View Full Version : FAN REVIEWS: 'Brain Storm'

November 7th, 2008, 11:13 AM
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<FONT SIZE="4"><A HREF="http://www.gateworld.net/atlantis/s5/516.shtml" STYLE="text-decoration: none">BRAIN STORM</A></FONT>
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Rodney returns to Earth with Jennifer to witness the triumph of his rival, who believes he has solved the problem of global warming. But when the new technology goes horribly awry, Rodney must help shut down the deadly weather device.

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December 1st, 2008, 03:54 PM
The romance between Rodney McKay and Jennifer Keller has been a point of contention since Keller’s first foray into such territory. Fans were rankled by the abrupt nature of their mutual interest, especially since the writers had Ronon equally interested in Jennifer around the exact same time. Keller has struggled to gain traction with the fans, seen as an intrusive replacement for the “departed” Dr. Beckett, and her inclusion in a love triangle didn’t help matters.

Thankfully, this is a pleasant little episode that goes a long way towards demonstrating why Keller is a good match for Rodney. She gives him plenty of room for his ego, but she does manage to rein it in from time to time. She’s got equal determination and looks after his best interests, particularly when he’s in “speaking without thinking” mode. And she looks damn good in a party dress (but really, does Jewel Staite ever look horrible?).

The plot had some interesting insights into the scientific community and the difficulties faced by those engaged in cutting-edge but classified research, but beyond that, it was a standard situation. Experiment goes awry, loved ones in peril, McKay saves the day. Special appearances by Dave Foley and Bill Nye the Science Guy weren’t enough to overcome those issues.

In fact, it felt like the episode was trying to be more humorous than it was. Don’t get me wrong; there were definite moments with chuckle-worthy material, but by and large, the synthesis of comedy and drama didn’t quite hit the mark. I doubt it made much of a difference in the end, however, since I imagine reactions to the episode were based less on the content and more on the McKay/Keller relationship as a whole.

With only a handful of episodes left, it’s a bit unfortunate that an entire episode was devoted to a couple of characters and an admittedly unpopular relationship. On the other hand, this does resolve the question of whether or not the two will even have a relationship, which ties up another potential loose end. The writers could certainly have done worse.

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

December 3rd, 2008, 01:36 PM
Stargate Atlantis takes a step into quirky romantic comedy to highlight green issues with the latest episode Brain Storm. With the focus reduced to the romantic pairing, an Earth-based story and only the thinnest of links back to the wider Atlantis story, the episode bears little resemblance to the usual Stargate Atlantis fare. As a result, it needed to be brilliant in every respect to counteract the audience disappointment in their usual expectations not being met. Unfortunately, while Brain Storm is not a bad episode, it is not brilliant enough to offset the lack of, well, Stargate Atlantis.

Given the genre focus, the episode relies heavily on the chemistry of the romantic pairing. The story arc building the idea of a relationship between McKay and Keller has been in play since Trio but especially through Season 5, and Brain Storm puts it front and centre. Whether the viewer likes the pairing or not, thinks that the pairing works or not will greatly affect their enjoyment of the story. I happen to be both supportive of the show tackling romantic elements and I quite like the idea of these characters as a couple. For me it is a believable pairing; both are professional, intellectual, yet with a number of insecurities and phobias, and David Hewlett and Jewel Staite have a nice chemistry; they seem genuinely fond of each other and this plays out on screen. Still, despite my positive ambivalence toward the pairing, ahead of Brain Storm I would not have been entirely convinced that it is strong enough to carry an episode and, after seeing the episode, I’m afraid to say I remain unconvinced.

The whole story premise effectively revolves around McKay and Keller’s first real date at a physics conference where predictably things go very wrong; Keller ends up in danger; McKay plays the romantic lead hero and rescues her. It is a classic romance genre plot. There are some lovely moments; the opening trailer of McKay’s invitation and Keller’s acceptance; the holding hands in the auditorium; the rescue with McKay’s fervent plea to Keller (although like with The Shrine, I’m not sure that declarations of love on a first date are that believable).

What doesn’t work so well is that the rest of the story is very weak with neither the science-fiction element nor any comedic value really being outstanding. The space-time matter bridge is the only tie back to the wider Atlantis stories beyond the characters themselves and the idea of using it as a way of solving global warming is an interesting one. The presence of TV scientists Bill Nye and Neil de Grasse Tyson (who both put in great performances) imbue the episode with added scientific seal of approval. Here definitely is the ‘green’ focus. But some of the science of the weather fronts with tornados suddenly appearing and disappearing seems a little wishy-washy and the message gets preachy especially in the scene where McKay notes in the plane that ‘everyone has to do their bit’ and the scene where Keller tells the scientists that they are acting like sixth graders. The ‘you need to work together, the rest of us are counting on you’ beat is not exactly subtle.

With the science-fiction more fiction than science, the comedy aspect may have saved the story but comedy is always a bit hit and miss – people will either love or hate it. Here the entire joke seems to be centred around McKay’s reputation as a loser with his peers and people – especially Tunney – stealing his ideas. We’re all supposed to laugh apparently at McKay’s humiliation and outrage. Unfortunately, the joke falls flat. The way his peers gang up against McKay smacks of playground bully tactics rather than humorous mickey-taking. On a serious note, it does highlight the difficulties of maintaining a professional standing in the real world, but this is old ground covered in SG1. The funniest moment is probably McKay’s quick retort to Tunney over the term ‘freeze lightening.’ David Foley does a good job with Tunney displaying a McKayesque arrogance and abrasiveness while making Tunney a distinct character. Even the additional ‘joke’ of calling the SGC only for Walter to hang up is not funny.

The whole ends up being nothing more than OK but I don’t think it helped here to have Martin Gero pulling double duty with the writing and directing. The singular focus seems to have led to a lack of balance rather than the fulfilment of a brilliant vision. It’s definitely a long way from the brilliance that was needed to offset the lack of the usual Atlantis trappings. The spirit of the ‘team’ is sorely missed especially given the opening where there is a nod back to the romantic triangle nonsense when Ronon declares ‘who cares?’ The lack of team is underscored by just how little the rest of the cast is used; no Teyla or Woolsey, and a fleeting appearance only by Sheppard and Ronon. This isn’t helped with the Earth based nature of the story which reduces its links with Atlantis and makes it ordinary and mundane. Moreover, the city of Atlantis is missed. This story might have worked if it had been balanced by a ‘B’ plot back on Atlantis.

Overall, Brain Storm falls into what I call the fast food section; enjoyable and throwaway fulfilling a momentary want for Stargate but forgotten a heartbeat later. It’s insubstantial fluff. I liked it but I didn’t love it and I missed the elements that make the show for me; the team, and importantly, Atlantis.

December 5th, 2008, 04:23 PM
“Brainstorm” was an episode that had elements a viewer could both love and hate. It focused on the budding romantic relationship of Dr. Jennifer Keller and Dr. Rodney McKay within a story that centered around a scientific gathering of Rodney’s peers and rivals. While the episode started off with promise, most of the storylines and characters quickly fell into a pattern of predictability and banality.

The biggest problem with the episode is that it always seemed to take a scene one step too far. What would start out as a nice character moment or an interesting dialogue between characters frequently ended up with a clichéd response which took the already clichéd characters and plot deeper into predictability.

A good example of a scene that started out with promise and interest but ended up disappointing was the scene where Keller admonishes the scientists for not cooperating. It starts off as a good scene; Keller stands up to the scientists and reminds them of the importance of what they are doing, but then scene ended with her coming across as a tad bit condescending as it was more like a mother scolding naughty children.

The initial meeting between Rodney and his peers was interesting and provided some fun, backstabbing, snarky comments among this learned group. It was an interesting insight to see how Rodney has been treated by his peers and how he longs for recognition and respect. However the supercilious comments got old pretty quick and it became all too apparent it was a set-up for the auditorium scene where Rodney spoke to the dangers of the proposed project only to have him brushed aside as being nothing more than jealous and arrogant.

Another problem with the episode is that many of the secondary characters seemed to shift their principles during the episode. The character of Tunney is an example. For the first 20-25 minutes the character was intriguing and was played as a good rival and foil to McKay’s character. But he quickly went from an interesting, power hungry, egotistical scientist to a nervous, “you’re smarter than me” wimp. The company guy, Kramer, is another example. When the problems first occurred with the bridge, his first concern was to get everyone out safely, later he sabotaged the phones and communications to prevent them from calling the military for help. The inconsistency of both characters was confusing and caused the characters to lose credibility and context within the story.

On a good note the acting was excellent. David Hewlett and Jewel Staite were great and Dave Foley did a fine job with his character and it was fun to see him. Having Bill Nye in the episode was awesome and it is great that his character did play more of a significant role rather than just one brief scene. Nye was terrific and he had some great lines that he delivered well.

At last Stargate decides to make a romance between two primary characters official. This could have been done better, but it also could have been worse. The McKay/Keller scenes were cute – but almost too cute at times. The story vacillated between scenes that depicted a growing, mature relationship and others that seemed more like two High School students with a bad case of puppy love. One aspect that was done well was the scene in the auditorium where Keller is asking Rodney to try to be more humble. He does attempt this during the episode but for the most part is just frustrated. At the end he says he just can’t be humble, it is not who he is and she should accept him as he is. It brought that whole idea full circle and did show that Rodney feels he does not have to put on pretenses with her. It also shows that Keller knows exactly what she in getting with Rodney and accepts him the way he is but at the same time not willing to take too much attitude from him. This does put their relationship in a good light and may provide for some interesting moments in the future.

A McKay/Keller scene that did not work well is when Rodney rescued her. There was no real sense of danger or urgency; the axing of the door and CPR scenes were just too pat, too simple and too easy. There was little to no tension or drama. It was too clichéd. However the fact that Rodney chose to save her over staying and overseeing his plan to “save the day” showed that he can rise above his need for recognition and that he cares for Keller a lot more than getting the credit. That is always a nice side of Rodney to see and it does shows that Dr. Keller can bring out the very human and caring side of Rodney

One of the more interesting scenes came in the beginning between Ronon and Sheppard; it was a short but interesting and fun scene. Actually, what would have been more interesting in this scene is if Sheppard would have reminded viewers that Keller died in the alternative timeline from “The Last Man.” It would have foreshadowed the possibility that Keller might die, which might have added a certain degree of tenseness to the story.

“Brainstorm” was not the worst episode ever, some of the dialogue was fun and enjoyable, but for the most part it was just underwhelming. What could have been an opportunity for scenes with some depth and emotional passion to really explore the relationship between Rodney and his peers in a mature and meaningful manner frequently more often ended up feeling like a High School dance where the cool guys belittle the social outsider. As to his romance with Keller, if you like bubble gum romance where the geeky guy gets the pretty girl in a fairly predictable story then the episode works, but if you wanted a more mature, insightful look at the relationship between Rodney and Keller, it didn’t work.

October 24th, 2012, 10:55 AM
Brain Storm (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtNHK3dISdM)

Many episodes have featured McKay in a starring role and many of those episodes have been good, exploring what makes him tick, exploring his character; there have been some duds here and there but for the most part his track record has held up and it continues to hold up with Brain Storm which is one of those McKay episodes and surprisingly, one of the rare good episodes of Season 5.

It has been known that the egotism, aggressiveness and general intelligence level has played a major part of his character since he was established; no one knows where he got that but one could wonder based on the hints he's dropped, about the world he was in. This forms the basis for much of the episode as we finally get a look into that ever so enchanting world that has been hinted for so long; scientists desiring to come up with the best thing they've ever had, one upping each other wherever they can, even resorting to stealing other people's ideas... This type of cutthroat world is frenetic from the scientists with their snarky comments to their presentations which flaunt out their egos and it's here where the true McKay gets to shine. This is a man who wants to be recognized, a man who works hard only to have disappointment hang over him; watching him, I can sort of rationalize the kind of behavior he had in the seasons prior, it doesn't excuse it but I can gain a better understanding for him; it is indulging to see him battle with other scientists and then see himself fall, the emotions, the brashness, the personality, it's the signs of someone who was probably a good guy but let the underground world of science change him. Of course, Keller is also along for the ride and she proves to be a good sidekick to McKay as well as her own character; every speech she makes and every opinions she speaks out shows a sternness and confidence that's natural for her character, one that isn't overly preachy and wordy and she provides a cuteness and charm that's almost a natural fit for McKay, it's fun as she's entranced by his world, laughing at his jokes, enjoying herself and the way that they look at each other and hold hands, the suggestive mannerisms that they show, you can't help but to giggle.

The hard competitive world of science.

As with every SGA episode out there, there's always a source of danger that premeditates this episode and in this case, it's a frightening case of hypothermia. The way it starts felt really tried as much of it resolved around the consequences of turning it on and the obvious danger that it holds; while they weren't saying "besides, what will go wrong if I turn it on", they were definitely trying to cover it up by sophisticating the dialog with science and college-grade vocabulary, granted it does set the mood but it's ultimately an unsubstantial distraction designed to make a common predictable plot interesting and unique, although I was impressed by how it related to the series as a whole. No matter as it is the actual threat itself which is the focal point of this episode, for once we have a threat that's unique and scientifically sound. They play out the over-the-topness of the idea by having the scientists try their best to solve the solution; as they bicker with each other they're unintentionally being funny despite what's going on, you may not understand the comments they give or what they're even talking about in scientific terms but you can laugh at their routine, their seeming professionalism being contrasted by the immaturity that they show; there are also small offbeat admittances and even Bill Nye the Science Guy, their special guest star manages to utilize his charisma and energy to great effect. The world is pretty fun but they do play out the seriousness by bringing out the big guns, shooting blue beams of light that shows that they mean it, utilizing some impressive visual effects to get the point across. It brings out many things, it brings out the determination and knowledge that these people are known for, it brings about the drama that's as serious as it'll get and most of all, it brings about a seriousness that has been solely missing from Season 5.

This episode pans out in many situations; there's a desire to help out a noble cause, the need to work together to find a common solution and each one of those explorations have some sort of moralistic bond. There's a thought to be had in whether or not the people wanting to save the Earth are working for a greater cause, whether the sort of scientific competition is ultimately harmful for science and what can be done if people worked together; It provides many questions for the viewer to think about, some common, others obscure and though some questions may prove to be meaningless without any depth (especially ones about working together), it is these questions which matter in the premise of the episode; each character gets a chance to show what they're made of from the nerdy scientist who started the whole thing to the brass company exec and while they may seem a bit preachy or even annoying at times (which does hurt the moments of those characters), you can feel them; the nervousness that tells him he can't do it despite the fact that he's doing it, the sternness that suggests that he's adamant of what he's doing while being unaware of the true issue; nobody's a hero but some at least manages to carve off some bit of character here and there. What really shown is the bond between and Keller, as they attempt to save the people inside of the building and as they find themselves on opposite sides of the building, you can almost see the undieing romance that they have, the wide range of emotions and the wide range of drama; it brings a tear to your eye as McKay axes a door, seeming almost heroic, focus and determined while Keller deals with life and death, shivering, just hoping for some miracle to come... It's something that's beautiful yet shows some growth in both of them in the newfound commitments that they have.


This episode isn't a masterpiece, some of the stuff regarding the scientists seems a bit sketchy at times, various people didn't even get a chance to rise up and only one guest star really mattered but aside from that, this was pretty good. The premise of the episode and the content isn't for everybody but what's here is an episode which focuses on the character of McKay and explores the often uninside world of him, a serious and dangerous threat that places everybody at the edge of their seats and moments which are dramatic as they are romantic. Fans will be pleased to have an episode that isn't boring or disapointing and in Season 5, that's saying a lot.


Ripple in Space
July 19th, 2013, 04:46 PM
It's painfully bad. Everything about this episode is cringe-worthy. I'm a big McKay fan, as well as a fan of Dave Foley (McKay's guest rival), Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye.

This is the only Atlantis episode that I genuinely dislike. McKay & Keller have zero chemistry; the premise & dialogue are written like bad fanfiction...

There's also the fact that I know real life McKays--not space adventurers, but physicists & engineers who work on classified projects for the US military and NASA. Even though they rarely patent & publish, they're still considered top-shelf scientists, despite being disallowed from sharing their work with the public. People know what they're doing is important, and respect the vague title.

Common sense would lead one to believe that McKay's doing very important work from an outsider's perspective. We know Carter & Dr. Lee "officially" are scientists at NORAD who also research advanced technologies for the betterment of the US military & general public. The latter seasons of SG-1 see Carter publicly showcasing dumbed down versions of alien-tech for the general community.

Logically, McKay would have a similar cover-story to Carter & Lee, so why are they considered low-profile brilliant government scientists, and McKay is considered a humiliated recluse?

As Daniel alluded to, he's probably the only one who logically had to take a major hit to his reputation for the SGC. Unlike McKay who can tell anyone, "I'm a top physicist for the US military working on now-classified projects," what on earth can Daniel tell his peers he does?

If Daniel's even allowed to say he's an employee of the US military, he probably has to claim he's something very low on the totem pole--given his former reputation of Egyptologist/UFO hunter, he can't exactly say he's pursuing his research with the Air Force...