Stargate Atlantis season 3 episode 6: Life is but a Dream

There must be very few sci-fi fans who haven’t seen that episode where a character wakes up in a reality where their lives have been entirely dull and mundane and everyone around them claims the events of their respective sci-fi series never happened. Well, this time around, it’s Elizabeth’s turn to suffer that fate.

Elizabeth’s Worst Nightmare
As far as Elizabeth Weir is concerned, she has just spent the last two years on Atlantis, so it comes as no small surprise when she wakes up in a mental institution, having apparently collapsed after the death of her fiancé and a stressful treaty negotiation. Weir tries to insist that Atlantis is real, but the doctors insist that her experience was all a dream created when her mind tried to escape a harsh reality.

At first, Weir continues to hold onto her belief that Atlantis and the Stargate program do exist, but when she is plagued by nightmarish hallucinations, she begins to accept what the doctors are telling her, and starts taking the drugs prescribed to her. As memories of Atlantis gradually loosen their grip, Weir is allowed to go home, and eventually she even resumes her work as a negotiator.

Even so, this reality has yet to solidify its hold on Weir, and when she learns that her fiancé Simon was killed two weeks before her apparent mental breakdown, doubts once again begin to surface. Now in the privacy of her own home, she stops taking the drugs prescribed to her, and in short order, she once again finds herself in the mental institution.

Back in Atlantis, the truth of Elizabeth’s situation becomes clear- she was infected by nanites when Niam touched her, and now they have taken hold of her central nervous system, placing her into a coma. By trapping her in an illusion, they decrease her chances of waking up, and now that they are so thoroughly entrenched in her body, using an electromagnetic pulse to destroy them would be far too dangerous.

Recalling that the nanites were originally designed by the Ancients to fight the Wraith, the team decides to inject some Wraith biological material into Weir’s leg, attracting the all the nanites to one location where they can be targeted by the EMP. Beckett and the others proceed as planned, but unfortunately their strategy is only partially successful- some of the nanites have adapted to withstand the EMP.

Thankfully, although their plan hasn’t worked, the nanites have at least been weakened enough to give Weir a fighting chance from within her illusion, and so it is that she struggles against the vision of the mental institution. As her reality shifts to Stargate Command, an illusory O’Neill and his soldiers try to stop her from reaching the gate room, but with the help of Sheppard, she manages to make it through the Stargate and back to the real world…

Episode Thoughts
As I said at the beginning, this sort of story has been done many times before, but then so has most of what appears on Stargate Atlantis. Even so, aside from the ending (more required by the plot than anything special), this managed to be enjoyable, with Elizabeth’s visions proving to be strangely creepy. Overall, this is certainly better than the last few episodes.

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