View Full Version : FAN REVIEWS: 'The Daedalus Variations'

July 9th, 2008, 01:10 PM
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<FONT SIZE="4"><A HREF="http://www.gateworld.net/atlantis/s5/504.shtml" STYLE="text-decoration: none">THE DAEDALUS VARIATIONS</A></FONT>
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The team investigates when the Earth ship Daedalus shows up abandoned in orbit, only to find themselves flashing through parallel universes.

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August 5th, 2008, 04:49 PM
After a couple of character-driven episodes, the writers toss out an episode that does little more than tell a simple stand-contained story with (presumably) little or no lasting effect. Sheppard, McKay, Ronon, and Teyla (pretty much the standard action team) end up running an alternate universe gauntlet when a version of the Daedalus appears in orbit and they investigate.

That’s more or less the extent of the story, which means there’s not a lot to discuss. The Daedalus jumps around from universe to universe, McKay figures out how to pull off the impossible, and they retrace their steps. It’s fun to watch the characters overcome the challenges, especially when they eventually realize that they’re going to have to encounter the same challenges a second time.

It’s fun to see Sheppard interact with his counterpart, and McKay is certainly in his comfort zone (so to speak) when deciphering “his own” notes and creations, but the episode feels relatively empty. If it wasn’t for the impressive effects on display, I would be tempted to call this a mediocre “bottle show”. We don’t learn much about the characters that we didn’t already know from the past four seasons.

One highlight of the episode is the encounter with the alien soldiers. I’m fairly confident that we haven’t seen those aliens before, but they were intriguing enough to make me wonder if this was a “stealth” introduction of a new enemy. If the Team Atlantis of that reality was anything like our Team Atlantis, then they probably stumbled on the aliens and did something incredibly stupid to start a war!

But I liked the single-minded tactics employed by the aliens, because it’s been a long time since Team Atlantis had to deal with an enemy with berserker-esque nature. Sure, enemies have a tendency to come in nameless, relentless droves (especially the Wraith), but the slightest hint of context made this seem a bit different. I would be interested to see more about those aliens in the “real” universe, though I imagine it’s just as likely that the aliens were meant as a one-off and will never appear again.

This is probably best described, in the best possible sense, as a “filler” episode. It doesn’t advance anything, it doesn’t do anything innovative, but it’s the Stargate equivalent of fast food. You enjoy it at the time, but when it’s over, it’s not particularly filling or memorable.

John Keegan
Reprinted with permission
Original source: c. Critical Myth, 2008
All rights reserved
Link: http://www.criticalmyth.com

August 18th, 2008, 07:42 PM
The opening of the Fifth Season of Stargate Atlantis can only be described as blindingly anti-climatic. Only by the virtue of fanatical endurance do we arrive at Daedalus Variations' simple yet fast paced adventure.

There will be nary a moment of weaving or plot twisting for the next forty-five minutes. The plot devices will be direct and to the point and the suspense dialed up to edge-of-your-seat thrills...Well, not quite, but we get very close.

Initially the episode is a bit odd. Mortified by finding there own bodies on the ship it seems as though we've stumbled onto a causality loop. (We know how fun those are) Instead this is more like dimensional shifting. Stargate has encountered both before but it's strange how they immediately jump to the multiple reality diagnosis.

We're met with several obsticals and after the fore-shadowing clone corpses in the cargo hold there is a sense of urgency to get the heck off the ship. The rollercoaster ride quickly follows. With the use of a ship that doesn't belong to team the writers feel free to trash it to the characters wits' end. Ronnon's beating the console and Sheppard's "Easy Chewy the console is your friend" were very well placed in the drama. Always reminding us just how much of loose cannon Ronnon is.

The solution to the slay ride is as overly simple as the plot, and of course that's why our resident genius didn't think of it in the first place. So having to face the same obsticles again was perhaps the most daunting task yet and allows for other intresting comedic moments. With just a few minutes left the writers thow in another obsticle and we all see that it coming, but really, who cares. Just because you see the drop coming doesn't mean you're not going to scream at the top of your lungs just like you do on every coaster you've ever been on. Enjoyment is enjoyment.

So what about these ferral-familar sci-fi baddies that show up. Well...The writers give them a symbol and a distinctive ship design and they go through the efforts to bring us up close and personal. I think it's fair to say we've been formally introduced to another thorn in the backside for the Atlantis travelers. They also chose to rap it up with intresting speculation on what will happen to the ship...More foreshadowing? I certainly hope so.

September 12th, 2008, 01:40 PM
The Daedalus Variations is an original take on the well-loved Stargate standard of the alternate reality twist, and its classic format of the team getting into trouble and getting out of it again. The result is an episode with a well constructed story that delivers on special effects, action and teamwork but which never quite makes the grade as a classic itself.

It is a good story. The idea of the alternate reality drive; the concept of the team stranded on the Daedalus constantly shifting into different realities and having to deal with the challenges presented by each new reality on the way is a very good one. The flow from the arrival of the Daedalus, the revelation of the reality drive, the problems and solutions is done with elegance. It’s an original, well thought out and engaging plot.

The characterisation is spot on; all primary team members get a good outing – Sheppard gets to lead his team effectively and take risky actions; Ronon gets to fight bad guys; Teyla gets to demonstrate her intelligence and McKay gets to figure out new technology while worrying if they’ll make it.

More the characters act like a team; there are some really nice moments as Sheppard backs up Ronon, Teyla thanks McKay for his continuing efforts to get them home, Ronon reassures Teyla on her fears, and McKay and Sheppard banter along as usual. All four actors bounce off each other, ensuring the dialogue is backed up by non-verbal interaction. The looks the others share when Sheppard is praising himself are priceless. Equally the use of Chuck, Zelenka and Lorne is fabulous with Woolsey nicely mentioned in an appropriate way.

The story also nicely manages to shade the situation on the side of believability in regards to the characters’ knowledge and experience with the ship; Sheppard and McKay both shown to be completely conversant while Teyla’s newfound knowledge is neatly explained away even though she is still shown not to be a complete expert. Ronon’s ineptitude with the rail guns is realistic. I loved the moment where he bangs on the controls in frustration and Sheppard’s response and reference to Star Wars.

Credit has to go to Alan McCullough for the story just as a lot of credit has to go to the special effects department. Everything from the readouts on the monitors to the reality shift effect was well executed. My favourite segment has to be the opening of the bay doors with the puddle jumper dead centre; just a stunning shot which captures the imagination. The space battle was also great with the clash of the alien fighters against the F302s; a very edge-of-seat thrilling sequence.

The designers also outdid themselves in regards to the new aliens. The bright green weapons fire, the hulking soldiers, the ships. There is just the merest suggestion that this is that reality’s version of the Wraith with the facial make-up and dart-like fighters but enough of a difference that it feels different and suggests a completely new alien.

Yet, for all that is right with the episode, it feels like it never quite shifts into top gear. It’s good but it’s not brilliant. And it is very difficult to pinpoint and say why. Perhaps the answer is in the pacing of the story to some degree, perhaps in the nature of the challenges faced in each reality, or perhaps in the repetition of certain things that are beginning to irritate rather than enhance.

The pacing of the story is ever so slightly off. The story opens with the mystery of the ship’s appearance and the first challenge (the disappearance of Atlantis from the planet) leads to the discovery of the drive. There is little action; the engagement of the audience is with the mystery. It is not until the second shift when Sheppard engages with the alien ship that any kind of action begins. After that with the increasingly small amounts of time between jumps, the action does speed up almost to the point where it feels too rushed in the sequence between the Sun, the reengagement with the alien ship, and the jump home. While an attempt is made to balance between action and downtime, it just isn’t quite achieved in the final analysis.

Perhaps the challenges are not quite as epic as they needed to be either. While the story works with the challenges in that they provide a logical flow forward and back, it never truly feels like the team is in significant danger despite the alien ships, the red giant of a sun, the alien invasion into the Daedalus. The sense of danger is meant to be suggested by the discovery of their dead alternates but ultimately it never feels like no-one is going to make it home – and that means the story loses impact, loses excitement, loses tension.

Finally, while the mention of Teyla’s worry about getting home and her baby provide continuity, the focus is just starting to slip for me from continuity to irritating repetition; Teyla’s had a baby; he’s cute; she’s worried about going back to work – we get it already; can we move on? Equally, this is the fourth episode to end in the infirmary which if it was done deliberately from a series production perspective borders on irritating repetition, and if it wasn’t done deliberately smacks of lack of attention to detail.

There is a lot to enjoy, but ultimately, the episode has a classic feel without being a classic. It reminds me of SG1’s Fail Safe; an episode that is enjoyable, focuses on the team together in trouble and having to find solutions, and is definitely one of my Stargate favourites but which just isn’t epic. The Daedalus Variations is the same; an ‘A’ for effort; an ‘A’ for the idea and the story, an 'A' for the production in the main, but the combined end result as an episode is a solid ‘B.’

September 16th, 2008, 08:59 PM
The first three episodes in season five of Stargate Atlantis were more character than story driven as each of those three episodes provided some interesting development and insights into several of the characters. Episode four, “The Daedalus Variations” was decidedly different from these more character driven stories. It was not big on character development, nor did it greatly expand the mythology of Atlantis, however it was an intriguing story and an enjoyable episode that delivered an adventurous romp through Alternative Universe space.

In this episode Team Atlantis, Sheppard, Ronon, Mckay and Teyla, are trapped in an Alternative Universe(AU) version of the Daedalus, and are jumped from one AU reality to the next. The underlying premise of how the ship was jumping from one reality, by using the technology first seen in “McKay and Mrs. Miller”, was rather clever and provided good continuity from that storyline.

The story revolved around the team desperately searching to find a way to “jump” back home while trying to survive the realities of each of the alternative universes they find themselves in. While the fact that they will survive is not really in question, what makes this story very appealing and enjoyable to watch is the different realities and situations they encounter in each of the AU and of course the life and death decisions/struggle in these very different environments. What made it unique from most other Stargate AU stories is that it not only involved the entire team but instead of having the team interact with only one AU, they had to deal with several changing ones, rather like a kaleidoscope of different AU realities.

One of the things that made this episode work so well was it focused on the team. Over the past few episodes and even last season the main team has often been separated or at odds with each other. This episode really brought back the team feeling, all working together, each contributing their unique talents/traits to the situation to resolve each predicament, each having a moment to shine. It really showcased the old saying of how the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts.

Even though it was primarily a team episode, there were a few really good moments between individual team members. Rodney and Teyla seemed to come to terms with a question of him feeling uncomfortable around the baby. It was especially touching that he picked up on her concern over finding their way back to their own Atlantis when he commented to her that he would not let her first mission back with the team after having the baby be her last. The final scene when Teyla handed the baby to Rodney in the infirmary was a very sweet “bonding” moment between Teyla, Rodney and the baby and brought that plotline full circle.

In addition, the conversation between Teyla and Ronon in the cargo hold, when she expressed concern over her son and wondered if the dead AU Teyla had a son, was particularly poignant. These scenes were a fairly good attempt on the writer’s part to demonstrate the struggle Teyla has had with balancing her desire to be a good mother and her duty to Atlantis and the team and most importantly the support she has from her teammates.

The new villains introduced in one of the AU looked to be quite interesting and had a few intriguing features such as the symbol on the ship and the red device seemingly implanted in their foreheads. In typical Stargate fashion, which depending on your point of view is either maddeningly frustrating or mysteriously captivating, the viewer is left with more questions than answers on these beings. One wonders if they will be seen again and just what advanced technological secrets they might possess.

In typical Stargate fashion, there were a few surprising twists, such as finding the dead bodies of themselves and the fact that they used the space suits to escape the last AU jump. There were several “fun” moments too; Ronon trying to work the weapons console, Teyla helping McKay and Sheppard talking to himself during the reverse jumps- these just were pure enjoyment.

The special effects were really great. The battle scene sequence, the red sun, the outside shots of the Daddy and the jumper– all top notch. It definitely would appear the CGI department has been working overtime this year.

“The Daedalus Variations” was a stand alone episode that focused on the team and provided a grand space adventure and fight for survival in AU space – and on all accounts it succeeded very well.

October 5th, 2012, 01:00 PM
The Daedalus Variations

Ohhh, an alternate reality episode, and it contains our character working together as a team; sci-fi/Stargate fans will go absolutely nuts for this.

Stargate has been known to provide their own twist on the common sci-fi concept and many of those twists have provided the best episodes of the series and you can clearly see how perfect the episode is for them, McKay and his scientific knowledge, Sheppard and his team-like mentality and Teyla with her determination and good nature but somehow both of those things don't work out to their advantage; for one they don't do much with the concept with the variations of Atlantis going through being none, with an unknown enemy alien or where it has become a sun or a bunch of asteroids; they could of done something inventive, one where the ancients never died out or one where the Daedalus was perceived as an enemy for Atlantis but instead the alternate-reality becomes a gimmick to provide an inescapable predicament, the alternate reality thing being left to the imaginations of the viewers unfortunately. And the people themselves end up stupid for the purpose of serving the plot; it's clear that these people should of had some idea of what's going on, the variations of planets between alternate universes relating to many differences, the relative position of where they are in the universe, the white flashes. Sheppard's passed a Mensa test and McKay is usually the most smartest person in Atlantis so it just irks me that they don't know the basics of alternate realities when they've encountered them in one form or another; maybe they think not having them know what's going on will provide them with decent performances and that's especially true when Sheppard and McKay bring the yelling to the forefront, showing the type of focus they're known for but that shouldn't come with the throwing away of their very intelligence.

Very original...

Watching this, it does seem like there are interesting moral issues in this episode, one such as whether or not they should help out Atlantis and whether or not they'll ever make it back where they came from; it certainly gives depth to some areas of the episode and makes you think about certain things but it seems like those issues are far and few in-between compared to the actual content that makes up this episode and that is lacking in everything. It's got an environment that could allow the show people to explore the characters, have them face issues that they normally wouldn't face such as the desire to get home and the willingness to actually get things working but the characters here are barely explored (save for one Teyla scene which is both a generic sci-fi comment and an exploration into her motherhood) and much of them play the usual role of trying to get themselves out of this conundrum with the usual traits popping up here and there to show character; traits like McKay worrying about certain systems, McKay yelling whenever he gets hit or annoyed, Sheppard grilling on McKay, Sheppard taking command and shouting commands and Telya and Ronan being in the background. Of course, it can't be Atlantis without action so they introduce some scenes where aliens that look like the Borg invade the ship thus providing the guys with something to shoot at and occasionally, the brief obstacle; it makes the second alternate reality they're in a gimmicky plot point, one that only serves to introduce an enemy to keep the audience interested and one that also allows the heroes to get away after the other heroes conveniently save the day, it also serves to provide cool visual effects of which they spend the budget on to justify the amount of money being given to them.

The characters would usually do a decent job of acting throughout this affair, seeming capable at their jobs, proving some sense that they are real people but here, they seem to turn in performance that are unexpectedly below par, which is surprising. The main problem is that they seem to be contradicting themselves at every turn; for example, whenever McKay does something serious like comment on the situation of the ship, he does a 180 and acts in a comedic manner overreacting when he gets shot and then he turns back around and becomes serious again. People may think of that previous moment as funny but it just dilutes the seriousness of the acting and in acting there you only be one thing, serious with a bit of funny mixed inside or funny with a bit of seriousness mixed inside, you can't be both. I wouldn't blame the actors more so than I would blame the writing which seems to treat it's characters as something defined by traits rather than personality; I couldn't remember a moment where Sheppard wasn't criticizing McKay and these moments are usually within a majority of Stargate episodes. Lesson for aspiring writers, characters are much more than traits; the traits are things that help them stand out but it's the personalities that engage the audience and allows the character to grow. Sure, some traits are funny/cool to use but if you mainly focus on that without growth than your character will be hollow much like those featured here. In this mess of acting, I would have to say McKay stands out not because he acts the best but because he makes the most sense out of everyone in the crew, making mostly informed decisions in the conundrum they're in.

Well at least the crew's together...

I'll have to admit, the beginning of the episode provides some of the best moments of the episode, them exploring the unknown, awing at everything they see, going through the information to see just what happened but nobody watches episodes just to see the beginning and after everything's well established than it just goes downhill from here, trying to figure out what it wants to be (an team/action episode, a character-based episode, a sci-fi episode) until the moment where they miraculously save themselves against all odds (in a somewhat clever way of course). Much of this episode is a wash from the characters who rely more on traits than anything else to the premise which ends up being a gimmick to it's intentions which is unclear and muddy. It's surprising when a sci-fi premise ends up bringing an episode down; this is supposed to be a genre where imagination and possibilities reign supreme but alas, none of that was to be found here. Shame too, since this could of been a wonderful episode. Oh well...