Monday, May 28, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Whispers

Happy Memorial Day, folks! I hope you are enjoying your random Monday off if you are so fortunate as to have one. I'm celebrating with Stargate! Which, yeah, is how I roll pretty much every Monday, but hey, if it's broke, don't fix it, right?

So. Today on the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch we will be talking about season five's "Whispers." Spoilers for the episode and any that came before, as per usual.

What Happened

Two Pegasus natives walk through a misty wood at night grumbling about the late hour. They stop when they hear something and through the mist they see a cloaked figure. They move closer to see if they can be of assistance and find something that terrifies them. One trips and the other keeps running then stops and turns to find a figure wearing a gas mask of some sort.

Flash to one year later and a team from Atlantis is going through the ruins of a facility that we see is on the same planet as one of them stoops and picks up a death mask like the one we just saw. They go further into the facility and stop, looking at something. One of them declares that they need to call Atlantis.

In the city Rodney is visiting Carson who is apparently packing to leave again after a brief visit. Rodney is grumbling about this because he wants Carson to stay but Carson tells him his place isn't there anymore. Carson apparently wants to go visit worlds afflicted by Michael's virus and try to help cure them. John comes in and tells Carson he is going to have to delay his plans. Major Teldy's team just radioed in that they have found another one of Michael's labs.

John and Carson get to the planet and hike through the woods to meet up with Teldy's team. She introduces her team, Sergeant Mehra, Doctor Porter, and Captain Vega. John is kind of taken aback that they are all women. She points out that she was told to pick the best and the brightest, so she did. Behind their backs John and Carson bump fists at the prospect of a mission filled with hot women. (insert eyeroll here)

Teldy leads them to the lab and Porter explains they found it when they picked up a low-level energy signature. It led them to a lab filled with stasis pods and wraith tech. The lab appears to have been abandoned for some time. Carson says it is not one he was ever taken to. John is weary of another booby trap like the one that collapsed the building on his team but Porter says she disabled the security protocols so that's not a worry. Carson says that the data in the lab could prove to be very valuable information about Michael's work.

Teldy mentions there is a village not too far off and John leaves Porter and Carson to go through the information under guard by Mehra while the rest of them head to see if the locals have any info on Michael or his activity. Mehra goes to check the perimeter and Porter and Carson get to know each other while they work. They find the specs for Michael's earliest version of a human-wraith hybrid.

When John and the others arrive in the village they don't see anyone out and about so they decide to split up and see if they can find anyone. It appears as of the locals have been gone for quite some time. John wonders why.

Carson finds evidence that Michael wasn't just combining humans and wraith, he was combining several other species. They look at the stasis pods and realize that there is no way they can wake the occupants up, because they are definitely not human anymore.

John and his group finally find a villager, Mirellus, and ask him what's going on. He says about a year and a half ago villagers started disappearing. Unable to find any explanation or the missing people the inhabitants abandoned the village, believing it to be cursed. John asks Mirellus why he is still there, he tells them he lives in the next village now and saw then exiting the caves. He followed them to see what they were doing and to warn them if necessary. He says the caves are also rumored to be dangerous.

Carson radios and says they have downloaded a chunk of data to their tablets and would like to take the night to go over it, ideally in the village if there is room for them. John says that's a definite yes and they pack up to head to the village and meet up with the others. Mirellus wishes them luck if they plan to stay the night, saying it is not safe, and then he leaves. On the way to the village from the caves Mehra stops the others in the woods, thinking she hears something. When they don't hear anything further they continue on, but after they pass we see Mirellus lurking in the woods.

Once everyone is settled down for the night, John decides to head over to the next village to see if he can gather any useful intel. Again he takes Teldy and Vega, leaving Mehra to watch over Carson and Porter.

In the lab, someone activates one of the stasis pods and the room fills with a fog as it opens.

Porter and Carson continue bonding and try their hand at some awkward flirting. Mehra, unamused, decides to go check the perimeter again.

John's group makes their way through the woods and encounters a fog that rolls in very quickly. Both Sheppard and Teldy's lights go out and they see a shadowy figure run by.

Mehra walks through the abandoned village whistling and decides to check out the well. She drops a rock down it and listens to see how far down it goes and shines her light inside for a look. Then her light dies. She turns and notices a very creepy doll on the ground covered in leaves. As she walks away from the well fog starts to stream from it.

In the woods Mirellus stumbles into them and claims that there are demons in the mist. They hear more movement and something grabs Vega, snatching her back into the fog. They find her but it is too late, she is dead. Then lurching figures start to shuffle toward them through the fog. John shoots one and then orders the rest to fall back, they grab Mirellus and fire behind them as they go.

In the village Carson and Porter hear gunfire and go outside to investigate. They try radioing John but get no answer. Mehra tells them she will go check it out and orders them to get back inside.

John and Teldy get to the caves and make their way into the lab, horrified to see that all of the stasis pods have been opened. Mirellus apologizes and says it was him. He admits that his wife was among the missing villagers and he thought maybe they had found something in the caves, that maybe she was down here. There are twelve pods, and John took out one of the creatures so they have eleven more to deal with. They try to radio Carson but get no answer, Teldy says it is probably the fog interfering with the radio signal. So they venture back out to make their way to the others.

Not having heard from Mehra in some time, Carson gets impatient and arms himself, telling Porter he is going outside to see if he can find her. Porter tries to talk him into staying put but he is unable to do so. He walks out into the fog and his flashlight quickly dies. He hesitates and then calls out for Mehra when he sees a figure in the fog. The figure gets closer and resolves and it is most decidedly not Mehra. He backs away and steps on a twig, drawing the creature's attention.

He turns tail and runs, trying to find cover against a wall. An eyeless creature that seems to be exuding the fog crawls along the wall right up to Carson but does not seem to realize he is there. It starts to leave and his radio squawks. The creature turns back to attack only to be shot down by Mehra. She gets him back to their hideout and they find that Porter has gone missing. John and Teldy come back with Mirellus and they update each other on the current crappy situation. Carson tells them that the creatures are Michael's experiments, early versions of his hybrids. He says they are blind and hunt by sound and that they are creating the fog, using it as a predatory device.

Mirellus wants to wait until dawn but Carson says it doesn't matter, day or night, the creatures will still be there. John says they need to find Porter anyway. Carson warns him that even Michael could not control the creatures, which is why the research was abandoned. John, Teldy, and Mehra go to search for Porter with Carson staying behind with Mirellus. Carson assures John that as long as they remain quiet in their hideout they should be perfectly safe.

The soldiers begin their search, armed with glow-stick like lights that don't seem affected by the fog. Mehra checks the well again. We see one of the creatures crawling up inside of it but she is distracted by a sound and turns away before she sees it. John, meanwhile, finds Porter huddled in a corner and collects her quietly.

In the hideout Mirellus starts to freak out, yelling at Carson that they are making a mistake and they need to get out of there. Carson tries to quiet him down but he refuses and two of the creatures bust through the window in front of which he is conveniently standing. They snatch him out before Carson can do anything and then disappear. Carson drags a shelf in front of the broken window and then looks on nervously as fog begins pour through the door.

John and Porter meet up with Mehra and make their way back. They see a figure they think is Teldy but she doesn't seem to see them. Mehra goes up to her and it turns out to be one of the creatures with Teldy's light sticking out of its shoulder. They kill it and get to the hideout where they find Teldy but no Carson. Porter remarks that at least one of the missing men was wounded and she points to a puddle of blood on the floor. Cut to Carson nervously moving through the fog. Back inside Teldy says she saw a creature come out of the well and realized that there are catacombs that run right under the village. Which is probably how Michael managed to take so many unseen. They do a headcount and realize they've narrowed the enemy down to nine. Porter points out the creatures have acute auditory senses. She thinks they can use that to lure them in.

They work out a plan to each take up position around the well, where they will set off a high pitched signal to draw in the creatures. John will blow it up and hopefully take out several of the creatures. Then they can ambush the rest, taking out anything that moves. Mehra doesn't approve of the plan but John overrides her objections by pulling rank. They get into position and John plants the lure in the well, then starts the timer on the explosives. Before he can plant them, he is attacked. Carson appears and takes out his attacker but John loses the C4 in the struggle. He and Carson decide they should probably get out of there, of course by this time they are surrounded and there doesn't actually look like any way out.

The well blows and Teldy, Mehra, and Porter open fire on the creatures. Once things quiet down they do a quick double check around the well, trying to find John and making sure they got all of the hybrids. John radios them that he has Carson and they went down the well into the catacombs. He tells the others to come join them. They head back to the lab for Carson to check one last thing before they leave. Porter hangs back, not really wanting to go back in after everything that has happened, so Mehra stays with her. Carson gets to work in the lab.

In the corridor Porter thinks she hears something. Mehra tries to reassure her they got all of the creatures but then she hears something too and readies her gun. In the lab, John explores and he finds a door they hadn't noticed before. He opens it up and finds a room beyond with several more empty stasis pods. He and Teldy realize that they didn't kill all of the creatures after all. Mehra and Porter check out the sound they heard and just when they think it's nothing, one of the creatures attacks.

John and Teldy hear gunfire and they grab Carson and go to try to find their people. They get no answer when they call out but are quickly attacked by more creatures. They shoot everything that comes their way and then as they move forward Mehra calls out an all-clear. She and Porter are fine. They all breathe a sigh of relief and bugger out.

Back in Atlantis Rodney is chiding Carson again in a similar scene to the opener. He is ready to move on to the work of saving lives in the galaxy. John stops by to ask if he needs any help packing and then asks how Porter is doing. Carson says she is fine, taking some R&R and then will be back to work. He comments that she would be great help to his own work and John smirks and says it's noted. They head out with poor Rodney still trying to figure out who the heck they are talking about.


Okay, first I have to say that this episode was the season's attempt at a horror story, so it's never really been one of my favorites. That being said, on this viewing I have to admit that it is starting to grow on me a little. It's a pretty straight ahead one-off episode that relies on the show's previous mythology and (ostensibly) introduces some new characters, as well as giving the writers a chance to bring Carson back for a bit. Because, as he points out, with Jennifer now in charge of the medical staff of Atlantis, there really isn't much place for him there.

I find it super awesome that Teldy's team was fully assembled of smart kickass women. I find it much less awesome that the writers felt the need to comment on it like they did with John's reaction (and that little "lucky us" fist bump behind the girls' backs). It's a case of one step forward, two steps back. Absolutely yes, please do introduce strong and entertaining female characters and include an awesome girl power team. That rocks. But don't pat yourselves on the back by calling out in-episode what an anomaly it is. It doesn't make you look enlightened, it makes you look like part of the problem. Treating it like it's no big deal makes it no less wonderful, in fact, establishing that in this universe such a thing truly isn't a big deal is what would have made the writers look enlightened. /rant

Also, why didn't John already know who was on the team anyway?? As military commander of Atlantis doesn't it fall under his purview to at least be aware of the duty rosters even if for some reason he doesn't approve the team configurations? Is he just pawning all of his actual leadership duties off on Lorne? *grumble* I'm sorry, my level of suspension of disbelief in this universe stops just below the military commander not knowing what is going on with the teams he is in charge of. That makes his reaction to meeting Teldy's team even more annoying because it took me out of the narrative entirely for a minute.

For that matter, why didn't Rodney know who Porter was? She was clearly a doctor of science, not medicine, and therefore one of his subordinates. It has been established that he is one who hires these people. Although he at least possibly gets a pass because of his also established terrible track record with names (and with matching said names to faces). Still.

I will give the writers props however in how fully fleshed out all four of these new characters felt. In that brief hour of television we got a pretty good idea of all of their various personalities and such. That was nice. I also like that they had a good team dynamic developed as well. Especially between Porter and Mehra you get the feeling that these people have worked together and know each other well. I do have to wonder why Porter ever left the hideout. We saw when Carson left the first time, and the second it was pretty easy to assume he feared he was about to be overrun, but beyond people returning to find her gone, we never got an explanation for her disappearance as the team regrouped.

In the interest of full disclosure I feel like I should share how much outcry it caused when they killed off Vega in this episode. It was only her second appearance on the show, her first being on the season opener "Search and Rescue" where she got to shoot down a wraith dart with a rocket launcher.  Thing is, before the season started, her addition to the cast was really being hyped. She was supposed to be a new recurring character, meant to get her own team before the season was even halfway over. Instead she got put in second place on a team and killed. Also, it was revealed after the episode aired that she was to be the first openly gay character in the Stargate franchise. People were not happy about the fact that the writers so quickly killed her off after all of the hype, especially when they learned about her background. I am sure there were valid reasons for the writers' decisions to nip this character's inclusion and subsequent arc in the bud, but it just was really poorly handled. That gives this episode a really sour taste to a lot of fans.

Favorite Quotes

"Resurrections make for very interesting reunions. Especially when the dead man had no idea he was dead to begin with." (Carson)

"So, Sergeant, I hear you served with Stargate Command before transferring over." (Carson)
"Yeah, but Pegasus had more of what I was looking for." (Mehra)
"And what was that?" (Carson)
"Bad guys who need killing." (Mehra)

"Where's the Captain?" (Mehra)
"She's gone." (John)
"Where's Porter?" (Teldy)
"We don't know." (Beckett)
"Ah that's great. All we need now is for the prom queen and the kid in the wheel chair to wander off and then we're all set." (John)

"Fine. You know what? I don't even wanna know. Don't tell me! ....Okay, come on, tell me!" (Rodney)


That wraps up today. See you back here on Wednesday for "The Queen," when we get back to our more science fictiony roots.

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