Review by Taylor Brown
When I read the little blurb about this week's episode of Atlantis, it seemed like a straight-forward plot: the Atlantis team has found a way to get back to Earth. But because we know this is Stargate, and because this is sci-fi, it's never that simple. Something is terribly wrong, and this episode doesn't attempt to hide that fact early on. I had high expectations about how "Home" was going to play out -- and these expectations were met, but in an entirely different way.
Before things start getting weird, the team members start thinking about home. Sheppard and Weir back each other up as leaders, McKay rambles about how he's invaluable everywhere, Teyla wants to see Earth, and Ford just misses his grandma. This sets up each character's mindset about why they should or shouldn't go if given the chance, and sets up what they imagine is happening when they get back on Earth.
I love how each character's clothing signifies whose hallucination the viewer is in. In McKay's reality, he's wearing casual clothes while Weir is wearing a pantsuit, while in her own reality she's just wearing a t-shirt and he appears as more of a scientist, wearing a lab coat. On a second viewing, I realized Weir and Sheppard both "see" Hammond in full dress uniform, but McKay doesn't. Of course, McKay has known Hammond longer, and worked with him as the leader of the S.G.C.
The "realities" are set up in a strange way. Weir and McKay think they are the only ones who go through the gate (and, at least for a while, share the same reality). So do Teyla and Sheppard. But how does Ford fit in all of this? The imaginary version of himself shows up in Sheppard's reality, while he sees McKay in the lab coat. Otherwise, Ford gets left out on any real story again (and can barely be seen in the scene where "mist Hammond" explains to the team what's really going on).
And who's playing the imaginary version of people in each reality? More mist people? Maybe these questions aren't that important to the whole story, but it's confusing when you start to thinking about it.
Again, John Sheppard has a natural ability to take control of alien technology without knowing it. He's the first to realize something's not quite right when he creates a reality with an amazing house and friends back from the dead. It's interesting to see how each team member is fooled by the mist, but come to realize what's wrong in their own ways. Weir's realization dawns on her through the actions of others (especially imaginary McKay's creepy little smile). And McKay doesn't realize something's out of the ordinary when his neighbor has suddenly taken an interest in him, but when science fails him.
The part I enjoyed the most about this episode was the directing and editing. The conversation that happens (but doesn't really happen) between McKay and Weir towards the end of the episode is complicated, but done well. I especially liked the quick pans and cuts between each reality. There's another shot when McKay is waking up from his nap where the camera mimics his movements as he wakes up that's very disorienting, much like this episode. A lot of thought went into "faking out" the viewer on a visual level, too.
Why was General Hammond there in all the versions of the S.G.C.? The Atlantis expedition members know that O'Neill is in charge of Stargate Command now -- he was there when they left. Might have that been their first tip-off? It would make sense that Richard Dean Anderson's lighter schedule would also prevent him from filming on Atlantis, but even the mist people don't attempt an explanation.
The idea for "Home" may have been done many times before in sci-fi (and I think that's the point of the mention of The Outer Limits), but this episode still manages to be more original by showing the differences between each team member's version of a welcome home. "Home" is one of those episodes that later on you'll forget about it, and then remember how cool it was. Atlantis again manages to tie itself to SG-1, without becoming a carbon copy of the show.
Rating: * * * 1/2