Especially today! Today we have a pretty nifty little episode to talk about, season two's "Aurora." Spoilery goodness ahead, of course. Let's go!
Ever since the Daedalus brought the ZPM to Atlantis, Rodney and his minions have been busily discovering and activating all kinds of systems in the city. Their most recent find is a system that was used to track all of the Ancient warships that were out and about in the galaxy. Rodney calls in Elizabeth and Sheppard to show them that the system has revealed one of those ships, the Aurora, puttering around on the very edge of the galaxy, where the database states that it had been on some sort of reconnaissance mission. Apparently when the ZPM was installed some sort of homing beacon went out to any ships in the galaxy recalling them back to Atlantis on autopilot.
Now, Aurora is only an interstellar ship, not intergalactic, so even at its top speed it would take several months to get back to the city. But on autopilot it is even slower, Rodney estimates about thirty-two million years or so. This just won't do, of course, especially not with Sheppard practically jumping for joy at the thought of getting his hands on an Ancient ship. Sadly, the ship is also much too far away from any stargates for them to be able to go visit it by jumper. Good thing that Daedalus is in the neighborhood! Elizabeth tells Caldwell to take Sheppard's team to go check out Aurora. There is a little bit of a pissing contest between the two, but Caldwell capitulates and gives our team a lift.
They arrive at the ship's location and immediately detect a small wraith scout ship in the vicinity. It turns to intercept them as soon as they drop out of hyperspace but they easily blow it away, realizing that it must have detected Aurora when it reactivated to begin its return to Atlantis and gone to investigate. Wraith dealt with, they continue to close and soon enough Aurora comes into view. They are disappointed to see that it is basically a floating wreck. Apparently Aurora saw a heck of a battle before it went dormant ten thousand years ago.
Daedalus's sensors don't detect any sort of life-support operating on the other ship, so Caldwell beams in team Sheppard wearing space suits. They begin to explore the ship to see if there is anything worth salvaging or any useful information to be gleaned from its remains. Not too far from the destroyed bridge they locate a chamber filled with stasis pods--all of them occupied. Rodney hacks into the system and realizes that the pods are all shielded somehow, which is why the Daedalus didn't detect them when it scanned the Aurora.
Rodney gets the ship's life-support reactivated so they can continue to search the remaining decks and then returns to the first group of stasis pods they found (more are located throughout the ships--the entire crew went into stasis). Some further digging around in the system reveals that the people in the pods, all of them, are still alive. They must have voluntarily put themselves in stasis after their ship was damaged, hoping to be rescued by Atlantis. Unfortunately, suspended animation can only do so much, and after ten thousand years, the pods are the only thing keeping them alive. Their bodies have deteriorated pretty severely and to try to revive them would kill them.
Rodney also realizes from his readings that the crew is not only alive, but actively communicating with each other, apparently via some sort of virtual interface system accessed through the stasis pods. Teyla and Ronon have managed to find several empty pods and Rodney decides that he needs to use one to access the VI. He refuses to pass up the opportunity to talk to actual living Ancients and believes he can modify his stasis pod to allow him to consciously choose to exit the VI whenever he wants. Sheppard agrees that they do need to try to talk to the captain, but he says that he will go instead. That way if anything goes wrong, Rodney will be on the outside, able to get him out.
Inside the VI, Sheppard finds himself on a restored version of Aurora. He quickly encounters a crew member, who is very surprised to find him. He tries to explain that his team found the ship and he needs to talk to the captain. The crew member doesn't seem to know what Sheppard is talking about but has security escort him, under guard, to meet with the captain. Sheppard quickly realizes that the captain and crew don't remember putting themselves into stasis and have no idea that they are in a VI, or that it has been over ten thousand years since Atlantis lost the war with the wraith. Indeed, they don't even know about Atlantis evacuating back to Earth.
The captain's first officer keeps insisting that the captain doesn't have time to deal with Sheppard's nonsense. They need to finish their modifications to Aurora's hyperdrive so that they can get back to Atlantis quickly (days versus months) and turn over a communique to the council on Atlantis. The communique contains information about a fatal flaw in the wraith technology, one that could turn the tide of the entire war. Excited to hear this, Sheppard tries to get the captain to tell him about the flaw, but the captain listens to the first officer and has Sheppard locked up in the brig instead.
As soon as he is alone, Sheppard wills himself out of the VI and reports his findings to the rest of his team and to Caldwell. He explains that he wants to go back in to see if he can manage to talk the information out of the captain, as it would still be of great value to them in fighting the wraith. Caldwell isn't too happy about the plan but agrees, then tells Rodney to give Sheppard half an hour and then pull him out regardless. Of course, as soon as Sheppard goes back into the VI, the sensors on the Daedalus pick up two wraith cruisers headed their direction, presumably coming to find out what happened to their scout ship. Caldwell tells the rest of the team to hurry up their search, because as soon as Sheppard gets back from the VI, they will be getting the heck out of there so as to hide evidence of their visit to the ship.
During their explorations, Teyla and Ronon find a body on the ground, outside of one of the pods. They also discover a live wraith inside the pod that had been occupied by said body. They call Rodney down to look at it, and his readings reveal that the wraith is also hooked into the VI. Rodney also realizes that the wraith has manipulated the program--this is probably why the crew doesn't remember that they are in stasis. When they report their finding to Caldwell, he immediately beams them out of there. They assure him that the wraith they found is the only one aboard Aurora and Rodney insists that he needs to go back and continue investigating the system in order to figure out what the heck the wraith is doing in there. He also thinks it is possible that Sheppard might not be able to get out because of the changes the wraith has made. Caldwell gives him fifteen minutes to figure it out and pull Sheppard from the pod, and then he is going to nuke Aurora to keep the wraith from getting their hands on whatever intel they were trying to find.
In the VI, Sheppard demands to speak to the captain but the first officer comes down instead. She listens to his explanation and says she will talk to the captain for him, then leaves. She never comes back though, and Sheppard realizes that she blew him off and only told him she'd talk to the captain to get him to shut up. He calls his guard back and then winks out of the VI in front of him, winking back in after a moment to catch the guard by surprise and get his weapon, as well as escape out of his cell, which the guard opened after he disappeared. He manages to make his way to the bridge and starts to beseech the captain to listen to what he has to say when the first officer shows up and hits him with a stunner, knocking him out. The first officer apologizes for letting Sheppard get out and encourages the captain to get back to work on the hyperdrive modifications. The captain more or less does this, but as she is leaving, he asks the first officer, what if Sheppard is telling the truth? He is starting to sense that all is not right.
Back in the real world, Rodney realizes from Sheppard's readings that he is unconscious in the VI, which means he won't be able to bring himself back out. Worried, and running out of time, Rodney jumps into the neighboring pod and goes into the VI himself, looking for Sheppard. Shortly after this, Caldwell radios Rodney for a status update and Ronon and Teyla, not wanting to let Caldwell know what Rodney has done, stall him. Teyla manages to come up with some seriously impressive technobabble BS as to why Rodney isn't answering his radio.
Rodney manages to find Sheppard in the VI by way of getting caught by security and thrown into a cell with him. He then tells Sheppard that there's a wraith in the VI and Sheppard deduces that it must have taken the first officer's place, since she's been doing nothing but try to stop him from telling the captain what's going on since he got there. Rodney manages to manipulate the VI so that they can escape the brig. They then go looking for a terminal that Rodney can hack so they can get the information about the wraith's weakness.
When they do manage to get into the ship's systems, they are disappointed to learn that the communique has been deleted by the wraith. Sheppard wonders why he is still playing in the VI then, and Rodney realizes that the wraith's goal must be to get the specs on Lantean intergalactic hyperdrive systems. Hence the first officer's insistence on modifying the hyperdrive. The wraith don't possess anything faster than interstellar technology, and they want to upgrade their ships so they can get to Earth. Sheppard says their only chance is to talk to the captain and see if he can tell Sheppard the information, but to do that, they have to get the wraith out of the way. So Rodney leaves the VI to go hack the wraith's pod and stop him from interfering.
Sheppard manages to make it to the bridge once more, just as the captain is about to engage the new hyperdrive. He tells the captain that the first officer is actually a wraith trying to get information on how to upgrade their own ships. The captain doesn't believe him at first, but Rodney works his magic outside of the VI and reveals the wraith before pulling it out of the interface completely, convincing the captain that Sheppard is telling the truth (and consequently leaving Rodney alone on the ship with a now awake wraith that he just pissed off, oops--Rodney realizes this as the pod opens up and flees the chamber, shooting his gun repeatedly in the general vicinity of the wraith before he manages to get out of the pod.)
Unfortunately, the captain tells Sheppard that he never actually saw the information that was in the communique, he just knew that it contained information about a weakness in the wraith technology. He is overwhelmed to realize that it has really been ten thousand years since the war between his people and the wraith. He also knows that after all of that time it is unlikely any of his crew would survive revival from stasis. Sheppard, pained, confirms this. He tells the captain about the approaching wraith cruisers and the captain says that with Sheppard's help, at least he and his crew can deal one final blow to the wraith.
Sheppard wakes up from the VI to find Rodney packing up, with the wraith hot on his heels. Sheppard takes out the wraith and then gets a radio call from Caldwell (who had already beamed up Teyla and Ronon, and upon seeing two life signs on the ship hoped they were Sheppard and Rodney). He tells Caldwell to give him one more minute and then they are both beamed back on to the Daedalus just as the cruisers arrive. Caldwell begins to order his crew to fight the cruisers but Sheppard and Rodney tell him no, they need to get the heck out of there. The captain of the Aurora's last act was to give Sheppard the ship's self-destruct codes, which will take care of both cruisers as well--and them if they don't bug out right away.
We get one last shot of the Aurora's VI, with the captain having told his crew the reality of their situation. He makes a stirring final speech, comforting them with the knowledge that while they might not make it home, they will be remembered.
Aurora goes boom, along with the wraith cruisers, and Caldwell confirms that no transmissions were sent from the cruisers before they went, ensuring that the information about the Ancient hyperdrive technology remained out of their hands. Back on Atlantis, Sheppard's team and Caldwell are reporting to Elizabeth. Ronon remarks that he still wishes they could have gotten that information about the wraith weakness, but Sheppard replies that at least now they know there is one. He pulls out a bottle of champagne and they all drink a toast to Aurora and her crew.
Man, I really do love this episode, and it always manages to sneak up on me. It's not that I forget the events of the episode or anything, it is just that I forget what a solid entry it is, what with everything else going on this season. It's always a nice treat when "Aurora" comes up in the rotation. Overall, it doesn't add too much to the existing story arc, it is mostly a one-shot. But we do learn that the wraith are trying to upgrade their hyperdrives, and we do learn that there is a way to defeat them. That's good information to have. This episode also goes a long way toward restoring the lost trust between Sheppard and Rodney, which is a nice little bonus.
I have to say though, I don't buy the whole scenario that the captain didn't know what was in the communique. Aurora was on a reconnaissance mission, which means that it would be her crew who would be getting the information they received, right? Someone on that ship had to have been the person who knew what they found out about the wraith. If it wasn't the captain, he should at least have been able to grab the guy who wrote the communique and make him talk. I'm choosing to believe that the captain did know, but that the wraith managed to erase it from his memories when he fiddled with the VI, just in case. Otherwise, that seems like a really blatantly bad excuse for not letting the team get the information that whole crew had been sent to gather.... Though honestly, that's my only quibble with the story itself.
I do have to say, other than getting duped by the wraith, the captain seemed like good people. These are probably the nicest Ancients we will ever meet over the course of this series. Yeah, yeah, Janus was okay, but he had his own selfish motivations for being nice. Like I always forget how much I enjoy this episode, I also always forget that it gives us a few examples of decent people among the Ancients. It's nice to know they weren't all pompous idiots. Yay!
Of course, nice or not, they do still totally lose in the fashion department. I mean, not only were their clothes extremely unflattering and not at all appealing to the eye, they also seemed extremely impractical. Military uniforms that incorporate corsets and lace up the back? In a culture that is capable of creating and traveling by wormholes and building intergalactic city-sized spaceships? Really? Have these people not heard of zippers? Clothing that laces up the freaking back is only really plausible in a society where you have someone who helps you get dressed every day. Even then, I highly doubt that would be the actual norm for field uniforms. Sigh. I know it needs to look different, but that doesn't mean it should look stupid.
I am amused by the opening scene, in which Ronon bemusedly watches two scientists "play" chess (which involved the two staring at each other intently over the board without making any moves for a very long stretch of time). When Elizabeth shows up and tries to explain the strategy of it to him, that it is all about thinking out your moves several steps in advance, I love the way he just casually shrugs off that whole concept. He was in the military before becoming a runner, after all. I don't know if this suggests that the Pegasus galaxy tends to take a more immediate and reactive approach to strategy as a result of living under the constant threat of the wraith, or if it is just due to him living on the run for so long. Either way, I love that Elizabeth threw out the metaphor of chess for war and Ronon just casually brushed it aside.
One other thing that was really nifty about this episode, and that I hadn't actually noticed before, was the way they did the lighting during the VI scenes. It had kind of a blueish tint to it and was very washed out. In my mind whenever I think about those scenes, I always picture the VI Aurora as very white and austere, but that is not how it is actually shown. It's really cool in contrast to the real Aurora which is dark, yes, but also still very colorful and "real" despite being a derelict burnt-up husk. That is jut a really awesome piece of directing there and I wanted to take a moment to give it the respect it is due.
"A warship?" (Sheppard)
"See, look at his eyes all lighting up again. It's Pavlovian." (Rodney)
"You see, the thing is, Colonel Sheppard and I have sort of gotten into this habit of saving each other's lives, and it's my turn." (Rodney)
"Are you sure you want to do this?" (Teyla)
"I'm sure I don't!" (Rodney)
"That's her!" (Sheppard)
"The wraith?" (Rodney)
"Wow! She's hot! I mean, seriously hot!" (Rodney)
"Rodney, you're drooling over a wraith." (Sheppard)
"I know. I disgust myself sometimes." (Rodney)
There you have it folks. I hope this has helped to brighten up your Monday a little bit at least. Come back on Wednesday when we'll wrap up the first half of the season with "The Lost Boys."