Stargate: Atlantis
Volume 9
(Season 2 - Vol 4)

Starring: Joe Flanigan, Torri Higginson, Rachel Luttrell, Jason Momoa, Paul McGillion and David Hewlett
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: 19.99
MDRP 3371
Certificate: 12
Available 03 July 2006

The team learns the Goa'uld have planted a bomb on Atlantis - any action that might overload the ZPM output will result in an explosion. The city must be cloaked to remain invisible to the Wraith, but this would cause the energy source to detonate. All indications are that the bomber is a member of the Atlantis team...

Critical Mass is noteworthy for the fact that it brings back a lot of recurring characters in order to confuse the viewer into who is responsible for planting the bomb. It's almost an written sci-fi law that, whenever a minor character returns, there is usually some plot twist waiting in the wings that sees them as the villain. Here Cadman and Dr Kavanagh return and it appears that one of these two characters is the most likely suspect. Kavanagh, who we love to hate, is chief suspect, but I was convinced early on that Cadman had all the necessary expertise to plant the bomb and get away with it. I won't spoil the story here, but the twisting and turning of the plot will keep you guessing until the final reveal.

There is also an amusing story, which plays off-camera, for Zelenski as he is forced to visit a planet overrun with children. And for some reason Teyla starts singing because an old woman dies. Okay, there is a very good explanation why, but I couldn't help but cringe during this rather soppy scene. Also, was that a homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind slipped into the episode - when McKay says: "They're here!" when the Wraith get in range of the station?

I was disturbed to learn, thanks to the audio commentary, that the director of photography, Brenton Spencer, is always distracted by Torri Higginson's jugs! But he does make a valid, if comical point, that had never occurred to me before.

A great example of clever writing, ensures that this is an enjoyable episode.

On a test flight, McKay and Captain Griffin suddenly lose control of their jumper and crash into the ocean. The jumper descends to the ocean floor - the impact causing a slight rupture that allows water to slowly seep in. Zelenski and Sheppard devise a rescue plan, but will they be able to reach McKay in time?...

Grace Under Pressure is an interesting episode in that the entire action takes place in the back of a jumper with McKay being the main driving force of the story. Amanda Tapping also appears as Sam Carter. She turns up as a figment of McKay's imagination - he's a little concussed - to help him work out how to escape his predicament.

You really do get a sense of: "Now, how on earth are they going to solve this one?" throughout the episode - as everything that can go wrong does. It was interesting to learn, on the audio commentary, that writer Martin Gero's original script wasn't as neat as the finished episode - that a lot of the random element he included to pad the episode out (like the whale) were eventually used to explain away a lot of the problems with the fluidity of the script. In fact Gero's insistence that he's not a good writer, but likes to take the credit for other people's ideas, was a great running joke throughout this commentary.

If David Hewlett's acting had not been up to the challenge this episode would have sunk quicker than the jumper. Thankfully it was and, as a consequence, this is a fantastic episode.

The team is introduced to the Lord of a village who is able to protect the people that live there from the Wraith. However, a two tier society has arisen - those that have the Ancient's DNA live in luxury, while the rest live in poverty. Discovering that Sheppard also has the DNA, he is taken by the Lord's army and plans are made to have him marry into the Lord's family, and become his successor...

The Tower sees our heroes discovering a civilisation that inhabits a city that is identical to Atlantis. Well, the actual construction is the same, but has been decorated differently. The twist in the tale is also rather unexpected, which is starting to become a familiar pattern with the current Atlantis episodes. You think you know what's going on, thanks to years of clichéd sci-fi shows, only to discover that the writers are deliberately playing on your preconceptions of familiar scenarios, and then pulling the rug out from under you.

The audio commentary was entertaining for this episode. Highlights include the comical revelation about "hat meetings"; Joe Flanigan's encounter with a hoof in formaldehyde; and an explanation of what the "image shaker" is and how it works.

While this episode is entertaining, I didn't find it as strong as the other episodes on this DVD. I also didn't really care much for the costumes and settings for this episode. I kept expecting Henry VIII to walk in at any moment and shout: "Off with their heads".

On opening two alien pods containing lifeforms, an energy beam hits Weir, allowing her to harbour the consciousness of Pheobus, one of the pod's almost dead occupant. Sheppard agrees to host the consciousness of Pheobus's husband, who is in the other pod, so that they can communicate one last time...

The Long Goodbye is an entertaining episode that sees both Weir and Sheppard's bodies being overtaken by alien lifeforms. Now, I have to say that the Atlantis team got what they deserved here. You just know that when in the future there is an episode where the leadership of the Atlantis team comes under scrutiny that this episode will feature. "Sorry? An alien lifeform came on board Atlantis and asked to use your body? And you said 'Okay'?"

Just why Sheppard agreed to the plan is beyond me. Why didn't they suggest that one of the chefs act as the host? At least that way if the aliens turned out to be evil all they'd learn is their secret recipe for lemon ice-cream. But no, having accidentally handing over the body of the head of the team, they then offer up their top military personnel - nice going. So now all the secret codes etc are in the hands of two aliens.

There's a great line when Ronon and Teyla are deciding who will go after Weir and who will go after Sheppard. Teyla questions Ronon's choice that he should go after Sheppard, to which Ronon says: "I know how he thinks. I don't have the slightest clue how she thinks."

Another great tongue-in-cheek moment occurs when Sheppard is pretending that he wants to help Teyla. Weir simply says: "Please! You call that acting?"

The audio commentary for this episode is a little too much of a love-in with everyone saying how great the acting is, lighting and directing. But it's still worth listening to.

I enjoyed the fact that Weir and Sheppard got to play as other characters throughout this episode - and that at long last Weir has finally gotten to leave her office (and her jugs) and get involved in some of the action.

Extras include audio commentaries for each episode; Introduction to a Character: Ronon Dex (15 minute featurette that looks at this season's latest addition to the team - the writers admit to introducing him in order to play off Sheppard and try to emulate the O'Neill/Teal'c relationship in SG-1); Stargate: Atlantis Stunts (18 minute look at the role of the stunts in the show); and Photo and Production Design Galleries.

Pete Boomer

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