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."
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.
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.
"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."