Lemon Chicken

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Synonyms: Rodney McKay's Citrus Allergy
See also: Fix-it, You Big Bully, Grovelfic, Whumping
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In 2007, Lemon Chicken (also referred to as "Lemon Chicken Rating") became a Stargate: Atlantis fic trope. It was first coined in a meta essay by iibnf.


"Lemon chicken" is referenced specifically because in the series, McKay claims to be very allergic to citrus. Thus, "lemon chicken" (or other citrus-related food) is a type of food that might be served to him as a deliberate punishment, for example in the mess hall.

The description of a fanwork as "lemon chicken" is homage to this trope; story notes by a fan: "I keep trying to make the perfect lemon chicken story." [1]

"Lemon Chicken" has nothing to do with the descriptive fannish term Lemon which is a rating of sexual explicitness.


Rodney McKay makes some serious mistakes in the Stargate: Atlantis episode "Trinity" which leads to the blowing up of 5/6 of a galaxy.

This error provides much material for fanworks that explore the consequences of his actions within the episode. These fics also explore themes of forgiveness, trust, hubris and friendship, and generally feature woobieness, groveling, punishment, and Rodney McKay's difficult personality.

a screenshot from an episode ("The Pegasus Project") showing Major Lorne threatening McKay with a lemon

Stargate: Atlantis -- The Post-Trinity phenomenon

One fan, iibnf, put these two things together in a meta essay called Stargate: Atlantis -- The Post-Trinity phenomenon. In it, "Trinity"-related fanworks were recced according to their 'Lemon Chicken Rating': "How angsty it is - like, is lemon chicken actually served or does the shunning just make Rodney feel like he wants to eat it and die..."


What was Trinity? Potted for those who may not know, if that's at all possible.

Trinity was the episode of Stargate: Atlantis wherein the writers felt that McKay's genius had become too much of a dues ex machina. He could always be relied upon to pull a technobabble rabbit out of his hat and save a bad situation and they were losing tension, so he had to be made fallible.

In this episode, McKay thinks he's found a great weapon – one that the Ancients had abandoned as unusable – and that, being smarter than your average Ancient, McKay believes he can fix it and use it to defeat the wraith. Instead, things get out of hand, he insults people even more than usual, the weapon blows up, everyone escapes because of the other dues ex machina, the Daedalus, and everyone's very disappointed.

McKay apologies to everyone, and after Elizabeth chews him out (embarrassing in public), they accept his apologies. He apologises to John who gives him a 'you can earn my trust back in time' comment, Rodney looks devastated, the end.

Next episode, all is forgotten (until the episode with the Volcanoes, when John cruelly throws the whole thing in woobie Rodney's face again!), and life goes on.

But the fans don't forget, oh no!

What is a classic Post-Trinity fic?

Normally, in a classic Post-Trinity fic, John Sheppard (sometimes the entirety of Atlantis) cannot forgive Rodney for making a mistake, and proceeds to punish him, usually by shunning. A lot of shunning. Oftimes Rodney may also be served lemon chicken in the mess, his work may be sabotaged, people will be mean to him, generally his life is made more unpleasant. Poor woobie.


... [Rodney] may try to redeem himself. He may not. He might have a total breakdown, he might not. He might end up living in the heating ducts of Atlantis, scuttling about like a rat in the dry wall, he might not. Sometimes John realises what a big meanie he's being, bribes Rodney with coffee and cuddles and all is well and they make up and are friends again (blow jobs may ensue if it's a slash story). Sometimes John doesn't wise up, or he does too late, and Rodney ends up going to China to work on their Stargate Development programme. Or some sort of China-esque substitute.

The main point of these types of Post-Trinity stories is that Rodney suffers and John is mean. Actual realistic characterisation need not apply, and that's not the point! Oh, and there must be shunning. The shunning is very important.

Examples in Fics and Fan Comments

  • \o/ lemon chicken in the mess!!! written for SGA Saturday is a 2011 fic by lilyfarfalla. This story has a sly reference to "shunning," and pokes fun at The Post-Trinity Phenomenon.
  • 4/5ths of a System by Lit-Gal. "Lemon Chicken literally places a role in this story! Excellent. It's been a long time since I've seen literal lemon chicken trotted out. Also lemon eggs, and lots of oranges. Jack and Daniel from SG1 have to come to SGA and sort all this lemon chicken shit out! Notable Note: This is the first story in this trope that has a plausible explanation for why the mess hall staff would be interested in serving a lot of citrus related food as part of the shunning. Gave me a 'huh, of course' moment. Smart author. Lemon Chicken Rating: 2 out of ten. Although there is literally lemons and oranges everywhere, there's little to no actual wangst. No one calls a waaaaambulance in this." -- story description and rec from Stargate: Atlantis -- The Post-Trinity phenomenon
  • Sandstorms by Mithreon "Excellent recent addition to the genre! McKay gets eaten alive by bugs. After a lot of nasty shunning, Rodney gets taken by natives and tortured, and blames John and the others. Mostly John. This quote by perfica sums it up beautifully: It's towards the end of the fic but Rodney gives the monologue to end all monologues as he bitches out the entire command team over their treatment of him over Doranda. It's like Rodney made a big, steaming bowl of lemon chicken and forced everyone to eat it. The best bit is where Sheppard starts crying too. Lemon Chicken Rating: A solid nine out of ten. Updated to ten out of ten by popular request. Long lasting consequences, and John eats some serious crow! Huge crow pie with a side serving of crow! Delicious." -- story description and rec from Stargate: Atlantis -- The Post-Trinity phenomenon
  • "The post-Trinity phenomenon masterlist includes stories that contain multiple elements of the post-Trinity (S2ep6, a.k.a. Doranda/the Arcturus Project) phenomenon as defined by iibnf: Rodney blows up most of a solar system, gets shunned by the expedition/the mess serves lemon chicken, there is angst (usually because John is mean to Rodney), and Rodney decamps to China/the sewers of Atlantis. Stories are rated by level of Lemon Chicken (angst)..." [2]
  • Of Duty, Atonement, and Redemption by SCG Gategirl - ""The fallout from the Arcturus project might be more complicated than it seemed to be at first.""

Lemon Chicken Fic Lists


  1. story notes for Data Points by blackchaps
  2. (Newer) SGA fic readers guide / So you're becoming an SGA fic addict... (February 22, 2010)