Sunday, September 16, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Inferno"

“Inferno” happily breaks the tradition of lackluster, budget saving penultimate episodes by offering an exciting, special effects laden story which accentuates everyone of the Atlantis crew’s talents so they can working together as a cohesive team. Style slightly edges out substance, but it is an entertaining episode regardless.

The AR-1 team answers a distress call from the people of Taranis. They have been using Ancient technology which maintains a shield around their settlement powered by geothermal energy. They have been using it continually since the Wraith awakened, but the shield is beginning to fail. It is also causing Earth tremors. Rodney determines that using the shield constantly has awakened an underground volcano which threatens to erupt. When it does, ash will spew into the atmosphere. All life will be wiped out.

The leadership of Taranis is suspicious the evacuation plan is a ruse so Atlantis can take an Aurora class Ancient ship the Taranis have been unable to get working. The dispute takes a backseat once lava flow destroys the state gate, thereby leaving some Atlantis crew stuck on Taranis and vice versa. The story becomes less one of paranoid suspicion than a techno babble solution of utilizing the volcano’s eruption to propel the non-operational Ancient ship into orbit with all the evacuees who agreed to leave their homes.

The preceding plot summary simplifies things, but there are a lot of fascinating character moments within. Rodney has a flustering crush on the scientist he is working alongside. Weir an the Taranis chancellor spar with each other over suspicions, then come to empathize with each other over the pressures of leadership in a survival situation. Ronon and Teyla continue to build their relationship when it appears when it appears their going back for more evacuees has prevented them from escaping the planet. Beckett gets back to his healing ways after developing a biological weapon in the previous episode.

As good as those moments are, the special effects steal the show. There are segments of the volcano erupting an its aftermath interspersed throughout the character scenes. In particular, the destruction of the stargate as it is engulfed by lava is impressed, though probably not scientifically accurate. Hollywood has a death grip on the idea objects sink in lava rather than melt. Stargate have proven tough, however, so maybe the scene is done that way for purposeful drama. The final eruption and aftermath is done splendidly as well.

Foreshadowing quibble: there is a lone Wraith hive ship on its way to Atlantis. I guess immediately it is Michael in charge, but none of out heroes do. Is that not strange?

“Inferno” breaks the mold of smaller, more subdued penultimate episodes. Usually, they are smaller to make the season finale seem larger in scope, so one wonders if the next episode has some big surprises in store to make ’Inferno” look small in comparison. I enjoy the episode. The special effects are more impressive than the story that accompanies them, but the combination is enough to make “Inferno” one of the better experiences of the second season’s back ten.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

As all good Parrotheads know, this is necessary under the circumstances:

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