The ridiculous plot of Stargate Atlantis

My wife likes to watch Stargate Atlantis, and she also used to like Stargate SG-1.

If you didn't watch the original Stargate, the movie, the fundamental concept is interesting. Stargates are devices built by ancient aliens that permit almost instantaneous travel between planets. This much makes sense, and is a good speculative basis that provided a solid foundation for the film, and could be extended into a good series of stories.

The Stargate SG-1 series bastardized this idea in a number of ways.

To an extent, one can excuse issues such as that most planets have Earth-like atmosphere and gravity, and that inhabitants are or resemble humans. Such planets make sense if the ancient race chose to place stargates on planets where they could live, and the story has a reasonable explanation why humans are spread across the galaxy.

Also to an extent, one can excuse the fact that half the planets look like Canada. It's a TV show. They have to make 20 or so episodes every year. They don't have the budget for exotic locations, or to make everything with CGI.

It is a bit harder to explain why people on all planets speak English. Or even if we imagine it's not English - whatever language that first-time visitors from Earth always understand.

Then came Stargate Atlantis.

Stargate Atlantis puts forth the proposition that, in some galaxy far far away, there are thousands of Earth-like planets, inhabited by humans, who lack any relation to Earth, but nevertheless all speak English.

These humans, living mostly as farmers, but never developed more than 1940s Earth, are hunted by a physiologically and technologically superior civilization, called the Wraith.

The Wraith feed through a mysterious process by which they extract "life" out of people through slits in their palms, making the victim age and decay in the process.

The Wraith are intelligent and travel between planets through stargates, as well as on large interstellar ships. They are humanoid, awfully pale, all have long hair, and of course, they speak English.

Being an accomplished space-faring civilization, the Wraith are at once exceedingly smart, and amazingly stupid.

For example, millions of years ago, the Wraith are supposed to have fought a long war against a supremely advanced human race, which the Wraith won through their numbers as well as their cleverness.

And yet, at the time the Stargate Atlantis story takes place, the Wraith are not smart enough to solve a simple agricultural problem.

You see, the Wraith feed on people, but the number of people in their galaxy is not enough. So the Wraith go into hibernation for centuries, waiting for humans to multiply. But the expedition from Earth has awakened them prematurely, when humans have not yet sufficiently multiplied. So the Wraith go to war against each other, basically over who will eat.

Here's how the Wraith could have easily solved their sustenance problem - something they could do for millions of years before the expedition from Earth arrived to poke at them.

First, they would satisfy their hunger by eating most men, and most women over 35. Those are not very useful for reproduction, so they get eaten.

Then, the Wraith get to work. They use their technological prowess to start mass-producing food for humans, possibly on suitable planets. Meanwhile, they install their representatives among humans to establish a religion and keep the humans docile. They start bringing the humans food, and teaching them that the highest religious imperative is to eat and reproduce. The vast majority of humans are either girls or women of childbearing age, so reproduction is fast. The Wraith crank up their agricultural production as the human population grows.

In optimal conditions, if every woman of age 12-35 keeps reproducing and gives birth to only girls - it should not be difficult for the Wraith to achieve that - then annual population growth approaches 16% after 15 years. If the Wraith continue to feed humans for some time while eating few, the population multiplies 100-fold over a span of 30 years. Add some genetic engineering to make girls grow up faster and produce babies sooner, and you have a genuine agricultural boom.

The Wraith could even live in a much better kind of harmony with humans, than humans do with cows.

The humans would believe that the Wraith are benevolent gods who bring them food, medicine, and shelter. If they were wise, the Wraith would never eat a human in front of others, but would first take them to a different planet, under the guise of taking them to paradise - something that each human would be led to long await. A small minority of humans would, in fact, be taken to a kind of paradise, so that they could return back home and spread the word of how great it is.

As far as the show goes, no Wraith ethics committee requires that humans used for food must be wild-caught. So there's no reason for them not to farm humans, much the way that we farm cows.

Or, the Wraith could learn a few things about their biochemistry, and make some minimal adjustments so that they can feed on chicken or turkey instead.


Anonymous said…
Huh? You really shouldn't judge either series unless you have watched it all, especially the Atlantis premise. The Ancients left earth, went to the Pegasus galaxy and seeded planets. But hey, you didn't bother to watch it, did you? If you had you'd understand the premise.

The Wraith don't let humans progress very far before they're culled. It's very much like the Republican party - keep your people stupid and you'll control them.

As for English, it's entertainment. No one wants to watch complicated plots with subtitles and hearing gibberish.
denis bider said…
Thank you for your talentless comment, whosemarie.

As opposed to you, who did not even read or comprehend the point of this post, I actually did watch all episodes of Stargate Atlantis. :)

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