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    FAN REVIEWS: Phantoms

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    Sheppard and Ronon are influenced by a mind-altering device created by the Wraith while on a mission to rescue a lost team.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 6, 2021, 09:31 PM.

    One has to imagine that this episode was developed with cost savings in mind. Most of the episode takes place in the middle of the woods near Vancouver, with very little in the way of sets or effects. One set of flashbacks is set in Afghanistan, but based on the appearance of the sand, it was filmed on a seaside location with little more than a mock-up helicopter. The point is simply this: the idea was to create a bottle show to save money.

    The thing with “bottle shows” is that the lack of funding for lots of locations, sets, or effects forces the writers to focus on character interaction and psychological drama. The stakes are a bit higher for the writers, then, and the cast needs to step up to the plate. I felt like the cast did everything possible with the material given, and the writers did a fairly good job with the effects of the Wraith device.

    It comes down to some of the minor details. In the previous episode, Team Atlantis wound up with a depleted ZPM and a serious threat to their long-term viability. Suddenly, from the first frame of this episode, the problem doesn’t even rate a line of dialogue. The team is still jumping through the gate and running equipment at full capacity. It is incredibly annoying to see such a promising plot development tossed aside for no good reason.

    Another small problem is the premise used to keep the away team on the planet and under the influence of the Wraith device. The idea is that the DHD was destroyed, trapping them on the planet. Why didn’t Weir send a puddlejumper through the gate, have them pick the away team, wipe out the device with a pod or two, and use the jumper DHD to leave? It’s one thing to create a scenario that forces the “bottle show” premise, and quite another to leave a massive plot hole open.

    I was also a little disappointed that the only character with a detailed flashback was Sheppard. It’s good to know that he has a past, and that it was relatively consistent with what has been revealed before, but why focus just on him? Issues of time and budget still come to mind, but how hard would it have been to work it out? McKay and Beckett’s hallucinations were done rather well, but it wasn’t nearly as extensive as Sheppard’s flashback. And the effect on Ronon was just plain silly.

    The main complaint is that the episode didn’t bring anything new to the table. The main characters were never in any real jeopardy, especially since there were red-shirts on the team, ready to be the cannon fodder when someone needed to die. More than that, the characters didn’t need to be that isolated under the premise, so it felt more contrived than necessary. Add to that the lack of continuity (a constant complaint), and this breaks the recent stretch of solid episodes.


      The mystery episode of the season turns out to be a pleasant surprise.

      ‘Phantoms’ was the episode that had seemingly accumulated the least amount of pre-airing spoilers. We knew the basic concept and that it would contain something of Sheppard’s back story but little else. And frankly that worked in both the episode’s and our favour as it produced some moments which were genuinely shocking.

      The much discussed and much anticipated Sheppard back story turned out to be both interesting and disappointing in equal measures. Ideally, it would have been something we didn’t already essentially know about and in a way did hint that Sheppard’s story is less interesting and less intriguing than we’ve been lead to believe. However it was good to see the actual incident and it puts Sheppard’s actions in episodes like ‘Hot Zone’ and ‘Sateda’ in a new light. We have now seen how ingrained his tendency to disobey orders when he doesn’t agree with them and his belief that no one should ever get left behind is. He has a trait there that can be both a big weakness and a great strength depending on the outcome of the situation and it would be good to see that further explored on the show. Some day it would be interesting to see him make a huge mistake because he thought he was doing the right thing and then to have to deal with the emotional consequences.

      The idea that the Wraith can use illusions and hallucinations on humans has been rather ignored since ‘Rising’ and it was good to see that finally being touched upon properly again. One of the episode’s big strengths and biggest surprises was the contrast between Sheppard, Ronon and Teyla’s rather action based storyline and Carson’s and Rodney’s much more normal, yet infinitely more creepy one. It would have been easy to go solely down the former route but it was the latter that took this episode from being simply ‘okay’ to becoming surprisingly great.

      Carson was unequivocally brilliant. He, and consequently the audience, was truly disturbed by what was happening and the reveal that the other solider was in fact dead was genuinely shocking. I certainly didn’t see it coming. The marine seemingly coming back to life was very creepy and obviously rather startling but even then I didn’t tag on the fact that Beckett had been affected too. The subtly of both his and Rodney’s hallucinations is what made them work so well. Again, it wasn’t really clear that McKay was hallucinating either until late on. Both men had their fears played upon – Carson’s inability to help his patients, Rodney’s inability to understand and solve the problem at hand. These are very normal fears considering their jobs and positions and consequently got to the heart of who they are and didn’t give the game away too soon.

      This episode also allowed for some more character development and growth for Rodney continuing on from last week. Yes he’s still not keen on physical exertion and is very nervous in tense situations, but he does on a number of occasions express genuine care for the wounded marines even if he’s not very good at saying it. He was also shown to be competent enough in a battle situation, covering Carson whilst he tried to treat one of the wounded men and then showing some emotional support for the good doctor whilst he is struggling to keep the marines alive. Yes, he is still snarky, whiney, irritable Rodney but he seems less afraid to show that he cares and increasingly more able to look after himself.

      For the first time in a number of episodes Teyla was thankfully given plenty to do. I don’t mind not having a plot revolving entirely around her as long as she is given opportunities to get fully involved in the other episodes and what she does is true to her character. Her desperation was well played, her efforts to stay calm under the pressure and pain were very much her and it was good to have her save the day by using her brain and wits. It was also great to see John and Teyla interacting closely again. Their friendship is always interesting to see because they clearly have a great deal of respect for one another and are very much equals.

      The plot, whilst not revolutionary was well executed with some nice touches. Apart from the well played twist with the dead marine, Sheppard shooting Rodney was also a standout moment. It was so quick and mercilessly brutal, which made it really effective and quite shocking. The humour at the end worked well, especially Sheppard’s ‘I’m sorry for shooting everybody’ and Ronon’s genuine laugh both at and with Rodney. The big guy’s certainly softening up a little. The quality and ingenuity of camera work was also worthy of note, particularly the Blair Witch-esque handheld cam sequence.
      Even with its surprising amount of strengths, the episode was certainly not without its faults. The pacing and plot structure was a little messy at times, but that did at least help make the viewers feel as disconcerted as the characters. Weir wasn’t given much to do but what she had was effective and showed sensible decisions. It also would have been nice to get into Ronon’s hallucinations a little more. Did he think he was a Runner still? Where was he? Could have been a good opportunity to hint some more about him too.

      The huge issue of losing the ZPM wasn’t mentioned at all. It is perfectly understandable that this was really written as a standalone episode but you’d think that’d be the foremost thing on their minds. It would have been rather easy to simply mention that the original team had gone there to investigate the energy readings in case they were a power source, hence keeping continuity and preventing the episode from feeling so isolated from the rest of the season.

      Overall, a good episode rather out of the blue. There were few expectations and that only allowed most fans to be pleasantly surprised by the interesting plot twists and sometimes dark psychology brought up. A great look into some of the people, showing just how well Atlantis can do character pieces when they put their writing minds to it.

      by Kaaatie


        Another good, though sometimes hit and miss episode for season 3. With lots of potential to be a really hard hitting exploration of the characters psyche and pasts; ‘Phantoms’ fell a little short of the mark with to many inconsistencies and poor timing.

        For me, the individuals hallucinations and escalation of these delusions is what made and broke this episode. I greatly enjoyed the tension building frustration and desperation from both McKay and Beckett’s experiences, Paul McGillion and David Hewlett proving they make a fantastic all-round team and not just comically. Beckett has been notably missing from many episodes this season and it’s always good to see him as part of the off-world team. Despite the lack of participation, the character has grown steadily over the course of the series, slowly shedding off his ‘just the doctor’ shackles and ‘Cowardly Lion’ persona. Its episodes like ‘Phantoms’ that showcases this and proves what an asset the character is to the series. Parts of Phantoms were both chilling and heart wrenching thanks to the actors performance and his wonderful dynamic with co-star David Hewlett. McGillion also seemed to relish the drama, coming through on screen as emotionally engaging, amping up the tension.

        On the flipside, Ronon chasing phantom Wraith and Sheppard’s flashbacks were flat and boring, adding little to character or storyline. The inconsistency between some characters being affected by deepest fears manifested in their circumstances and the rest (including the previous team) past torments just seemed like lazy writing. Why only Sheppard? Would it not making more sense for all our characters to suffer similiar delusions? Worse, Sheppard’s flashbacks often ran far too long, the lack of a real emotional connection deflating any character building potential. And to be honest, what did we really learn that was new? The flipping back and forth between desert and forest also seemed uncomfortable. I can understand wanting to explore the characters past, but it would have made more sense if all the characters were affected by a person/memory or in Sheppard’s case, his hallucinations were tied to his fears, his team and revelations from previous episodes (such as ‘Seteda’).

        Though it wasn’t all doom and gloom with the usual team banter and teasing, ‘Phantoms’ is possibly the darkest episode we’ve seen to date with its gritty, chilling atmosphere, dank and miserable location shots and the escalation of violence. Sheppard’s totally unhesitant shooting of McKay was utterly shocking. SG1 often dealt with serious issues and dramatic storylines but it always remained firmly within its younger viewer friendly boundaries. With its later air time, higher rating and already potentially more adult themes (such as the vampire-like Wraith) exploring the ‘darker’ side of the Stargate universe seemed a given for Atlantis. But it’s only ever dabbled with the concept until now. It also reminded me very much of the atmosphere the new ‘Battlestar Galactica’ series capitalizes on, receiving much critical acclaim in the process. Darker themes and execution like ‘Phantoms’ would certainly set Atlantis apart from its parent series and possible pave the way for a look into the darker side of the Ancients now that SG1 has completed its run.

        In summary, ‘Phantoms’ had some excellent, dramatic moments unfortunately deflated by inconsistent plotting, and poor timing. 6/10


          Having played mind games with Weir in The Real World, Phantoms attempts to do something similar with the rest of the SGA team, and in particular Sheppard. Unfortunately, the underlying story is not as successful as The Real World and is not particularly interesting but it does retain a good team feel and just about balances all six main regular characters.

          The main arc of Phantoms is clichéd; team are stranded on a planet with something that tricks them into viewing each other as an enemy. It’s all been done before in wider sci-fi terms and there is little attempt to do anything original with the formula here and make it more interesting. The focus appears to have been on leaving the formula alone and instead, putting the ‘phantoms’ for each of the SGA characters centre stage. This might have elevated the story from cliché if something original had been done here either but alas no.

          Ronan gets little to do but chase around the forest after his phantom Wraith. He shows little of the intelligence that was so evidently on display in Sateda and is drawn one-dimensionally as a gung-ho shoot ‘em up soldier. He is used effectively however as the main threat to the team and in particular, Teyla and Sheppard. His slowly closing in on them creates a great sense of urgency and tension in the final scenes.

          The major focus is on Sheppard and his ‘phantom’ of rescuing an injured pilot in Afghanistan; his perceived enemy being the Taliban. The slide into the hallucination is well done; with Sheppard slowly seeing his friend instead of Teyla; hearing jeeps and voices before he loses all sense of his actual environment. The back and forth between the images in Sheppard’s mind and reality are beautifully done and seamless. Unfortunately, given the amount of time spent on it, the hallucination doesn’t really provide any further insight into Sheppard than the audience already knows; he will go against orders, he won’t leave people behind, he is a thoughtful soldier constantly thinking strategically. While the dualism of using a tactical situation in his past that might mirror the one in reality works well in terms of the shots and the imagery, there is the feeling this was an opportunity missed to reveal more about Sheppard the man rather than simply showing again Sheppard the ace soldier.

          Indeed, this is probably the failing of the ‘phantoms’ because in every case the emphasis is placed on tying the phantom to the role of the character, his job and function rather than to the psyche of the person beneath the role. Hence nothing further is revealed about McKay; his phantom is the Wraith technology itself with the hallucination that the power is overloading. Equally, Beckett’s ‘phantoms’ are the Marines he is caring for and his enemy becomes McKay constantly pulling him away from his charges.

          Beckett actually gets the most interesting ‘phantom’. The tease of when the second Marine died and his continued appearing to Beckett to encourage him to save his team-mate is exceptionally well done. There is the subtle suggestion that the doctor has been tricked into leaving one Marine to die by the device yet the ‘ghost’ ensures the survival of the other; was it the Wraith device or was it actually the ghost of the dead Marine? It’s an intriguing note that makes that element of the story very interesting and this whole section is pure quality especially as Paul McGillion delivers an outstanding performance.

          Given the relative lack of success in establishing meaningful ‘phantoms’ for the characters, it is perhaps as well that Teyla doesn’t get one and it is good to see her getting to be the hero as she manages to focus Sheppard into helping her switch the machine off. It’s also great to see the writers once again remembering her Wraith DNA which here provides her with immunity from the device. Rachel Luttrell also puts in a good performance with her increasing frustration at not being able to reach Sheppard nicely acted.

          It’s also good to see that Weir although back on Atlantis is not ignored either. Her scenes of escalating concern for the team help to break up the monotony of the forest shots and add to the team feel throughout. The sense of team also comes across because there is a role here for all six of the regular characters within the story. The final scene with the team on the radio to Weir having come together again ensures the ending is satisfying and leaves the viewer with a warm fuzzy feeling.

          The episode overall is well executed and enjoyable enough to watch; good direction, great sets, suitably creepy and decaying corpses; the hallucinations, especially Sheppard’s, are done with great attention to detail, loved seeing the Kull warriors make an appearance, the musical underscore adds tension occasionally through absence as much as through being there. All the cast turn in good performances with the dialogue spot on and suitably in-character. McKay’s ‘Lieutenant Loony-Tunes’ was my favourite stand-out quote.

          It is just a shame the story doesn’t quite deliver anything original either in terms of the genre or for the characters. While it would have been infinitely harder to write something that really delved into the psyches of the SGA team, it might have made this a much more interesting tale to watch. Overall, Phantoms is good but it could have been better.
          Women of the Gate LJ Community.
          My Stargate Fanfiction. My LiveJournal.


            “Phantoms” was a darker, grittier Atlantis episode that was centered around the team and imbued with a fair amount of action, tension, and character moments.

            The story brought together different elements from the past. This was not the first time the viewer learns that the Wraith had conducted experiments on humans; the first time was in The Gift. It is also learn that the Genii are actively exploring planets and researching facilities that they find. There is also interesting character exploration as the characters are ‘forced’ to confront events and fears from their past and present.

            Overall the story was well written and well directed. The story was infused with tension filled moments (as when Sheppard is trying to convince Leonard he was a friend but then Leonard blows himself up), some creepiness (the scene with Carson and the soldier who he thought was alive but was really dead – creepy and genuinely surprising) and a lot of “little” moments between characters, especially between Carson and Rodney and John and Teyla.

            An interesting aspect to the story was how each individual’s hallucination seemly played into each character’s inherent personality and beliefs as well as their own fear and/insecurities. Ronan vs. the Wraith, looks back to “Sateda”, his fundamental hatred of them and of being hunted by them. Then there is Sheppard in Afghanistan and his desperate yet futile attempts to try to protect and save a friend; done at all costs with little thought of the personal consequences to himself. Rodney’s hallucination was reminiscent of “Trinity” – playing into his fear of failure and causing another catastrophic explosion. Carson’s hallucination was the most poignant. As the dedicated caring doctor, his hallucination seemed to play into a fear of not being able to save someone or perhaps missing “something” that might cause another person harm or even death. To learn in the end that it was the other black soldier that had died and he had not “seen” it and therefore did not do anything to help was him particularly difficult for him.

            Sheppard: Great acting by Joe Flanigan. Flanigan is able to express so much of the character of Sheppard with just an expression or look. This is illustrated well in the scene right after Teyla was shot; he sees Holland instead of Teyla, he then sees Teyla again. His portrayal of how unnerved Sheppard really was and yet trying to hide that fact was very well done. The hallucination of John’s experience in Afghanistan integrated well into the story and into his character. This element of his backstory, while previously known, had been unexplored. It provided a good illustration of Sheppard’s character and his beliefs and his single minded determination to do what he believes is right; don’t leave anyone behind, a strong sense of obligation to protect/save those around him and his willingness to go with his own gut feeling/decisions rather than obey orders or consider personal consequences.

            Carson: Excellent acting by Paul McGillion. It was good to see his character have such a strong presence – the hallucination he suffered was especially moving because it really played into his emotions and feelings as a doctor and the fact that while he tried so desperately to “save” the life of the one soldier it was the other one who was dying. The horror of his expression when he realized what happened was quite dramatic. Then when John found him and the one soldier in the woods, one could see the pain and despair on Carson’s face. He was holding onto that soldier as if he was trying to hold in the very life of the soldier.

            Ronon: Right in character – hates the Wraith, wants to kill the Wraith. This could have been played up with a little more depth rather than simply him and the Wraith running through the woods trying to kill each other.

            Teyla: Her character had a bit more to do in this episode than in recent previous ones as she gets to “save the day.” The interaction between her and John was well written and illustrated the friendship and trust the two have developed, especially this present season. At the end, the fact she was able to somewhat bridge the gap between his hallucination and reality worked because the thing that she and Holland had in common was the strong friendship, camaraderie and trust John had for both of them.

            Rodney: Still very typical – high strung, brilliant, snarky at times but a bit more reserved in this episode than some previous ones. He also showed a different side to his character as he expressed his concern for the injured soldiers, something to illustrate that Rodney’s character has shown some growth this season. Good interaction with him and Carson in the cave – at times adversarial, at times supportive and at times just simply needing each other.

            The episode had a few inconsistencies. There were varying degrees to the hallucinations the characters were experiencing and while there was an attempt to explain the variations - when Rodney mentioned that everyone’s brain chemistry is different - it fell short of what was needed. Also the ending was a bit inconsistent in that John seemed to so easily “get over” shooting his team. While it is a part of his character to be able to quickly “move on”, in this case it seemed contradictory given the subject of his hallucination. There seemed to be an attempt to address this when you see the “weariness” in Sheppard’s face when he sits down next to Teyla after apologizing to the team, but based on the story that was just presented, it was not enough.

            Phantoms is an interesting story that, while having some inconsistencies, had an adequate mix of action, tension, character exploration and the unexpected to make it a good episode.

            Rating 8/10


              Sorry if I'm too short but I like the end when John sais:"I'm sorry for shooting evryone".
              Don't you?


                Rating:9/10,because we've seen parts of the main caracters past.



                  This has got to be like the third episode title that references a Babar episode. First "The Gift", then "The Intruder" and now "Phantoms"? (indirectly referencing "The Phantom"); there just has to be a Babar fan in the SGA staff, I know it! Anyway... Sci-Fi can allow for a lot of interesting premises to happen, they can place our characters in unfamiliar situations or they can provide a twist to a long familiar plot. In this case it treads the ground on both in that it places them in a situation where both the cause is common and they're forced to face themselves.

                  The environment is one you've seen many times before, in many SG-1 episodes; a forest of redwood trees, grey mist surrounding the area, tons of overgrowth. That environment may seem common but the way the characters use it, it's versatile; it's almost like their own personal playground the way they roam around in it, they don't even mind that they've seen it tons of times before since the stuff that they're put through easily transcends the commonness of the environment. The way it looks, it looks almost realistic with it's pitch-perfect lighting and atmosphere, it almost deceives the mood of the episode at times. I mean how can something so beautiful as a misty forest be dangerous? This takes you further into the episode, blending the fine line between reality and fantasy as they roam around, doing whatever they think they're doing. It doesn't aim to make a contrast, it just aims to be something that's normal yet condescending at the same time which is good because it shows that it doesn't have to be obvious to indicate danger.

                  Common, but effective.

                  Most people already know the characters well so an episode like this wouldn't do good in revealing most of the traits but it does do well in representing every character shown. The traits that we've come to know and love from these characters are put into full effect here; Beckett with his compassion, determinism and doctoring, McKay with his genius and worryness, Sheppard with his military knowledge and Ronan with his badassness. Every one of their performances are engaging, memorable and well representative of their characters; seeing Beckett try to save people is a delight and seeing Sheppard and Teyla out there is heartpacing to say the least, the real fun is not knowing anything about what they're doing. The beginning of the episode gives little information as to what goes on and as the episode goes on even more information is revealed but we still don't know what's going on; you're on the edge of your seat thinking to yourself if what they're doing is what they're actually doing and whether or not the characters have lost their minds. It can be obvious, it can be a total shock; point is, you don't know and that uncertainty is what draws you into the episode.

                  They all have things to face; afraid of seeing someone die, afraid of blowing themselves up, even facing their own daunting past. The stuff that the initial protagonist goes through, it's something that he fears; he even blows himself up because of that fear and that fear spreads to the rest of the people, even affecting the sane minded Ronan and Sheppard and turning the environment into a hunting ground for crazy people. We finally get to take a look into Sheppard's past, answering some questions about his military career and providing a decent homage to the war movies of recent. It's nice to know that Sheppard cares for his people and is determined enough to do his job; he may be hotheaded but he's determined and he doesn't let anybody down, even in the face of impossible odds and when they compare the past to the present, that trait is given so much more (especially with Teyla, who's relationship with Sheppard is utilized well here.) Sure, we're learning about what he did in the past and the guest star is nice but Sheppard's characteristics are so much cooler then Afganistan. And Ronan, well he's his old Runner self except this time, he's hunting the Wraith; though it's short it's nice to see his past in any form.

                  Adventures in the desert.

                  This stuff is really tense, there is just no idea what happens next and when they do encounter, gunshots and explosion fill the room. It helps the uncertain environment that surrounds then but the moment where Sheppard and Ronan face off is icing on the cake; just imagine, the two people in their own worlds facing off with each other, living their own personal visions. They each see the other as their own personal thing yet it seems like they're know what to do, they know how to shoot and those actions seem to effect the other in an effective way. It's odd to watch them fight each other in this way but it's also engaging at the same time, especially when it's a battle between two equally skilled men. Despite the tensity, there are some times where it gets boring; I mean sure, there's action abound but there are small parts where it feels like the momentum has stopped, whether or not it's regarding the scenes with McKay or the drawn out stuff regarding Sheppard looking for someone (or even the scenes on Atlantis) I don't know but I do know that it isn't exactly tight.

                  In the end, this is a pretty amazing episode of SGA. It's got a good premise that does well for it's characters, it's an unpredictable experience and it's pretty enjoyable overall; while it may be common, what they do transcends commonness and proves itself to be a unique experience who's appeal can't be denied. It's not perfect but it's one of the best episodes of Season 3 and a good way to spend 44 minutes.

                  Back from the grave.