Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stargate Atlantis Reviews: Whispers and The Queen

Whispers (507): Not awful, but not great. I was disappointed that the characters fell prey to horror movie cliches, like splitting up, wandering off at the peak of danger, and refusing to follow orders when sternly told to stay inside and lock the door. Also, there was a Pegasus human civilian whom they met upon arrival, he disappeared for a while, showed up later, and then died horribly. How did he survive in the interim? I think it would've been funny if the tough solder, Sgt. Dusty Wells (Mr. Entity called her "Rambette"), developed a crush on Dr. Beckett. Imagine him squirming uncomfortably as she hit on him. Heh.

The episode's biggest flaw was that it was dull.

I have one small gripe: I find it completely out of character that Sheppard didn't know he had all-female team. :P My first thought was that Sheppard would've noticed all those attractive women in one place. But the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me that Sheppard was ignorant about his teams, in general. First, given the high (government) classification of the Stargate program, there "should" be only a small pool of people to draw from, so it's not like there'd be a lot of unfamiliar faces. Second, given the various threats that Atlantis faces, it's important to know who both is and ISN'T supposed to be there; unfamiliar faces, teams, etc., should raise red flags. Ahh well...

The Queen (508): Let me put it to you this way. Mr. Entity, who is much more tolerant of less-than-great episodes than I am, said several times, "This is dumb."

This episode had numerous problems.

1. Dr. Keller, a relatively new arrival who's hardly had any screen time and background, has suddenly developed something (gene therapy, I assume?) to prevent the Wraith from feeding on humans? I realize that she used Michael's data, and Keller is very intelligent, but it still seems like this happened awfully quickly.

2. Telling Todd about this gene therapy was STUPID. Sure, Todd has teamed up with them in the past, but those instances provided clear benefits to both sides. What the Atlantis team was proposing would fundamentally alter the Wraith's way of life, and it was something that the Wraith had very little incentive to want. I recall that The Team's reasoning was that humans were a dwindling resource, so if the Wraith could feed on "normal" food, there wouldn't be competition for resources and hence would be less warring among the tribes. However, given that a previous Wraith tribe wanted to use Beckett's retrovirus to turn rival Wraiths into humans to feed upon, a safe assumption would be that, had Todd agreed to The Team's plan, his goal would be the same: neuter other Wraiths so that "his" Wraiths could feed upon them. The Team has been down this moral road before: It's one thing to kill Wraith, it's another thing to turn them into humans and allow them to die. Making an offer like this to a Wraith, without considering what would happen if he turned on them, was very irresponsible. And not only that, the last time they did something like this, it didn't work out so well. Plus, what Wraith would be stupid enough to make the first move and trust the other Wraith NOT to turn on him?

3. Take a drink every time Ronon says he thinks this is a bad idea! Take a drink every time Ronon threatens to kill Todd! Ronon's lines sounded like they were automatically generated.

4. Todd got an audience with The Primary, the Supreme Queen...just like that? No appointment making, no two week wait, no bribing of the secretary...?

5. Teyla seemed shocked that Todd changed the deal on her by murdering The Primary and forcing her (Teyla) to take the blame. I can't believe The Team didn't prepare for Todd to change the terms of the deal. I realize it was a lot more "dramatic" for Teyla to be caught off guard and put into a life-or-death situation, but it was extremely cliched and unoriginal. It showed that The Team hardly thought through the mission: they transformed Teyla physically and expected her to persuade The Primary that being transformed into humans was a good idea, just like that? It would've been much more interesting if they had essentially prepared some scenarios (plans A, B, C, D, E...), rehearsed them several times, thought through several incentives to pitch to the primary...and then seen all the planning thrown out the window by The Primary's hive -- not Todd -- doing something completely unexpected, forcing Todd and Teyla to work together to come up with a way out. Having Todd in so much control over the situation just emphasized what a horribly bad idea this was. The writers not only depicted The Team as being idiots, but the writers also presented a predictable, cookie-cutter situation.

6. Todd should have given Teyla a crash course on Wraith social behavior. Again, as I said above, they needed several well-rehearsed scenarios.

7. So, The Team made their way to the hive ship that Teyla and Todd were on, and they got captured. And Teyla went to talk to them in their prison cells. And The Primary's old second-in-command, who immediately distrusted Teyla (naturally), overheard Teyla talking to The Team. Wow. I. Did. Not. See. That. Coming.

8. Finally, at the end, Todd was left in control of the hive as the new "Primary"'s (Teyla's) proxy, he informed Teyla that he wasn't going to implement Atlantis' plan, and he sent Teyla on her way. Wow, I'm sure Todd will NEVER think of using all this power for his own gain, and especially to strike at Atlantis! Especially since he knows about their sooper seekrit plan!

Again, this whole thing was just stupid. The Team went through with an extremely risky play, allied with someone who is extremely intelligent, dangerous, and obviously has his own agenda, and they didn't leave behind any reins with which to control him. Nice going, writers! Your characters are officially idiots.

This episode made me think of the excellent TNG episode Face of the Enemy, how that the TNG episode was interesting and poignant, but that this Atlantis episode was embarrassing.

In some ways, what this comes down to, for me, is that I've never thought of the Wraith as good villains, and I'm getting tired of seeing them. They're one of those races that constantly leaves me wondering how they became spacefaring. They're too one-dimensional. Sure, we've learned more bits and pieces about them over time (e.g. they can give back life/strength to humans, just as they can take it). But they have no personality, no culture. All they do is fight and feed. They're what would be leftover from Klingons if you sucked away all of their personality.

The biggest thing about the Wraith which makes them so uninteresting to me is that they can never be allied with. Ever. They see humans the way that (non-vegetarian) humans see cattle. With SG-1, we had the Goa'uld as somewhat two-dimensional villains, but they were clever and interesting. Then we eventually had the Tok'Ra, who showed us that there could be a mutually beneficial relationship between humans and symbiotes. In other words, simply having a symbiote didn't make one evil, it was what you DID with it that made you evil. How can we ever say the same of the Wraith?

Wouldn't the Wraith be more interesting if we found out that the Wraith we've been shown were exceptions to "normal" Wraith? What if the Wraith we've seen came about through evolutionary necessity? Perhaps they got cut off from "normal" Wraith, and they had to evolve a way to feed on humans to survive? Or what if "normal" Wraith "evolved" socially and came to see feeding on humans as sinful, similar to how humans sometimes decide that eating animals is wrong and choose to be vegetarians? And then, what if those Wraith saw "our" Wraith as abominations? That would be somewhat interesting. From what we've seen in 5 years of Atlantis, all Wraith across the entire galaxy are exactly the same. This is disappointing.

1 comment:

Bookwyrme said...

You're right about Sheppard and the "all girl" team. I'd thought about it being unlikely that he didn't know, I hadn't thought about it being dangerous not to.

If Sheppard & co. don't know who is supposed to be there, the latest group of Wraith-worshipers, Replicators, what-have-you, can just put together a team and waltz on in "Oh hi! You didn't know about us? We're new. Now, while you look in the other direction, we'll just take your city, ok?"