The Shrine is the 6th episode of the 5th & final season of Stargate : Atlantis. This is one of the standout episodes of this highly enjoyable tv series and of the Stargate franchise in total. The reason is the premise and the acting ability of one Mr. David Hewlett who plays the role of Dr. Rodney McKay, one of the main characters of the series around whom the episode revolves. During a mission, Lt. Col. John Sheppard’s team step through the gate to go to a planet where another team is supposed to be studying the effects of global warming, only to be soaked completely as the valley where the gate on that planet is stationed is flooded. During the 38 minutes it takes for them to be rescued McKay, who was already feeling a bit feverish, gets infected by a parasite that wraps itself in his brain. Initially he doesn’t seem to be suffering but soon the effects of the parasite suppressing that part of his brain start appearing; the effects are similar to that of Alzheimer’s.
What happens next is brilliant acting; a normally brilliant genius, arrogant & sarcastic (funny to viewers) begins to soon have trouble remembering stuff and his memories deteriorates to the point where McKay is virtually unable to function. His speech is slow and he becomes almost childlike. This effect is hard on his friends in Atlantis and especially to his sister Jeannie who is brought to visit him and has to rush out in tears within a few minutes. There is no medical cure except for a shrine in another planet, where the enemy Wraith have also landed; a shrine which they soon find has radiation properties that suppress the parasite and it shrinks itself, making it operable on and Dr. Keller is able to remove it from McKay’s brain.
Back to the acting, Hewlett does a great job of completely reversing his role from the character we have come & know for the past 4 seasons and to see him disabled in this manner is awe-inspiring. This episode is also about friendships – McKay tells Keller that he loves her and wants to do so before he forgets. Also the friendship between Lt. Col. Sheppard & Rodney – the scene where an infected mcKay runs scared to John’s quarters, frightened when he woke up in the night. John & Rodney go to drink beer by the peer and McKay chooses to say goodbye now before his condition worsens and he can’t remember anything but Sheppard is having none of it, saying that there is still time . McKay is touched but says “You’re a good friend Arthur”! Sheppard glances to see that McKay is joking and the two have a laugh about it.
Awesome episode, worth watching even if you did not like the series.