Childhood’s End

Summary | Analysis | Production | Transcript | Review

Sheppard and the team visit a world where no one is over 24 years old – because of a ritual suicide practice they believe keeps the Wraith at bay.

FAN RATING - 7.22 
NIELSEN - 1.9 
DVD DISC: Season 1, Disc 2
WRITTEN BY: Martin Gero
DIRECTED BY: David Winning
GUEST STARS: Courtenay J. Stevens (Keras), Dominic Zamprogna (Ares), Sam Charles (Casta), Jessica Amlee (Cleo), Shane Meier (Neleus), Julie Patzwald (Pelius), Calum Worthy (Hunter Kid)
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While on a survey mission to an unexplored world Major John Sheppard and his team detect a large power source emanating from the surface. When they move their Puddle Jumper in to investigate the entire ship loses power, forcing them to crash.

When Dr. Rodney McKay gets hold of Lieutenant Ford's compass he soon deduces the disturbance that forced them to land is electromagnetic. It would explain why all of the technology is inoperable, not just the Jumper. If they can localize it, they can shut off the power source and take off, preventing a long trek back to the Stargate.

The team enters an open area filled with ancient ruins, but before they can explore they are ambushed by a pack of children armed with bows and arrows. Once the team puts their weapons down the leader tells them that they must see the elders immediately. Sheppard and the group are led to a village in the treetops. On the ground is a Wraith warrior and the remains of his Dart. Several technological components still appear to be intact.

They are instructed to climb into the huts high in the trees to meet the elders. Their leader, Keras, is only 24. He explains that his people's ancestors secured protection from the Wraith by taking their own lives just before they reach the age of 25, ensuring safe passage into the "eternal rest." The Wraith have not returned since. The reason they don't land beyond the shield and take the village by foot is because even their stunner weapons don't work. Besides, there are plenty more worlds far easier to pick on.

Keras designates two of his tribe to travel back with Ford and McKay to the ancient city. In the meantime, Sheppard can't help but ask himself if there is another way other than suicide. It is then that Keras tells him that tomorrow he will be 25. Tonight he will die.

Ares, Keras' second, begins discussing plans with other villages that he will kill the team if the "full-growns" have not departed by nightfall. He believes the safety of their people may depend on it. Back at the ancient city, McKay has discovered the source of the field generator: a Zero Point Module. He disables it and is instantly able to communicate with Sheppard, asking to return the device to Atlantis for further analysis. But Teyla believes it is the only thing truly protecting the tribes from the Wraith. Unbeknownst to the team, not only have the Earth devices returned to normal, but the Wraith artifacts as well ...

Back at Atlantis, Dr. Elizabeth Weir cannot believe that McKay has returned with the Z.P.M. He is now suggesting that they uproot all of the tribes and bring them back to Atlantis to settle on the mainland – all so that Atlantis can have the device. Weir says there is a good possibility that when the Z.P.M. went on-line the sacrifices may have started around the same time, suggesting that the two defenses may not be so disconnected as everyone currently believes.

Soon McKay learns M7G-677's electromagnetic field gives the Z.P.M. strength to power the field – it will be of little use to Atlantis. It can only protect a certain radius, which explains the reason behind the suicides: population control to keep all persons blanketed by the field. Weir orders the Z.P.M. returned to the planet. Back at the village, Keras requests that Sheppard stand and be witness to his cleansing ceremony in preparation for his coming sacrifice.

In the midst of the proceedings, Sheppard notices that a Wraith bracelet is glowing with an active transmitter. He breaks from the crowd and rips the bony arm from the warrior, shooting the device until it stops blinking. Meanwhile, when McKay hurries to get the Z.P.M. online again, he puts it in its slot. It does not activate. Ares demands that the full-growns depart immediately, as they've had plenty of time to repair their vessel. Keras offers to take them back to the Stargate and then return to complete the ceremony.

Sheppard, Teyla and Keras meet up at McKay and Ford's coordinates and explain the situation to him, who first does not believe that this "shield" has been saving his people from the Wraith. They do not have much time to fix the shield, as Ares' hunting parties will soon be approaching to ensure they make it to the gate. When they catch up, Sheppard insists that they were saying goodbye to Keras, and that McKay is waiting back at the Jumper. In fact, he's in the brush trying to fix the Z.P.M.

The entire hunting party, including Keras and Ares, escort Sheppard, Teyla and Ford back to the Jumper. Just then, a Wraith probe appears in the air and scans the Ancient craft, departing before they can shoot it down with their P-90s. McKay is obviously nowhere to be found. Ares is assured, now more than ever, that the full-growns have brought this down upon their people. He orders Neleus to take two tribesmen and retrieve McKay.

Neleus returns to the ancient city and finds McKay tweaking the Z.P.M. Just as he works, the Wraith probe appears overhead, distracting them. McKay completes his adjustments and activates the device, forcing the probe to fall from the sky. Neleus and his men are now convinced that the device works and hurries off to inform Ares.

Ares, now impatient, has ordered the archers to raise their bows. Keras defends Sheppard by blocking him but is hit in the chest by an arrow. Just as the other archers ready to kill the full-growns, Neleus and his hunting party arrives and tells Ares that the device is real; it took the "Wraith bird" out of the sky. Sheppard has the med kit from the Jumper be retrieved so that they can fix Keras' wound.

McKay has managed to extend the range of the shield by 50 percent, giving the population plenty of room to grow. It's safe to say that Keras will be a grandfather by the time the Z.P.M. finally gives out, but Sheppard promises his team will check in on them from time to time just to be sure. They give Keras an M.R.E. as a birthday present, which he shares with his villagers as the Jumper departs.

- D. Read


  • No one has come through their Stargate in five hundred years.
  • According to the elders, to die at the hands of the Wraith makes it impossible to make it into the eternal rest.
  • There are twelve villages, all which offer their children to the others so that there is enough genetic diversity to sustain the society.
  • Sheppard has given McKay puddle jumper flying lessons.
  • M7G-677's Z.P.M. would only be powerful enough to sustain Atlantis' shield for several hours in the event of a Wraith attack.


  • Actor Courtenay J. Stevens, who plays the village leader Keras, originally portrayed Lt. Elliot in three episodes of Stargate SG-1 ("Proving Ground," "Summit" and "Last Stand").
  • "This is the first story that doesn't deal with the overall mythological arc of the series. With the first season of a show you get the opportunity to do stand-alone episodes, which the fans really seem to enjoy. In 'Childhood's End,' Sheppard and his team are flying their puddle jumper over the surface of a planet when they encounter what appears to be a man-made energy field. They get a little to close and it turns out to be an electromagnetic field, so it downs the puddle jumper and they have to walk back to the Stargate."

    "On the way, they stumble across a society of children, none of whom are older than 24. Sheppard and the others learn that these people have been killing themselves in order to avoid the Wraith. The Wraith literally suck the life force out of you, and these young people noticed that when the Wraith came around to cull the planet they took older adults. They made the decision not to provide the Wraith with the 'crops' they desired. Instead, they would live 24 years in peace as opposed to worrying when the Wraith were going to show up. As is often the case with Stargate, and now Atlantis, things aren't what they seem and there are some pretty neat revelations as the story unfolds." (Writer Martin Gero, in an interview with TV Zone magazine [Special Issue #58])