View Full Version : FAN REVIEWS: 'Outsiders'

October 17th, 2008, 12:23 PM
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<FONT SIZE="4"><A HREF="http://www.gateworld.net/atlantis/s5/512.shtml" STYLE="text-decoration: none">OUTSIDERS</A></FONT>
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The Wraith arrive in a village where Dr. Beckett is working, and demand that the locals turn over a group of refugees who survived the Hoffan plague -- or the entire village will be obliterated.

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October 20th, 2008, 04:25 PM
After the overstuffed “Lost Tribe”, this episode feels almost decompressed. It’s ostensibly connected to the overall season arc in terms of the post-Michael status quo for the Wraith, but it’s scope is relatively small. I suppose that’s not much of a surprise. Thankfully, there was an update on the beloved Dr. Beckett and some clarification on the Wraith situation.

I’ll address the Wraith situation first. During “The Queen” and “First Contact”, I couldn’t figure out why the Wraith would actually want to lose their ability to feed on humans. Was the line from McKay in the recap for this episode cut from “The Queen”? Because I don’t remember the “spoiling of the food supply” issue coming up in that episode at all, despite the fact that it’s probably the most important element of the debate. Without mentioning the potential cost to the Wraith if they don’t change their ways, their motivation to do so is completely nebulous. (If it was mentioned in “The Queen”, then I take full responsibility for missing the point!)

Whatever the case, this episode did remind me of that rather important detail, and I imagine it did the same for a number of other fans. I can only hope that it has something to do with subsequent events in the rest of the fifth season, because otherwise, it would be a waste of valuable time. I like the fact that Todd is not the only Wraith looking for a way to resolve challenges and gain advantage; it’s far better to show us that fact than tell us in passing. It also underscores the reality that the Wraith are not just sitting back and allowing their species to fall into ruin. Michael, the Asurans, and the rogue Asgard may have dealt them serious setbacks, but they are still a threat.

Dr. Beckett is also working on Michael’s plague, which shouldn’t be surprising. It makes sense for Earth to dispatch him to research and resolve some of the issues that Michael set in motion in the Pegasus Galaxy, since he was involved in their creation. It touches on the sense of responsibility that Team Atlantis and the SGC must take in terms of the Pegasus Galaxy state of play.

Much of the episode is a meditation on trust, and we’ve seen it before. When things are good and there are no perceived threats, everyone gets along. Apply a little jeopardy, and the divisions begin. It’s not surprising that some of the villagers would turn on the Balarans, but it is surprising that the Balarans would turn on Team Atlantis. It’s all about survival in the end, even in terms of defeating the Wraith.

Thanks to some nice Rodney/Carson interaction (which is sorely missed), this episode manages to find some distinctiveness, despite the relatively bland and familiar story. Unfortunately, I doubt many fans will point to this as one of the best episodes of the season, and it’s the kind of episode you easily skip when skimming through the DVDs.

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

October 27th, 2008, 06:10 PM
“Outsiders” brings back Carson Beckett in a story that expands upon his development of the Hoffman drug and a look at the very personal consequences that the drug has caused to both humans and Wraith in the Pegasus Galaxy. The result is an intense, thought provoking episode that in the end asks, what is the cost of survival?

The story opens with Carson treating survivors of the drug on a planet where they have been taken in by the local villagers. He is there helping the refugees and villagers because of his own sense of guilt due to his involvement in the formulation of the virus and the creation of Michael who unleashed it. Carson’s own sense of responsibility and mantra “first do no harm” drives his character as he tires to abide by those words, but as the story progresses, he finds that it isn’t always as clearly defined as it should be. When he and Rodney find themselves captive on the Wraith ship, he is confronted with a decision, help the wraith find a way to detect the virus – this would prevent the Wraith from killing large populations to eliminate those with the virus but it would also allow the Wraith to freely cull humans.

Back on the planet, the Wraith are threatening to destroy the village and kill all the inhabitants unless the refugees are turned over to them. With the belief that the Wraith will spare the villagers lives, the Balaran refugees are betrayed by Jervis and his men and are rounded up to be turned in over to the Wraith. Out of fear and the desire to survive, one of the captured Balarans betrays Carson to the Wraith thus leaving a situation where they are all at risk.

Sheppard seemingly comes up with a plan to save not only his team’s lives but the lives of the villagers - a plan that involves the death of Jervis of his men. Was he justified or not is one of those questions that will likely be discussed and debated for a while, and it is one of the reasons that this was such an intriguing episode. It shakes the status quo, it makes one question the character’s actions, it shocks you, in other words it is neither black nor white – it is grey, and grey tends to make one think.

The writers have shown us this side of Sheppard before, in season 1 when he shot the imprisoned Wraith, in season 2 in “Condemned” when he freed the prisoners and let the people on the mainland be attacked by the Wraith, in season 3 in “Misbegotten” when he nuked the planet with the Wraith survivors and in season 4 in “Miller’s Crossing” when he convinced Wallace to sacrifice himself to the hungry Wraith. These examples all show a certain depth and darkness to his character that unfortunately the writers have not taken the opportunity to really explore, explain or expound upon. This lack of follow though with the character and his actions is not only a shame but a loss of a rich opportunity for character and story development.

In the end “Outsiders” was a story about fear, betrayal and survival. Jervis, the refugee, Carson, Sheppard the village leader all made decisions that effectively killed or put other lives at risk out of fear and desire to survive. Was it wrong for Jervis to turn the refugees over to the Wraith? Was it wrong for the Balaran to turn Carson over to the Wraith? Was Sheppard wrong for killing Jervis and his men to save the people in the village? Would it have been wrong for Sheppard not to take action and allow everyone to die?

This episode and the questions of right or wrong it invokes is reminiscent of that age old philosophical question, you have ten people in a lifeboat but only enough food and water for eight to survive. Do all ten perish or do you eliminate two so the others will survive – and who gets to decide. The one mistake the writers made in “Outsiders” however was not involving the viewers more in the thought process the characters went through to make that decision. The motivation of Jervis and the refugees is fairly straight forward, but Sheppard’s and the town leader’s actions needed more exploration. The episode could have really explored these dark and morally grey choices instead the writers chose not to confront these issues head on and the episode became more standard fair instead of a challenging piece on morality.

Overall the story had many different layers that intertwined and influenced each other. Writer Alan McCullough did a great job of fitting these pieces together for a good paced, tense story that had a few good twists and turns as well as shocks.

Carson and McKay make a nice duo. Good dialog that was well delivered by the actors made the scenes between the two of them at times fun, at times poignant and always enjoyable.

“Outsiders” was a multilayer story about fear, betrayal and survival and what those things could drive a person to do. It was a thought provoking episode that in the end it left many of the characters as well as the viewer questioning their own sense of right and wrong – and realizing that things are not always so black and white.

November 5th, 2008, 02:21 PM
Morally ambiguity is tackled every so often in Stargate Atlantis and Outsiders definitely tackles it in spades. It provides a good, solid outing for the Atlantis team and the story is a nice mix of action and drama with a great pairing with McKay and Beckett. That’s not to say that it is without flaws; the pacing is a little off, there is some confusion around details at the end of the episode and ultimately the moral questions while raised are never fully answered.

The main attraction of the story is the teaming of friends McKay and Beckett. Since the introduction of the clone, the audience has been waiting for them to be reunited in a story that allows them to spend time together and Outsiders delivers as they both get captured and taken to the Hive ship. Their scenes together are sharp: sometimes played for humour (the scene with the dart is just laugh out loud funny as is McKay’s reminder to Beckett that he’ll have to cover him) and sometimes showing their friendship for the other (McKay telling Beckett that what has happened isn’t his fault, Beckett joining McKay for lunch). Hewlett and McGillion do a great job. They work together well; their characters work together and the great thing about their time on the Hive ship is that neither character is a soldier so their boy’s own escape provides some innate funniness.

The humour is well-played and nicely mixed in with what is otherwise quite a heavy storyline. McCullough’s stories often do have a political, social-historical subtext such as back in Tabula Rasa where the underlying theme of civilian rebellion in a military tyranny is woven into the plot. Here there are nods to discrimination and the role of collaborators in war. Neither are particularly easy topics to tackle without judgement and Outsiders doesn’t even make the attempt by marrying them together: those who turn on the ‘outsiders’ (both within the villagers and the Belaran who hands over Beckett) are the ones that collaborate with the Wraith, and all are killed as a consequence. There is some attempt through the discussions on what is the right thing to do, to paint them with a little more depth than simply bad people but there is only so much that can be done in the time available and ultimately all the collaborators are shown as not caring that their acts are morally questionable.

The question that remains though is whether our erstwhile heroes care about their morally questionable acts as Sheppard presses the button that kills a number of the Wraith and the village collaborators, and turns to tell the village leader, ‘Nice work.’ While Flanigan acts his socks off to convey that moment with regret and irony as does the leader, there is no follow up scene and the episode is the weaker for it.

The question of collaboration is also explored in the McKay/Beckett thread which has Beckett told to assist the Wraith in finding a way to detect the Hoffman toxin. Here Beckett refuses to collaborate and escapes; is redeemed by his lack of collaboration. The problem is that this thread barely touches on the fact that Beckett was largely responsible for the development of the drug in the first place and the clone was forced to collaborate further with Michael on it. When Beckett notes his first directive as a doctor is to ‘do no harm’ one wonders where his adherence to the Hippocratic oath was during his involvement with biogenetic viral weapons against the Wraith. Still, the thread allows some redemption for Beckett as he destroys the Wraith’s research and uses it to create a way for himself and McKay to escape.

The effects of the dart restoring McKay and Beckett to the team are well done and it is great to have that sense of the team on a mission together that is created within the episode. The story allows for the various season arcs to progress nicely and there is even a nice nod to the McKay/Keller arc at the end. I have to give the producers and writers credit for improving their arc skills this season.

However, on the negative side, the pacing of the story lags in places; primarily through the second and third acts. It is thought-provoking but scenes of endless discussion on what to do don’t provide enough dynamism to keep the momentum going at times. The other small glitch is the suggestion that the entire village apart from the locked-up villainous collaborators are evacuated to Atlantis at the end but the numbers shown escaping through the Stargate are just a handful. While realistically I know 600-700 people couldn’t be shown, it also doesn’t feel realistic that they had time to evacuate that number and I was firmly of the opinion only the Belarans had been evacuated until I watched a second time.

Overall, as I quite enjoy the more morally ambiguous episodes for the characters, I did enjoy Outsiders. It’s thought-provoking even if it doesn’t quite show enough contemplation and impact to our heroes from the acts shown. And while the episode didn’t quite sweep me off my feet, it was a good solid episode with a great sense of team, of friendship and a natural progression of the Atlantis story arcs.

October 16th, 2012, 07:46 PM

The Hoffan drug has been one of those things that seem to profligate recent episodes of Atlantis, the inability for a Wraith to feed on a human, the morality rate which causes a small number of people to die and the fear for the Wraith that the next meal they feed on might be their last and Beckett has been one of those characters with a certain charm that makes us happy to see him; Beckett also has a certain ethical side that has come out in episodes such as "Poisoning the Well" and the combination of the drug with Beckett and a certain ethical dilemma does seem like an interesting episode.

Unfortunately, it turns out to be a boring one. I can commend them for coming up with a premise that has depth; Wraith forcing a group of villagers to turn the outsiders to them, the argument of whether or not they're people or a risk, whether or not the Wraith will honor their deal, what people have to do to survive... There are some scenes that explore this pretty well, especially the ones where they'd do anything to survive; who can blame them? they want to save whatever is special to them whether or not it's themselves or an entire village, it's sort of a human nature thing to do, to hold a little bit of hope and a little bit of fear at the same time but for most of the time, it feels like the episode is trying it's best to copy "Poisoning the Well"; everywhere you look they're including some sort of morally based question and issue whether or not it's in dialog or the action itself and those seems to be almost forced complete with overacting and overemphasis. It's like the people in the village are trying their best to channel the Hoffans in their performance but what made them were their seemingly friendly and intelligent personalities that held a morally questionable side, the desire to stop the Wraith yet the disregard to life in general. These people don't have much of a personality as they spit out their issues with such bluntness and because of that, it's hard for me to care about what happens. To me they're just another group of people who needs to be saved by Atlantis.

Tons O' People.

The inclusion of Beckett helps to enforce the whole copy feeling but he's also the one who plays well into this dilemma thing, even going so far as to be the most memorable thing in the episode. He has come a long way from before though as his acting seems considerably weakened, as if he was aware of the third-rate script that surrounds this episode and as such he doesn't feel much of a need to go above the bar, simply talking in the best manner that he can; when he does try to be aggressive many times it feels as if he's forcing his lines with a gruff, emotionless tone. None of the conversations really give us a feel that it's Beckett and to me it felt like I was watching a gimmick which will obviously help make the episode stand out. There are moments where he shines and when he does them, he shines; watching him stand by his oath takes me back to the good old days of the character, it felt like a real doctor in there as he showed worried about the type of stuff he was doing and as he was objecting himself to the type of things they were doing, yelling out, justifying his reasons in front of everybody. The argument about how people are going to die regardless of what he does has got to be one of the best Beckett rationalizations out there. The actor behind him knows how to hit something hard, knows how to exactly parlay the mindset into an actual character and those moments alone blow away a village and even Wraith who try to be scary but end up seeming cheesy as usual.

However, Beckett doesn't appear in every scene and in those scenes the crew seems to take front and center position but doesn't seem to be the least bit interested in the scenario; they're almost aware that they're the second fiddle to Beckett, only doing stuff to provide exposition such as communicating with the village, guiding the village to safety and in one really rare occasion, attacking the Wraith. They do prove okayish though as they work together as a team; the chemistry has not degraded one bit in the times when they were away, knowing exactly what to do and helping themselves out wherever they can. They act like concerned people when communicating with the people of the village and they know how to get going when the going gets tough; plus Teyla seems to play a noticeable part (after being in the background before) scoping out the gate and guiding people to safety but I couldn't care for them as they did their thing, even McKay who's separated from his crew but he does prove himself well with Beckett who's worrisome, observational personality works well with McKay's confident, almost neurotic personality. That's not to say all the Becketless scenes are bad, there was one when the villagers came through with guns to take out the outsiders which really established a sense of fear which was surprisingly good but for the most part, the scenes without Beckett are 50/50.

The incomparable Beckett...

This episode does have drugs, Beckett and Wraith but what this episode promises in potential discussion, it doesn't deliver feeling for a most part like a copy of "Poisoning the Well". The concepts don't have much of a depth, ending up sterile due to the presentation of the episode which while competently done, doesn't have much conviction and uniqueness. Beckett ends up the best character of the episode thanks to his above average acting but he suffers from some flaws that makes him a shadow of his former self, same goes to the crew and everybody in the village. I have to admire the writers for making a commendable effort but it just didn't pan out, maybe next time guys...