Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"Phantoms"

“Phantoms” is a nifty action piece with a few nods to “found footage” horror films. While the episode offers our first look at Sheppard’s black mark in his Afghanistan service record, there is not much monumental otherwise. It is a solid, entertaining action movie that allows Beckett to get more welcome field experience. For a regular cast member, Paul McGillon appears awfully irregularly.

When a team exploring a supposedly uninhabited planet fails to repot back in time, AR-1 and Beckett are sent to retrieve them. The recovery team discovers the corpses of a number of Genii who apparently killed each other month prior, several corpses from the missing team along with found video footage from the missing team requesting a rescue by Prometheus, and a bunker which houses a working Wraith generator. Sheppard decides to father up the dead and head back to Atlantis to investigate thins later, but the stargate has been booby trapped to explode. Now figuring that shutting off the Wraith device is their only way to call for help, they head back to the bunker.

Our heroes then begin feeling the effects of the Wraith device the generator is powering. It creates hallucinations those affected cannot distinguish from reality. Ronon suddenly believes he is chasing a Wraith through the forest. Sheppard believes he is back in Afghanistan saving a downed helicopter pilot from the Taliban. In reality, Ronon is hunting Sheppard, who believes the wounded Teyla is his air Force buddy and Ronon is a Taliban. Teyla is unaffected by the hallucination, presumably because of her Wraith gene, but still caught in the middle of the seppard as Wraith/Ronon as Taliban battle. Rodney imagines the Wraith evice is about to exploe. The creepiest of them all is Beckett. He continues to work on a wounded marine with the assistance of another Marine who is already dead. The sequence is short, but incredibly macabre.

Teyla save everyone by convincing Sheppard to hide her from Ronon/Taliban in the bunker where se can turn the device off. All parties return to normal, but not before Sheppard shoots Ronon and Rodney. Superficially, of course. He is in a esperate survival situation, but still does not shoot to kill. That is what happens when main cast members are the target.

The quick nod to Stargate SG-1 . The found footage from the missing team shows they believed each other to be Kill warriors. They were calling upon Prometheus for a rescue. They must have fought against Anubis’ forces at some point. When Sheppard encounters the crazed commanding officer, he believes Sheppard to be a Kull and uses a grenade as a suicide weapon in the hopes of taking out Sheppard/Kull as well in another gruesome scene.

I have to go back to that superficial wounds for main character bit for a moment. The phenomena is particularly blatant here. The Dial Home Device is rigged by the missing team to explode upon dialing. Sheppard dials the stargate, but is able to avoid being wouned in either the explosion or by flying shrapnel. But the two marines standing further away or both wounded, one fatally. When the CO blows himself up, Sheppard avoids any injury as well even though he can only jump a few feet away from the explosion with no cover to protect himself. It is also difficult to believe he would not shoot to kill Taliban soldiers stalking him when he is certain they would not return the courtesy. I understand the Taliban are actually Ronon an Rodney and they are main characters alon with Sheppard, so they cannot be permanently maimed or killed, but sometimes the situations they are put in stretch credibility when they escape from them relatively unscathed, especially wen the minor guest stars alongside them are picke off easily.

“Phantoms” is a notch above your average filler episode. The action is engaging. The hallucinations are a definite highlight. More specifically, it is neat how scenes switch from different characters’ perspective. We are in Afghanistan with Sheppard about to shoot a Taliban, then it is back to the forest where Ronon is about to kill a Wraith and then to Teyla who realizes Sheppard and Ronon are about to mistakenly shoot each other. The quick cuts are highly effective. They are well done especially considering how confusing the technique can be if done too quickly. Our heroes are impossibly lucky to escape with only the minor injuries they suffer, but overlook that and "Phantoms” is a good, mini-action films.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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