The other day, I was back in familiar territory, at The Bridge Studios, the former home of Stargate: SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, and Stargate: Universe, present home of Once Upon A Time, and Brightlight Pictures the company producing the SF miniseries Paul and I are writing.  I dropped by to get notes on the script, toss around some ideas for the second draft, and pick up a book that was sent to my old office.  It was nice to see some familiar faces, like Bill the security guard –

Halt! Who goes there?!

 And the gang in Admin –

– who were wondering when we’d be coming back.  Well, soon.  Hopefully.

I suppose it’s only appropriate that the visit to my old stomping ground coincides with my little trip down memory lane, reflecting back on Stargate: Atlantis’s first season.

HOT ZONE (113)

Following three wide open, all-out, kick-ass episodes, we shift gears to something a little more…self-contained.  When members of the science team investigating unexplored sections of the city fall victim to a frightening contagion, Atlantis enacts security protocols, placing itself under lockdown.  It’s another great episode for McKay that lays the groundwork for future stories – first and foremost the introduction of the Asurans, the mysterious creators of the nano-virus, but also Rodney’s sister Jeannie (who will end up making a few guest appearances in the coming seasons).

Again, what really stands out for me in this episode is less the threat faced than the reactions of our heroes – specifically, John Sheppard.  In the opening two-parter, it is suggested that he’s a bit of a rebel, a loose cannon who has problems with authority.  In later episodes he shows great courage and determination in the face of danger and yet, at the same time, also demonstrates a frustratingly cavalier attitude toward his commander, Weir.  In Underground, he goes over her head by making defacto deals with the Genii.  And in this episode, he openly challenges her authority by ordering Sgt. Bates to disregard her orders. Ultimately, Sheppard gets his way and his actions end up making an already bad situation worse when his intervention allows the nano virus to spread to the mess hall and endanger the lives of everyone there. In the end, he puts HIS life on the line and his heroic actions save the day, but he is surprisingly unrepentant in his post-plague discussion with Weir.

WEIR: But you are not the one who decides what is and what is not a military situation. Now, both General O’Neill and Colonel Sumner warned me that you don’t respect the proper chain of command.

SHEPPARD: Well, sometimes I see a situation a little different than …

WEIR: No. Listen to me, John. Now, you endangered yourself and the lives of many others.

SHEPPARD: Because I thought it was the best course of action to take — and, by the way, I saved your ass.

WEIR: I know you did — but you have to trust me.


WEIR: Do you?

Sheppard is let off the hook (more or less) because he saves the day, but how different would his conversation with Weir have been had any of the individuals in that mess hall died?    Should the legitimacy of one’s actions be contingent on their results?  Please discuss.




My least favorite episode of the show’s five year run, probably the franchise’s seventeen season run.  The story plods along at an unnervingly leisurely pace and the characters act – well – surprisingly out of character.  Gone is the adorably curmudgeony McKay we’ve grown to know over the first half of the season, replaced by a miserable, humorless imposter.  Our charming anti-hero, Sheppard, meanwhile, is transformed into a lovestruck schoolboy, picnicking on Atlantis and making the moves on a woman he barely knows.  And when McKay calls him on it, Sheppard responds by almost throwing down with him.  Dude, this is Rodney.  Remember Rodney?  The guy who saved your life two episodes back?  The bulk of the episode is dedicated to entertaining the mysterious Chaya while McKay attempts to figure her out.  Eventually, he learns the truth in a reveal that is at once strange and underwhelming.  “Yep, I’m an Ancient.”  (Cue shoulder shrug).    “Let’s have cosmic intercourse.”

The episode is bookended by action sequences that, while exciting, don’t really make a whole lot of sense upon closer scrutiny.  Why was the jumper attacked by darts in the opening? There was mention of a possible hive ship nearby but we never see it.  And why is the planet attacked again at the end?  Is it merely an enormous coincidence that the wraith just happened upon Proculus during the events of this episode (and while Chaya was away?)?  Or have the wraith been demonstrating staggering patience by staking out the planet for generations, just waiting for an opportunity to strike?

Things bounce back in a BIG way in the next episode, Carl Binder’s brilliant Before I Sleep.

A reminder to cast your vote for your favorite Stargate mid-season two-parter for a chance to win some signed scripts.  To ensure a fairer distribution of votes, I’ll be picking a random voter from the winning mid-season two-parter AND a random voter from one of the other nominated two-parters.

Polls close next Tuesday night!

28 thoughts on “June 14, 2012: Familiar territory! Days of Stargate Past, Atlantis! Hot Zone! Sanctuary!

  1. Ref the please discuss. the actions are still illegitimate, despite any benefit or success gained by them. Insubrodination is insubordination. Modern soldiers are indeed taught to think for themselves, to be able to function in the event of the loss of leadership. This was not the situation present however. Only in the event of an unlawful order may a soldier refuse, and then have to demonstrate, convincingly, why the order was unlawful. In Sheppard’s case, he seems to have a low learning curve. Based on later episodes, it was his actions, which lead to the death of others as well as loss of equipment, that put him in Antartica in the first place. Yet he continues to bull forward in the belief of his own infallability. Weir could have squashed him fairly simply. Instead of acknowleging Sheppard’s heroics, she should have slammed him down. Something to the effect of “you barely fixed what you broke in the first place, by doing something that at least a half dozen others were capable of doing. And should have been tasked with the job, since your position here should put you beyond such Captain Kirk antics. The only thing you didn’t do was come out of the puddlejumper with a torn uniform shirt.” While he earned his promotion in Siege, here is is clearly undermining civilian authority. History is replete with examples as to why military juntas are as bad as, if not worse than, even the most corrupt civilian regimes. I wonder in how many alternate universes “Vegas” Sheppard ended up broken and disgraced.
    Fun topics, great pics. Thanks for the discussion.

  2. That’s awesome. I felt bad, but I just couldn’t vote for the leader. Storm is great.. just not my personal face… 😀

  3. Hot Zone was very good! I love it when a team, especially led by Dr. McKay, would explore the city. Talk about haunted!! You never knew what they would find. (I wished SGU would have done more ship exploration.) This was a great story and mystery. When Sheppard was trying to make Bates unlock his door, I was like this … 😯 watching Sheppard say “unlock it”, Weir say “no”, Sheppard say “do it!”, Weir say “don’t touch that button!”, Sheppard say, “Bates!”, back and forth, back and forth. Pretty gutsy. Loved Weir’s facial expression during that. Great episode! And, I guess this is the first time we see Teyla sparring with (beating up on) Sheppard. It made me smile thinking that later it would be Teyla and Ronon kicking Sheppard’s butt while sparring together.

    At first I didn’t remember ever seeing Sanctuary. Then the Ancient appeared and I remembered her pretty (unusual) dress. Both dresses she wore was the only thing I remember about this episode. Sorry but have to agree with you Joe. But not “Hmmmm”. More like Zzzzzzzzz. But at least Sheppard had a good time!

  4. Hot Zone – yeah, Sheppard had a habit of trusting his own judgment more than anyone else’s, including his superiors’. His worst move, though, was not wearing his radio, whereby he would have been called in earlier and the whole lockdown problem wouldn’t have come up. Not his best moment!

    Sanctuary – Y’know, John Sheppard was a constant flirt, but it seemed to be part of the public “rogue flyboy” image he presented. We saw him get shot down or brushed off as often/more often than he got anywhere, no matter what McKay supposed. I felt Chaya was playing him just as much as he was her; she admitted she wanted him as soon as she saw him. (Genetic attraction?)

  5. I am so happy to hear that Sanctuary isn’t one of your favs. While I wouldn’t put it on the bottom of the list, I agree with all your points and I always feel a bit of embarrassment for all the characters every time I rewatch. The only one in character seems to be Chaya (given the Ancients’ tendency towards snobby attitudes who tend to find attractive human men to take under their wing (I’m looking at you, Daniel Jackson)).

    Are we allowed to vote more than once in the poll?

    Glad you got to see some of the old crew/staff!

  6. Heya Joe, Of course you’ve piqued my interest with this item.
    ” …who were wondering when we’d be coming back. Well, soon. Hopefully…”
    Sounds like a potential WOO HOO item.
    Now to wait and wait to discover – what secrets lurk in the minds of …oops wrong night. sign

  7. LOL, Joe if you thought Sanctuary was bad you obviously forgot about Season 5’s Brainstorm which is, hand’s down, the worst episode produced during the entire franchise.( Sorry MG, since you wrote some of the best episodes of Stargate ever, but that one was a stinker beyond compare!) Sanctuary was OK, but you are right, some OOC moments. I thought Sheppard was within his rights in Hot Zone, he was looking at a tactical situation, something Weir was unprepared for. It did undermine her authority, which was not good for her leadership and I did wish the conflict between civilian and military had been exploited more, would have made for some nice drama. I do agree with what he did though and I can see why he gave his former CO’s headaches. I felt very sorry for Bates, being stuck in the middle like that.

  8. I have a love/hate affair with episodes that make me feel uncomfortable. Hot Zone was one of these. However, that very emotion tells me how well something was written. If it can make me squirm – like that conversation with Weir and Sheppard, then it has done its objective. That’s what I loved about SGA. The characters weren’t one dimensional. They had depth. As for Sanctuary, it wasn’t the worst. I would go with Brain Storm on that. Sorry…but the Rodney, Jennifer relationship never worked for me.

  9. I had to go with SGU’s Justice/Space two-parter. While many of the other Stargate two-parters did not disappoint, they generally had that ‘regular tv’ feel that it was going to be tough, but in the end, our heroes were going to come out unscathed. I can remember watching the end of Justice and thinking, “Holly crap, did he just leave Rush to die?” I also think one of my favorite Rush lines is in Justice. It is at the trial and Camille is questing Rush and his final response is, “Well, that would be pure speculation and I’m having none of it.” Such a great line delivered in such a great way. Sigh … I miss SGU.

  10. I voted for The Storm/The Eye. It’s Die Hard: Atlantis. There are other Stargate two-parters I liked more, but those were not mid-season breaks.

  11. I have to admit I couldn’t remember Sanctuary and maybe due to some hidden Freudian reason, I didn’t copy that DVD of season 1 to my android tablet so can’t rewatch it while traveling…which is perhaps for the best?

    Since this is the first time Joe has posted an episode synopsis that I could not recall watching, I have to agree with Ponytail, maybe I fell asleep? 😉

    Looking at the writer who came up with this episode, I see this was the only one he did for the Stargate franchise but he had a number of Outer Limits, and Ray Bradbury theater credits under his belt, so perhaps he was best suited for the “one-off” type of script writing?

  12. I do love The Storm/The Eye, but when it comes to a cross-show, head-to-head beatdown of which mid-season 2-parter was the best, it absolutely has to be Justice/Space. (It’s funny…before I read this post, I was in fact just thinking about Justice!) It took what we thought we know about characters and turned everything on its head. While Justice mostly went along in an okay fashion, interesting but not really terribly great (the Wray-Chloe Law&Order sequence was probably the most interesting and competent thing Chloe ever did on the show, which isn’t saying much), things just rapidly start going downhill–in the best of ways!–once Wray has control and Rush fiddles with the chair. Then Franklin, then Eli’s discovery, then the planet–and, really, despite everything else in Justice, it all comes down to Young vs Rush planetside. All of the realization that Rush, sneaky genius Machiavellian bastard that we all love, understands everyone around him SO WELL that he could take this random event–Spencer’s suicide–and turn it into a way for him to be allowed to fiddle with the chair. We marvel at his brilliance and his callousness. And Young, the weary leader who doesn’t want to lead, explodes into violence, their whole relationship heading toward this moment. An awesome part is that he’s still willing to let Rush back on the ship–the “are we done?” as he holds Rush up as they both bleed–but Rush’s…whatever, his pride, ego, a bit of Glaswegian anger? makes him ruin his only chance, spitting a promise at Young’s face and sealing his fate. We have Young and Eli, the power plays, and Eli isn’t independent enough to know what to do about all of this, the only one who suspects, who knows.

    And we are left, for months on end, with the image of Rush waking up on an alien world, completely alone. I admit, I went absolutely mad that night. It was a fabulous cliffhanger. Naturally, we all knew that Rush had to get back somehow, being a main character and certainly the most interesting. The real question was HOW.

    So then Space. The fandom pondered and hemmed and hawed, all agreeing that, well, clearly Rush gets the crashed ship to work and makes his way back, somehow. NOPE. RED HERRING ALL AROUND. (And the fact that we see that planet and that ship later on (AND THE GLASSES!) is an amazing touch.) The aliens, the everything done with the stones and Young, the little telepathic links and the mind probing for information, the discovery of Rush (and later in another episode when he has the hallucination about being trapped in a container filling with water, ugh, I love this show), the moment at the end between Young and Rush, how they now act around each other, what they decide to do, how all of this impacts how they will react during the rest of the season. And then the setup of Divided…

    Can you tell I adored SGU? As far as the episodes discussed, Hot Zone is just really good for the characters, to develop them and also their relationships with each other. And, as already brought up, Sanctuary is a terrible stinker.

  13. I’m with the person that said Sheppard was right to follow his knowledge and experience over Weir’s. In this case he was wrong, but 99% of the time in this kind of situation he’d be right. Seeing as Weir started out in the SGC as a would be political puppet that nobody expected to be able to do the job in the first place (not that Sheppard knew that but maybe he could tell or sense she didn’t have much of this kind of experience from being around her), it’s amazing she was picked to lead the expedition in the first place. She was a kind leader, but she wasn’t really prepared for the job. Hammond and Landry were generals that commanded the kind of respect, and mainly trust, that Sheppard should have been giving Weir at this point. He was wrong not to, technically, but he was right too. Hammond and Landry (Jack too) had risen through the ranks and had the knowledge and experience that I think Sheppard would have heeded. The only other person that did have experience with making tactical decisions and leading people in life and death situations was Teyla, and she sided with Weir, IIRC. So that to me was what made him not paying attention to Weir pretty stupid. It’s still a nice episode though.

  14. Sheppard already was in the position of having his lack of submission to hierarchical authority result in a bad scenario. That’s why he wouldn’t have been in Atlantis at all but for the gene. They have no choice but to do business with him. Other than installing a flogging post in Atlantis, there were no new hooks in sight to let him off of–no trust to breach, no optional leeway to withhold.

    Weir did all she could do, built a relationship with him despite it all.


    The holes in Sanctuary wouldn’t be so bad if they were presented as a mystery and addressed later.


    I like your solution to balance the voting.

  15. @Bailey

    Speaking of bad episodes, I would say Emancipation(SG1 Season 1 ep 4) was one of the worst in the francise. I honestly don’t see anything redeeming in this episode and everything about it is just dire.

    In a way, I think the general idea would of been best used later on in the series, when the audience has more time to get to know Carter and her strengths and weaknesses, as well as having a general idea of how things are going in the Milky Way Galaxy.

    But yeah this was one episode that needed discarding and thrown onto a pile for the writers to debate and discuss later on before being re written.

  16. Hot Zone….mmmm. I remember that one. I remember how controversial it was at the time. It was the classic military C.O. verses civilian base commander. It’s tough one because I’m sure given his experience in the field…John Sheppard felt his tactic was the right one. But…on the other hand…Elizabeth Weir was the base commander at the time which gives her the final say on what action takes place. John should’ve talked it out with Elizabeth first, and may be they could’ve come up with conclusion that would benefit both their ideas…and save lives in the process.

  17. I agree with Bailey on the general awfulness of Brainstorm, but I don’t agree it’s the worst – I reserve that spot for Inquisition (great idea made irredeemable in execution). Anyway, Sanctuary is just…it’s a picture of why I wish SG (all of them) avoided attempts at romance – I’m fine with romance in my scifi, I like these people and want to see them happily with someone, but the production just can’t seem to write this stuff above the level of awkwardly squirming 15 year olds. I don’t understand why, and it’s near universal across the franchise.

    Hot Zone – totally agree that Shepard was wrong. Now here’s an example of an episode making me uncomfortable for the right reasons! But I would have loved to see him endure some consequences for the insubordination.

  18. What I liked about that show was that there really isn’t a correct answer to the Sheppard/Weir conflict. John’s decision seems completely justified, in retrospect, but what if it hadn’t turned out so well? Conversely, it’s never wise to be a complete “yes man”, if all evidence points to action in a contrary direction. It’s an interesting question, to which there is probably never will be a clear answer.

    I kind of agree about Sanctuary. I actually forgot about that episode until you mentioned it here!

  19. I wanted to take the time to voice something that always bothered me about The Long Goodbye. Elizabeth is overtaken by conscience of the overly aged female warrior which is okay since it happened unintentionally, but then for Sheppard to volunteer to be the host to the other conscience on the word of the female that it is her husband–well–that just screams–WRONG!!!! first you have the Atlantis commander and then the Military Leader, both privvy to secret access codes lending themselves to host unknown entities–right after the whole incident with Caldwell being taken over by a Go’auld!!!!! Totally irresponsible move!!! That said–i loved the episode!! Stargate Atlantis Rocks–miss it desperately!!

  20. I miss Atlantis so much I have 2 complete 5 seasomn sets sp o can have one near each TV. since SciFi became SyFy all I rber watch is the SG 1 and Atlantis reruns. Eureka is ok but thee is no real style to the channel anymore . Reruns and marathons of old network shoews. Gag me

  21. Darn read my post I think my fingers were high on nail polish remover they did not hit the keys I told them to.

  22. I have to agree with the others. Brain Storm was just painful to watch. McKay/Keller makes me cringe.

    Love Storm/The Eye, though. Tense and wonderful.

  23. I don’t think many of the ladies will admit it, but we overlooked many plot issues with Sanctuary because Flanigan is just hot.

  24. Hi I was wondering is stargate universe is coming back because I watch every show a I was mad when it was cancelled

  25. Hi I was wondering if stargate universe is coming back because I became very mad when it was cancelled

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