Wednesday, July 11, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Enemy at the Gate

Well. Here we are. Five seasons have flown by and now we've at last gotten to the Stargate Atlantis series finale, "Enemy at the Gate." Join me as I try to contain all my feels on this last outing with the Atlantis crew. Like with "Vegas," I will be talking about the extended version of the episode (available on the DVD set).

It's the last episode of the series, y'all. We are so far beyond spoilers now.

What Happened

Atlantis at night. The gate activates and Amelia announces that they've got a transmission coming in. They pull up the video screen to see Todd. He tells them his treatment from an iratus queen was successful. Unfortunately, he's had a recent setback. One of his underlings has overthrown him and left him stranded after crashing his dart. Woolsey asks why they should care and Todd says the manner in which his minion was able to (temporarily) defeat him will be of interest to them. He is in possession of a ZPM.

The team and Woolsey meet to confer about this information. Ronon doesn't buy it, but Woolsey thinks it is a bad plan if it is some kind of trick, since Todd has offered himself into their custody until they can retake his ship. John says he's sure that Todd is leaving something out and Woolsey agrees, but he doesn't think it is about the ZPM. Rodney says if the underling really does have a ZPM they are in trouble. Ineffecient energy production is the one weakness of the wraith. If they have a ZPM to power one of their hives, it will be nigh unstoppable. Woolsey says it's a threat they can't tolerate, and one that they won't.

Todd is brought to Atlantis and put into isolation. Jennifer examines him and says that there is no sign of the treatment or the disease it caused. He is perfectly healthy, back to where he was before taking it. Complete with feeding hand. Woolsey goes to talk to Todd, who implies that if they don't help him Atlantis might be destroyed. Woolsey asks where the ZPM came from. Todd admits that he might have recovered a few more from the replicator homeworld before it was destroyed than he had originally let on. Woolsey asks why the delay before installing it on the hive ship, then? Todd explains that the organic nature of the hive ships made adapting them for use with the ZPMs a challenge and they only just figured out how to make it work.

Woolsey asks if the underling knows the location of Atlantis. Todd says it is a pointless detail but then answers that yes, of course he does. Even if they don't believe him, he knows Woolsey can't take the chance that he isn't telling the truth. Todd then adds that the hive is a work in progress. It still hasn't reached its full potential, so they still have a chance to destroy it. But they have to attack now.

The I.O.A. approves the request to investigate the matter, though all of the team but John are worried that Todd has some hidden agenda. Still, it doesn't matter. Todd is right, they can't take the chance. They take the Daedalus to the location of the hive. They bring Todd along and John has him kept in custody, with his subspace transmitter removed, along with having him searched and put in a jumpsuit. On the way, John visits him and Todd asks if all of the precautions are really necessary and John replies they really are after Todd's last trip on the Daedalus. He tells Todd that every time they agree to work with him John walks around feeling like there is a live grenade in his pocket, just waiting for it to go off in the form of that one thing that Todd "forgot" to mention. Todd asks why John let him go free the last time if he really feels that way. John says they made a deal and Todd held up his end. He also admits he really didn't expect Todd to live. This time though, he tells Todd, if there's any hint of betrayal, he isn't gonna wait, he is just going to kill him.

They get close to the hive's coordinates and John and team have Caldwell drop them off in a jumper. They cloak the ship and approach the hive to check it out, promising to stay in radio contact. If it is what Todd says it is, then the Dadedalus can come in with guns blazing. As they approach, Rodney picks up some very unusual readings, though he isn't sure yet if it's from a ZPM. They move in closer and Rodney realizes that the readings are showing that the wraith do have a ZPM and they are using it to grow the hive ship past its normal limitations. Rodney says that once they are done the hull will be impenetrable. They realize they need to destroy the ship now before it gets to that point. They move in just a little bit closer and the hive ship powers up its weapons. Rodney says there is no way that the ship can see them, it must just be running a test or something, but the hive fires and aims directly for the jumper. John realizes the wraith can see them. With the addition of the ZPM they must have increased the sensitivity of their scanners.

Sheppard radios the Daedalus that their cloak is ineffective and Caldwell starts to move in. The hive continues to fire at the jumper and John drops the cloak so that they can fire back. They keep on dodging and get a glancing blow that disables most of the jumper's main systems. Caldwell arrives before the hive can take the jumper out completely and they manage to score a direct hit on the hive. Unfortunately the damage they deliver is minimal. The hive fires back from all batteries and the Daedalus takes on massive damage. They prepare for the next volley and try to brace for the impact but the hive instead jumps away to hyperspace.

The team gets the jumper back on board to find out that the larger ship's hyperdrive is down. Caldwell gets a team together working on a patch so they can return to Atlantis. They try to theorize why the wraith left when they only needed one more round to finish off the Daedalus. Rodney thinks maybe since the ship is still growing that one encounter maxed out its current energy resources. That doesn't bode well for their next encounter with it. Caldwell says with the amount of damage it could be days or weeks before the Daedalus is fully operational again. They are interrupted by this train of thought when Major Marks pops in and says they've found something.

They get to a control room to find Kavanagh, who has recently been reassigned to the ship. He tells them that just before the hive jumped away they picked up a weak subspace transmission. He pulls it up and Rodney recognizes it as wraith code. Kavanagh says that it is hard to decrypt because it is interlaced with a faint residual radiation that he's never seen before. Rodney recognizes it though as the marker of something from another reality. He tells them some wraith in some other reality sent a signal that punched a rift through space time into multiple realities. He pushes Kavanagh out of the way and quickly deciphers it. It is a set of coordinates. To Earth.

Caldwell wants to contact Atlantis as soon as communications are back up. Atlantis can notify Stargate Command of the approaching super-hive. Rodney has another idea, though. He asks how many ships they have at their disposal and Caldwell replies the Apollo and the Sun Tzu. The Odyssey is unavailable due to some super secret mission. Rodney says two will have to do and John asks what he has in mind. Rodney says the hive will have to drop out of hyperspace at some point before Earth to fully regenerate. He can extrapolate from its jump data where that will be and they can have ships ready to meet it. They can't afford to wait until the hive reaches Earth, otherwise it will be at full power by then.

The Daedalus makes it back to Atlantis and beams the team down to the control room. Woolsey tells them that the good news is they haven't detected any more hive ships headed toward Earth. Rodney says he suspected as much. The signal was too short and too weak. The hive likely only picked up on it because of their improved sensors. John asks for the bad news. Woolsey pulls up a subspace message from Colonel Ellis after the Apollo engaged the hive. The ambush did not go well. They did very little damage to the hive, and the Sun Tzu has been crippled, while the Apollo will not be able to make it to even the nearest stargate for at least a month. Meanwhile, the hive carried on its merry way after the battle, with no more ships to stand between it and Earth.

Rodney finds John in the city and they have both come to the conclusion that Atlantis itself is a ship that is capable of reaching Earth. The only thing stopping them from taking it is ZPMs, they would need to be fully powered with three of them. John agrees and indicates that he is working on getting them some. He goes to where Todd is being held and tells him that the plan didn't go as expected. Todd asks if John is going to hold him responsible, or if he has come to make good on his earlier threat. John tells Todd to tell them where to find the rest of his ZPMs and it will improve his situation. He convinces Todd it is in his best interest to help them and Todd agrees.

They send Major Lorne to go retrieve two more ZPMs and send them to Rodney to verify they are safe to install in the city. John heads for the chair room and Woolsey stops him. He tells John he won't be flying the city back to Earth. He will be gating to Earth ahead of them. Even with the ZPMs there is a chance the wraith will beat them to Earth and that means that the control chair there is their only defense. General O'Neill has requested that John be the one to man it. He and Woolsey shake hands farewell and wish each other luck. John arrives on Earth and is greeted by Sam.

Rodney and Radek get the ZPMs installed and the chair properly calibrated. Rodney says they are ready to go and asks who will be flying the city. Carson pipes up from the doorway that he'll be their pilot for this adventure. Rodney is surprised, but Carson says that apparently after John he has the best ability with the chair. Carson settles in and Woolsey orders the shield raised. He tells Carson to take them up and the city takes off.

On Earth John learns that Sam is in temporary command while Landry is setting something up in Washington. After that she'll be moving on to take command of their next Daedalus-class ship. It was going to be called the Phoenix but with the recent passing of General Hammond it has been rechristened to, well, the General Hammond. They share a moment of respect for him (in a very nice tribute to Don S. Davis, the actor who portrayed Hammond and who died not long before the episode was filmed). They enter the elevator and John asks if they are going to hop a transport to the McMurdo base. Sam tells him not exactly.

They get to the command center and Sam introduces John to Major Davis with Homeworld Security. They show John on the monitor that the hive has already arrived, even though they hadn't expected it for several weeks. Apparently the ZPM gave it more of a leg up than they had anticipated. For the moment it is just hanging out in orbit though, and they suspect that it is waiting until the ZPM is fully integrated into its systems before attacking. John says they can't let it get to that point and asks if they have any fighters. Davis says they have a squadron of F-302s on standby but they aren't equipped for attacking such a heavily fortified target. John asks how long to fit them with nukes. Davis answers that could take some doing but he gets to work on it. John asks if the fighter pilots have any experience fighting the wraith and Sam reminds him that is not why she brought him back to Earth, realizing he wants to lead the squad. He says he can sit in the chair and wait for an attack or he can take the fight to them and asks which she'd prefer.

In Atlantis Woolsey calls Teyla and Ronon to his office. He tells them they are almost to the edge of the galaxy and offers them one more chance to reconsider their involvement in the mission. There is time to drop them off if they wish it. He acknowledges that their priorities are not his or the rest of the expedition's and it isn't fair to ask them to join in a battle that isn't theirs. They thank him for the offer but tell him they are staying. They will fight with Atlantis.

John gets the F-302s ready to go but Sam and Davis arrive to tell him there's been a change of plans. They have detected a wave of darts headed for the planet. John asks if they know where the darts are headed and Davis says he thinks so. The transmission the wraith from the alternate reality sent included a warning about the planet's defenses, specifically the drone chair. In that reality, the chair was no longer in Antarctica, but had been moved to Area 51. He thinks the darts are heading there to take it out. John thinks this is an advantage, but Sam reveals that the chair was actually moved to Area 51 in this reality a month ago.

John leads the F-302s to try to intercept the darts before they get to Area 51 but the darts seriously outnumber them. John and his team put up as much of a fight as they can but they are overwhelmed and the darts pull off a kamikaze attack on the base. John's fighter is hit and he is able to prevent himself from crashing, but only just. Unfortunately, Area 51, and the control chair, are completely destroyed. John makes a split decision and changes his direction, heading to the upper atmosphere. He says he still has a nuke left so he's going to complete his mission. The hive has started moving toward Earth and John thinks if he powers down everything but life support once he's broken orbit he can get close enough that the hive won't detect him until it's too late. Sam reminds him that there is no way one nuke will take out the suped up hive and John agrees not from the outside. His plan is to go into the dart bay, get as far inside as he can, and detonate the nuke from within. Sam says she can't ask him to run a suicide mission and he says she doesn't have to, he's volunteering.

Atlantis gets to the edge of the Milky Way and then drops out of hyperspace. Woolsey demands to know why and Rodney says they aren't sure. While Rodney tries to figure out what happened, Woolsey tells Radek to recalibrate the gate so they can dial in to Earth and check in and apprise them of the situation.

Sam joins Davis in the command center and asks for a progress report. The hive is still moving toward the planet and has almost reached Earth orbit. It has begun scanning the planet. She asks if there has been word from John and Davis says not yet. His best estimates put John at twenty minutes out from intersecting with the hive's orbit. Walter arrives and tells Sam there's a problem. They've been trying to dial up the Alpha site to send some I.O.A. dignitaries off world until after the attack but they can't get a lock on the gate. He's tried other planets and has had similar results. The gate is offline.

Atlantis dials up the SGC and Woolsey tries to open up communications but he gets no answer. Amelia confirms that the comm system is working, they are just not getting a response. Rodney says he's getting an energy signature back through the wormhole and it's wraith. Woolsey is afraid that the wraith are already at the SGC but Rodney says the readings are consistent with what they would pick up in the middle of a hive. They realize that the wraith are following their standard operating procedure for a culling: dial up the gate once in orbit to keep their victims from dialing out. That means there is a gate on the hive ship. The Pegasus galaxy gate takes precedence in any wormholes whenever a Pegasus gate and a Milky Way gate are in that close proximity to each other. Which means they have an open gate that leads directly onto the attacking hive.

On the hive wraith stand guard around the open gate and several flash bangs come through. In Atlantis Lorne, Rodney, Teyla, and Ronon head through. Woolsey watches them go and receives confirmation from Lorne that they've cleared the gate and are heading further into the hive. He worries that he should have sent more marines but Radek assures him that a full-scale attack would have done little good. Woolsey admits that's probably true but he hates waiting in the middle of nowhere, unable to move to help if needed.

Radek says he has something he needs to talk to Woolsey about in that regard. He thinks he can do something about them being stranded. It's something Rodney has been working on for a while, an adaptation of Ancient technology. It was abandoned because of instability and power requirements, but Radek tells him about wormhole drive. It's like gate travel but without the gate. If it works it could have them at Earth in a matter of seconds. Of course, the calculations to implement it are crazy complicated and if they are even a little bit wrong they will be beyond screwed.

On the hive the team stops to assess. Teyla asks Rodney what he is thinking their best course should be. He says there are any number of systems they could sabotage but to take the hive out for good, their best bet is the ZPM. If they can create a fatal overload of the ZPM it will take the whole ship out in one shot. Of course the downside is that they likely won't have time to make it back to the gate once they start the overload process. Lorne chastises Rodney for not bringing this up earlier and Rodney says he's thinking on his feet, he didn't know it would be an issue earlier. Ronon says it doesn't matter. If they have a chance to destroy the ship, they're gonna take it no matter what. Teyla tells Rodney to lead the way.

John floats in space in his F-302 and deems the time appropriate to restart the ship and head for the hive.

On the hive the team runs into a group of wraith and gets into a fire-fight. Ronon and Rodney try to go around while Teyla and Lorne provide cover fire. They run into wraith that way too and Ronon fights them off, getting shot in the process. The bullet hits his lung and he starts to bleed out. He tells them to just go and Teyla says they are not leaving without him but it is too late, he dies. The wraith are still coming though so they are forced to leave his body behind.

John makes it into the hive and radios Sam in command. He tells her he made it inside but he doesn't have much time before the wraith shows up so he's arming the nuke. Lorne, Teyla, and Rodney, still pinned down under fire, pick up the transmission as well. Sam tries to talk John out of it but he tells her to tell Atlantis bye for him when they show up. Rodney breaks into the conversation and tells John they're on board the hive and to hold off on blowing them all up. John asks how they got on the ship and he says it's a long story but they are headed his way and will explain then. He says he can rig up a remote detonator for the nuke. John says that's all well and good but there's still no way off the ship and Rodney says that's where he's wrong.

Woolsey goes to the infirmary to let Jennifer know they are about to fire up the wormhole drive. If it works, he tells her, they could find themselves in the middle of a combat situation. She needs to make sure her staff is ready. She asks what if it doesn't work and he says the city will be instantly vaporized, so, yeah.

John meets up with the rest of the team, surprised but glad to see them. While Rodney gets to work on rigging up the nuke, John asks where Ronon is. Teyla can barely bring herself to tell John he's dead.

Of course, that is when we are treated to the sight of Ronon reviving elsewhere on the ship. The wraith recovered his body and patched him up then used their reverse-feeding to bring him back to life. The wraith says he has questions he wants answered.

Davis announces that the hive has completed its scan of the surface. Sam lists how the wraith will proceed to begin their attack.

The wraith asks Ronon how many humans are aboard his ship and is angered when Ronon refuses to answer. He moves to attack Ronon but is mowed down from behind by a stream of bullets. As he falls we see John and the others enter the room, glad to find Ronon alive. They radio Sam that they have Ronon and are moving to the gate. The wraith have powered up their weapons and she asks him how much time they need. He says five minutes to get there, five minutes to recalibrate the DHD. Davis doesn't think they will last ten minutes. John tells Rodney to give him the detonator. Rodney reluctantly does so and just as John is about to press the button Sam tells him to wait. She says they have detected another ship.

Atlantis arrives and Woolsey orders Carson to open fire. Sam tells John and crew what's happening and they resume their trip to the gate. Rodney gets to work on the DHD and the others hold off the wraith. Atlantis starts to take damage but Woolsey tells Carson to keep firing until the shield starts to collapse. Rodney gets the DHD calibrated and dials up the Alpha site. He and the team head through the gate, with John setting the detonator just before stepping through. The nuke goes off and the hive is destroyed.

Sam thanks Woosley for his help and he says they aren't out of the water yet. Atlantis has lost orbit and Carson is unable to stabilize the city, they are falling to Earth. Sam asks if they have enough shield left to survive reentry and Woolsey tells her they are about to find out. There is a tense silence in the command center as they wait for word from Atlantis. Woolsey gets in touch as soon as they are done with reentry and says that Carson is going to try to land them in the water so they should probably notify the necessary authorities.

Some time later John visits Ronon in the infirmary and asks how he's doing. He says he's fine, ready to get out of there. John tells him to take his time. The city is pretty banged up, they won't be going anywhere for a while. Ronon asks if John thinks they'll let really them take Atlantis back to Pegasus once it's fixed up. John promises they will make sure Ronon gets home and Ronon says Atlantis is his home. Amelia pops in and asks if she's interrupting. At a look from Ronon, John excuses himself. Ronon sits up a little straighter and she asks if he's up for taking a walk. She tells him there's something he needs to see.

John heads down to where Todd is being kept. Todd says all is well, the planet is saved, and it's all thanks to his ZPMs. John replies the question is what will happen next time. To which Todd asks, "is there going to be a next time?"

Amelia leads Ronon out to a balcony where they join Woolsey, Carson, Jennifer, Rodney, and Teyla at the rail. Woolsey welcomes Ronon to Earth and we see they are all looking at the Golden Gate bridge. Jennifer hastily remarks that no one can see them, right, and Woolsey confirms that they activated the cloak before landing. The entire area is under naval quarantine though. They all kind of settle in, enjoying the view, and John comes out to join them. The camera pans out as they all enjoy the view.


Man, I just get so sad whenever I watch this episode. The ending is so bittersweet. I mean, it is a perfect ending for the season, and it works as a series ender. But they did such a fantastic job setting the stage for a really interesting future that I regret we never got to see what came next. Clearly a big challenge for season six would have been to get Atlantis back to the Pegasus galaxy. Then there would likely have been fallout from its sudden and extended absence to deal with once that was accomplished, especially with the coalition slowly rising to power throughout the galaxy. Plus, there is the lingering question of what to do with Todd. Would he finally become a true ally and join forces with the city for good? Or would he double-cross them and sneak off the first chance he got?

I think what makes this most frustrating of all is that right after the season ended there was a script written for a direct-to-DVD movie that would have wrapped up these final loose ends and served as a more proper close to the series (in the same vein as The Ark of Truth did for SG-1.) Of course, before it could be filmed, the bottom dropped out of the DVD market and MGM declared bankruptcy, so, we never got that final story. Grr. Argh.

Although for anyone craving closure, I do highly recommend the Legacy series of tie-in novels from Fandemonium. They are a non-canon continuation from where the series proper leaves off, but they are very well done. I have read the first two, which are in print (as well as being available as ebooks), and I see the next two are available in ebook versions, so I've snagged those as well and will be reading them soon. The second book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger itself, if I remember correctly.

But back to the episode. As I said, it is a fantastic ending to the season, and there are a lot of absolutely spectacular moments packed into "Enemy at the Gate." I love that, like, everybody gets something to do in this episode. Hell, they even brought back Kavanagh. Plus, Lorne got to go with the team to storm the hive ship. That was spectacular.

We got another instance for Atlantis to be the Amazing Flying City!! Always a win, and seeing Carson's confidence in piloting it, given his initial hesitance with the control chair way back in "Rising," well, it was like coming full-circle.

I could have probably done without another attempt at a suicide mission for John. Okay, self-sacrifice is noble and all, but jeez. We get it John, you are totally willing to sacrifice yourself to save Earth and your team and the Pegasus galaxy. That doesn't mean you have to jump at the chance, however. You've already died once this season, even if it was in another reality. That's enough, thanks.

Speaking of deaths, oh man, Ronon. Ronon. That always hits me especially hard, even after the first viewing and knowing that he is only temporarily dead. But this time around, given how much more fond I've grown of him during this watch-through, man. There may have been tears. He just. Wow. I think that overall during this rewatch it was his character's growth that surprised me the most. I never didn't like him, but I now have a much stronger appreciation for him than I did before. I love that he goes from "I can't leave this galaxy until every last wraith is dead" in season three to flat out telling John that Atlantis, wherever it is, is his home in this episode. Like he told Woolsey, the people in Atlantis have been sacrificing themselves for a fight that wasn't theirs ever since they arrived in the galaxy. He has no problem returning the favor. It's a bonus to see that he and Amelia seem to have a growing relationship, too. He deserves some happiness.

Then there's that last scene, where everyone in on the balcony looking out at the bridge. It is just one of my favorite images from the whole series. The only things missing to make it perfect for me were Lorne and Radek.


Favorite Quotes

"I may have acquired a few more than I let on." (Todd)
"How many more?" (Woolsey)
"Let's not get caught up in unnecessary details." (Todd)
"I like details." (Woolsey)

"Well, things didn't go exactly according to plan." (John)
"So I heard. You intend to hold me responsible?" (Todd)
All I know is that everything went sideways, the way it always does when you're involved. You gonna tell me that's a coincidence?" (John)

"Am I supposed to be enticed by this offer?" (Todd)
"No. I'll probably kill you anyway. But don't forget this: this wraith betrayed you and got away with it. For no other reason, you might wanna do it out of pure spite." (John)
"You know how to talk to me, John Sheppard." (Todd)

"We've all grown so accustomed to having you here as part of the team, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that your priorities are not necessarily always the same as ours. You're being asked to fly to another galaxy, to take what might turn out to be the losing part in a battle that isn't yours." (Woolsey)
"Do you mean like everyone on this base has been doing for the last five years?" (Ronon)
"Thank you for your consideration, Mr. Woolsey, but I assure you it is not necessary." (Teyla)
"We're not going anywhere." (Ronon)
"Very well." (Woolsey)

"I've restored your life, human, and bound your wound." (Wraith)
"That was real nice of you." (Ronon)

"Hi. Heard you died and came back to life." (Amelia)
"Pretty much. There's uh...there's a few things I still need to to." (Ronon)

"You okay?" (Jennifer)
"I'm alive...and I've got you. What else would I need?" (Rodney)


...and that's it. That's the end of Stargate Atlantis. Stop back by on Monday for a final wrap-up and my thoughts on the series overall. Then, on Wednesday, I'll announce the next rewatch.

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