Hello, there! Welcome to another edition of the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch! Today we are looking at season three's "The Ark." Spoilers for the episode and those that came before it. Onward!
We open on John, wearing a spacesuit and occupying a very shaky cockpit of some sort. He is speaking over his radio and counting down to "separation." He flips a sequence of switches and nothing happens. He calls out that the explosives aren't working and says he is just going to have to "ride this one down."
Flash back to "eight hours earlier."
The team has discovered some sort of space station that was built into a hollowed out moon orbiting a deserted planet. The station itself seems to be abandoned and from the conversation it is very clear that John is growing bored of the mission. He doesn't think they will find anything of value there. While a base in a hollowed out moon is quite a feat of engineering, the tech in the base itself all seems antiquated even to our sensibilities. It resembles something from the 1960s to John. Rodney is convinced it is worth checking out, if only to satisfy his curiosity about the place. When they docked inside the base, they noticed a space shuttle also docked and he feels that deserves investigation. John radios Ronon and Teyla, who are waiting in the puddle jumper (I guess they only have two space suits), and they are equally bored. Teyla thinks that they would be better off returning to Atlantis and sending back a science team for further exploration of the station. Rodney convinces John to let him check out just one more room.
That room turns out to be the station's control room. Excited, Rodney starts messing around and manages to power up the station and restore artificial gravity. From the control room's window they can see the shuttle they had noticed upon their arrival. Rodney comments that it looks designed to withstand reentry into the atmosphere of a planet. While he is checking out readings, Rodney notices a familiar looking energy spike on the monitors. He tells John to check the life signs detector and is not surprised when it shows another person in the station all of a sudden. They follow the life signal and find an unconscious man lying on the floor in another room.
They radio Atlantis for a status report and Rodney explains that the energy spike resembled that of the wraith beaming technology. He suspects that the people who built the space station probably salvaged a crashed dart and repurposed the beaming equipment. The man starts to come around and John tells Elizabeth he will check back in one hour. When the man wakes, he introduces himself as Herick and asks them if the war is over. Assuming he means war with the wraith, they regretfully inform him that the planet below the station is devoid of life. Only ruins and plants remain. If they were at war with the wraith, they lost.
Herick replies that defeat was anticipated. He was supposed to be reintegrated automatically when the planet became habitable once more, however, and doesn't understand how the team came to be the ones to beam him out. Rodney explains that the station's computers appear to have all frozen and locked up, so the program never completed to beam Herick back out again. Herick asks them about the others and at their blank faces he explains that his people adapted the wraith technology for long-term storage. The device he had been stored in held a thousand of his people. He says there were two, one to each shuttle. When the planet was habitable, he and the other pilot were to have been woken and flown the shuttles back down to the planet to rebuild their society.
John tells him that there is only one shuttle on the station and Herick immediately runs for the storage device. His wife and son were supposed to be on the second shuttle. He accesses the device's controls and reintegrates another man, Jamus, demanding answers. Jamus was apparently a leader of their people or in charge of the moon base project. He tells Herick that the second shuttle never launched. The wraith attacked before it had the chance, and once they had arrived, he couldn't risk ordering it to launch and leading the wraith straight to the moon base. Herick is extremely distraught, realizing his family is long gone. He gave up most of his life working on the project in the hopes that he could save his family and his people. Jamus manages to calm him down and convince him that all is not in vain. If he pilots the surviving shuttle to the planet, their people can still start over again. He will have the chance to complete his life's work and honor his family's sacrifice.
Herick agrees to complete the mission. Realizing that everything is in hand, John starts to gather up the team to leave. Ronon cautions him against leaving Herick alone with Jamus, however, worried that Herick might attack the other man. John decides that the team can stick around for a little longer just to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Herick makes his way to the shuttle, opening every door he sees along the way. Teyla encounters him and tries to console him over his loss. She offers help but he says she's done enough. He tells her that if she and the rest of the team hadn't come and woken him up, his last thoughts would have been of hope for his people and to see his family again. He would never have known their fate. He advises her to gather the team and get the heck off the station. Concerned, Teyla returns to John, Ronon, and Jamus, and tells John of her conversation with Herick. John decides to go check on him. Ronon goes along.
In the control room, Rodney notices some wonky readings and realizes something is wrong. He warns John to get to Herick quickly because the guy is up to something. Herick fires up the shuttles engines and then opens the shuttle door. Rodney looks out the window to the shuttle bay and realizes what Herick is up to. He calls over the radio for everyone to close their compartments quickly. The shuttle's engines are going at full blast, directed straight at the still closed bay doors. The doors can't handle the onslaught, however, and blow out, instantly depressurizing the entire bay, as well as much of the station (all of the open doors Herick left in his wake). Herick is sucked out into space, along with the puddle jumper and a bunch of other debris from the destruction of the doors. The whole station shifts from the sudden venting and everyone inside is tossed about pretty hard.
John barely managed to get his compartment door shut in time. Rodney gets the compartment repressurized and contacts him over the radio, relieved to hear that he did survive. Ronon's shoulder was dislocated during the kerfuffle. Teyla and Jamus also survived, though Jamus was very badly injured. While Rodney goes over all of the readings to see how much damage was done, Ronon uses a sealed hatch door as leverage to pull his shoulder back into socket, all by himself. John winces in response.
Rodney gives them the rundown of their situation. Most of the station is still depressurized, and they are all cut off from each other, since everything in between their sealed compartments is a vacuum. The station was pretty damaged during Herick's suicide and is now running on emergency power--most of which is going to the people storage device. The moon itself was knocked out of orbit by the blast of the depressurizing bay. As it was already in a pretty low orbit, it is now in a decaying orbit, meaning it is being pulled down into the planet--and quickly. They need to get off the station before it breaks up into a fiery ball of doom. The puddle jumper is gone and Herick managed to use up all of the shuttle's fuel during his stunt so they can't use it to fly out of there. They have no way off the base. Rodney is worried that there won't be enough time for Elizabeth to miss them and radio in, learn of their situation, and send a rescue. Still, he gets to work trying to get the pressurization controls back online.
While he is working, a piece of debris from the explosion floats into the window of the control room. Rodney freaks out as it approaches and then breathes a sigh of relief when it just taps up against the glass. Unfortunately, that is enough to crack it, and under the pressure, the whole pane shatters. Rodney barely manages to get the rest of his spacesuit on and scramble out into the corridor, sealing the door behind him. With the control room lost, he gets to work trying to seal all of the doors between him and the rest of the team. He hits another snag when he comes across one he can't shut. The bulkhead of the station twisted during the blast from the shuttle and the hatch won't close.
After they are overdue for the check-in with Atlantis, Elizabeth radios in. John gives her a brief explanation of their situation and tells her to send a jumper and Carson to them immediately. Very soon Major Lorne leads the rescue team through the gate. He radios John, who tells him they will need to convert the jumper's cloak to a shield and extend it to the station in order to create a seal and get on board. Lorne is already on top of it. John also tells Carson to go to Teyla and Jamus' location to be ready to help Jamus as soon as they get the station pressurized and the doors open again. He heads that way and Lorne and another soldier find Rodney and get to work on sealing the hatch that won't shut, sending Rodney back to the jumper to monitor and give instructions from there.
Jamus is not terribly reassured at news that rescue has arrived. He worries that they won't try to save the device holding his people. Teyla radios Rodney to ask if it is possible but Rodney is doubtful. It requires its own dedicated power source, and while there's one built in to the shuttle, there isn't nearly enough time to rig one up for the puddle jumper. Teyla does not want Jamus to worry, however, so she reassures him that there is a good chance and more sincerely tells him that they will do everything they can to save his people. Jamus sees right through this, however. He demands that Teyla promise they will save his people, and she says she can make no such promise, only that they will do what they can in the time they have. When Lorne gets the stubborn hatch sealed and they are able to pressurize the station, Jamus pulls a fast one on Teyla. As they are heading to the door, he grabs her gun and holds it on her, refusing to let her open the door and let Carson in. He won't let her leave until they promise to save his people. She tries to negotiate, pointing out that they will all die if they do not get off the station. He is fine with dying if his people can't be saved.
John and Lorne try to open the door from the other side but have no luck. John gets the torch and starts cutting through the door, pissed at all of the wasted time. Teyla continues trying to get Jamus to relent. He tells her that too much is at stake. His people actively engaged the wraith in war, a war they knew they had no hope of winning. They sacrificed thousands of their people in the fighting in order to fake the wraith out while they developed the moon station, so that they might save a few thousand and start over again. To ensure that the wraith never returned, however, they had to make sure that there were no survivors from the war. They nuked every wraith ship that came to their planet, knowing full well that the radiation from their bombs would destroy all life on the planet. Then, those on the base could just wait it out in storage until the planet could once more support life and start over, free from worries about the wraith. If he can't save the people in the device, then all those hundreds of thousands of others died for absolutely nothing.
Teyla tries to convince Jamus that if he survives, he can preserve the memory of his people. He can record their history and ensure that their legacy survives. But that means he has to let them leave the station now and to go with them. He shakes his head and tells Teyla that he never intended to kill her. Then he says he hopes that John is serious about "no one gets left behind." On the other side of the door, John is almost through when Jamus calls out that they can stop cutting, he's opening the door. They hear the locks open and Rodney calls over the radio that he's picking up another energy spike. John throws open the door in time to see a culling beam flash. The room is empty. Jamus has beamed Teyla and himself into the storage device in an effort to ensure the team saves it too.
They have no way of discerning Teyla's life sign from anyone else in the device. With little time left, John asks Rodney if he is able to install the storage device into the shuttle. Rodney says of course, but doesn't understand. John intends to try to get the shuttle out of the base before it enters atmosphere. Even with no fuel, hopefully disengaging it from the dock will throw it free from the base, buying time to figure out a way to get everybody out of it. He sends everybody else to the jumper and tells them to get free. They listen over the radio as he fires up the shuttle and tries to disengage--and the explosive bolts fail to go off.
This brings us back to the starting point of the episode, with John declaring that he is going to have to ride it on down, meaning the base to the planet. Everyone in the jumper sits on the edge of their seat as the moon enters the planet's atmosphere and begins to burn and break up. Thankfully the shuttle, which was specifically designed to withstand reentry (gee, that was a good thing, eh?) survives this intact. John is able to keep it steady for a relatively damage-free crash landing on the planet. Lorne orders the jumper down to the crash site and John recovers from the impact, radioing that he is fine. Everyone breathes a big sigh of relief.
Back in Atlantis we find Teyla in the infirmary. Everyone in the storage device was more or less fine, though a few experienced some minor memory loss. Carson wants to keep Teyla overnight for observation, just in case. Atlantis is providing supplies to the people as they set up their new colony on the planet. John asks what they are going to do with Jamus and Elizabeth tells him that Jamus' injuries prior to going into the device were so extensive that he didn't survive reintegration. He sacrificed himself to complete his life's work. Teyla thanks John for saving her and the other people and there the episode ends.
Alright, first things first. I am so freaking tired of the whole "x amount of time earlier" start to a story. That is so completely overused on television right now. The last five or six years have just seen a huge glut of that "start at the end of the story and then flash back" trope. I know it is supposed to show that the stake are high and all, but honestly, more often than not, it really isn't necessary. Can we please just put a moratorium on this? Pretty please? With a cherry on top? It was a cool concept when it first started popping up, but it is of the kind best used sparingly. I am beginning to suspect that more often or not it is just a way to fill up extra minutes in the episode. I really do think this episode would have played just fine had they run it from start to finish without the introductory "peril." Sigh.
That bit aside, this is actually a really good episode. It is another example of taking a story idea from SG-1 and putting a new spin on it. In this case, it borrows from the seventh season of SG-1's "Lifeboat." Granted, it goes in an entirely different direction. I like "The Ark" way more than "Lifeboat." I've got to say though, Jamus' people really did have a convoluted rescue plan going for their people. But they aren't the first society in the Pegasus galaxy that we've encountered who are willing to sacrifice generations of work and a good chunk of the population to eliminate the threat of the wraith to their world. This is a little bit more selfish than the Hoffan plan though, considering it was meant to save only one world rather than finding a way to strike a blow at the wraith, and they weren't thinking about future generations so much as trying to preserve a very select portion of their population. Also, I am not sure how successful they would have been in the long run, even if they had started over when they were supposed to. I mean, with all of the wraith awake at once, you don't think they're gonna check some planets they had written off, just in case? Life does find a way, after all. I am sure the wraith know this, possibly even count on it.
Another trope featured in this episode, but one I don't mind that much, is the whole dislocated shoulder thing. I actually think it is kind of funny that the universal signifier for "ultimate badass" is someone who can pop his or her own shoulder back into joint after it has been relocated and then just carry on. I mean, I have never personally dislocated a shoulder. I hope never to experience that. I am under the impression, however, that the pain doesn't exactly go away once you pop that sucker back into place. Nor does the arm all of a sudden become fully functional once more. But, hey, what do I know? It does at the very least indicate that this person is very strong (able to pop that shoulder back into joint on their own) and capable of enduring quite a bit of pain. So, yay? Patting Ronon (gently) on the back in acknowledgement of his awesomeness.
Also, this makes the second episode in a row to feature Major Lorne, so huzzah for that! More Major Lorne always makes for a happy Cori.
I kind of like that there has been quite a run of one-off episodes since the mid-season two-parter. It gives a better picture of life in the Pegasus galaxy fighting against the wraith, and all of the various adventures (and misadventures) our team gets up to.
"I guarantee you you're gonna see pretty much the same technology that you're looking at here, which I call vintage 1967." (John)
"Oh, yeah. Yeah, you know, we hollowed out a lot of moons back in the sixties." (Rodney)
"It's not our job to satisfy your curiosity." (John)
"Okay, time for the How Screwed We Are report." (Rodney)
"Personally, I'd rather die fighting." (Ronon)
"I'd rather not die." (John)
"I figure it would be nice if we were all together as we burn up." (Rodney)
"I'm sorry. I mean as we get rescued. I always get those two confused." (Rodney)
"I've always wanted to fly a space shuttle. Now's my chance." (John)
"Don't go feeling special. I would have done it for any one of you." (John)
"Of course." (Teyla)
"Except for maybe McKay." (John)
"Yes...I think even for Rodney." (Teyla)
There you have it folks. See you back here on Monday for the episode of season three. We'll be discussing the one and only "Sunday." No spoilers (yet) if you haven't seen it, but I will say this: Bring your hankies. Until then!