View Full Version : FAN REVIEWS: 'This Mortal Coil'

December 6th, 2007, 10:40 AM
<DIV ALIGN="center"><TABLE WIDTH="450" BORDER="0" CELLSPACING="0" CELLPADDING="7"><TR><TD><DIV ALIGN="left"><FONT FACE="Verdana, Arial, san-serif" SIZE="2" COLOR="#000000"><A HREF="http://www.gateworld.net/atlantis/s4/410.shtml"><IMG SRC="http://www.gateworld.net/atlantis/graphics/410.jpg" WIDTH="160" HEIGHT="120" ALIGN="right" HSPACE="10" VSPACE="2" BORDER="0" STYLE="border: 1px black solid" ALT="Visit the Episode Guide"></A><FONT SIZE="1" COLOR="#888888">ATLANTIS SEASON FOUR</FONT>
<FONT SIZE="4"><A HREF="http://www.gateworld.net/atlantis/s4/410.shtml" STYLE="text-decoration: none">THIS MORTAL COIL</A></FONT>
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A mysterious drone crashes into Atlantis, indicating that the Replicators may have found the city. But when Elizabeth Weir appears, the team realizes that the probe is just a part of a bigger mystery.

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December 10th, 2007, 06:07 PM
Considering that this is essentially the mid-season finale, this episode is unusual. The vast majority of the story is set in an alternate Atlantis, where newly created “copies” of Sheppard, Teyla, McKay, and Ronon uncover the mystery of their creation and the status quo of the Asurans, their creators. This eventually leads into an advancement of the overall Replicator arc, but the progress is ultimately incremental.

In terms of the season arc, this episode gives Team Atlantis important intelligence. They are now aware of the Asuran resources (far more than expected) and they have the means to track the movements of the Asuran ships. If nothing else, that should give them ample warning should one of those ships come in the direction of Atlantis. On the other hand, it gives them a true sense of the scale of the Replicator threat, and it is not a comforting thought.

The episode itself, however, is more a meditation on the concept of self. The writers approach two lingering continuity problems with a single plot twist. While the bulk of the Asurans have chosen to pursue the war with the Wraith, a select minority has been continuing to experiment with methods of artificial ascension. To this end, they created “copies” of key Team Atlantis members, built from the ground up and infused with the personalities and memories of the originals.

Not only does this follow up nicely on the first appearance of the Asurans and their concerns about the ability to ascend, but it provides the opportunity to tie up loose ends with Elizabeth Weir. Weir appeared to survive her capture by the Replicators; in fact, it seemed like the perfect way for the writers to slip Weir into the background until a strong character arc could emerge. Instead, this episode delivers a more definitive answer: Weir was killed by the Asurans, and the “copy” is all that remains.

This positions Weir (or, more correctly, her copy) at the center of the philosophical discussion. If the original Weir is dead, but her copy is identical in nearly every respect, does the copy have the right to the same opportunities as the original? And what about the other “copies”, all of which must consider the existence of the originals?

Unfortunately, this is too deep a subject to cover in the space of half an episode, so most of these questions are raised with no hope for true consideration. It’s hardly surprising that the “copies” are soon forced into a suicide mission to save Team Atlantis from the Replicators, thus erasing any issue of “individual rights”. It’s a far more heroic end for Weir than an off-screen death would have granted, after all.

Reaction to that bit of news will probably determine one’s acceptance of the episode itself. Weir fans will be annoyed that the writers kept options open, only to toss them aside so quickly. This episode gives Weir a relatively strong send-off, given the philosophical heft of the related concepts, but unless Weir’s “copy” managed to survive the end of the episode, it’s unfortunate that the character couldn’t be given a spectacular sendoff.

Andie O'Neill
December 11th, 2007, 08:58 PM
I believe this episode, although interesting, lacked the same strength that many of the other episodes have had. The story first took place in 'another' Atlantis. Some of the Replicators wish to study John and his team and learn the secret to ascension. The idea was an interesting one, but all too quickly it was over. John and his team learn early on what is going on and are revealed to be only copies of the original team. Once they learn the truth, the plot suddenly changes, and not for the last time. This episode almost seemed to have originally been two episodes, but was squeezed into one.

It would have been interesting to see them devote the entire episode to the first plot. I would have liked to see how John and his team slowly realize something is wrong. Perhaps John and his team although suspicious, slowly find the missing clues that explain the strange behavior of the people of Atlantis. There is no explanation as to who is in charge of Atlantis. Obviously Elizabeth Weir would not have known that Samantha Carter has taken over as leader of Atlantis. If this clone of John had John's memories it is reasonable to assume that he would wonder why there is no leader. John and his team are trying to figure out what's wrong with the gate, yet they do not notice that they have no leader?

John is cut by Ronan during a sparing match, but the wound heals before Doctor Keller sees it. Why would they automaticly distrust Doctor Keller? I would naturally think in order to prove what happened it would have been important to give Doctor Keller a show. If I were in his shoes, I would want to prove that what happened happened, especially after Keller ran the two tests and claimed there were no problems. I would have cut myself in front of her, and waited to see if it would heal as it did before, while she watches and hopefully understands that John did not make up some story. Ronan has noticed the people around him are acting strange, is that why he and the others do not trust Keller? Or was it simply a feeling.

Once John and his team realize something is going on they devise a plan. In the end Keller admits the truth to them. Suddenly the plot is over. They have learned the truth, and their enemy has revealed the truth. She reveals that Elizabeth Weir, the real one, has been killed. Is she telling the truth, or is something more going on? The others, although surprised, seem to accept this far quicker than they probably should. Other Replicators come and attack the copied Atlantis, as always, just in time. The city is going to fall. This too confused me, because I wondered how they'd escaped detection before. Oberoth was obviously not going to let them go, how did they come to be? Why was it then that they'd been detected?

Now the team must escape the copied Atlantis and find the real team. Another plot is made as they make contact with Atlantis somehow despite the fact that the last memories they have are from Elizabeth Weir being captured by the Replicators. They find a base and are able to communicate with Atlantis. Why haven't the Replicators gone to this base, as they would have known about it from the real Doctor Weir? Atlantis is in a different location, but why are their bases. Wouldn't they too have to evacuate and find another planet as has happened in SG-1 when Jonas was captured by Anubis?

After making contact with the original team, they reveal the information they took with them, information that will allow Atlantis to track all Replicator ships. In this plot the copies of the team must deal with how uncomfortable the original team is, knowing they've been cloned. The clones have replicators inside them much like the real Elizabeth and therefore cannot be trusted. Obviously these copies will not be able to live their lives as the originals can. The copy of Weir does not have the same burden, and to a point, can rebuild her life, but things would be different. She knows the others will never see her as Elizabeth.

Suddenly the Replicators show up. Were the copies tracked during their escape? The Replicators seem to have the best timing in this episode. Now they must figure out how to escape back to Atlantis without being seen by the Replicators. Elizabeth and the other copies plan to draw the Replicator's attention why the real team escapes. Elizabeth hopes their sacrifice will prove that they are all the same. The original team escapes and comes home, but with news that the real Elizabeth is dead. McKay seems to be greatly affected by this, as well as Zelenka, while John seems to have recovered rather quickly. McKay mentions that it feels like Carson all over again. Elizabeth's things are to be sent back to Earth. Still, it remains to be seen whether Elizabeth is really dead. Can they truly take the Replicator's word, or is she lying? They believe the Replicator and moan the death of Elizabeth Weir. McKay learns they have a hard fight ahead of them as they see just how many Replicator warships have been created.

An interesting story, but it lacks the usual format of other episodes. The episode features two stories in one, and seems to almost overstuff the episode. Only a few things are explained. There are a few story lines to follow, which takes a lot away from what the story could have been. It would have been nice to see at least some of the reactions from the rest of Atlantis upon learning that their old leader is dead. In the episode "Sunday," you were given some kind of closure upon losing Carson Beckett. The same cannot be said for "This Mortal Coil." Does that mean Elizabeth really isn't dead? Or is she really dead, but they didn't have time to give attention to what has happened. If Elizabeth is dead, I do not believe they've given enough credit to the character that ran Atlantis for three wonderful years. This leads me to believe something more is going on, or perhaps I simply hope something more is going on, as I wouldn't like seeing one of my favorite charcters simply thrown away as if she contributed nothing to the ongoing story of Atlantis. An interesting story, but not one of the show's best.

December 12th, 2007, 02:57 PM
As the mid-season teaser This Mortal Coil is subdued dealing as it does with the duplicates and the suggested death of Atlantis’s former leader Elizabeth Weir. Everything seems downbeat from the story to the actors who do their best with the limited material, and the place this assumes in the season arcs. Ultimately, the story is weak and only the last two scenes provide any saving grace.

Duplication is a sci-fi standard; the concept has been used a few times within Atlantis’s parent show SG1 and it is difficult to do something original with it but Stargate usually does produce enjoyable duplicate stories. My issue is not that this is an episode covering the topic again within Stargate history, but that it is an episode covering the topic again within the same season. Didn’t Doppelganger already have a duplicate dream version of Sheppard within its storyline? Duplication once in a season, fine; duplication, twice? It starts to feel, well, a little like duplication.

The rest of the story concept seems under-developed; the initial set-up of people acting weirdly happens far too quickly with very little mystery and too much given over to the exposition of why a group of Replicators had chosen to create the team (yet little explanation given to why with reduced power they created Weir who they had been told was dead and who they knew the team believed to have been lost). I personally think the story went in the wrong direction in trying to do the ‘something’s awry but what?’ beat. For me, the first part of the story might have worked better if the audience had always been in the know that this was a duplicate team created by Replicators and focused instead on how the duplicate team came to that same awareness.

The story picks up a little with the meeting of the duplicates and their original selves. The contrasting reactions provide some note of interest – particularly Ronon and McKay’s. Stylistically, the walks through the forest with the Ronans and Teylas sharing confidences and eventually meeting works incredibly well; the McKays revelling in their intellect much to the resigned amusement of the Sheppards also works incredibly well.

Beyond that though, the arrival of the Replicators and the deaths of the duplicates to allow the originals to escape is all over a little too quickly and nonsensical – why would two Replicator ships go after a puddle jumper? And didn’t the duplicate team steal a Replicator ship in order to get to the planet as the jumper didn’t have hyperdrive so why didn’t they use that? As a viewer I was left confused and it was something of anti-climax despite the great special effects.

The other major let-downs are around season arcs and pay-offs. Firstly, when is Teyla’s pregnancy going to be revealed? Two episodes on from Missing and it would appear it’s still a secret Teyla is keeping and it is not referred at all. Arcs need referencing and perhaps the missed opportunity here is a scene between the Teylas with the duplicate advising her counterpart to tell the others.

Secondly, the vision of Atlantis’s destruction in The Seer turns out to be the destruction of the duplicate Atlantis yet having set up the event so well in The Seer, here seems to be a complete anti-climax as too little time has passed and no other reference has been made to draw out the idea that Atlantis would be destroyed at some point. Nor is this the real Atlantis so it lacks emotional resonance. It is a poor pay-off to what had been a great set-up.

Lastly, the anticipated reunion of Weir with the Atlantis team which was set-up very well in Lifeline with Weir being left behind is a let-down as this isn’t a reunion. Joe Flanigan and David Hewlett pull off the shocked and dismayed reactions to Weir’s video very well but the drama of their being reunited with Weir is lost with the lack of face to face and the quick revelation that she isn’t really Weir. Any future reunion now runs the risk of lacking emotion because the team have already seen Weir again even if it isn’t quite their own version.

The positive is how well Weir works as part of the frontline team just as she did in Lifeline. In some ways, it’s a huge shame that instead of taking Weir out of the show that the character mix wasn’t just rejigged to have taken Weir out of the leadership, yes, but to have still included her as a diplomatic/linguistic expert in Sheppard’s team. The absent current leader, Carter, isn’t shown or mentioned at all and while this story didn’t need her to be, that every episode where she isn’t included fails to even mention her is becoming noticeable.

The only time the story excels for me is in the last two scenes where the suggested death of Weir is touched on by Zelenka and McKay and later by Sheppard and McKay. Here are scenes which are rich in emotion and drama and provide a connection between the characters. Hewlett, in particular, plays his repressed grief very well. The final closing moment is also brilliant with the fade to black and McKay’s quiet ‘oh crap!’ as the beeps of the identified Replicator ships continue; original, amusing and beautifully pulled off.

In contrast to the previous week’s excellent Miller’s Crossing, This Mortal Coil lacks substance as a story; it presents the philosophical debate about the duplicates but never truly explores it. There is too little mystery; no tension and the action pieces while competent fail to ignite the imagination. The actors can only do so much with so little. The end is great but it wasn’t worth the wait. After a reasonably strong first half-season, This Mortal Coil is a damp squib and I’m hoping things will get reenergised in the second.

December 19th, 2007, 05:35 AM
This Mortal Coil started with a number of factors that should have made it a promising and interesting episode. The presence of Dr. Weir, the Replicators and the destruction of Atlantis gave the episode great potential. However, This Mortal Coil failed to live up to this potential for a number of reasons.

The foreshadowing of Atlantis destruction seemed to have very little point. After The Seer, it was not mentioned until the episode in question, where it was quickly resolved so that the plot could move on. If the intent was the keep the audience guessing and speculating, time enough was not given. If the intent was to look at how the characters would deal with what could be their impending deaths, more episodes were needed to give the necessary screentime. Either way, I felt slightly cheated when what I had hoped to be long-term foreshadowing was resolved so quickly.

The idea of "what makes a person" was so severely underplayed, it felt like perhaps the episode would have been better without it. Continually, the idea that it is the mind, rather than the body, that makes the person seems to be about to emerge. The conversations in the forest set this up, with characters expressing that they are uncomfortable, and being told that their counterparts are feeling the same way. At one point, it seems like the team is going to have to face the fact that the alternate Sheppard, Ronon, McKay, Teyla and Weir are just as much "them" as they themselves are. But of course, they don't. After a few brief passages of dialogue, the alternate team is killed for no good reason, rendering the entire question moot. The original team returns home without actually confronting the issue at all.

Throughout the series, there has been a notable improvement in CGI, and fortunately, this episode is no different. In the past, Ancient ships have seemed notably unimpressive in terms of appearance, having a "cobbled-together" look that has always bothered me. This episode, however, shows Replicator ships in their prime, looking just the way Ancient ships should look; a combination of dangerous and impressive.

The acting when the team meets their duplicates was also a highlight of the episode. The contrasts between McKays glee and Ronon's disconfort were played beliveably and true to the characters themselves.

The main problem, and the one that really kills the episode in my opinion, is the extremely railroaded plot. The characters seem to go to wherever the plot requires them to go with no real motivation. The most extreme example of this is near to the end, when the replicated team sacrifices themselves to save the original team. Two heavily armed Replicator warships are quite happy to abandon the gate to chase after a single Puddle Jumper that can’t possibly get away on its own. The sensible option would have been to launch drones at a distance, rather than engaging in a Benny Hill-esque chase scene. More to the point, why does the Jumper require five people to fly? The plan would only have needed a single member of the team to sacrifice themselves, if that. It is clear that the alternate team simply had to be got rid of, and that was the quickest way to do it.
Earlier, Replicator Keller changes from being happy to repeat the experiment time and again just to gauge reactions to “here, take this McGuffin and remember me.” The entire Ascension Faction appeared, had an exposition monologue and was blown up in the minimum amount of time necessary to give the team the tracking device.

As the team get back to Atlantis, it becomes clear that the entire purpose of the episode was in fact, to give McKay the tracking device. Ignoring the fact that the device looks more like an Ancient Etch-a-Sketch, This Mortal Coil felt like it was really just setting up the second part of the episode, Be All My Sins Remember’d.

All in all, This Mortal Coil actively made me wince in a few places where the railroad plot was most evident, but it was in some way redeemed by the character-driven parts of the story. The characters finally dealing with Weir’s death, as well as the team’s reactions on learning that there is another group who thinks they are them was what made the episode bearable. Since it seems like This Mortal Coil was sacrifice in order to set up Be All My Sins Remember’d, I hope we can expect a better episode in the second half of the season.

September 14th, 2012, 02:16 PM
This Mortal Coil

The best episodes of Stargate always involve the team in some sort of situation, different from the one we know or impossible to get out of. This episode contains the team in such a situation and as an added bonus, it even contains the return of Weir, the glorious leader of Atlantis.

From the getgo you're provided with a situation that is the norm for Atlantis; you think that this will be an ordinary episode but then it gives you a vital shock and with that comes a ever increasing sense of mystery and paranoia that draws the audience in. The mystery itself was done well, they really made it so that there was no clear answer; subtle differences and hints throughout give the audience a chance to draw on possible theories and possible conclusions and the progression of the mystery is exceptional. With every minute the episode is drawing you away from what's normal, away from what you believe in and what the episode wants you to believe in, the oddities become too hard to notice for everybody involved and even you start to sympathize for what the people are going through; there is no point in where the pacing was interrupted and by the time the episode pulls the drapes off, you'll be sold hook line and sinker. The first half of the episode is an engaging one, one that really set up the episode and provides a visual masterpiece that's more then exciting; it introduces you to what's going on, who these people are, what's happening and though it's short, it's fast pacing will leave people satisfied.

Definitely mysterious.

Much of the episodes second half is slower and more character paced, in fact you could say it's the point in the episode where everything comes full circle with it's conversations that explore the characters in a meaningful way while also providing metaphorical discussion and revelations that satisfy the audience. Throughout the episode, every one of these characters are in fine form. You can see that they're acting like a team yet are given enough room to show off most of their dynamics, Ronan and Teyla fare well, getting a chance to show that combined sense of aggressiveness and compassion and McKay also does well with his quirks but the standout has to be Sheppard proves himself to be very fine indeed, even finer than the last episode he was in probably because he's given more of those scenes he can act fine in with his stern tones, vocal inflictions and ever so visible compassion. The scenes which he shows emotion and empathy are ones that reinforce and grow his character; we've known since the beginning that Sheppard has a caring side, a emotional side that is more or so hidden by his ruff gruff exterior and action mentality and to see that side come out is nice, he clearly wants to be everything to people and wants to do everything but he can't help being clouded by those thoughts, those thoughts which haunt him and cloud his mind. That alone makes him dynamic.

The inclusion of the Asurans (who have broken down and started calling themselves replicators) is one that brings out the episode, even managing to resurrect one of the things that made them unique. (the desire to ascend) Seeing them in a non-combative position is very nice; the fact that there may be multiple branches each serving their own purpose, each thinking individually of each other is a treat to those who would otherwise think that they are just another threat for Atlantis to defeat, just imagine... And the topics they explore are deep and provocative; the human soul, the desire to learn about the soul and try to recreate it, the thought of being something more then machines. This is real sci-fi right here, the dialog is just teeming with interesting thoughts, interesting objections and involving perceptions of the brain, perceptions of machines and even human nature just helped to further it. It also managed to dwelge into the idea of the idea of being human copies with the originals personalities and memories inside them; it's kind hard to be in the position of a person who's aware that he's just a copy, worrying about whether or not the copy will be accepted or if it's natural to be like this and the cast shows this all too well in the scenes; they don't manage to make it obvious, rather they use their fear and uncertainty in order to give it subtlety and death, stuff of which is greatly appreciated in sci-fi; adding the perspective of the other crew helps to further that, sure it may seem funny and energetic but they help to add to that acceptance thing, whether or not they can accept there being another and vice versa.

A pair of twos.

But the thing that really makes this notable is Weir; which provides both the audience and the characters a chance to shine. It is really exciting to see her again, her performance shows why Sam can never truly replace her as leader of Atlantis; she just has that sternness, desire, aggression and determination plus a side of compassion and emotion on the side. As she moves around and hangs out with the crew, we can get a sense that the actor behind her is enjoying every moment that she can, really putting her soul into what should be a normal guest appearance; she's intelligent knowing what she is and using that to understand her situation and she sensible and heartwarming even though she's in a situation of uncertainty herself. Weir proves herself to be the example of the episode; though she has her old personality, though she has her memories, she's not really her and thought the people want the old Weir back, we have to accept that she's not coming back; that spreads to the characters themselves who have really heart provoking moments, Sheppard and McKay in particular trying to cope for their losses in their own possible way, with McKay pulling out a great performance that more then reflects his character, you can really tell how much Weir meant to their lives and though there was a chance she could of come back, certain factors wouldn't really allow for that (Sam in particular, though I will say that her frequent disappearances are odd.) and it just wouldn't be the same but it is really nice to see her and she at least goes out with an honorable bang.

This is a fantastic episode of Atlantis. Exciting, through provoking and relatable throughout; Weir and her crew manage to pull out all of the stops and provide what is by far the best of Season 4, sure there are some flaws here and there but they're minor (mainly dealing with comedic scenes that oddly enough, don't get in the way.) and they shouldn't let you get in the way of watching such a fine episode.