Monday, August 06, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Rising"

Here we are, folks. Moving on to the Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis. I have seen even fewer Sga episodes before beginning these reviews than SG-1 when I began those, so this is going to be an almost completely new experience for me. One hopes it is as much an engrossing discovery as SG-1 was. So far, so good.

I have several points to make before diving in. One, I have seen Stargate Atlantis spelled both with and without a colon between the two words. I am going to leave out the colon because an unofficial fan site count conducted by yours truly measures the majority of fans do. More often than not, I will abbreviate the title SGA, so it will not matter a heck of a lot. Two, I had a habit of referring to most SG-1 characters by their first names unless it felt wrong. For example, I could not refer to Gen. Hammond a Gorge. The characters in SGA are going to be all over the place. It does not feel right to call John Sheppard by his first name, but it does feel right to use Rodney McKay’s first name. I do not know why, but I am going with it. You will get used to it. Finally, “Riding” was aired as a two hour movie, so that is how I am reviewing it rather than splitting it into two episodes like in syndication. So if you are a stickler for such things, the tag number will forever be one behind the actually episode number. But ve not skipped anything!

Now that all that is settled, the episode begins with SGC personnel exploring the ancient weapon facility in Antarctica shortly after the defeat of Anubis. Daniel discovers a gate address he believes to finally be the location of Atlantis. It is in the Pegasus galaxy, so it requires the eighth chevron and enormous power. Elizabeth Weir, who was placed in charge by Jack, convinces him to green light a one way expedition there and let her have his personal pilot, John Sheppard, a disgraced pilot who disobeyed orders in Afghanistan in order to save his comrades, because he has the gene to control Ancient technology.

The expedition travels to Atlantis, and are cut off from Earth for what maybe forever. Their arrival causes a power drain which is affecting the shield protecting the submerged city from the surrounding ocean. Marshall Sumner, the colonel in charge, leads an expedition to a nearby planet to scout out a place to relocate the expedition before the shields fail. They run into local people who tell them of an old enemy called the Wraith that feed on humans. Naturally, the Wraith are alerted to their presence and attack, kidnapping many of the military personnel and villagers.

Sheppard leads the survivors back to Atlantis. The problem of the shields failing is easily solved when the city automatically rises to the surface in an impressive special effects sequence. No one the bends for some reason. I assume there is some Ancient pseudoscience explanation for that. With that out of the way, Sheppard convinces weir to allow him to conduct a rescue operation. She is reluctant but agrees. Sheppard is a reckless guy who does not appear to take things too seriously, but he has his own moral code about the honorable thing to do. Leaving people behind, even if rescuing them would be a suicide mission or might lead the wraith to Atlantis, is too immoral to consider.

The rescue attempt involves some of the best special effects in “Rising.” the initial battle with the Wraith in which all the prisoners were kidnapped in the first place is impressive enough, but now we have a stargate floating in space, ship to ship battles, a well designed Wraith hive, and not the least of which, the Wraith themselves. Though I will confess the female wraith looks too much like late ’80’s era Marilyn Manson. Overall, I am impressed.

Sheppard quickly establishes himself as the one man army heroic type. He runs off to rescue Sumner upon hearing his screams from Marilyn Manson sucking away his life force. Seeing sumner rapidly age, he decides to shoot him as a merciful act, but he does not get to do that before Sumner reveals earth has six billion humans. A veritable feast for the Wraith. Our heroes escape before an army of Wraith awaken and narrowly make it back to Atlantis in one piece. Weir appoints Sheppard as the commanding officer of the military forces. I imagine he keeps it to himself he is the one who killed his commanding officer, even though it was a mercy killing.

It suits me fine. Sumner is played by Robert Patrick. I know he is not a regular on the series, so something has to happen to him. His character is such a jerk I was thrilled to see him pass on painfully, especially after he revealed Earth’s existence to the Wraith. John dogett would never do such a thing. Of course, Doggett never believed in the aliens he encountered, either, so maybe there is no comparison.

“Rising” is quite an exciting, fast paced start to the series. It is far more a Sheppard-centric story than I was expecting from what is supposed to be a large ensemble cast. The powers that be assume we already know Weir and Rodney from SG-1, so there is no ned to bog the story down with introductions for them. I do not feel lost, so it works at least for me. I understand the Sheppard/weir shippers out number the Sheppard/Teyla shippers even though saving the latter is a big part of his motivation for undertaking the rescue mission, so what is up with that, Gaters?

I am going to award ’rising” four stars because it does everything a pilot is supposed to do and more. A pilot has to set up everything without boring the audience with too muh exposition and offer some action to keep things interesting. “Rising” lays it all out there for us without slowing down. Hitting the ground ruinning is not always the easiest thing to do, but "Rising” handles the task admirably.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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