This is another one of those episodes that gets under my skin for all the wrong reasons. There was a distinct point to the episode: deliver unto the team at Atlantis an Ancient warship as a Wraith ship appears on the long-range sensors. All else is window dressing, and it leaves this episode in much the same position as “The Tower”. It exists to provide the characters with a source of arms and defense when needed; the rest is easily disposable.
At least this episode sets the new technology at the heart of the plot. The primary sin of “The Tower” was placing the drones and puddle-jumpers tangential to the main plot. The first season used to do episodes like this all the time, and they usually got it right: figure out what plot element you want to introduce, figure out a way for the characters to discover it, and work the plot around that mode of discovery.
The trick, though, is making sure that the plot itself is substantial enough to justify its own existence. “The Tower” failed in that respect, and to a lesser extent, the same issue comes up in this episode. It’s all too easy to dismiss everything but the introduction of the Ancient warship. Sure, the supervolcano is interesting enough, and it’s always fun to watch the cast deal with a crisis in consistent fashion, but it all comes across as rather disposable.
If there’s a nice twist in this episode, it’s the fact that McKay has the chance at the babe this time around, not Sheppard. I’m mildly amused by the fact that Sheppard is annoyed by this turn of events. At the same time, I find it hard to take it seriously when the babe in question was the prominent eye candy on the abysmal final season of “Andromeda”. It’s like making Tara Reid an archeologist. It breaks the willing suspension of disbelief in a matter of nanoseconds.
I also liked the fact that McKay’s character exploration this season was touched upon again, even if it wasn’t any sort of attempt at character development or advancement (something I continue to look for despite evidence that it rarely happens in this franchise). He knew damn well that the rest of the team was expecting him to work out a solution to the problem under pressure, and that’s exactly what happened. I like the self-awareness.
Perhaps the best way to sum up my thoughts on the episode is this: I had to keep myself from looking for something else to do. It just wasn’t holding my interest. Like too many episodes of “Atlantis” this season, I was forcing myself to pay attention and give it due time and consideration. And that’s not how I felt during the first season, or how I feel with “SG-1” or “BSG” this season.
My worry for the third season is that the producers won’t realize something is missing, and the same lack of originality will send this high-potential concept to an early grave. Looking back, I had similar feelings during the second season of “Enterprise”. Both series started out with troubled yet promising first seasons, followed by second seasons that seemed to promise more and deliver less. “Enterprise” shook things up for its third season, flawed as the attempt was…will “Atlantis” be able to bounce back more effectively?