Stargate Atlantis

Season 5 Episode 5

Ghost in the Machine

2
Aired Friday 10:00 PM Aug 15, 2008 on Syfy
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Episode Fan Reviews (21)

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8.4
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318 votes
  • Damage control forces too much exposition

    6.0
    The fate of Elizabeth Weir has been a matter of contention for the fans of "Stargate Atlantis". Many consider Torri Higginson's exit from the series to be a massive loss (not to mention poorly handled), and this episode feels like it was twisted and tortured to provide closure. From the published interviews and reports, that's exactly what Higginson had wanted, but the producers were somewhat evasive regarding the future of the Weir sub-subplot. It's charitable to say that the comments from producer Joe Mallozzi have been, typically, a bit hostile and contradictory.

    What might have been a resurrection of Weir's plot thread was ultimately turned into "damage control". Was this the original direction intended for Weir's subplot? The writers of the "Stargate" franchise often toss out cliffhangers with little or no plan for how to resolve them, so I doubt there was much mapped out for Weir's future.

    The result is an episode that feels a bit cobbled together. Covering for Higginson's absence requires a mountain of exposition in the first half of the episode, including a segment where a computerized version of Weir dispenses a monotone lecture to bring the audience up to speed. It's one of the most obvious violations of "show, don't tell" storytelling in recent memory, and it definitely makes this episode feel like a bald attempt to repair self-inflicted wounds.

    Bringing back Fran as Weir's avatar was a clever notion. The actress is easy on the eyes, which softens the overall blow, and she manages to pull off a fair impression of Higginson's line delivery. It sells the idea that Weir is stuck in a manufactured body, which is at least possible within established continuity. In fact, the writers do a capable job of pulling together a reasonable enough story, given the challenges involved in making sense of Weir's return.

    That said, it was clear from the tone of the episode that Weir was going to be written out or given the slimmest possibility of a return. It was equally obvious that she would sacrifice herself for the sake of Team Atlantis. The process of getting to the sacrificial act was the only real source of tension in the episode, beyond the odd (and convenient) shifts in ability to control the city. The conflict was well constructed under the circumstances.

    I didn't hate this episode by any means, but like much of the fifth season, I find myself less than enthusiastic. The only real surprise so far has been the excellent character development for Richard Woolsey, who has been a far better commander than I might have dreamed. The writers are staying very true to his origins, yet he's showing a remarkable resilience. Hopefully the rest of the season will devote similar attention to the rest of the cast.
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