Wednesday, September 7, 2011

SGA Rewatch: The Siege Part 2

Hello there! Are you ready to wrap up the first season of our Stargate Atlantis rewatch with me? If so, read on for discussion of "The Siege Part 2." Beware the spoilers!

What Happened

Picking up where the previous episode left off, Rodney returns to Atlantis from his trip to the satellite to find that the Wraith hive ships have resumed their journey toward the city. The evacuation is almost complete, with the last group standing by to gate off-world. Elizabeth orders the self-destruct (and database-wiping virus) armed and asks Rodney to dial the Alpha site. As he is doing so, however, an incoming wormhole activates. Rodney is shocked to see that the IDC shows the wormhole to be from Earth. Hope swelling on her features, Elizabeth tells him to lower the shield. She, Rodney, and Sheppard run down to the gate room to meet the incoming travelers.

A military contingent arrives through the gate, headed by Colonel Everett. He wastes no time thanking Elizabeth for her service so far and then relieving her of command, instantly beginning to issue orders. Sheppard is instructed to turn off the self-destruct and recall all soldiers and willing civilians from the Alpha site. Everett informs them that his orders are to defend Atlantis from the coming Wraith attack at all costs.

Rodney speculates that in order to dial Earth the SGC must have found a ZPM and Everett confirms that one was recently uncovered by archaeologists in Egypt. As soon as the gate closed behind the new arrivals, the ZPM was loaded on to the new Earth ship Daedalus which, aided by the ZPM, will reach Atlantis in three days. Everett explains they must hold out the city until then, when the arrival of the Daedalus means the ZPM can be installed in the city, providing power to the city's shield.

Everett calls for all of the officers from his group and Sheppard's to attend a quick briefing. Elizabeth argues that she should be part of that meeting and he disagrees, stating that while he will welcome her help in any other area, going forward she has no business in any sort of tactical meeting. He relents and lets her attend, however, when Sheppard stands up for her, politely refusing to carry out an order until Everett hears them out, and pointing out that shutting out Elizabeth will alienate everyone in the city, making Everett's job much more difficult. Everett clearly doesn't like being strong-armed, especially by a subordinate officer, but in the interest of moving things along he agrees to let her attend the meeting. Outside the conference room Rodney and Zelenka gripe briefly about being left out of the meeting as well, predicting that they will be completely ignored by Everett until he needs something from them.

The plan for defending the city includes three lines of defense. The first will be six naquadah-enhanced warheads in orbit between the city and the Wraith armada, to act as a minefield. Second, they have brought several Mark II naquadah generators with them, which should overcome the power difficulties the Lanteans have been experiencing with the control chair, allowing Sheppard access to the city's drones. Third, several rail guns originally slated for one of Earth's space ships have been reallocated to the defense of the city, to be used against any of the smaller ships that get in close proximity. The rail gun operators will be supported by a full contingent of soldiers with other things that go boom. Everett reiterates that the goal is to keep the city intact for the three days it will take the Daedalus to arrive, at which point they can fire up the shield and hopefully the ship can also take care of whatever is left of the armada.

While his plans are being put into effect and everything gets set up, Everett takes the time to visit Teyla. He says that Sheppard spoke very highly of her in his reports but a more recent report (about her Wraith DNA) has him worried about her participation in the city's defense. She asks if he does not need every able-bodied person to help with the fight and he says he thinks they've got it under control. He tells her that she and her people should just stay out of the way.

A flaw appears in the defense plan. The Mark II generators do indeed allow Rodney and Zelenka to get the control chair operational (yay!), but now that it is initialized and they can access its systems, they see that there are only a few dozen drones left (boo). Everett is less than pleased with this, demanding an explanation, since the chair in Antarctica had thousands of drones at its disposal. Rodney quips that the one in Atlantis did too, once, but the Ancients didn't exactly bother to restock it when they left the galaxy after the city had been under siege for several years.

The plan takes another hit when the long range sensors suddenly pick up hundreds of objects in the vicinity, headed straight for the city. Rodney scrambles to figure out what they are while Everett wants to know why the sensors picked them up so late. Rodney realizes this is because the objects are rocks. It seems that the Wraith stopped at a nearby asteroid field and sent a big chunk of the field on a collision course with Atlantis as a form of early attack. It would have been quite successful, too, causing tons of damage, except they managed to aim the rocks straight at the newly installed minefield. The rocks are all obliterated before they can reach the city (yay!) but in the process they set off all of the mines, meaning the Lanteans are now out of nukes (boo) and the residual radiation from the explosions has blinded their sensors, meaning they won't be able to track the armada for several hours (double boo).

Efforts are redoubled to get the remaining defenses ready, and Everett pulls Sheppard aside for a quick Pegasus galaxy history lesson. He wants to know exactly how it was that a race as powerful as the Ancients lost their war with the Wraith. Sheppard shows him how events unfolded, explaining that it was pretty much just the overwhelming numbers of the Wraith that gave them their advantage. Everett then tells Sheppard that Colonel Sumner was a very good friend of his and he can't believe that Sheppard could get so close to rescuing the man only to fail, and not only fail, but also fire the bullet that killed him (and admit to it). He clearly doesn't think everything is on the up and up with Sumner's death and is letting Sheppard know he doesn't really trust him. Sheppard tries to explain and to defend his actions when they are called to the control room.

The sensors are back online and they show that a wave of Wraith darts are almost upon the city. Everyone scrambles to the rail guns and their other posts to defend against the assault. Between these defenses and the control chair they are able to shoot down all of the darts (yay!), but the battle takes its toll. The city is badly damaged, with internal and deep space sensors down, many of Everett's soldiers were scooped up by the Wraith, and they have already exhausted their supply of drones (boo).

In the aftermath, they need a new plan. Sheppard suggests that maybe Rodney and Zelenka can figure out a way to rig the puddle jumpers to be flown remotely into the hive ships (they share a knowing look as they are asked to do the impossible at the last minute). Everett wants to know if this can be done and as Rodney and Zelenka start to argue against it, they end up discussing the ways it could be done, as well as ways to increase the damage they would do. They walk out already getting to work on it, completely ignoring Everett's queries on if they can do it, finally telling him maybe. Everett then asks Sheppard how much damage the jumpers will actually be able to do, and he says he has an idea about where they might be able to get some nukes, looking at Elizabeth. She immediately catches his drift, commenting that she doubts the Genii will be terribly sympathetic to their plight.

Just then there is a commotion below and they see several guards restraining Teyla, who is insisting that she must see Elizabeth immediately. Elizabeth asks her what is wrong and she tells them that there are Wraith in the city. At least twenty or thirty darts crashed into the city during the attack, and it seems like the pilots of many of them survived and are now doing as much damage to people and property as they can. Everett and Sheppard organize search groups to deal with these Wraith, planning to utilize the life signs detectors to track anyone who isn't where they are supposed to be. Teyla and the Athosians appear, offering their help in the search, and with Sheppard's reminder that it was Teyla who sensed the Wraith and alerted them to the threat,  Everett agrees to accept their help.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, has reached out to the Genii, saying she would like to negotiate a trade: C4 for their help. They respond that they are willing to talk and ask that the Lanteans send one person, alone and unarmed, to their world. In her element, Elizabeth heads to the Genii world. She is blindfolded and tied to a chair. A Genii officer comes in and gloats at the misfortune of the Lanteans, surprised but glad that Elizabeth herself would be the one to come. The Wraith have already come to their planet and left, hundreds on the surface died but their underground society survived intact and they now no longer feel the Wraith are a threat to their world. They are quite looking forward, he tells her, to the Lanteans' demise. Elizabeth asks why they agreed to negotiations at all if they had no interest in a deal and he tells her that they still want the C4, and now they can trade it for her life. She gets really angry then and tells him not to be stupid. She asks what they will do with the C4 once they have it--build bombs and then test them? He confirms this. She then reminds him that she is offering to test their bombs for them, with no risk to any of their people, and still give them enough C4 to make plenty more bombs. She manages to convince him that the deal is well worth it and returns to the city with two nukes in tow.

Rodney and Zelenka manage to get the chair interfaced with the puddle jumper controls just as Elizabeth arrives with the nukes, and they get to work installing the C4. Unfortunately, it turns out that the bombs aren't complete yet and it takes them a lot longer to get the bombs in working condition than they had anticipated.

Everett has gained a measure of respect for Elizabeth after her success with the Genii and her willingness to put herself in danger to get the nukes. He also makes an overture of apology towards Teyla for his initial treatment of her.

Just as Rodney and Zelenka get the nukes finished, the hive ships drop out of hyperspace in orbit around the planet. The bombs are loaded on the jumpers with Zelenka overseeing their installation while Rodney returns to the control chair room. Everyone moves back into position for another fight and the hive ships hold back, sending another wave of darts at the city. Sheppard tries to fire up the puddle jumpers from the chairs but nothing happens. Rodney sees that their power levels are dropping fast--he and Zelenka weren't able to run any further tests on their interface because they had to finish building the bombs. Rodney frantically tries to get the interface working properly and Sheppard grows impatient. He seems to come to a snap decision and leaps out of the chair, telling Rodney goodbye and running out of the room.

Elizabeth is in the control room about to inform Everett of the problem with the jumpers when Sheppard comes running by, pausing on the stairs leading toward the jumper bay. She realizes his intention in an instant and tells him she can't let him do that, and he says they have no other choice. He intends to fly one of the jumpers into a hive ship himself. A brief inner struggle is evident in her face but it doesn't last long. She tells him to go and wishes him luck, informing Everett that the first jumper is about to get in the air.

Around the city things start to become dire. Everett comes face to face with a Wraith. Elizabeth hears gunfire over her radio from Teyla's channel and cannot get a response as the camera pans over Teyla's team, all apparently dead. Ford leads a team towards one of the defense stations and they are surrounded by a group of Wraith. Rodney and Carson join Elizabeth in the control room, watching the monitor helplessly as Sheppard flies his jumper towards the hive ship.

In the jumper, Sheppard radios the city that if this works, someone else is going to have to do it again. He has the nuke armed  and is on his final approach. Fade to black, and once again, "To Be Continued."


Wow, this episode is pretty much just nonstop, isn't it? Even the very few quiet moments of character development are full of the tension of everything else going on. I am absolutely amazed at the resiliency of the expedition members that they can so frequently be given hope and then have it dashed into tiny pieces. I suspect that, despite what we were shown, more than just Rodney and Zelenka are running completely on stimulants by this point.

During my first view of the first season, Sheppard was actually my favorite character on the show. I didn't really grow to appreciate Rodney's true awesomeness until about halfway through season two and after I had watched all of season one on DVD again. But the first time I saw this episode, when we got to the ending, I was pissed. How dare they not only end on a cliffhanger (I was new to Stargate at this time and didn't realize that was pretty much the status quo) and end with my favorite character headed for certain death? Oh, I was so young and naïve back then.

I did like that the more time Colonel Everett actually spent in the Pegasus galaxy, the more he began to understand and appreciate the people he had written off when he arrived. Sheppard tells him at one point that just reading the reports really isn't enough, if he wasn't there, he won't ever really understand what they went through. As much as I didn't like him on initial inspection, over the course of the episode, he kind of grew on me.

I do find it interesting that Everett's whole plan was "hold out until the ZPM gets here and we can fire up the shield." They are only facing three Wraith hives out of sixty-some-odd that we know are out there. The original war between the Ancients proved that just hanging out under siege is not the way to defeat the Wraith. It kind of makes me glad that all of his plans pretty much went to pot as soon as they were put into practice. God only know what kind of trouble they would have been in for season two had his belief in their infallibility been proven correct. I won't say more than that though, because we still have the conclusion of this battle yet to see.

Favorite Quotes

"Don't tell me what not to start thinking about, or I'll start thinking about it!" (Carson)

"I want to know the status of those hive ships ASAP." (Everett)
"They're coming. That's their status." (Rodney)

"How about next time, you can be the bait?" (Ford)

"And we are understandably delighted at the prospect of your demise." (Prenum)

"We're building nuclear bombs here. Staying awake is sort of a prerequisite." (Rodney)

Thus endeth the first season. Huzzah! We made it! The best news? You don't have to wait a whole summer to find out what happens next! Cool, no? Come back next week for the season two premiere, an episode cleverly titled "The Siege Part 3."

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