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Ode to Stargate Atlantis

I have recently become obsessed with the Sci-Fi channel's Stargate: Atlantis, which my objective mind must concede is arguably one of the most mediocre shows ever produced. However, like A Knight's Tale or Titan A.E., I find it strangely watchable. I believe this may be largely because, like many geek cult hits, SGA lends itself easily to constructing elaborate imaginary torrid love affairs between the primarily male main cast.

Last weekend I watched all the season 2 episodes of the series in rapid succession (do you think my life is empty? How about when I tell you that I also read slash fiction and made LJ icons? Top THAT) and although the show sort of sucks, something keeps me coming back enthusiastically for more.

Since heaven knows I don't care about their little spaceship plans and politics (all of which seem patently ridiculous), it must be the characters. I really love most of them, although they tend not to develop beyond their initial quirks established in the first few episodes. But perhaps that's where the fun comes in: you really have to work to find character development; it's become a game, a contest: me vs. the show.


Major/Colonel John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan): The swaggering flyboy that's supposed, I think, to be the main character (although McKay has since kind of highjacked that--see below). Really there's not much to him except that he's So Cool, but he delivers enough funny quips, and makes amusing enough facial expressions, that he's fun to watch. (Seriously, his look of incredulity rivals that of River in Serenity.) He is also, I believe, considered a rather pretty gentleman. He's not exactly my type, but I am not wholly insensible to the charms of his hazel eyes.

Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett): The bitchy, self-centered astrophysicist. Many fans seem to regard him as a somewhat tragic figure, always pining away after various dude co-workers. It's true that he has more chemistry with every guy in Atlantis than any male-female pairing the Powers that Be tentatively attempt to set up; but I think this might just be because he is the show's Good Actor (see: Stewart, Patrick; Picardo, Robert; Irons, Jeremy). And because the women are boring. Also, he's basically the only character the writers really seem to have a handle on, so a lot of the time they just make every episode about him, every scene about his reaction. I don't mind--I love McKay, so I'm happy to watch Stargate: Rodney.

(Slash watch: conventional fan wisdom is that McKay and Sheppard are doing it. I'm not sure I would have come up with that on my own--they're fun, bickery friends on the show, but it all seems pretty platonic, honestly. Still, I desperately WISH they were attracted to each other, because it would make them both more interesting. [Not that relationship necessarily equals character development, but it would be nice to see some depth of emotion from John, particularly directed at such an unlikely target as his geekiest, most annoying friend.] Thus, like so many before me, I have declared their mutual affection to be one of my own personal truths. Their love is pure, dammit.)

Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion): Shortly after I began watching the show I declared adoration for Beckett for no real reason other than that he has a Scottish accent; but there's more to love: he's also unceasingly sweet and gentle, which is refreshing in (a) an action show and (b) a male character. My only complaint is that they don't normally use him for much outside of medical consults. "Somebody's hurt! Let's talk to Beckett!" "We need a biological weapon! Let's talk to Beckett!" There is a sort of a peripheral relationship involving him and a brash, spunky military girl about whom I'm lukewarm, but it's not really clear what's going on there, if anything.

Dr. Radek Zelenka (David Nykl): The second-string astrophysicist (or maybe he's some other kind of scientist, but he's who they call when McKay needs backup or is incapacitated). He's this little guy with glasses and a tendency to swear in Czech (I mean, he could be saying anything as far as I know, but it sounds like swearing). He's really a secondary character at best, but I wish he was more, because he's adorable.

Now onto the ladies:

Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson): The head of things. Boss. Thing. Kind of boring.

Teyla (Rachel Luttrell): The leader of the Athosians, a sort of indigenous people that were rescued or something by the Atlantis team at the beginning of the series. Instead of, oh, leading her people, she has elected to become a member of Sheppard's away team. She's a good fighter, I guess, but there's not much else to say about her. Also boring.

Actually, there is more to say, and that's that she's actively, painfully boring. I mean, my God. Every time she opens her mouth it's to say something highly generic. I know it's hard to come up with a whole alien culture, but in a show which goes out of its way to show the national and cultural diversity of the Earthling team (Beckett's Scottishness, Zelenka's Czechness, Rodney's Canadianness, Sheppard's Americanness, etc.), Teyla's culturelessness really stands out. Also, she doesn't use contractions.


I have came to the conclusion that the show only has two basic plots. They are as follows:


Optional thirty seconds of mild character development and/or comic relief banter, interrupted by something weird happening. Opening credits.

A plot macguffin has come up! The team holds a board meeting. Everyone gives some ideas. Rodney explains the problem impatiently, then suddenly comes up with an idea. He and Zelenka bicker, but the upshot is they have a solution that just might work. Elizabeth nods and says "Do it."

The away team (Sheppard, McKay, Teyla, Ford if season 1, Ronon if season 2) take a jumper down to a planet for some plot objective. On the way, Rodney expounds on how precious and delicate he is. Sheppard makes a smart remark, possibly dropping a pop culture reference. Teyla says something stilted and bland. Ford grins OR Ronon mutters.

On the surface, they come upon a simple agrarian society that is not what it seems. They want to make Sheppard their king. Sheppard and a girl make out. Rodney looks hurt. Teyla says something stilted and bland. Ford tries to name something OR Ronon kills someone.

The other shoe drops, the true bad guys are revealed, and the gang are all taken hostage. Somebody among the enemy is sick or injured, and Sheppard volunteers Beckett's services. Beckett obligingly arrives, but maintains a look of anxious trepidation. When he sees the patient it melts into compassion and he says "A' right (son/love), let's have a look". After he successfully finds a cure, he gets taken captive, looks flustered, and uses the adjective "bloody".

McKay is forced to fix something, and he insists it cannot be done. His and Sheppard's lives are threatened. McKay ends up fixing the thing, but not before kicking the sarcasm into overdrive. Afterward, he congratulates his own technical prowess as nothing short of miraculous while Sheppard smirks indulgently.

Back at Atlantis, Sheppard drops by to appraise Elizabeth of the proceedings. If required, Elizabeth squints and makes a statement of the form "First clause? Second clause!" (Rodney OR John) suggests a (ridiculous technological OR opportunistic and morally questionable) plan that couldn't possibly work. Elizabeth nods and says "Do it."

At some point, the team tracks someone through the woods with guns.

Eventually, the problem is resolved, the bad guys die or are otherwise punished, and the team returns home. Wrap-up in the lab, infirmary, or Elizabeth's office, where McKay explains some technobabble, Dr. Beckett explains some medi-babble (especially if someone is just waking up from being unconscious), or John and Elizabeth decide their unjustified military actions were justified. Unsettling reference to the future, e.g. "The battle's won, but the war's not over"; "Let's just hope that's enough"; "The Wraith are coming"; etc. Credits.


One or more people get their bodies taken over by other entities, and kiss people they wouldn't normally kiss (or would they????)

...And that's how it goes down in Atlantis. Needless to say, I am eagerly awaiting season 3.


- Laura

Turn back now!

Bonus Feature

Okay, fine. Here are the fangirl SQUEEEE!! lj icons I made. Of course you may use them if you wish. Warning: Season 2 spoilers? Ish?
Rodney McKay kissing Carson Beckett in Duet   Elizabeth Weir reacting to the kiss   Sheppard reacting to the kiss

Here's a sequence of three shots mere seconds apart in "Duet". The motivation for commemorating this sequence was that they showed boys kissing (even if one of them WAS invaded by a woman's consciousness). Also, I thought the reaction shots were pretty priceless: Elizabeth seemed rather pleased with this eventuality, which my SGA buddy Anna and I decided made her more likeable: she's a slasher just like us! Meanwhile, Sheppard just narrows his eyes in disgust, which is really the ideal thing for him to do. Anna has suggested that a relationship between John and Rodney can never be canon because the show producers want to maintain cordial relationships with the military guys who sometimes advise them on protocol. This shot simultaneously pleases everyone, allowing the military types to be like "Good old Sheppard, he doesn't go in for that gay kissing stuff" and the slash fangirls to be like "He's jealous! He DOES love Rodney. Squee!"

Rodney McKay looking destroyed in The Long Goodbye

This was the first icon I made because I was so amazed and delighted with this shot that I had to learn how to make screencaps just to have it forever. Then, I didn't know what to do with it, so I made an icon. The set-up is that an alien entity has entered John's consciousness ("The Long Goodbye"). Having access to everything John knows, it pleads Teyla not to kill it, saying, "If you kill me you kill him... He cares for you more than you know." Just then, there is a totally unnecessary reaction shot of Rodney listening in to the conversation over the radio, looking absolutely devastated. I don't think Rodney and Teyla have ever even had a scene together, so there's no straight reading of that scene that I can think of. It's probably the most compelling evidence thus far that somebody on the show is a McKay/Sheppard slasher (with the possible exception of the "you can win back my trust... if you try" speech). Slim pickings, maybe, but have I mentioned this is a show with limited character development? I mean, LOOK how sad he looks.

Zelenka wearing make-up in Critical Mass

Okay, this is just a new low: fan art for fan art. Some fan have made a glorious video about how McKay is in love with Zelenka, set to the adorable song "Code Monkey" by Jonathan Coulton (who is a cool musician, and wrote a song that answers the question "What would it be like if zombies sent you a memo?") I'm in so much love with the video, partially because it introduced me to the song which is wonderful, but also because it makes Rodney seem like such a relatable figure: just a guy with a kind of a bad techie job who has a sweet crush on one of his co-workers. Watching SGA with that reading is probably much of what makes it such an enjoyable experience.