Alrighty, cats and kittens, it's time for another episode in the Stargate Atlantis rewatch! Huzzah! Today we'll be looking at the wonderfully Teyla-centric season one episode "The Gift."
Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.
Ah, nighttime in Atlantis...soldiers patrolling the gate room, gate techs running diagnostics, Rodney staying up all night and drinking way too much coffee, Sheppard sleeping under the watchful eyes of Johnny Cash, Teyla tossing and turning, a Wraith stalking the hallways...wait, what?
Turns out Teyla hasn't been sleeping very well at all lately, and when she has she is having some really nasty Wraith dreams, in which she and her BFF Sheppard are getting all kinds of fed on. Boo. The next morning Teyla and Sheppard are sparring as per usual, only this time Sheppard is managing to totally kick Teyla's butt. He asks if she is feeling alright and she confesses she has not been sleeping well and has been having nightmares. He remarks that both are pretty common problems in the city these days, and she responds that it has not been so bad for her since her father was taken by the Wraith.
Later we see that Elizabeth is holding a status report meeting with the senior staff and many of the scientists. Rodney and Zelenka think that their best bet of protection against the Wraith will be the city's Ancient control chair (a similar chair had been found on Earth and used to defend against a Goa'uld). The only problem is that they haven't even been able to initiate it yet, so they don't know if it is working properly or not at this point. Currently that is what they are working on (getting it initiated). Bates, meanwhile, has been scouting once more for an Alpha site in the case of evacuation. Should defense of the city fail, their plan is to fall back through the gate, taking the control crystal that lets them dial Earth, and set off the city's self-destruct. Bates has found a suitable site, it just needs final approval from Sheppard, and he is set to visit it later that afternoon. Elizabeth asks Teyla if her people are ready to be evacuated from the mainland once the Alpha site is ready and Teyla nearly bites her head off. She says of course her people are ready, but they do not need to be evacuated. They will stay and fight when the Wraith come.
Teyla is eating lunch alone in the Mess when she is approached by Dr. Kate Heightmeyer. Kate introduces herself and explains that she is the city's psychologist. Teyla does not understand the distinction so Kate explains that she deals with the mind, and helping to make sure no one cracks under the pressure. She talks with Teyla, asking her a few leading questions about her sleeplessness, and Teyla realizes what is going on. She asks if Sheppard sent Kate, who acknowledges that is the case. Teyla thanks her but replies that she is fine and leaves, Kate imploring her to come to her office if she decides she does want (or need) to talk.
Teyla then tracks down and confronts Sheppard, upset that he went to Kate about something she told him in confidence. He responds that she is part of his team and he is responsible for her. He sent Kate because she is capable of helping Teyla work through the lack of sleep and the nightmares. As he points out, even Teyla herself admitted she was off her game. He suggests that if she won't talk to Kate she at least sit out the mission to the Alpha site and try to get some rest. Teyla agrees, returning to her quarters to make an unsuccessful attempt at napping. She decides to swallow her pride and go to Kate after all. She gets there just as Rodney is leaving, and is surprised, but also reassured, to find her friend also seeking help from Kate (even though he tries to play it off like they have a romantic thing, rather than admitting he is seeing a shrink).
Teyla is unsure of how the process works, so Kate starts asking her questions to get her talking. She asks about Teyla's ability to sense the Wraith. Teyla eventually admits that she has had a knot inside her for some time now. Kate wonders if she can sense the approaching Wraith ships, but Teyla suspects it is because there are just so many of them awake now all of the time. Kate asks about the ability among the other Athosians. Teyla says it is rare, but not unknown. Among those who possess it, she is one of the strongest--always among the first to sense the Wraith. She admits that she worries about the ability, and has dreamed of herself as a Wraith. She finds this incredibly disturbing (who wouldn't?), and feels that her ability has always set her apart from her people. Kate suggests that it might be the fear of the unknown making her so uneasy about her ability. She thinks that Teyla should try to learn more about what causes it, try to understand it better, and that might put some of Teyla's fears to rest.
Teyla goes to Carson but he tells her he ran a full spectrum of tests on all of her people when they first met, and there was nothing to explain her ability. He doesn't know where it comes from. Teyla does suspect it is an inherited trait, and therefore biological. Carson admits this is possible but doesn't know how he would go about isolating its cause. Trying another tactic, Teyla goes to the mainland to visit her friend Charon, a woman who helped raise her after father was taken. She asks if Charon knows where the ability comes from and Charon reveals there is a story that her grandfather used to tell her, that no other living Athosian knows, and that Teyla's father didn't want told to her. Long ago, there was a planet where sometimes those who were culled by the Wraith came back. Those people returned with the ability to sense the Wraith. For a time they were looked upon as a blessing, but then they started to go mad, hearing voices and turning violent. The people of the planet exiled those with "the gift," and from that point on, no one who was taken on that planet returned again.
Teyla, armed with the gate address to this planet, asks Elizabeth to let the team go and check it out. She thinks that maybe her ancestors just didn't know what to look for and argues that this must all be coming to light now for a reason. Perhaps it will provide them with a new way to fight off the Wraith. Elizabeth gives the go-ahead and they head out to the planet. It has long since been abandoned, and at first they find nothing but ruins. Then Rodney detects an energy signal. It appears to lead to a blank wall and they are perplexed, but Teyla walks right through it, vanishing. A moment later, a doorway seems to appear in the wall, with Teyla standing on the other side. They find what appears to be an abandoned secret Wraith lab. Rodney manages to salvage a data device from the lab and takes it back to Atlantis for study.
He manages to decrypt the data, but it is in a language he doesn't recognize, presumably Wraith. Elizabeth volunteers to take a look at it and manages to translate a good chunk of it, learning it is a scientist's log. A Wraith was experimenting, in secret and in defiance of the other Wraith, on the people of the planet. He was trying to make humans a more "compatible" food source, and to make the feeding process more efficient. He did this by splicing Wraith DNA with that of the humans. Teyla is the descendant of one of those subjects, and that is why she can sense the Wraith--she has a little bit of Wraith DNA in her makeup. Further translation revealed that the reason the Wraith stopped his experiments is that by introducing Wraith DNA into humans, he granted them the ability to hear the telepathic communication used by the Wraith (the voices the returned began to hear). He introduced them back into the general population hoping that breeding with normal humans would dilute the ability. When the other Wraith found out about the experiment, however, they wiped out the people of that planet--but not before the humans had exiled the test subjects off-world.
Elizabeth also realized that the Wraith's language is a derivative of that of the Ancients, confirming Carson's belief that the Wraith didn't evolve until after the Ancients arrived in the Pegasus galaxy. His theory is that the Ancients (who seeded human life in the galaxy), introduced humans on a world where the iratus bug was present--thus causing the evolution of the Wraith. It's all the Ancients' fault, whether by accident or sheer neglect.
Sheppard and Weir believe, from what they have learned, that Teyla's ability to sense the Wraith is actually just an offshoot of her ability to tap into their psychic friends network. They convince her to let Kate hypnotize her and try to guide her through making contact with the approaching Wraith, to see if they can get any more information about what they are facing. Her first attempt is successful, but shortly after she connects with a Wraith and realizes she can see, hear, and feel what he is doing, he goes to feed. Realizing that Teyla is experiencing the feeding, Elizabeth immediately orders Beckett to break the connection. She doesn't want to put Teyla through that again, but Teyla insists, saying it is worth the risk. The next time, Teyla manages to "follow" a Wraith all the way into a control room of some sort, but then he senses her connection and takes over her, speaking through her to threaten the gathered Lanteans until Elizabeth has Carson break the connection again.
Shortly after that, while Teyla is resting, Bates and his team dial in from the Alpha site, under attack. Everyone is more than a little freaked out, as that planet was completely uninhabited and it was like the Wraith knew they were there. Now they have to find a new Alpha site. As expected, when briefed on the situation with Teyla, Bates goes nuts. He jumps directly to the (likely) conclusion that the Wraith knew about the Alpha site because they got it from Teyla when she made her connection. He doesn't want her to attempt the connection again. Elizabeth is inclined to agree, for Teyla's own sake, but Teyla convinces them to let her try one more time. She says she was getting close to something important. So she goes under one more time and gets even further before the Wraith again senses her connection. This time though, the Wraith is able to seize full control of her body, and starts attacking everyone in the infirmary until Bates stuns her with a Wraith gun, knocking her out and breaking the connection.
When Teyla wakes she calls Elizabeth and Sheppard to tell them what she found out. She saw their route, their battle plan, and more importantly, she learned that their endgame is not to destroy Atlantis once and for all, but to take it. They know that Atlantis is the key to finding their rich new feeding ground of Earth.
Teyla has some seriously cute pajamas, y'all.
In all seriousness, though, this is actually a really solid episode. I always think of it as kind of a footnote episode, but I was pleasantly surprised to realize on this rewatch that it is actually really well done. We get the explanation of Teyla's spidey-sense (with the introduction of a new level of it) in a way that not only doesn't distract from the current story arc but actually manages to fit right in there like just another piece of the puzzle. Info was dropped in this episode too that is going to be very important next week, we'll learn.
I do think it interesting that it was Sheppard Teyla dreamed was killed by the Wraith first. I think that might be fallout from their fight last episode. Also, her hurt that he blabbed to Kate about her. Yeah, it makes perfect sense from a team-leader perspective, but Teyla is clearly still a little bit unsure about Sheppard and sorting out her feelings toward him at the moment. I am glad she ended up going to Kate on her own though, admitting that they are in a stressful situation and she is of no use to anyone if she can't deal with whatever is going on in her own head.
Also, once more we learn what callous disregard the Ancients had for the human life they brought to the galaxy. Yeah, sure, the Wraith evolving may have been an accident, but it's one the Ancients should have been on top of and able to put a stop to long before it got to the point that it did. I mean, it's not like the Wraith just showed up overnight, you know?
I do think it is weird how the fact that the Wraith are after Earth is treated like a big reveal in this episode. Didn't we know that already? The queen way back in the pilot as much as told Sheppard that they were all waking up because of the new rich feeding ground. Maybe she just told that to Sumner, and I have seen this series so many times I just pick up on all of the clues now as obvious evidence that what the Wraith want is Earth. I mean, why else are the Lanteans fighting so hard to keep the city itself out of the Wraith hands if they don't know that's why they want it? It's not like the Wraith can use the Ancient tech. That is really my only quibble with the episode though. Otherwise it is a nice solid bit of character development for Teyla and sets up the rest of the season (and a lot of stuff for the rest of the series) very nicely.
"I have no explanation for any of your special super powers." (Carson)
"I only have one." (Teyla)
"I've seen you fight, my dear." (Carson)
"There's nothing there." (Sheppard)
"Well, the 'magic Ancient device' hasn't lied yet!" (Rodney)
"I wonder..." (Elizabeth)
"Just so you know, you didn't actually finish that sentence out loud." (Rodney)
That wraps up our Stargate shenanigans for this week. Next week we'll close out season one, hurrah! See you back here Monday for "The Siege Part 1."