Wednesday, June 6, 2012

SGA Rewatch: First Contact

Well hello there. Welcome to another edition of the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch. Today's episode, season five's "First Contact," brings us to the midway point of the season. It also brings back a familiar Stargate face. Spoilers for the episode and any that came before it!

What Happened

John and Rodney head to the gate to meet a visiting dignitary. Rodney complains about it and that he has been pulled away from his work for the reception. They meet Woolsey and Chuck declares that the visitor is ready to beam in. There is a flash of light and Daniel Jackson is standing in front of them. Woolsey welcomes him and he says hello. Rodney grumbles.

Daniel says he would like to get started right away and Rodney asks him what he's there for. Daniel says that he thinks he's figured out the location of the Ancient Janus' secret lab and it's on Atlantis. Apparently Daniel found the journals of some of Janus' assistants and thinks he's found mention of where Janus might have been conducting his unauthorized research.

Meanwhile, Woolsey is gearing up to take the Daedalus to meet up with Todd so Jennifer can get to work on testing her wraith treatment. John doesn't want to stay behind but Woolsey says that since he has to go, that means that per protocol John has to remain behind in command of the city. Ronon finds Jennifer packing up to go and says he thinks he should go along too, just in case. Because, you know, wraith. Jennifer sees through his thin excuse to accompany her but doesn't mind and as they head out they see Rodney. She says goodbye and tells him to wish them luck. The "us" gives him pause and he sees that Ronon is going too. Ronon catches his eye and smirks at him as Rodney looks on in disappointment.

Daniel and Rodney head to the described corridor. It is in a part of the city that was damaged by flooding the first year so is more or less abandoned. Daniel notices where three light fixtures would have been hung on the wall and asks Rodney if they were saved. Rodney says probably and they check the inventory. Daniel wants to go claim them and put them back in place, saying he thinks he's on to something. Daniel gets them plugged in and notices that each light makes a different tone when it is plugged in. He asks Rodney if that's normal and Rodney says no. Daniel is in his element with a puzzle to solve and gets to trying to figure out the right sequence of tones to reveal the entrance to the lab. Rodney is looking at the wall at the end of the corridor and he tells Daniel to wait a moment.

Rodney switches places with Daniel and tells him on the count of three to push up against the wall as hard as he can. Daniel does so and Rodney hits the three lights in quick order. Daniel falls through the wall. Rodney's face lights up and he hits the lights again then follows Daniel through. He finds himself in a dark room with a disgruntled Daniel on the floor. Rodney explains that the wall was specially designed to destabilize when a specific frequency (the tones) is introduced. He says it was something similar to what Tesla was working on before Edison "trashed his lab."

They turn on the lights and look around, awed to find themselves indeed in Janus' secret lab. They do not notice a light on a device that begins blinking when they enter.  On another planet somewhere a light on a Ancient console begins flashing as well. An armored being barks out an order to alert the others that "the device" has been activated.

On the Daedalus Jennifer finds Woolsey in the mess. He comments that it is a rare sight these days to see her without her "burly protector" Ronon and she replies that Ronon is still in the lab. She asks Woolsey what he is working on. He tells her he is writing a speech to recognize the historic nature of their new venture. He hasn't gotten very far with it though.

John steps into the secret lab, impressed by the hidden doorway. John asks what happens if the sound stops while someone is in the wall and Rodney answers that the wall would break apart that someone's body. But he's already set up a generator to keep the tone going so that doesn't happen. John asks how their progress is going. They say that all of the data is pretty encrypted but they are working on it. John comments that Rodney and Daniel seem make a great team and they both look a little askew at the comment.

The wraith and the Daedalus meet up and a delegation of wraith arrive on the human ship. Woolsey greets them and begins his speech but Todd interrupts him and says he's like to get started as soon as possible so Woolsey defers to Jennifer and they head to the lab, escorted by Ronon and several soldiers.

Rodney and Daniel work late into the night and have a bonding moment. Over the ocean a hyperspace window opens and a small ship speeds across the water towards the city. Chuck picks it up and when he looks at the readings he pages John to the control room. Amelia tells him a small ship is closing in on the city. John orders the shields up and the jumpers ready, but the ship just flies right through the shield. Amelia remarks that Ancient ships can pass through their shield.

The ship stops over one of the piers and John has Teyla and a team of marines gear up and meet him there. Three figures with jet packs drop out of the ship and make their way into the city. They are each holding a piece of a metal disk and they assemble it on the floor. As John's team arrives they stand on the disk and before anyone can get a shot off, a shield protects the three intruders and the disk burrows through the floor and drops down out of sight. John and Teyla run to the hole and John asks what is at the bottom of this tower. Teyla answers, "Rodney."

John radios Rodney in the lab and tells him he needs to get out of there immediately. Before he can explain however, the intruders come into the lab. They stun Rodney and Daniel and grab them and the device with the blinking light. John and Teyla get to the corridor but one of the intruders fends them off with an energy shield while the others take their prizes right back up through the hole they bored and into the ship. They manage to kill the third intruder but not before the ship escapes with Rodney and Daniel aboard.

John calls for Radek to come investigate the intruder. He doesn't get any coherent readings from the creature and suggests a medical scanner to see if it is actually dead. As the intruder is carried away John comments that they knew exactly where they were going. Teyla says one of them was carrying a device when they came out of the lab. They go into the lab to try to figure out what was taken. The scenes cut between Rodney, in a cell with Daniel on the ship, and John in the lab figuring out that initializing the Ancient equipment in the lab must have activated a device connected to another ancient device by a subspace signal, which alerted the intruders and led them to Atlantis.

Radek tries to scan the intruder but it is emitting some kind of EM signal that is interfering with the equipment. He says all he knows for sure is they've never seen anything like it before. John orders him to try cutting open the armor. The armor proves impenetrable but John notices the neck is a different material and has Radek try cutting there. He manages to penetrate it, but it sets off a signal and they realize that they've activated a self-destruct. They all manage to make it out of the lab before the intruder explodes, but they've lost any evidence they might have gotten to track its origins.

On the Daedalus Jennifer tells Todd they've run simulations based on scans they've taken of wraith that they've held in captivity and they have all been successful. Todd points out that simulations and live trials are very different, but Jennifer defends her research. She wonders aloud if Todd even wants the treatment to work. Todd says he does see the benefits, even if it is only administered to part of his army, to those who are expendable. Jennifer argues it is for their benefit as well, it would end the war between wraith and humans. He acknowledges that might be so but asks then what would the wraith do? Who would they be?

The alien ship arrives at a base on a snow-covered blizzardy planet. The aliens toss Daniel and Rodney in a lab that also appears to be of Lantean construction and order the pair to get the device working, locking them in when they leave. They guess that they are probably in another one of Janus' secret labs, which means hope of rescue is small.

In Atlantis John has marines on standby in the hopes they get some contact from Rodney or a lead on where he and Daniel have been taken. Radek takes John's theory about the subspace signal and starts going over the logs to try to extrapolate the signal that drew the aliens there and perhaps to where it had been broadcasting.

Daniel notes that the facility is drawing an unusually large amount of power and Rodney, looking over some other data, says he thinks he knows why. He tells Daniel he thinks he's figured out what the device does. It's an endgame machine. If it works, it would completely stop the wraith in their tracks, leading to their eventual destruction. It creates a type of subspace static that targets the wraith hyperdrive technology (apparently every culture's hyperdrive technology operates at a unique frequency). Basically, if the device is turned on, every time a wraith ship enters hyperdrive it self-destructs. Daniel asks what the catch is. Rodney says Janus ran a three-day test and then shut it down due to "unforeseen side effects," which he helpfully gives no specifics of in his notes. He took the key to making the device work back with him to Atlantis, and that is what the aliens retrieved when they took Daniel and Rodney. Rodney tells Daniel that he probably can make the device work without any problems, the question is whether or not they should. They both kind of agree that it's a bad idea. Daniel suggests they reason with the aliens to convince them not to use the device.

They call one of the aliens and Daniel tries his whole spiel. When his "the device isn't safe" speech doesn't seem to work he tries saying they need to call in a larger team in order to fix the device. The alien turns to Rodney and tells him to get the device working in an hour or he will kill Daniel, then he leaves. As he goes, Daniel starts to ponder why the aliens are still in their armor, wondering if they are protective suits of some kind. Rodney really isn't interested in his speculation, however, preferring instead to find a way to keep them alive.

On Atlantis Radek thinks he has found the aliens' planet, which of course doesn't have a stargate. The Daedalus is out of communications range and the rendezvous point with the wraith isn't gate-convenient either. John tells Radek to boost the subspace communicator in one of the jumpers. He wants to gate as close as he can to where the Daedalus is and try to hail them on the radio to come pick them up and take them to the planet.

Rodney gets the device operational, though he doesn't turn it on. It wasn't actually broken, just shut down. Daniel tries to tell him he doesn't have to do this but Rodney doesn't want them to kill Daniel (or himself, but also Daniel). He turns it on and checks the readings. Everything is in the green and no sign of the unforeseen side-effects. The men each breath a sigh of relief.

Woolsey finds Todd and tells him he has an urgent message from one of his ships. He hands him a comm so he can take it in private. Todd takes the call and says that one of his hives is under attack. Two of his ships will leave to deal with the situation, though he will stay behind to continue the work with Jennifer. The hives prepare to jump away and disintegrate as the crew watches in shock. Todd demands to know how they did that and Woolsey tries to catch up. Todd claims that they tricked him and this was their plan all along, he pulls a weapon of some sort out of his sleeve. He says they have somehow found the Attero device. Before they can protest their innocence he activates his weapon and everyone is knocked unconscious. His hive that remained behind contacts him and asks what they should do. Todd replies that he has taken control of the Daedalus and will begin beaming his people over soon, they are going to take the ship.

Ronon, unaware of what has happened, walks through the ship and comes across a group of wraith being beamed in. They do not see him so he works his way to the lab and grabs Jennifer. He takes her down to the armory to get her a gun while Todd's people get to work locking down the ships systems and moving the crew to confinement.  Todd sees Jennifer and Ronon on the ship's sensors and with the press of a few buttons, they are locked in a corridor.

Rodney finds a log that reveals the side-effect of the device. He says it is going to affect the rest of the galaxy, including Atlantis. He moves to shut it down but the aliens come in and order them away from the device, stunning them when they refuse.

John gets his jumper loaded up and he and Teyla prepare to leave with a team of marines. Radek goes down to the control room and orders the gate dialed up. Chuck notices a power spike when they activate the gate, it is coming from within the event horizon. They try to shut down the gate but are unable. John heads down to find out what's up and Radek tells him that if the power continues to build the gate will explode. They have ninety seconds maybe. Amelia chimes in more like sixty. There is no way to evacuate the tower in that time, let alone the whole city, which would definitely be affected by such an explosion.

John orders Radek to collapse the city's shield around the gate to contain the explosion. The blast is contained but the energy needs to be diffused before they can let the shield down. It needs about a minute but the emitters are fried and it won't last that long. John orders everyone but him and Radek out and tells them to start falling back to the edge of the city while Radek works to keep the shields up. It looks like they are going to make it but Radek says it's not enough. Zoom out to the exterior of the tower and an explosion blows out the windows of the control room.



So. Much. Happening in this episode. And it really seems like a lot of random plot threads, but they honestly do all tie together quite nicely. It's kind of impressive, actually. Let me see if I can run this down:

Janus invented this "endgame" device, which Todd called the Attero device, but after testing it for three days during the war with the wraith he shut it down and removed a key component to keep anyone from stumbling across it and activating it. This was because of "unforeseen side-effects" which you know have something to do with Atlantis' gate exploding. Anything that makes stargates explode is Not Good. Some as yet unknown race did manage to discover Janus' lab and learn about the device but realized that they are missing that key component to make it work. So they have been keeping an eye out hoping someone would activate said device so they could find it. Which Daniel and Rodney did when they found Janus' secret lab on Atlantis.

Meanwhile Jennifer and Todd are getting underway on trying to make her treatment work to cure (at least some of) the wraith of the need to feed on humans. This is great progress towards ending the millennia-long war between humans and wraith. Though it is clear that Todd has some reservations about that particular outcome, unsure of what it would mean for the identity of his race. When the Attero device is activated, however, he fears he has been double-crossed (knowing that the device was of Ancient origins) and realizing that his ships can't travel through hyperspace anymore he decides to hijack the Daedalus. Luckily for Jennifer, Ronon tagged along to get into her good graces and so the two of them have managed to elude capture by the wraith and have a shot at getting out of the situation.

John, knowing where Rodney is, just needs a way to get to him. Unfortunately, he seems to have been exploded, so that is going to put a damper on his progress. At the very least, he now has no access to either a stargate or a hyperspace-capable ship because of everything else going on so any rescue attempt is kind of on hold until that gets sorted out.

Whew. And this is only the first half of a two-parter.

It's crazy that the first half of the season has been almost calm, slowly getting all of the characters into position and establishing new relationships (working and personal) so that everything was in place for events to completely explode all at once here at mid-season. Because now? Yeah, things are definitely moving forward.

I do have to say that Daniel Jackson is probably my all-time favorite character from Stargate SG-1, and having Michael Shanks show up on Atlantis to reprise the role just fills me with delight. First off, it is quite obvious that Daniel is in his element in Atlantis. This is where he belongs. This is where the story should have brought him long before. Oh my mind is full of an alternate version of this series where that happened and it is magical. Plus, Daniel + Rodney = much head exploding glee. Those two together, well, let's just say that I agree with John's assessment that they make a great team, precisely because of the reasons that they don't. Their bickering and banter is almost as amusing as what John and Rodney have going.

On a semi-related note, I love that there is a whole emerging group of people who are starting to realize what a complete dick Thomas Edison was to Nikola Tesla and working to get that information out into the world. That just tickles me any time I see mention of it. Because, seriously, Tesla was on to some cool stuff that could have revolutionized the technological foundations of our very society had he not been so repeatedly screwed over. (Or at least been able to seek proper treatment for some of his mental issues, of which he admittedly had a few.) I bet Steampunk delves into this, actually. But I digress.

Favorite Quotes

"I've been over Janus' data entries with a fine-tooth comb. I never saw any mention of a secret lab." (Rodney)
"Janus was doing a lot of work that wasn't exactly approved by the Ancient Council, so it's not hard to imagine he wouldn't include a full account in this very public database. I mean, do you include all of your research in your official reports?" (Daniel)
"Just get to the point." (Rodney)
"Okay. He never talked about it in his entries, but several of Janus' peers suspected he had a 'bastion of unfettered thought and experimentation' or, as one of his lovers put it..." (Daniel)
"He had lovers?!" (Rodney)
"...'an isle of solitude within the city walls.'" (Daniel)
"Well that could just mean he's hard to talk to. People say things like that about me all the time." (Rodney)

"You're in command here until I get back, understood?" (Woolsey)
"Okay." (John)
"Try not to blow her up while I'm gone." (Woolsey)
"No promises." (John)

"Well, it's remote, that's promising. He wouldn't want anyone around when he came in and out of his lab." (Daniel)
"Ooh, like the Batcave!" (Rodney)

"Seriously, is everything a competition with you?" (Daniel)
"I'm not sure what you're talking about." (Rodney)
"I just found you a secret lab full of really cool Ancient stuff. I kind of think that should score me some points here." (Daniel)
"Okay, I will admit that I may have been a little brusque with you up until now." (Rodney)
"Just a little." (Daniel)
"But the truth is I really didn't think you were gonna find anything." (Rodney)
"Well, that much I actually understand." (Daniel)
"You do?" (Rodney)
"Yeah. I've spent the majority of my professional life being ridiculed for my theories--most of which turned out to be correct by the way. I'm kind of used to it Rodney." (Daniel)
"Doesn't that bother you? I mean, there's no vindication, no recognition, no credit." (Rodney)
"Well, I could probably say the same thing about you. The discoveries you've made, you probably could have won the Nobel Prize five times over by now." (Daniel)
"It's too true. So. I guess none of us signed up to get famous, huh?" (Rodney)
"No, we did it for the money." (Daniel)
"Good one! ....Wait a minute. You don't get paid more than I, do you? ....Do you?" (Rodney)

"What the hell happened?" (Rodney)
"We were attacked." (Daniel)
"That much I got, thanks. By who?" (Rodney)
"I was kinda hoping you could tell me." (Daniel)

"We've got one thing going for us at least." (Rodney)
"What's that?" (Daniel)
"We're not dead yet." (Rodney)

"Well you work on understanding them, I'll work on trying not to get us killed." (Rodney)

"Are we still alive?" (Rodney)
"I think so. I'd hate to think heaven looks like this." (Daniel)
"Who says we went to heaven?" (Rodney)
"Hmm." (Daniel)


Whew. Well, yeah, I adored the banter, sorry. That means a ton of quotes. See you back here on Monday for the thrilling conclusion to this particular story, "The Lost Tribe."

Also, now that we are halfway through the final season of this series, I think it is time to start considering what my next Rewatch will be. I've put a poll up there over on the right of the screen. Please take a moment to check it out and vote. I'll leave it up for a few more weeks and then make an announcement after we wrap up Stargate Atlantis!

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