Friday, August 17, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Hot Zone"

The plot of ‘Hot Zone,” as you might guess, is that of a contagion infecting Atlantis. I am wary of such episodes because I often fear the miraculous dr. McCoy miracle cure conveniently in the nick of time when real outbreaks cannot be handled so easily. But ’Hot zone” surprises me, both in its resolution and the addition of chain of command drama that elevate the episode beyond another episode, another escape from widespread doom.

While investigating remote parts of the city for hurricane damage, two members of the team die violently from a mysterious ailment. The team is quarantined over fears the ailment might be the plague that wiped out the Ancients. Weir requests every else to stay put while medical teams sort things out, but when a member of the quarantined group flips out and escapes, Sheppard undermines Weir’s authority by ordering bates to unlock the door to the room in which he is stranded in order to recapture the guy.

The ailment turns out to be a nanotech virus created by a mysterious source to kill humans. Only humans without the Ancient gene can be killed by it. Because the nanotech is machinery, a large enough EMP will disable them all. Sheppard jury rigs a naquadah generator to overload in a nuclear explosion in orbit in order to do the trick. It works. The day is saved. Woo hoo! The solution is a big explosion, too, rather than a miraculous medical cure just in the nick of time. That is definitely a bonus.

Another bonus is the scene in which Rodney, who believes he was infected at the same time of another man who just died, is going to pass on himself goes into a panicked soliloquy about his only family member, advice for everyone else on how to maximize efficiency, and his legacy before realizing the Ancient gene will protect him. His pushed last words make for one of the best Rodney moments thus far.

The real drama of “hot Zone” is the rift between Sheppard and Weir. It has been well established Sheppard is the reckless sort who does what he thinks is best even if it means disobeying orders. Bates, ironically, has had a tough time respecting Sheppard’s command because of it, yet follows his orders here over weir’s objection. It is true that ultimately Sheppard’s breach of conduct lead to the cure, but that is a matter of hindsight 20/20. The fact is there is a tension growing between weir and Sheppard over his general nonchalance regarding her authority. The problem is jarring considering the two reaffirmed their loyalty to one another professionally in ”Home” and personally in “The Eye.” but our heroes do not always act heroically, do they?

The personal conflict between Sheppard and Weir as well as some good character moments from Rodney save “Hot zone” from my usual aversion to contagion needing immediate cures or else stories. I am all for the nuke solution, too, even though it is grossly simplistic. There is also the foreshadowing of another villain out there bent on exterminating humans. The series can always use a widening rogue’s gallery. I do not think "Hot Zone” is all that great, but it is a notch above general filler.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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