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Title: Transcendental
Author(s): astolat
Date(s): March 04, 2005 (fic), August 23, 2008 (podfic)
Length: 45,700 words (fic), 4:27:02 hours (podfic)
Genre: slash, McKay/Sheppard, action/adventure
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
External Links: story announcement post on LJ, Transcendental (Intimations)
Transcendental (AO3)
Transcendental (Audiofic Archive, podfic
cover art by slodwick

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Transcendental is an influential early Stargate Atlantis McKay/Sheppard story by astolat.

Author's Summary

tran•scen•den•tal (trăn'sĕn-dĕn'tl)
1. Philosophy. Concerned with the a priori or intuitive basis of knowledge as independent of experience.
2. Surpassing all others; superior.
3. Beyond common thought or experience.
4. Mathematics. Of or relating to a real or complex number that is not the root of any polynomial that has positive degree and rational coefficients.


In the fic, the Genii manage to booby-trap Atlantis so that expedition leader Elizabeth Weir is poison-gassed. Members of the expedition put her in one of the Ancient stasis chambers to prevent her death, and Rodney McKay takes over command of the Atlantis expedition.

Some of his leadership tactics are ethically dubious (Teyla tries to take him to task for some of them), but they are effective in reducing the threat from both the Genii and the Wraith while Elizabeth is indisposed. The story also features a smart, mathy John Sheppard.

Although the story is a favorite with many readers (it was voted "Best Overall SGA Story" in the Stargate Fan Awards 2005), other readers thought the portrayal of Rodney and John was OOC, or felt the story would have worked better as a gen fic. This story was also felt by some fans to represent a radical departure from the fandom norm of Rodney's characterization at the time.


A podfic of the story, read by general_jinjur, was created in 2008 and is hosted at the Audiofic Archive.

Recs and Reviews

Unknown Date

Ooh, *plot*. Rodney in command. It's *plot*. I love plot. I do. And fully-fleshed, fully realized plot is even better. Very, very well-written. And some hot John/Rodney. [1]


Why this must be read: Shalott is a wonderful writer. This fic is wonderfully long and complex. We see a stronger Rodney, but still vulnerable and snarky. Lots of team and, of course, Sheppard. A very entertaining fic. [2]
Supurb fic. stayed up waaaaaaaaaay late to finish it. :) [3]
Delicious techy plotty politicky sexy long story. There's also a power/authority struggle entirely interwoven with the plot and the sex and the relationship which heightens the fabulousness of pretty much everything. A must-read, and the story that hooked me on the fandom. [4]


Transcendental made me actively angry. [5]
2/5 - Did not finish [...] I just...need some sort of clue. And it kind of makes me afraid that it's going to be some sort of "aliens made them do it" plot, as I've heard that's really popular in this fandom. I read on with great hesitation. ^_^;; [...] it's time to cut my losses. I shall never know if aliens made them do it or if it was just bad writing. :p Either way, I'm bound to be disappointed. [6]


"Transcendental" - i love that story, but I have to always read it as first season, before teh characters were more fleshed out, because reading it even against canon as of the end of season one, everyone is completely out of character, dramatically so. [7]
This is an old classic, especially in terms of Rodney's characterization. When Elizabeth is injured, the leadership of Atlantis falls to the next person in line, Rodney McKay. Rodney would make a terrible leader, you're thinking? Well, yes. But maybe not. [8]
Up until that point, characterizations of Rodney portrayed his character flaws as adorable quirks. Those who didn't find him so adorable were bad guys within the story like Bates, Kolya, Lorne, Kavanagh. The good guys, John in particular, understood him and rolled with it. "Transcendental" was viewed as an attack on Rodney by an author. Given power, Rodney became autocratic and machiavellian in consolidating it. It was not cute anymore. He and John became like kids with big guns and shaky ethics, and could have potentially done a lot of damage until Elizabeth took their toys away (unexpectedly foreshadowing "The Game"). While "Transcendental" makes sense now, at the time Rodney was... too much of a bad guy, and too successful at it as well. A little like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow man being selected as the world's destroyer (I'm sorry, I had to say it). Am I even close?" [9]

Oddly enough someone recently commented on an old comment of mine on this topic which reminded me of what I'd said way back when.

These were my objections:

I found her portrayal of Rodney completely OOC, and her distortion of Rodney distorted the characters around him, especially John.

This Rodney reminded me of Saint Daniel and Spider Methos, an aggrandizement and glorification of the character that was both needless and detrimental to the story. Here are some specifics, although I didn't finish it.

Opening bit with Shep and meetings--I loved this.

Rodney's brilliant saving of Weir--okay. He is brilliant; he does think on his feet.

Zelenka and Kavanaugh fighting with John about continuing their experiments-- not terribly believable. Kavanaugh is a coward who thinks of his own safety first, as we saw in 38 Minutes. I'm more inclined to see him arguing for more stringent security measures. Zelenka would express his concerns in a clear and respectful manner and then abide by John's decision. I can't picture either of them arguing that Rodney should be in charge. A bomb had just gone off inside Altantis. They're all going to be shaken up and in situation I can't imagine many people arguing that Rodney is the person to put in charge.'

Rodney being arrogant and dismissive with the military staff was the biggest sticking point for me. Rodney is arrogant and dismissive with people he doesn't respect. However, he respects John. At no point in canon does he question John's military decisions, particularly in the field. He doesn't hesitate to state his opinions, but he always abides by what John decides. Remember, this is the man who had to be told to reload his gun in "The Defiant One." Now, he's an expert in military strategy?

Yes, Rodney is brilliant, but no one can be an expert in everything. Even Einstein was bad at math.

At first I was really enjoying the scene where Rodney locked John in the office with him. Then it went overboard. I can imagine Rodney having several projects that he's working on in his spare time, but when we got to the x-wing my suspension of disbelief evaporated. I liked John's enjoyment of solving the puzzle of the lock, though, because that resonated with what I've seen on screen. However, when there turned out to be a hardware lock as well as a software lock, I felt that a good idea had been taken too far, again.

The sex came out of nowhere, was abrupt and difficult for me to believe.

I agree with carolyn_claire, that it felt like agenda fic, although to me the agenda appeared to be 'let's get Weir out of the way and show how much better Atlantis would be if Rodney ran it.' I have problems with that beyond my fondness for Weir. Primarily because on top of Rodney being an expert on any and all kinds of science and engineering as well as military strategy, he was now an ace administrator.

This despite the fact that we've never seen Rodney express any interest in running Atlantis or any criticism of Weir's leadership.

My problem with the story isn't that Rodney wasn't soft and fuzzy and likable. It's that placing him in the role of superhero dehumanized him. I like my Rodney arrogant and pissy, generous and funny, imaginative and neurotic, and sometimes thoroughly unlikable. This story didn't have my Rodney in it.

It wasn't that Rodney wasn't soft and fuzzy; it was that the sudden heroism distorted him, and the characters around him, especially John. Don't even get me started on the idea of Rodney throwing John in the brig, or John saluting him. [10]


the one where rodney is in charge and life is immediately 10,000xhotter. I LOVE THIS FIC. :((" [11]


  1. ^ SGA McShep recs page by seperis, date unknown (Accessed 14 May 2011).
  2. ^ rec by KarenDreamer at Crack Van, June 2005
  3. ^ comment by calijirl5150 at Crack Van, June 2005
  4. ^ Shiny New Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis recs by norah, 10 April 2005 (Accessed 14 May 2011).
  5. ^ 2006-3-21 comment by thepouncer on thecuttingboard post Quality vs. popularity in fiction by summerfling
  6. ^ Fic reviews by kanata, 12 March 2006. (Accessed 14 May 2011).
  7. ^ comment by seperis at her post the birth of the squick (which also includes many other comments on Transcendental), 3 February 2007. (Accessed 14 May 2011).
  8. ^ from Merelyn at Massive SGA Recs Set, posted to livejournal July 25, 2007
  9. ^ SGA 2005: The year that started it all., comment by icarus, July 8, 2007
  10. ^ SGA 2005: The year that started it all., comment by mmmchelle, July 8, 2007
  11. ^ delicious tag/rec by bookshop, 8 June 2008, (Accessed 14 May 2011).