Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Trinity

Hello Wednesday. How are you? Excited about a new Stargate Atlantis Rewatch entry? Yes? Good! Well, I certainly won't keep you waiting! Today we'll be talking about the season two episode "Trinity."

Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.

What Happened

The team is assembled in a jumper with Rodney giving Ronon a lecture about eating big meals before a mission. Ronon ignores him and Sheppard asks Rodney if he is picking up any readings. Rodney says there are no life signs showing. Teyla is disappointed, they were apparently going to check out a planet called Doranda that was listed in the Ancient database. She said the Dorandans sounded like a wonderful people, but it is pointed out to her that a lot can change in ten thousand years. As they get closer to the planet, they encounter a huge debris field in orbit--there was clearly a great battle over the planet. Among the debris is a severely damaged wraith hive ship. The Dorandans might be gone, but they didn't go down without a fight.

Flying down to the planet proper for a closer look, they find that the entire civilization on Doranda appears to have been wiped out by the wraith. Rodney does pick up a faint energy signal in the distance, however, so they go to investigate. They find one building intact and Rodney declares that this building is Ancient. Entering the facility and investigating, they realize it must have been an Ancient outpost and wonder why that was not mentioned in the Ancient's entry on Doranda. The facility is littered with the bodies of Ancients but it is unclear how they were killed. The team wonders why, if the facility was an Ancient outpost, the wraith left it intact when they destroyed the planet.

They return to Atlantis to report to Elizabeth (and a visiting Caldwell) what they found. Their preliminary investigation revealed it to be a military research facility, working on a ground-based version of the Lagrangian Point satellite, only much more powerful. Rodney wants to take a team of scientists back to the planet to see if they can learn more about it and Elizabeth agrees, sending Sheppard to keep an eye on Rodney and Zelenka's team.

Since Teyla is no longer needed for the research on Doranda, she decides to go on a personal mission for her people. She is going to a planet called Belkan to secure some agricultural goods for people. Ronon, hearing of her mission, asks if he can tag along. He is getting restless on Atlantis and wants to get out for a while. On Belkan, Teyla's trade negotiations seem to have stalled out. Her trade partner, Hendon, wants much more than she is willing to give. She makes to leave and Ronon pulls out a knife, intimidating Hendon to accept Teyla's terms, which he claims are more than fair. As they leave the negotiations, Teyla pulls Ronon aside and tells him that he shouldn't have interfered. He says they were taking advantage of her, and she bristles at the thought that he felt he needed to save her. She states that she was playing them, wanted them to think they had the upper hand. She explains that these negotiations must be handled delicately because her people's livelihood depends on them. She sends a chastened Ronon to gather up their belongings, exasperated with him, when one of Hendon's men, Mattas, catches up with her. He tells her she should not have forced Hendon's hand as it will only make their next trade more difficult. She agrees and apologizes for Ronon, explaining that he is new to the trade. Mattas realizes that Ronon is not Athosian and Teyla explains that he is the only survivor of Sateda and has been given sanctuary with her people. Mattas is surprised to learn that Ronon is Satedan and says if that is so, then he is not the only survivor. There is another man claiming to be Satedan in the village.

Sheppard, Rodney, and team head back to Atlantis after getting as much data as possible from the facility. They radio Elizabeth from the jumper, excited to tell her about what they found. Sheppard says it is a weapon, grinning from ear to ear, but Rodney says it is so much more than that, it is the ultimate power source. On Atlantis, they continue filling Elizabeth in, explaining that the project, Arcturus, was meant to make ZPMs obsolete. There's some physics technobabble that I won't get into, but basically it boils down to a self-renewable clean energy source that makes ZPMs look piddling in comparison and is much easier to create. The Ancients set up the outpost on Doranda and were testing out Arcturus by powering the Dorandan weapons to protect the planet against the wraith. Rodney and Zelenka explain that testing of Arcturus was rushed due to the war with the wraith, and as a result, the Ancients made mistakes and got sloppy, which is why they weren't able to finish it and turn the tide of the war. But they believe that, with the data from the outpost, they will be able to finish the Ancients' work. Cue the science montage!

On Belkan Teyla and Ronon venture into a tavern looking for the Satedan that Teyla was told about. He turns out to be Solon, a soldier who was in Ronon's regiment back on Sateda. He and Ronon catch up over drinks and Ronon comments that he is so glad to learn he wasn't alone in surviving his world's destruction. Solon then reveals that a handful of soldiers and over three hundred civilians managed to get to shelter during the wraith attack on Sateda, surviving the attack. Afterwards, they realized that their world was too damaged to rebuild and so scattered to many planets throughout the galaxy. Ronon is overwhelmed by this news and relieved to learn that his people continue to survive. Then Solon drops a bomb on Ronon, mentioning that a man named Kel had also survived. Ronon gets very quiet at this news and Teyla asks if Kel was a friend. Solon explains that Kel was Ronon's taskmaster during his military training and that there is no closer bond.

On Doranda the scientists make preparations to begin live testing of Project Arcturus. It doesn't go smoothly, however. There is a power surge that causes the system to overload and they aren't able to shut it down. The overload is brief and stabilizes itself quickly, but one of the scientists, Collins, was in an access chamber during the test and is killed, dying of radiation poisoning. Apparently the overload caused radiation to breach the containment field and vent into the access chamber where Collins was working.

On Atlantis Rodney and Zelenka report to Elizabeth and Caldwell that they are unsure of what caused the power surge to happen. Caldwell suggests that maybe Collins made some sort of error during the test to cause it but Rodney shoots that down, stating that everyone on the team did exactly what they were supposed to do. Rodney still thinks he can make the project work, however, and seems extra adamant to do so now. Elizabeth refuses to permit any more live tests though. She tells Rodney he can run all of the simulations he wants with the data they've already accumulated, but there will be no going back to Doranda.

A little while later Rodney goes to Sheppard to plea his case. He says that Collins' death is a waste of human life if they don't continue the project. He believes that he has figured out the problem--the Ancients' calculations were wrong. He tells Sheppard that he has run his own calculations several times now and knows he has them right. He promises he can make it work and asks Sheppard to trust him and to ask Elizabeth to let them go back and try another live test. Sheppard is convinced and goes to bat for Rodney, asking Elizabeth for approval. She still doesn't want to agree, stating that if the Ancients couldn't get the project to work, she is doubtful Rodney will be able to do so. But Sheppard is persistent and Caldwell backs him up, stating that the Pentagon is going to want this research to continue regardless, and if she is the one who lets Rodney go at least she can keep some control over the project. She relents but only lets Rodney and Sheppard go back to Doranda.

After they leave, Zelenka finds Elizabeth and tells her that he has been going over the Ancients' data some more and has realized why they abandoned the project. Elizabeth radios Sheppard and Rodney just as they are about to fire up the test and asks them to delay it. She and Zelenka try to explain that the data strongly suggests that the project is flawed and will overload no matter what because the project creates dangerous exotic particles as a natural byproduct. The exotic particles cannot be contained within the containment field and they vent as hard radiation (which is how Collins was killed). If left running long enough, or if the overload is big enough, the exotic particles build up so much that they are vented catastrophically. Rodney is unconvinced but Elizabeth tries one more time. The wraith didn't destroy Doranda. While the Ancients fought off the fleet in orbit, the exotic particles built up so much that, when released, the weapon took out everything around it. The outpost itself was shielded and so survived intact, but the radiation was too much for all of the people inside. Rodney says that may be so, but he still thinks that he had figured out the error and can keep the exotic particles under control, preventing such an occurrence from happening again.

Rodney insists on testing the weapon anyway, much to Zelenka's disgust, and it seems to be going alright at first but inevitably overloads. He has it under control right up until he doesn't, and by then it is too late and he can't get it to shut down. Whatever the changes Rodney made seem to have made the overload worse. It starts to go into catastrophic overload, but his ego has taken over and he continues to insist he can shut down the project before anything bad happens. Seeing the writing on the wall, Sheppard manages to convince Rodney that they need to get out of there and Rodney finally realizes that he is right. He says he has waited too long and the overload is so bad that it is going to blow up the whole planet. They make it to the jumper, but since they were unable to shut down Arcturus, they must dodge its fire as they fly towards the gate. Luckily, Caldwell had detoured to Doranda on his way back to Earth to "spy" on the project from orbit (I guess so he could make as up-to-date a report to his superiors as possible when he returned). He pops into orbit and tells Sheppard and McKay that the Daedalus will fly interference for them so they can get to the gate. Sheppard advises him to jump to hyperspace as soon as they are through, because the bang is going to be big.

On Belkan Ronon learns that Kel is on the planet, meeting with Mattas in a trade deal. Knowing that he is persona non grata with Mattas, Ronon asks Teyla to have the trader set up a meeting between her and Kel so that he can see his old taskmaster. Teyla readily agrees, and when she meets with Kel, Ronon stands back for a bit. Teyla explains that they are actually not there to trade but because of her companion and Ronon steps forward. Once Kel recognizes him, he pulls a gun and shoots the other man dead. Kel's companions react, pulling out their own weapons. Teyla gives Ronon a horrified look as he steps forward, arms spread wide. He tells Kel's men they knew him, knew what he had done, and if they really feel he needs to be avenged, Ronon will not fight them. They look at each other and put away their weapons. Ronon leaves and Teyla chases after him, furious. She throws him against a wall and demands an explanation for why he used her to murder the man. Ronon explains that Kel was a traitor to Sateda. He sacrificed thousands of his people so that he could have a chance to escape the wraith. Ronon adds that his only regret is that Kel's death was so quick. Teyla visibly calms herself and is quiet for a moment. She eventually tells Ronon that she understands, in in his place might have done the same thing. She then adds that the others (Sheppard and Elizabeth) would most certainly not understand, and they must never speak of the events on Belkan again once they return to Atlantis. She also tells him that if he ever uses her in such a manner again she will not be so understanding.

Ronon and Teyla return to Atlantis, and as they walk across they gate room, Elizabeth and Rodney can be heard yelling at each other at the top of their lungs. It seems that the explosion of Project Arcturus destroyed not only Doranda, but five-sixths of the entire solar system it was in.

Shortly after that Rodney tracks down Sheppard to apologize for screwing up so badly. He says he hopes that he hasn't lost Sheppard's trust completely, or at the very least can earn it back again. Sheppard is clearly still mad, but says while it will probably take a while, he is sure Rodney will be able to earn his trust again eventually.


There's  a LOT to be said about this episode, and it has ramifications that echo all the way through the rest of the series. But I am just going to focus on three things for the time being.

The fall of Rodney McKay. When Rodney first appeared in the franchise he was a pompous ass. He was there only to show us how lucky we were to have a scientist like Carter on our side. No one expected the fan reaction to him. For the first time since his first appearance in "Trinity" Rodney seems like that man once more. Sure, he has never stopped being arrogant, petty, or bad with people, but we have almost always been able to see the truly good man underneath the surface. It has always been clear that, despite his social ineptitude, his intentions are noble and he is always looking out for the rest of the team. But here, here he is a man who sees the possibilities and is willing to ignore the growing evidence that he just might not be able to make it work, despite how brilliant he is. In this episode he is shown just how wrong he can be. I am pretty sure that the solar system he destroyed was uninhabited, but Collins' death will always be on his conscience now, as well as the knowledge that it was due to a wasted pursuit and Rodney's own arrogance.  Not only was Rodney wrong, but he managed to lose the trust of a lot of people in his endeavor, people whose trust actually means something to him. Going forward, he now knows that not only will he have to work to earn that trust back, he will have to actually work to keep it, which is going to temper his future actions.

Rodney's bromance with Sheppard. In his message to his sister in season one's "Letters From Pegasus," Rodney said that he has come to think of the people on Atlantis as his family. It has always been clear that Sheppard is the person this applies to most. Their friendship has always been more or less easy, and now its foundation has been shaken to the very core. Watching how this plays out over the rest of the season is going to be very interesting indeed.

Ronon. Ronon gets to go through a whole gamut of emotions in this episode, which, considering how little his character speaks, as well as the fact that his story was the B story, is pretty impressive. On the one hand, he learns that his world, though destroyed, is not completely gone, because at least some of his people survived. But then he learns that the man he had followed and looked up to in his youth, the same man who betrayed him when the wraith attacked, is alive as well, and we find out that Ronon is a man who believes in vengeance. This also gives us an interesting perspective on why, as much as he takes to Sheppard on first glance, he does seem to be testing the man as much as he is being tested. Ronon wants a leader, someone he can follow in fighting the wraith. But he knows from experience that some leaders can misuse their power brutally, and he is afraid of choosing the wrong leader again. It also seems that he seems to trust Teyla on an instinctual level, knowing that even if he withheld information from her, she would understand his reasons after the fact. I am not so sure he would have done things in the same way if Sheppard had been with him when he found out about Kel. Somehow, I don't think so, though I have no doubt Kel still would have ended up dead.

Favorite Quotes

"Definitely Ancient design. Their latest stuff, too. Their latest being ten thousand years old." (Rodney)

"Come on, McKay, you read the equations. What else could it be, an Ancient typo?" (Zelenka)
"Well we know they're not perfect, because they're all dead." (Rodney)

"Worst case scenario?" (Sheppard)
"We tear a hole in the fabric of the universe." (Rodney)

"Okay, we have been over this. I am doing this manually, at half power. It's a cakewalk." (Rodney)
"I do not think it matters how much cake you walk on." (Zelenka)

There we have it, folks, another week of the rewatch comes to a close. Join us back here next Monday for "Instinct," won't you?

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