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Recap / Stargate Atlantis S03 E15 "The Game"

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You sent crates of citrus fruit! Citrus! Do you have any idea what an insult that is to my people?
Nola of Geldar has learned a little too much from her Oracle

Major Lorne discovers a civilization whose flag features McKay's face in glorious detail. It turns out that the nation of Geldar (named for a girl McKay used to stalk dated twice in college) and its rival nation of Halona are the results of Ancient Lantean social engineering, which McKay and Sheppard mistook for a computer game. In the two years they've been playing, Geldar has flourished in technology, achieving dirigibles and bicycles and inheriting McKay's fear of citrus, while Halona has advanced militarily - and their involvement has brought the two nations to the brink of war.

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Tropes:

  • Author Appeal: An in-universe version, with the fashions of Geldar - women with short blonde hair. Considering Rodney's ongoing crush on Carter, this is hardly surprising.
  • Broken Pedestal: Nola gets a heavy dose of this when she discovers the true nature of the Oracle.
  • Canada, Eh?: Geldar's flag (designed by Rodney) is the same as the Canadian flag, but with his face in place of the maple leaf.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: The people of Geldar. Rodney implies that their justification for illegally crossing the border is that they dispute the cartography of that area, despite it being provided by satellites. They also justify digging coal in another nation's borders by arguing that since they use coal and the Halonans don't, it's therefore entitled to them.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The scientifically advanced Geldars (McKay's group) wear light colors; the warlike Halonans (Sheppard's group) wear dark colors.
    • Light Is Not Good: Geldar is scientifically advanced and its citizens wear light colours, yet their arrogant belief in their own superiority makes them clearly the aggressors in the conflict. Nola refuses to even sit at the same table as Baden, nor even entertain the notion of a truce.
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    • Dark Is Not Evil: Halona is militaristic and its people wear darker colours, yet their military only reacts once Geldar has already encroached on their territory. Baden appears far more willing to open a dialogue with Nola and mentions having attempted diplomacy on several occasions, only for their gifts to be rebuffed.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Geldar mines an invasion tunnel into Halona and claims it's for "Coal"... which has never happened in the real world, not at all.
  • Egopolis: Rodney put his face on the Geldar flag!
  • Expy: Nola is, to an extent, consciously this of Carter, what with the short blonde hair (an Oracle mandated fashion change), her looks and her science smarts. Also, more subtly, her taste for blue jello.
  • Fridge Brilliance: Nola is smart, excitable, and possessing of a bit of a superiority complex. Baden is a grumpy Deadpan Snarker with no patience for her crap. The leaders of each country have taken on the mannerisms of their respective Oracles.
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  • Insufferable Genius: Rodney created an entire nation of them.
  • Medieval Stasis: Enforced. The people of Geldar and Halona consciously refused to advance their society past the point indicated by their respective Oracles. Who stopped talking ten thousand years ago.
  • Schizo Tech: After Rodney became the Oracle, he started to cheat.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The plot is a direct echo of the film WarGames, down to the point of finishing with "a nice game of chess."
    • The episode's eponymous "Game" is similar to Civilization, with the twist that, as Sheppard puts it, "there were real people on the other end".
  • Smart People Play Chess
  • Stock Episode Titles: 40 uses
  • Take a Third Option: The episode starts with Rodney presenting the other members of his team with an ethical dilemma (if you had to choose between redirecting a speeding train towards ten adults or a single baby, which would you pick?). Much to his annoyance, the others pick holes in the scenario and suggest ways one could save both the adults and the baby.
  • Technology Uplift: Sheppard accuses McKay of 'cheating' by giving his country access to more advanced, Renaissance-era technology.
  • The Game Plays You: Even knowing what the Game Room actually is, Zelenka and Lorne can't help but get drawn in, and nearly go the way of McKay and Sheppard before Weir orders the room sealed.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Explores the consequences of the "friendly" competition between Sheppard and McKay. Two guys with godlike power and differing personal philosophies do things to each other's civilizations in the game that, if they affected the lives of real people, would have terrible long-term social and political consequences. And, lo and behold...
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