Friday, December 23, 2011

A Star Wars Christmas

As you may have guessed, Star Wars has been on my mind more than a little this holiday season. I mean, I'm not gonna go so far as to watch that holiday special of which we will never speak again, but it's definitely in the air.

Along with the launch of The Old Republic, I also stumbled across a Lego Star Wars advent calendar. Of course I bought it. Twenty-four little assorted minifigs and kits for my December building pleasure? Heck yes!



The minifigs are definitely my favorites, but I also think some of the ships are pretty cool (and creative, to get them down that small). There are also a few completely random items in there, but it's all good. I still get to start every day with a little bit of Lego building, and I will definitely take that!

Without further ado, I present to you, the Lego Star Wars days of Christmas!

Day 1: Republic Cruiser

Day 2: Angry Neimoidian (Nute Gunray)

Day 3: Nute's Walking Mechano-Chair

Day 4: Homing Spider Droid

Day 5: Slave I (Boba Fett's ship)

Day 6: Chewbacca!

Day 7: Chewy's Workbench

Day 8: X-Wing Pilot (I'm calling him Wedge, whether he is or not)

Day 9: X-Wing

Day 10: Lambda Class Imperial Shuttle

Day 11: Separatist Pilot Battle Droid

Day 12: Snow Speeder

Day 13: Astromech Droid (R2-Q5)

Day 14: Mouse Droid

Day 15: Republic Attack Gunship

Day 16: Clone Pilot

Day 17: Weapons Rack

Day 18: Y-Wing

Day 19: TIE Pilot

Day 20: TIE Fighter

Day 21: Millennium Falcon (!)

Day 22: A-Wing

Day 23: Life Day Christmas Tree

And, because I don't normally post on Saturdays, I went ahead and sneaked a peek at tomorrow's for you. Behold:

Day 24: Santa Yoda (Complete with a sack of presents!)


A very good mix of original trilogy and prequel flavors in there, I have to say. The box it came in is a little bit destroyed because of how the flaps for each day open up, but I am thinking about saving it nonetheless to use again when Baby Girl is a little bit older and we can enjoy assembling each bit together.

Anyhoo, that's me out for the rest of the year. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas (or your holiday of preference) and Happy New Year's. Regardless, have a wonderful week, and I hope you get some time to enjoy with friends and loved ones as well as some much deserved relaxation. No posts next week, I'll see you back here on Monday, January 2.

Ta ta for now!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Another Post About SWTOR??

Why yes. Yes it is.

Well, it's officially launched. Whoo! I've been having fun exploring and leveling up and questing and such. Now I am about to be without access to the game until next week while I am out of town for the holiday. Should give all those latecomers a chance to catch up to (and probably surpass) me by the time I get back. Sigh.

Oh well. It's not like I am actually playing this as a competition anyway. I really really am digging the story and I want to play through and see how it pans out.

The social aspect is starting to grow on me. A little. I have already gotten in the habit of keeping my eye on the chat window while I play. I have learned how to sort out the general discussion from private chats with my friend or with my group. I actually have been seeking out groups, too. I am kind of proud of myself for that. When I did the first Heroic Area on my class homeworld (these are short quests where you are encouraged not to go alone--basically you have to fight your way through a slew of baddies to get to your objective), I actually hopped onto the general chat to see if anyone was interested in joining me. Ended up with two buddies and we sliced through it pretty quickly. It was surprisingly fun.

I really like how the loot and conversation options work with a group, too. With loot, if a fallen foe just has credits, then it's first come first serve, or sometimes the loot signal will only come up if you personally killed the guy. But if there's an item, everyone in the group gets a choice between "need" or "greed," and the game rolls for it for you, with the highest group member winning the item. If you select "need" then it is more likely to go to you (I guess it weights the "dice" or something), but if everyone chooses "greed" then it's a fair roll and everyone's got an equal chance. I was a little confused by this at first. I thought maybe those two would have been reversed (with "greed" meaning "I want it now" and "need" meaning "Give it to whichever member needs it more"). With conversations, when you get to a dialogue option, every group member makes a choice and again the game rolls for it, with the highest roll's choice getting played out. That means that in a conversation, usually each group member's avatar gets a chance to speak up, which is nice. If you want to make sure that there are no unpleasant surprises in how the conversation turns out, you can just hop on the group chat and make sure everyone is on the same page with which dialogue options to choose.

There are still a few drawbacks, of course. When I did my first attempt at the game's first Flashpoint, I found a pretty decent group fairly quickly. We got about two-thirds of the way through, however, and I managed to run my avatar off the edge of a random bottomless pit (in the middle of a spaceship! the Star Wars universe is randomly fond of bottomless shafts and pits in spaceships and stations). After a loading screen, I was at the start of the area again, but it took me a few minutes to figure that out. Then, my computer when kind of nuts and I couldn't get my character to move or get my chat to work. By the time I did, and was moving toward my group again and able to message them, they had already been waiting and the group leader had booted me from the group, thinking I had buggered off. I mean, I don't really blame them, but it was incredibly frustrating and annoying. I felt kind of like a loser. When next I logged in to try that Flashpoint again, there wasn't anyone around who was up for trying that particular mission. Which didn't help with the feeling like a loser bit. Still, the third time was the charm, and I was able to find another group the next day and get through it all. I have also now learned how dying works in Flashpoints, as well as what to do when my avatar freezes up like that. So, learning experience.

I actually ended up joining a guild that is focusing on leveling and Flashpoints. They are friendly to noobs, and hopefully that will make it easier to find buddies when I need help with a mission. Also, will hopefully give me less of a chance to make an utter fool of myself, because I can just ask. I was kind of amused when the guy who recruited me sent a welcome comment and then added to just let him or a few of the other guild leaders know if anyone in the game is bothering or bullying me. I mean, grown woman, mother and all over here. Still, it's nice to know someone has my back.

So, yeah, I am having a ton of fun so far, more than I was hoping for, I'll be honest. I am really looking forward to continuing the journey.

Now, just because, have a whole bunch of screen shots!

Is it just me or do the Flesh Raider Boneguards look a wee bit familiar?

Crafting my lightsaber!

Heck yes!

I have the power! Wait...wrong franchise.

Group combat.

Two lightsabers, baby, heck yes!

Tearing it up...

Meeting up with a real-world friend in-game, yay! Aw, T-7 party!

Just chillin' in my speeder.


Even though the game didn't officially launch until Tuesday, Amazon went above and beyond making sure that everyone got their physical copies in time for the launch. Mine came last Friday, and it is pretty spectacular.


Next to Baby Girl so you get an idea of scale.

The loot: A cool book, security key, the soundtrack, a map of the galaxy,
and of course, the game itself.

Also included a pretty awesome Darth Malgus statue. 

So yeah, that's what's been going on over here. Expect to hear more for a while folks. Anyone else out there playing? Or hoping Santa brings them a copy?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

SGA Rewatch: The Real World

Well, it's Wednesday, and that means another entry in the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch. Glad to have you with us! Today we'll be talking about season three's "The Real World." There will, of course, be spoilers for the episode and any that came before.

Shall we?

What Happened

Elizabeth wakes up, surprised to find that she is not in Atlantis. She appears to be a patient in some sort of hospital. She goes to open the door to her room and finds it locked. A man shows up and introduces himself as Doctor Fletcher. He explains that she is in a psychiatric hospital outside of Washington, D.C. Elizabeth is troubled by this because she doesn't remember arriving there or leaving Atlantis. She asks Fletcher when she got back to Earth and he gives her a pitying look, answering that she never left.

Not buying this, Elizabeth asks what she is doing in a mental hospital. Fletcher explains that she collapsed and apparently suffered a mental breakdown in the middle of treaty negotiations in North Africa. She frowns, remembering those negotiations and tells him she completed them successfully over two years ago. He shakes his head and answers that her collapse (and the negotiations) happened only three days ago. Elizabeth refuses to believe that any of this is real. She says that the last thing she remembers is sitting in her office in Atlantis going over a mission report. Fletcher asks her questions that reveal he doesn't know about Atlantis and she belatedly asks his security clearance. He asks if she wants to speak with anyone about the treaty and she responds yes, there is someone she needs to speak to right away.

She waits in an open room and looks up eagerly at the arrival of her requested party, General O'Neill. He is pleasant enough, but clearly confused when she starts going off about Atlantis and stargates and such. She had been hoping that he could help straighten the whole mess out and tell her how she ended up back on Earth, as well as get her back to Atlantis. She quickly realizes that he has no idea what she is talking about. She continues trying to convince him for a few minutes, but then his head does a weird glitchy thing, seeming to blur very quickly into another face. Taken aback, she sends O'Neill away. She gazes around the room, a recreation area of some sort, and makes an attempt to escape. Her attempt fails, however, and the orderlies sedate her and toss her back in her room.

In a session with Fletcher she continues to try to figure out what is going on. She knows two years have passed since those negotiations, but Fletcher insists that her mind just made it all up to cope with the stress and depression she had been dealing with. She retorts that she has negotiated many treaties and stressful as they might have been, none of them was ever bad enough to cause her emotional distress on that level. Fletcher then explains that the treaty negotiations were only the final straw, the trigger of her breakdown. The actual cause happened three weeks earlier. She and Simon had been in a car accident. She suffered only minor injuries but he was killed. Her colleagues had noticed she had been acting odd and depressed ever since (um, understandably). She doesn't remember anything about an accident, or Simon dying. Fletcher tries to convince her, explaining that the mind can repress such trauma. As he is doing so, she notices a blurry figure in the window behind him, but it is only there for a second before disappearing. 

Her mother comes to see her in the hospital. While Elizabeth is glad to see her mother, it is still not enough to convince her of the reality of the situation. Her mother urges her to accept it as truth. She suggests that Elizabeth just needs to give it some time for things to begin to feel normal again, considering how much she has been through. Elizabeth still has a very hard time believing she could have just imagined two entire years of her life like that, especially in only the course of a few days. That night when she has trouble sleeping, she looks up and sees the blurry figure again. This time, it is inside her room, standing behind a thick plastic curtain of some sort. She freaks out and when she tells Fletcher about it he increases her medication.

Trying to make sense of her current situation, Elizabeth looks up the reports on Simon's accident. A nurse brings by her medication and she pretends to take them, but ends up spitting the pills back out into the toilet. She goes to a group therapy session where a little old lady talks about the aliens that are waiting in the garden to suck out her blood. For a few moments into the story Elizabeth has hope that maybe this woman is privy to the stargates and such but she quickly realizes that is not the case. Fletcher tries to get her to share about Atlantis but she declines. When she goes to bed next, she sees weird movement underneath her blanket, but when she pulls it back, there is nothing there. She then turns and sees the shadowy figure at the door again, this time banging on it and rattling the handle, trying to get in.

This most recent hallucination scared her enough that she decides to start taking her medication. After a while, Doctor Fletcher decides that she has progressed quite a bit and she is ready to be released from the hospital. She returns to her old apartment and dog and resumes her life. She decides to go back to teaching in the fall. O'Neill stops by to visit her and asks her to consider coming back to the U.N. to serve as a negotiator once more. After some thought she agrees.

After all of this Elizabeth has no problem falling asleep. The camera zooms in on her face and when it pulls back again, we see that she is in the infirmary in Atlantis, in some sort of biohazard containment unit, surrounded by thick plastic curtains. A concerned John stands on the other side watching over her. He asks Carson how Elizabeth is doing and the doctor laments that she is getting worse. He says that "they" have spread from her brain into the rest of her body. We learn in short order that when Niam attacked her in the puddle jumper at the end of the last episode, he managed to infect her with nanites. The nanites are taking over her body, replicating and spreading through it, trying to make her into an organism that they (or the replicators) can control. 

There is a suggestion to use an EMP to kill the nanites but Carson is afraid that might kill Elizabeth, as they have bonded to her cells and neurons. He is at a loss for what to do to save her. As they talk about the situation, John wonders if Elizabeth is aware of what is happening to her, or if she can hear them. Carson says it is likely. It is a known phenomenon with coma patients, and Elizabeth's brain readings actually show that she is conscious. Not just dreaming, but actually going through what appears to be normal waking cognitive functions. He recommends they talk to her, let her know that they are there for her. Carson is then struck by a sudden idea and runs off to to go look into it.

Back in her illusion, Elizabeth has been diving back into negotiations. She has felt very tired but otherwise fine. Getting ready for bed one night, she goes to take her medicine and when she looks in the mirror she has no face. It is just a blur. Outside the illusion we see John standing outside her quarantine area talking to her, promising that they are working on a solution and urging her to fight the nanites. Elizabeth doesn't hear these words but she does throw her medication down the toilet again, worried that it is causing the hallucinations again. She goes to see Fletcher and he thinks maybe he dialed her medication back too far the last time he decreased it. In bed again, she hears someone saying her name and looks up to see the shadowy figure (John) standing in the doorway of her bedroom. He turns and walks off and she follows him. She opens up a door in her apartment and behind it is the glowing event horizon of a stargate. She looks about to step through it when all of a sudden orderlies appear out of nowhere and pull her back. She is sedated again and when she wakes up she is once more in the hospital.

In Atlantis, Carson explains his idea to save Elizabeth. The nanites were originally designed to fight the wraith, and so he proposes injecting a small amount of wraith tissue into Elizabeth's body. The idea is that the nanites will follow their original programming and uncouple from Elizabeth's cells to attack the tissue. That should buy them enough time to hit her body with an EMP and kill all of the nanites without harming Elizabeth.

In the hospital Elizabeth is laying out a deck of cards for a game of Solitaire. As she turns over her cards, however, they are not the traditional suits but rather gate symbols. Eight of them, the dialing sequence to reach Atlantis from Earth. She tells Fletcher and O'Neill about this, saying she has started seeing those symbols everywhere. She believes that something or someone is trying to communicate with her that Atlantis is real and she needs to get back there. They are nonplussed about this revelation, asking if that means she believes that they are the fantasy. She says yes, she does. She wants to go to Cheyenne Mountain and see if the stargate is there. The men clearly think she has lost it and try to force more medicine on her. She is strapped down to a table and Fletcher starts doing electroshock therapy.

Carson enacts his idea and at first it seems to have worked. It becomes evident pretty quickly, unfortunately, that the EMP didn't kill all of the nanites. Several in her brain survived because they had already begun using organic matter to replicate, rendering them immune to the EMP. They start replicating again, super fast, and quickly spread through her body. Carson says it looks like they are trying to get in a position where they can execute a "kill" command and deny oxygen to Elizabeth's brain, rendering her brain dead. They realize the nanites want to replace her consciousness with one of their own. From what they can see, it seems like maybe they are trying to force her consciousness to give up. It has come down to a battle of wills between Elizabeth and the nanites.

John stands outside the curtain, urging her to fight. He seems to get through because in her illusion she finds the strength to break her restraints and get free. She runs through the hospital, trying to avoid the orderlies and doctors. She turns a corner and sees an open elevator, the inside of which matches the elevators in Cheyenne Mountain. She runs into the elevator and chooses the floor for the SGC. She looks around in wonder as she arrives back in the familiar setting. O'Neill is there suddenly and he is trying to convince her that everything will be alright now and she just needs to come with him. From the other end of the hallway, she hears John and sees his shadowy figure walking off in the other direction. She turns and follows John.

Things look grim in Atlantis and John decides to break through the quarantine. He grabs Elizabeth hand and continues to urge her to fight. In the illusion Elizabeth can suddenly see him clearly. She has been cut off by soldiers and O'Neill is trying to convince her to just give up. John tells her she knows what she needs to do, and which way to go and she needs to run and fight back. She runs again, making it to the control room, and dials the gate for Atlantis. As she heads up the ramp to go through, O'Neill appears once more. When he can't convince her, he turns into Fletcher, and then into Niam, telling her that she might as well give up, there's nothing she can do. She doesn't believe him, and walks right through him and the gate. When she wakes up once more, she is in the Atlantis infirmary and the team is as glad to see her returned to consciousness as she is to be back at home.

John finds her later in the gate room, where she is avoiding going back to sleep. We learn that he was quarantined briefly after breaking through hers but the nanites were apparently so focused on converting Elizabeth that they didn't bother infecting him. They talk for a few moments and reflect that the Asurans are an even greater threat than they had thought. But for the moment they are just glad that the ordeal is over.

Commentary

I remember when I saw the first preview for this episode I was really kind of annoyed. It sounded like a pretty blatant ripoff of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Normal Again." The annoyance faded pretty quickly as I watched the episode for the first time, however. While the basic concept is pretty much the same, Stargate Atlantis went its own route with the story and I think the writers did a pretty impressive job with this episode. It's one of those situations that remind you that even when there aren't new stories, it's the execution of those stories that really matters. Sometimes one premise can lead to oodles of amazing (and vastly different) ideas.

Upon this viewing I can say that it has held up quite well over time, too. I had initially also been kind of annoyed at the "reveal" that Elizabeth was infected with nanites coming so early in the episode, but after watching it this time, the annoyance is gone. The switching back and forth between Elizabeth's mind and reality is actually masterfully executed. It serves to emphasize how much what is going on in the "real world" is affecting Elizabeth's consciousnesses as she is trapped inside her own mind. This episode also serves to show, quite well, just how little regard the Asurans hold for human beings both as a race and as individuals. It manages to up their threat level without any mustache-twirling, and it makes "The Real World" tie into the rest of the season extremely smoothly.

This episode also benefited greatly by the appearance of Alan Ruck as Doctor Fletcher, in my opinion. I really wanted to like him, considering that Cameron was my favorite character in Ferris Beueller's Day Off, but damned if he didn't do an amazing job at affable insidiousness. He hit that perfect note of someone who isn't what he says he is--which could have applied whichever world was the "real" one--as a replicator pawn or as a shady doctor.

Also of note for me in this episode, Ponytail!Elizabeth is super cute. Seriously. I totally get why they don't let her wear her hair like that when she's in Atlantis--she looked so vulnerable. I just wanted to hug her. It worked really well for what her character was going through here. It's kind of amazing what such a simple change can do for how you perceive a character. It also serves to emphasize how rigid and set in her ways Elizabeth normally is, I think. Looking ahead to something that happens later in the season, and realizing that the nanites largely concocted this scenario from information they gleaned from Elizabeth's mind, I find her supposed depression after Simon's death and collapse during the negotiations pretty interesting. We will revisit this down the road.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the awesome crocheted blanket featured in this episode. It can be seen in the recreation room in the hospital. I have the tendency to get really excited when I notice an obviously handmade crocheted (and sometimes knit) item in shows or movies I am watching. I guess it reiterates to me that these crafts are just everywhere, and it usually serves to make a show more relevant to my interests, silly as that might seem. Often, I am so impressed by the item that my focus gets shifted from the action to trying to figure out how I would construct such an item of my own. (I know my mother does this too, she and my daughter both have hats that prove it.) I wish that things like that would have been the props that went up for auction when the show had closed down production. I totally would have tried to win the crocheted blanket from Stargate Atlantis. Of course, I suspect that particular item is probably one that ended up going home with someone involved in the show after the episode wrapped, if it wasn't already the personal blanket of someone on the crew to begin with. Still, yay, crochet and Stargate Atlantis! Two of my favorite things in one place. That's always a nice surprise.

Favorite Quotes

"So you're saying when Simon died, my mind shut down and went to another galaxy?" (Elizabeth)

"That non-proliferation treaty...you kind of left us hanging mid-sentence there. Sure be nice to hear the punchline someday." (O'Neill)

"Well, maybe you've got to work yourself back into playing shape--spend a little time doing some short shifts before you jump up to the first line." (O'Neill)
"I'm sorry, I don't know a thing about football." (Elizabeth)
".... Nor hockey, apparently." (O'Neill)

"Now, just to be sure we're on the same page. We're against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, right?" (O'Neill)

"Well, it's that look. That's the same look I get when I have a brilliant idea." (Rodney)
"How would you know how you looked?" (John)
"Cause it's happened more than once in front of a mirror, okay?" (Rodney)

"You know, I don't mind being fantasized about occasionally, but c'mon. We're right here." (O'Neill)

"Uh, reality check. There are microscopic robots in her brain. How does she fight that?" (Rodney)

~*~*~

That about wraps it up for today. See you back here in the new year. We'll start up again Monday January 2 with "Common Ground." Be sure to stop by, that one's a doozy! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Knitting To Go

Well, I wish I could say it has been a super productive week on the knitting front, but it really hasn't. My husband came down with some sort of crud and it wasn't long before I caught it too. It pretty much drained any desire to play with pointy objects for a few days. I am finally starting to feel a bit better, thankfully. Just in time, too, considering that I leave on Thursday to go visit relatives for Christmas.

With travel comes the making of many lists in preparation to pack and then leave. Among those lists are what project(s) I will want to take with me on my trip. I sat down to assess what I've got going on at the moment and make that particular decision.

My current project pile.

At the moment I have three projects in the works (all knitting). There is a fourth stealth crochet project that I might try to sneak in before the trip, but I am still deciding on that one. The projects above include: that darn scarf (left), my poor KAL sweater (top right), and socks for my daughter (bottom right).

I think I have decided to bring the sweater and the socks along with me. The socks, obviously, because I am hoping to get them done in time to be a stocking stuffer for baby girl. The jury is still out on whether or not that will happen, but who knows. When I initially took the photos for this post, this was all I had of the socks:

Winter Sock # 1

But after taking the photos and looking at all of my projects, I got a bit inspired and sat down to work on them a bit more, so that I now have this:

Cuff, leg, and heel turn done, whoo!

So, they're shaping up at least. Worst case scenario, I don't finish them by Christmas and she gets them for New Year's instead. I have at least gotten to the point where I don't feel quite so very much as if I am knitting with a porcupine anymore. I'll take it.

I was also heartened to see that when I pulled out my KAL sweater, I actually was a bit further along than I remembered. In between the last update I showed you guys and when I had to set it aside for other more pressing projects it did manage to go from this:

Oscar Pullover Update 1

To this:

Oscar Pullover Update 2

I am hardly foolish enough to think I will return from my trip with a completed sweater, but maybe at least a completed back and a good start on the front. Perhaps I can finish this before January is out, at least.

I plan on giving the scarf the week in between Christmas and New Year's, maybe alternating it with the sweater so it doesn't get the chance to get too tedious. Then it will be my "small" project to work on in between all of the blankets (and possibly some commissioned baby hats, if my friend still wants them) that I will start up once that dang sweater is done.

Whatever else my goals for 2012 might be, one of them is most definitely to try to keep my project list from spiraling so out of control again! Heh. We'll have see how long that one lasts, though, won't we?

Monday, December 19, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Progeny

Hello! Welcome to my Stargate Atlantis Rewatch! It's nice to have you here, truly.

Before we get started, I wanted to make a brief announcement about scheduling. The blog will not be updating next week (December 26-30). I'm taking a writing vacation to match my husband's work vacation. We'll resume as usual on January 2 with new posts.

Okay, with that out of the way, let's dive back through the gate, shall we? This week we are talking about season three's "Progeny."

What Happened


The episode opens up in Atlantis' control room. Sheppard is overseeing a test gate to a new address that Rodney stumbled across. He is under the impression that it was once an Ancient outpost or research facility. They send a M.A.L.P. through and the initial atmospheric readings are pretty good. They turn on the camera and are surprised to find a group of people gathered around the M.A.L.P., checking it out. One of them speaks up stating that if whoever owns the machine intends harm, they should just turn back now, but if they mean friendship, they are more than welcome to come visit. Sheppard (okay, I'm gonna start calling him John now) and team gear up to go check it out, and Elizabeth decides to join them to help establish relations right from the start.

As they step through the gate, they are momentarily disoriented. They appear to have stepped right back into the gate room. After the gate shuts down, however, they turn and find people coming from a long corridor behind it to investigate their arrival. The building they have arrived at is not exactly identical to Atlantis, but it is very close. The man who spoke on the M.A.L.P. steps forward and introduces himself as Niam, welcoming them to Asuras.

Niam takes the team to meet with the Asuran High Council and along the way they pass a window that reveals a huge sprawling metropolis of Ancient architecture, surrounding the Atlantis-like building they are currently in. Niam says his people built the city and have lived there for thousands of years. There are currently millions of them living on the planet. The team starts to get excited, realizing they might actually have finally discovered some living Ancients.

The leader of the Asurans, Oberoth, is very haughty and cold to the team. He tells them that his people split from the Lanteans thousands of years ago over a falling out during a time of great conflict. The team correctly guesses he is referring to the war with the wraith. Ronon and John both seem to be having trouble with the thriving group of Ancients doing nothing about the wraith, thinking the others might have stood a chance if the  Asurans had helped them. Oberoth says that the Asurans found the fight against the wraith pointless, and in their arrogance the Lanteans underestimated their enemy, which led to the loss of the war and eradication of the rest of the Ancients in the galaxy.

The team does not reveal that they are from Atlantis itself, still cautious of letting its survival become too widely known. Instead they say only that they found an Ancient outpost and have set up home there. They suggest that now that the Asurans have met them, and know that the wraith are still out there, maybe the Asurans might be up for helping the galaxy out. They clearly have the resources to put up a decent fight. Oberoth tells them that eradication of the wraith is among the goals of the Asurans, but they are in no hurry. They have a plan and will execute it at a time of their own choosing--basically, when they feel like it and not before. He cuts the meeting short and tells them that as travelers, they must be in need of food and rest. He has made arrangements for them to stay in Asuras a short time before returning home.

They are escorted to quarters to retire and gather up for a powwow. Everyone agrees that something is off with the Asurans, and they are growing convinced that the Asurans are not Ancients at all. But they are unsure of just who their hosts might really be. Elizabeth decides to go try talking to Oberoth one on one, leader to leader, in hopes that she can convince him to do something. She tells him she wants to establish diplomatic and trade relations between their two peoples.

Oberoth scoffs at her, disbelieving that she could have anything to offer that might be of value to Asuras. She says he won't know until he opens up talks. She admits that the Asurans do have something her people could use very much, namely, the ZPMs (or power modules, as the Asurans call them). This causes Oberoth to become suspicious. He deduces that their settlement is of Lantean design, if it needs ZPMs for power. She acknowledges that it is. Still, he refuses to part with any, saying Asuras requires all that it has (which directly contradicts something Niam told her earlier). She then asks if they might be willing to offer refuge to her people in times of danger and he refuses this as well, saying it is unthinkable. She asks what exactly his plan is to defeat the wraith and he refuses to give up the info. He reiterates that the Asurans will defeat the wraith on their own schedule. It is clear he doesn't give a damn about anyone else in the galaxy in the meantime.

Elizabeth returns to the team and they decide to leave. No point in wasting their time any further. Niam is disappointed but he escorts them to the gate anyway. They are stopped at the gate by Oberoth and a security team, however. Elizabeth is surprised, saying she thought he didn't want them there. He admits he doesn't but says that they have information that he absolutely must have. He has them thrown in the brig.

While they are pondering their situation and trying to decide if escape is an option, Niam arrives to bring food. John and Ronon take advantage of the situation to stage a breakout, bringing Niam along as a hostage. They head for the jumper bay, leaving Niam behind (stunning him so he can alert no one else) and hijack a jumper, using it to dial the gate and escape back home.

Back in Atlantis, Rodney and Zelenka (alright, let's start calling him Radek) get to work trying to see if they can parse any information about Asuras from the Ancient database besides the entry that sent them there in the first place. They can't find anything, however, it seems all mention of Asuras has been intentionally removed from the database. John and Rodney are called to the control room and learn that seven hive ships have just appeared in orbit around the planet, even though long-range sensors never detected their approach. Despite the city's cloak, the hives start firing immediately, damaging the shields. As they scramble, they pick up fifteen more hives headed their way. Elizabeth calls for the evacuation to Earth and then she and John set the city's self-destruct. Something with it is screwed up, however, and John has to stay behind to activate it. Just as the city blows, the scene changes to John on his knees in the Asuran cell with Oberoth's hand in his forehead.

Oberoth removes his hand and John falls to the floor, finding the rest of his team in a similar state. While he is trying to figure out what the hell just happened, Oberoth and his people leave without a word. Rodney looks up and realizes aloud that the Asurans aren't people, they are replicators (self-replicating machines created from nanites, a very formidable enemy that the SGC encountered frequently in the Milky Way and pretty much responsible for wiping out the Asgard in their own galaxy). The entire city starts shaking as if an earthquake is happening and we are treated to a shot of the city taking off. Oberoth has fired up the star drive and is taking the Asuran version of Atlantis for a spin.

Niam and a few friends ask Oberoth what will happen to the team now that he has the information he wanted out of them. Oberoth says they are of no more use and he will probably just kill them. Niam and the others argue this decision, however, claiming that the team could be very useful to them in learning about Ancient society. Oberoth knows what they really want is to learn more about ascension, which he thinks is beneath them. But they have convinced him that the team is of no threat and so he agrees to Niam's request.

In the cell, the team discusses this new revelation, as well as their respective mind probes. There was never actually any escape, that is just the scenario that Oberoth ran through John's head to find out what he wanted to know about Atlantis. Each of them experienced something different. They have a moment of worrying that they might still be undergoing the mind probes but Niam arrives and assures them they are not. He takes them out of their cell, leading them to a room with a balcony, where they can see that the city is traveling through space. Niam tells them that they are headed for Atlantis with the intention of destroying it.

When Elizabeth asks why the Asurans want to destroy Atlantis, he explains it is for retribution against the Ancients and their betrayal of his people. She reminds him that the Ancients are all gone and it is only her people who inhabit the city now, but he says that is beside the point. Atlantis is the legacy of the Ancients and must be destroyed. He offers to show her why they seek such retribution, extending his hand to let her choose to be shown the history between Ancients and Asurans.

To combat the wraith, the Ancients turned to smaller, more advanced technology. They developed nanites and programmed them with a violent aggression. The intention was to send those nanites to infiltrate the wraith and then let them spread and destroy the enemy. The nanites were intelligent machines, however, and evolved, becoming more and more complex. Eventually, they evolved into human(or Ancient, I guess)-form, mimicking the most advanced form they knew. The human-form replicators that they became were still driven by that aggression directive, although they were also programmed with directives to prevent tampering with their own base code and to prevent their harming of the Ancients. Eventually, the Ancients decided that the nanite experiment had gone too far and decided to shut it down. Realizing its potential danger, they destroyed the entire facility and all of the replicators and nanites they had made. Some of the nanites survived, however, and it was enough for them to start over, replicating and rebuilding over thousands of years until they became the Asurans that the team encountered. The second generation of replicators, while unable to actually harm the Ancients themselves, nevertheless continued to harbor a major grudge against their creators.

The team left alone again, Elizabeth tells them what Niam showed her. Rodney starts freaking out, explaining to Ronon and Teyla about the replicators encountered in the Milky Way and how hard they were to defeat. He also speculates that it was likely the Asurans who created the nano-virus that they discovered in their first year in Atlantis. Teyla wonders if they can't just use an EMP to stop the replicators then, since that is how they stopped the virus. Rodney explains that it won't work--the nano-virus was a relatively simple version of the technology, and replicators are way too complex to be so easily foiled.

Niam sends for them and he offers them a deal. He and some of the other Asurans do not agree with Oberoth's plan to destroy Atlantis. They want to truly emulate the Ancients and learn how to ascend. It is their belief that the aggression directive is holding them back from achieving that goal--as well as being what is driving Oberoth to be so grumpy about Atlantis. When probing Rodney's mind, they learned that he has the ability to alter their base code and turn off the directive. If he will do that, they will do their best to stop Oberoth from destroying Atlantis.

Despite his usual grumbling about it, Rodney does manage to alter the code in Niam. All of the replicators are connected via a subspace communication and it goes through a daily "update." When the next update occurs, the changes in Niam will be uploaded to the rest of the replicators, turning off their aggression. While he was tinkering, he also programmed in a "glitch" that would cause all of the replicators to freeze and allow the team a chance to escape (they weren't really convinced Niam would be able to stop Oberoth). Ronon points out that they can't leave the Asuran Atlantis without destroying it and everyone agrees. Teyla has a twinge of guilt about betraying Niam's trust but Elizabeth says that they will offer to let him come with them. They cannot risk leaving the Asuran Atlantis intact.

Rodney's glitch works on all of the replicators except for Niam (whose code has been altered). As they encounter him, and he demands to know what is going on, the city drops out of hyperspace. They have reached Atlantis' planet. They explain the situation to Niam while Rodney sets the city's ZPMs to overload (he laments that all three are needed to destroy the city, he was hoping to snag one). Niam is not happy that they didn't trust him but he understands their motivations and he believes going with them will bring him closer to ascension. As they make their way to the jumper bay (for real this time) they encounter Oberoth in the hall. At first it seems as if he is frozen too, but it is quickly revealed he is not. He attacks the team and the other replicators start to become active again. The team and Niam fight their way to a jumper and they manage to make it out of the city just before it blows up.

In the jumper everyone takes a few minutes to breathe and then Niam starts acting strange. He says something is happening to him--the others on his planet, connected to him and those in the city via subspace--have realized what he has done. They reset him. Niam attacks Elizabeth. They manage to get him off of her and locked in the rear compartment. With no other choice, they blow him out the airlock.

Rodney and Radek do try to search the database for any information on the Asurans, but just as in John's illusion, there is nothing. The Ancients have completely wiped the experiment's records. Elizabeth and Sheppard discuss the fact that there is still a whole planet of replicators out there who now know that Atlantis was never destroyed. They are probably already working on building a new city-ship. Atlantis can only hope that they gave the other Asurans reason to pause and to think long and hard about retaliating.

The episode closes on the image of a very sad looking Niam drifting alone through space.

Commentary


So. Replicators. At first glance, this just looks like a rehashed villain from the parent series. The Asurans have been given a pretty decent Pegasus-galaxy spin, however, and it actually works pretty well. It introduces a new threat beyond the wraith and some potential for new stories for the show. This is also a pretty decent example of the Atlantis team creating an even bigger problem for themselves down the road while trying to effect a solution to more immediate threats. That's kind of a recurring thing in this series and I like that. It shows that there are consequences for actions, even if those actions were meant with the best of intentions.

This episode also gives us some more insight into the Ancients. Personally, I feel like it should have been an immediate dead giveaway to John and team that the Asurans weren't Ancients because their fashion sense, while not really "good" per se, was nowhere near on the level of bad that we'eve seen in every other group of Ancients encountered thus far (In case you want to throw out Chaya's admittedly awesome wardrobe as a counterargument, she doesn't count because she was ascended when we met her). But. Since they were not using Cori's Patented Ancient Fashion Detector, it took them a little bit longer to figure that out. We do learn that the Ancients, while they did create the nanites and allow them to evolve into human-form replicators, acknowledged how dangerous those new machines were and tried to fix the error (by killing it with fire, but still). Of course, they didn't bother to make sure they did a thorough job of destroying the deadly machines, but did manage to thoroughly erase any and all information that might be helpful in combating such beings should anyone ever stumble across them again. (Insert major eye-roll here.) I am with Rodney on this one, I think they just didn't want anyone to know they made a mistake. Stupid Ancient jerks. Also, it is worth bearing in mind that the Asurans went to great lengths to emulate the Ancients (to reassure themselves of their equality or even superiority to their hated creators). I think it's pretty safe to assume that their attitudes were fairly close to how the Ancients themselves might have behaved. Just gonna throw that out there.

I do have to give the set department props for creative repurposing of all of the standing Atlantis sets to create the Asuran city in a way that was similar but not identical to Atlantis itself. Well done there!

Gotta also mention the awesome performance that David Ogden Stiers did as Oberoth. It's always so awesome when they get such amazing talent to come in for these brief roles. Stiers owned the pompous arrogance. It was spectacular.

Also worth mentioning is the moment when Ronon calls down the Asurans for abandoning their "brother" Ancients. He says where he comes from people take care of their family. When he says this, he very clearly indicates Rodney. I found that a fascinating moment--further evidence of my theory that those two really do see each other as brothers.

Favorite Quotes


"You said earlier that your brothers' greatest weakness was their arrogance. May I suggest it runs in the family?" (Elizabeth)

"I can't let you do this! Not without tossing a coin or something! It doesn't seem right!" (Rodney)

~*~*~

That wraps up another episode. See you back here on Wednesday for "The Real World."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Another Semester, Another Family Music Night

I have mentioned before, I am sure, that we have been taking our daughter to a music class regularly for a while now. It's done by semester, and we just wrapped up our fifth semester of the class. For each semester you get a CD of songs that will be sung throughout the term, each CD focusing on a different instrument. This semester the focus was bongos. It's a ton of fun, and Baby Girl seems to love it. The class we attend is actually also taught by a dear friend, so that makes it even better. At the end of each fall and spring semester, there is a Family Music Night, which is an extended session that all of the teachers and students in the program attend. They get a live band to perform the songs from the semester as well as a few other fun tunes, and everyone basically parties down. Family Music Night for this semester was this past Wednesday, so I have a new crop of photos and videos of Baby Girl being super cute and getting her groove on.

Here she is dancing it up with her shaker eggs:

video


She loves to see the band. So much so that she tried to sneak up on to the stage with them:

video


Here she is dancing with her daddy:

video


Here are some more moments of awesomeness for you:

Eggs?

I'll be honest, I have no idea, but so cute!

Oh, hello there.

She really dug the ceiling fixtures.

Dancing with Daddy.

Um, I may have closed the egg in the car door,
purely on accident, mind you.

Whee!

Shake shake shake!

I love maracas!

I must organize them all...

...just right!

Time to climb on Mommy!

Stealing Daddy's hat now.

What?

Family shot!

Playing with her new frog guiro, spoils of the evening.

This frog is awesome!

It was raining like nuts, which is why we are all a bit bedraggled, but it was still oodles of fun. They had an instrument "petting zoo" set up too, where you could peruse various types of bongos and chimes and other such percussion instruments. We checked it out afterwards (since we arrived a little late due to said rain) and ended up getting Baby Girl a really cool wooden guiro carved in the shape of a frog. This is awesome because she loves frogs and because we bought it at TCU.

If you are wondering about the poor mutilated shaker egg, I had it in an outside pocket of my purse and when I was getting Baby Girl out of the car, it fell out unbeknownst to me and landed just inside the door frame. So when I went to shut the door...oops. The dent doesn't really seem to be hindering its performance at all, so there's that.

Anyhoo, that's another semester of fun music and memories wrapped up. We start back up in January. I think this semester the instrument of choice is bells. I'll be curious to see what the musical selections are. I do love the CDs we get with the class--you get two copies of each album so you can play one in the home and keep one in the car, which is kind of neat. They always include a great mixture of old folk songs from lots of different cultures, as well as the "Hello" and "Goodbye" songs that we sing at the beginning of each class.

If you've got little ones and are looking for a fun developmental course to do with them, I highly recommend this one. Our class is mixed ages from zero to four years, and the program we use (Music Together), which is phenomenal, has programs designed for up to seven years old. We take ours at TCU, as I mentioned, through their Music Preparatory Division.