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FAN REVIEWS: The Return, Part 1

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    FAN REVIEWS: The Return, Part 1

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    The Atlantis expedition is stunned to learn that a ship full of Ancients is returning to reclaim their lost city.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 6, 2021, 09:29 PM.

    If someone had told me in the middle of this 10-episode stretch that I would be far more satisfied with the “SGA” mid-season cliffhanger than the “SG-1” installment, I would have laughed hysterically. After all, the ninth season of “SG-1” had beaten the pants off of the second season of “SGA”, and the trend had been continuing into this summer’s material. But then a funny thing happened after the slow start: “SGA” started getting good again.

    I still think that the character development and exploration could be better, but this episode tossed aside the lure of huge explosions and plot twists to tell a relatively simple story: the Ancients return and want their city back. Team Atlantis is sent packing, with Woolsey (from the IOA) and General O’Neill acting as liaisons to the Ancients. Much time is spent on the impact of this decision on Team Atlantis, and each character must decide how to move on (if, indeed, they can).

    In short, it takes the approach used with Weir in “The Real World” and applies similar logic to the entire crew. What happens when the mission is over? Well, typically, the team doesn’t take it very well, especially after everything they’ve seen and done. It’s not surprising that this comes on the heels of McKay’s success with the Intergalactic Gate System, and not just because it then provides an interesting consequence should Atlantis be lost. McKay is flush with success, only to find his expertise shoved off on something far less challenging.

    What surprises me, especially from the perspective of the “Stargate” franchise as a whole, is the methodical exploration of each character’s psychology. While Ronon and Teyla get shorted a bit, as if they were one character all of a sudden, they respond in a fairly logical fashion. They look for the next best ally to keep fighting. Enter the Genii, paying off that relationship as reinforced in “Common Ground”.

    I would get how each character responded in a manner consistent with their established personalities, and explore each nuance and relationship in context, but that would ruin the fun. The writers simply take the time needed to play out the scenario correctly. They could have jumped back and forth to the fight at Atlantis, but that wasn’t where the story was. The story was the process of loss, the difficulties of moving on, the choice to defy authority. In that final act, I couldn’t help but think of a particular scene from “Star Trek III”, a huge smile on my face.

    Looking back on the first half of the season, the average for “SGA” is coming in at 7.1, which is slightly above average. What’s significant, however, is that the average would have been higher, had a couple of early season episodes been left out of the mix. “Irresistible” alone was a big hit in the negative column. If more episodes are like the run since “Progeny” come along in the second half, the series might finally overcome the sophomore slump of the second season.

    (As a sidenote: I also have a podcast associated with my various reviews called “Dispatches from Tuzenor”. Recent episodes cover the “Stargate: Atlantis”, so it might be something of interest. Go to if you want to listen!)


      The Return is an aptly named episode dealing with a number of returns within the storyline. It does an excellent job of setting up and building anticipation for the second part while it fails to hit the mark on providing a sense of the SGA team as a family as other episodes have done this season.

      The episode and story are packed with references to returning; the return of the Ancients to Atlantis, the team’s return to Earth, the returns of the Asurans, Woolsey, Jack O’Neill, the Genii…if a Wraith had shown up, there would have been a full house of ‘returns’. Still, the title happily captures the essence of the story although ‘be careful what you wish for’ could have been an alternative as the team’s joy at the return of the Ancients quickly turns to shock. The Ancients peremptorily assuming control of the city is well done and Higginson does an excellent job of acting a blindsided Weir. Indeed all the cast do a good job at displaying disappointment and frustration as the reality sets in and they pack up and leave.

      What are less well done are the scenes of the team leaving. These seem disorganized and fragmented with little cohesion and this is underscored by the lack of an overall team goodbye scene. It’s not that there aren’t good moments of goodbye; Beckett’s with McKay is suitably in character; Sheppard has a couple of great moments; the physicality between himself and Ronan indicative of brothers at play in Sheppard’s quarters, and the gentle forehead touch of goodbye at the gate between himself and Teyla. It’s just a shame that there aren’t more of these with other combinations of the characters. It would have been great to have had a Weir/Teyla moment; a McKay/Ronan even. In the end the impression is that they aren’t losing their family and home simply a city they wanted to keep, and it clashes badly with the sense of family that has been building through the rest of the season. One or two more scenes of goodbye might have just shaded this better.

      The section of the story that deals with the characters as they adjust to life beyond Atlantis, particularly those on Earth is extremely well crafted. There is an almost immediate brutal return to normality well demonstrated as Sheppard returns from a mission with a team member prosaically having broken a foot, and by the inclusion of the usual SGC regulars such as Landry and Walter in the Earth scenes. The struggle for the SGA team to adjust is displayed in lovely moments; Sheppard eagerly offering to do a briefing on the Asurans, Rodney complaining he feels lonely and especially Weir holed up in an apartment contemplating writing her memoirs and avoiding her former team. Equally, Ronan and Teyla are also shown struggling back in Pegasus. The struggle for all the characters has a wonderfully real touch as these are accurate human reactions to loss and change.

      From a story perspective, their plan to return to Atlantis is not believable. The rebellion; the stealing of the puddle-jumper, the escape through the Stargate relies on the SGC personnel being incredibly stupid. The SGC is covered in security cameras; you’d think someone would notice the four of them kitted out in battle gear making their way to the jumper and the scene of Weir distracting Dr Lee is almost cringingly bad although humorous. There is an also an absence of a compelling reason to return with their given reason seeming to be an opportunity to retake the city than about putting their family back together or even rescuing the trapped Woolsey and O’Neill.

      The return of O’Neill is a little disappointing given how fleeting and brief his appearances are in this episode, and the nature of his role as the elder statesman/ambassador within the story. However, while it’s certainly true this is a matured O’Neill, his characterisations are all true to form; the eager excitement over the test flight; the awkwardness in the negotiations with the Ancients; the tugging on his shirt and tie as he tells the SGA team the news. Is he lacking some emotion about the team being summarily dismissed from Atlantis? Possibly but then O’Neill’s detachment is a good contrast to that of the emotionally involved SGA team.

      What does feel awkward is the excuse used to place him in Atlantis at the time of the Asuran attack. Seriously, it smacks of last minute panic or just a lack of thought in the writing; there are any number of reasons that could have been used that would have worked better. Still, the scenes with Richard Dean Anderson and Robert Picardo, particularly the negotiation scene, give a glimpse of the great comedic chemistry between the two actors and there is a sense of anticipation about seeing the two work together more in the second part of the story as there is the hope that O’Neill will get to be more the action hero of old.

      The episode is marvellous as a set-up. There is a real sense of disappointment at the ‘to be continued’ tag; the hints of a plan to retake the city; the team coming back together again; the promise of more O’Neill and Woolsey interaction; all lend a vibrant sense of anticipation and desire to see more. The end shot of the wormhole is extremely well done and evocative.

      In the end, The Return is more of a success than a failure. While parts of the story don’t ring true and it is a little hit and miss in evoking a sense of team, the characterisations are all good and it does leave the viewer wanting more. Perhaps this is also a good summary for the first half of season 3 overall and this is one viewer certainly eager to see the rest of both the season and The Return.
      Women of the Gate LJ Community.
      My Stargate Fanfiction. My LiveJournal.


        The Return Part 1

        The mid season finale delivered in a spectacular manner – not with special effects and explosions but with character moments and team bonding.

        This was a different type of season finale than one is used to seeing in Stargate. Instead of an emotional level being built around a “space battle” or someone about to be “killed” - in this episode the emotional pinnacle comes from the characters themselves; how attached they have become to each other, how they view Atlantis as their home and the risk they are willing to take to “save” it.

        The story was well written by Martin Gero. It had a good dose of an interesting story along with strong friendship/character/team moments. It integrated the different layers of both character and plot in a way that kept the story moving and interesting. The writers have done an outstanding job this year of really bringing the team together and giving it that family feel and this story seemed to be the culmination of that effort.

        To a smaller degree the plot advanced both the Ancient and Asuran storylines in respect to some of their past and present activities in the Pegasus system. The ending itself was predictable but even though it was expected, it was likely intended to give the viewer the feeling to cheer for ‘Team Atlantis’ as they were defying all conventional wisdom and direct orders by running off to save their “home”.

        For the most part throughout the episode, Gero did a good job of building the characters motivation for their ultimate actions. From their dismay at leaving Atlantis, to their feelings of isolation and a sense of being unneeded and underappreciated in their new roles at SGC, were all leading to the point where they made the decision to execute their own plan to save Atlantis. Having the team come together, to decide to go back against orders to Atlantis, stealing a puddle jumper and zapping your own people is risky to say the least and it illustrates the level of emotion and desperation they were feeling. Gero did a great job building up to that – if he hadn’t done such a good job showing their sense of loss of being away from Atlantis and each other then what they did would not have worked at all.

        There were many notable character moments, especially the way we saw them adjusting/not adjusting to being away from Atlantis and from each other.

        Two outstanding scenes that illustrate this are:
        The first scene is between Carson and Elizabeth in her apartment back on Earth. Her feeling of isolation and lack of direction is well played giving the viewer the clear sense she is not able to “let go” of Atlantis. The other scene involves John at SGC. It is apparent that he feels uncomfortable, out of place, underappreciated and is missing the camaraderie of the “family” he had on Atlantis; this can be seen from the difficulties with his new team to being pushed aside by Landry when he offers to discuss his insight on the replicators with him after the message from O’Neill and Woolsey. Then, after the replicators attack, he and the rest of the team were called in by Landry not to save Atlantis but to provide intel on how to destroy it.

        There were other strong character moments and while these moments did not involve backstory as to “what makes these characters tick” we did see how these characters feel about and relate to each other in the present. For example:
        *The goodbye between John, Teyla and Ronon in John’s room was touching. Again John expressed his difficulty in being able to express how he felt but Ronon said it all with the big bear hug.

        *The goodbye in front of the gate, specifically John and Teyla’s head touch. It seemed to bring their friendship full circle – she used it in “The Rising” as a welcome and a sign of the beginning of their friendship and now John used it as a goodbye.

        *The dinner between John, Elizabeth, Carson and Rodney was sweet- truly a dinner between friends, talking and reminiscing about stuff as friends do.

        *Carson was magnificent. From getting teary eyed while trying to say goodbye to Rodney, to going to Elizabeth to try to snap her out of her depression/isolation, to being concerned about the 'wee baby turtles'.

        *The phone call between Rodney and John and their conversation was revealing. This is a telling moment where one can see that these two have really developed a friendship.

        There were of course a couple of interesting Stargate “tech” moments such as the introduction of the Intergalactic Bridge and how Helia made that control panel pop up in front of the gate – a teaser on how there is still so much stuff to discover about Atlantis.

        “The Return Part 1” is an excellent example of how good acting, good directing and a good writing come together perfectly to create a solid episode. Gero put a strong emotional edge into the story and you have the clear sense that they are just not going to back to Atlantis to save “it” but to save their home.

        Rating 10/10


          The Return (Part 1)

          As usual, we've reached the midway point of Atlantis's 3rd Season and this one features many things, the operation of that interstellar gate which has been hinted at for the majority of the third season (they just can't stop finding ways of being together can they), an interesting plot, epic moments and the thing that many of you have been clamoring for since the dawn of time, a chance to meet the ancients.

          As usual, the first part of a two parter has always been somewhat boring despite the exciting content featured; it's almost as if they're saving the energy for the second part, using the first part as sort of an episode that features our guys, sets up the stakes and builds up to what's always considered to be the second part. That's true here as the initial moments of the episode aren't engaging, don't get me wrong; seeing the bridge being activated for the first time is nice and all but aside from that, it just seems like the usual same old, same old; which is tons of conversing, tons of figuring out what to do next and tons of moments that just seem like lesser ones from Part 2. Yup, business as usual with only a few good moments to keep you hooked (McKay's moments were decent); that is until the Ancients enter the picture...

          Dear old ancients...

          The sight of real live ancients for the first time in the series fulfills a desire that most of us has had since the show went on the air. When are these people going to come face to face with a real live ancient? We have had tons of opportunities before ("Aurora", "Before I Sleep") but never had they manage to fully get in depth to them and their appearance in here seems promising; in the role of the story they want to tell, they do amazingly well for themselves managing to twist viewers expectations while still retaining the characteristics that we've come to expect from them. They play an almost beneficiary position, posing themselves as a threat to Atlantis while also showcasing some diplomacy; these ancients are humble, knowledgeable and determined but when it comes to stuff like this, they're stern and though their time is really short (how many times has this happened now?), what we see from them really proves to play an essential part of the episode. How many times do you get to see what Atlantis looks like with Ancients inside of it?

          Of course the main focus of this first part is the crew and the writers do something interesting in that they split them up, send them off their separate ways. The scenes where they said goodbye to each other were surprisingly sensible and charming, I could really feel them as they said their last words, future plans and the good times that they had together; for a moment they were more then actors, they were characters, characters who have been with us since the dawn of time. The way they talk, the way they react and the way they get close together, it's all going to bring a tear to somebodies eye and it may seem like they're in a position of greatness after Atlantis, Sheppard in a military position, Rodney in a science position and Beckett in a... I guess a medical position but what we're shown is that it isn't exactly right for them. The feelings that they hint at as they converse, the tone of their voices, it tells us all in a convincing matter and Weir, well her condition is much more unique and fits well within her character; take one look at her and tell me you can't worry about her.

          Mess of a room...

          Of course, with any team they won't be separate forever and the moment where disregard the people at SGC and reunite the team (including Teyla and Rona, who too are also going through their phase) is the time where the team really gets to shine. We're rooting for them as they roam through the halls, united to save a common goal but ultimately fulfilling their own interests; this is the Atlantis team we've known, the team who is resourceful and has a good team dynamic. They work off each other, they effortlessly know what to do and we're engaged every second of the way. Of course we have to work through the usual flaws, the awkward time-wasting scenes, (the one involving World of Warcraft being especially painful to watch.) and the almost pandering action scenes. Surprisingly, there are fewer of them then usual but the fact they exist aims to deter the momentum that the episode has ever so built up to. I mean this is there moment to shine, nothing should ever get in the way of that.

          There are some troubling problems that this episode introduces... As in a previous episode, they basically wasted a ZPM but in this one they get a brand new one courtesy of the Ancients; I mean how is it that they basically get stuff like this easily, especially after the big deal it made in regards to them wasting the ZPM. Some people were at least thinking that they were trying to replicate Season 1 (where they had no ZPM) for the mid-season finale but they got was a severe sense of disappointment and what we got was almost mocking to the audience watching it and the treatment of the Asurans as replicators seems a bit one-dimensional. I know they're similar to SG-1's replicators but their desire to be like the Ancients, Ascend and their near replication of Ancient technology separate them from the bunch, this just makes it seem like they don't care about how they are; they're replicators and replicators are replicators no matter who or what they are; come on writers, don't make them out to be replicators 2.0.

          Together again...

          So the first part of the two parter is good; it gets viewers excited for the second part and it offers a decent character story at that. Some of it may be boring/unwatchable but that's to be expected for stuff like this and besides, there's less of it here than in the other episodes. Besides, it's got the charismatic Jack O'Neill, what more could you want? Bring on the second part.

          Back from the grave.