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Morlocks: When Stargate Fan Faves David Hewlett & Robert Picardo Starred in Time-Bending Horror Flick
How two Stargate Atlantis mainstays tackled the dark side of H.G. Wells’ sci-fi story-verse.
It’s safe to say that Stargate Atlantis stars David Hewlett and Robert Picardo know a thing or two about alternating timelines. After all, as Dr. Rodney McKay and Richard Woolsey (respectively) on Atlantis and across the wider Stargate TV-verse, the pair of sci-fi fan faves spent the better part of the early 2000s dealing with what can happen when people (and maybe some alien Ancients) start messing around with the grand cosmic clock.
Passing through a portal and ending up somewhere else: It’s familiar stuff in Stargate lore, but the idea took on a whole different dimension in 2011’s Morlocks (streaming right here on SYFY), a made-for-TV SYFY original film that reunited Hewlett and Picardo for a horror-tinged and modernized movie take on H.G. Wells’ iconic science fiction story-verse. Wells introduced Morlocks — a human-descended race of simian-featured underground dwellers — in 1895’s The Time Machine, but this flick turns them into far more lethal people-stalkers than the iconic sci-fi scribe likely ever envisioned.
Morlocks: Turning two Stargate Atlantis alums against each other
More inspired by Wells’ original creature concept for Morlocks than based on it, Morlocks is a corridor-crawling tale of space soldiers terrorized by a human-derived species of fearsome beasts who stalk a devastated and depopulated Earth in the future… with a little present-tense human treachery thrown in, courtesy of Picardo’s bad-guy Army colonel character, just to keep things on this side of the timeline extra lively.
Coming after their bigger turns in the too-good-for-TV spectacle of both Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, Hewlett and Picardo are admittedly working with cheesier (and more budget-conscious) material in Morlocks, which looks and plays exactly like the kind of small-screen movie diversion that you're probably imagining: The special effects are silly, the side characters are largely one-dimensional, and the survival-horror jump scares get telegraphed to viewers eons before they ever happen.
The cheese, though, is actually what makes watching this pair of familiar science fiction faces at least a little more fun in a straight-up B-movie. The movie unsurprisingly hands its two Stargate veterans its most interesting character roles: Hewlett plays a former time-travel researcher who’s retreated to a life of selling sci-fi fantasy books after development on his original world-changing invention — a time-travel gadget called the Latch — ends in apparent failure. Picardo, meanwhile, plays Army Col. Wichita, a bossy type who helps revive the Latch project (known as “Project Eloi” in another distant nod to Wells’ fiction) for shady reasons that become murderously clear by the movie’s end.
Before going further, it’s probably a good idea to address the Morlock in the room: You can’t have a movie called “Morlocks” without showing us some Morlocks, and Morlocks has Morlocks aplenty. There are solo Morlocks, Morlocks with ravenous Birds (another of Wells’ future-creature concepts), and entire derelict buildings filled with Morlocks — whole hive-minded armies of the menacing, grey-skinned creatures, whose default state seems perpetually set to teeth-bared aggression. Aside from some back-in-the-lab banter about why they exist in the first place, we don’t get much of a Wells-worthy deep dive into their backstory in this movie… but getting the hell away from them at least gives Morlocks’ whole horror-survival angle its requisite do-or-die sense of urgency.
In the serialized Stargate story-verse, Hewlett and Picardo took part in layered, complex plot threads that could unfold at a leisurely, week by week pace (Hewlett starred in every Atlantis episode, while Picardo took Woolsey’s character from a recurring role to regular player in Season 5). In Morlocks, though, there’s no such luxury: Whatever’s gonna happen between them has to tidily transpire in about 90 minutes’ time. And once the Latch successfully opens a time rip that lets humans and Morlocks traverse timelines, well — the clock definitely starts ticking.
Morlocks wedges heavy tension between Hewlett and Picardo’s characters, fueled by the simple fact that a devoted science nerd and a brooding military boss barking orders are naturally wired not to get along from the start. We’ll save any major spoilers, but Wichita yanks Hewlett’s book-writing scientist back into lab action, the Latch gadget’s stuck in the future where Morlocks run free, and so of course an expedition gets sent through the time rip to retrieve it — even as Wichita withholds from the team members his own highly personal stake in watching it all unfold.
As the expedition uncovers some astounding truths about what lies on the other side of the time rip, things deteriorate badly in the present tense under Wichita’s single-minded project leadership. The tattered team does retrieve the gadget and eventually tumbles back through the portal, but by then it’s clear that Wichita has strayed too far off course to last long enough to see how the revived Latch project might change humanity’s future. In an ironic twist, though, it’s probably not the one that the ill-fated fella thought he was looking for.
Catch Hewlett and Picardo in Morlocks, streaming on SYFY here.