In-brief: So, here we go agian.
In-depth: As per usual, the Stargate Atlantis season premiere leaked online earlier this week. Usually the result of DVD screener copies ending up on the Internet, most websites get a look at the new season a long time before it goes to air.
“Search and Rescue” follows on from last season’s cliff-hanger finale, “The Last Man”. Initially, the episode deals with the rescue of the building collapse survivors (Sheppard, McKay, Ronan and Lorne) before moving on to rescuing Teyla from Michael’s hive ship.
In truth, it’s a pretty standard affair. A few noteworthy scenes with good character moments, but more than a few scenes with the usual eye-roll-worthy Stargate clichÃ©s.
Atlantis has suffered, I feel, from rushed conclusions a lot over the last few years. The pacing of this episode seems like no exception. The tension is really alleviated half-way through the episode. Once the Teyla rescue plan is set in motion, there’s no real tension. We know it’s going to succeed, and there’s a lack of any decent twists and turns along the way. Suddenly, everything’s resolved, and everything’s perfect again. Maybe I’m just used to the realism of Battlestar Galactica, but: miraculously finding a Wraith dart, storing the rescue team in it, working out how to exit the Hive Ship and use the Wraith Dart’s built-in radio system to contact the Daedalus? Surely that’s just lazy writing.
So on that note, I’m disappointed that the writer’s aren’t learning from past insufficiencies. I’m also disappointed at the abruptness of another cast shakeup, with Carter being replaced by Woolsey. Yes, this could work well from a dramatic perspective; very well indeed. Do I have faith in the writers to realise that potential? No, I certainly don’t.
Robert Picardo’s Woolsey makes a tagged-on appearance in the final scene of the episode in the SGC, basically to replace Carter. That’ll probably be the last we see of her for a while. Shame. Woolsey may be the right man for the job in terms of the quality of the show, but he would also have been the right man a year ago. Why have Carter on the show other than to fulfil contract obligations? Sure, contracts are important, but surely the dramatic integrity of the show is paramount.
Michael too, seems like a cardboard villain. Though we’ve doubtlessly not seen the last of him despite the hive-ship explosion (and no doubt his wonder-escape will be explained feebly), he doesn’t yet have the complexity or menace to be a truly effective villain, and lacks the cool threat of evil nature. The character seems hollow, replacable. That’s certainly not down to any lack of acting ability on Connor Trinner’s part, rather, the material he is being given to work with seems rather lacklustre. Where you can cite Baal, Apophis or Anubis instantly as strong villains in Stargate SG-1, who steps up to the plate in Atlantis? Who meets that same standard? No one, so far. Michael needs a lot of work if he’s going to enter that Hall of Dastardly, Villainous Antagonists.
What did I like? Well, Teyla’s child-birth scene for one thing. Great moments between Teyla and Rodney here, and nice character development not often seen on Atlantis. A relief to watch. I also liked some of the visual effects, particularly that magnificent shot of the Daedalus destroying Michael’s hyperdrive as he launches into hyperspeed, resulting in a very pretty piece of effects work. On the other hand, some of the effects shots were pretty dire, including the CGI mist in the Wraith dart bay that Sheppard very noticeably tries to disperse despite it being non-existant.
It’s also worth noting the literally two-second cameo appearance from Rainbow Sun Francks as Aiden Ford, not seen for two years if my memory serves correctly. Completely bizarre, as Joe Mallozzi previously stated that Ford’s being on the exploding hive ship in season two “is a definite ending.” Maybe the character is dead, but it was a very effective piece of television. It made the scene jump right out, and I loved the fact that he was only there for two seconds and didn’t return again later on. That’s not a slight against the character, it just makes the scene more special.
McKay’s humour this week: still tired, but not overdone. Perhaps the writers have realised his gag-repertoire is wearing thin, and are at least not drawing attention to it now. McKay’s strongest scene this week was not a joke, but either the baby delivery or Carter’s goodbye, showing that David Hewlett’s serious acting ability is not being lost.
Honorable mention to Ronan’s character this week, who got some nice character moments with Sheppard in the collapsed building. I’m very relieved the pair did not spend all episode down there, as it would have gotten dull very quickly. Instead, they spent just a few scenes, all of which were quite effective. Ronan asks Sheppard, “Would you leave me here if I was in your position?”. Instead of the predictable Sheppard chin-steel and eye narrow of realisation, he flatly replies “Yes.” It’s a nice moment. Ronan’s growled threat to McKay to look after Teyla also stood out nicely. Ronan remains, in my mind, a good dynamic, and far more three-dimensional than many critics give him credit for. A muscular fighting machine with a tragic history, but who has grown to care strongly again is a nice angle to have on the show.
Overall, it’s an average episode. Little really stands out, or is going to live in my long-term memory of the show (little has since Season One, to be quite honest). And on top of that, I’m still concerned by the overall direction of the series. It doesn’t fill me with hope. Michael remains somewhat of a cardboard villain, and if he is to be the main nemesis for the season, I can’t help but feel anxious. It’s just not going to be enough. Hopefully this new cast-shake up will settle fairly quickly, and hopefully the writers can craft some original, believable and challenging stories. Hopefully, that is. Am I actually hopeful of this coming into fruition? Unfortunately, no.
Grade: 55% (C+)