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    FAN REVIEWS: The Game

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    Sheppard and McKay discover that their competitive video game has been controlling a planet of real people, who now stand on the brink of war.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 6, 2021, 09:20 PM.

    Although not one of the strongest Atlantis episodes, "The Game" has some important messages to convey to its audience. Its a message that many other shows have explored but which is relayed well nevertheless.
    The message, of course, is that there can be no real winner in war. International tension and dispute has long existed and continues to exist today but what happens when countries can't resolve their differences and resort to violence? The answer is total and utter destruction - the only solice you can take after such an event is if your side was lucky enough to suffer fewer casualties and be left with a few more buildings standing than your enemy. Real victory is in finding peace and maintaining it - that is the test of a true leader.

    Many viewers have compared this episode with "The Tower", saying its almost as bad. I would totally disagree. Although the execution of the episode isn't as strong as it could have been considering the premise, the last 20 minutes or so is some pretty good stuff. This wasn't just some 'fun' and 'stupid' filler episode, it had real substance and although the writing played it down to be a light episode, the second half hots up quite nicely and offers some serious lessons. As well as the war issue, you have the lesson concerning the importance of peace and setting differences aside, the lesson of just what having too much power can do to a person, that playing God is damaging, that thinking for yourself is vital and that taking the time to listen can do the world of good.

    The main problem with this episode is that which I already mentioned - its very title, "The Game", suggests that this was never going to be one of Atlantis' darker episodes and that is a terrible shame. It would have been a much smoother transition into the serious subject matter dealt with later, if the first half of the episode had taken itself seriously rather than laughing at itself. If the show isn't going to take itself seriously, how can viewers be expected to?

    In other news: Sheppard and McKay were very good in this episode. They really helped highlight what it can mean to be the leader of a nation and mirrored the sorts of situations we've seen throughout history - minor border and trade disputes, military build-up leading to more military build-up and the use of science for destruction. Although their 'cheating' arguments became a little repetative and tedious over time, they played their parts well. Similarly, Major Lorne and Zelenka were used to show that it isn't just Sheppard and McKay who can become power hungry - its the nature of mankind. You begin by trying to do something good but eventually power gets the best of you. This is a theme which has been explored numerous times in SG-1 as well as many other series and genres and here, Atlantis does a good job of it.
    The leaders/commanders of the two civilisations were equally as good in portaying the two parallel societies - one based on science, the other on military strength. The other main characters played a minimal role, Teyla and Ronan serving to balance the opposition between Sheppard and McKay and Weir attempting to act as mediator between the two societies and also as the voice of reason and wisdom in having "the game" shut down, realising that its more than any human can deal with.

    All in all this is a good episode. The first half was disappointing but once the story of the conflict between the two societies began to develop, things began to pick up. Before long the plot became interesting and seeing the game become a real-life tactical interface for the two societies to wage war was what gave this episode its weight. The fact that the conflict was a false simulation was fairly obvious but impressive and heavy-hitting nonetheless - seeing both these Countries destroyed in simulation was effective, exciting and worked well. McKay and Sheppard's final speeches served as the ultimate lesson of this episode - war can never be the answer. These people should consider themselves lucky to have received this lesson before it was too late.

    7/10 - Should have taken itself more seriously and done more to play down the more laughable aspects of the story in favour of the more impressive and meaningful serious, dark subject matter.

    O'Neill: Phasers?
    Carter: Sorry sir.



      On paper The Game must have sounded like a great idea; Sheppard and McKay’s rivalry in what they believe is a computer game almost resulting in a real war between two countries on another planet. However, the execution is an episode which while accomplished in terms of special effects, story construction and acting from the main cast is somewhat of a disappointment. It is difficult to understand where it went awry; perhaps because the societies remain superficial and without depth, perhaps in the acting of the guest cast which is a little one note, perhaps in the fact that the sub-plot with Zelenka and Lorne offers a more interesting story that appeals in a way the main plot does not.

      There is a lot right with The Game including that there has obviously been a lot of time and effort put into the main story. It is well-thought out and put together. It deals with its only main plot hole – why this is the first time The Game has come to light - early by recognising that it has never been mentioned before in a tongue-in-cheek comment from McKay to Weir noting he’s sure she’s been told about it. The rest, from the technical explanations of the oracles on the planet and how it relates back to the game/social experiment in Atlantis, the history of the increasing hostility between the two sides, their falling into warfare and the solution, is solid with very few plot holes to nitpick at. Yet it just remains a fairly uninteresting tale.

      It isn’t helped by the pacing. The story is exposition heavy at the beginning which makes it slow to get going and really the action element only begins over half way through when the sides go to war. The action when it comes is also only the simulation of war played out on the monitor, a few sound effects and a light show; the first enactment with Geldar does provide some excitement but only for a moment as the solution is readily obvious. The story then reverts back to the ponderous exposition of what happened although the direction of this with the cut backs between McKay and Sheppard is well done and gives it some pace.

      If the pacing is off so too is the depth as the two societies Sheppard and McKay have built remain superficial and the story never explores them beyond the one-note differences between the two; McKay’s values scientific superiority, Sheppard’s values military strength. While it is amusing to visit Geldar, see the pictures of McKay everywhere and see the fervour for science, nothing is seen of the other society beyond the militaristic costumes of its people and a simple dwelling. With the societies themselves lacking depth, the audience isn’t given a reason to care about their fate overly much and even the leaders don’t provide a sympathetic draw as the one-note theme continues.

      Neither Nola nor Badon are given much depth and the performances by the guest actors fail to sparkle accordingly although they do seem to try to make the most of the scanty material. Laura Harris appears too young for Nola and seems to have been cast simply for her passing resemblance to Amanda Tapping with the nod to Sam Carter continued as McKay feeds her blue jello. That scene is simply awful as Nola cannot be taken seriously with her mouth stained by the blue dye. If it was meant to be intentionally funny, I personally failed to laugh.

      If the guest cast fail to shine, the main cast put in a solid effort. McKay and Sheppard look suitably horrified at the realisation they may have set the countries on a course to war; passionate in trying to prevent it; determined to save the situation. Joe Flanigan and David Hewlett are superb as always. Torri Higginson also turns in a great performance as Weir; stern and disapproving with McKay and Sheppard; angry and disappointed with Lorne and Zelenka; diplomatic and compassionate with Nola and Badon. Neither Rachel Luttrell nor Jason Momoa get much to do but what they do, they do well. The team scene at the beginning is a joy. It is also worth noting that Kavan Smith and David Nykl put in good performances as Lorne and Zelenka.

      Indeed, the Lorne/Zelenka sub-plot that develops throughout the episode with the two succumbing to ‘helping’ another planet á la McKay/Sheppard but in the knowledge they are affecting real people somewhere in the Pegasus galaxy is a much more interesting story than the fate of frankly two very boring societies. The motivations of the characters in their initial good intentions contrasted against the temptation of playing God are fascinating especially given that both characters are usually portrayed as the more balanced, sane versions of their regular character counterparts. The sub-plot isn’t well developed, seen only in snapshots and quickly ends but this was worth exploring; this was something that hooked the viewer.

      The other hook for the episode was the great special effects throughout; the puddle-jumper with the shot of its occupants, the planet shots, the satellites, the war games played out on the monitors; all are fabulously put together and executed. They seamlessly fit into the story and never seem intrusive.

      Perhaps ultimately this is the failure of The Game; it isn’t intrusive enough. It doesn’t grab the attention and sweep the audience up in its wake. It’s safe; it’s well put together; even lightly humorous in places but it’s boring. It remains a great concept, just one that failed to be realised in the final product.
      Last edited by kiwigater; February 11, 2007, 12:06 PM.
      Women of the Gate LJ Community.
      My Stargate Fanfiction. My LiveJournal.


        The previous episode felt like the SGA version of “Flowers for Algernon”. This episode immediately feels like the SGA version of “Ender’s Game” or “A Taste of Armageddon” from the original “Star Trek”, with a bit of the classic game “Civilization” tossed in for good measure. Why it would take three people to develop such a derivative story is hard to imagine, and of course, having so many cooks in the kitchen is a recipe for disaster.

        The concept is always interesting, of course, because of the ethical issues involved. If nothing else, it’s hard to reconcile how entire societies would hand over their progress to an unseen “oracle”. It certainly adds another questionable layer to the Ancients’ intervention in the progress of less “evolved” civilizations.

        The success of the episode lies in two areas: how each society fits within the personality of its “oracle”, and how the ethical quandary of controlling a civilization is addressed. The personality question is obvious in some ways, subtle in others. McKay’s society is all about scientific progress, and Sheppard’s society is aggressive and somewhat paranoid. The usual tension between McKay and Sheppard, particularly their competitive nature, is expressed very clearly.

        As one might expect, people will make decisions and authorize actions that they usually would never agree with, if it’s all in the name of playing a game. In computer games in particular, aggression is practically a given. After all, conflict is a quick and easy source of action and excitement. Of course, in the real world, that’s not practical and completely unethical.

        For all that McKay and Sheppard attempt to bring things back on track, the damage is done. It’s interesting to see how the two of them continue to think of the two nations as their own, even when it’s clear that the game is over. That adds to the ethical discussion. After all, forcing a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the conflict is, in essence, a continuance of the meddling, only with Weir in the driver’s seat. That measure is equally ineffective.

        The end of the episode is a bit of a cop-out, though it wasn’t entirely unexpected. It would have been more interesting had the conflict been unavoidable, with McKay and Sheppard forced to deal with the material and psychological consequences. Instead, all’s well that ends well, and by the very end, it’s almost like nothing happened. It’s an unsatisfying end to what was a surprisingly effective episode.


          The Game

          Ah, "The Game"... you can never find a more sci-fi title like that and how appropriate it is because it involves one of the coolest pieces of technology I have ever laid my eyes on; the Ancient satellite game device which allows ordinary people like McKay and Sheppard in order to control the lives of societies and this forms the basis for an absolutely indulging plot where they have to find a way to make piece with the two societies they've been controlling for two years.

          First off, I have got to say just how amazing the technology is; the fact that you're able to control an entire civilization from Atlantis (technology, clothing, infrastructure, names) and have the changes effect them in real life is amazing, ust the amount of tactics you can use and how you can build up your society, it's almost mind blowing to say the least. It's evident in both of the cities where you can clearly see the methodology that each one has taken, McKay with his intellectual, passive and almost egotistical stance and Sheppard with his gun-ho stance; I have to wonder what would happen if an ordinary guy walked up to one of these things and started to tinker with the civilization. I think the guys at Atlantis said it well themselves in regards to the whole sociological thing of it; trying to see where a civilization goes, testing out certain methods to society; guiding a society into better or worse times... And what about the person who's controlling the society, is his intentions well mannered? Can he handle himself in a way where his personality doesn't influence the society? So many questions, so few words.

          The results of McKay.

          The writers really did a good job at using the game premise in order to form much of the conflict of the episode. The two societies clash at each other with their opposing premises and opinions and even when it's revealed that it's a game, they still conflict, the same goes to Sheppard and McKay who play their respective roles and fight in a way that's both playful and offensive even when they're trying to find a way to make piece and trying their best to teach them independence; it's almost funny to see them fighting but in a way there's also a hint of seriousness that's within those fights. The thing about their fights is the petty issues such as possible cheating and offensiveness which translates into their societies in a bigger way such as one seeing them as barbaric and the other seeing them as pompous. It's funny to see how such issues can possibly lead into a conflict because it's so small but it's also serious because it shows what happens when any issue gets in the way of anything to the point where it effects Sheppard and McKay's intentions even though they're trying the best they can.

          Much of the beginning of the episode is fun as you get wrapped around the coolness of the technology, the sheer scale of what's going on and even some of the fun stuff such as the banter between the two and the initial reveal of McKay's society but that fun seems to slowly slope off as the episode progress; the scenes in question were still good but there isn't much in regards to the concept at hand, almost at times coming across as another SGA episode; the negotiations, the scenes at Atlantis, some of the scenes back in the society. The various people chosen to represent their societies do well for themselves as they show off what they're taught, the personalities (though small) that they have and even some of their history; it is interesting to see the two, the various ways they interact with their leaders, the quotes that they sprout out. The woman in particular mainly because she stands firm in her beliefs with her various quotes... It's just amazing to see how two people can be so influential and that's reflected when their past history is twisted through their bickering.

          The two societies.

          They haven't forgotten about the seriousness of the war and the moments where it does get serious curtail some of the better moments of the episode; it showcases just how severe both of their actions are, giving them things they don't even know about and perceptions which are incorrect, giving weight to the situation at hand which was in danger of floating away into the sky; it also provides some moments which rival that in the first half, moments such as one involving Sheppard and CGI and one involving tons of explosions and tons of danger. However, it gets iffy with the arrival of the Daedalus, which though cool, seemed unnecessary and manages to even set up the basis of a morale-related scene that seems more at home in an 80's cartoon (or sitcom) with it's delivery and simulated events; aiming to dilute much of what the episode was going for in my opinion, at least it resolves the issue of possible peace and the game. Though minor, these things deserve mention; I thought Weir was good in this, she was very stern and really slammed her foot hard in regards to the game, reinforcing several morales relating to the game in the process and Zelenka, well he was fun to watch as he interacted with the game, both substituent and easygoing.

          "The Game" has an interesting concept but it's not the best it can be. It's still pretty good though, the technology is quite possibly the coolest thing I have ever seen, the societies themselves are interesting and McKay and Sheppard are quite entertaining. There are some times where it can dwell into boring territory but for the most part what you see and what you hear will have you smiling. It's a shame, this could of been one of the best episodes but I guess you have to make do with what you've got and what you've got is good enough.

          Back from the grave.