Monday, March 5, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Travelers

Why hello there! Welcome back to the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch. Today we're continuing on our journey through season four with "Travelers." Join me as I mock John while he gets his Kirk on. Spoilers for the episode and all that came before, as always.

What Happened

John is heading towards a space gate in a puddle jumper. He is talking with Rodney over the radio and we learn that he is heading back from one of Atlantis' research outposts, where he had been dropping off supplies. Before he can get to the gate, however, something starts shooting at his jumper. He manages to tell Rodney that he's under fire and that he doesn't think it is wraith before his systems short out and then his power goes out completely. A large space ship comes up behind the jumper and maneuvers the smaller ship into its hangar before opening a hyperspace window and jumping away.

A group of armed humans meet John at the jumper and escort him through the ship. He notes that it seems to be in a rather ragtag state of repair as they lead him to a small room. One of the men forcefully takes a blood sample from John and then another begins to interrogate John, punching him when he refuses to cooperate.

In Atlantis, Rodney has notified Ronon and Teyla of the situation with John. Their first assumption is also that it was the wraith who attacked him, but Rodney says John didn't think so. They then ponder who they could be up against, since they know of no other culture with hyperdrive capability.

John is getting pretty bloody in the interrogation room, since he is refusing to provide his captors with any sort of information beyond his name (and he tried to give them a fake one). The door opens to reveal Larrin, a rather attractive woman who is clearly in charge of the others. Her second, Silas, explains that John isn't being very helpful and so she decides to try a different tactic. She has him cleaned up and brought to a more comfortable room, sitting down at a table with him and offering him a (very unappealing) meal. She explains that her people are travelers. They live all of their lives aboard spaceships, only going down to planets when they need supplies. This has allowed them to keep fairly technologically advanced without drawing the ire of the wraith. Larrin admits that it might have started out as a preservation tactic, but it has become their way of life now.

After the small talk, she gets down to business, promising to airlock him if he doesn't start talking. She says she knows more about him than he thinks. Her people have heard quite a bit over the last few years about a group of people fighting back against the wraith with the capability to operate Lantean technology. After taking John's blood sample, she also knows that he has the gene to operate this tech. He tries to play dumb but she's not buying it. She has him taken to the hangar and locks him in, opening the hangar doors beneath John's feet. The only thing between him and being spaced is a shield, and she promises to turn it off if he doesn't agree to help. They fly over another ship and he sees that it is an Ancient warship. The travelers want John's help getting it operational again.

John agrees to help and he, Larrin, Silas, and a scientist named Nevik head over to the Ancient ship. Larrin explains that the Ancients abandoned it after an attack by the wraith left the ship's main drive damaged and giving off deadly radiation. They meant to come back and repair it, but were never able to (probably because of the evacuation to Earth), and so it remained where it was until the travelers managed to find it. The drive still hasn't been repaired, but Larrin reassures John that they have set up shields in key areas of the ship to protect them from the radiation, and she and her men have radiation detectors as well (though she doesn't give one to John).

Silas and Nevik take John to the bridge and have him sit in the pilot chair. He wakes the ship up and begins initializing systems. Nevik is excited, all of his work has never gotten any sort of similar reaction from the ship. He orders John to check the ships systems, starting by just moving it forward a little bit. John says that's probably not the best idea but Silas threatens him to do as he is told. John shrugs and smirks and says okay and pulls the ship forward, commenting just before he does so that they probably should have told him to start by turning on the inertial dampeners. Silas, Nevik, and Larrin (elsewhere in the ship) are all thrown off their feet by the momentum. John takes advantage of the disruption to disarm Silas and stuns him and Nevik. He then gets back in the chair and (after turning on the dampeners) opens up a hyperspace window, intending to take the ship back for Atlantis.

Lorne and the rest of John's team, meanwhile, have taken a jumper to the planet John was originally visiting. They do a flyby in case John crashed after being attacked but they don't find any sign of  him. Rodney concludes that whoever attacked John must have taken him with them before jumping into hyperspace. The team wants to know what the next move is and Rodney says there is nothing else they can do at this point. They have no way to track John down.

Larrin, after recovering from John's little stunt, tries to radio her people to find out what happened. John answers, telling her that her men are unavailable, and we see that he's tied them up to keep them out of his way. Realizing that John has hijacked her ship, Larrin turns off the protective shields in his part of the ship and tells John that she won't turn them back on unless he drops out of hyperspace and surrenders. John thinks she is bluffing, and that she wouldn't risk her own mens' lives, but a glance at their radiation detectors shows that she is telling the truth. He agrees to stand down and Larrin makes her way to the bridge to resume control. Before surrendering, John does turn off the propulsion and navigation systems. They put John back in a cell and inform Larrin that they are stranded until they can get those systems back online. They say that it will go quicker with John's help but Larrin doesn't want him anywhere near the ship's controls again. They point out that his life is as much at risk as theirs and he should be willing to help, but Larrin's not so sure. She thinks that John looks way too confident considering his situation and orders Silas to check the ship's subspace communications array.

On Atlantis, Rodney has called Ronon and Teyla down to his lab. He excitedly tells them that he managed to pick up a signal on the city's subspace sensors. It is just static, but he believes that it is a signal from John, because mixed in with the static is a series of short bursts that are the Morse code for S.O.S. They should be able to use that communication to track him down, provided he doesn't go anywhere.

John is in his cell, smirking, when Larrin arrives and starts punching the bejeezus out of him. She asks if he used the subspace communications to send a signal and he admits that he did. She then hits him again and informs him that his message got a response. A wraith ship has just dropped out of hyperspace to check it out. It starts firing at the Ancient ship pretty much immediately. On the bridge, Silas and Nevik are able to get the shields up, but they are only at minimum power and will not last long. Larrin agrees to let John help defend the ship and he heads to the control chair to return fire. He manages to get a few shots off before the system shorts out. The wraith fire depletes the Ancient ship's shields and they shoot once more, hitting the front of the vessel.

Feeling the impact, Larrin tries to raise her men on the radio but gets no answer. John manages to get the control chair working again and opens up a volley of fire on the wraith ship, destroying it. He activates the ship's intercom system and contacts Larrin, telling her of his success. She tells him that the forward section is sealed off and she can't get an answer from Silas or Nevik on the radio. She heads for the chair room but when she gets there, John is gone. He has moved on to the nearby auxiliary control room. From there, he locks Larrin into the chair room.

A fleet of jumpers exits a space gate with Lorne and the rest of John's team in the lead jumper. Rodney does a scan of the system and finds a signal that he believes is a ship, and probably the origin of John's distress call. It is five hours away by jumper. Lorne radios the the other ships and they all head out, making for the coordinates Rodney has provided.

Larrin gets to work trying to get out of the chair room and John shuts off the power to that room so she can't bypass the doors. He says the hyperdrive is down but it looks like it is just a short and easily fixed. Larrin tries to get him to let her help fix it but he says nothing doing. Once his people arrive and get it back online, he promises they will drop her off at the nearest stargate. She says that deal isn't good enough, she needs this ship. She explains that her people no longer have the resources to build more ships when one is damaged or destroyed and despite strict population control, they are still growing too rapidly to fit in the ships they have. She laments that they've already had to leave people behind in a permanent planet-side colony. John is not very sympathetic, telling her that those people are no worse off than anyone else in the galaxy.

Realizing that there is no way John will let her keep the ship if she stays locked up, Larrin pulls out her gun and fires repeatedly at the wall of the room until she has blown a hole in it large enough to leave through. She tries once more to raise Silas and Nevik on the radio, but no joy. Monitoring her from the control room, John tells her there is no way her people survived that last hit. He even does a scan and sadly tells her that there are no life signs in the forward section of the ship, Silas and Nevik are dead. Larrin continues to move through the ship and, watching her, John notices another life sign near her position. He tells her to stop, alarmed, but she runs forward thinking it might be one of her people. She is sorely disappointed when she opens the door to find a wraith behind it. She tries to fight the wraith but it quickly gains the upper hand. It has her cornered and is about to feed when John shows up and kills it, draining his gun in the process. He pulls out a life signs detector and tells Larrin there are three more wraith aboard. They must have escaped their ship in darts before it was destroyed and flown right into the hangar of the Ancient ship. Larrin's gun was damaged in the fight against the wraith, so they grab for the wraith's stunner, but it too was damaged.

Weaponless, John and Larrin make their way through the ship, hiding when they see that the wraith are approaching their position. While they are hiding, she tries to convince him to let her keep the ship for her people. He responds that they could have just asked for his help, rather than kidnapping him. She tells him that they couldn't take the risk he would say no, and that gives him pause. The wraith move on but John realizes that they are now between him and Larrin and the control room. Even worse, in his hurry to save Larrin from the first wraith, he didn't lock out the systems. If the wraith find that control room, not only will they be able to fly the ship, they will be able to track John and Larrin on the ship's internal sensors. Without weapons, John doesn't know how they will stop the wraith, but Larrin gets an idea.

They split up, John going to the chair room and Larrin going to bait the wraith. Two of the three follow after her but the third pauses and then goes another way. Larrin gets the first two into a corridor and seals them in, allowing John to shoot at it with the ship's drones and kill the wraith. The third, however, circled around and when she turns from the doors, he is right behind her. He slams his hand into her chest and begins to feed. Of course, in true supervillain fashion, he stops to gloat (and question her) before he kills her completely, buying John enough time to arrive on the scene. He sneaks up behind the wraith and jams his powerless gun against its head. He disarms the wraith and then tells it to give back what it took from Larrin, then go back to its dart and leave the ship. The wraith is suspicious that John won't keep his word but not knowing that the gun pressed against its head is harmless, it complies with John's demands.

Once Larrin is restored and the wraith is gone, John helps her up off the ground. They flirt for a few moments and then kiss. Larrin takes advantage of John's distraction to snag the wraith's stunner and shoots him with it. She then makes for the control room and starts reclaiming control of the ship. John wakes up in the corridor, cranky at her duplicity. She tells him that her ships arrived first and we see her open up communications with one of her people. Apparently when the ship was hijacked, they realized that John would try to make contact with his own people and were monitoring subspace, so were able to track down the Ancient ship. Larrin has them send over a new science team as well as a security team. John, trying to make his way to Larrin, opens a door to find several armed travelers aiming their guns at him. They escort him back to a cell.

Lorne and the team arrive with the rescue jumpers to find four spaceships. They are cloaked and so remain undetected as they try to decide what to do. Rodney has no way of knowing which ship sent the distress signal or which ship John is on. Teyla suggests opening up communications rather than just attacking, on the off chance that these people they know nothing about might actually be open to negotiations. Lorne is torn, acknowledging the wisdom in diplomacy but also pointing out that their only advantage at the moment is their cloaks. As soon as he sends a communication, he gives away their position, allowing the other ships to attack, or even worse, jump away again, taking John with them and leaving no chance for them to follow.

Larrin's people manage to get the hyperdrive back online and they are preparing to leave. She goes to see John and says she thinks they will take him with them, since his presence will allow them to get the rest of the ship in working order that much more quickly. John argues for his release. He tells her that the wraith are under attack and soon enough they will be ripe for defeat. With the travelers' technology and Atlantis' combined, they could make powerful allies when the time comes for them to move against the wraith for once and for all. But any chance at an alliance is shot if they keep John prisoner.

In the jumper, Rodney thinks that their best option is to target the engines on the Ancient ship. He can't get good enough readings on the other ships to know how to disable them, and with one ship disabled, even if the others jump away, they will have a chance at finding John still. Lorne is just about to give the order when all four ships jump away. The team stares at the empty space in front of them in dismay but then Rodney gets a reading, a puddle jumper with one life sign, dead ahead. Lorne opens up radio communications and they are all relieved when John answers.

Back in Atlantis, John and his team are eating and John recounts the tale of his captivity. Teyla and Ronon discuss how strange it would be to live one's entire life on a spaceship while Rodney laments that he never gets kidnapped by the hot aliens. They all laugh off another adventure in the Pegasus galaxy.


This is such a fun episode, largely because of the banter between John and Larrin. I like that while yes, she does fit the cliche of "bombshell baddie," she is at least a very relatable character. While her methods are questionable, it is quite clear that they are the result of extreme desperation and a desire to protect her people. Her motives are certainly not evil at all. I very much enjoy that this episode accepts and plays with the shades of grey involved in the situation. I also like that John was willing to see past the whole being kidnapped thing to the bigger picture (all while flirting his ass off). Larrin is a good match for him too, recognizing his value but perfectly capable of calling him on his more, er, rebellious attitude.

Indeed, I like the whole idea of the travelers because it makes a lot of sense to me. We've already been shown that many civilizations in the Pegasus galaxy at one point in time were fairly advanced, so it stands to reason that some of that technology (and the knowledge to use it) would still be around for the travelers to find and exploit. It also seems reasonable that at least one culture would get advanced enough for the wraith to want to bomb them back to the stone age would realize that fact and would take steps to preserve their advanced culture while minimizing the chances of destruction by the wraith. I mean, we've seen similar attempts to hide a culture's true level of advancement (like the Genii and other underground cultures), so this isn't too far out of the realm of possibility. Also, it reminds me a lot of the Quarian migrant fleet from Mass Effect, and that makes me happy.

All in all, I am wholeheartedly behind the introduction of the travelers to the series. I think they make a good possible (if slightly dubious) ally for Atlantis without tipping the scales too much on the balance of power in the galaxy.

Worth noting: As John points out early in the episode, the travelers' guns are the same as Ronon's really awesome gun. I like that because it is a random little detail that addresses the fact that in the Pegasus galaxy, there really is a limited amount of technology available due to the wraith. Although learning that the guns can run out of power makes me wonder how Ronon keeps his maintained so well. But still. It was a neat little addition for me.

Finally, I'll just say how happy it made me that John was able to get the control chair on the Ancient ship fixed so fast. I mean, it is no surprise that he was able to get the thing turned on, he's flown them before and he is familiar enough with Ancient tech. But the fact that he was able to actually make repairs--and know exactly where to look and what to do--tells me that he is paying attention to Rodney and his environment during his (mis)adventures. It was a small character moment, but a nice one.

Favorite Quotes

"Who are you, where are you from, and where'd you get your ship?" (Silas)
"See, that's a funny coincidence, 'cause I was gonna ask you the same exact questions." (John)

"We had a deal! I was prepared to let you go in exchange for your help." (Larrin)
"Sorry, I've never been able to trust anyone who kidnaps me, tortures me, and threatens to blow me into space." (John)

"If you're gonna get out of this alive, you're gonna need my help. Now I realize you and I don't exactly trust each other...but it's not going to make much difference if the wraith blow up the ship, is it?" (John)

"Why would they be so far out on the edge of the solar system?" (Teyla)
"I don't think it's a coincidence that this system has a space gate. They were probably headed for it when they dropped out of hyperspace too early." (Rodney)
"Well, why would they do that?" (Lorne)
"How should I know? We don't even know who 'they' are, remember?" (Rodney)
"Does it make a difference? Even if it was a fleet of hive ships, would it stop us from trying to get him back?" (Ronon)
"No." (Lorne)

"Sure you wanna go through with this? If you don't make it, I'll feel responsible, and well, I really don't need the guilt." (John)
"I'll be fine as long as you don't shoot too early. I'm sure that's not the first time you've heard that from a woman." (Larrin)
"On the other hand, I might be able to live with it." (John)

"No. There's something you're not telling us. She was hot, wasn't she?" (Rodney)
"I don't know what you're talking about." (John)
"Oh I knew it! That is so typical!" (Rodney)
"She had me beat Rodney. She threatened to kill me several times. It wasn't like we were hanging out in the spa together." (John)
"Whatever! All I know is that every time I get taken captive, it's the wraith. Just once I would like to be taken prisoner by the sexy alien." (Rodney)


There you have it folks. See you back here on Wednesday for another really fun episode, "Tabula Rasa."

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