Wednesday, October 12, 2011

SGA Rewatch: The Lost Boys

Well, that time of the week has come again. It's Wednesday once more, which means once more we shall delve into an episode of Stargate Atlantis on this little rewatch we've got going on. Today's episode up for discussion is season two's "The Lost Boys." Beware, you are now entering the spoilers zone.

What Happened

The team is out and about on a very isolated planet, following up on a tip they received about the location of a ZPM. Rodney is griping loudly about the out of the way meeting place their contact has chosen, and as Sheppard is telling him to suck it up, they are ambushed by a group waiting in the woods with stun guns. Once they are all unconscious, their attackers come out and quickly tie them up to be moved off-world to another planet before it is discovered that they are missing.

Their destination turns out to be a lair or hideout of some sort set up in a (really nicely furnished) cave. They are all roughly placed around a table and the bags over their heads removed. One of their attackers asks if they will give their word not to attack if he has their bonds cut. Before they can answer, a voice from behind comments that they need to know they are among friends first, and Ford steps out of the shadows. Ford has his people bring the team food and encourages them to eat, while they begin to pepper him with questions. He is clearly enjoying the power he has over them, having had them captured and brought to him, as well as having the group of men who ambushed the team under his control.

While they eat, Ford tells them about how he survived after jumping into the culling beam on their last encounter. Due to the enzyme he is more or less immune to the wraith stunners, so he was able to regain consciousness quickly enough after being rematerialized to keep from being fed on. Indeed, he was able to make his way through the ship, harvesting plenty of enzyme as he went, and escape to an inhabited world. There he made new friends, one of whom is now his second in command, Kanayo, and told them about the enzyme and how it can help them fight the wraith. He convinced Kanayo and his other followers to use the enzyme too, and has since been building his own little army of drugged up fighters.

He reveals that because their numbers have grown so much they no longer just kill any wraith they come across to harvest the enzyme. They have begun capturing the drones (soldier class wraith) alive and keeping them chained up in the lair to provide a steady stream of the enzyme. Teyla freaks out that there are live wraith there, explaining that they can telepathically communicate over great distances. Ford tells her he knows that, but he also knows that can't communicate across stars and that there are no other wraith in their solar system--he learned that from Rodney. Jace, one of Ford's more scientifically-minded followers has been working on refining the enzyme and the process of delivery into the body to get the best advantage out of it. They have even figured out, Ford reveals with a smirk on his face, how to lace food with it. He then tells the team that they've just received their first dose of enzyme. The reaction to this, as I am sure you can imagine, is not favorable.

After everyone calms down a bit, Sheppard talks to Ford and finds out that he only dosed Teyla, Ronon, and Rodney. He wants Sheppard to remain sober to serve as a witness. His plan is to keep them around as part of his "team" for long enough for them to realize how much better they are on the enzyme. Sheppard can then testify to Elizabeth that it works and convince her to a) let Ford keep using it without trying to "cure" him and b) start administering it to the rest of the expedition as well. Ford tells Sheppard they are free to go wherever they want and they immediately make for the stargate. Ford is one step ahead of them however, and has already removed the control crystals from the DHD that would allow them to dial out. Since they are stuck there, Sheppard tells the rest of the team that he thinks they should play along for a while. If they can gain Ford's trust maybe they can talk him into letting them go, or at least figure out where the control crystals are so they can make their escape.

Jace takes Rodney on a tour of the lab area of the lair and explains that in addition to working on the enzyme, he has also been studying the wraith. He says they have learned quite a bit about them. Their society is quite fractured, it turns out. They are not the united front everyone has assumed that they are. In addition, they have recently more or less stopped sharing any important information between hives. Jace says that Ford suspects this is because of Teyla's ability to tap into their network. Without shared information only one hive would be compromised if she (or someone else who might have the ability) were able to tap in. The fact that so many of them are awake at once is also working in the humans' favor, because the shortage of food has begun to widen existing fractures and cause infighting among the wraith.

As part of his plan to convince Sheppard and the team that they should want to use the enzyme, Ford sends Sheppard and Teyla along as observers with Kanayo on a mission. They raid a Genii storehouse for weapons and other supplies, including a large quantity of the C4 stolen from Atlantis during the attempt to take the city. Kanayo reveals that the C4 is crucial to Ford's grand plan, which, as it turns out, is to blow up a hive ship. The mission is not a complete success though, one of Kanayo's men is killed. Teyla points out that they aren't invincible, despite the enzyme, and he quips that they are close enough.

They have recovered enough data to learn of a hive ship that has been causing all kinds of trouble lately and is on its way to a culling. They have discovered its flight plan and know when it will be pausing in its hyperspace journey to cull a planet with a stargate. They have recently recovered a damaged wraith dart, and want to use it to sneak onto the hive ship and plant explosives, making it go boom. This was one of the big reasons that Ford wanted to bring Sheppard's team in on the plan. Aside from showing them (and Atlantis) what he and his men are capable of on the enzyme, he also needs Rodney to fix the dart and Sheppard to fly it. Rodney at first adamantly refuses to fix the dart because the plan is just so crazy, but Sheppard manages to talk him into it, pulling him aside and explaining that with the dart's DHD, he can double-cross Ford once it's fixed and just go back to Atlantis. Sheppard also gets Ford to agree to dial back Rodney's dosage of the enzyme so that he can be more clear-headed and fix the dart faster. Ford agrees, so long as Teyla and Ronon continue receiving the same dose as before. Cue the montage!

While all of this has been going on, Elizabeth has been getting understandably worried at the disappearance of Sheppard's team. After they missed their check-in, she sent Lorne's team back to the world where they were ambushed to see if he could track them down. When he found no sign of them, both assumed that they had been taken off-world against their will (since the protocol is to radio in to Atlantis before going to another planet). She then sent Zelenka to see if he could pull the last few dialed addresses from the gate so they could try to track down the missing team. Unfortunately, the DHD wasn't really meant to store a "call log" so to speak. Zelenka managed to pull about fifty addresses from it, but there is no real way to determine which address was dialed when or in what order. In other words, instead of the last two or three planets to search, they ended up with fifty, and no way of knowing if any of those were even relevant. It doesn't really seem likely that such a search will have any success. Elizabeth orders Lorne to try anyway, and quickly, devoting all resources to the search.

In Ford's lair the montage has wound down, and the dart repairs are close to being completed. In a brief moment alone, Ford breaks down and tells Sheppard he just wants to go home. Sheppard jumps on this immediately, saying give them back the crystals and they can just go. But Ford shakes his head and says no, they have to finish the mission first. He owes it to his men who have put so much into it, and for himself, because he needs to see that hive destroyed. But he agrees that once the mission is over, he'll go home with them. Sheppard is thrilled, having found a crack in Ford's new tough exterior, and urges Rodney to hurry with the repairs so they can get out of there, believing that Ford will forgive him for just taking them straight back to Atlantis instead of doing the mission.

Ronon and Teyla, meanwhile, are starting to show the effects of the enzyme. They are both acting much more aggressively than normal and kind of crazy, fighting each other over small things. Sheppard finds them going at it and breaks up one such fight, and Ronon wants to know if they are going to talk about the elephant in the room: the enzyme works. He seems to be seriously considering agreeing to keep taking it, he can feel the increased power and strength it is giving him. Teyla admits she can also feel the changes it has wrought, but she worries about how addictive it seems, and how much her body already seems to depend upon it.

Once the dart is repaired, Ford changes the plan and declares that Rodney will not be joining them on the mission. He will stay behind under guard so that Sheppard doesn't get any funny ideas about not going through with it. Sheppard is shocked and Ford mocks him for falling for his ruse about wanting to go home, telling Sheppard that he should stop underestimating him. He had only been pretending the vulnerability to get Sheppard more in his pocket and to get Rodney to complete the repairs more quickly. In addition to splitting the team up, Ford also had Jace rig the dart's DHD so it will only dial the planet where they are going and the one they are on. So even if leaving Rodney behind isn't enough to deter Sheppard from just heading back to Atlantis, he wouldn't be able to do it anyway.

They get to the hive ship and receive their first setback when the dart goes into autopilot upon entering the dart bay. Sheppard tries to resume manual control but to no avail. The autopilot forces him to blindly release the rest of the team, and some of them are rematerialized over a chasm, falling to their deaths. Ford is pissed at having lost half of his men, and even more so when Sheppard only cares to ask about Ronon and Teyla. He tells Sheppard to just go park and stay hidden while they lay the explosive charges and then cuts off the radio so Sheppard can't communicate with him.

Unfortunately, with the ship still on autopilot, Sheppard doesn't really have the opportunity to stay put and hide. As soon as the dart docks, the canopy automatically opens up, and Sheppard is clearly visible to all nearby wraith, several of which move to attack him when he is revealed. He manages to kill those wraith and get away, but not without setting off the hive ship's alarms, activating all of the security and sending out even more wraith to investigate, endangering the rest of the group.

Back at the cave Rodney is starting to worry about the team, saying that they have been gone far too long. Hopped up on the enzyme, he is freaking out extra hard, but the two guards just tell him to chill out and loom menacingly.

On Atlantis Elizabeth is wrapping up a status report to Earth and closes it out by stating that Sheppard's team is still missing. She starts to add "and presumed dead," but can't make herself say the words so amends it to just missing.

Sheppard and the group put up a valiant fight against the wraith once the alarms on the hive are activated, but they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of wraith and quickly captured. The wraith throw them all into a holding cell and then come by after a while asking for "the one who flew the ship." Ronon tries to attack them but is brushed aside and Sheppard gives himself up to prevent anyone from being hurt. The wraith escort him to a large chamber, where he finds a queen waiting for him. She forces him to his knees and "To Be Continued" flashes up on the screen.


I think the biggest thing I have to say about this episode is how impressed I am by Rainbow Francks' performance. Gone is the happy-go-lucky Ford of yesteryear, replaced with a bitter, determined, and somewhat deluded addict. Francks does an amazing job portraying the changes that such an addiction can put a person through. He also does an excellent job telegraphing just how much Ford has come to enjoy being the one in charge, the one with the power over others. He delights in making Sheppard watch his friends endure the enzyme exposure, and while he is not above manipulating Sheppard, he still seems driven to prove himself worthy to the man. As soon as they took him out of the regular cast Ford became this insanely awesomely complicated character, and Francks is clearly having a ball with it here.

There is also the just barely visible current of resentment that Ford and Ronon have for each other. Ford can see how easily Sheppard replaced him, and how much better Ronon seems to fit with the team after so short a time. He pretends to be welcoming of the other man, but the resentment is there. Ronon, for his part, seems to want to prove that he is better than Ford, and he resents that it takes using the enzyme to have a chance at that, at least as far as wraith-killing goes. The scene between the two of them where they talk about who would win in a fight between them, and who should, the body language in that scene is amazingly well played.

Rodney's hypochondria is, as usual, just over the top enough to be amusing here. He is clearly scared, and wants to believe that Sheppard can get them out of this, or present Rodney himself with the opportunity to do so. He is also worried about that the enzyme might be doing to his precious brain. All the while, he is dealing with the fact that Ford, who he has always given a hard time but still viewed more or less as a friend, is the one who put him in this position.

Teyla's reaction is also pretty interesting to watch. Part of her obviously relishes the enhancement the enzyme gives to her natural abilities, but she just as obviously knows how dangerous it is. Watching her try to hold on to herself and not get lost in the high is very compelling.

The other key thing is the information we get about the infighting among the wraith. That right there is a crucial piece of data, just casually thrown in where it could easily be missed by those only paying attention to the bigger picture. The writers of this show excel at that, and I am really only just realizing how well as I do this rewatch.

All in all, this is actually a pretty solid episode. Very well written and well acted. Also, it quite clearly gets across the "don't do drugs" message without being preachy about it. "The Lost Boys" shows, rather than tells, the detrimental effects such measures can have. Ford may think he has a very noble purpose for staying on the drug, but his actions show that he is compromised, from his flawed planning of the raid on the hive to his reveling in the power he has received. This isn't a show that really does much in the way of taking a stand on social issues or holding a mirror up to our society, but the arc with Ford and the enzyme actually does a decent job on that front. It's random, but you know what, not gonna hold that against it.

Favorite Quotes

"Seems like a whole lotta trouble to go through just to get us to dinner." (Sheppard)

"Can you fix it?" (Ford)
"No, probably not." (Rodney)
"That usually means yes." (Sheppard)

"Always underestimated me, Sheppard. You need to stop doing that." (Ford)

"R2, I need you to turn the autopilot off now.... Worth a try." (Sheppard)

With that, we wrap up another week of the rewatch. See you back here on Monday for the conclusion of this adventure with "The Hive."

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