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    FAN REVIEWS: The Real World

    Visit the Episode Guide
    STARGATE ATLANTIS - SEASON THREE
    EPISODE NUMBER - 306

    Elizabeth Weir wakes up in a mental institution, where she is told that the expedition to Atlantis and the Stargate are figments of her imagination.

    VISIT THE EPISODE GUIDE >>



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 6, 2021, 09:36 PM.

    #2
    We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.
    -Ed Harris: The Truman Show

    What would you do if you woke to find your life was a dream? That every person, every moment of the past two years was nothing more than a product of your imagination? This is the nightmare that Dr. Elizabeth Weir is faced with in what I think is one of the high points of season three.

    The Real World is a story that is unique in its telling. Before now, there was little focus on the past lives of the individual players on Atlantis but now we see some important parts of Dr. Weir. Her inner strength, which has been hinted at in other episodes, is the primary focus of the episode as she tries to return to a life that she can remember but that people keep trying to convince her to forget. Tori Higginson has always been one of my favorites in the Stargate franchise, and she should rightly earn respect for this performance. It was powerful in the aspect that you feel her fear of the loss of her sanity as an almost tangible presence in the scenes. You see her grapple with the memories she can’t shake and her sadness as she almost lets go of what her heart tells her to be true.

    What I also found to be a really strong point is the use of the figure she can only faintly see at first, but as she begins to fight she realizes it’s a familiar friend hoping to guide her home. Joe Flanigan was expertly used in this episode as he proves yet again that while there may not be romance between Weir and Sheppard…there is a tangible bond that’s uniquely their own. Like Carter and O’Neill, the Weir/Sheppard dynamic is special without being over the top.

    What I hope that the writers of Atlantis continue to do is episodes like this one. As a fan, I’m curious about the lives my favorite characters left behind. What made them the way they are? How did they become the people we know and enjoy each week? Sateda, for example, provided us with a fantastic glimpse of who Ronon was. I hope that in future episodes we continue to see the characters grow and evolve as Dr. Weir did in this episode.

    If I was to say that I had a problem with this episode, I’d have to say it was the use of the Replicators. Even now, I’m still not sure if these were the same ones that SG-1 has fought on many occasions, or if they were something else entirely. I feel like the plot point has been left hanging, and that’s unfortunate. I hope the writers polish the point a bit more so we can see how everything ties together a bit more clearly.

    All in all though, this was one of my favorite episodes of the season. It, like Sateda, was an episode that amazed, enlightened and entertained. Season 3 has proven to be one that keeps me guessing, and I’ve enjoyed it every time.

    Comment


      #3
      The Real World could have been, for all intentions and purposes, be called While I Was Sleeping. It works as a follow-up to Before I Sleep in that it is set up as a character piece for Weir. Character pieces in sci-fi are often hit and miss situations… they could easily be a contrived angst fest and do nothing for the overall mythos of the particular universe in which it is situated. Fortunately this is not the case here.

      “There is nothing new under the sun”, so says the Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes and so we note in reference to this episode. A member of the team in a comatose state, while others look helplessly on, wondering what intentions an insidious alien entity have for their host. It is a familiar story… one that has been played out on many occasions, on numerous sci-fi shows and for some bizarre reason, it works every time. My answer as to why it does is a simple one… because it allows the audience as it were to be privy to the emotional centre of the dreamer without feeling overtly invasive. The feeling of claustrophobia and paranoia dominating the host’s psyche allows the onlooker to engage with that unreal environment and flip flop between reality and fantasy. In such cases the audience knows more about what is going than the character does and that feeling of entrapment is what drives the narrative. It is a form of dramatic irony… so the predictability of that particular narrative form isn’t an issue. The outcome is clear to us but what matters is the journey (as it were) how the character comes to realize his/her true state.
      It is not surprising then, that the mind is the key because the moral of the story is that in spite of the miracles of technology, if the mind has lost the will to live then all is lost. Something which resonates with me at the moment having lost an elderly relative recently for that very reason.

      Weir, in my opinion, is the most difficult character on Atlantis to write for because the writers have put themselves in a seemingly untenable position of giving a civilian, what is essentially a military role. It is apparent that they have difficulty finding that balance and it is unfortunate, really, that they haven’t always exploited that tension to the show’s advantage.
      My feeling is that Progeny was about the “hard” Weir making tough survival decisions, while The Real World is about the “soft” Weir and I think stories like Before I Sleep, The Real World and Letters from Pegasus show that the writers are much better at doing the “soft” Weir, and delving into the emotional core of the negotiator than probing the internal life of someone who has to command a multifaceted facility like Atlantis.

      Torri Higginson does a commendable job with her role in The Real World. She doesn’t overdo it but gives us a good sense of the internal turmoil that would be experienced by an intelligent, controlled woman not normally given to emotional outbursts. The material allows her to display a whole gamut of feelings from confusion to grief. I liked that we were given more insight into her family background and her life before Atlantis. What I would like to see more of, however, is what drives her as an administrator and commander of Atlantis. That would perhaps give us a sense of why she has made some of the decisions that she has in the past.

      Episodes like this are strictly about character and performance... the requirements of narrative are necessarily subjugated. Overall, it is a decent episode though not a great one. It is helped by good writing, a great performance from Higginson and various supporting actors.
      sigpic
      "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth"

      Comment


        #4
        From the pre-airing talk it was clear that this was destined to be a marmite episode and the post-airing discussion certainly supports that. Not exactly an original premise granted, but it did give us a chance to have a proper look at the character of Weir for the first time since season one’s ‘Before I Sleep’. That was the episode that made me take notice of and like Weir’s character in the first place. Prior to that I admit I thought little of her. She was just there doing her job but not really of much interest. They did such a good job with that one though that it has managed to remain amongst my favourite episodes ever since, and whilst this certainly didn’t match that quality there was a lot of good to take away from it.

        As with ‘Before I Sleep’, this definitely proved one thing; Torri is a terrific actress. She wonderfully played the fine line between the strong, determined, assured Elizabeth and the more vulnerable one filled with self doubt. Watching her, you could almost see the cogs in her head turning as she tries to figure it out and decide whether she can believe this is all real. Top notch stuff.

        This episode also proved once again what an interesting and complicated character she can be. There was a definite contrast between the strong and weak sides of her. No, she doesn’t give up easily and she has a lot of self belief, but she’s also vulnerable like most people are. To see her break down, even just for a moment, was very important considering how resilient her character usually appears and it did a good job of humanising her more than her position usually allows. Her despair at thinking it wasn’t real also showed just what the Atlantis mission means to her. Similarly, it was interesting to note from her conversation with John at the end that she was thinking more about the threat the nanites posed to everyone else than what had happened to her – a sign of how her leadership and those she is responsible for really is the first thing on her mind. No wonder she found it so hard to let it all go when being told it wasn’t real. The effect the whole affair had on her is clearly shown when, instead of smiling as she usually does at John trying to make light of a situation, she tells him to stop. She is obviously concerned and disturbed by what has happened to her. I hope this gets brought up again when we next see the Asurans. It’ll be interesting to see how she reacts to them considering what she has been through.

        Whilst Jack didn’t truly make an appearance in this episode, it did serve to show how Elizabeth sees and thinks of him. The indications always have been that they got on well and that there is a healthy amount of mutual respect between them, but it is also now clear just how much she trusts him. The nanites chose his persona as the one to try and convince her everything was okay and to accept what was happening whereas they could just as easily have chosen Hammond or Landry. Even Sheppard perhaps. Jack is obviously someone she feels she can depend upon and it’ll be good to see if this idea is carried forward in their future interactions.

        The rest of the cast were given the fairly standard ‘be worried and try to save her’ job. Carson and Rodney were great to watch, especially when Carson was trying to explain idea and had to put up with Rodney’s butting in. He has the good grace not to get too annoyed, likely understanding that Rodney is just pleased and has a hard job keeping his mouth shut at the best of times. Carson’s patience and care really showed in this episode. David managed to make Rodney’s worry very Rodney-like; his usually sniping was still there but there was a weariness and a tension to it that showed his concern without voicing it. There was also good contrast between Carson and Rodney’s hurried, focused working and John’s frustrated helplessness.

        The production values on Stargate these days are so high that, to be honest, I rarely pay much attention to them – a consequence of being consistently good I’m afraid. The wonderful cinematography did stand out in this episode though. I loved how they made Elizabeth’s ‘real’ world so cold and uninviting. Lots of blue and white, stark lines and uninviting rooms. Especially great was the shot of Elizabeth sitting curled up in one of the hospital rooms, suddenly looking rather small and vulnerable. The lack of score at that moment also helped to add to the sense of unease.

        Whilst indeed a very interesting episode that gave a good insight into Elizabeth’s character, it certainly wasn’t without its failings. Firstly, it is a real pity that they couldn’t find anything new to do with the premise; the great character work really could have been enhanced by an interesting and surprising plot. Secondly, even though I was certainly not surprised that John was the one to save the day, it would have been far more interesting (and perhaps have made more sense) to have Teyla be the one to help Elizabeth out of it. We already know both by his words and actions that John would do anything for his friends and that made his ‘sacrifice’ almost commonplace. Teyla in a way has too much sense to do such a thing, but on the other hand she is more likely to trust in mind over matter and believe that she can help Elizabeth in this way. To see her go against her calm and normally rational nature would have been a stronger finish.

        In all, a welcomed different perspective on Weir and a chance to see how good Torri is, slightly spoiled by lack of originality in the overall plot. If the writers can successfully merge this kind of character work with the usual action/adventure plots then I think we’re on to a real winner.

        7/10
        sigpic
        by Kaaatie

        Comment


          #5
          For a franchise not big on doing anything new, this is a bold step.

          This is literally and figuratively a trip inside Elizabeth Weir’s mind. It’s not plot forwarding, it’s character exploration and it’s one of the most interesting episodes they’ve ever made. Not the most exciting perhaps, but so far the one I’m most proud of them having done.

          I’ve wanted to like Dr. Weir for a long time but I’ve never had strong feelings for her one way or another. There have been glimpses, moments where I’ve thought: “Yes, this is it starting.” but so far nothing. This is the episode changes that.

          Looking back at all those little moments, just here and there, here it all comes together.

          In three seasons we’ve seem more depth and development with Elizabeth Weir than we ever did in a decade with Samantha Carter. She can hug a friend with relief when she finds him alive, just as she can ignore his apparent death in a time of crisis. A leader that can make the difficult decisions to send her people to their deaths if need be. A person that can mess up but have the strength to get back up and keep going.

          In this episode we see all of these elements brought together and it becomes impossible to deny how strong the character is. The woman holding on to the doctor in fright is also the woman that can stoically challenge and defeat her captors through strength of will alone.

          Finally Stargate has given us a beautiful, flawed, strong female character. Not infallible, not the smartest, not the most powerful but a woman with the strength to hold her people together and not loose who she is.

          The final scene is I think symbolic of this, she doesn’t think of her own trauma but of the threat to her people: a strong leader. Yet in her hands a sentimental memento of home and the people she loves: an emotional woman.

          In other characters use the best scene was between Carson and Rodney. Carson quietly coming up with the plan to save the day and patiently trying to get it done with Rodney butting into his explanation every five seconds before running off with the tissue sample. Rodney’s excitement and Carson’s patience were perfect examples of their characters and the quiet chemistry between them is strong as always.

          The presence of Ronan and Teyla was thoroughly pointless, they had nothing purposeful either to do or say.

          Directing-wise there were some chilling moments, the faceless man shape stalking Weir in her room was very atmospheric. It both looked and felt creepy. I don’t recall any music or sound effects here, just a general sense of scary so if there was it was very well done.

          Not an original concept story wise, in fact my first reaction was “Someone’s been watching Buffy.”, but I honestly don’t care. Most sci-fi shows take a crack at this and Atlantis has done well with it. It was well scripted, it was well acted and it shows that Atlantis is willing to let itself and its characters grow.

          While with its occasional bum episodes, Stargate: Atlantis is firmly beginning to establish itself as bolder, more dynamic and perhaps ultimately superior to its mother show.


          Will green intelligent debates, not just those who share my views. Challenge - always.

          Comment


            #6
            The first Weir episode of the season, The Real World magically reincarnates a classic scifi theme. Weir wakes up in a mental hospital where she is told that the Stargate doesn't exist and Atlantis was simply a figment of her imagination. In reality nanites have posessed her body and the team is working to free her, before the miniature robots can consume her.

            TRW is reminiscent of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Frame of Mind, where Riker, in an alien experiment thinks he's trapped in a mental hospital and that Enterprise doesn't exist (sound familiar). Or it the ST: Voyage episode Coda where an alien posses Janeway and deceives her into thinking she's dead. Janeway, Riker and Weir share a similar reluctance to accept their predicament. In fact Janeway hears her first officer Chakotay telling her to "fight it" just as Weir hears Sheppard telling her the same thing. Whether or not this Weir story was intentionally copied or not it the similarities are undeniable.

            STA however is able to keep you guessing throughtout much of the episode. granted that it's obvious from the start that Weir wasn't going to die by the end of the episode, you are still fascinated by what you learn about Weir's life on Earth. We meet Weir's mother and see her home for the first time (Apparently she didn't share the house with Simon seen in "Home"). More facts about her life and family would have made this episode perfect. Weir should have taken Gen. Oneil on a tour of her house. Maybe tell him about her life. What about her Father? The producers could have told us something more about Weir than just her career(which is filled with Georgetown and elite universities) or perhaps a sibling would have been nice.

            Instead her closest friend in the show is Gen. Oneil who comes only to tell her that the Stargate program never existed and who's head morphs occasionaly to make everything seem weirder. They probably used his because Rich Anderson was in-town working on the SG1 episode "200," which aired right before TRW. Another re-used ending was having the general actually be a figment of their imagination, like we saw in "Home" when Hammond was actually an alien probing into their minds.

            All-in-all Real World wasn't quite as good as before I sleep or other Weir episodes. I doubt it will ever be up there with Michael or other great episodes. If you missed it don't worry you didn't miss much, but it certainly wasn't excruciating to watch.

            Comment


              #7
              Coming on the heels of an “SG-1” episode that was all about breaking and shattering format, it makes perfect sense that “SGA” would be grasping for recognition of a different kind. In this case, it wasn’t about reaching for laughs that would otherwise be unattainable; it was about proving the worth of the premise and the characters by exploring a different brand of storytelling. While the concept is hardly new (“Buffy” did it equally well in “Normal Again”, one of the best sixth season episodes), it does a lot to break the series out of its monotony.

              I liked how the episode was mostly told from Weir’s point of view, so much so that it lost a certain punch once the first sign of manipulation come along. We all knew what to expect, so such hints were hardly necessary. Having Jack flip out was a lot less effective than the constant appearances of Sheppard’s shadow-form. Speaking of which, who else was able to figure out that it was him, long before they showed the connection?

              Up to the point that Team Atlantis showed up, explaining what the situation was and racing towards a resolution, I loved the episode. This was a glimpse into character psychology, and it was great to see Torri in a situation that gave her room to breathe. Whenever she gets to break out of the command mode, she looks a lot more natural. It might have something to do with vulnerability; I liked seeing Weir go through the process of questioning herself and then regaining that sense of absolute certainty.

              Even after Team Atlantis showed up (and I think the episode lost a bit of power when that happened), it was intriguing to see how Weir handled each challenge to her confidence in “the truth”. Weir came to the conclusion that her memories and experiences had been real, despite great evidence to the contrary, and she wasn’t willing to sugar-coat it. She truly expected Dr. Fletcher and O’Neill to understand that what she believed was absolutely real. And for me, that says a lot about the strength and weakness of the character.

              Weir shows strength by sticking to her beliefs and following through on them. Once she comes to the conclusion that her memories must be real, she does everything possible to get back to where she belongs. She rejects the idea that she is, in fact, the victim of a mental break. At the same time, this is a positive take on a potential weakness, because that kind of certainty has also been reflected in her passionate defense of bad command choices. And I find that kind of complexity appealing, so long as the writers are willing to follow through on the potential for disaster.

              I think the episode might have been better if seen, until perhaps the final act, entirely from Weir’s point of view. Seeing Team Atlantis was fun and revealing at certain points (especially for the Weir/Sheppard shippers), but I would have preferred to stay in Weir’s head for as long as possible. Niam could have revealed the truth about her condition once Weir got to a certain point in her resistance; the final scene in the gate room would have been the perfect time. Sure, it might have violated the “show don’t tell” principle, but in this case, it was a choice between brands of exposition, and I think staying in Weir’s head would have made the episode more consistent.

              Even so, the break of format was a great move, because it sold the idea of the Asurans as a threat while focusing on the personal implications of such a conflict. More to the point, I really liked the exploration of Weir’s psychology, and it’s something that should be done more often for the rest of the characters. It wasn’t as deep as it could have been, but in “SGA” terms, it was a major step in the right direction.

              Comment


                #8
                “The Real World” Review

                “The Real World” was a real treat for Stargate Atlantis fans who have been asking for more character driven episodes. It was a well written and well directed episode that showcased the character of Dr. Elizabeth Weir in a battle for reality.

                Weir finds herself trapped between two consciousnesses, the one created by the nanites and her life on Atlantis. She must sort out the clues from her own subconscious to discover the truth. While this theme has been done before on other shows, the writing, the directing and acting were all so well done that it made it fresh and kept it interesting.

                “The Real World” is was an intricately woven story that did an extremely good job at connecting what was happening in the real world of Atlantis with what was happening in Weir’s mind. Weir’s subconscious kept providing her “clues” that all was not right in the “reality” she was experiencing and these clues often related to what was actually happening around her.

                A good example of how these clues intertwined was how the shadow of John kept appearing in Elizabeth’s subconscious. At first his image in her mind was shrouded and indiscernible, and then we see he is actually in the infirmary standing behind the plastic containment shield surrounding her. He seemed to be the strongest link she had to the “real world” of Atlantis, and his presence and talking seemed to prod her subconscious to provide additional clues that all was not as it seems. The stronger he made his presence known to her - at first just standing there, then talking to her and then finally stepping inside the containment field – the clearer his image and clues became in her mind.

                The directing and editing played a big role on how well all these clues played out and interconnected. An example of this is the scene where the John was telling her to fight, then you see Weir throwing away the pills – extremely well done and a great correlation between the two events.

                There was also interesting use of symbolism in the episode, which made sense as so much we experience from our subconscious or dreams often emerge as symbols.
                For example, the final scene in Weir’s subconscious mind was a ‘showdown” between her consciousness and Niam’s consciousness. She had struggled through the episode to find the strength and trust within herself to fight and break the hold the nanites had on her mind. When she walked into the Stargate, through Naim, he disintegrated into separate nanites, symbolizing her victory over him and the nanites.

                The story also provided an exploration of Weir’s character. The nanites used people from her mind that she had a relationship with and trusted - so that she would believe there was no Atlantis and thus yield her consciousness to them. The nanites used the image of O’Neil and her mother, two people whom she trusts and are very important to her, to try to convince her that the Stargate program didn’t exist. Then on the other side there was her attachment to Atlantis and also the trust and friendship she has with John. It was interesting to see how she struggled to sort these conflicts out. In the end it was her belief in Atlantis and her trust in John that led her to find the strength within herself to overcome the nanites.

                There were some other nice character moments too. An example is the scene with Weir and her mother when she gives her the watch. We learn that this watch has special meaning for Weir, as she brought it to Atlantis. The special meaning is emphasized in the very last scene of the show where we see that she is holding it, though we don’t actually learn why it is special. There is also the scene where John breaks quarantine to “save” her, perhaps not the smartest thing to do, but definitely in character as it demonstrates the close bond that has developed between these two characters and his willingness to “anything” for any of his team.

                There were a few inconsistencies and unanswered questions in the story regarding the nanites abilities and function directives. Also unclear were the nanites original intent, were they trying to kill her or take over her consciousness, and if so to what end? However this might have been a deliberate ploy by the writers. Since this is only the second story with the new replicator/nanite threat there will likely be more information and new discoveries about them in upcoming episodes. In addition to the nanite inconsistencies it also felt that a little more interaction/conversation was needed between John and Elizabeth at the very end. After what she had been through and his role in helping her, their conversation seemed to fall short of what one would expect.

                Congratulations to Torri Higginson, she did an outstanding job. The story was a good opportunity for her to be able to demonstrate her superb acting skills.

                “The Real World” was a strong, character driven episode in which the writing, acting and directing came together to make a very interesting, carefully constructed story that provided some genuine creepy moments, character exploration and insight into the potential threat of the new replicator/nanite enemy.

                8/10

                Comment


                  #9
                  Having looked forward to this episode for a number of reasons; Weir-centric, written by Carl Binder, and not to mention the guest appearance by Richard Dean Anderson, The Real World does not disappoint. The story is tightly written, Torri Higginson delivers an outstanding performance and Richard Dean Anderson is as enjoyable as ever. The only area for improvement is the use of the rest of the Atlantis characters within the story and the resulting lack of balance.

                  Given the amount of focus on Weir, balancing all the characters was always going to be a challenge. The problem is not in having too much Weir. Indeed, although the story focuses just on Weir for almost half the episode, Higginson’s performance is so good that the rest are not missed. The problem is that even though the whole team is often present in the infirmary, these scenes are primarily used for exposition. This reduces the feel that the whole team cares about Weir and is working to bring her back even though they are.

                  This is reinforced by what the characters are given to do; Beckett constantly says they are losing; McKay is used too much as the objector creating the impression he’s detached instead of being tremendously worried about Weir dying. Teyla and Ronan are primarily used to ask questions or provide points of clarification within the exposition such as Ronan informing the audience the nanites were created to fight the Wraith, and so both feel as though they were barely present at all. All of this in contrast to Sheppard who is shown as the only person talking to Weir and being her touch-point back to Atlantis, the ultimate example of this being his entering the isolation tent to be with her.

                  The dialogue in these exposition scenes needed tweaking to balance it better. For example, instead of Sheppard working out Weir was fighting the nanites, perhaps Teyla could have made that leap or Ronan used to prompt Beckett’s idea. This would still have kept Sheppard as the singular representation of Atlantis in Weir’s fight with the nanites (as having a singular focus does keep the tension taut especially within the latter scenes) while providing a better balance. Indeed, the episode would have suffered a great loss of dramatic tension if this had been lost.

                  The story is a nicely rendered psychological thriller and various tricks of the trade are employed to help create tension. The musical underscore is used to emphasis Weir’s emotions; poignant piano segments which emphasis her grief, sadness and loneliness, and an almost growling sound to reinforce the creepiness and her fear. The use of colour and light helps set the mood; white and blue in the hospital scenes to emphasis the sense of isolation; the bright colours of its garden and Weir’s home as an emotional refuge; the darkness of the SGC underscoring the danger.

                  All add to the tension along with some good horror clichés including facelessness. This is used to represent not only the obscuring of Atlantis in Weir’s mind as it becomes a shadowy figure but also in the bathroom scene as Weir’s own impending loss of identity. All of these tricks are necessary because while the story is a psychological thriller, it cannot play too much with the audience who is never going to fall for the ruse Atlantis doesn’t exist. Instead, it uses all available tools and focuses completely on Weir’s emotional, psychological and physical reactions to the illusion to provide the tension to great effect.

                  The Real World is the first time in a long while that there has been a sense of dramatic tension in whether a character would survive. The cutting back and forth between Weir in the bathroom and Sheppard’s encouragement to her to begin her fight again help to invoke that tension while the physical flight from the hospital, and through the SGC, create additional urgency. The only let down is the moment between Niam and Weir. Perhaps a line from Weir before she walked through him to safety would have just added something to give it more punch. Still, it is not enough to detract from the rest which has the audience rooting for the character to win.

                  The story is very successful in getting the audience to care about Weir and a lot of this is done in the first half by stripping the character of her armour, in particular her position of control, and revealing her emotional Achilles heels; her relationship with Simon and her parents. It is in the scenes with her mother that Higginson’s performance shines most with Weir’s reaction to her father’s watch; that moment of breakdown is superbly done by Higginson but so too is Christina Jastrzembska’s reaction to it as Weir’s mother. The act of stroking Weir’s hair and the dialogue is spot on as a portrayal of a mother comforting a child. Beautifully done; it brings tears to the eyes. The use of the watch at the end is a nice touch to demonstrate how shaken Weir is that she needs that parental comfort again.

                  There is a nice dynamic between Higginson and Anderson who play their characters’ relationship as professional yet trusting. Anderson does a great job in playing O’Neill but not O’Neill. There is enough irreverence and O’Neill awkwardness to evoke a wave of nostalgia for the character, and the actor, and enough underlying creepiness to suggest the nanite threat O’Neill actually is. Equally, Alan Ruck turns in a great guest performance as the psychiatrist/attacking nanite.

                  The Real World is wonderfully acted, directed and produced. It has at its core a well-written script which fully explores the frailties and strengths of one of Atlantis’s characters even if it doesn’t quite manage to balance the rest. The addition of Richard Dean Anderson’s Jack O’Neill just adds the proverbial sublime cherry on the top of this great cake.
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                    #10
                    Elizabeth Weir wakes up in a mental institution, where she is told that she's never left Earth.

                    Place your bets now!
                    2:1 - She's in a simulation, as aliens try to extract information from her a la SG-1's Out of Mind or The Devil You Know
                    3:1 - She's halucinating as a result of an alien-influenced injury or medical condition a la SG-1's Legacy or Grace
                    50:1 - She's really in a mental institution.


                    Realistically, it was never going to be the last one, was it? Still, one could hope. It would have been a genuine twist. Or the first scenario could have been fun, although deeply unoriginal; it could have furnished some drama as we puzzled out whatever clues there were for us to spot.

                    But the questions of whether it was a physically real 'fake' or a VR world, and of whether it was all of Weir's mind or not took a back seat as Weir settled into her new situation. They weren't particularly interesting questions, and perhaps they weren't meant to be. SF shows including Stargate have done the hallucination / fake reality scenarios so many times that the writers of The Real World surely can't have expected anyone to find much suspense in this one, can they? So we settled down and watched a gentle series of scenes from Dr Weir's adjustment to the world that told her that Atlantis was all in her mind.

                    What we got was very believable, in terms of Weir's behaviour and reactions to the distressing news of her breakdown and the death of someone she loved. Weir's confusion and dignity were beautifully acted by Tori Higson, and the supporting cast and the un-SF sets helped to make these scenes watchable. The contrasting nightmares Weir had of faceless people were suitably spooky, and gave the episode atmosphere.

                    The nightmares were the most intriguing part of the episode: what did they mean? What was it supposed to tell us, that Weir was seeing herself with no face, and others with their faces hidden? Was it a clue? A clue for us? or for Weir? Was there a faceless alien in the mix somewhere? A pity that all of that came to nothing. It led nowhere. Stripped of the potential that the nightmares offered, The Real World is left with nothing surprising or informative inbetween the opening scene and the point at which we learned that it was Nanites. Nothing noteworthy, except for a certain guest star.

                    Richard Dean Anderson brought Jack O'Neill back to our screens every bit as well as the part required. His affection for Dr Weir was touching, and we got a little of the trademark O'Neill humour. Had this episode come in Atlantis' first year, when RDA was on the set next door as often as not, or even early in the second year, when he was not yet the long departed and much missed figure he now is, this could have been a good use of Jack and of RDA. Low on SFX and stuntwork or anything that could take up time not used for filming, it's easy to see how The Real World minimised the proportion of the actor's time spent not filming useable takes. But to do this now feels like a waste, like a cop-out.

                    SG-1 fans would go gaga for this much Jack in an episode of their show. It would be a huge deal for the show; 200 was special, but a second or even previous episode of SG-1 featuring Jack would have been an additional draw. Does his appearance have anything like that resonance on Atlantis? Sure, there are many fans of both, but even those weren't especially lucky here. For Jack's role in this episode was as inconsequential as it could possibly be; it wasn't really Jack at all, just a hallucination of Jack. A hallucination by someone who'd hardly met him. A hallucination that didn't really do much except chat. A hallucination whose grand exit is a morph into someone else. Is that really the best thing anyone could think of to spend RDA's time on?

                    A hallucination. Caused by... Nanites! Those useful plot devices that can always be relied upon to whip up a quick fever, cell-degeneration or whatever a SF writer might need their character to suffer this week.

                    Place your bets!
                    3:1 - Liz will be cured by solving a puzzle within the hallucination
                    4:1 - Liz will be cured by technobabble
                    5:1 - Liz will be cured by someone joining her in the hallucination and helping her back (and does anyone want to bet against Shep for this task? Nope, thought not.)
                    50:1 - Any other outcome


                    And again, although the route taken here is not quite the most predictable one, it's the least interesting. When Beckett and McKay get together and argue about the problems they are working on, the result is always entertaining. Better would have been if Our Heroine had had some sort of maguffin to destroy in the imaginary world, or an enemy to vanquish through cunning, or a way to give faces back to the people in her nightmare. Any of those would have given the piece a satisfying ending.

                    The ending we got was a damp squib. Weir did nothing to get to the Gateroom, it just happenned. The audience saw that it was because of Carson's cleverness, but within the hallucination there was no dynamic event, just a segue with an elevator. Then she just walked through the Gate, easypeasy. Just her, her willpower and some moral support from a pal.

                    If this sounds cynical, well, yeah it is. Truly, it's jolly nice to think of Weir as the kind of lady who'll kick out a plague of microbots through positive mental thinking alone, and it's heartwarming that Shep risks himself so bravely for her. It's nice, it's sweet. It's just not terribly interesting.

                    As a character study of Elizabeth Weir, The Real world is a well written series of vignettes that show us sides of her that we don't often see on Atlantis. As a story, it's too linear and too lacking in pay-off to be worth 43 minutes of air time. The suspense built up in the first half came solely from the nightmares within the hallucinations, and nothing whatsoever came of them. It's certainly unexpected to throw away the most promising avenue of exploration in your story shortly before the end and not replace it with anything comparably compelling, but it's really not the sort of 'twist' that entertains.

                    Madeleine W
                    Last edited by Madeleine; December 5, 2006, 02:18 PM.

                    Madeleine

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                      #11
                      The Real World

                      There's this girl, she wakes up in a psyciatric ward; its a girl we all know well enough. She looks around her surroundings and finds the door locked, she asks for her help and a doctor comes around and tells her that the entire 2 years of her life have been a dream and that she collapsed about 3 days earlier, possibly due to a traumatic event. That may seem like something out of a sci-fi or a drama movie but it's something that would prove to be the defining moment of Weir's character.

                      From the getgo we're bombarded with unfamiliar images; what is this place, what is she doing here, how did she get here? We're like Weir in the beginning of this episode and this helps us to get engaged in her story, in her life... As the episode progresses she learns more about the situation she's in or was in and she reacts accordingly as she tries to cope with what she's been through and the stuff starts to get a bit serious and a lot more dramatic. Weir really immerses herself in her unfamiliar environment well; she's acting like no other person ever did before, turning up the emotional and dramatic dials up a notch. I feared that she wouldn't be able to handle it but she manages to do it well, truly giving a believable look into her fear and her psychotic state as she lives this stuff encountering who knows what in this episode; the screams, the reactions, the worried voice, it's like we're seeing another side of this character and it creates a sense of paranoia and what if's and what ain't that really question the people watching this; that keep us engaged throughout the entire ordeal. Weir is truly unaware of her surroundings, she ask questions that relate to the people out there, she utilizes the aggressiveness in a way that really showcases her paranoid side; what is shown manages to make us question her sanity.


                      Well, there's Weir...

                      We're quickly introduced to what would be a couple of common things; things like the head doctor of the mental facility, the mental facility, her friends and family, her home, her career and the requisite familiar faces like General Jack O'Neill. There aren't many things that pop up frequently; sure the mental hospital and the mental doctor play a part but it doesn't seem like they appear frequently, even Jack O'Neill (who acts rather impressively in this episode) doesn't appear many times and this is a character that fans love played by an actor that is just beloved by Stargate fans all around the globe. This helps to focus the character on Weir because this is her show and she's not going to let anybody get into her show. The way these things area part of her story, it's really clever. They're kind of like the inner workings of someone's world; these people are associated with Weir, have conversations with Weir yet appear only when needed. Whenever Weir needs someone to console her, the doctor is there and whenever she needs a friend in need, O'Neill is there; they're all figures that are familiar to her, figures that she can trust and they serve to guide Weir as she goes through this unfamiliar world; the life she thought she lived, the life she's going to live, the stuff she's going through at the moment. and all of the familiar things she's faced with, plus with the warm, comfy feeling of familiarity (her home for example.) it manages to convince both her and us that the world she's in is real and that Stargate: Atlantis was just the dream of a person named Weir.

                      Until we get to the second half which reveals the truth; don't get me wrong, I like that we got to know what Weir was going through and I even liked to see the reaction of the crew but I would of liked to see this episode entirely in this reality of hers as it breaks down without any cut ins to Atlantis, there could of really given the episode something special as she slips slower into insanity, questioning her doubt until the point where she decides to trust her gut rather then what's around her. We could of had something regarding the negotiations, the events that are supposedly made to be a big deal, what she's trying to do with her life and all that time we could see Weir being more and more delusional building up to the point where she discovers the truth and finds her way to Atlantis. Granted, the Atlantis scenes are somewhat short but they still cut into the action and there isn't much they can offer character wise; Sheppard is the closest thing I can think of but even he could of been incorporated into Weir's world... When are writers going to learn not to fall back on their old ways, it would of been revolutionary to actually watch Weir as she's in this world, questioning whether or not it was real. The audience would of been accepting of it, we would of been given something to question and talk about amongst ourselves and Weir's character would of been enhanced greatly but I guess there are some habits you just can't break...


                      Just questioning sanity here...

                      The second half of the episode is known for one thing, that is showing Weir's fighting spirit; Weir's subconscious is working hard to remind her of who she is and the conscious side of her, well that's the side who is confident and won't give up and it shows. She faces the world that was built for her, managing to subside all rules and face the thing that prevents her from escaping, those things... it's kind of like facing your own fears except in this case, the fears are creating a world of their own design and they're constantly changing to match your every move. Her friends also play a decent part in this as well as they give her the strength to go on, they give her a voice that she knows she can trust and it's really something. The climax reinforces the side of Weir that we love so well, the rebellious side; sure, Weir can act emotional and scared and depressed but this is what makes Weir what she is, her dedication and ambition. The episode has built up to this, the moment where everything comes together in a fancy way and she more or less exceeds those expectations. This is an example of what happens when SGA writers are inspired, they write plots that rival movies, they create episodes that really do justice to the character that's serving them; just look at Weir, would she be able to do what she just did in another episode? probably... but she wouldn't be able to express the full range of emotions that she ever so did in this episode.

                      Despite the usage of several consistent traits, this is still the pinnacle of Weir's career. It may have an unsuitable premise but the wide range of emotions and talent that Weir has is on show here, we get to see her through various states, through uncertainty and paranoia and through triumph and in the end, aren't these concepts supposed to allow people to think outside of the box and provide us with an experience that we can't forget? Still doesn't excuse the fact that the writers still feel the need to reveal her state, I mean we're the audience, we're smart; you can trust us right?

                      9.5/10
                      Back from the grave.

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