“Tabula Rasa,” roughly translated from Latin to “blank slate,” is a Rodney-centric episode that is an odd cross between Outbreak and Memento. a contagion infecting Atlantis is nothing new, but the addition of the illness causing memory loss which turns the infected crew againt one another adds an extra zing. Sorta.
Rodney’s botanist girlfriend returns from the mainland with a new plant and an infectious disease which rapidly spreads throughout the city. Atlantis is quarantined after everyone is infected but Ronon and Teyla. The disease causes flu like symptoms that get worse until total memory loss and eventually death. The illness is caused by a common childhood ailment both Teyla and Ronon had, but from which they recovere and now have an immunity. They know the cure is found rom a plant on the mainland, but have a difficult time getting and distributing the cure because of everyone’s memory loss.
The story is split between the first twelve hours after the contagion’s discovery, which is filmed normally, and the present in which an amnesiac Rodney as to find Teyla even though he has no idea why or who she is, filmed in a washed out dream-like style. Complicating matters is Lorne having rounded up everyone infected in his own quarantine and locked away Teyla under suspicion she has released a biological weapon on Atlantis. Meanwhile, Ronon has taken an amnesiac Sheppard to the mainland in order to retrieve the plant, which has its own difficulties when Sheppard becomes violently suspicious of the mysterious to him Ronon.
Matters are cleared up by clues left from before our heroes had completely lost their memories. The contagion is cured easily by sending plants spores through the ventilation system. Everyone is saved but for a lone red shirt who had to die for dramatic effect.
“Tabula Rasa” is bottle show filler. It certainly is not a bad episode, but there is not much to elevate it, either. That is unless you are particularly touched by Rodney’s budding romance with Dr. Katie Brown, for whom he shows an unusually strong for him emotional connection. Keller gets a lot of screen time, too, but without being the one to perform the “Bones” McCoy miracle cure in a few hours trick. That is refreshing, but one kind of wonders if it ought not have happened this once to establish her as a miracle working, medical genius. If nothing else, establishing Keller as a genius would explain how someone so young got such a lofty job as sawbones on Atlantis. Anyway, the time shifts can be difficult to keep straight, but that is a minor quibble. “Tabula Rasa’ is just kind of…there. Dissecting it further seems unfair.
Rating: ** (out of 5)