Monday, July 11, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Hide and Seek

Hello and welcome back to my Stargate Atlantis rewatch! Today we'll be talking about the second episode in season one, "Hide and Seek."

As always, spoilers for the episode and any that came before, with mild references (but theoretically no spoilers) to Stargate SG-1 from time to time. Now, on to the episode!

What Happened

Everyone is starting to get settled in to the Ancient city of Atlantis, Earthling and Athosian alike. Things are not completely gelling between the two groups (more on that in a bit), but mostly all is well. They have been in the city for about three days, and Rodney McKay has volunteered to act as the first human trial of Dr. Carson Beckett's ATA gene therapy. This therapy, if successful, will activate the ATA gene in Rodney, allowing him to access the technology in the city coded exclusively to the Ancients. Between Beckett and Grodin (the head gate technician for the city, think Walter, SG-1 fans) we get a bit of a primer about the Ancient technology. Almost all of it is coded so that it has to be activated by someone with the gene, but once initialized, most of the tech can be used by anyone. Since the gene is so rare naturally, this will be a great help to the expedition.

The therapy does work on Rodney and before long he is testing out his first piece of Ancient tech, a personal shield device he discovered in the city. He is, in fact, testing it by having Major Sheppard throw him off the balcony from the control room into the gate room. Weir and Grodin come upon this just as Rodney goes flying over the edge and race to the gate room only to find Rodney bouncing back up, unhurt, and declaring his invulnerability. Weir is understandably outraged at the careless way in which Rodney has decided to test this advice, and he reassures her that this isn't the first thing they tried. "I shot him!" Sheppard declares, grinning widely, only to amend, "In the leg!" when Weir shoots him a withering look. That bit right there is just absolutely positively 100% classic Stargate Atlantis. If that scene doesn't have you at least chuckling a little bit, well, this series really isn't for you. In fact, I am not sure I want to know you anymore if that is the case...

At any rate, Rodney is fine and Weir is glad to see that Carson's gene therapy seems to be working. She tells Rodney to take the shield off so they can have their meeting and...Rodney utterly fails to remove the shield. He tries and cannot get through the shield to remove the device (attached to his chest). Uh oh.

Weir sends Rodney to the infirmary to see if Carson might have some luck getting the device off, and she proceeds to the meeting with Sheppard and Teyla. We learn that the expedition and Athosians are only occupying a small central section of the city, mostly to minimize the power-strain on their generators. Sheppard is organizing teams to explore the rest of the city as well as security patrols around the inhabited sections, just in case. Teyla offers the help of the Athosians for this but Weir quickly turns down the offer (though graciously), saying they will find other ways for Teyla's people to contribute. Teyla is concerned that Weir does not trust her people, but Sheppard and Weir quickly assure her that it is a matter of training her people in the Earth weaponry and not a matter of distrust. (We learn a little later though, that Weir thinks it was probably one of the Athosians who alerted the Wraith to the Earthlings' presence on Athos in the last episode, so she is playing her cards as close to the chest as possible when it comes to the Athosians. She does trust Teyla, but she knows that Teyla also trusts her people and would be offended to learn of Weir's suspicions. To which I say, "duh.")

After the meeting Weir heads down to speak with Carson about McKay's situation. We have learned that Rodney can't eat or drink anything while the shield is active, so he is engaged in full Rodney-panic mode, freaking out that he will starve to death. Carson is worried that the device won't shut down because Rodney's gene is artificial, but Weir thinks it may just be Rodney subconsciously wanting the protection the shield offers, given the expedition's precarious situation. Most Ancient technology has a mental component and Weir truly believes that the Ancients would not have made a personal shield that could kill its wearer. She thinks that once he finally gets hungry enough, the device will shut down. Her faith in the Ancients makes me want to smack her, but that is probably due to the benefit of hindsight and is neither here nor there.

We get a bit more exposition as the senior staff gathers around the control room, putting a self-destruct in place for the city. As far as the expedition team is aware, Atlantis is the only city in the galaxy that is capable of dialing Earth, so if the Wraith do decide to attack or use the city to get to Earth (because they want that new rich feeding ground), they can/will destroy the city to protect home.

Cut to Sheppard telling a story to a bunch of Athosian kids. Before long it is clear that he is telling them the story of Halloween, but as he gets to the scary reveal about the hockey mask, he is derailed by the kids asking what a hockey mask is, then wanting an explanation of the game. Sheppard gets a little grumpy and says that hockey isn't really his thing and they would like football much better instead. Teyla and Halling come in during this and usher the kids off to bed. Sheppard remarks that he hopes he didn't scare them too much and Halling just kind of rolls his eyes, saying he doubts it. Teyla then asks Sheppard to tell her more about this game football that he loves so much and he does her one better. He brought a video of a famous game as his "one personal item" (I call shenanigans on this "one personal item" rule, because Sheppard also brought a book along and it is never clearly defined what qualifies as a personal item, but whatever). Sheppard gathers up the team (Ford, Teyla, and Rodney) and they make some popcorn and kick back with the game. If I actually cared about football, I might know what game it was, but I don't, so I don't. In the game the team wins with a Hail Mary pass and Sheppard is trying to explain the whole concept of a Hail Mary to Teyla, and failing miserably, which in and of itself was pretty amusing. He does refer to the whole expedition as one big Hail Mary though.

Meanwhile, Jinto and Wex have snuck out of their quarters after bed time to play (Wraith and Major Sheppard) and Jinto has disappeared. Sheppard organizes teams to search for him, and the city starts experiencing strange power fluctuations. An Athosian girl comes forward and states that she saw a "shadow" (one of the illusions that Wraith create while culling humans in order to distract and disorient them) in the city. Teyla cannot sense any Wraith in the city though (Teyla can sense the presence of Wraith, I don't think I mentioned that last week, but it is important). 

Some of the more superstitious Athosians (*cough*Halling*cough*) are worried that they have upset the spirits of the Ancestors (which is what they call the Ancients) by inhabiting their city. It turns out that Jinto, hiding in what he thought was a storage closet, managed to activate one of the city's transporters that no one realized existed and found himself in a lab. Where of course he touched the one thing he definitely should not have touched and managed to release an energy being the Ancients had been studying way back before they left the galaxy. 

The entity is not only made up of energy, it also feeds on it. The power fluctuations the city was experiencing were due to the entity feeding on the generators. Once the scientists figure this out, Grodin sets up the sensors to track the being and remotely shuts down the generators as it approaches them, keeping it going in circles while they figure out how to get rid of it. Unfortunately, Ford finds out the hard way that the being is definitely harmful to humans when he encounters it in a corridor. He gets knocked out and it is as if he has been hit by lightning. So they definitely need to get rid of the thing. Rodney goes through the data in the lab where Jinto found the entity and realizes that the Ancients had captured it as part of their studies on Ascension (the entire race eventually evolved into higher forms made entirely of energy, it's a whole thing). The "box" that the entity had been trapped in was actually the Ancient equivalent of a raccoon trap, designed to attract the being and then keep it there for study.

It should be a simple matter to just turn off all of the power in the city and turn the trap back on to get the entity contained once more. Someone has to stay to press the button, however, and Sheppard volunteers. Weir suggests that McKay should do it, since he still has the shield on, and the shield immediately shuts off. There is mocking and then they get back to business. Sadly, once Rodney initialized the shield it became encoded specifically for him, so no one else, like, say, Sheppard, can use it at this point. Unfortunately, the entity doesn't fall for the trick a second time and refuses to get in the box. Teyla then suggests that maybe the thing wants to leave. So they attach a generator to a MALP (a remote controlled probe vehicle that they send through the gate ahead of time to make sure it is safe for exploration) and try to get the entity to follow the generator through the gate. Unfortunately, the entity catches up just before it goes through and the power in the MALP is drained, so the being just sits in the gate room, draining the generator, getting bigger. There is some panic here, because once the generator has been drained, the entity could start feeding off the energy from the gate itself and that would be catastrophic for everyone in the city. 

Realizing that there's really no option left at this point, Rodney puts the shield back on and walks into the mass of the entity, grabbing the generator off of the MALP and tossing it through the gate. The entity thankfully follows and the gate shuts down to reveal a passed out Rodney on the floor of the gate room. His shield was drained by the entity but he is otherwise unharmed. All's well that ends well.


As I said, this episode is pretty much classic Stargate Atlantis. Our heroes are in way over their heads and they can only get out with the cooperation of the whole team. There is also the banter between McKay and Sheppard falling into place almost without effort. A lot of fans will argue that their friendship is the heart of the show, and here you can really see it solidifying.

Still being early days, there is also a lot of exposition to get across some of the ideas from SG-1 that carried over into Atlantis, such as ascension.

As minor as it is, I still giggle at Weir's comment about the 10,000 year old dead plants, and then Jinto and Wex using one of those plants to play with later on. It's a weird little bit of detail that adds a nice touch to the setting, I think. Upon watching this for the umpteenth time, I also noticed quite a few details that I never caught in previous viewings.  We get a really nice look at how the Athosians live within the city, for example. I also finally, finally, caught a glimpse of the point-of-origin symbol for Atlantis when we are shown the dialing sequence to let the entity out of the city. Seriously, I have been wondering what that symbol is for years, since it wasn't exactly incorporated into the expedition's uniforms the way Earth's point-of-origin symbol was at the SGC. (If you're curious, you can see it on this screen capture. It's in the third row from the top, eighth from the left.)

Something that this episode made me think about this time around was also the fact that Jinto managed to use a piece of Ancient tech, the transporter, that the ATA-positive members of the expedition had not yet initialized, not realizing what it was. He also managed to release the energy being, and I have a hard time believing that particular device would not have been coded for the Ancients only. So that brings up the question, does Jinto have the gene? It is never addressed in the show, but now I have to wonder. It also reminded me that mentions of people actually native to the Pegasus galaxy with the ATA gene are few and far in between and I wonder if that was intentional on the part of the writers or just an oversight. That could have made for some very compelling episodes, certainly. I may have to cave in and send a question to Mallozzi about that...

Also, I love the way Sheppard is getting a crash course in anthropology. The Athosian kids aren't even remotely scared by Earth's horror stories because they've been facing the Wraith all of their lives. Trying to explain something as simple as a football play to Teyla gets exponentially complicated because she has no familiarity with the game, with our predominant religions, with our expressions, etc. These are wonderful details that help to make this show so much fun.

I was quite impressed with how much groundwork is laid out for things to come later in the season (and series). Little asides here, a quick mention of something there. It's all important and easy to miss if you're not paying attention, although it doesn't lessen your enjoyment later if you missed it. I love that kind of storytelling! 

Favorite Quotes

"We've got to trade on that while we can, before they discover that we're actually not cool." (Rodney, talking about hitting on the Athosian women.)

"I wouldn't have thought you'd believe in ghosts." (Weir)
"I never used to. Then I learned about things called Wraith that can suck the life out of you with their hands. What the hell is that?" (McKay)

"I passed out...from manly hunger." (McKay, after fainting, and arguing over terminology.)

"I only know one thing for sure and that is Flying Darkness That Eats Energy can only be very, very bad." (McKay)

"Must be a transporter." (McKay)
"We can name it later." (Sheppard)

"I think we're gonna need a bigger boat." (Sheppard)
"Size doesn't matter." (McKay)
"That's a myth." (Sheppard)

"You must have passed out." (Sheppard)
"Thanks for not saying the other thing." (McKay)

"That was a Hail Mary!" (Sheppard to Teyla about McKay's "play.")

That's it for this installment. See you back here on Wednesday for "Thirty-Eight Minutes."

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