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druidspell in dvd_commentary

DVD Commentary for The World At Large

cherryice's original story can be found here.



All comments in bold are mine, and don't necessarily reflect the author's views (obviously) ;).

The World At Large
By cherryice

Ford, Sheppard/McKay. Many thanks to sprat for beta.

Aiden Ford is aware that he is not the easiest of men to know.



Ozone. Sunlight filters through the stained glass, low on the horizon and reflecting off the ocean, the gate room filled with the scent of cordite. Behind them, the gate cycles shut. The lightning-strike smell of the wormhole fades quickly into the atmosphere (or into deep space) when they gate off world, but it is caught in Atlantis.

And right here, we have atmosphere, setting, and description, short and sweet. Within four quick sentences, we know where we are and what’s just happened: the team is back on Atlantis after another mission. Sunlight filters through the stained glass, low on the horizon and reflecting off the ocean gives us the time, and just the fact that the description of the sunlight is there is a hint that things didn’t go badly, this time out.

Ford is the last one through the wormhole, and when his feet hit the metal, McKay and Sheppard are already half way across the room, bickering about something. Sheppard is carrying a large sack of grain, and Rodney's hands are waving. Weir looks down on them from her office with a wry grin. Teyla is waiting for him a few steps from the gate.

This is familiar to him (Grodin at his console and Dr. Beckett trying to look casual and not at all surprised that he is not needed), familiar, almost painfully so, and he is hit with a sharp burst of homesickness.

I like how what makes Ford homesick isn’t anything that he would find at home; it’s just the familiarity of the situation that reminds him of what he’s missing.

"Aiden?" Teyla asks, and her hand is warm on his elbow.

"I'm good," he tells her. Shakes his head and smiles. It's just a little thing – cordite reminds him now of his grandmother's perfume, his grandfather's aftershave, though they are alike only in their familiarity. "Really," he says.

Another completely dissociated thing that reminds him of people, memories, and things near and dear to him.
Also. I find it very believable and really interesting that, to Ford, the smell of cordite would be familiar and comforting.


Her smile is mysterious and reassuring, but that's nothing new, because she's Teyla, and mysterious and reassuring is what she does best. "I would not have meant to imply otherwise."

"Come on," he says, and grins. Sheppard and McKay are already in Dr. Weir's office. They're still going at it, and he can see her roll her eyes from here. "We need to rescue Dr. Weir."

Teyla's eyes crinkle but her face otherwise remains sober. "I believe that Elizabeth is more than capable of looking after herself."

And this Elizabeth probably could—throughout the first and about the first half of the second seasons, Elizabeth was very capable. She hadn’t really disappointed me too much up at that point.

"I have no doubt of that," Ford says, bounding up the stairs. "We’re rescuing her from herself and what she might be driven to do."

This Elizabeth is also ballsy enough to play with the big boys, and hold her own against John and Rodney—I miss that in the show, and I like the little glimpse of it that we get in this story.

*

The first time Ford saw a stargate, he was twenty-one. It was about an hour and a half after he saw his first alien. (Teal'c in the commissary, eating jello, face a study of concentration.)

At the time, he thought it was pretty much the coolest day ever. Two months later, he stepped through stargate for the first time and changed his mind. Four years after that, he stood beneath an ocean a galaxy away and decided that the best was always yet to come.

An innocent Aiden is one of my favorite things about this story—he hasn’t been broken into his component parts, he hasn’t had his ideals compromised. He’s just very optimistic, and hopeful. the best was always yet to come.

*

The first time Ford notices something off, it is after yet another near miss. (Beckett, standing with one hand on railing in the gate room, was halfway down the stairs by the time Ford cleared the event horizon; McKay bleeding on the metal plates and all over Sheppard's hands. Iron and cordite in the air.)

Is cordite still comforting when mixed with the smell of his teammate’s blood?

Ford heads down to the infirmary, after the briefing, after he has stood beneath a shower for just long enough to wash the ash of the native's sacrificial fire from his skin. He is discomfited and off-balance, has always thought fire would be the worst way to go, alive and screaming.

I agree with Ford, here. If I think about it too hard, I’d have nightmares of burning to death—not just because it’s slow and gruesome, but because the pain of a burn eats the world away until there’s nothing left but the pain.

When he gets to the infirmary it is silent and empty, and he feels his heart jump a bit. It takes him several seconds to locate McKay, pale and scowling against the sheets. Major Sheppard is there as well, head down and standing motionless by McKay's bed. Sheppard has one hand on McKay's shoulder, the other on the hand clenched on top of the blankets. Neither of them says a word, and Ford feels like an intruder.

He withdraws, suddenly, almost violently, glad he can't see Sheppard's face.

*

Colorado Springs, Ford had his own apartment. First time he'd ever really lived alone. He'd lived with his parents, then his father, then his grandparents, then in the barracks at West Pointe. Every move one degree of separation further from where he came.

When I read that, I had to wonder if it had been intentional, that Ford was always moving one degree of separation further from his roots.

Wasn't much – one bedroom, fridge that clanged loudly at night, olive carpet – but it was his. Wasn't much, but he was out of town (out of the solar system) half the time anyway, and it had great light. Big east-facing windows, and he slept with the blinds up so he could welcome the sun.

Ah, the joys of owning a small apartment. That first sentence— Wasn't much – one bedroom, fridge that clanged loudly at night, olive carpet--where he lists everything that is wrong with the apartment, offset by the rest—– but it was his.--really caps the experience of owning a (probably) cheap apartment for the first time. There’s all kinds of things that you don’t like about it, but at the end of the day, it’s yours, and that’s all that matters.

Whenever he got back from off world, fresh outside air (not Mountain air, recirculated and strange, full of ozone) was sweet in his lungs; and he used to sit out on his fire escape, breathe the cool mountain air, heavy with dew, and watch the air streak with orange and yellow.

Scent is one of the most overlooked senses in writing, honestly, and it’s the one most strongly tied to memory. I like that cherryice made a particular point, it seems, to put in mentions of the way things smelled.


(This is how he will meet Jenny: He will be sitting cross-legged on the metal grating, watching the sun, as she climbs from her window one story below. She will be smoking a cigarette, eyes still bright and ringed with liner. She will be on her way in from the night before as he is preparing for the new day. They will fall into a routine of sorts until the chill of autumn forces her to knock on his door instead of clambering barefoot up the escape to sit beside him.)

The tense change here just seemed so appropriate—looking back from a completely external and omniscient narrative viewpoint, it just struck me as more powerful to look at Jenny’s and Ford’s meeting this way.

*

Ford writes letters he knows he can never send (because he knows he can never send them).

He writes his grandparents I know you don't agree with the choices I've made but I think you'd be proud, writes There is so much more to this life than I could have dreamed, writes I hope you know that I want nothing more than to come home to you.

He's been writing letters to his father since he was thirteen, since he got into one too many (seven, eight, nine too many) fights at school, sat in the office with a bloody nose and a swollen eye while his grandmother cleaned his face. Her handkerchief was cold against his skin, dampened with water from his water bottle, and she look at him with such understanding that he was almost sick. The first letter he wrote his father was streaked with blood and tears because his knuckles kept reopening, ink smudged, and because he was 13 and sometimes life just wasn't fair.

The idea that someone being understanding could make you feel sick was a concept that stuck with me this past semester in my creative writing class—I took the idea and ran with it in an original story. So here’s to you, cherryice for what my professor said was a very poetic and expressive description; I owe it all to you.

He writes to Jenny, I wish that I was sorry, and I miss you, and Are you okay?

And here’s a Ford who understands that his choices have an impact on the people he cares about, and made the decisions anyway. The difference in his actions here—going to Atlantis, leaving Colorado Springs and everyone there behind—and his actions at the end of season one—leaving Atlantis and everyone there behind—are that here, he thinks that he’s made the right choice, for the right reasons, but still regrets that he left people behind. When he leaves Atlantis, he puts the expedition in danger and leaves them at a disadvantage, but doesn’t seem to regret the leaving at all.

To his mother, he writes Why? He writes He never stopped missing you, and Grandma told me you came to the funeral, and Are you happy now?

Writes: I forgive you.

*

Country, rockabilly, something borderlining trance. The lights flashed as the fiddle wailed, and all through the club people moved in time. He had one arm around Jenny's waist and she was singing, arms thrown above her head, as the band played.

She shifted, spun to face him, hands on the back of his head. "You're a difficult man to know, Aiden," she said, lips against his ear. Kissed his cheek and tapped the cowboy hat farther down on his head. (You've got to lighten up a bit, Aiden, she'd said, dropping it onto his head and tugging him out the door. He was just back from P81 – 179, and the jet lag on interstellar travel was hell on the body.)

He thought of grade school, the way Mrs. Forest's lips narrowed the one time her daughter invited him over after school. His mother's knuckles white on the shopping cart, face expressionless, the second looks and the way the man who worked in the bakery always gave him an extra cookie and a pat on the head.

I appreciated the juxtaposition of the things that impacted Aiden as a child—lips tightening, knuckles white on grocery carts, second looks, and finally, the kindness of the man working in the bakery.

"I know," he said, as the band hit a pause between songs. "I'm sorry."

"I know you are," she said, eyes almost lost in the layers of liner, and spun away from him and towards the dance floor. She grabbed a girl by the hand, blonde hair trailing ghostly in the dark.

That exchange—“I’m sorry.” “I know you are.”—was so poignant to me—Aiden’s sorry, but not quite sorry enough to change at this point, and Jenny seems to have resigned herself to the idea that this is all she’s going to get out of him, however dear she loves him.

The fiddle struck up again, a meandering melody that felt like home.


Another tense change, another revelation into the inner workings of Aiden Ford.

(He will show up at her door at four in the morning. He will be barefoot on the carpet and she will be shrugging into a robe as she opens the door.

"You talk but you don't say anything," Jenny will tell him. "You talk and you hope people won't notice that you're not actually sharing anything."

I also found it interesting that this interpretation of Aiden Ford is very close to my personal perception of John Sheppard—they’re both military men who don’t seem to want people to know too much.

"I know," he'll say. "I know."

She'll let him in and there will be a pair of heels by the door that are not hers, she'll make tea and they will sit perched on the back of her couch, looking out the window at the frost and the night sky.

The night (morning) will be a tangible companion, streetlights and headlights of passing cars painting their faces in strange relief.

Beautiful writing and imagery.

"North Dakota," he will say, eventually, when the tea is gone and his hands are finally warm, "North Dakota, 1980, there was still a certain stigma attached to a white woman marrying a black man and bearing his child.")

And finally, the parceling out of knowledge, like Santa giving out Christmas gifts to the kids who weren’t quite naughty but weren’t exactly nice, because Ford seems so reluctant to share.

*

M17 – 823 is where it all falls apart. Everything seems to be going great at first – the natives are uniformly attractive in a way managed only by Pegasus cultures (he tries not to wonder about repeated bottleneck events and the health of their gene pool), and the women are friendly, but they get some sort of message from their priestess halfway through negotiations, and then it's all spears and running and somehow Sheppard ends up at the bottom of a gorge. "Go!" he is yelling, blood dripping from one temple, even as McKay is cursing and skidding down the rocks toward him.

A small reminder, almost hidden in the story, that you don’t get to go through the ‘gate if you’re just any grunt; the SGC is looking for intelligence in its officers, and they found it in Ford.

"Go!" Sheppard is yelling, so Ford grabs McKay by the back of his BDUs and hauls him towards the trees. Teyla covers them.

"What do you think you're doing?" McKay is hollering, and when he rounds on Ford, Ford thinks he's about to hit him.

"Major said go," Ford says, dropping back against one of the trees. "So we go."

"What happened," McKay spits, eyes shadowed, "to 'leave no man behind?'"

Low blow, McKay. Ford doesn’t like this any more than you do.

"We go," Ford says, hands tight on his gun. "We get the jumper, we come back and blow these guys away. He has cover."

"And by the time we get back—"

"That time," Teyla says, "will be further and further from now the more we argue."

It seems natural that Teyla would be the one to settle this—she’s a leader, so she understands where John’s coming from, trying to save his people and hoping that he gets out alive once they’re safe; she’s a member of John’s team (and becoming one of his friends) and so she hates it as much as Rodney does; and, like Ford, she knows that sometimes you have to make the hard choices, and you have to make them quickly so that there’s still a chance to save what you don’t want destroyed.

McKay shoots one last look backwards, then takes off through the trees, gun held low at his side. Teyla is close behind him, skin lost against the wood and moss, eyes dark. Ford follows last, splashing through the streams, smoke on the wind dogging at his heels.

(When they get back, the river valley will be in flames. They will find Sheppard at the far end of the gorge, unconscious from the smoke and head wound. He will not be breathing, and McKay will reach for him, frantic, forcing air from his lungs to Sheppard's as the heat rages around them, flames reaching in on them.)

Another tense change as something happens to change Ford’s perspective. I love this.

*

One of the last times Ford saw Jenny, she was crying. He was just off a trip to a planet where the gravity was almost twice earth norm and the flowers kept trying to eat you, and everything in Colorado Springs seemed dull and grey.

I think, if I had the opportunity to go offworld through the stargate, I don’t know if I’d be able to keep coming back to Earth, especially if everything on the other planet was so much more vibrant than what I’d come back to.

"It's me," he called as he knocked, leaning back against the door, duffle bag dropped at his feet.

He knew something was wrong as soon as she got to the door, her footsteps heavy on the linoleum. "Hey," she said, door open only a crack, dark hair in her face. "Look," she started to say, "look, I'm tired Aiden," she said, and then her voice cracked and she stepped away from the door.

"Hey," he said, and "hey," when he closed the door behind him and she averted her face. "Hey," he said again, reaching out to cup her cheek. She flinched back from his touch, hissed. He saw it then, her split lip, her black eye, the way she was cradling her left arm.

"Hey," he said again, dangerously this time. "Who did this?"

She tells him, eventually. Three guys, outside Bedara's Pub. She was with Susan and they were holding hands, kissing. Three guys, guys Ford knows by reputation, has played fast pitch against on the weekends.

I really like how Ford knew these guys, at least a little, and yet they could still do something like beat up a woman and her girlfriend. Evil, or even bad, people don’t always broadcast themselves; your innate cruelty or kindness isn’t always shown on the outside of you.

(I don't need you to fight my fights, she will tell him, before he leaves.

I don't need you to fight my fights, Aiden! She will scream. I need you to be here.

She was just kissing her girlfriend.)

I don’t need you to fight my fights, Aiden! I need you to be here! Such a powerful scene there at the end of a larger scene—not resolution of the conflict, but a resolution of sorts—Jenny’s not looking for someone to clean up the messes, she’s looking for someone to help make sure the messes don’t happen. Too little, too late is all that Aiden can offer her now, though, and he’s determined to at least give her that. He wasn’t there to defend her, but he can at least make the attempt to make sure that these guys leave her alone in the future.

*

The infirmary is quiet when Ford walks in, Beckett out on the mainland. Dr. Johnson is sedated on a bed by the door, head bandaged neatly.

Dr. Johnson? Who’s that? And what happened to him/her?

Quiet, it is quiet even though McKay is here. He is not yelling at Sheppard for giving stupid orders and endangering the entire team, not scowling over a folder of information. He has Sheppard's hands in a death grip, both of their knuckles white. Sheppard looks small and pale and nowhere near as flippant as usual. One of the nurses has cleaned the soot from his face.

As Ford watches, Sheppard says something quietly and McKay shakes his head sharply, darts in and presses his lips against Sheppard's. It's not really a surprise, not anymore, and he turns to go, silent.

What does surprise him is that as he leaves, Sheppard looks straight at him.

Sheppard doesn’t seem the type to not be aware of his surroundings, not when something of value to him is at risk. It makes perfect sense to me that Sheppard would be on guard, even here, when there’s even the slightest chance that someone could expose his relationship with Rodney. And the fact that Aiden leaves after seeing Rodney kiss John would set off alarms, I think; he can’t be sure of what Ford’s reaction will be.

*

Jails were just as unpleasant as he'd always been told, Ford thought. Braced himself against the wall and listened to the pain in his split knuckles, breathed in air that smelled of urine and vomit and unwashed bodies.

The sensory description here is so rich and vivid—if I could describe how I felt about this story half as well as cherryice describes Ford’s jail experience, I’d be a hell of a writer.

"Aiden Ford," the officer called, moving up on the cell with his keys out.

Ford lowered his head and breathed, waited for the cell door to slide open before he looked. Sumner in civvies, weathered face blank. "Lieutenant," he said, and Ford followed him out without a word, air in the parking lot humid and heavy.

Sumner drove, eyes never leaving the road. Ford fidgeted.

"There's a difference," Sumner said, finally, "there's a difference, sometimes, between the things that are right and the things that are correct."

"Yes, sir," Ford said, eyes on the buildings rolling by outside, looming out of the night before fading away behind them.

"Sometimes," Sumner continued as if uninterrupted, "there isn't. And sometimes what other people need from you is more important than what you need for yourself." He stopped his truck in front of Ford's apartment, threw the parking brake on.

And sometimes what other people need from you is more important than what you need for yourself. Question, for me, is whether or not Aiden actually fulfilled what Jenny/his grandparents/his COs needed from him, or even if he fulfilled what he needed for himself.

"Yes, sir," Ford said again, knuckles throbbing, eyes dry, head sore.

"Now, the Sheriff and I have an understanding, Lieutenant," Sumner said. "But I do not want to end up there again for you, do you hear me?"

"Yes, sir," Ford said again, reaching for the door handle. "Thank you, sir."

"Hey," Sumner said, reaching across to catch his shoulder. His grip was tight, but his eyes were not unkind. "Do you hear me?"

"I hear you, sir," Ford said, and when Sumner let go his teeth flashed momentarily in the streetlights.

(Sumner will be the one to recommend Ford for the Atlantis expedition, the one to choose him as his second in command.

"You've got potential," he'll say when Ford questions him. "But potential isn't worth anything until it's realized. I'm going to be tough on you, I want you to understand. You can't take that, you ought to rethink coming."

His death will hit Ford hard.)

Another tense change, and a really powerful insight into Aiden and Sumner’s relationship. In canon, we only see how Sumner’s death affects John (and, to an extent, Colonel Everett); but Sumner would have picked each of the Marines on the Atlantis expedition, and we never really got a chance to see how the death of their CO affected them, or how they felt about Sumner being replaced with Sheppard.

*

It takes three days for Beckett to release Sheppard from the infirmary. Ford is running when Sheppard tracks him down, world narrowed down to the steady drum of his sneakers on the metal plating, the rush of air from his lungs.

His route takes him from the corridors and out onto the pier, rising sun dazzling his eyes, and Sheppard is standing in front him. Not standing, precisely, but swinging his arms as if stretching, as if he ever voluntarily sees this side of six in the morning.

*giggles* Sheppard definitely doesn’t strike me as a morning person.

"Why, Lieutenant," he says, and the look on his face is all 'golly gee, what a surprise to see you here.'

"Sir," Ford says, slowing down, stopping. "I see you're feeling better."

"Almost one hundred percent," Sheppard says. Grins, like he should be snapping gum.

"Glad to hear it," Ford says, turning to the water and letting the wind cool his skin, the sea air fill his lungs.

"Ford," Sheppard says, and his tone is not flippant at all.

Ford turns back to face him, back to the breeze. The sun is rising on his right, red and violet on the ocean.

"Ford," Sheppard says, and his voice is even. "Are we going to have a problem?"

There are a lot of things Ford could say to that. Just because there’s discrimination in the system, he wants to say, doesn’t mean that the system isn’t still made up of individuals. Our only problem is that you don't trust me to understand bigotry enough to avoid it.

Wow. If those words had come out of Ford’s mouth… Ouch. I don’t think either of them are really ready for that kind of confrontation at this point.

What he wants to say is if you have to ask me that, then you don't know me at all.

You're a difficult man to know, Aiden, Jenny used to tell him; and the point of the matter is that it's true. Sheppard doesn't know about Jenny, doesn't know about picking the fights before they pick you, doesn't know what it's like to be eight and swinging with your parents in the park (pushing as far into the sky as you could go so that you could leave the whispers behind on earth). Doesn't know how completely ridiculous Ford finds the question of what Sheppard does with his tongue when he's seen Sheppard blow off another man's head.

A very good point about people not knowing Ford—Aiden’s character was always the hardest for me to grasp, and we never got much of a backstory for him. But I like that Aiden finds it ridiculous to take issue with Sheppard’s love life when Sheppard sometimes kills people for a living.

"No problem, sir," is all he says and sits, facing towards the horizon.

"What are you –"

"Watching the sun rise, sir," he says, and pats the metal plating beside him.

Sheppard seats himself, awkwardly, scab still visible through his hairline.

"I think it's going to be a good day," Ford says, and the sun bursts over the horizon.

(He will make an effort, he thinks. To know them, and to let them know him. Maybe one day he will tell Teyla about the day his mother left, tell Sheppard about the KKK rally outside of his high school when he was fifteen, and how the girl he was dating at the time took his hand and stormed on by with her head held high. Maybe one day he will speak with McKay about isolation, about habit and choice, intelligence and antisocial tendencies and race.

That was possibly the best single paragraph in the story, in my opinion. Just because Ford has all this history that no one knows about, and one day, he might tell his team about his past. And the fact that he knows that it will be an effort to let the others know him was just… it’s a beautiful example of an overall great piece of writing.

This is Atlantis, after all, and he has nothing but time.)



I just want to say that there was so much about this story that I loved. I never really cared too much about Ford one way or the other; my attention (like so many people's) was more tied up in the dynamics of John, Rodney, Elizabeth, Carson, Teyla... so many other players that had so much more going on in front of the camera.
But reading this story, especially this line here: "Sheppard ... doesn't know about picking the fights before they pick you", makes it so much easier to understand why Ford would go to such extremes when he wanted to fight the Wraith, why he'd go so far beyond the expected and the norm to make himself seem like a bigger threat to the bad guys.
It reminds me of another quotation, "It's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees," and I think Ford would agree. He will probably die, but at least he'll go out with a bang, go out knowing that he stood up until the end, until he was the last man standing on that particular battlefield.

Comments

Oh, thank you ever so much. It was an honour to hear what you thought, and I'm ever so happy you liked it.

You have made my WEEK.


I was honest a little surprised that anyone read this, because it often times feels as if I'm the only one who loves Ford.

Thank you again.
*grins* I'm so glad that this made your week; I'm always a little terrified when people comment on things I've written, even (especially) when what I've written is a commentary on what they've written. When I saw the comment pop up in my email alerts, my heart jumped into my throat just a little.

I was honest a little surprised that anyone read this, because it often times feels as if I'm the only one who loves Ford.

Admittedly, Ford isn't my favorite character--after "The Lost Boys," I'm not at all sure how I feel about him. But there are three stories that made me feel connected to Ford: your stories We Came to Learn the Sea and The World At Large, and rokeon's story Ignorance Is Bliss.
I was honored that you allowed me to comment on this story, because it seriously changed all of my perspective of Ford--the first time I really considered Ford's thoughts on any of what happens to the team.

Thank you.
finally catching up reading these.

you did a great job on this commentary - i've loved the story since i first read it, but part of the benefit of these commentaries is the way that they slow you down, encourage you to look at sentences and paragraphs and parse out what they mean, what they're saying. i really enjoyed this, thank you for doing it.
Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it.

part of the benefit of these commentaries is the way that they slow you down, encourage you to look at sentences and paragraphs and parse out what they mean, what they're saying.

Yes, I think that's it exactly. Because reading the commentaries that other people do, and even (especially) doing the commentary yourself, you go back and you realize what it was that made this story work for you, what changed your perceptions, what made you think/feel/question everything.

July 2010

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