Wednesday, May 16, 2012

SGA Rewatch: The Daedalus Variations

Hello, and welcome to another installment of the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch. Today's episode is season five's "The Daedalus Variations." Spoilers for the episode and all that came before, just like always.

What Happened

John and Rodney leave a meeting discussing that Rodney thinks that Teyla is hiding Torren from him. It is possible he night have dropped the baby once. He doesn't particularly care for kids, mind you. But he thinks it is unfair that everyone else gets to hold the baby but he doesn't. Chuck stops them and says they have picked up a new contact on their scanners, though they never detected a hyperspace window. Closer examination reveals it to be the Daedalus, which is odd (and impossible) because the ship is on its journey back to Earth. They try to hail it on the radio but get no answer. Rodney says they won't, because he is reading no life signs at all aboard the ship. The mystery deepens.

The team takes a jumper to the Daedalus to check it out. On the way Chuck radios them that he just got off the horn with Earth and they confirmed that the Daedalus is in the Milky Way, on course and on schedule. So that begs the question of what ship exactly they are approaching and why it is giving off the Daedalus' IFF signal. They get to the ship and Rodney manages to get the docking bay doors open, picking up a strange energy reading before they board. In the docking bay there are no F-302s but there is one jumper.

They get out to look around and Teyla asks why it is so cold in the ship and Rodney says it is operating on emergency power. They split up to see if they can find anything. John and Teyla go to the bridge and find an emblem on the wall that says Daedalus. In engineering, Rodney manages to restore the ship's power and John tells him to check on the energy reading from earlier. Teyla finds the ship's logs and she plays back the last entry. A woman reports that the crew has evacuated to a planet and signs off as Colonel Sobel. John doesn't recognize her or her name.

Rodney meanwhile, sees that the ship has been through quite a journey. It's undergone quite a lot of damage and the systems are all at less than optimal levels. They pick up another energy reading and Lorne radios from the city asking if they need assistance. John says not yet but as the energy reading spikes orders everyone to make their way back to the jumper. Before they can move, however, there is a bright flash of light and Rodney reports that the energy reading has dropped again.

They look around, John tries to radio Atlantis but gets no response. In Atlantis Lorne tries hailing the ship but gets no answer. He asks Radek what's going on but Radek says that the ship has just disappeared. On the ship, Rodney says that he did a sensor sweep of the planet but he isn't reading the city. John tries to search for a plausible excuse but Rodney dismisses his suggestions. Teyla asks if the energy burst could have moved them but Rodney says according to their readings they are in the same position. He has traced the source of the radiation and John and Ronon head to check it out.

Rodney says that the residual signature from the energy reading is similar to opening a new hyperspace window. As John and Ronon look around, Teyla meeting up with them, Rodney recognizes the energy reading. It is the same as when his double arrived from the parallel universe. He thinks the ship has moved into another universe. John says that would explain a lot of things as he, Ronon, and Teyla stare at something they just found. The camera pulls back to reveal the bodies of the team, dead.

Rodney finds his other self's tablet and is alarmed to realize that the dead team wasn't part of the original crew. They found it just like our team did (hence the other jumper in the docking bay). They got stuck when the ship jumped but their supplies ran out before they could find a way to get back and they died. They find the alternate reality drive and Rodney gets to work trying to find a solution. He is not terribly optimistic in the wake of the other team's failure, though John tells him to get to it. He remarks that at least he can start where his other self left off.

Ronon and Teyla go through the ship to try to find supplies but there isn't much left. Teyla suggests going down to the planet but Ronon says John declared it too risky. The ship might jump while they were down there and then they'd be stuck in that universe. Teyla wonders if the other team was very much like them, Ronon is less interested. She is worried that there is another Torren out there now without a mother. He manages to comfort her a bit and remind her that there are millions of possible Torrens and she can't worry about all of them.

Rodney makes some progress with the drive, it turns out to have been designed by the him in the original universe it came from. John asks if they can just put it in reverse but Rodney says it is more complicated than that. He says that they did try to develop a sort of navigation system but it didn't really work. He also says that they clearly didn't have a ZPM available to power the drive, so they made a sort of subspace charged battery. It is constantly drawing power, though, and somehow they tampered with it and now it can't be turned off. So it keeps on charging, and every time it is full, it jumps, then starts charging again. While he is explaining this, the ship jumps to the next reality.

John orders Ronon and Teyla to meet him back up on the bridge. Teyla says that Atlantis is back on their sensors (explaining that Major Marks of their Daedalus had offered to teach both her and Ronon about the ship's systems the last time their Daedalus was in orbit, though Ronon declined). John tries radioing Atlantis but they do not answer. Rodney says the odds of them jumping back into their own reality are slim to none. Teyla picks up another ship in orbit around the planet and it is one that none of them recognize. The ship begins to power weapons.

The alien ship begins to fire on Atlantis and according to Teyla's readings the city's shield will not hold out for long. John asks Rodney if they have enough power to use the ship's Asgard beam and Rodney answers they can probably get a couple of shots off. They fire on the ship and damage on it, and it stops firing on Atlantis. Of course, then it sends out fighters and they head straight for the Daedalus. John puts Ronon on the ship's rail guns and they try to fend off the attackers. The ship is in bad shape, however, and they can't hold out for long. One of the fighters crashes into the ship, breaching the hull. Rodney says he can speed up the alternate reality drive so that they jump sooner, but once done it can't be undone--they will continue to jump faster and faster. Seeing no other way to survive, however, John orders him to do it.

They jump, escaping the attacking aliens. Unfortunately, the new universe isn't any better. They jump less than two million kilometers from the surface of a sun. That is way too close and if they can't restore the ship's shields they will burn up. They are confused, because previously the ship had been jumping to the same location in each universe, but Rodney realizes that the sun in this system turning into a red giant must be happening faster in the new universe than in their original universe. John asks Rodney if he can get the sublight engines working so they can move to a safe distance but Rodney thinks their best bet is throwing all of their power into the shields and riding out the time until the next universe jump.

John, Teyla, and Ronon head down to engineering to get the power transferred. Not feeling useful, Ronon wanders off and hearing a noise in another corridor he opens a door to find an alien behind it. The alien attacks him and Ronon gets off a few shots of his gun, alerting the others to his situation. John goes to check on him and tells Teyla and Rodney to keep working on diverting power to the shields. Between John and Ronon, the two manage to kill the alien. His uniform bears the same symbol they saw on the alien ship and they remember the fighter that crashed into them. Before they can do anything else, more of the aliens find them and start attacking.

Teyla gets all of the systems diverted that she can and tells Rodney that she needs to go help Ronon and John but Rodney says it isn't enough power. He tells her the drive is at 70% and that if they drop the shields and divert all power to the drive hopefully it will cause them to jump. It works, barely jumping them before the hull burns up completely. John and Ronon get the intruders dealt with and check in with Rodney. He says that last trick seriously overtaxed the drive. They only have a few jumps left before it is completely burned out. Wherever they are when that happens, that is where they will be staying forever.

They view their new universe and find that there is no planet. Teyla says that Rodney believes it was destroyed by an asteroid, possibly millions of years ago. Rodney comes in and says he's found a solution. He goes into a detailed explanation that basically boils down to "put it in reverse." John points out that he suggested that two hours ago and Rodney says he dismissed it out of hand. But when he realized that not one but two other versions of himself failed to find the solution, he realized he would have to start thinking like someone else. Long story short, they can retrace their steps, go back through each universe they've already passed through, and they can get back home.

Of course, the problem with that is that they barely survived the last few realities. But Rodney says it's their only hope. They still have thrusters, and the ship carries momentum during its jumps so if they are moving when they get back to the previous universe he thinks they will drift far enough to get at a safe(ish) distance from the red giant. He will also need to get the sublight engines restored so they can maneuver away from the aliens in the reality before last. They get to the universe with the red giant and his plan seems to be working so Rodney gets to work on restoring sublight. Teyla goes to help him, thanking him for not giving up.

The drive is charging faster now due to their tampering which means that their next jump happens before Rodney can get the engines fixed. They jump back and don't see any sign of the alien ship at first. But it turns out to be right behind them. It launches its fighters and John and Ronon prepare to man the ship's weapons to try to hold them off. Rodney gets the sublight engines back up and they take off, trying to outrun the fighters. They don't have enough speed, however and the fighters are quickly within weapons range. The damage from the fire and the strain on the system blows the sublight engines for good. But just when all looks lost a squadron of F-302s appears and begins attacking the fighters.That reality's John radios them and says that they saved Atlantis when they took out the alien ship's main weapons earlier, figured they could return the favor. The other John and his men take care of the alien fighters and they jump once more.

They are back to the first reality they jumped to. Just one more and they are home. John orders them down to the hangar bay to get into the jumper. As Rodney opens a door, an alien steps into the corridor and shoots him in the arm. John and Ronon manage to take out the aliens that survived their original fight, but one of them has a self-destruct. The team manages to get to safety before it blows, but it causes another hull breach and they lose the jumpers. Which means they are stranded on the ship with no way out. Teyla says Atlantis will send help when it detects the ship's return, but Rodney reminds her that they broke orbit to get away from the fighters. Their people will never get to them before the ship jumps again. Ronon suggests blowing up the alternate reality drive but Rodney says there is a good chance doing that will rip a hole in the space-time continuum, killing them and destroying the whole solar system. So, no. John says they had better think of something fast then.

In Atlantis Chuck picks up the ship's signal again. Lorne tries to contact them over the radio but gets no answer. He grabs Radek and they take a jumper to where the ship appeared. They continue trying to hail the team on the radio but Radek says there is too much interference. He picks up an energy reading and says it is spiking and then the Daedalus disappears. They look at each other in disbelief and then Radek picks up four life signs straight ahead. They move forward and find the team in space suits hanging out, waiting for a ride.

John visits Rodney in the infirmary (recovering from being shot in the shoulder) and Rodney says despite the flawed design he thinks he can get the drive to work and they can build their own. John flat out forbids it, and the subject is changed when Teyla arrives, carrying Torren. She offers to let Rodney hold him and he gratefully accepts.


So, a little bit of behind-the-scenes info for you here: There are a couple of things in season five that were meant to be setup for season six if it happened. One of those things was the aliens the crew runs into in this episode. They were majorly hyped as a potential new big bad before the episode aired and likely had we gotten a season six, our Atlantis would have run afoul of them at some point (hopefully benefited by the knowledge they gained in this excursion).

Other than that, this is in my opinion a really cool episode. I love the concept of the alternate reality drive and how oh so very wrong it went. That is one of the really nifty things about shows like Stargate Atlantis and the Stargate franchise in general. They lend themselves easily to exploring this kind of situation, and on Atlantis at least they know how to have fun with this sort of thing (like in "McKay and Mrs. Miller" for example). This episode does a good job of showing they can handle it in a bit more serious a manner as well.

I really enjoyed Teyla and Ronon's conversation about the other Teylas and Ronons out there in the multi-verse. I have to admit, Ronon's advice was very practical, and possibly the only way to stay sane when one keeps getting presented with situations like this. I have to say, Ronon had turned into very solid source of comfort for his teammates. As much as he keeps his thoughts to himself, it seems he is always there to say what they need to hear when one of them is having a hard time. That's kind of awesome. Again, this watch through of the series is really just giving me a whole new level of appreciation for that character.

Another nice touch were the little details of the alternate Daedalus that were off. Colonel Sobel in command, for instance, a woman that in our universe apparently hasn't even made it into the SGC (or at least nowhere near the Atlantis expedition and its crew). I could be wrong on this, but I also think that the Daedalus emblem on the alternate ship is a bit different from the one for our universe. I don't know why, but little things like that just tickle me.

Then there was John's encounter over the radio with his alternate self and the gratuitous flattery. It is hard not to laugh at that, even if it did seem like a bit much.

Not a lot of plot furtherance in this one, but we do give the team a chance to bond again after Teyla's return to active duty, so there is that at least. Otherwise, overall just a fun concept episode.

Favorite Quotes

"But don't you realize what this means? They were us and they failed." (Rodney)
"Well they're not us, we're still alive." (John)

"I can't help but wonder who might still be waiting for her back on her Atlantis." (Teyla)
"D'you mean did she also have a son?" (Ronon)
"The thought had crossed my mind." (Teyla)
"Look, yeah? I've heard McKay talk about this stuff before. Supposedly there's a million different realities out there, with every possible variation, which also means there's a million different Torrens. You gonna worry about every one of them?"
"No. It is difficult enough worrying about one." (Teyla)

"So, in a spectacular feat of multi-dimensional mathematics, I have discovered a way to send the ship back along the path it's previously traveled, bypassing the navigation system altogether." (Rodney)
"Wait a minute. You're talking about putting this thing in reverse?" (John)
"Exactly!" (Rodney)
"I just suggested that two hours ago!" (John)
"And naturally I dismissed it out of hand, but then I realized that, including the original designer, not one but two versions of myself have failed to make this thing work. I had to think not like me. In fact, I had to think like the opposite of me, and it doesn't get much more opposite than you." (Rodney)
"I'll take that as a compliment." (John)


There you have it, another episode wrapped up. See you back here on Monday for the next one, "Ghost in the Machine."

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