We open with an Atlantis team that finds a duplicated Elizabeth Weir and learns they're duplicates living in a duplicate Atlantis so that "good" replicators can learn what it means to be human in order to ascend like the Ancients. Elizabeth Weir was killed (off stage months earlier) and so was her duplicate along with the rest of her duplicate team. The duplicate team learned very easily they were duplicates. They give the "real" team a Replicator black box that lets them track all Replicator Aurora-class warships (no evolution of new vessel types in the last ten thousand years?).
There's potential here to for a recurring plotline with Elizabeth learning what it means to be a duplicate amid the original Atlantis Team, but the Replicators show up to obliterate everyone. Elizabeth and the other duplicates don't have to struggle with a decision to sacrifice themselves as they let the "real" team escape. And when some Replicators find their crashed jumper, it's not Elizabeth who has the last line, but duplicate Sheppherd: "We fooled you (the Replicators). And we almost fooled ourselves."
This episode closes with tons of Replicator ship icons blipping all over a schematic of the Pegasus Galaxy and Rodney saying, "Oh, crap."
Carter was not only absent again, but the "real" Atlantis team functioned fine without her and neglected to even mention she wasn't around because she was, say, back on Earth making a report to the IOA (a poor man's malevolent NID).
"Mortal Coil, Part 1" leaves us with an impending doom to look forward to. (Good news). This episode has shades of robot duplicate SG 1 (Season 1 "Tin Man" & Season 4 "Double Jeopardy") and the Season 8 Amanda Carter replicant storyline. The bad news is that this episode isn't up to par with those it borrowed ideas from. I am a fan of SG 1 and Atlantis. I love the main storyline of the Pegasus Replicators being sicced on the Wraith and how the stakes have been raised by having the Replicators destroy defenseless humans to get at our favorite life-sucking two-legged parasites.
BUT, IMHO, many of the episodes are being produced in a flat, by the numbers, lifeless way in which there's no tension within the scenes, the dialogue is on the nose and expository, and there's little or no internal character struggle and external antagonist opposition. "Mortal Coil, Part 1" is the flatest of this new trend in Atlantis. I believe the writers of this episode were responsible for a number of equally flat SG 1 episodes over the last 10 years. AND Season 4 has been hampered by the questionable (in my view) killing off of Elizabeth Weir. Joe Flanigan's desire to keep Weir in the series and have the Atlantis team try to save her has been overridden by the showrunners to the detriment of the series.
Amanda Tapping was brought in to supposedly add a new character dynamic (blatantly bring over SG 1 fans more like): lead tactical missions and help Rodney and Zelenka pull off scientific miracles. Except when she sporadically appears from filming the two SG 1 films "Continuum" and "Ark of Truth," she acts exactly like Weir. If we're going to see Carter in charge, why not let her BE Carter? The one SG 1 member who wouldn't already duplicate the skill sets of the established Atlantis team AND would contribute to the mission is Daniel Jackson: resident expert on the Ancients, former Ascended human, archaeologist, and a living conscience.
Sadly, the producers seem to be ignoring the fans and aren't properly executing a mistaken change in the series' direction. I feel the series premiere was great. The first half of the first season was a shakedown. The second half of the first season through the end of the second season was the series' longest run of consistent development and drama. Season 3 was uneven, but finished with an exclamation point. Season 4 seems to be playing safe. With SG 1 cancelled and a new series still in development, the renewal of Atlantis for a 5th season is supposed to be great news. But if Season 4 keeps going the way it has been, I wonder how many people will stick around for next year?
I'm sad to see the show being sent stumbling in its new direction. Boris