This article is about the episode. For the shrine, see Shrine of Talus.

Gallery Episode Transcript

"The Shrine" is the sixth episode of the fifth season of Stargate: Atlantis. It is also the 300th produced episode in the Stargate franchise.


Dr. Rodney McKay is infected with the Pegasus equivalent of Alzheimer's disease, known as Second Childhood, a common illness among the elderly in the galaxy. The only way to save him is a shrine on Talus. The downside is that it has turned into a heavily guarded Wraith outpost.


McKay's recording on Day 15.

Dr. Jennifer Keller is recording Dr. Rodney McKay, who was infected by and has the symptoms of a mysterious disease, known as Second Childhood. It is day 15, and he has already forgotten nearly all of his memories, barely remembering his own name. He calls himself "Mr." McKay, not "Dr." since he points out that the title of Doctor is for smart people, and he is not smart any more, though he was the "smartest person ever". After a while, the recording is paused. Keller and Richard Woolsey show this to Jeannie Miller, McKay's sister. They tell her that due to the advanced stage of the disease, the Daedalus had to drop her off the first planet they passed when entering the galaxy so Jeannie can dial Atlantis. She tells them that he couldn't have advanced that far, since he was fine just two weeks ago, though more polite than ever. They then tell her that this is the opportunity to say goodbye to him, because they have done all they can to prevent this, but he is going to die in two days, at most.

While the team prepares McKay's room for Jeannie to come and see him, she wonders how this happened. Keller tells her that they believed that he picked up the disease while on a mission. In a flashback, around three weeks previously, Woolsey calls Lt. Colonel John Sheppard's team to find Dr. Nichols team and his team, who are, as Woolsey points out "an hour and fifteen minutes late". They gate into M44-5Y9. Once they stepped through, Woolsey plans to have breakfast, and will return in 20 minutes, which he believes is enough time for the team to get back. However, the second he walks down the stairs, the Stargate unexpectedly activates. They read no IDC, but gets radio confirmation that it's Sheppard. They tell them not to drop the shield, as the gate is almost submerged with water and the team are soaked and cold. The whole team are on the top of the Gate, which isn't flooded. Since the water tries to make it through the Gate, they have to wait for the full thirty-eight minutes for the Gate to shut down. After that, Woolsey can send a Puddle Jumper.

Sheppard's team on top of the submerged Stargate.

On top of the almost submerged Stargate, McKay reckons that Nichols' team are dead, since M44-5Y9 is suffering from the effects of global warming, and that their base was situated right next to a melting glacier, which breached, causing massive flooding all over the valley. McKay then starts to run a fever and has to wait until the Jumper can dial in. When the Jumper arrives, they were sent back to Atlantis to check up on McKay, where he hasn't run a fever. They believe that he has returned to his old self again, not realizing that his symptoms have started.

Back in the present, Keller tells Jeannie it is okay to see him. She enters the room, with no idea what to say. McKay, in his childlike state recognizes Jeannie, stating she is his sister, and also knows his real first name is Meredith, but hears he didn't like it, because it is a girl's name. After a minute, Jeannie suddenly has to leave, because she couldn't bear seeing him like this, as he seemed normal two weeks ago, being kinder than he usually was, and now he's gone. Ronon Dex comforts her when she leaves. She says she wants to say goodbye, but it's like he's already gone. Ronon tells her that there is a place they could take Rodney where he could have one more day as himself before he died, and Jeannie could say a real goodbye, but it is very dangerous to go there now. However, he is willing to take the risk if she is willing.

McKay offers Keller his fruit cup.

On day six of the recordings, McKay starts to tell Keller everything he knows in front of the camera. However, he realizes that a lot of his memories have already deteriorated. He then wants to tell Keller something. However, as he was about to confess something, Jennifer is watching, and is interrupted by Jeannie. Jeannie wants to know how it started, since Ronon told her that he is suffering from Second Childhood. Keller explains that she missed the first symptoms, which turned out to being McKay as more polite than ever, by offering her his fruit cup. Sharing food isn't something McKay is known for. The disease is very similar to Alzheimer's disease, but has a different process. It's common among the very old in the Pegasus Galaxy. They think Rodney must have had a weakened system from an illness when the team was trapped in the icy water. A parasite went into McKay's brain. Originally too small to be noticed by sensors. However, it rapidly grew until McKay starts forgetting his memories, in which case the parasite grows in such a way, that it would be impossible to surgically remove it. Jeannie tells her that Ronon says he know a way to give Rodney one more day as himself. However, Keller already knew about the option, but decides not to risk it.

In another flashback, the team discusses Ronon's idea. There is a shrine on a planet named Talus, and Ronon witnessed the effects of it first hand. When he was six years old, his grandfather, the man who taught Ronon to track and hunt, went with him to the shrine of Talus. One minute, his grandfather was suffering with Second Childhood, the next, he reverted to his normal self. They spent the day together before his grandfather died a quick, honorable death. The shrine is also known by the Athosians. However, the downside is that the planet is a heavily defended Wraith outpost since the war with the Asurans. They decide to tell McKay of the plan, against Keller's wishes. They neglected to tell McKay about the Wraith. Since Keller is to look after McKay, she tells them that it is a very bad idea. Keller wants to use every minute McKay has left to try to find a treatment. She believes the cellular damage could be reversed if she could just find a way to remove the parasite.

At the end, Jeannie wants to take McKay to the shrine, despite the danger. She points out to Keller that as McKay's next of kin, the decision of McKay's fate ultimately rests with her. She is taking him to Talus. Keller has had 3 weeks without making progress, so if they stay it's likely he only has two more days and then he'll die. Instead he can have one day as his old self.

Meanwhile, on the first day of recording, they create the log to see how the Second Childhood is progressing. On the first day, McKay knows everything, including his name, position, the city, the Pegasus galaxy, and Pi to twelve decimal places.

The Puddle Jumper exits the valley.

Back in the present, the team of Jeannie, McKay, Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon and Keller ready in a Jumper, as the gate is dialed to Talus. The MALP reads two Hive ships on a valley, firing at the probe. They release the smoke screen, to allow the Jumper time to cloak. After arriving on the planet, it will take a few minutes. In the meantime, Sheppard gets another flashback of the first few days after McKay's diagnosis.

Sheppard and McKay having a guys night out.

In the middle of the night, McKay runs to Sheppard's quarters, as Ronon left him alone when he was sleeping. He woke up and ran to Sheppard, since he has never been so scared, fearing that the next time he wakes, he could lose all of his memories. Sheppard says that they can go out, since it is a nice night to go out on the edge of a pier, and drink lots of Beer. On the pier, McKay admits that he is scared to lose his memories, and that Keller said that the memory loss will go faster soon. He then wants to have what time he has left to say goodbye. However, Sheppard refuses, saying there is still time. McKay then finishes off by joking about his condition, stating "You're a good friend, Arthur". They both look at each other, then burst into laughter.

In the present, the team arrives at the shrine, which is hidden behind a waterfall. When they enter the shrine, Keller reads some strange, faint energy readings. McKay feels uncomfortable, and wants to go back. They discover radiation, which makes McKay cry out in pain. However, he suddenly changes. He has returned to normal. He wonders what is happening.

in flashback, On day 10 of the recordings, a frustrated McKay attempts to remember his work, but is angered by not remembering. He also remembers his parents, and can hear words they told him, but doesn't know what they are.

McKay became himself in a cave

Back in the present, the team explains the situation to McKay, but he doesn't approve of returning to normal, only to die in a day. After he straightens up, he starts working and notes that the radiation is unlike anything he has seen before. Keller is then struck on an idea, and takes McKay back outside the cave. There, McKay cries in pain again, and they quickly send him back inside. Keller's theory works; she believes that the radiation can apparently shrink the parasite enough for it to protect itself. After about a day, the radiation makes the sufferers ill, and the second they walk out, the parasite will grow in such a way that it can kill the sufferer very quickly. however, the parasite may stay shrunk long enough for Keller to be able to operate on McKay. However, Keller has no equipment. She wants to radio to Atlantis for medical equipment, but Sheppard says the Wraith would detect the transmission. They are forced to improvise by using tools like a power drill and a Life signs detector from the Jumper.

The parasite attempts to leave McKay's brain.

In flashback On day 18 of the recordings, McKay, who now barely remembers anything, says goodbye to everyone, Jeannie, Teyla, Ronon, and John, before saying goodbye to Keller.

Back in the present, they perform the operation. Keller gives McKay enough anesthetic to knock him out, while they drill into his skull. However, they discover that the parasite is moving around. Keller realizes it is trying to escape the radiation, by trying to exit McKay's head. She tells Ronon to get his gun ready. When the parasite exits the wound, she grabs it with tweezers and throws it on the ground. Ronon shoots it, destroying the parasite, and blowing a hole in the cave floor in the process. (Sheppard opines he could've just stepped on it, but Ronon reminds him he was just following instructions.) Ronon tells Keller she did well, and she says he did, too. McKay is cured.


Back in Atlantis, McKay is in the infirmary, sleeping, with Jeannie and Keller next to him. Jeannie wonders when he will wake up, as he has been sleeping for some time. After they talk for a bit, McKay finally wakes up, and can remember everything. He then feels peckish, and wants some food. Keller goes to get some, while Jeannie sits next to her brother again. Keller, however, steps into a private room to play the recording of day six; the one McKay was about to tell Keller something, before he loses that memory. He tells her that he loves her, and has for some time. As she watches it, the memory puts a smile on her face.


Appearances for The Shrine





Sentient Species




Notable quotes

Woolsey: Amelia, I think I'm gonna risk heading down to breakfast before they check in. I just mean that it will probably take them some time to get to the camp, and then more time for Nichols to get back to the Gate and report. There's really no point in my telling you this.
Banks: Not really, sir.

McKay: Where -- where'd John go?
Keller: He just had to go away for a few minutes. He'll be right ...
McKay: (calling out) John!
Keller: Rodney. Rodney, I'm your friend. I'm right here.

Ronon: I thought you didn't believe.
Keller: Is that a prerequisite?

(Sheppard and McKay sit on the pier drinking beer)
McKay: You're a good friend, Arthur.
(Sheppard looks round at him. Rodney turns his head and looks back at him. They hold each others gaze for a moment, then start to laugh.)

McKay: What is this place?
Ronon: It's the Shrine of Talus.
McKay: That means nothing to me.
Ronon: It's a planet of the Ancestors. We brought you here.
McKay: Thank you, Mr. Information! Look, since when did he become Ronon the Explainer? And why am I not in the Infirmary, huh? What, am I better?! (realizes quickly) I am better!

Teyla: It is the gift of the Shrine, and from all of us who risked great danger to bring you here. One last chance to be with those you love.
McKay: And then what? (with no answer, he realises the answer) I die?!
Ronon: With honor.
Teyla: And dignity.
McKay: Yeah, well, screw that! I'll just stay here!

McKay: D'you have some kind of itinerary planned?
Sheppard: Well, actually, we're gonna have a big feast first.
McKay: Last supper, huh?
Sheppard: Well, it suits your Messiah complex.
McKay: True.

McKay: Absolutely Not!
Jeanie: We're talking about saving your life.
McKay: Look, my brain is not some new deck of the back of your house.
Sheppard: I'm not the one doing the surgery.
McKay: (to Keller) Yeah, and as my parting advice, you need to stop letting these guys talk you into doing stupid things.

Jeanie: And I'm fairly sure I can modify the life signs detector.
McKay: Yeah, with my help.
Jeanie: So help.

McKay: Look, this isn't one of those PBS brain surgeries where my skull is wide open and we're having a conversation...
Keller: I have enough anesthetic to put you out, you're not going to feel a thing.
McKay: Yeah, it's probably a hammer.

McKay: You have thrown an awful lot at me all at once.
Ronon: That's life.

Keller: Why don't you go and get some sleep? I'm gonna be here all night.
Jeanie: No, it's OK. I'd like to be here when he wakes up.
Keller: Well, it could be a while. He does love to sleep, our Rodney!

(On day six of the recordings)
McKay: Jennifer, there's something I wanted to, while I remember, while I still can. There's something I wanted to say before...
Keller: (From behind the camera) Go ahead.
McKay: I, I, I love you. I've loved you for some time now. (pauses briefly) OK. Where was I?
(Watching the recording, Keller smiles at the memory)


Main Characters

Guest Stars


  • This episode had to be renamed from "The Shrine of Talus" to simply "The Shrine", due to legal clearance issues.
  • The events of this episode take place over a period of eighteen days.
  • Although it is never mentioned on screen during the series, it is not possible for a Puddle Jumper to enter the Stargate while cloaked, which is why Sheppard used his Smoke screen technique. The Puddle Jumper console contains a warning in Ancient that translates to "Never Attempt Gate Reentry When In Cloak Mode."
  • The plot of this episode bears similarities to the critically acclaimed short story Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes (see Notes on the page for "Tao of Rodney", which also bears similarity to another plot element from Flowers for Algernon, for more details).
  • When Teyla expresses concern for Dr. Nichols and his team, the shot cuts to a partial underwater view and a black, roughly star-shaped object can be seen moving through the water.  This somewhat resembles the parasite infecting Rodney when it's removed from his brain.
  • When McKay and Keller discuss him buying her one drink, this is a reference to the events at the end of "Trio".
  • When McKay is going to tell Keller that he loves her - in the first scene (when Jean Miller enters) the clock shows DAY 06 21:16, and at the end of the episode its shows DAY 06 22:14, and if you watch McKay close, you will see that his behavior is a little different, almost identical, but not quite. This fits with what McKay told Sheppard about his conditioning worsening by the hour.
  • McKay's situation is very similar to that of Katie Russell (Owen Harper's fiancée) in the Torchwood story Fragments. Katie's brain became infected with a neural parasite that caused massive memory loss, resulting in doctors diagnosing her with Alzheimer's disease.
  • David Nykl was credited as Dr. Radek Zelenka. However, all of his scenes were removed from the final cut. One of those scenes concerns an argument between him and McKay regarding the ninth chevron, which he believed could send travelers to the other side of the universe. McKay quickly rebuffs his theory. In the television cut, he only has a small, non-speaking cameo, passing the team in Stargate Operations.


  • When Dr. Rodney McKay both enters and starts to leave the radiation field, he reacts as if in pain as the parasite withdraws and re-expands in his brain. The human brain does not have pain receptor nerves in it, however, which is why some brain surgeries can be performed while the patient is still conscious. The fact that some brain surgeries are performed while the patient is conscious is even referenced in the episode as McKay doesn't want to be awake while Dr. Jennifer Keller is operating on him. There is a possibility that the reaction is to chaotic sensory input or an influx of memories or hallucinations that could be a result of the parasite moving around in the brain.
  • In this episode, it is implied that a partially submerged Stargate would allow water to pass through. It was previously theorized in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Watergate" that the gate could distinguish between pressure from natural sources (water, air, lava, etc.) and something intentionally trying to pass through the gate, like a person.


  • Nominated Leo for "Best Cinematography in a Dramatic Series" (Jim Menard)
  • Nominated Leo for "Best Picture Editing in a Dramatic Series" (Brad Rines)
  • Nominated Leo for "Best Screenwriting in a Dramatic Series" (Brad Wright)
  • Nominated Leo for "Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series" (David Hewlett)

Other languages

  • Hungarian: A szentély (The Sanctuary)
  • German: Der Schrein (The Shrine)
  • French: Seconde enfance (Second childhood)

External links

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