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    FAN REVIEWS: 'Trio'

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    McKay, Carter, and Keller are trapped in an underground chamber while on an off-world mission, with no apparent means of escape.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 4, 2021, 02:09 AM.

    The past few seasons of “Stargate: Atlantis” have fallen into a despairing pattern. The first half of each season is packed with solid plot and character development; the second half is far more episodic and tends to concentrate the least successful episodes together in one lackluster run. “SGA” is hardly the only such victim of the Sci-Fi Channel scheduling curse: “SG-1” and “Battlestar: Galactica” have both experienced the same inexplicable pattern.

    As diverting as this episode was, it was also relatively self-contained and had very little to do with the rest of the season. There’s some hint that it connects to McKay’s character arc, particularly his recent problems with Dr. Brown, but such moments are fleeting. Most of the episode is a matter of waiting for the inevitable escape, which proceeds at a surprisingly slow and plodding pace.

    Carter, Keller, and McKay all get their chance to offer a clever solution to the problem, avoiding the possibility that Carter would show up McKay in a crisis situation. It’s just as surprising that Keller managed to hold her own; with a little more luck, her solution might have been effective. In the end, however, none of those solutions resolve the problem; instead, at the last possible moment, a solution presents itself.

    I’m of two minds regarding that resolution to the crisis. On the one hand, it keeps all three characters on a level playing field, because none of them succeeded. Unfortunately, that means that the writers had to resort to a massive plot convenience to ensure that the characters would survive. And since there was absolutely no chance that any of the characters would die, there was little or no tension.

    In the end, this was an example of a failed “bottle show”. While the characters were in crisis, none of the character exploration that usually comes with a good “bottle show” was present. Carter was just as bland as she’s been since taking command of Team Atlantis, and McKay was slightly less panicked than usual (perhaps a minor step up from “Quarantine”). Keller got some much-needed screen time, but other than possible interest in McKay, the long-term gains were minimal. The result is an episode that feels unnecessary.

    John Keegan
    Reprinted with permission
    Original source: c. Critical Myth, 2008
    All rights reserved



      “Trio” was a bottle episode with a good premise, a unique predicament, some witty/amusing dialogue, inventive plot devices, good acting, and great set design. By all accounts it should have been great, and while there were a few enjoyable scenes, on the whole the episode was a disappointment.

      “Trio” did not do a good job of exploring the characters – something bottle episodes are usually known for. “Quarantine” did a better job as a bottle episode. There was actual character development, character revelations and evolution of character relationships The pairing of John and Teyla was used to resolve issues between them related to her pregnancy and her role on the team; McKay was isolated from his team and resources and was pushed into a breakdown that led to the end of his relationship with Katie Brown; and even the pairings of Ronon & Keller and Carter & Zalenka were different and unexpected, therefore far more intriguing. “Trio” sorely lacked in all these departments.

      Not much of the unexpected happened between the characters in “Trio”. There were no great revelations that gave us any new insights into the character. At the very least we could have learned a lot more about Keller – but even much of her conversation was superficial and fluff. Even the Carter and McKay interaction, while it was fun to watch, really was just same old same old. This would have been a great opportunity for them to move their relationship deeper toward a greater respect and professional understanding but most of it was predictable or school boy humor. The scenes with the kids did not work well either. McKay doesn’t do well with kids; we have seen this before many times, to see it once in “Trio” was okay, to see it twice was pointless.

      While admittedly there was some witty dialogue that was fun some of it was poorly chosen humor that seemed better suited to a High School Boys locker room than an adult science fiction show. In addition, certain sight gags, such as McKay watching Keller start to take her shirt off, while amusing on one level was also immature on another.

      Because this was a character driven, bottle episode, the story really needed some good, revealing character moments. There was no doubt that they wouldn’t survive, so much of the interest and drama needed to come from the character interactions. However, much of the conversation was filler and did little to advance the character relationships or the depth/understanding of the character. Basically the episode came down to three people stuck in a hole, who after several failed attempts of their own managed to escape only by moment of fate and good luck.

      “Trio” did have a few moments where it shined. The fact that McKay helped to save everyone by lowering everyone down on the rope was a nice tribute to his character, especially since the episode started out by remarks that he was not in good shape. This was actually a nice plot point that the writers followed through on. Also, once Rodney lowered himself down, it was an interesting touch to have him “freeze up” and allow Keller to “talk him in,” giving Keller more of a chance to show a strong point of her character. Also, the fact that Keller came up with the bar trick allowed her to participate in the group efforts to find an escape rather than just be the “third wheel” of the group. However, while one could say we did learn that Keller likes to play games; cards- word association games - bar tricks, it did not really add any depth to her character and seems to contradict what we learned about her in “Quarantine”, which seemed to give the impression that she was a loner. While these conflicting details are minor, they do serve to make her character somewhat inconsistent and leaves the viewer a bit confused.

      On the more positive, the set design was really inventive and quite extraordinary. Also, credit must be given to the director for coming up with very interesting camera angles to shoot the episode. With the closed confines of the set, watching the episode could have become quickly redundant and tedious if not for the direction and camera work.

      ”Trio” is by far the most disappointing episode of the season so far. Not so much for what it was but what it should have been. For all the things it had going for it, a terrific writer, great cast, inventive sets, it should have been Stargate classic. While there were parts of the episode that were enjoyable, on a whole it fell short of delivering a story of any substance or meaning.



        Trio is a surprisingly engaging tale that goes back to the basic core of many a good Stargate story; a planet, a problem and teamwork to get a solution and save each other. The set design, direction and camera work are excellent; the story providing just enough plot, dialogue and action to keep the attention and the acting is well done. If there are any complaints they centre around characterisation.

        This is almost a one set episode with the bulk of the story taking place in the claustrophobic underground mining room that the three fall into. It is a perfect setting; rickety, dangerous, industrial and grimy. It provides the right mix of an environment that is precarious yet believably can contain enough tools that the characters can use to save themselves. It’s a great setting and kudos to the set designers.

        Equally great is the direction by Martin Wood. The shots chosen add to the sense of being in a hole in the ground; they emphasise the danger and risk the team are facing. The camera shots from above of McKay and Carter with the rope and grappling hook are great. The lighting of the small hole – the small amount of daylight is also very well done. The moment where Carter almost gets out, the sun shining down on her face is excellent. A mention also has to go to the stunt-work – there are some horrendous drops and they are very real and feel very real. The production values are very high for the episode and the story itself almost matches up.

        There is a beautiful progression to the tale. The brief scenes in Atlantis and the fall through the ground on the planet are enough to paint the picture and set the scene without being overly heavy on exposition. They also allow for the character dynamics between the three main characters to be neatly shown; the way McKay makes everything a competition, the innate fitness of Carter the trained soldier compared to the other two, the gentle but firm leadership Carter invokes when insisting the two accompany her. It’s a very good set-up.

        The escalating danger and the various plans to escape their predicament are also well done. Each leads naturally to the next; the pyramids, to the grappling hook and rope, to the bridge to the uber-grappling hook to the eventual solution of the mine shaft below them. It all flows.

        What is also great is that all three characters are shown contributing to the ideas; they all discuss the situation and work out the plans together. There are some great moments; McKay and Carter being in synch on cracking the code to the door and the same look of blank incomprehension they share when Keller suggests the bar trick. It reemphasises how much the two have in common. Equally great is McKay and Keller both refusing to climb the pyramids due to a fear of heights.

        All the characters get their moments to shine; Sam in her quick action when the gas explodes; Keller in her competent medical treatment of Sam; McKay in his eventual heroics – including his absolute refusal . Equally all three get their moments of being less than perfect; McKay’s insistence on throwing the grappling hook, Sam’s less than professional slip about Zelenka, Keller’s refusal to climb the pyramid. As a result the characters come across as being rounded and three-dimensional, and enhanced by the performances of all three actors.

        There is also a great sense of them coming together as a team. I loved Keller rooting for McKay to get the grappling hook through the hole or Sam’s belief in McKay holding the rope and Keller. Yet there is enough conflict and banter between the characters to make for some interesting dynamics; Carter and McKay is a very well established one but it was equally good to see Keller and McKay.

        The evolution of their dynamic through the opening ‘competition’ to Keller’s quiet acknowledgement of him as a nice guy to the closing ‘competition’ about who won the bar bet is very nicely progressed. There is a real sense that the two could develop something if it was allowed to grow; at the end there seems to be the beginnings of a friendship beyond being colleagues and even the beginnings of affection.

        It is good to see that the characters’ wider relationships are being touched upon; the referral back to the mess McKay made in Quarantine was nicely done. It would have been nice to have also included the cut dialogue which explained Keller’s situation with Ronon. McKay’s whole ‘you have a perfect body but I’m not saying you don’t have a perfect body’ was very amusing and so McKay.

        The characterisation on the whole is very well done. There are some lovely touches; Carter not being au fait with Genii for example, McKay’s 6th grade project, Carter choosing two physicists, McKay’s mix of coward and hero. Keller’s character however does seem to have done a one-eighty from the self-proclaimed socially inept child genius she said she was in Quarantine. Here the games, bar trick and eventual wrangling McKay into a drink all seem to contradict that. It feels like there was a need to have one of the characters know the bar trick and Keller was nominated. Equally, Carter’s leadership style is also a little all over the place in the story; while she has a more collaborative mindset, I don’t believe she would be really comfortable playing the ‘who would you’ game as a character or a leader. Twenty questions would have been more in character.

        That said, the minor issues with characterisation aside, this is a really lovely tale. Engaging, warm, and showing the best of Stargate; a planet, a problem, and solutions that come from great team-work. I really enjoyed it.
        Women of the Gate LJ Community.
        My Stargate Fanfiction. My LiveJournal.



          Like all other franchises, Stargate has it's fans and when fans create fanfics they think what the crew be doing and where they would be and that's when an idea comes up, "why don't we place them in a situation where they can't get out easily?, that could bring possibility to the characters?". That idea is the very concept of this episode which is written by official writers with credits on their resumes and the funny thing is, this feels like a fanfic rather then an official episode.

          From the getgo, the premise of it seems weak; it seems like TPTB just placed a bunch of character into a hat and drew from it, then they designed an environment that contains a couple of things the crew could use to work together along with making up a way to get them trapped; granted they have done this type of situation before, even earlier in the season but those moments didn't involve an unnatural pairing or even a manufactured scenario. The people chosen from the hat, Sam, McKay and Keller aren't suited for the situation they're placed in which is a settlement conflict on a planet filled with tremors and the situation doesn't lend itself well to this type of episode; it almost feels like it was come up on the spot and it's abandoned as quickly as it's introduced. (though it does feel natural for Atlantis.) One can admire what they're trying to do, McKay's behavior/traits could influence the course of Sam's behaivor/traits and vice versa, and those influences can even reveal things in the character that help them grow; these types of unorthadox pairings have been led to make massive growths in the characters and that's probably the reason why the Stargate crew loves to do them but admirations don't really translate into the final product, which is mostly wasted potential.

          Thee characters sitting in a room.

          There isn't much of a spark between the three that allows them to go above and beyond and that can be problematic since this is supposed to be a character episode. The three do know how to work together as a team; the initial scenes could be described as organic as they try to find a way out, passing things back and forwarth and objecting at certain times but the scenes after that sort of lose their momentum as they turn into a bunch of teenagers who talk about issues, it's natural but it sort of betrays it's own focus and it feels like a cheap way of exploring the characters (playing games, talking about who hates who and who loves who.) which doesn't even lead into anything meaningful; even when they include children into the mix which while light turned out awkward. The scenes where they execute their various ways to get out are the epitome of classic Stargate, camera shots showing the crew setting up the materials, the tense busy music as they go through the plan. However, the problem is that they focus a bit too much on the plans resulting in boring and drawn out moments that quickly lose their excitement, leaving us to wonder what would happen had they just shown a couple of quick shots or even a montage.

          Surprisingly, Sam is by far the best explored out of this episode mainly because she was forced out of her Weir position and placed into an environment where she's allowed to be herself. It's nice to see the type of Sam who's social in her own way, brings out the best in people, heck the Sam from SG-1; for the first time in Atlantis, Sam puts in a bit of soul of humanity into her performance, investing in her performance and having fun at the same time; it's clear she likes showing off her charming side with a hint of her subtle cocky side and while she doesn't lead, she does find the times to be heroic and determined. That's not to say the others don't get their moments but neither can compare to Sam's; McKay's moments providing nothing new (cockyness, whining, jokes, contradictions, lack of skill...) while Keller's moments do enforce her dynamics (friendly side, medical side) but is a far cry from what we've seen in "Missing". They do shine in some areas such as McKay holding the rope & Keller's bar trick but it would of been more powerful/meaningful if placed earlier in the series. On a production note, I do appreciate how they used a sparring amount of visual effects and still managed to make it look good; helped made the project just a little bit better.

          McKayiana Jones.

          I don't understand how three characters together can lead to negligible growth; they have traits that could benefit each other and this was written by professional writers... Maybe it's fact that this felt like a fans version of what their character goes through, who knows? All I know is that this episode feels more like a fanscript than an actual episode of SGA; McKay + Sam + Keller doesn't really equal to a character experience as much of this episode doesn't do anything meaningful with them, there are moments where the characters shine but the only person who truly shines in this is Sam who finally manages to be all she can be; alas one character isn't enough to make you drop everything and watch this episode which will just leave you disappointed with it's subpar premise and poor usage of characters. Funny how the writers themselves have become fans of their own work.

          Back from the grave.