Monday, August 29, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Letters From Pegasus

Welcome to the Stargate Rewatch! Let's jump right on in with today's episode, "Letters From Pegasus," shall we?

Spoilers for the episode and any that came before it, as always. In addition, this week you have a Cori in danger of exploding from the pressure of not spoiling the end of the season as it relates to a few characters in this episode. Fun!

Well, on with it then.

What Happened

Now that we have learned that three Wraith hive ships are headed toward Atlantis and expected to arrive within two weeks, the city's leadership is struggling to avoid panic. Instead, they are focusing on brainstorming ideas to possibly get them out of this whole mess with their lives and the city intact. Ford makes the unpopular suggestion of stealing borrowing the ZPM from Kid Planet. At least that way they could have shields for a little while when the Wraith show up. They can always relocate the kiddos, right? Elizabeth and Teyla both shoot this idea down immediately, of course, and Teyla gives Ford a look as if she has never seen him before.

Rodney suggests that as an alternative to panicking, they could at least send a message back to Earth. While their generators don't have nearly enough power to maintain the connection to Earth long enough to send a person through, he has figured out they can open up a wormhole home and maintain a connection for 1.3 seconds. Sure that doesn't sound like much time, but Rodney McKay, resident genius, believes it is more than enough time to send back a message. Ford realizes they could send S.O.S. and Rodney scoffs at this technologically backward way of thinking. He explains that he has been working on an algorithm that will allow them to send all of their mission reports, gathered intel on the galaxy and the Ancients, and, most importantly, warn them about the Wraith and their determination to reach Earth. His algorithm will compress all of this data so it can be sent in their 1.3 second window of time, and Colonel Carter back on Earth should have no problem decompressing it. Elizabeth gives him the go-ahead to assemble all of the information they will send and he gets to work on it.

Zelenka, meanwhile, has been busy going over the data on the hive ships from the deep space sensors. He has found that the Wraith are stopping often in their journey to cull planets as they go. The data shows that their stops follow a fairly consistent--and therefore predictable--pattern. He is able to extrapolate the rest of their path and finds a planet with a stargate that they will be passing soon. Sheppard and Teyla volunteer to take a jumper to the planet and wait in stealth mode for the hive ships to pass by so they can collect as much intel on the coming threat as possible.

On the planet, Teyla sees an old friend of her father's and warns him of the pending Wraith attack, imploring him to warn his village, and then take his family and get to safety while there is still time. He tells her they will do their best to prepare but she knows as well as he that the Wraith are attacking planets all over the galaxy and he really doubts there is anywhere really "safe" anymore. Teyla then tells him that if the Wraith do come, he should gather his family and meet her and Sheppard at a place she designates, and she will get them off the planet to safety. Sheppard looks chagrined at this but merely tells Teyla's friend that he cannot make any promises they can take the man with them. He says they will come back if there is time. Then he and Teyla take the ship into orbit and cloak it to wait for the Wraith.

While waiting, they get into an argument. Sheppard is mad because this wasn't supposed to be a rescue mission. Teyla tells him that her friend is like family and if they can help him, they should. He reiterates that he said they would help if there was time, but their first priority is to gather intel and get it back to Atlantis. Their argument is cut short when the Wraith hive ships, plus many cruisers and other support vehicles, drop out of hyperspace and into orbit around the planet. They aren't just looking at three hive ships, they are looking at an armada. The Wraith immediately release their darts and begin culling the village. Sheppard heads for the gate, telling Teyla they definitely don't have time to stop, but before they can dial Atlantis, an incoming wormhole opens the gate. The Wraith have dialed in to prevent anyone from escaping their culling via the gate. Since they are stuck there until the gate shuts down, Sheppard makes for the place where Teyla had told her friend to meet them.

Waiting out the culling in the cloaked jumper, they get into another argument. Teyla is pissed that Sheppard was willing to abandon these people to their fate. He tries to explain the military logic and that they can't save everyone in the galaxy. Teyla tells him that may be true but they should help when they can and if they can save even just her friend and his family, they will have made a difference for good. She seems to be beginning to think that she has put too much faith in Sheppard and the expedition, expected too much of them.

Sheppard, of course, cannot sit still and wait while around him an entire planet is culled. He decides to leave the jumper and go get a closer look at what is going on. While he is gone, Teyla sees some of the villagers run by the jumper, not her friend or his family though. She steps out so they can see her and calls to them to join her, promising them safety. Sheppard returns just after the gate shuts down and wants to leave immediately to get back to Atlantis and report on the Wraith. Teyla begs him to give her friend just a little bit more time. He tells her he has to get back, and she says that she will then stay behind and continue to look for her friend, making her way back to the city after the Wraith have gone. Sheppard says he won't just leave her there so he agrees to wait just a little bit longer. Shortly afterwards, Teyla's friend finally makes it, herding a gaggle of children with him. He tells them that he had run into more people on his way and they are just behind him. Sheppard starts to object, saying that they cannot fit so many people in the jumper, but as the rest of the group appears, Wraith darts fly over their location. Sheppard and Teyla cram as many of the people as they can in the jumper, but some don't make it and are culled on the way. Once the dart leaves, Sheppard fires up the jumper and they hightail it out of there.

While Teyla and Sheppard were out of the city, Rodney managed to fit all of the data they wanted to send Earth into just 0.3 seconds once compressed. With a whole extra second to fill, Elizabeth gives the expedition members each a chance to record a video message for their friends and loved ones back home, a chance to say goodbye in case they don't survive the coming threat. She puts Ford in charge of gathering the messages.

We get to see everyone record their messages with Ford, with bits and pieces of previous episodes shown as each character reflects on their time in the Pegasus galaxy. Ford sends a message to his grandparents reassuring them that he is alright and hopes to see them soon. Carson gets all choked up trying to send a message to his mum, and keeps trying to remind her to take her medicine in order to avoid being emotional. Zelenka gives us a brilliant retelling of the rising of the city in Czech, looking perplexed when Ford asks him if he said anything that would require a security clearance to hear. Bates sends a super positive message to his little brother, avoiding saying goodbye--he doesn't want to make it worse in case he doesn't make it back. Elizabeth sends messages to the families of those they have lost over the course of the expedition. Rodney's assistant Miko sends a brief message (not sure to whom) talking about what an honor it is to serve under a brilliant mind like Rodney's. It is underscored with some very humorous scenes of Rodney's tyranny in the labs. Kavanagh, much to Ford's disgust, sends his message to General O'Neill, a laundry list of his complaints about the leaders of the expedition, specifically Elizabeth, blaming them for the whole mess in which they find themselves.

Then there is Rodney's message. Ah, Rodney. He hands Ford a self-recorded message in which we get clips here and there of his message addressed to "humanity in general," during which he waxes prolifically on all sorts of topics from his childhood bout of mono, his thing for blondes in general (and Carter in particular), movies he never got to see the end of, his preference for cats over dogs, and more. Each time he digresses he eventually lands back on his favorite topic, leadership. The best part, of course, is when he breaks down for a bit and gets completely serious, and sends a very bittersweet lovely message to his little sister Jeannie. It is clear they haven't spoken for some time and aren't on the best of terms, but he reveals that he has grown to see the members of the expedition as a sort of surrogate family, and he knows he messed up with her and hopes that, should he survive his current predicament, he can one day make amends with her.

When Sheppard and Teyla return and report on what they found, Elizabeth adds it in to their report for Earth, then tells him about the messages and asks if he would like to record one for anyone. He declines. She then tells him she has been recording messages for the families, but there is one last one she would like him to do instead, and we see him record a message for Colonel Sumner's family.

The episode closes with Elizabeth's actual personal message, to her boyfriend Simon. She tells him that she knows it isn't fair to him to ask him to put his life on hold and wait for her to come back, so he shouldn't. Then we get a montage of everyone's "goodbye" on their message and it is off to the Milky Way with them. The final scene shows Walter in the SGC control room announcing the incoming wormhole. He says there is a message and Colonel Carter sits down to look at it, shocked to learn it is from Atlantis.


Oh, so much foreshadowing. Gah. Must. Not. Spoil. Want to though, boy howdy. But won't. Let's just say that there is a lot in this episode that seems to just be little throwaway moments of character development but that actually end up setting the stage for or becoming very meaningful once future events unfold. That being said, let's also acknowledge this episode for what it is: a clip show. Good lordy how I hate clip shows. I have to admit, however, that this may just be the least annoying clip show I have ever seen. There is enough new and enough of an actual story here that it works and it isn't just forty-two minutes of sitting through material I have already seen that could have easily been summed up in a five minute discussion before moving on to more pressing matters. The "letters" home serve to remind us of who all of these people are, not just the specific characters but the expedition as a whole, and to really hit home with the immensity of what they are facing. The people of the expedition have all pretty much accepted that they are unlikely to survive the arrival of the Wraith, but every single one of them intends to go out fighting.

Plus, it reminds us all what an ass-hat Kavanagh is.

The other big thing in this episode is the conflict between Teyla and Sheppard. This is the first time in the series that we have really truly seen them angry with each other, and, I think, where they each start to realize how truly differently they see the world. If Sheppard had been any other soldier, I don't think Teyla would have been so surprised or disappointed by his strict military mindset in this situation. As much as he wants to help the Pegasus galaxy, and as much as he feels it is his duty to do so, he will put protecting Atlantis and Earth first. Their friendship certainly survives the encounter, but not unscathed. There has always been a large presence in the fanbase of Teyla/Sheppard shippers, but it is this episode where I think that possibility is ruled out. Up until now, Teyla had held the members of the expedition, Sheppard especially, on a bit of a pedestal. She had seen them as the salvation of the galaxy--or at least the seeds of that salvation. After this though, she begins to realize that the people from Earth will never save Pegasus on their own because they simply don't have the right perspective or priorities. I think this realization is a good thing though. Teyla is a natural leader in her own right--now she has the knowledge she needs to reassess how to proceed to help the Lanteans defeat the Wraith without forgetting that they are protecting the people of Pegasus as much as their own galaxy. She can see them as just people, rather than as saviors.

Favorite Quotes

"Don't be so analog!" (Rodney)

"There is nothing we can do." (Teyla)
"We can do a lot. It would just be the last thing we ever do." (Sheppard)

"You know what? How 'bout I leave the room and let you record your whining in private?" (Ford)

"Doc, you can't say Earthlings! Your mother doesn't have security clearance!" (Ford)
"She knows I'm from Earth, son. It's not a bloody secret!" (Carson)

That's all for this week. Stop by Wednesday and we'll check out the next episode, "The Gift."

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