Continuing our trip down SGA memory lane with…


Three hanky alert!  Executive Producer Brad Wright delivers one of the most talked-about episodes of the show’s fifth and final season. Described as a “reverse Flowers for Algernon”, it charts the emotional and intellectual erosion of the brilliant Rodney McKay after he is infected with a seemingly incurable disease.  It’s an episode highlighted by terrific performances, touching scenes, and a surprisingly gruesome surgery scene.

During the episode’s prep, one of the fan sites reported that its title had undergone a couple of changes.  It had initially been called “amort” before being changed to “The Shrine of Talus” before, ultimately, settling on “The Shrine”.  Amort?  The fan site based this assumption on the fact that, under the heading of episode title in one of the art department hand-outs, was the word “amort”.  Oh!  Amort!  Usually, when sets are built for a given episode, their cost comes out of that episode’s budget. However, in cases where large sets are built that are used more than once (say, the village set or the Daedalus set or even a cave set that is used multiple times a season), their cost is amortized over the course of several episodes.  Amort!  Short for amortized!

Still, there was a slight alteration after the original episode title, The Shrine of Talus, didn’t clear.  Why didn’t clear?  No idea.  Presumably, the name was already taken.  Somewhere out there a Mr. Shrine Talus continues to live in relative obscurity.

(Photo @MGM Television)
The submerged gate sequence made use of a piece of the gate, the green screen, and a water tank to convey that “we’re flooded!” feel (Photo @MGM Television)
(Photo @MGM Television)
EP and episode writer Brad Wright on set (Photo @MGM Television)
(Photo @MGM Television)
More green screen to convey the size and scope of the surrounding city of Atlantis (Photo @MGM Television)
Rock formations.
It’s the little things that made the show special – like the work that went into designing these rock formations for the grotto surgery.
Ancient carved tablet - detail.  "The ancient lettering should be chipped, worn and faded to the point that it is not readable."
Ancient carved tablet – detail. “The ancient lettering should be chipped, worn and faded to the point that it is not readable.”
The grotto.  A mix of construction, set dec, greens, SFX mist and VFX green screen.
The grotto. A mix of construction, set dec, greens, SFX mist and VFX green screen.
(Photo @MGM Television)
Gruesome stuff.  Rodney undergoes cranial surgery.  (Photo @MGM Television)
The surgery and parasite escape - prosthetics and visual effects.
The surgery and parasite escape – prosthetics and visual effects.

35 thoughts on “January 18, 2013: Continuing our trip down Stargate Atlantis Memory lane! The Shrine!

  1. I love this episode! Must go, baby’s very fussy tonight and Lauren’s freaking out a bit. 🙂 Have a great weekend, everyone!

  2. Hey Joe

    Loved The Shrine. Beautiful episode all ’round. And guest staring the wonderful Kate Hewlett.


  3. What an amazing episode. David Hewlett was beyond his usual excellent self – what a hard job to play that role without overplaying it. Just perfect. There were so many highlights to it, it’s hard to mention them all, and such great character moments. I particularly like the scene with John and Rodney sitting outside the city (which looked magnificent in the background) discussing Rodney’s illness and John not wanting to say goodbye. An extremely well done job for everyone involved.

    I will admit that with my experience with elderly parents the last couple of years that some of the scenes were a little hard, so close to home. But it made them all the more relevant to me, really.

    Were the outdoor scenes around Lynn Canyon? Those woods looked really familiar!

  4. I haven’t watched this episode for awhile, but I liked it. Then again, I always enjoyed the David/Kate Hewlett dynamic.

    @gforce and For the love of Beckett:

    Thanks for the thoughts and prayers! Again it is very much appreciated.


    Fernando is beautiful. Love the way he crossed his paws.

    Our husky, Lucy, also crosses her front paws like that…we call it “the queen of Sheba pose”.

  5. Joe how are your Canadian 20 dollar bills, just read where they put the wrong leaf on the new ones??!!?
    ~The Shrine was a great episode, David really did an excellent job of making me believe. All the team made me feel the emotion. So sad, and so happy. They are all very talented people who did a wonderful job. Thanks Brad.~~miss the show~~

  6. *runs in…smooches Joey on the cheeks – the ones on his face – and runs out*


  7. @Airelle: The controversy about the $20 is that it appears the maple leaves on the bill are from the Norway Maple, not the native Canadian Sugar Maple. The Norwegian Maple is apparently even an invasive non-native species so it’s doubly annoying. The Bank of Canada explanation is that the bills are a “stylized” combination of different maple leaf shapes. The whole thing is a tempest in a teapot in my opinion.

  8. I have a cat on my shoulder. She is my most recent adoptee and she has decided that I am her warm place. It makes it a little hard to type, since I am forced to use one hand. She and the other two members of my cat clan have trained me well. They can tell me when it’s feeding time with just a look.

    Anyway, I too loved The Shrine. David Hewlett was outstanding in this episode. Whoever wrote it was also outstanding. If I remember correctly, you guys won an award for this episode, didn’t you?

    Speaking of awards, Joe, do you have a theory about why science fiction does not seem to get very many awards from television or movie awards shows?


  9. G’day all

    Is it wrong to have McKay die in the episode.
    Do not get me wrong David is brilliant, but McKay, bleah.

    @ Deni – hope bubba settles down.
    @ Das – ?????…fess up.

  10. First some questions for Mark Nicholson then I have to watch The Shrine then I’ll be back for comments on that…much later.

    1. Okay, Mark Nicholson, just answer the question. Did you make the mini Destiny as seen here on Joe’s blog on Aug. 28, 2010?

    That model was the coolest thing ever! If you made it:
    a. how long did it take?
    b. what was it used for?
    c. was it your proudest moment?

    2. What was the funnest item you made, and why?

    3. Do you ever hang out on set just to see your art in use?

    4. Do you get to keep anything you make?

    5. What have you made that got the most attention from the cast or crew?

    6. What was the craziest thing you ever were asked to make?

    7. How do you feel about seeing your work pictured on Joe’s blog?

    8. Where are you working now?

    Thanks Mark! I could go on and on. Feel free to skip any question someone has already asked. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questioins!

  11. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this episode (minus the last minute or so, of course)! And I’d have to say that the Beer on the Pier scene is my favorite scene of the entire franchise. Along with Rodney calling for John when he was scared and alone over anyone else it did my McSheppy heart good. He didn’t call for Keller, not a chance. A truly iconic moment for the series because that’s what it really came down to, the bond between the characters/The Team. McKay and Sheppard are probably my favorite pair of leads ever to grace a television screen, they should have gone on to do Road shows like Hope and Crosby, they had that much chemistry. And John’s fond look when thinking back on the moment was heartbreakingly sweet. So fun that Joe F was able to call on his beer connections for the Pier Scene, that’s a favorite story at cons (from Chucknician). David H did such a fantastic job as did everyone else and I was really happy to see Jeannie back on Atlantis. Thanks to everyone involved in this, just brilliant. A+Squee!

  12. Loved The Shrine, especially the pier scene; I also remember Keller’s horror when Sheppard proposed that she do brain surgery with a standard power drill!

    Mark Nicholson – are you AKA confracto? I’ve enjoyed your comments here!
    What was the most used/re-used/re-adapted piece of equipment you made? And, were you involved with those great suits worn by the Pegasus Asgard, which I believe later re-appeared as Ancient EVA suits on the Destiny?

  13. @ Deni, Janet, and Ponytail – Can’t I just give Joey smooches for smooches sake? Unless Joe is the electric company, or the phone company, or a bank offering me 0% financing for 18 months on balance transfers, I have received nothing in the mail from Mr. Mallozzi. Unless this itchy rash… hmmmm… 😕

    No, no. I’m pretty sure it’s just winter dry skin. Or poison ivy. I think. Yeah, pretty sure. Maybe.

    Anyhoo…my smooches were simply in appreciation for Joe’s bloggy bits that are always a joy to come home to, especially after enjoying a giant batch of nachos grande and three glasses of wine….not to mention the incredible amount of eye candy down at the local watering hole where hubby and I supped. 😀 Sadly, however, my playful enthusiasm (which often occurs at the end of the work week when the weight of responsibility lifts off my shoulders as the much anticipated – albeit brief – respite otherwise known as the weekend approacheth) soon gave way to sweet slumber at the relatively premature hour of 10:30 pm.

    The result? I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 4:21 am!! ARRRGGGHH!! I tried sleeping to an old movie. No go. I tried sleeping to an exceptionally good episode of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. No go…in fact, it only served to wake me up even more. And not even the proven somniferous elixir – Felis catus, otherwise known as BOO! – curled up at my side could coax me to sleep.

    So, you know what that means? Mid-morning nap, here I come! 😀 Well…not yet, but in about four hours, that pillow and I are going to have some serious snuggle time! 🙂


  14. Deni: It’s all good. Good luck with all your babies!

    for the love of Beckett: You could be right about the sugar thing. (I hope not 😉 ) I’ve talked to people that recommend a gluten free diet or cutting out foods from the nightshade family. I guess I’ll play it by ear. Auto immune diseases are “bat shit crazy”. I don’t think the doctors understand them entirely. I take it as a good sign that I’m not diagnosed yet (not severe enough). What helps me most, is to keep moving but pace myself. Those couple of days without swimming/karate (the ice storm) were awful. I understand what “stiff as a board” really means.

    Das: Loved your Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe. I added the Chambord and served the cake with organic raspberries. Very rich! I’ll have to freeze it in sections because we only had a small sliver.
    For dinner, I made “Fish en Papillote” stuffed with spinach/lemon/herbs. Then served a side of avocado, sautéed mushrooms and a baked potato. All assembled ahead of time so I could visit, simple to prepare and gluten free. So yummy. Thanks again for the cake recipe!

    Sparrow_hawk: I hope you are recovering fast and feeling back to normal soon!

    The Shine was wonderful! It covered every emotion. Hewlett shone in this episode as did everyone else. Kudos to the prop department. The props, the writing, the acting…it all came together! Loved, Loved, Loved it!

    G-day all!

  15. The Shrine! 🙂 Possibly one of the best eps of SGA! I loved it from beginning to end. And…I have to say that David Hewlett is among best actors in the business! His protrayal of someone going through dementia was just jaw-dropping. I was in tears through each scene because David was so convincing. I’m home health aide, I personally have witnessed patients go through dementia. It is one the most painful thing to witness. Specially if you have gotten to know then person real well. Makes it much harder. They go from someone you know well, into someone who doesn’t recognize you from the day before. What’s even more heartbreaking is when the dementia patient don’t recognize their family or son or daughter or spouse. It’s very sad.

  16. Tam Dixon: If you do have an auto immune problem a lot of them can be helped with biologics. On the other hand, some say Humira causes Raynaud’s syndrome.

    Humira is the first biologic I tried for Ankylosing Spondylitis. Although it helped a little bit, Humira gave me splitting headaches, first I’ve really had. They got so bad I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t read, couldn’t watch TV, I often found myself standing in a room wondering why I went in. Then I found out my eyesight in my left eye changed drastically. The specialist thought I was nuts. Since then I’ve seen a lot of people online who complained about headaches after starting Humira.

    Unfortunately the biologics are very expensive.

    Anyways, I’m glad to hear it’s not too bad. Good luck!

  17. @ Tam Dixon – Glad you liked the cake! I think it’s a very easy recipe to experiment with. How much Chambord did you use, and did you cut back on the water to do so?


  18. Hi Joe!

    I’ve been MIA for a long time, but had to stop by and share my love for The Shrine. I remember it first aired right after we found out SGA was being canceled and SGU was on its way. I was mad, not ragey, but mad in a sad, disappointing, “NOOOOOO!” kinda way.

    Then I saw The Shrine. And all, or at least almost all, was forgiven. I was tearing up from the first scene til the end. Great acting by the cast. Very touching story. Kate Hewlett was great. I think knowing she is actually David’s sister always added a realism or extra layer of emotion for me when they worked together.

    Thanks for bringing back sweet memories!

    AV eddy

  19. Mike from Canada: Thanks for the advice. Humira=bad. Some of those dr.s, if they don’t read it in a book-it can’t be real. I’ve had Raynaud’s for a few years now but lately, it’s been interfering with my life. It’s hard to have manual dexterity when you can’t feel your fingers. People look at me weird for wearing gloves constantly. I have three brothers and have developed a thick skin to ridicule 😉 .
    If you have Ankylosing Spondylitis, I should be asking how YOU feel. I hope you are doing ok? That condition sounds painful.

    Mr. M.,: Does Akemi still want to wear a mask? With this flu going around, it’s starting to sound like a great idea to mask up! Did you get your flu shot?

    Das: No, I didn’t cut back on the water and used about 1 Tablespoon of Chambord. Thankfully, my friend came back and took half of the cake to the hotel with her today. She is staying with a bunch of teenage girls, so it won’t last long.

  20. quoting Patricia Stewart-Bertrand;
    Speaking of awards, Joe, do you have a theory about why science fiction does not seem to get very many awards from television or movie awards shows?

    i don’t know about him, but i have a theory.
    the people in charge of the nominations can’t seem to get past the spaceships & alien make-up to see the stories and actors beyond all of that. sure sci-fi will get nominations for make-up, costumes & special effects but that’s about it. (maybe an acting award now and then) the sole exception (that i recall) is the nomination for star trek: the next generation for a best drama emmy it’s last year on the air, but i maintain that was little more than a token nomination because it more or less started the whole first-run syndication thing. (i could be wrong about that last part.)
    fantasy suffers from the same problem as sci-fi. the fact that the last lord of the rings movie won all of those oscars comes down to success IMHO. if those films hadn’t made as much money as they did, return of the king probably would’ve gotten a handful of nominations & would have won most, if not all of those categories and had just been another movie with nice special effects, costumes & make-up to win some awards. instead it’s the only one of three movies to win eleven oscars and the only one to win an ward for every category it was nominated in.

    sorry for the rant.

  21. The Shrine has to be my favorite non-Beckett “character moment” episode from Atlantis. Brad Wright wrote such a deeply moving script. Could only watch it, speechless, in tears. David Hewlett slipped into that story like a hand into a glove. Had either of them had experience with a friend or family member suffering memory loss? Would love to see them work together again some day.

    Every cast member’s contribution was perfect. Again, the cast’s off-camera chemistry illuminated this end-of-days drama for McKay. They were able to really cry because they did really care. Can’t say enough how much I admire Kate Hewlett! Have loved every episode she was in, and her relationship with her screen brother was poignant and touching. Enjoyed the fact that when danger involved not science, but dealing with life issues, it was Teyla’s and Ronan’s knowledge that carried the day. Superb! 😥 🙂

  22. Sparrow_hawk — Hope you are mending quickly with great results and as litle pain as possible. Use this as an excuse to read, or catch up on favorite DVDs. 🙂

    Tam Dixon — I think Mike from Canada is right about drugs causing symptoms. I checked MedlinePlus, the public version of the online database doctors use (Medline). Raynaud’s symptoms worsen because of any medicine that affects/decreases blood flow, including for migraines, colds & allergies, cancer, birth control, and beta blockers. These are vaso-constricters. Could your migraine meds be affecting your hands?

    If you were to ask your doctor about meds and techniques that are vaso-dilators (increase the blood flow), that might help your symptoms. Also, there are ways to do that without medicine. (Like wearing your gloves.) A former co-worker’s migraine doc told him to hold his hands in a basin of hot water for a few minutes, as soon as a migraine started. The hot/very warm water dilates the blood vessels. My co-worker said that cut his migraines from 3 days to just 1 day. It worked for him, and it has worked for mine, though mine are not the serious kind. Other things you can do include drinking a BIG mug of plain hot water (that makes pain medicine work much faster–a plus), and using an electric blanket or heating pad for an hour at a time, etc.

    Had to LOL at “bat shit crazy.” Yes, exactly! I’ve had all the quirks that don’t go according to textbook and drive the docs nuts. One of the students wanted to reassure me that I was not crazy. She showed me a medical study one day that discovered that red hair is caused — I kid you not — by a mutant gene. Said gene is also responsible for outside-the-norm medical things, like high response to pain, need for higher doses of anesthesia, etc. So I’m a mutant, but not loco. Yay! 😀

    The best the docs could come up with is “some kind of auto-immune thing.” It later turned out to be a jawbone infection that was corrected by surgery. Thank the good Lord! But in the long years in between, I had to play medical detective and study general health and what affects this organic machine/body we live in. (And no, it’s not a Wraith hive!) 🙂

    Bottom line with any mystery ailment or auto-immune thing:

    1. Boost your immune system every way you can. Get rid of any thing or practice that weakens it. (My thing is not getting enough sleep.)

    2. Cut down overall inflammation in the body. Avoid sugar (paralyzes immune system’s storm troopers / white blood cells) and acid. Keep your body’s “ph” toward the alkaline end of the spectrum.

    3. Find a doctor who listens to you and is a top internist or specialist (if you need one).

    I spent too many years feeling like doo-doo and having labels thrown at me. What finally helped was understanding how the body works, and then finding common-sense explanations for what truly was going on (jawbone infection). It feels good to feel normal again! Now I just need to get more sleep and more exercise. 😀

  23. The Shrine is definitely one of my favorite episodes. Great story and wonderful acting from all the group, especially David. I too will grumble about the lack of awards for this episode.

  24. The first time around, I found The Shrine a little depressing for me. It is wonderfully written and a very tight story. But Rodney losing his memory and near death was very sad for me. As gforce mentioned, when you are around the elderly, you see that a lot and it is sad. But it has a good ending and we get Rodney back. In rewatching it, I guess the waters they were in were loaded with those star shaped parasites. When they were sitting on top of the gate, I saw one go floating by. Poor Rodney must have had one go up his nose, or in his ear, or maybe he swallowed one. Yikkes! I really liked the way the story was told and Rodney’s sister making a visit. Kate Hewlett is always great to have around. And I liked their trip all together to the Shrine. It was kinda peaceful there. The surgery was cool not gruesome! A very well written episode.

  25. Tam Dixon I’m fine, thanks. Actually, life is really good. I’d rather be alive and hurting then dead and pain free. 😉

  26. The Shrine was one of those very emotional stories that had us crying. I think it was about this time that Jeff’s father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or he had already been diagnosed and had taken a turn for the worse (and Jeff had gone up to see him). We both were crying. We both talked about the impact of that on the family surrounding that person and would you want to have just 24 hours to speak to them to say needed words, heal hurts, etc., if that meant you were to die immediately thereafter, which then gets into a whole discussion about physician-assisted suicide and reconciling that with our faith, etc. They were fantastic discussions.

    Dr. Sanjay Gupta was just on Dr. Oz the other day and he was talking having to do brain surgery in the field over in Afghanistan or Iraq — an injured soldier needed attending and someone asked him to turn off his journalist and help save the man from a bullet in his skull. He talked about only having whatever was out in the field — in this case a Black and Decker drill to perform delicate brain surgery so I was actually thinking about The Shrine earlier in the week.

    The shot on top of the Stargate with them surrounded by water was very cool indeed.

    I’ll try to come up with questions by Tuesday. Dog sitting this weekend and Patrick is home from school tomorrow for MLK Day.

  27. One of the series best episodes! Truly fantastic!
    …Query though: Did the Wraith set up such a huge presence there BECAUSE they knew the Shrine was there or was it just happenstance? (This has always nagged me since the episode first premiered.)

  28. I hardly ever read the weekend posts during the weekend because I just usually read them at work on Mondays when it slows down(aka now) but I have to comment on The Shrine.

    I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot already, but I absolutely LOVED this episode. It definitely had me tearing up at many points throughout the episode, especially the end. All the vignettes with Keller recording Rodney were awesome, especially the transition into them with that one orchestrated note. So well done, it borders on perfect.

    This is one of those instances that proves you can do sci-fi AND heavy character centered drama and pull it off extremely well(I’m looking at you, SGU naysayers). There are so many deep, touching moments in this episode it’s hard to single one out, but the part where Rodney tells Keller he loves her, and has for some time now, is brilliant. Not for any other reason than it’s definitely a moment the VAST majority of people can identify with, myself included. I’m sure most people have wanted to tell the person they secretly love how they feel point blank, but have never had the courage to do it. David delivers that line so well, it straddles the line between matter-of-fact and confession beautifully.

    Oh, I could go on and on about this episode, but suffice it to say, it’s one of my top 5 favorite SGA episodes. (To be honest, I really don’t have an actual list, but if I did, this one would be up there. Probably right next to Harmony, too.)

    Brad Wright writes some seriously heavy stuff, doesn’t he?

  29. I loved all the episodes with Kate Hewlett as she does add a spark and throws her brother off the rails as only a sister can do. The Shrine makes for wet hankies… Great acting by all especially David. He has more facets than he has been given the opportunity to show. But then, the whole cast and crew have been nothing if not professional and extremely talented. Class act by all – I’d like to see them all come back.

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