|Original air date|
|Atlantis Season 5|
Dr. Rodney McKay is infected with the Pegasus equivalent of Alzheimer's disease, known as Second Childhood, a common illness among the elderly in the galaxy. The only way to save him is a shrine on Talus. The downside is that it has turned into a heavily guarded Wraith outpost.
Dr. Jennifer Keller is recording Dr. Rodney McKay, who was infected by and has the symptoms of a mysterious disease, known as Second Childhood. It is day 15, and he has already forgotten nearly all of his memories, barely remembering his own name. He calls himself "Mr." McKay, not "Dr." since he points out that the title of Doctor is for smart people, and he is not smart any more, though he was the "smartest person ever". After a while, the recording is paused. Keller and Richard Woolsey show this to Jeannie Miller, McKay's sister. They tell her that due to the advanced stage of the disease, the Daedalus had to drop her off the first planet they passed when entering the galaxy so Jeannie can dial Atlantis. She tells them that he couldn't have advanced that far, since he was fine just two weeks ago, though more polite than ever. They then tell her that this is the opportunity to say goodbye to him, because they have done all they can to prevent this, but he is going to die in two days, at most.
While the team prepares McKay's room for Jeannie to come and see him, she wonders how this happened. Keller tells her that they believed that he picked up the disease while on a mission. In a flashback, around three weeks previously, Woolsey calls Lt. Colonel John Sheppard's team to find Dr. Nichols team and his team, who are, as Woolsey points out "an hour and fifteen minutes late". They gate into M44-5YN. Once they stepped through, Woolsey plans to have breakfast, and will return in 20 minutes, which he believes is enough time for the team to get back. However, the second he walks down the stairs, the Stargate unexpectedly activates. They read no IDC, but gets radio confirmation that it's Sheppard. They tell them not to drop the shield, as the gate is almost submerged with water and the team are soaked and cold. The whole team are on the top of the Gate, which isn't flooded. Since the water tries to make it through the Gate, they have to wait for the full thirty-eight minutes for the Gate to shut down. After that, Woolsey can send a Puddle Jumper.
On top of the almost submerged Stargate, McKay reckons that Nichols' team are dead, since M44-5YN is suffering from the effects of global warming, and that their base is situated right next to a melting glacier, which breached, causing massive flooding all over the valley. McKay then starts to run a fever and has to wait until the Jumper can dial in. When the Jumper arrives, they were sent back to Atlantis to check up on McKay, where he hasn't run a fever. They believe that he has returned to his old self again, not realizing that his symptoms have started.
Back in the present, Keller tells Jeannie it is okay to see him. She enters the room, with no idea what to say. McKay, in his childlike state recognizes Jeannie, stating she is his sister, and also knows his real first name is Meredith, but hears he didn't like it, because it is a girl's name. After a minute, Jeannie suddenly has to leave, because she couldn't bear seeing him like this, as he seemed normal two weeks ago, being kinder than he usually was, and now he's gone. Ronon Dex comforts her when she leaves. She says she wants to say goodbye, but it's like he's already gone. Ronon tells her that there is a place they could take Rodney where he could have one more day as himself before he died, and Jeannie could say a real goodbye, but it is very dangerous to go there now. However, he is willing to take the risk if she is willing.
On day six of the recordings, McKay starts to tell Keller everything he knows in front of the camera. However, he realizes that a lot of his memories have already deteriorated. He then wants to tell Keller something. However, as he was about to confess something, Jennifer is watching, and is interrupted by Jeannie. Jeannie wants to know how it started, since Ronon told her that he is suffering from Second Childhood. Keller explains that she missed the first symptoms, which turned out to being McKay as more polite than ever, by offering her his fruit cup. Sharing food isn't something McKay is known for. The disease is very similar to Alzheimer's disease, but has a different process. It's common among the very old in the Pegasus Galaxy. They think Rodney must have had a weakened system from an illness when the team was trapped in the icy water. A parasite went into McKay's brain. Originally too small to be noticed by sensors. However, it rapidly grew until McKay starts forgetting his memories, in which case the parasite grows in such a way, that it would be impossible to surgically remove it. Jeannie tells her that Ronon says he know a way to give Rodney one more day as himself. However, Keller already knew about the option, but decides not to risk it.
In another flashback, the team discusses Ronon's idea. There is a shrine on a planet named Talus, and Ronon witnessed the effects of it first hand. When he was six years old, his grandfather, the man who taught Ronon to track and hunt, went with him to the shrine of Talus. One minute, his grandfather was suffering with Second Childhood, the next, he reverted to his normal self. They spent the day together before his grandfather died a quick, honorable death. The shrine is also known by the Athosians. However, the downside is that the planet is a heavily defended Wraith outpost since the war with the Asurans. They decide to tell McKay of the plan, against Keller's wishes. They neglected to tell McKay about the Wraith. Since Keller is to look after McKay, she tells them that it is a very bad idea. Keller wants to use every minute McKay has left to try to find a treatment. She believes the cellular damage could be reversed if she could just find a way to remove the parasite.
At the end, Jeannie wants to take McKay to the shrine, despite the danger. She points out to Keller that Jeannie is McKay's next of kin, so the decision of McKay's fate ultimately rests with her. She is taking him to Talus. Keller has had 3 weeks without making progress, so if they stay it's likely he only has two more days and then he'll die. Instead he can have one day as his old self.
Meanwhile, on the first day of recording, they create the log to see how the Second Childhood is progressing. On the first day, McKay knows everything, including his name, position, the city, the Pegasus galaxy, and Pi in twelve decimal places.
Back in the present, the team of Jeannie, McKay, Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon and Keller ready in a Jumper, as the gate is dialed to Talus. The MALP reads two Hive ships on a valley, firing at the probe. They release the smoke screen, to allow the Jumper time to cloak. After arriving on the planet, it will take a few minutes. In the meantime, Sheppard gets another flashback of the first few days after McKay's diagnosis.
In the middle of the night, McKay runs to Sheppard's quarters, as Ronon left him alone when he was sleeping. He woke up and ran to Sheppard, since he has never been so scared, fearing that the next time he wakes, he could lose all of his memories. Sheppard says that they can go out, since it is a nice night to go out on the edge of a pier, and drink lots of Beer. On the pier, McKay admits that he is scared to lose his memories, and that Keller said that the memory loss will go faster soon. He then wants to have what time he has left to say goodbye. However, Sheppard refuses, saying there is still time. McKay then finishes off by joking about his condition, stating "You're a good friend, Arthur". They both look at each other, then burst into laughter.
In the present, the team arrives at the shrine, which is hidden behind a waterfall. When they enter the shrine, Keller reads some strange, faint energy readings. McKay feels uncomfortable, and wants to go back. They discover radiation, which makes McKay cry out in pain. However, he suddenly changes. He has returned to normal. He wonders what is happening.
in flashback, On day 10 of the recordings, a frustrated McKay attempts to remember his work, but is angered by not remembering. He also remembers his parents, and can hear words they told him, but doesn't know what they are.
Back in the present, the team explains the situation to McKay, but he doesn't approve of returning to normal, only to die in a day. After he straightens up, he starts working and notes that the radiation is unlike anything he has seen before. Keller is then struck on an idea, and takes McKay back outside the cave. There, McKay cries in pain again, and they quickly send him back inside. Keller's theory works; she believes that the radiation can apparently shrink the parasite enough for it to protect itself. After about a day, the radiation makes the sufferers ill, and the second they walk out, the parasite will grow in such a way that it can kill the sufferer very quickly. however, the parasite may stay shrunk long enough for Keller to be able to operate on McKay. However, Keller has no equipment. She wants to radio to Atlantis for medical equipment, but Sheppard says the Wraith would detect the transmission. They are forced to improvise by using tools like a power drill and a Life signs detector from the Jumper.
In flashback On day 18 of the recordings, McKay, who now barely remembers anything, says goodbye to everyone, Jeannie, Teyla, Ronon and John, before saying goodbye to Keller.
Back in the present, they perform the operation. Keller gives McKay enough anesthetic to knock him out, while they drill into his skull. However, they discover that the parasite is moving around. Keller realizes it is trying to escape the radiation, by trying to exit McKay's head. She tells Ronon to get his gun ready. When the parasite exits the wound, she grabs it with tweezers and throws it on the ground. Ronon shoots it, destroying the parasite, and blowing a hole in the floor in the process. (Sheppard opines he could of just stomped on it, but Ronon reminds him he was just following instructions.) Ronon tells Keller she did well, and she says he did, too. McKay is cured.
Back in Atlantis, McKay is in the infirmary, sleeping, with Jeannie and Keller next to him. Jeannie wonders when he will wake up, as he has been sleeping for some time. After they talk for a bit, McKay finally wakes up, and can remember everything. He then feels peckish, and wants some food. Keller goes to get some, while Jeannie sits next to her brother again. Keller, however, steps into a private room to play the recording of day six; the one McKay was about to tell Keller something, before he loses that memory. He tells her that he loves her, and has for some time. As she watches it, the memory puts a smile on her face.
Alzheimer's disease; Ancient; Anesthetic; Asuran; Asuran-Tau'ri-Wraith war; Athosian; Atlantis infirmary; Atlantis' Stargate; Beer; Brain; Cloak; Commander's office; Daedalus; Ronon Dex's grandfather; Dial Home Device; Fruit cup; Glacier; Global warming; Ham; Heads up display; Hive ship; Hypothermia; Immune system; Ionizing radiation; Life signs detector; Local Cluster; M44-5YN; Meredith Rodney McKay's mother; Messiah complex; Madison Miller; Mobile Analytic Laboratory Probe; Nichols; Particle magnum; Pi; Power drill; Puddle Jumper; Satedan; Scan device; Second Childhood; Shrine of Talus; Skull; Smoke grenade; Smoke screen; Stargate shield; Stasis pod; Surgical drill; Talus; Richard P. Woolsey's father; Wraith; Wraith energy weapon
Woolsey: Amelia, I think I'm gonna risk heading down to breakfast before they check in. I just mean that it will probably take them some time to get to the camp, and then more time for Nichols to get back to the Gate and report. There's really no point in my telling you this.
Banks: Not really, sir.
Ronon: I thought you didn't believe.
Keller: Is that a prerequisite?
(Sheppard and McKay sit on the pier drinking beer)
McKay: You're a good friend, Arthur.
(Sheppard looks round at him. Rodney turns his head and looks back at him. They hold each others gaze for a moment, then start to laugh.)
McKay: What is this place?
Ronon: It's the Shrine of Talus.
McKay: That means nothing to me.
Ronon: It's a planet of the Ancestors. We brought you here.
McKay: Thank you, Mr. Information! Look, since when did he become Ronon the Explainer? And why am I not in the Infirmary, huh? What, am I better?! (realizes quickly) I am better!
Teyla: It is the gift of the Shrine, and from all of us who risked great danger to bring you here. One last chance to be with those you love.
McKay: And then what? (with no answer, he realises the answer) I die?!
Ronon: With honour.
Teyla: And dignity.
McKay: Yeah, well, screw that! I'll just stay here!
McKay: D'you have some kind of itinerary planned?
Sheppard: Well, actually, we're gonna have a big feast first.
McKay: Last supper, huh?
Sheppard: Well, it suits your Messiah complex.
McKay: Absolutely Not!
Jeanie: We're talking about saving your life.
McKay: Look, my brain is not some new deck of the back of your house.
Sheppard: I'm not the one doing the surgery.
McKay: (to Keller) Yeah, and as my parting advice, you need to stop letting these guys talk you into doing stupid things.
Jeanie: And I'm fairly sure I can modify the life signs detector.
McKay: Yeah, with my help.
Jeanie: So help.
McKay: Look, this isn't one of those PBS brain surgeries where my skull is wide open and we're having a conversation...
Keller: I have enough anesthetic to put you out, you're not going to feel a thing.
McKay: Yeah, it's probably a hammer.
McKay: You have thrown an awful lot at me all at once.
Ronon: That's life.
(On day six of the recordings)
McKay: Jennifer, there's something I wanted to, while I remember, while I still can. There's something I wanted to say before...
Keller: (From behind the camera) Go ahead.
McKay: I, I, I love you. I've loved you for some time now. (pauses briefly) OK. Where was I?
(Watching the recording, Keller smiles at the memory)
- Two moons can be seen when Lt. Colonel John Sheppard and Dr. Rodney McKay are talking on the pier, one is in front of them, the other behind them. This is not a mistake, since New Lantea has five moons, of which only two are visible to the naked eye. A point covered in the season four episode "Lifeline".
- In this episode, it is implied that a partially submerged Stargate would allow water to pass through. It was previously theorized in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Watergate" that the gate could distinguish between pressure from natural sources (water, air, lava, etc.) and something intentionally trying to pass through the gate, like a person.
- However, the gate in this episode was not completely submerged, while the gate in SG-1 was.
- The above assumption is erroneous considering it's the event horizon itself that would determine if something is trying to cross, not the gate mechanism, and the event horizon was completely submerged. It's more likely that Sheppard just assumed the water would pass through the gate to Atlantis.
- Also, in Watergate, the water were in fact life forms. When the glass of the submarine broke, the "water" also didn't flood the submarine. So it is most likely that the water-like lifeforms just did not enter the gate on purpose while real water still would go through.
- Although it is never mentioned on screen during the series, it is not possible for a Puddle Jumper to enter the Stargate while cloaked, which is why Sheppard used his Smoke screen technique. The Puddle Jumper console contains a warning in Ancient that translates to "Never Attempt Gate Reentry When In Cloak Mode."
- This is the first episode that confirms the relationship between McKay and Dr. Jennifer Keller
- This episode is the 300th produced episode in the Stargate franchise.
- David Nykl was credited as Dr. Radek Zelenka. However, all of his scenes were removed from the final cut. One of those scenes concerns an argument between him and McKay regarding the ninth chevron, which he believed could send travelers to the other side of the universe. McKay quickly rebuffs his theory. In the television cut, he only has a small, non-speaking cameo, passing the team in the control room.
- The plot of this episode bears similarities to the critically acclaimed short story Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (see Notes on the page for ATL: "Tao of Rodney", which also bears similarity to another plot element from Flowers for Algernon, for more details).
- Brad Wright won a Nebula Award for the script for this episode. His fellow nominees were Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight and Andrew Stanton for Wall-E.
- Nominated Leo for "Best Cinematography in a Dramatic Series" (Jim Menard)
- Nominated Leo for "Best Picture Editing in a Dramatic Series" (Brad Rines)
- Nominated Leo for "Best Screenwriting in a Dramatic Series" (Brad Wright)
- Nominated Leo for "Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series" (David Hewlett)