Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SGA Rewatch: This Mortal Coil

Hello. Well, it's another Wednesday folks, which means another installment of the Stargate Atlantis rewatch. Today's episode is season four's "This Mortal Coil." Spoilers for the episode and any that came before, as always.

What Happened

Rodney and Radek are running a diagnostic on the gate, which hasn't been working for about a week. John comes by to check on their progress but there really isn't much to report at the moment. Just then, an unidentified object crashes into the city. It was moving too fast to be picked up by the city's sensors, apparently. John and the scientists go check it out and find a probe or drone of some sort. It doesn't appear to be of wraith origin, and Rodney and Radek take it to Rodney's lab to figure out what it is and where it came from. As John leaves the crash site, Major Lorne catches up with him and asks who is going to finish the gate diagnostic if both scientists are working on the probe. John says the gate can wait and Lorne uncharacteristically questions the decision but backs off when John tells him to.

In the lab Rodney and Radek have found the device's data core. It is damaged, and encrypted, but Rodney starts a program to retrieve and decrypt it. Radek tells him he should go back to working on the gate while the program runs but Rodney is intrigued by the mystery of the device and wants to keep working on it. Just as the decryption seems to be working, the program crashes and all of the data on the core and on their computers is lost. Before it crashed, however, Rodney tells Radek he saw enough to realize that it is nanite code. The probe was from the replicators. Rodney goes to find John, with Radek following behind, to warn him that the replicators have found them. Radek isn't so sure, saying that he didn't see anything that looked like nanite code. While they are arguing about it there is the sound of an explosion and Lorne radios John to tell him that he is needed in Rodney's lab. They run down to check it out and find that the probe has exploded, apparently from a self-destruct mechanism.

Rodney catches up to John alone after this and tells him that something doesn't feel right to him. He feels like something was actively working to keep him from learning more about the probe. John thinks he's just being paranoid but at Rodney's request promises to keep an eye open for anything strange. Later, while sparring with Ronon, John shares Rodney's theory. Ronon doesn't share John's skepticism. In fact, he tells John that he has felt that everyone in the city has been acting strangely for a little while now, and that Teyla has noticed it as well. John is still not convinced but Ronon persists. As they spar, Ronon manages to get a hit in to John's forehead, giving him a nasty cut that he thinks will need stitches.

John heads down to the infirmary to have Keller patch him up. When she goes to look at the cut she tells him it's nothing. He doesn't need stitches, or even a band-aid, there's nothing there. She hands John a mirror and he wipes away the blood, seeing that there is no cut underneath. He is extremely disturbed by this but Keller suggests that maybe it was Ronon's blood. John isn't so sure. He asks Keller to do a body scan on him, worried that he might have been infected with nanites when he came into contact with the probe. Keller obviously thinks that it is a waste of time but she complies and then tells him the scan is clean, though she doesn't show him the screen. John's mind next wanders to the last time he had unusual healing powers--when he was infected with the wraith retrovirus--and he asks Keller to run a blood test just in case he has been exposed again. She is clearly dubious about such a scenario but complies to his request and draws some blood before he leaves.

Later that night we see Lorne and Keller meeting up in a secluded corner. Lorne tells her he thought the problem had been dealt with, especially after he destroyed the probe. Keller tells Lorne that "they" are getting suspicious, but they aren't yet close to discovering the truth. They do bear watching, though.

The next day Keller finds John and shows him the results of his blood test: all clean. She is puzzled when John is less than pleased by this news. He tells her this leaves them without an explanation for his "magical head wound." Keller insists that he is ignoring the obvious explanation: John was never actually cut. John doesn't buy it though. He asked Ronon and the other man was never bleeding. Ronon also saw John's wound and thought it needed stitches. Keller plasters a strained grin on her face and tells John that she will run a new blood test if he'd like.

That evening Rodney enters a lab and finds the rest of his team waiting for him, their faces grim. He asks what's going on and John grabs his hand, pulls out a knife, and slices it open. Rodney starts to freak out but then John hands him a towel and when he wipes the blood from his hand, there is no cut. Teyla assures Rodney that all three of them performed the same test on themselves. Something is definitely hinky. John explains about his cut from the night before and Rodney realizes he thinks that Keller lied to him. Rodney accesses the infirmary's database from the lab and they are surprised to find no record of either John's blood test or body scan. Teyla remarks that they need to go conduct their own tests to find out what is really going on.

John and Teyla head to the infirmary, intending to sneak in and use the body scanner. Rodney and Ronon remain in the lab so that Rodney can use the city's life signs sensors to help them avoid running into anyone. Rodney is having trouble with the scanner though--it doesn't seem to be on a live feed, but rather on a loop. He fiddles a little and finally gets it fixed, but that only increases his confusion. The live feed is showing only four life signs in the entire city: those of the team. John is clearly unsettled by this but it also makes him even more determined to press on. He and Teyla continue to the infirmary.

Lorne and Radek find Keller standing on a balcony looking out at the ocean. Lorne tells Keller that they have a problem.

Rodney keeps checking the city's sensors and does find a fifth life sign. Ronon decides they should go check it out.

In the infirmary, Teyla scans John and the screen shows that he is crawling with nanites.

Rodney and Ronon use a life signs detector to track the fifth signal and it leads them to a hidden room. They get the door open and find that its occupant is Elizabeth, asleep on a table of some kind. They run to her side and get her woken up. Rodney asks how she got there and she answers that she has no idea. From behind them Keller pops up that she can tell them the answer to that question. Elizabeth is in that room because she was created there...they all were.

As John and Teyla stare at his scan, trying to come up with explanations, Lorne arrives in the infirmary, accompanied by several soldiers. He tells John and Teyla they need to come with him, but John refuses to comply, aiming his gun at Lorne and telling him to stand down. Lorne calmly replies that the gun won't hurt him and tells John to go ahead and shoot. John does, aiming for Lorne's leg, and is quite surprised when it morphs and then heals, Terminator 2 style.

In the hidden room, Keller explains to Rodney, Ronon, and Elizabeth that she and Lorne and the others in the city are all replicators. Rodney says it is not possible that the replicators could have replaced everyone in the city without them noticing and Keller says that they are not on the real Atlantis. This city is only a copy, made for their experiment.

In the infirmary, Lorne is also explaining the situation to John and Teyla. He tells them that the team (and Elizabeth) are not replicators. They are completely organic beings, manufactured from the inside out by nanites. Some nanites remain in each of them to effect repairs as necessary (hence the magical healing abilities). John still isn't buying it, but Lorne explains that the team's memories all came from when they were mind-probed while in replicator captivity a year ago.

Rodney calls Keller on this fact, pointing out that a year ago Carson was their head of medicine and Keller hadn't even arrived in the city. Replicator Keller (R!Keller) agrees, but adds that the team's memories were updated after the most recent capture of one of their expedition: Elizabeth Weir. So everything they know is everything that happened until Elizabeth was left behind on Asuras.

The team and Elizabeth are put into the city's brig. Elizabeth still isn't quite sure she believes the replicators' story. She asks John for his knife and performs the test on herself, cutting her palm open and watching as it heals shut instantly. Everyone is still a little unsure of whether or not to completely believe R!Keller's story, but Rodney says it actually makes a lot of sense. It explains a lot of the weirdness they have been noticing over the past week.

Elizabeth asks to speak with R!Keller. She learns that the real Elizabeth is dead, was killed shortly after her capture on Asuras, by Oberoth's orders. R!Keller's group are rebels among the replicators, not following Oberoth's drive for revenge. They want to study the humanity of their organic creations, hoping it will be the key to learning how to ascend. Elizabeth realizes that they are part of Niam's group and R!Keller confirms this. She explains that while most of her like-minded fellows were reprogrammed after Niam's escape, she and some others managed to stay hidden within the collective. Elizabeth wonders aloud why R!Keller would bother to share all of this information with her and R!Keller says it is because she has an open mind. She adds that they also need to gauge the reactions of the team so that they will no how to do it better next time.

Elizabeth returns to the team and informs them that R!Keller and the others plan to wipe their memories and start over on a new planet. That probe really was from the replicators, from Oberoth's group. They had been looking for the defectors and finally found them. The rebels plan to move the city and then give their experiment another try.

R!Keller comes to visit them and Elizabeth tries to convince her to let them go. R!Keller says it is too late for that, the other replicators have arrived. From above they can hear the sounds of the city being bombarded and we see a replicator ship moving in to attack. Rodney tells her to raise the shield but she explains that is just not possible. They couldn't take too many ZPMs from Asuras without attracting attention and creating the team and Elizabeth used up most of their power. Elizabeth redoubles her argument to be set free, pointing out that if they all die during the attack the experiment was a complete failure. R!Keller is clearly torn and Elizabeth presses the advantage, telling her that if they are let free, they will be able to fight back against Oberoth and his injustices. R!Keller relents and leads them to the jumper bay. In the control room she stops to give them the core drive of a replicator ship. She explains that they can use it to track all of the replicator warships in the galaxy in real time. Elizabeth asks her to come with them but she declines, saying she would only be a liability and that Oberoth would find them by tracking her. They say goodbye and take a jumper, escaping the city. From the cloaked jumper they watch as the city is destroyed by the replicator warship (fulfilling Davos' vision from a few episodes ago).

Without a working stargate on the planet, John decides that their best course of action is to stay cloaked and hitch a ride into hyperspace with the replicator ship when it leaves. While they wait out the hyperspace journey, John and Elizabeth discuss their next course of action. John thinks they need to get back to Atlantis, they definitely need to pass on the the core drive to their counterparts. Elizabeth isn't so sure they will be a welcome sight, however. Still, they are not sure what else they should do. Their resolve to make contact with Atlantis is strengthened when they arrive at the replicator homeworld and find that the replicators have been quite busy replacing their destroyed shipyard--and then some. They sneak down in the jumper and steal a ship with hyperdrive and then head for a friendly planet with a gate.

In real Atlantis, Rodney is telling John about the gate diagnostic he is about to run when the gate activates. One of their offworld teams is checking in and reports to John that there is someone who wants to speak to him. John looks at the screen in amazement as duplicate Elizabeth (D!Elizabeth) steps into view. He and Rodney are overjoyed at first, greeting her warmly and asking how she escaped from the replicators and how she has been. D!Elizabeth shakes her head and explains that she is not the real Elizabeth and gives them a brief explanation of who she actually is. She hints at the others as well and then tells John that they do need to meet. She has important information for him.

The team gates to the planet and meets up with their duplicates. Awkward is an understatement (the two Ronons quite clearly do not like each other at all). D!Rodney hands over the core drive and they explain what it is. The two Rodneys start geeking out about it and about getting to work together. D!John says they'll probably need to do it on the planet since he and the others are a security risk for Atlantis and John agrees, surprised at the candor. Rodney runs back to Atlantis to get the equipment they will need to get the drive working. While he does that John looks at his duplicate and tells him that they had another reason for agreeing to come. He asks if they have any news of where the real Elizabeth might be, and if they are willing to help them rescue her. D!John and D!Elizabeth exchange a sad look and tell John that Elizabeth is dead.

The Rodneys get to work on the drive and the groups split up. John takes a walk with D!Elizabeth while Ronon and Teyla and D!Ronon and D!Teyla break off to patrol the area, each Ronon lamenting the situation with his respective Teyla trying to calm him down and (in D!Ronon's case) get him to accept his new situation. Everyone is very clearly unsettled by the whole thing. Even though the duplicates clearly don't like the idea that they are copies and that they can't just go on resuming the lives that their memories tell them are theirs they all seem to accept the fact that they can't go to Atlantis. Given their replicator origins, they are a threat, willingly or no, organic or no.

Their ruminations are interrupted by a distant rumbling sound and they look up to find that a replicator ship has arrived at the planet. D!Elizabeth realizes it must have found them by tracking the ship they stole. Everyone regroups at the tent. John orders they fall back to the gate but his men there radio that it is a no go, the replicators have a ship positioned to take out anyone who goes through. The next plan is to fall back to the jumper. D!Elizabeth tells John that if any of them are going to survive this, they will need a diversion.

At the gate, the jumper flies by and uncloaks. The replicator gives chase and as soon as it is gone, the gate activates (presumably dialed by the jumper). The replicators manage to shoot down the jumper and go in on foot to check it out. They see the bodies of the team sprawled in the wreckage, but as they get closer, D!John sits up and his wounds heal. He smirks at the replicator that he fooled them. The replicator brings up his gun and fires. In Atlantis, John leads his team and the other offworld team through the gate and then orders control to shut it down, saying that no one else is coming. The duplicates sacrificed themselves so that everyone else could get away.

Later, Rodney throws himself into working on the core drive. Radek tries to get him to take a break but Rodney says he'd rather keep busy. He is trying not to think about the fact that they now know for a certainty that Elizabeth is dead. It is Carson all over again, he tells Radek, and he's just not ready to deal with it yet. A little while later John comes by and tries to get Rodney to call it a night but he still won't be dissuaded. John seems to understand though. He tells Rodney that he has been packing up Elizabeth's personal belongings and just shipped them back to Earth. He knows he should have done it months ago, but he kept hoping they would get her back. Now, he knows they won't. They commiserate for a moment and then John turns to leave, telling Rodney to let him know when the tracking device is up and running. Before he gets out of the room, Rodney calls him back. The device is online. They fire it up and slowly and the computer beeps as dots start lighting up on the screen, showing them the location of the replicator ships. They watch in dismay as the dots keep appearing. The screen fades to black, and the episode closes with the sound of several more beeps in rapid succession, followed by a very unhappy "Oh crap" from Rodney.


So. Wow. This is a really interesting episode. I actually really like how they did the mystery bit at the start, and having the team figure out something was up and going ahead and doing something about it. I also think that Jewel Staite and Kavan Smith did a really good job as portraying Keller and Lorne just a little bit off from their normal characters. It was noticeable, but not distracting. I definitely did not figure out what was going on before the reveal the first time I saw this, though, like Rodney, I knew that something was up.

Also, how bizarro is it that Lorne's worst nightmare was that John is a replicator, and then the replicators running the experiment decided to use Lorne as one of their avatars? That...amused me.

But the three big pieces of news we get in this episode:

  1. Elizabeth is actually really dead. Bummer. Still, it is good for John to learn this so he can move on (and everyone else in the city, I suppose).
  2. There is dissension in the ranks among the replicators. The faction that doesn't want revenge on the humans (or to kill the wraith), but instead wants to follow in their creators' footsteps and ascend is still alive and kicking. They are also more willing to work with humans (even though they are not the most ethical of people, they are still better than Oberoth's crew).
  3. The replicators have a ton of warships. Way more than we had anticipated. This is very important if our heroes want to shut off their wraith attack code, since it presumably means they will return to trying to destroy Atlantis. At least they know what they are up against now, and have a way to track the ships. It's a start.
I am not so sure how I feel about the duplicates so willingly sacrificing themselves for the originals, but in a way I understand. This isn't the first series (or even the first Stargate series) to tackle the topic of self when it comes to clones/duplicates, but I do like the down to earth way that everyone handled the matter in this episode. Yes, it was creepy as hell--for all parties involved--but everyone was respectful of everyone else's rights. That the duplicates were so willing to accept that the fact that they were not in actuality human and work within the limitations they had says a lot about the character of all individuals concerned, I think. No one fought about it, it wasn't all dragged out and preachy. It was simply another weird situation and everyone did their best to deal with the mess once they found themselves thrown into the middle of it.

I do have to say, there is a small part of me that is still vaguely annoyed that the replicators are such a huge part of the show this season. SG-1 featured replicators more than enough, in my opinion, and I would have much preferred to see the show writers visit a new type of foe than to rehash an old storyline. Still, as always, they managed to keep it separate from what came before and to give it a very Pegasus-spin. It isn't exactly the same old replicator story. I guess what I am saying is that if we are going to be saddled with the replicators as an official big bad of yet another series, at least they did a good job of making it unique to Atlantis

Favorite Quotes

"What the...? What happened?!" (Rodney)
"Well, either your sandwich exploded or that mystery drone had a built-in self-destruct protocol." (John)

"We're genetically predisposed to being...stubborn. Really pesky." (John)

"Outputted? Is that even a word?" (John)
"Of course it is!" (Rodney)
"We can't both be wrong." (D!Rodney)


Et viola! Just like that, we are halfway through the season. For once, the writers saw fit not to end the tenth episode with a crazy cliffhanger. Although I suppose the sudden influx of replicator ships was meant to be one of a sort. Oh well. As it happens, we will be taking a break next week anyway, since I will be out of town. We'll resume on Monday April 2 with the next episode, "Be All My Sins Remembered." See you then!

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