Recap / Stargate Atlantis S01 E04 "38 Minutes"

Sheppard: In the cockpit, on the left.
McKay: The cockpit is regrettably demolecularised at the moment.

The episode begins In Medias Res with the damaged Puddle Jumper fleeing toward the Wraith space gate, while Sheppard lies twitching on the floor with some kind of funky alien bug thing attached to his neck. Due to some damage to the ship, however, the engine pods do not retract, and they get stuck halfway through the Stargate. And due to an entirely new explanation of wormhole physics, this means that not only will the back half of the ship be exposed to hard vacuum when the gate shuts off thirty-eight minutes from now, but the front half totally refuses to re-materialize on the other side, and will be lost in limbo forever. Oh yeah, and Sheppard's got a thing on his neck.

Weir sets a team of scientists to come up with potential solutions given equipment lists and the back half of Jumper 2, Apollo 13 style. McKay fiddles with stuff on their end, while Teyla and Ford (with the help of Dr. Beckett) try pouring various chemicals on Sheppard's bug to get it to roll over and die. They do discover its weakness - salt water - but instead of giving up gracefully it reacts by strangling Sheppard for everything it's worth. What's worse, it seems to posses the Wraith's ability to heal itself by sucking the life out of its host. What's even worse than that, they're pretty sure that gate travel will instantly kill Sheppard if he's still got the bug on him when he goes through.

The only thing for it is to kill him. Ford uses the emergency defibrillators to stop Sheppard's heart, convincing the creature to give up and leave of its own accord. It works, but unfortunately, they can't get his heart started again afterwards, so Teyla drags him through the gate to keep him preserved until they get back to Atlantis. McKay finally manages to press the right sequence of crystals to retract the engine pods - which does nothing, since the Jumper has no forward momentum, and so just sits there. With just seconds to spare, Ford blows the back hatch, letting the explosive decompression propel them the rest of the way through the gate (and conveniently blowing the bug out into space).

Dr. Beckett's medical team successfully revives Sheppard, and there is much rejoicing.

Joe Flanigan (John Sheppard) once said in an interview that this was one of his least favorite episodes.

It is also noteworthy that this is the first time in the Stargate franchise that defibrillators do anything at all.


  • Anachronic Order: Sort of. The main story is straightforward, but interspersed with a series of How We Got Here style flashbacks, which are not ordered with respect to each other. For instance, Sheppard picking up the Iratus bug is one of the last scenes shown.
  • Ascended Extra: Despite being intended to be a one-off character, Dr Zelenka was brought back due to popular demand.
  • Badass in Distress: In the start of a long tradition, Sheppard spends much of the episode in rather horrific pain and the team aren't sure they'll be able to save him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The defibrillators.
  • Continuous Decompression
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Perhaps. Sheppard is about to tell Weir something, but is interrupted by somebody in a "I have a plan" moment. At the end of the episode, Weir asks him what he was going to say. He claims it was "take care of each other," but Weir is obviously unconvinced.
  • Exact Time to Failure: They only have 38 minutes to get the Jumper through the gate before it gets cut in half and they get exposed to space.
  • Flatline Plotline
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Dr. Beckett at one point refers to the Iratus bug as a "Cling-On" — and even he winces as he says it.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Kavanagh is a definitely a jerkass, he does have a point that messing around with the engines of the Puddle Jumper while it's half demateralised, could cause the entire Jumper to explode and be sent through the gate with the force of a bomb, giving them only a split-second to raise the shield. Zelenka even admits to Weir this is actually a possibility!
  • Magic Countdown: Averted - it really is 38 minutes from the time the gate opens to the time it closes.
  • Magical Defibrillator: Averted. The defibrillator in this episode actually does what it's supposed to do in real life - it stops Sheppard's heart.
    • And the aversion is later averted, when it starts his heart again.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: After Rodney gets the drive pods to fire briefly... cue the Mass "Oh, Crap!" when they realise that the bottom of the rear compartment door has now gone through the event horizon, ruining their hope of using it as a liferaft when the Gate shuts down.
  • Portal Cut: The plot revolves around trying to prevent this.
  • Race Against the Clock: The First Atlantis Expeditionary Team has only 38 minutes to get the Puddle Jumper completely through the gate before it deactivates, killing all onboard.
  • Real Time: In fact, the only Real Time episode in the entire run of either Stargate: Atlantis or Stargate: SG-1.
  • Revival Loophole: They have to kill Sheppard to get the bug to crawl off of him, so they stop his heart. Sheppard lives because they put him in the forward section of the ship (which is effectively in suspended animation) and he gets medical attention when they get back to Atlantis.
  • Running Time in the Title: The episode's title references the maximum amount of time a Stargate can be open as well as the onscreen running time between the activation and de-activation of the Stargate.
  • Ship Tease: What was Sheppard going to say to Weir?
  • Straw Vulcan: Averted. As McKay is methodically trying each crystal to see which will retract the engine pods, Weir tells him to stop being so methodical and start trying them at random (since there won't be time for all of them). McKay, quite sensibly, points out that that would mean a chance of trying some of them twice, thus wasting precious seconds.
  • Technobabble: Lampshaded.
    Kavanaugh: We can't rule out a catastrophic feedback in the drive manifold!
    Weir: Without the technobabble please.