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Midway - Review

Midway is the 17th episode in Season Four of Stargate Atlantis.

Review

Midway provides the setting for the meeting of Stargate’s two alpha male warriors, Teal’c and Ronon. The story provides a solid back-drop for the encounter which delivers everything that is expected. Yet in meeting expectations, the episode fails to exceed them and this is perhaps the source of the disappointment that lingers.

The main story concept is an intriguing one; the Wraith hijacking the Intergalactic bridge to invade Earth. It actually delivers a real sense of threat from the moment the Wraith set foot on Midway, through the sequence where the SGC is stunned into immobility and the chilling scenes as the Wraith begin to occupy the familiar corridors of the mountain base. The story for the first time really showcases the threat to Earth from the Wraith in a way never achieved before and it deserves credit for that.

There is also a wonderful sense of consequences to actions here too. The story addresses the security question the bridge always posed and showcases that the arrogance of Earth in believing it secure was very much misplaced. It also examines the decision to work so closely with Todd, to allow the Wraith to travel to Earth. While it isn’t clear whether Todd has volunteered his information to the hijacking Wraith voluntarily or has been forced to share the information, the result is the same; the Wraith are given the means to invade Earth. Definitely there is a sense of chickens coming home to roost for the Atlantis expedition and Earth, and this is punctuated by the loss of the Midway station at the end.

The problem though is that this wonderfully conceived main story actually feels like it takes second place to the sub-plot: the meeting of Teal’c and Ronon. Partly because the sub-plot is introduced and focused on first; the IOA interviews being the device required to bring everyone’s favourite Jaffa to Atlantis. Because of this, the balance is shifted between the plots and the main thread then becomes nothing more than a device to bring the two warriors to an eventual reconciliation following their initial antipathy rather than the showcase it deserved to be on its own merits.

The sub-plot does deliver everything that is expected; initial resentment by Ronon, a fight between the two, respect as they fight side by side and save each other. There are no surprises here beyond Teal’c’s new look (a fabulously buff Christopher Judge in a great new outfit with new look Teal’c hair). There are some nice moments; the look when they both head for the same bunk, Teal’c’s desire for Ronon’s gun, the moment Ronon says ‘Indeed’, and the casual informality between coach and pupil at the end signalling a bonding between them. What I was surprised by but very much enjoyed was the sudden realisation again of how alien Teal’c is because the contrast between the Jaffa and Atlantis was rightly jarring. Teal’c only really gels on Atlantis in his moments with Carter where the years of easy friendship between the two are clear and provide a nice bookend to their conversation before her arrival on Atlantis. In my opinion, this is a good thing; Teal’c should feel out of place there.

But for all the sub-plot delivers there is a but; there are no surprises and I think that’s the disappointment. Given the story set up with Teal’c brought into ‘coach’ a proud Ronon for the interview, it’s hard to see from a characterisation perspective where else they could have gone except down this route yet it is so predictable and there is a definite disappointment that something more original wasn’t tried. The story focused so much on the physical similarity, on their primary function as warriors, that it failed to provide any substance. It would have been great to have fully explored their emotional and spiritual similarities; their sense of honour and duty which are only touched on as Ronon goes back to help Teal’c.

It may also have been helped if there had been more Teyla in the mix to soften the level of machismo; her one early scene to set up the plot has a lovely vibe of female understanding between her and Carter, and it would have been nice to have seen more of her. The whole premise of the sub-plot though is fairly weak; if the IOA is looking at the Atlantis expedition and interviewing the members of the teams surely they would either go to Atlantis in a group to do it rather than have the Atlantis people come back one at a time through the bridge? Further the introduction of new IOA bogeyman Coolidge who miraculously wakes up from the Wraith stun before everyone else also feels too caricature.

The niggles over the story aside, the episode definitely delivers on all other fronts. It was good to see the SGC regulars return and for once not used as incompetent foils to the others as a means of provoking humour. The humour within the story, imbedded in the dialogue and the reactions of the characters to that dialogue and events achieved a nice levity without detracting from the story. The last scene with Ronon waking Sheppard was particularly well done. The special effects also deserve a mention; Midway was stunning in terms of the central hall and the final explosion but all the effects were good including the Wraith stunner device.

All in all, Midway is not a bad episode but it needed better story construction to really make the main plot shine and the sub-plot go beyond what was expected. In the end what is delivered is a solid hour of entertainment with tension, drama and humour, but which just lacks the quality of story to elevate it beyond expectations and make it a classic.

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