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    FAN REVIEWS: Common Ground

    Visit the Episode Guide
    STARGATE ATLANTIS - SEASON THREE
    EPISODE NUMBER - 307

    Colonel Sheppard finds himself the prisoner of a Genii commander, along with a Wraith who has been separated from his hive.

    VISIT THE EPISODE GUIDE >>



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 6, 2021, 09:35 PM.

    #2
    Atlantis’ strong third season run continues with the episode that rumours say was originally supposed to contain that long awaited Sheppard back story. In the end that got shunted to another in order to fully explore the matters at hand here instead. Good call.

    Up until now we have learned relatively little about the Wraith and certainly none of it has ever attempted to show them in a positive light. They have been portrayed as cruel beings who feed upon humans, showing no mercy or compassion and taking great pleasure in the pain they inflict. They will become cannibals if need be and are quite willing to turn on one another should it improve their chances of survival or getting a good meal. The Wraith are the enemy and should remain so because let’s face it, there’s never going to be peace between them and humans. There can’t be. My one worry about this episode was that it would somehow dilute the Wraith in the eyes of the viewer but that was expertly avoided. Yes, you grew to respect his honour in his upholding the deal, but you never lost sight of what he was, especially with the brutal way he dispatched the guards.

    His predicament was well crafted to make his actions seem realistic. He had lost hope and would do anything to rekindle that again, even if it meant forming an alliance with a human. That the viewers and Sheppard didn’t know at first that it was a Wraith he was talking to was very effective. It prevented him from being immediately dismissed as just another ‘monster of the week’ and gave us a chance to develop some sympathy for this character before his reveal challenged those feelings the same way it did with Sheppard.

    Sheppard’s interaction with him was perfectly believable – angry and bitter at first, then, like the good soldier and survivalist he is, managing to push that aside to see his opportunity. It was spot on that neither was apologetic for what they were or what they believed, and that they never fully trusted one another. They were still very much a Wraith and his food source but a grudging respect and understanding developed out of the necessity of the situation that they were forced into. I found it particularly interesting that the Wraith kept questioning why Sheppard was so certain that his friends would come to his rescue. There was a hint of scorn and perhaps even bitterness there – Wraith show no such loyalty to one another and that obviously hit home quite starkly with this individual.

    In the end, I wasn’t surprised at all that Sheppard honoured the deal and let him go. That’s who he is. I very much hope in the future however that the Wraith comes back and Sheppard has to face up to the consequences of his actions. Yes, he did the honourable thing, but how many people may die because of it and how will Sheppard feel about that?

    The Genii were again well used, their uneasy friendship with Atlantis making for an interesting plot. Ladon’s portrayal made it unclear as to whether he could be trusted, playing well on the unreliable nature of past dealings with him. The return of an even more desperate and more ruthless Koyla was good to see. The personal nature of his vendetta only seemed to make him more dangerous. It will be interesting to see if Sheppard shoots him on sight next time as promised. Normally such action would be beyond him but, considering what he has been through...

    The rest of the cast were generally well employed. They were shown as an effective team yet still managed to remain individuals whose reactions to the situation was very much them and not simply some line delivering plot device. Elizabeth and Rodney worked particularly well together in both Koyla’s initial transmission and their interrogation of Ladon. Their different styles and attitudes do seem to complement one another. On a related note, the blocking of that scene was very effective. Ronon’s looming presence was always felt over Ladon before it was even mentioned and gave a clear indication of the team’s unwillingness to totally trust him.

    Individually, it was good to see Rodney trying to take on Sheppard’s role and rally the troops. He wasn’t entirely successful but at least he tried which does show the kind of steps forward the character is taking. Like last week, his angry, bitter way of expressing concern was very much him. Some writers seem to struggle with Elizabeth but she was very well portrayed here. She did her job perfectly, managing to show appropriate professional detachment without appearing heartless. Her little speech to Ladon about why she had made her decision was particularly effective in outlining the difference between how she thinks as an individual and how she must act in her role. Ronon’s reactions were very him, still being more likely to react physically to a situation rather than verbally. His leading the rescue mission was a little surprising but it’s good to see him take a more leading role. Carson’s growing confidence in off world situations was well demonstrated here – he’s come a long way from the guy who didn’t even want to go through the gate in ‘Poisoning The Well’.

    Last, and certainly not least, is Teyla. I sincerely hope Rachel is not paid by the line. We are promised that she will be given more to do later on and it can’t come soon enough. It was nice to see how she stood up for Rodney, her awareness and compassion coming through again. If only she was given more chances to show it.

    Aside from Teyla’s lack of involvement and an aged Sheppard rather easily taking out the young guards, it was a superb episode. Congratulations to Ken Cuperus. May there be many more to come.

    9.5/10 – Excellent fleshing out of the Wraith without diminishing them as enemies. A little knocked off for the continued trend of giving Teyla nothing to do.
    Last edited by Skydiver; August 28, 2006, 05:37 AM.
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    by Kaaatie

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      #3
      Enemy Mine Common Ground is a tried and true fable about trust between the most unexpected of alliances. In this instance, it works on two levels. The forging of a deal for a common goal and the putting of uneasy alliances to the test. It is often said that people come together because of common goals, however, temporary. Kautilya, the great Indian political thinker, has been credited with popularizing the principle that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” and here we see this played out with surprising poignancy.

      Without a doubt, this episode contains the best story about the Wraith. Michael, hinted that the Wraith could be a multifaceted entity but it manipulated our point of view to such an extent as to gain our pity but not our trust. But here, is a Wraith, without any posturing, but just a fellow prisoner offering world-weary advice, giving us a sense of what it means to get inside the emotional core the Wraith psyche. From such a situation, a strange alliance is born.
      This alliance begins as a marriage of convenience but to the credit of the storytelling becomes something much more engaging. Both Sheppard and his fellow Wraith captive are tools in a game of political expediency. The Genii, who are in a middle of civil unrest, fashion themselves as the masters of this game. Kolya, a former commander, resentful at seeing his position usurped, bring the Atlanteans into a perverse game of torture blackmail, and throws the tentative Atlantis-Genii alliance into jeopardy.

      It is clear that trust is a difficult commodity to trade in, even at the best of times. Nevertheless, trust is not just a commodity but a force for good. For Sheppard, it drives him, not only believes that his nearest and dearest will come for him… he knows that they will. What is surprising is that the Wraith is moved by his confidence enough to cooperate and here we catch a glimpse of the Wraith as a race. My favourite moments in this episode are those between the Sheppard and the Wraith but also between Weir and Laden. It is an important moment when all sides realize that to gain trust one must give it first.

      My greatest praise in the acting stakes is reserved for Joe Flanigan and Christopher Heyerdahl. Both men are transform themselves underneath layers of prosthetics to give tour de force performances. Flanigan conveys the aging Sheppard with appropriate weariness, as well as anguish. Heyerdahl, through the richness of his voice, portrays the Wraith’s sorrow and despair as to evoke sympathy and trust.

      It is also a great moment for Weir, who is decidedly torn… but must act for the greater good. It is a credit to the writing that we never lose sight of her dilemma and the loss that she faces. Here is her opportunity to demonstrate her inner resilience and single-mindedness in the face of deliberate violence.

      This will go down as one of the great episodes of Atlantis… and it boils down to good writing (Ken Cuperus), great performances and good direction. Happily, it is not weighed down by gimmicks, relying instead on good o’l fashion storytelling and characterization. This is what, as a fan, I’ve been crying out for and I’m glad to be finally seeing.
      Last edited by Skydiver; August 28, 2006, 04:34 PM.
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      "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth"

      Comment


        #4
        I’ve had my issues with “SGA” over the past season or so, in large part because of a lack of strong continuity. I’ve seen apparent arc elements fall apart and fragment so badly that the eventual resolution doesn’t feel like the culmination of anything at all, and I’ve seen character arcs bungled to the point of absurdity. But every so often, the writers have managed to deliver. The past few episodes have been a step in the right direction.

        If this had been an episode about the Genii, with nothing else but their politics as the driving force of the story, then it might have been disappointing. The Genii have come to enjoy using Team Atlantis as pawns in their reindeer games, and it has gotten a bit old. Kolya is a fun villain, and you can never tell what his next move might be, but the stakes need to be more even. If it’s all a question of suffering at the whim of the Genii, it’s not as interesting. Team Atlantis needs to have more of a stake in the situation.

        Putting Sheppard in the middle of the fight wasn’t a bad idea, and his “relationship” to the Wraith was the key to the episode’s success. It is a little predictable for them to work together and gain a measure of mutual respect, but they took the familiar elements and gave them a particular “SGA” twist. Specifically, they used the situation to suggest that the Wraith are more complex than given credit for, especially in terms of what they can do and the meaning behind it.

        I saw the whole “Wraith restores Sheppard” thing coming, but they took me by surprise by explaining that the ability had been hidden for reasons that could be seen as spiritual. In fact, it’s possible to understand the Wraith as more than predators now, which is a step in the right direction. After all, if the Wraith can be understood, it possible for Team Atlantis to get some Wraith to see them as worthy allies (even if uncomfortable ones).

        My suspicion is that this plot element will be critical to plans for the Asurans later in the season. Granted, I may be completely off the mark, considering how the writers for “SGA” can go off the rails pretty damn fast, but there had to be a reason for the writers to make such a concerted effort to expose that ability and give the audience a reason to wonder about Wraith society. All I can say is that I’d be damned disappointed if all this character development and additional detail went by the wayside.

        If I have one minor quibble, it must be the fighting scenes in this episode. Take a look at the first time that Sheppard takes a shot at one of the Genii, when he’s just outside of his cell. He turns to throw a punch, and his fist is easily a foot away from the other actor’s face. Usually I’ll give them a pass for that sort of thing, given the budget and time restraints, but that was just bad! Thankfully, the rest of the episode made up for it.

        Comment


          #5
          “Common Ground” is an outstanding episode on many levels. The writing, acting and directing all served to create a great story filled with tension, emotional angst, and intriguing character exploration of both friend and enemy.

          Common Ground looks at the premise of what would happen if two enemies came together to work toward a common goal. In this episode an imprisoned Wraith and Col Sheppard through desperation and a common desire to escape their circumstances, come together in an uneasy alliance and work together to achieve the goal of escaping. This alliance between two enemies is made more profound by the fact that they both felt they had been tortured at the expense of the other, Sheppard for being fed upon and the Wraith for not being allowed to feed completely off of Sheppard.

          There was good character exploration of John Sheppard in this episode. We see the resolve of Sheppard’s character – his belief his team will come for him, his determination to escape, his resolve at standing by the deal he made with the Wraith. It was intriguing to watch the tenuous trust and relationship evolve between Sheppard and the Wraith. First they could only see each other as enemies and then came to see that Kolya is their common and greater enemy. At first the Wraith was physically weak and distrustful as he first rejects John’s plan of escape. An interesting question is what exactly made the Wraith change his mind? Was it John’s strength, his determination, his optimism that they could successfully escape, or that once the Wraith got some of his strength back escaping was more meaningful to him. While it seemed a combination of all these things led to his change of mind it was also obvious it was the very nature of Sheppard’s character that was also a pivotal factor.

          After the escape there was still a certain amount of distrust, but they were able to overcome that and work together. When the Wraith fed the last time on John it seemed to be the ultimate act of betrayal, but then when he gave life back to John it seemed the ultimate act of honor and respect, if not actual friendship. John returned that act of respect by honoring the deal and letting the Wraith go. In the end they both gave each other what they each wanted the most, the Wraith gave John back his life, and John gave the Wraith his freedom. And even though it was somewhat unsettling to know that upon giving the Wraith his freedom back he would go and feed on other humans it was still a satisfying and “right” ending.

          With this episode, both Sheppard and the viewer come away with additional insight into the Wraith. Previous episodes have portrayed the Wraith as one dimensional, with little character or personality. In “Sateda” and now “Common Ground” we are beginning to see more individuality in a few Wraith, adding to their complexity and adding more depth to them as a species and as an enemy.

          In this episode Weir again needs to make tough decisions. Frequently this season her character has been in the position of being forced to make a decision when there are no good or easy answers. Common Ground was no exception. She makes the decision not to give into Kolya’s demands but as a consequence realizes Sheppard will be subjected to the torture of Wraith feedings. While this was a great moment for demonstrating the strength of Weir’s character, one could also see her emotional distraught over what was happening to John and being helpless to stop it. A particularly strong scene was when Weir explained to Ladon the reason’s why she had not turned him over to Kolya. Also, the scenes showing Sheppard’s team members and friends, their reaction to his being fed upon and their desperation and frustration in trying to find him underscore how close they have become.

          The camera work and direction was excellent and added to the tension and desperate feel that underscored the entire episode. The scenes between Sheppard and the Wraith while in their prison cells are especially noteworthy. An example is when we first see the Wraith, he is weak, in bed and has a strained voice. As the subsequent feedings on Sheppard occur, we see the Wraith standing straighter, taller and speaking more forcibly while Sheppard is becoming weaker, finding it more difficult to stand. Visually this was a very subtle yet effective way of enhancing the feeling of what was happening on a physical level between the two of them.

          Joe Flanigan gave an exceptional acting performance. Much of what made this episode work so well is owed to him. His ability to convey so much emotion and feeling, and very often with just his eyes and body language was extraordinary. This was especially evidenced in the scenes of the Wraith feeding on Sheppard. Also the scenes between Sheppard and Kolya were particularly chilling and were well played by both Flanigan and Robert Davi.

          Chris Heyerdahle did an outstanding job as the Wraith. He brought a degree of almost humanness to the Wraith he played. His responses were tempered with the right amount of emotion and distrust for a Wraith that had been imprisoned for years, tortured by starvation and then needing to forge an alliance with a human to escape.

          One thing that would have made the episode even more satisfying would have been to see Sheppard return to Atlantis and talk with Weir. Many other episodes have ended with a conversation between these two characters to “wrap things up” that not having at the end of this episode was a glaring omission. However, considering how much material was covered in this episode there likely wasn’t time for this.

          “Common Ground” was an exceptional and powerful episode; the story, the acting and directing all came together to make this one of the best episodes in SG Atlantis’s history.

          10/10

          Comment


            #6
            Common Ground is a showcase episode for Stargate Atlantis, at the heart of which is a very tightly written script by Ken Cuperus. Everything about the story is quality; the way it unfolds, the pacing, the dialogue, the mix of light and dark. All is married with superb acting from the whole cast and with excellent direction from William Waring to produce a fantastic episode.

            The story is the key to the whole piece. It makes the most of the allies and enemies in SGA’s homemade mythology to date using both the Genii and the Wraith, and indeed adds to it with the revelations regarding the ability of the Wraith to give life and keeping Koyla is a renegade figure. The story teases the audience throughout with the questions of who is the monster and who is truly the enemy.

            The Genii are known as a cunning society used to betrayal, coups and plots; Koyla using the Atlanteans to get to Ladon and the use of the Wraith as means of torture is believable and grounds the story on a firm foundation. He is also the perfect villain to effect the uneasy alliances between Weir and Ladon, and Sheppard and the Wraith. In both, Weir and Sheppard take a journey from mistrust to trust, and there is a definite tease of never quite being certain whether betrayal is just around the corner. This keeps the tension taut and the story moving forward at a steady pace – neither too quick nor too slow.

            The pacing of the episode is fabulous. Action scenes are mixed with reflective moments yet the whole never loses forward momentum. It is like a beautifully choreographed ice dance with fast tempo pieces that provide excitement and speed but slow, intricate sections that allow the audience to catch their breath, marvel at the detail and absorb the story.

            The dialogue is essential to this pacing; there is a purpose to every line which adds to the story or the characters rather than detracts. No line is wasted or meaningless. There is a large amount of verbal fencing in the story whether between Weir and Ladon, the Wraith and Sheppard, Koyla and McKay – the examples are endless. It complements the physical action pieces and in part is the reason why the exposition scenes have momentum. The dialogue is not placed carelessly either; each is placed with the right character and phrased in a way that fits with the characterisation. The best example is Sheppard whose lines resonate with his dry, biting sarcasm in the face of his ordeal but wonderfully it is not used primarily to evoke humour or lighten the dark storyline but to underscore his strength and determination such as in his exchange with the Wraith before his first torture session.

            Not that there isn’t humour; the story and dialogue provide enough shades of light and dark to ensure the episode does not become too dark with the brilliantly executed and rather brutally realistic torture scenes. Although favourite is the Wraith and Sheppard laughing at the fact that the troops can’t find them because they themselves are lost searching for the Stargate, McKay is primarily used for these lighter moments with the pep talk to the troops and awkward thumbs up to Weir before the first rescue attempt and with the mouse shooting. This is perhaps the only and terribly minor moment which seems misjudged; McKay’s jumping at shadows a little too much given the character’s experiences to date. But it is minor and David Hewlett’s rendering of McKay’s awkwardness is a delight.

            The whole cast in fact delivers a great performance. Every actor steps up to the high standard the script demands. Higginson and Flanigan who are called upon to carry most of the story are outstanding. Higginson seems to revel in a story that allows her character to be both a strong leader and a compassionate woman. Flanigan is superb. His anger at finding out his fellow prisoner is the Wraith is beautifully judged and wonderfully in character. Credit should also go to Christopher Heyerdahl who plays the Wraith and who manages to make the character sympathetic while staying true as a Wraith. Indeed, all the cast execute their roles with aplomb and it’s nice to see all being used (although even more of Rachel Luttrell’s Teyla would have been nice); there is a nice team feel throughout with the way the characters worry and work to rescue Sheppard and Sheppard’s belief his team will come for him.

            If the acting adds a sheen of polish to the episode so does the attention to detail throughout the episode; the set designs of the prison are suitably dark and foreboding; the uniforms of the Genii drab and bland; the make-up on the Wraith unique and different yet identifiably Wraith-like and old Sheppard really looks like an aged version of John Sheppard. The musical underscore adds to the visual experience while never intruding upon it. Kudos has to go to William Waring for great direction in pulling it altogether.

            The stand out moment is undoubtedly the first shocking torture of Sheppard by Koyla with the Wraith feeding watched by the Atlantis team in the video transmission. It is perfectly executed from dialogue and acting to direction, scenery and special effects. But it is difficult to find a moment in the episode that doesn’t have the same high quality execution. This has definitely gone to the top of my list as the best SGA episode to date. Big round of applause and pats on the back to all.
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              #7
              Common Ground

              After "Coup D'etat", I thought the Genii were done for, doomed to rest in obscurity while Ladon ruled.; well surprise, surprise comes a Genii episode that deals with everybody's most loved Genii Cowan who doesn't play a movie role or fit in to some homage but instead plays the role of a guy who captures Sheppard just because he wants to deal with something personal...

              Genii episodes have usually been these exciting tour de'forces; where our crew is stacked with almost insurmountable odds by the most resourceful and cunning of foes. Of course they usually defeat them in the end but the fact that the crew uses they're resourcefulness, a bit of wit and a bunch of communication in defeating them makes watching them worthwhile; plus the movies that they homaged, the threat that they posed, the sense of scale that they had. Here, it doesn't feel super exciting at all, it feels somewhat boring. Sure the usual Genii elements are there; the analog video effects, the 60's like technology (including a camera reminiscent of an RCA TK-10.) the Russian like uniforms, the bright orange hues and stark bleekness but it feels subdued; almost as if their sense of scale has been pushed back. I didn't feel much of anything watching Cowan (who oddly doesn't appear to be homaging a specific role.) as he tortures Sheppard and Ladon as he talks to weir about distrust and stuff regarding the complex leadership of the Genii; when I did feel much, it was because the Ladon's command situation or we got engaged in the interrogation aspect of it but for most of the time, I felt bored with the scenes involving the Genii, much like what I'm guessing the writers were feeling at the time.


              Well, that's there...

              The real wonder here is Sheppard and the Wraith that he meets in captivity, which is arguably the centerpiece of the episode; the Genii are cool but the idea of two people of different races uniting is even cooler. Sheppard is in O'Neill mode for the episode and while he does a poor impression of O'Neill, the position that he's in and the wear and tear that he's dealing with gives him a sense of vulnerability that gives him focus and the Wraith, he's built up quite well; he's introduced as just another prisoner but as the episode progresses, as he feeds and as he showcases his wiseness amongst Sheppard, (Wiseness which was deep, metaphorical and oddly enough, rarely seen amongst the Wraith) we come to know him as a Wraith all his own. Both people act very good, utilizing the stuff they've known very well; Sheppard does the usual aggressiveness and pessimism and the Wraith manages to showcase the old age well, with saying that don't go overdone and the best part is, they oddly work together. The situation they're in is tough for both of them, Sheppard's being tortured for Cowan's own purposes, the Wraith is being tortured by his hunger; there's something about that makes us feel for them and everybody else around them, the fact that they're wills are being pushed to the brim, the fact that their lives aren't worth anything to the Genii, the fact that they're being tortured mercifully. It's almost common...

              There's an bond that's ever growing in this episode, one between Sheppard and the Wraith. Throughout the episode, they have conversations with each other and as they converse, we see the differences between them, the feelings, what both characters are thinking at the moment and with each conversation we learn more about the others personality and intentions and when they're back to back, face to face, taking out Genii with awesome moves; we can see how effortlessly they work together, how connected they are, almost seeming like lifetime friends. Sure they're different and even though their perceptions of them are the exact opposite, they're connected and the moment they do escape, the moment where alone in the woods, that's the moment where their bond is fully established. Both of them are at a state of near death, both of them are realizing things about the other and both of them change their hopes around; they're conversing, regretting the decisions they made and both of them want to split off but they can't because they need each other. That moment plus their common goals, their actions, their time together, all work together to bring the entire thing full circle.


              Pals, buddies...

              The story between the Sheppard and Wraith is nicely done and should keep anybody in the episode engaged but there is something which keeps it from reaching it's potential. I couldn't shake off the feeling that this episode reminded me much of a similar SG-1 episode; from the torture to the conversations to even the villain; it did provide a good setting but the similarities can't be denied. Additionally the initial conversations didn't amount to much; Sheppard's initial words are his usual words, there isn't anything that would fit specifically to this situation, the same goes to the Wraith who while seeming wiser, also acts like a Wraith at times. It's only until the episode got going that I found myself invested in the plot and rooting for them as they attempted to escape the Genii base; if that didn't happen than I probably wouldn't be interested in their plot. The Atlantis crew was decent in this, Weir and his stances toward terrorist possibly being the best portrayal here but I can't say the same to Ronan and McKay; Ronan's good but his mistrust of everything is becoming tiring at this point, I understand where he's coming from but this just seems like he's sharing the viewpoint of his cohorts. McKay seems to be trying way too hard to be comedic, almost forgoing the scientific stuff he does. If this continues then McKay may not have much of a character anymore, I did like when he impersonated Sheppard though...

              For an episode featuring the Genii, they sure are disappointing. The energy they possessed are all but gone and their methods don't seem as interesting anymore; people are going to be watching this for the Sheppard/Wraith plot anyway as it has something that keeps viewers interested and provides a good story that will satisfy viewers in the end, it's not without it's faults but so far it's a good episode; not as good as it could of been but still good nonetheless.

              7.0/10
              Back from the grave.

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