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FAN REVIEWS: First Strike

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    FAN REVIEWS: First Strike

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    An unstoppable energy weapon leaves Atlantis under seige after Earth launches a preemptive attack against the Replicator home world.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 6, 2021, 08:10 PM.

    Will the real O'Neill please stand up?

    Is it the one we saw at the end of The Return Part 2, who supposedly had such influence over the IOA, that his word was all that was needed to ensure that Weir and her senior staff could continue in their positions in Atlantis, despite the fact that they blatantly disobeyed orders, commandeered government / military property (the puddle jumper), and even assaulted military personnel (zatting Siler and that hapless guy from John's SG team) in their bid to save Atlantis from the Asuran replicators?

    Or is it the one we were told of in First Strike, who despite supposedly being "awfully fond" of Weir, allowed her and the Atlantis senior staff to be kept in the dark about the intelligence on the Asurans gathered by the Daedalus, and stood by while decisions of great import directly affecting the safety of Atlantis were being made without their knowledge or input?

    Please don't insult my intelligence by saying they are one and the same. Please don't insult my intelligence by throwing pretty CGI on screen and hoping I don't notice.

    In Season One, the build-up to the finale was gradual and logical. We learned that a Wraith armada was on the way in Brotherhood. Preparation for their arrival, including thorough on-screen discussion of various possible options, took place over the next few episodes, culminating in the Wraith attack in Siege Parts 1 and 2. Surely the decision to strike at the Asurans first before they attacked Earth or Atlantis could have been presented in a more thorough manner. Surely we could have been told that the stardrive was functional before this episode, and even heard of previous attempts to figure out how to fly Atlantis, as we were told about attempts to fire drones before Siege Part 2. Surely knowing about such attempts beforehand would only have heightened anticipation for it, without lessening the excitement when we actually saw Atlantis fly.

    Perhaps most viewers are willing to forgive all this in the wonder of seeing the city submerge, then reemerge, and finally fly. Or in the satisfaction of fondly amusing character moments. Or in the love, respect and loyalty so unassumingly encapsulated in three simple words -- "Aye, aye, Captain."

    Here is one viewer who will not forgive. Give me the O'Neill I loved in SG-1, the man who would never leave anyone behind, even a stranger, who demanded of himself and others to always strive to do the right thing. Give me intelligent foreshadowing and plot development instead of shoving everything down my throat in one single unimaginative info dump. All the pretty CGI in the world, or supposedly dramatic moments like cities flying or glass shattering, do not make up for lack of intelligent story-telling, or failure to protect character integrity.

    Thank you, Mr. Hewlett, for the saving grace that was "Aye, aye, Captain," and please, please move on to other things, so I can stop torturing myself over a show that doesn't deserve my time or energy.
    Keep Carson. Keep Elizabeth.
    Keep Atlantis.

    Lemming #14
    -Clueless Lemming Cretin-

    Image by Cailliath


      As Atlantis drifts in space, the viewer is left to ponder an uncertain and directionless future for the show. After the latest round of twenty episodes, the season concludes not so much with a bang, but with a vague and wheezy sigh.

      First Strike certainly has some flashy moments of brilliance; the CGI in this episode is dazzling in places. The attack on the Asuran home world is a visual treat, though somewhat derivative of certain other recent sci-fi material, and the CGI team have really nailed the city exterior night shots. The new characters of Ellis and Keller are also a welcome addition to the cast, with Ellis in particular playing the role of competent and obedient military commander with relish. Keller, while not given much material to work with, looks like a good fit for a new season.

      Unfortunately, promising characters and expensive visual trickery can’t save the episode from some cheap writing. As with so many episodes this season, the viewer is left wondering “why on EARTH did they do that?” The episodic trend seems to be: manufacture an unlikely scenario that can only be solved in increasingly unlikely ways by exploiting inconsistencies in character, science and reason. Sure this is science fiction, and there is a certain expectation that tachyon radiation can explain anything, but some things just come off as odd. Bits of technology are bolted onto the episode for the sake of moving the story along; why for example do space combat vehicles have grappling hooks capable of burying themselves into an asteroid and withstanding the full force of the ship’s thrust? Characters do and say strange things, for example Jack’s approval of an attack plan that would clearly leave Atlantis vulnerable to counter-attack, or Weir’s anti-establishment outburst. Established SG universe lore is ignored; DHD precedence should prevent the second gate from being dialled, and why is it that the creators of the anti-replicator weapon technology – the Ancients, as the viewer learned in season 8 of SG-1 – were totally unable to destroy their own replicator creation in the first place?

      The final moments of the episode are the most disappointing. While the city lost in space is a good concept in theory, given the trend of episodes the cynic in this reviewer can’t help but think it will all be resolved rather quickly early in season 4. There simply isn’t any sense of foreboding, any sense of real danger to the city or its occupants. Atlantis can’t be destroyed, else there would be no next season. The shields can’t fail in space, else there would be massive loss of life and no next season. The powers that be have written themselves into a corner, and yet another improbable solution is likely to be the order of the day. The fear of the “big reset button” being pushed is real, and there is an excellent chance that early in season 4 the viewers will find themselves back on a familiar watery planet, watching familiar pre-rendered shots of the city of Atlantis, listening to the actors emote their familiar pre-canned one-liners.

      First Strike is, unfortunately, symptomatic of many of the problems with season 3. Moments of brilliance, genuine humor and raw excitement are lost in a sea of clunky plot devices and awkward solutions. In many ways, it seems that nobody can figure out what to make of Atlantis the show; is it a comedy? A morality trip? A space opera? What story is being told here? Maybe the real problem with Atlantis is that too many people have their fingers in the story-writing pie – a show written by committee perhaps? The core concept of Atlantis – the exploration and wonder of the city of Atlantis – has fallen by the wayside, in favour of tick box “team moments”, tick box “funny one-liners” and tick box “techie bits”. There is hope for a new season, but there needs to be a paradigm shift back to the core premise. Let us all hope this is the last strike.


        If there is one thing Atlantis does very well it is season finales, and First Strike assumes its rightful place as the best to date. The story scores on every level and with such a solid foundation, the characterisations and performances are assured with the guest cast nicely added to the mix. The special effects simply rock and every aspect excels. The result is a finale that seduces the viewer into falling in love with the show all over again and sets expectations for S4 very high.

        The story is well constructed in three parts; the first focusing on a strike against the Asurans to save Earth resulting in a retaliatory strike against Atlantis; the second, being the resulting desperate attempts by the Atlantis team to save the city and the final third being the execution of the plan to save the city. What holds it together is the tension created in the story between the military and civilian elements of the Atlantis expedition. In the first third, the military has ascendancy; in the second, the civilian; yet it is only when both are reconciled in the last part that the city can be saved.

        The tension provides some great drama and conflict between the characters. The Weir and Colonel Ellis battle for command is great especially the ‘twelve rounds’ speeches. Weir and Sheppard also clash fabulously. The early scene in the briefing room where the initial plan is revealed and the first crack appears as Weir asks ‘Can you believe this?’ and Sheppard shocks her with ‘it’s almost too good to be true’, is well performed by both Torri Higginson and Joe Flanigan. It showcases the respect and working relationship the two characters have achieved yet demonstrates their fundamental difference in approach.

        McKay’s skirmishes with Ellis also provide for a widening of the division as Ellis peremptorily beams McKay to the Apollo, Ellis snaps at McKay not to give him the history on his plan and McKay responds smugly that it isn’t Ellis who gets to decide whether to submerge the city. David Hewlett plays a McKay fiercely loyal to Weir yet trying to do the right thing to perfection. Yet the story excels by also providing resolution to the conflict through Sheppard and McKay. It is only when the two of them work together that the team finally have a plan that may save the city.

        What is great is that this conflict/resolution is at the heart of the Stargate history. In the original movie, it is only when Jack and Daniel work together that they defeat Ra. SG1 continued to showcase that premise in its ten year run; success is borne from the differences within the team. It is this concept that is also expressed in the scene between Sheppard, Teyla and Ronan, with the Fantastic Four comparison. It’s a funny moment which lightens the story, provides the hardly used and excellent Rachel Luttrell and Jason Momoa with something to do, and which importantly is the watershed on the conflict. The scene in the lab where both McKay and Sheppard get the same notion at the same time is also a nice nod back to the film whether intentional or not. Given that SGA will carry the flag for the franchise next season, it’s a nice touch.

        Stargate history is also referenced elsewhere in the story namely in terms of the wider mythology of the Lost City. McKay notes that they’ve come ‘full circle’ that being the name of the SG1 episode which introduced the idea of the Lost City to the Stargate audience. The music that plays as Sheppard sits in the Ancient chair and the above shot of him all reminiscent SG1’s Lost City. The submerging and then flying of the city neatly references Rising. And the final cherry on this particular sub-text cake? The city ends up lost again at the end. This feels all at once a tribute to the story that created Atlantis yet a casting off too of the old chains; Atlantis is truly reborn.

        The addition of new characters adds to this feeling. Colonel Ellis, played with verve by Michael Beach, is a great creation; focused, direct, with his ‘I’ll wait for your autobiography quip’ showing humour. Yet he’s clearly done his homework, is sincere in his respect for both Weir and Sheppard and has a warmth about him. I feel I could grow to like Ellis very much. The new CMO played by Jewel Staite doesn’t have much onscreen time but plays her medical scenes well enough and is quirky in the leadership discussion with Weir.

        Leadership was a major theme for this story. Having flirted with the notion that Weir’s leadership was on trial at the beginning of the season, it is nice to see it picked up again. Her scene with Teyla in particular provides some good material for Weir’s character. Equally, Sheppard’s proclaimed discomfort with leading Atlantis provides him with potentially some nice character development going forward.

        With so many episodes failing to get the mix of character and action right, it is astonishing to realise that First Strike is also packed with action. The special effects are great; the city’s submersion is well done, the flight less so. Particularly great though shocking is the attack on the Asuran planet with the Horizon missile platform and the mushrooming nuclear fallout clouds. Sobering.

        It is hard to believe that so much was packed into one episode without the whole feeling rushed or crammed. Both Martin Gero and Martin Wood deserve praise for writing and direction respectfully; the cast for another set of exemplary performances and all for great execution. The result is a polished, quality episode that made me fall in love with the show again after a somewhat mixed season. I’m very much looking forward to S4 and I only hope it can live up to the very high standard First Strike sets. Kudos to all; I loved it.
        Women of the Gate LJ Community.
        My Stargate Fanfiction. My LiveJournal.


          The ending of "First Strike" left me thinking, perhaps, the opposite of what I should be thinking. Instead of thinking, "Wow!” I thought, "Why?" This episode included some of my least favorite uses of a season finale. The obvious cliff hanger does its purpose to leave the viewer thinking, but not as much as the entire episode did. However the amazing use of computer graphics to create marvelous shots of battle scenes as well as Atlantis itself becoming airborne made the episode exceedingly interesting and enjoyable.

          As I stated the episode included the convenient sudden arrival of 1. A brand new ship never mentioned. 2. The planned "First Strike" never mentioned to viewers or to even Elizabeth. Perhaps as a precursor to Elizabeth's departure as a show regular, the episode involved many hints at people undermining her leadership. It’s silly to think that the military would not let the people of Atlantis, yet alone Sheppard and his team, know of their plans against the Asurans. Seeing as they are the only people to encounter the Asurans twice in person and even blow up their city-ship in such a short amount of time.

          As a season finale, "First Strike" didn't live up to my expectations and did not leave the level of excitement of "The Siege part 2" or "Allies". The episodes leading up to “First Strike” didn’t build up a powerful season finale as in previous seasons. “First Strike” had its good parts. The excellent visual effects did the episode justice tremendously. The scenes of Atlantis descending into the water, then rising out of it, then flying were just as good as in “Rising” and just as much gave me goose bumps. The Horizon weapon itself was wonderful in its use as a pre-emptive strike against anything… except replicators, and even more, replicators with Lantean technology. If a Mark IX can take out a stargate, then how did the Asurans suddenly still have a stargate capable of dialing into their satellite for use as a weapon?

          Atlantis flying away to safety is a plan that I’m surprised never came up in the Atlantis lunchroom. If they could theoretically do it, why stay on Lantea? Fine, Atlantis can stay in Pegasus but please people, move it to another inconspicuous planet that has nice weather and big oceans before you get attacked.

          To sum up I think that the episode did a good job in showing how smart the Asurans can be and how we have been lucky by not tempting the “beast” until now. Their assault is much more threatening than the Wraiths attempt in that there was little we could do against them but run. The episode contained another excellent performance by David Hewlett as McKay, the go-to man whenever your Ancient city-ship is getting attacked by a powerful, concentrated energy beam. The best way to explain this episode is what by McKay said, “It’s come full circle…”

          I give this episode an 8/10 for its great special effects scenes and its nice continuation of the Asuran story arc. It’s interesting to anticipate our next move in what seems like a galactic chess game between the expedition and the human-form Replicators.


            After introducing the Asurans as a formidable new enemy earlier in the season, the writers have kept them out of the picture for quite some time. Thankfully, that gap is covered early in this episode, which is just the beginning of the deep satisfaction this installment delivers. Not only does this pay off some of the plot threads left dangling in the middle of the season, it propels the series (no pun intended) into uncharted territory.

            The “first strike” policy touches on Weir’s struggle to maintain her leadership, a plot point that has been sidelined for far too long. Caldwell’s arrival in the second season seemed to hallmark a challenge to Weir’s authority and position, but despite her many mistakes over the years, her status has only been mildly threatened. This season could have taken the topic head-on, but it remained unaddressed until now.

            This still isn’t a direct attack on her leadership, but by emphasizing how easily the military and IOA can undercut her decision-making, it feels like the beginning of the end. Let’s set aside the reality that Samantha Carter from SG-1 will be taking over command, according to the press releases and the promo at the end of the episode; the story needs to establish the logic of that transfer, and it’s already been coming together. This is another step in that process, so even if it was sporadic, the arc exists.

            Character-wise, there’s still only minimal change out of McKay, which continues to be a major sticking point for me. After three major episodes this season, all of which should have resulted in some discernable measure of change in McKay, it just hasn’t happened. In fact, beyond the welcome addition of the gorgeous Jewel Staite to the series, “Sunday” seems to have had little effect, including the various character subplots introduced. It’s not anything to be applied against this episode in particular, but it’s deeply disappointing.

            In fact, beyond the challenges to Weir’s authority, the character development/exploration is set aside in favor of the plot. And as I said at the top, the plot works very well. It could easily been seen as an excuse for a number of truly impressive special effects sequences, but it actually followed a certain measure of logic. This was one of those satisfying cases where I anticipate the next possible turn in the story and the writers are already right there, making it happen.

            I’ve watched the episode twice so far, largely to determine whether or not the action was glossing over problems in the story. I was just as impressed the second time around. I would have liked more character shading, but the mid-season cliffhanger (“The Return”) tackled that approach, so this is a nice bit of variation. The situation simply didn’t call for it. This was about changing the game, and it fulfilled that function very well. It’s going to be a long wait until September!


              “First Strike” was a plot driven, action filled season finale that delivered on many levels. There was classic sci fi, character conflict and great CGI sequences all concluding with a top notch cliff hanger ending.

              While the primary storyline was the plan by the military to execute a preemptive strike on the Asuran home planet, there were also other layers to the story that added to its strength and complexity. The episode again brought to the forefront some of the fundamental different beliefs between Weir (civilian) and the military. We saw these differences when the character of Weir was first introduced in SG-1 and then through out season 1. In season 2 and 3 we see Weir struggle with the leadership decisions as well as her relationship with the SGC and the IOC. However over the last two seasons the problem with this premise is that it has been sporadic and inconsistent.

              In First Strike these differences once again surface and they not only cause conflict between her and Ellis, but also with John. After Weir pleads her case to the IOC and O’Neill to no avail she notes during a conversation with Teyla that ‘I may need to step down.’ While it may be a first strike for the military, one wonders if it is a final strike against Weir’s leadership of Atlantis.

              Conflict between characters can give the writers and actors a chance to play the characters off of each other in a different way. This creates an opportunity for more interesting dialogue exchanges and character revelations/growth. We see this played out in several strong scenes involving Weir, one between her and Ellis and the scene (as mentioned above) between her and Teyla. There are and two excellent scenes between Weir and Sheppard. The first in the conference room when they realize they have different opinions about the first strike and the second, follow-up scene to that when John is explaining that he will be going on the mission with Ellis and that Elizabeth had tried to get the mission called off. One can sense a certain amount of betrayal and guilt over the situation as the two, who have for the past 2 years, so strongly supported each other both in leadership and friendship are now seemingly so diametrically opposed with this course of action. The scene was poignant and very well played by both actors.

              Another conflict from season 1 that was revisited was that of scientist vs. military and is very much reminiscent of the siege part 3. In that episode we see that Rodney and Zalenka are put to work on the nuclear bombs, all the while lamenting that when the military screws up it is the scientists who save the day. In First Strike we see that sentiment surface again. McKay and Zalenka are not happy with the military’s gun-ho position to bomb the ships on the Asuran planet. Zalenka even points out, “We could make them (the bombs) not work.” This is a simple yet great line that speaks so much to his character and beliefs. It is a good example of how one simple line can convey so much.

              While the character conflict was a great part of the story and generally well done, it is also the one aspect of the story that fell a bit short. While it is obvious that the character conflicts were the “subplots” to the main sci fi action/plot of the story, one was left feeling that there was more to this character conflict/story that needed to be explored. It felt as if some of the scenes were cut a bit short – that the characters had more to say to each other. But perhaps some of these “lost” character moments will be played out – hopefully- in the second part.

              The Special Effects Department deserves special acknowledgment for the outstanding job on special effects. Their efforts were impressive and really made the episode work. The satellite, the city submerging, then taking off and the F- 302’s moving the asteroid were all visual eye candy. In particular the sequence with the bomb being released then the camera following its descent from different angles down to the planet surface was superlative. The only CGI shot that felt a little weak was the final shot of the city floating in space. For some reason it seemed to have a cartoon like feel. Other than that, it was all great.

              Special acknowledgments need to be given to…
              Martin Gero for writing a great sci fi action episode that also looked at the human conflict aspect of the story.

              Torri Higginson who again portrayed her excellent acting skills as her character struggled with the conflict of what the military was doing and what she believed as well as her civilian leadership role of Atlantis.

              Jewel Staite, for the short but good introduction to Keller. Not only well written by Gero but also well played by Jewel.

              Michael Beach for doing a great job portraying Ellis. A great mix of a no nonsense Colonel who could also display a sense of empathy but still stick to following orders in a way that did not let the viewer feeling he was cold or overly hardnosed.

              “First Strike” was a great sci fi story that was highlighted by outstanding CGI effects but also had the under current of strong character moments/conflicts which helped to give the viewer the feeling that this episode was both an ending and a beginning.

              Rating: 9/10


                First Strike

                It has become an Atlantis tradition to end each episode with a two (maybe three parter) and this episode does not aim to disappoint with it's high stakes, high ambitions and even high risks. From the previous episode, you may think it's about those creatures but it's really about those lovable Asurans, who's presence in this episode makes them something that can't be denied.

                The Asurans are an interesting race; sure their replicators but their Ancient mentalities and their desires separate them from the pack. It's a shame that the Earth guys always treat them with neglect (calling them Replicators) because these guys are more then just replicators; that treatment of them does set off one of the most moralistic questionable things of the series, the treatment of races as if they were automatic enemies. The Earth guys in this episode go off on the assumption that what they're doing is evil without any proof at hand; we don't know what they're exactly doing but they automatically assume that assumption and then state it as if it were a cold-hard fact. The Atlantis crew does the same thing but they feel somewhat sympathetic about it, I say somewhat because they're mostly for the attack but in a different way. It's almost like a catchphrase the way they promote it around, we get subtle hints about the Asuran's intentions but it makes it seem like these things are one-dimensional and have one purpose only, even when it says otherwise; it's funny how Earth manages to see a similar race as a threat without thinking about it much, it really relates to their stereotypical nature, even if they don't obviously show it. You think that Earth would have a different way of thinking by now.

                We're not one dimensional!

                Though morally questionable, the scenes relating to the preemptive strike and the strike itself are well done. It places our character's in a situation where they don't want to do it but have to; these characters are on the same page as the Earth guys in regards to the replicators but they don't want to go through the plan in favor of their own plan, which is the wonder of these scenes. McKay and Zelenka in a catch-22 regarding the weapon itself, Weir in a position of conflict regarding authority and leadership (which really flesh out her character.) and Sheppard with some form of guilt inside of him, all of these scenes manage to give sembelency to these characters as they chat with each other and show guilt. Who knew that they would feel this way when placed in a situation like this; they don't bother to complain or even shout out (except for a few), they just do it without a mumble and that's good because it shows that there's a side that isn't comedic, dramatic or actiony; just human. There are more scenes regarding the crew of the Aurora but those are done in a nice way creating someone who is retrospectively both a protagonist and an antagonist; the leader of the ship is done well, he shows a sense of command and discern while also showing a caring side, one that's subtle but still there nonetheless. His performance is engaging, knowing when to be hard and when to be compassionate and he presents himself in a considerable fashion; he may not appear much but when he does, he certainly adds to a scene.

                It gets even better when the episodes main draw appears, the beam that threatens to tear apart Atlantis... That places them in a similar situation to "The Siege" in that all hope seems to be lost except in this case; that seems to be magnified x2 in terms of character scale. While less semblent then before, the determination, hoplessness and just wide-opened nature of these characters come out more here as they try desperately to find a solution; being excited when they have something and being worried when something isn't going their way and what makes it better is that they're truly out of ideas. We get scenes where our two resident geniuses are just doing nothing and are on the edge of their seats and we even get a complementing Ronan who's comments really add depth to his character (who wouldn't want to have a certain skillset to help out something.) and of course, Weir shows just how truly indebted to Atlantis she is as she leads Atlantis, making every decision she can and trying to reassure her people through the process; we thought we would never find something equivalent to the Wraith in terms of hopeless but now we have and it even leads to an unexpected surprise that serve to possibly shake up Atlantis.Though there are some things that feel a bit iffy, mainly the fact that really simplistic facts relating to Stargate seem to be glossed over, like the mechanics of the beam itself and how it relates to the Stargate. Sure, it's helpful in explaining some of the mechanics and furthering the tension itself but it just seems... ignorant.

                Beautiful, but deadly.

                While the stuff leading to the attack was somewhat deserved and while the characters themselves are awesome; we can't forget about the special effects and action sequences that power this episode and man are there a lot of them. The scenes with the Aurora, the beam itself and the various shots of Atlantis have got to be some of the best VFX shots the show has ever done. The Atlantis ones in particular because they actually manage to portray the various aspects of Atlantis in one episode; submersion, flying into space, shield engaging and disengaging, truly a VFX nut will wet themselves watching these scenes. There are a certain number of shots that feel overdone like the F-302 scenes, they're good in that they help to contribute to the tensity of the plot while feeling epic themselves but it doesn't feel natural; it just feels like they just had to add something big in order to add up to the feeling of the episode but the way they move the asteroid is natural so it negates some of my complaints. The scenes regarding the launch of the weapon seems to take up a lot of time; while it's understandable in terms of buildup, it just feels like VFX guys showing us how amazing their visual effects are. I feel like the scene could of been shortened and the impact still would of gotten across, I mean the payoff is good but I don't want to have to watch what equates to a VFX demo reel just to get to it.

                After a middling season, we get an episode that closes it out in fine fashion. Though the treatment of the Asurans are a bit questionable, we get a situation that allows our characters to portray themselves in the finest fashion. The threats shown will have you at the edge of your seat and what'll happen next will just leave you begging for more. If they truly follow up on what they hinted then it may make the next season worthwhile.

                Back from the grave.