Strictly for the birds

Dear Johnny Fanboy,

Can you please answer the following questions, which arose from my viewing of Morpheus, the second episode of Season 10 of Stargate SG-1...?

When the team arrive on yet another unexplored planet, they find that there are no humanoids there, but plenty of evidence that there used to be, including deserted buildings and some skeletal bodies. While walking through the woods, Teal’c points out how odd it is that there are no birds, and that he hasn’t seen any other life forms either.

What does he know about it? Firstly, does every planet have birds on it?! Even if that were so, as a keen birdwatcher I have noticed that at certain times of the day birds seem less active. I feed birds in my garden, and some afternoons there won’t be any for hours and then there will be loads. Secondly, how does he know there are no signs of life? He wasn’t really looking, was he?

Also, when he and Mitchell do find a life form, a lizard, it is living in a cave behind a secret door that has been sealed for ages (we assume). Because they discover that the virus that is killing everyone is a parasite that sucks the life out of everything, why do they assume that the lizard is immune? Surely it is more likely that the virus just hasn’t penetrated the depths of the cave, behind the secret door.

Of course, if that were the case then SG-1 would all die and the series would end, wouldn’t it?! But what’s the Johnny Fanboy explanation?


Tess G. Wanacek

Johnny Fanboy replies:

It does seem unlikely that every habitable planet would have birds living on it. However, previous episodes have stated that the Ancients distributed Earth-like flora and fauna throughout the galaxy (thus explaining why so many planets have the same old sorts of tree on them) so we can assume that birds are usually common on this type of planet. Teal’c does add that he has detected no signs of animal life whatsoever.

(And how gratified I am that the writers specify “animal life”. Many a time I have shook my head in despair at screen sci-fi when characters talk about planets being “lifeless” when there is plant life all around!)

But what makes Teal’c such an expert on the signs of animal life, I hear you ask? Well, he is a former Jaffa, a proficient hunter and tracker. He can follow the tell-tale traces of a hunted fugitive and hear the subtle approach of a would-be attacker, so I’m confident that he would be able to hear or otherwise detect the presence of local wildlife, even if he cannot see it.

As for the team’s belief that the lizard is immune to the sleeping sickness (not actually a virus but a tiny bug that thrives on the brain chemical melatonin), well, it’s not an assumption as such, but rather the only hope they’ve got. It’s not an unreasonable theory, though: since the cave is not airtight (otherwise the lizard would surely have suffocated), the bugs can probably get down there even though larger creatures, such as humanoids, cannot access it without first getting past the secret door.

[Yawn!] I’m tired after all that hard thinking. Maybe I’ll get some shut-eye...

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