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The Lost Tribe - Review

The Lost Tribe is the 11th episode in Season Five of Stargate Atlantis.

Review

The question after First Contact was whether The Lost Tribe would provide a satisfying conclusion to the two-part story. The answer to that question is not at all simple. On one hand, the answer is yes as it successfully entertains and answers the questions raised by the first part. It provides action and danger galore that grabs the viewer and rushes them through to the end. However, on the other hand, the answer is no as The Lost Tribe serves to highlight the underlying issue: the whole story just doesn’t work.

 

On paper, the main plot sounds fantastic; Daniel discovering a secret lab which leads to the entire galaxy being placed in danger from a new enemy who, in an unexpected twist, turn out to be an old ally. It feels like a classic Daniel story and plays to the strengths of the known character: exploration, new aliens, risking his life to save millions. Intrinsically, there is little wrong with the concept of the main plot. For me, where the story begins to unravel is in the scale of the issues facing the team, trying to marry a classic Daniel story with the Stargate Atlantis arcs and in how the Stargate Atlantis cast of characters are used.

From a character perspective, I remain unconvinced that the teaming of Daniel and McKay was the best combination. While the funniest part of the story was McKay and Daniel coming across the empty suits with McKay’s incoherent babbling, and Michael Shanks and David Hewlett do their best, the chemistry and the material just doesn’t work for me. I don’t think it helped that many of their exchanges were primarily used for exposition but there is no real dislike or conflict between the characters merely irritation and this isn’t enough to contrast with the suggested growth of professional respect. Perhaps if they had played this as McKay trying to impress Daniel, maybe on the pretext of proving he’s as good as Samantha Carter, this may have been believable but the suggestion, especially with the whole thank you over the respect comment in the last scene, is that Daniel wanted in some way to gain respect from McKay and this just doesn’t ring true.

In isolating Daniel and McKay in one part of the plot, the audience is also subjected to scenes where they have to work out what the audience already knows such as an early scene in The Lost Tribe where McKay recaps the issue with the weapon is that it blows up Stargates. It’s repetitive and boring. Equally, there are times when the other characters work out what McKay and Daniel have discovered such as in Todd’s explanation of the Attero device to Sheppard – at least this scene moved the story forward with Sheppard providing Todd with the coordinates to the device.

Unfortunately, for me, I think Todd taking over the Daedalus was giving the characters a challenge too far. They were already faced with having to deal with an exploding Stargate, missing team-mates, and an unknown formidable enemy. Todd taking over the Daedalus and removing their one available means of transport just over-complicates things although on its own, the idea (Todd feeling betrayed and taking the Daedalus) had merit as a story which could have stood alone rather than just as a mere sub-plot. I think in part the whole issue arises out of trying to continue within this sub-plot, the arcs introduced in the preceding episodes The Queen and Tracker. While I applaud the attempt to continue the arcs, and I even appreciate Ronon getting to be the hero and saving the day, and Todd moving back to murkier ground as enemy or ally, the whole sub-plot forces Sheppard to find another way to the planet.

Enter the Travellers. This whole segment just doesn’t fit because after the initial moment where the captain explains their Stargate blew up killing thousands of people in their first colony that massive loss seems completely forgotten with the light-hearted approach taken to the rest of this Travellers thread (the child-engineer and Sheppard’s continual mention of Larrin). The space battle with the Asgards is exciting and the effects spectacular and Sheppard’s plan to save the Daedalus is well executed (more great effects) but there is the small problem that the Asgard suddenly seem to be easily defeated by a technologically inferior ship and in the Daedalus scenes that Caldwell is mysteriously AWOL.

With Sheppard in one sub-plot, Ronon in another, and McKay locked away with Daniel in the main plot, there is also little sense of team. What there is comes in the early scenes as Teyla searches for Sheppard in the wreckage of the tower. Rachel Luttrell gives a great performance as she initially calls desperately for him on the radio, through the search and the subsequent scenes. It is a huge disappointment that her contribution to the episode ends as Sheppard leaves her in charge as he goes off with Zelenka (and let’s ignore the suspension of disbelief that has to happen to accept that both survived the Stargate blowing up without serious injury). Why Teyla as a character wasn’t on the Daedalus given the events of The Queen and was left behind in the first place is odd as it would have allowed the character to have really taken part in the story.

There are great moments in The Lost Tribe and it certainly answers the questions posed in First Contact on who the aliens were and what they wanted. The revelation of the Asgard is well done, their back-story and philosophy well thought out – I loved the hint of the Fifth Race theme as the Asgard stepped out of the suit. And I do think that it was entirely appropriate that an SG1 character be the first to make contact with them in many respects. However, given that the Replicators were already transplanted from SG1 to Atlantis as enemies, I can appreciate that a completely new enemy might have been more welcomed by some fans.

Ultimately, The Lost Tribe is a solid episode with some great special effects, action and excitement. It does complete the story begun in First Contact and is definitely more engaging that the beginning. I did enjoy it on an entertainment level but I expect more and although the story gets from A to B, it’s character combinations have little chemistry, it’s too overly complicated, loses focus on the Atlantis team, and for me just doesn’t work.

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