicate with the team claiming to be Weir.
After a difficult series of text based communications Meredith sets up a voice communication system that allows Weir to better explain what happened to her. Weir explains that after being converted into a Replicator she ended up leading those who believed in ascension and broke away from the Replicators and survived the destruction of the Asurans. It turns out that those of the faction soon grew restless with the little progress they’d made and instead try to force the process by shedding their physical form that one of the Replicators, Koracen, came up with but this instead led to a living nightmare. After she requests one the team try to decide whether to help her by giving her a Replicator body only for Weir to make the decision for them, giving herself a new body based on FRAN.
Given the situation Woolsey decides to have Weir placed in a virtual reality to see if she’ll keep her word about wanting to help and make sure she’s not a threat. Before this can happen however Weir detects that the rest of the Replicators have found her and are coming to get a body just like she did. While Meredith attempts to put together a way to prevent them taking control of the computers they arrive before he’s ready and begin causing havoc on the city. Koracen, leading them, attempts to force the city to give them bodies by beginning to sink the city but Woolsey calls their bluff, knowing the destruction of the city will leave them trapped forever, leading to a standoff. Instead they agree to a compromise of giving them all temporary Replicator bodies until they create flesh and blood ones which would allow them to reach ascension.
Despite the agreement things soon go south when Koracen decides to go rogue and escapes after shutting off the city’s power. Sheppard manages to track him down in the halls but the Replicator escapes. Hunting him down again he instead comes across both him and Weir. It turns out that Weir had planned for the others to reach the city to begin with but proves she didn’t aid in the escape by eliminating Koracen for good. While Woolsey is willing to let them continue working on the human bodies given that the others kept their word Weir instead goes for a different plan, leading all of the Replicators into deep space where they shut down for good.
This is one of those episodes where it tries to tell a certain story but if you really think about it for a while it becomes nothing like what it set out to be.
This episode seems to have been made to close up the Weir plot thread left hanging from the end of the Replicator plot last season and for no reason but that and this is one that probably shouldn’t have been made as Weir is turned from this gallant leader to a character who does nothing but screw up badly time and time again. In the episode not once but twice her actions lead to the death of multiple innocents, the first time when she surreptitiously led the other Replicators to Atlantis and killed at least one member of the Expedition in the process and at the end of the episode where she kills a bunch of Replicators who were actually innocent and had done nothing wrong. It feels like a muddy stain on a character who until now had such a great final sendoff sacrificing herself for the team to save them and while was capable of slightly backhanded politics the idea she’d effectively betray her friends really doesn’t sit well for the character. No wonder Higginson chose not to return for the episode.
Elsewhere the focus on Weir is never really exploited for any of the other characters even though they should really have something to talk about. Teyla gets a brief conversation about her son but none of the others get any real alone time of note to talk about what’s happened over the last year or so. Even the topics of Beckett and Keller never come up even though you’d think new clone would be a top priority. Woolsey again gets a couple of moments, one being a quite funny lock out and walk back to the tower while the other shows him taking command of the base in his first real crisis but outside of that it’s pretty quiet.
Overall it’s a pretty forgettable episode based on a plot thread that to be honest had been pretty much forgotten and probably should’ve remained that way.
· I think Weir transferring to a younger, hotter body is the most Atlantis thing that could happen on the show.
· This seems like a pretty one-sided compromise deal they have.
· That arrangement of guards seems pretty friendly fire heavy.
Quote of the episode: “They certainly don’t waste any time do they?”
“No they don’t. There’s no breaks, no chitchat, no social interaction whatsoever. Just the perfect working environment.” – Woolsey and Meredith
We begin with a recording labelled Day 15 where Keller is trying to get a clearly unwell Meredith to state his name but Meredith is unwilling to go much further after that, instead panicking as he doesn’t know where Sheppard is. It turns out that Meredith’s sister Jeannie has been brought to the city and is watching the recording unable to understand how Meredith has grown so unwell in only a couple of weeks. It turns out a couple of weeks previously the team had gone offworld to find themselves trapped with the Gate flooded under an unexpected glacial collapse. Meredith, who’d already been unwell, falls unconscious in the rescue Jumper having been left freezing for 40 minutes beforehand. Meredith however soon seems normal so is given a largely clean bill of health by Keller.
Cutting back to current day Jeannie visits Meredith, with them joking quickly about his “real name”. It quickly emerges that Meredith’s illness is similar to Alzheimer’s but far faster acting. Jeannie quickly finds herself unable to cope with seeing him that way and leaves the room only to be comforted by Ronon, who adds that he knows of a place where you can “say goodbye”. Jeannie goes to Keller to understand more of the “parasite” that’s killing him but gets into an argument over taking Meredith to the place Ronon spoke of, with Keller unable to get over the guilt she places on herself over not spotting the illness sooner and thereby wanting to try for as long as possible to save him medically so refuses to sign off on this “last day”.
Flashing back we see Ronon having attempted to earlier convince the rest of the Expedition to take Meredith to this place where, when he was six, he’d done so with his grandfather and the previously confused man immediately returned to his former self. The rest of the team are more sceptical, including Woolsey who had a similar “moment of clarity” with his father who’d died of Alzheimer’s back on Earth. What doesn’t help is that the Wraith have a major outpost on the planet where this shrine exists making a visit hard. Though the team attempt to get Meredith’s consent Keller overrules him due to his condition. Back in the present however Jeannie, as next of kin, gives consent to the mission.
Once more we go back in time and see the video files made to monitor how the disease progressed for Meredith. Despite his largely normal appearance in Day 1 he soon begins to get worse, with him panicking and trying to find Sheppard one night. To try and comfort his friend Sheppard takes Meredith out to drink beer on one of the city’s piers. Meredith, already slipping away, tries to get Sheppard to say goodbye now but the man refuses. Instead Meredith makes them laugh by deliberately getting Sheppard’s name wrong. Later, in a video marked Day 10, Meredith gets angry at himself as he is unable to recall the answers to the test questions he set himself. A final log marked Day 18 sees him leave personal goodbyes to his friends.
On the mission the team send through a MALP which lays a smokescreen to cover the entry of the Jumper past the two Hive ships lying just outside the Gate. Successfully making it to the planet the team fly to the shrine only to find Meredith desperately tries to get away from the shrine before reverting back to his normal self when he stands next to a pillar emitting a form of low-level radiation. Despite initial anger at them giving up on him Meredith, Jeannie, and Keller attempt to diagnose why he’s so well again, finding that the parasite hates the radiation. Given that this is their last shot Keller decides to use the chance to operate and remove the parasite while they have the chance. Attempting to open his skull the parasite forces its way out, attempting to get away, only to be killed by Ronon.
Sometime later Jeannie is seen by Meredith’s bedside as he recovers in the infirmary while Keller keeps watch. When he wakes up Keller leaves to give the two siblings some time alone. It turns out she goes to watch Meredith’s log for Day 6, where he admits he loves her.
This is probably the most touching episode the show ever put out over the years and is one of the most emotional displays of being affected by an illness like Alzheimer’s ever put on screen, a surprising accolade for a show known more for being a bit campy fun.
David Hewlett really had a tough job in the episode to portray this disease stricken Meredith. Mental illness portrayed on TV is probably one of the hardest things for an actor to do as it’s a fine line between poignant and offensive but my god is Hewlett’s performance nothing short of sheer brilliance on screen. The amount of work he clearly put into it is so easy to see as he gracefully portrays Meredith going from slight changes to the anger at being able to do nothing to stop what’s happening to him and finally to this sad wasted state where he’s barely recognisable as the man we all knew. It all goes so well together as a performance it does bring a tear to your eye as you watch these video clips of him slowly wasting away in front of you, trying to hold on to the few memories and personality he has left before it’s all gone for good. It’s definitely one of the great performances on the show.
Robert Picardo’s performance is also great when he has the moment talking about Woolsey’s experiences of this sort of disease, very much feeling like it could be a true story of his own rather than just that of the character. All of the performances really remembering past experiences or their own are all so good that some of them don’t feel like they get their individual dues but it’s definitely a sum greater than its parts.
If there was anything at all I didn’t really see the point of during the episode it’s the momentary inclusion of the Wraith. Why they were put in the episode I don’t really know and it takes you out of the emotional story for a few minutes but it’s hardly a disaster for the episode at the same time.
In the end this is a truly brilliant episode that portrays a common mental condition with grace and respect. One of the all time greats for the show.
· I like how they foreshadow the parasite during the flooding scene as one casually floats past the bottom of the screen.
· Yep that drill sound is sickening.
· I see life-saving shrines like to be in beautiful locations.
Quote of the episode: “Do you have some kind of itinerary planned?”
“Well actually we’re gonna have a big feast first.”
“Last supper, huh?”
“Well, it suits your Messiah complex.”
“True.” – Meredith and Sheppard