- 1 Summary
- 2 Stargate References
- 3 The New War Against the Wraith
- 4 Wraith Starships
- 5 Notable Characters
- 6 Alliances
- 7 Enemies
- 8 Episodes
- 9 Related Articles
- 10 Principal Actors
The Wraith are an alien race encountered by the Atlantis Expedition Team when they went on their first off-world mission in search of a power source for the city-ship Atlantis in the Pegasus Galaxy. They were introduced in the series premiere of Stargate Atlantis, "Rising".
Origin, Physiology, and Development
When the Ancients arrived in the Pegasus Galaxy, they had just left the Milky Way after creating a second generation of humanity after a plague swept through and devastated their advanced human population. This event happened five to ten million years ago. A holographic recording made by an Atlantian Ancient from 10,000 years ago said that the Ancients had settled in Pegasus "in the hope of spreading new life in a galaxy where there appeared to be none." (Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 1")
The story goes on to reveal that the human worlds prospered thereafter. The Ancients stayed in the galaxy hoping to exchange friendship and knowledge with these new societies. During these millions of years, however, another new life form was also evolving: the Wraith. The evolution of the Wraith was the result of the Ancients' having introduced humanity to the galaxy, so, basically, the Wraith were accidentally created by the Ancients. An insect-arachnid type of "bug" called the Iratus Bug fed on humans and the DNA from both species began to blend. The Wraith, as a result of this blending of genetic material, are humanoids who still require humans as a food source. They use sucker-like organs in the palms of their right hands to drain a human of his life force, leaving behind a shell of a body that appears to have been aged and dried out completely. (Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 1", 1.02 "Rising Part 2", 1.04 "Thirty-Eight Minutes", 2.07 "Instinct")
The Wraith have genetic tendencies from both the Iratus Bug and Humanity. Their external appearance is very human-like, and their young eat food just like a normal human. However, after reaching a certain age, perhaps near puberty, the ingestion of normal food stuffs no longer provides the nutrition a Wraith needs as the Iratus tendencies become more dominant. They must suck the life from a human in order to survive. The actual act of feeding on a human provides the Wraith with an incredible sense of pleasure and satisfaction as it is replenished. As a Wraith feeds on a human, it injects an enzyme from a sack in its feeding arm that increases the victim's strength, thus giving the Wraith greater satisfaction with the feeding. Some Wraith have actually made humans who demonstrate a strong will to live on their own into prey in a ritual hunt. These human prey, called "runners", are hunted down with the use of tracking devices and once caught, give the hunting Wraith extreme gratification and a big ego boost when fed upon. (Stargate Atlantis: 1.07 "Poisoning the Well", 2.03 "Runner", 2.05 "Condemned", 2.07 "Instinct")
Wraith have also inherited strong regenerative powers from their Iratus ancestors. Each individual can live for thousands of years if it hibernates and feeds regularly. The Wraith Queen who led in the siege on Atlantis during the war with the Ancients 10,000 years ago survived her ship's crash by feeding on her crew and hibernating. Another Wraith survived the crash of his cargo ship that carried human food during the war by feeding on the cargo and his fellow crewmates. A Wraith's strength and regenerative capabilities are directly proportional to the amount of feeding he has recently done. Conventional weapons have very little effect on a Wraith that has recently fed. If a Wraith, however, is weakened with hunger, he can be taken down with several bullets. (Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 1", 1.02 "Rising Part 2", 1.12 "The Defiant One", 3.18 "Submersion")
Because they are a hive-based race, the Wraith have telepathic links with each other. They also have the ability to connect with human minds for interrogation, as well as to fool them with false phantom-like images. These phantom-like images are most likely how the name "Wraith" was applied to the species, since a wraith is, by definition, a "visible spirit". (Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 1")
Not much is known about Wraith reproduction, but their society is very insect-like: They live in "hives" and have a queen as their leader. She produces the genetic material necessary to continue their race, which grow in large cocoon-like structures. There are three types of Wraith, similar to there being three types of bees that live in a hive: one queen, soldier drones (which appear to be male), and male leaders. The soldier drones never speak and wear bony masks to hide their grotesque faces. The male leaders are highly intelligent and are the ones who pilot the hive ships, plan strategies, conduct scientific research, and engineer advanced technologies. Their allegiance is to the queen of their hive, but there have been some instances when a hive functions under a male leader when there is no queen. (Stargate Atlantis: 3.04 "Sateda", 4.11 "Be All My Sins Remember'd Part 2", 4.12 "Spoils of War")
In addition to the insect-like society of the Iratus Bug, the Wraith have inherited arachnid-like tendencies. The Iratus Bug is very similar to a tick or a spider that attaches itself to its prey and sucks the life right out of it. The Iratus also spins webs into which it entraps its prey and keeps that prey sedated and alive by wrapping it in a cocoon for later feeding. The Wraith have similar tendencies through the life-sucking organ in their feeding arms, the injection of the enzyme in preparing the meal, and the wrapping of humans in cocoon-like structures for later feeding. The Wraith have also developed stunning weapons that paralyze their victims, but they remain awake and aware, thus giving the Wraith the maximum sustenance that a resisting human has to offer. A human can be fed upon multiple times before dying as long as there is a minimum of three hours between the Wraith's "snacks". A human's life, however, can be extinguished in less than a minute if a Wraith so chooses. And remarkably, if the Wraith so chooses, the human's life can be returned to him. The "gift of life", the giving of life back to one who has been fed upon, is usually reserved for Wraith worshippers or Wraith brethren, but it has also been used as a form of torture, including the act of repeated take-and-give in converting a human into a worshipper. A human who is given his life back by a Wraith feels pleasure as his life is being restored and develops an addiction to the enzyme. Only the strongest of humans are converted through this method (also referred to as "reverse feeding") as the process usually proves fatal for the weak. Withdrawal from the enzyme that is injected into the human's system is incredibly painful, but it is possible to break the Wraith's control. (Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 1", 1.02 "Rising Part 2", 1.04 "Thirty-Eight Minutes", 1.07 "Poisoning the Well", 3.07 "Common Ground", 4.03 "Reunion", 4.05 "Travelers", 5.03 "Broken Ties")
The Wraith inherited the intelligence and agility of their human ancestors. They derived their language from the Ancients' own language and their technology is extremely advanced, but has some limitations, the primary weakness being that they don't have intergalactic hyperdrive technology. Their technology is organically-based, which also contributes to its weaknesses, but at the same time allows their starships to repair or regenerate themselves. It was discovered that the Wraith build their hive ships by exposing a human to a pathogen, using the human's mind and body as the base components of the hive's core systems. The human's body is completely overtaken by the hive's growth, but if caught early enough, a phage developed by Dr. Carson Beckett's clone kills the infection and restores the human to his/her pre-infected condition without any apparent side effects. (Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 2", 1.18 "The Gift", 5.02 "The Seed")
The Ancient-Wraith War
The Ancient hologram that greeted the Expedition upon their arrival 10,000 years after the Ancients left Atlantis told of why the Wraith won the war: "Then one day our people stepped foot upon a dark world where a terrible enemy slept. Never before had we encountered beings with powers that rivaled our own. In our over-confidence, we were unprepared and outnumbered. The enemy fed upon defenseless human worlds like a great scourge until finally only Atlantis remained." (Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 1")
During the hundred-year war with the Wraith, the Ancients sent their heavily-armed Aurora-class starships deep into the Wraith's territory. Three of these ships were captured by the Wraith and their Zero Point Modules (ZPMs) were used to power a cloning facility where the Wraith produced an extraordinarily large army of their drones (masked soldiers). The Wraith's ability to clone their soldiers is another indication of their advanced technology, but this advancement had a major drawback: they had to find more worlds on which to feed to satisfy their greater numbers. Since they had taken all of the human worlds of Pegasus, they needed to find another galaxy, but they couldn't get there in their hive ships (no intergalactic hyperdrives meant that they had to stop periodically to regenerate and to feed, but there are no planets in the vast void between galaxies). The Wraith besieged Atlantis because it had the only Stargate capable of dialing to another galaxy: to Earth, specifically. Atlantis also had a massive database that could provide the Wraith with the information they needed to build intergalactic hyperdrives. (10.03 "The Pegasus Project"; Stargate Atlantis: 1.02 "Rising Part 2", 1.15 "Before I Sleep", 1.18 "The Gift", 2.06 "Trinity", 3.20 "First Strike Part 1", 4.12 "Spoils of War")
Finally, the hologram told about the end of the Ancient-Wraith war: "This city's great shield was powerful enough to withstand their terrible weapons but here we were besieged for many years. In an effort to save the last of our kind, we submerged our great city into the ocean. The Atlantis Stargate was the one and only link back to Earth from this galaxy, and those who remained used it to return to that world that was once home. There, the last survivors of Atlantis lived out the remainder of their lives. This city was left to slumber, in the hope that our kind would one day return." (Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 1")
Some of the Ancients who fled to Earth became part of its primitive societies (perhaps also infusing their Ancient gene into the genome), and others secluded themselves to achieve ascension, the shedding of the physical body to live as a form of energy on a higher plane of existence as Ascended Beings. The Wraith must have determined that their final victory was when they destroyed the last of the Ancients' transports as it approached Atlantis because the city itself remained untouched after the last of the Ancients abandoned it as it sat shielded on the bottom of the ocean (on the planet known as Lantia). (10.03 "The Pegasus Project"; Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 1", 1.15 "Before I Sleep")
But even after the Ancients left Pegasus, their efforts in the war against the Wraith had not ended: There was a technological legacy that remained that caused the Wraith problems. During the war to fight off the Wraith, the Ancients developed nanites that would kill a Wraith from within. These tiny machines were programmed not to harm Ancients, but when they advanced on their own, taking on the human form of their creators, they apparently went after the Wraith by attacking their food source: human populations. It is speculated that the Asurans, as these artificial life forms came to be called, developed a nanovirus that caused brain aneurysms directly above the visual cortex in the human victims. The Ancients tried to exterminate the Asurans by bombarding their homeworld Asuras, but a few nanites remained that eventually rebuilt their society over a period of time. After the Ancients left Atlantis, the Asurans had developed enough to resume their primary programming: to go after the Wraith. A modern-day Wraith told of the story of the Asurans: "Many thousands of years ago [we deactivated the attack code]. We had defeated the Ancients — the galaxy was ours, and then these things appeared. They are an abomination. They’re not even alive. They are machines. Machines can be reprogrammed." The Wraiths' reprogramming stopped the Asurans from attacking them, but the Asuran society continued to grow and develop in isolation. (Stargate Atlantis: 1.13 "Hot Zone", 3.05 "Progeny", 4.03 "Reunion", 4.08 "The Seer")
The Arrival of the Expedition
The Ancients themselves didn't return to Atlantis as they had hoped, but their "kind" did when the Atlantis Expedition arrived 10,000 years later. Their arrival, however, caused the city-ship's power to deplete to the point that the shield began to fail. They realized that they needed to find more Zero Point Modules to power the city-ship and the Stargate to return back to Earth, so they sent out a team to a planet in the Stargate network. Their first off-world mission to the planet Athos resulted in their being captured by the Wraith during one of their "cullings". The Expedition found out later that their arrival on Athos had been detected by the Wraith when Maj. John Sheppard, a possessor of the strongest form of the Ancient gene that could activate Ancient technology, touched a pendant that was designed by the Wraith to detect Ancients. (Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 1", 1.02 "Rising Part 2", 1.05 "Suspicion")
Sheppard led a rescue mission to retrieve the captured Athosians, including their leader Teyla Emmagan who would later join Sheppard's team, and other Expedition members once they determined the Stargate address of the Wraith's retreat. They found their captured comrades inside a large facility that was full of hibernating Wraith (later discovered to have been a hive ship that had been on the planet so long that trees had grown on top of it). While they hibernate, sometimes for centuries, the Wraith are watched over by a Keeper, a female Wraith. The Keeper was in the process of torturing the military leader of the Expedition, Col. Marshall Sumner, for information on how to get to Earth when Sumner gave Sheppard permission to kill him so that the Keeper would not obtain any more information. Sheppard shot a single round into Sumner's heart while the Keeper fed on him. (Stargate Atlantis: 1.01 "Rising Part 1", 1.02 "Rising Part 2", 1.04 "Thirty-Eight Minutes")
The Keeper and Sheppard engaged in a struggle after Sumner's death, and Sheppard killed her. Before her last breath, she told him that he had awakened all of the Wraith with her death. Just like the Ancients before them, the Atlantis Expedition "set foot upon a dark world where a terrible enemy slept" and woke up all of the Wraith at once. (Stargate Atlantis: 1.02 "Rising Part 2")
The ten thousand years between these two awakenings had given the Wraith time to create a culling schedule so that not all Wraith were awake at once to feed. Only a few decades would pass before a world full of human life could be culled, giving them very little time to develop advanced weapons or other technologies to have any kind of a chance at overcoming their enemy. These civilizations chose different paths to survive, and many times, some sacrificed their own lives to appease the Wraiths' hunger. Other civilizations, such as the Genii, fought back by living two types of lives: one of a lowly agrarian society on the surface and one of a scientifically advanced military power underground. Unfortunately, some of these human societies had internal struggles of their own that meant that the society as a whole was weakened and prime for total annihilation. (Stargate Atlantis: 1.06 "Childhood's End", 1.07 "Poisoning the Well", 1.08 "Underground", 2.05 "Condemned", 3.04 "Sateda", 3.16 "The Ark", 4.18 "The Kindred Part 1")
But, with all of the Wraith awakened at once, the food supply became limited. The Wraith broke into factions led by queens, and the queens became rivals, plunging the Wraith into a civil war. They tried all types of tactics to defeat each other, sometimes forming a seeming alliance, then quickly betrayed each other. The Expedition played a major role in trying to save the human worlds being fought over, as well as Atlantis itself because of the technology it harbors. The major weaknesses of the Ancients during the first Wraith war was their arrogance and their over-confidence in their own technology, but now, the Expedition uses that same technology, plus their creative, yet crude, innovations to combat the Wraith. This war, however, has only just begun. (Stargate Atlantis: 2.11 "The Hive Part 2", 2.20 "Allies Part 1")
The New War Against the Wraith
To read more about the war between the Atlantis Expedition and the Wraith, visit the companion article: Wraith: The New War.
Michael was not accepted by his hive any longer because of his human-Wraith condition after the use of the retrovirus. He decided to side with the Expedition and prevent the hives from reaching Earth. It was his idea to use the weaponized retrovirus on one of the hive ships so that they could gain access to it. The hive queen was not affected by the retrovirus, but the 200 male Wraith were. The Expedition took these human-Wraiths to a planet without a Stargate, and Beckett continued to work on a more permanent solution to the retrovirus's effects. Not knowing what to do with Michael, they opted to force the retrovirus back on him, converting him to a human once more and placing him among the others. Michael's memories returned, and he helped his brothers regain control and summon a Wraith hive ship to their rescue. Sheppard ordered that the human-Wraiths be killed, but their weapons fire upon the encampment was interrupted when their confiscated hive ship was destroyed by the other hive ship that answered Michael's call. Sheppard's team escaped in a cloaked puddle jumper and were later rescued by the Daedalus. (Stargate Atlantis: 2.20 "Allies Part 1", 3.01 "No Man's Land Part 2", 3.02 "Misbegotten Part 3")
During the time that Dr. Beckett was alone with Michael and his fellow Wraith, Michael obtained the genetic material needed to produce a clone of Beckett who could provide the scientific knowledge to help Michael create a new type of Wraith hybrid. Michael's first generation of these hybrids were grown in pods and were bipedal seven-foot-tall "bugs". After nearly two years in his research, however, Michael created his hybrids by injecting a refinement of the retrovirus into humans. Michael had applied this genetic manipulation on himself, eliminating his need to feed, the trait that Michael felt was the Wraith's greatest weakness. His experimentations weren't final, however, and he captured all of the Athosians from their new homeworld to experiment upon, including Teyla's lover Kanaan, whom he converted into one of his hybrids. When Michael discovered that Teyla was expecting a child by Kanaan, he kidnapped her as well, hoping that the child of two humans with "the gift" (traces of Wraith DNA) would give him the last bit of information he needed to make his research complete. While Teyla's team searched for her, they rescued the surviving Athosians and the Beckett clone, but just missed rescuing Teyla as she was taken by Michael off of the planet in his cruiser. (Stargate Atlantis': 3.19 "Vengeance", 4.07 "Missing", 4.18 "The Kindred Part 1", 4.19 "The Kindred Part 2", 4.20 "The Last Man Part 1")
Another product of Michael's access to Beckett's knowledge was the existence of the Hoffan drug that would render a human immune to a Wraith's feeding process and, in turn, poison the Wraith to death. Originally, the Hoffan drug killed 50% of the humans who took it, but Michael's refined version brought the survival rate to 70%. Michael's plan for galactic domination included the elimination of the Wraith by tainting their food supply and then converting the strongest of the surviving human population into this new hybrid race. Teyla's child was the key to whether or not he'd succeed. Fortunately, Sheppard's team was able to rescue Teyla before Michael could use her child for nefarious purposes. The Daedalus destroyed Michael's cruiser, and he was presumed dead, but rumors started to surface that he had survived the destruction, perhaps even taking one of the Expedition's Puddle Jumpers to make his escape. (Stargate Atlantis: 4.18 "The Kindred Part 1", 4.19 "The Kindred Part 2", 4.20 "The Last Man Part 1", 5.01 "Search and Rescue Part 2", 5.02 "The Seed")
Michael's complete knowledge database, however, was recovered by the Expedition, and using this database, the Expedition was able to save Beckett's clone, who was genetically-engineered by Michael to depend upon a weekly injection to keep him alive. The Expedition had to place the dying clone into an Ancient stasis chamber until a cure could be found. With Michael's research, the Expedition developed a cure, and the clone was removed from stasis and sent home to Earth to recuperate. (Stargate Atlantis: 4.19 "The Kindred Part 2", 5.01 "Search and Rescue Part 2", 5.02 "The Seed")
"Todd", as Sheppard later nicknamed him, contacted Sheppard about a year later to ask for the Expedition's help in ridding the galaxy of the Asurans, the human form Replicators. Todd worked with Dr. Rodney McKay to reprogram the Asurans to break off their attack of both human and Wraith populations (the Asurans were attacking human populations in order to rid the Wraith of their food source). The two worked for long hours side-by-side, but Todd was mostly held in restraints and confined. In a related research effort, McKay was working on the code for the nanites that were in Dr. Elizabeth Weir that he had reactivated to heal her of her massive head injury she sustained when the Asurans attacked Atlantis. McKay wanted to program the nanites to repair the damaged tissue rather than replace it, but he was having difficulty with the coding, so he asked his sister Jeanie Miller to help. Her helping him resulted in both being kidnapped by Henry Wallace who needed help with the coding of Earth-made nanites based on the same technology that he had injected into his dying daughter. Neither McKay nor his sister could readily come up with the code, and Wallace, out of desperation, injected Miller with the nanites to push them toward a solution. Wallace's daughter became a vegetable when the nanites went further in their programming than necessary, and they knew that Miller would be next if a solution couldn't be found. McKay asked that Todd be brought in to help with the coding, and Todd reluctantly agreed because he thought it would be one step closer in finding a way to shut down the Asurans. Todd, however, was hindered by his weakness from hunger, and Wallace volunteered to be his next meal after Sheppard explained the Wallace's daughter had died and that Miller would be next unless the Wraith survived to complete the programming. With Wallace's sacrifice, Miller was saved, but McKay and Todd weren't able to adapt the code to the Asuran's programming. (Stargate Atlantis: 4.08 "The Seer", 4.09 "Miller's Crossing", 4.11 "Be All My Sins Remember'd Part 2")
Eventually, Todd managed to help the Expedition to destroy the Asuran homeworld by bringing in a fleet of hive ships to keep the Asurans' ships busy while McKay activated his new program to get the Replicators to all gather in one place. The planet was blown apart, and the Asuran were finally defeated. Todd and the rest of the Wraith went their separate ways after the battle. (Stargate Atlantis: 4.11 "Be All My Sins Remember'd Part 2")
During the battle over Asuras, Todd sent some of his soldiers to retrieve three ZPMs, which he planned to use to power a cloning facility so that he could create his own army. He was betrayed by one of his lieutenants, but was rescued by Sheppard. Together, they destroyed the cloning facility, including the ZPMs. Later, Todd asked for help in coming up with a cure for his hive that were dying because of Michael's release of the modified Hoffan drug. The two negotiated a trade wherein Sheppard gave Todd the research behind the development of the drug while Todd provided intelligence from among the Wraith worshippers that there was a member of the Expedition being held at one of Michael's facilities. Todd gave the address to this planet where Sheppard expected to find Teyla, but was surprised to find Beckett's clone instead. (Stargate Atlantis: 4.12 "Spoils of War", 4.18 "The Kindred Part 1")
- A false alliance with the Expedition ended in betrayal as the Wraith obtained valuable technical information about hyperdrive engines and the location of Earth in the Milky Way.
- Within the Wraith themselves, various hives will gather in an alliance, but sometimes these result in one or both hives' mutual destruction.
- Humans of both the Pegasus and Milky Way galaxies are now at risk because the Wraith are extremely hungry and are looking for new feeding grounds. The over six billion lives on Earth are incredibly tempting for them. The Atlantis Expedition Team and the SGC have led in the fight against the Wraith, hoping to keep the location of Earth a secret. Prominant human groups actively involved in the fight against the Wraith in the Pegasus Galaxy include the Athosians, Genii, and Travelers.
- 1.01 "Rising Part 1"
- 1.02 "Rising Part 2"
- 1.04 "Thirty-Eight Minutes"
- 1.05 "Suspicion"
- 1.06 "Childhood's End"
- 1.07 "Poisoning The Well"
- 1.08 "Underground"
- 1.12 "The Defiant One"
- 1.13 "Hot Zone"
- 1.15 "Before I Sleep"
- 1.18 "The Gift"
- 2.03 "Runner"
- 2.04 "Duet"
- 2.05 "Condemned"
- 2.06 "Trinity"
- 2.07 "Instinct"
- 2.11 "The Hive Part 2"
- 2.18 "Michael"
- 2.20 "Allies Part 1"
- 3.01 "No Man's Land Part 2"
- 3.02 "Misbegotten Part 3"
- 3.04 "Sateda"
- 3.05 "Progeny"
- 3.07 "Common Ground"
- 3.16 "The Ark"
- 3.18 "Submersion"
- 3.19 "Vengeance"
- 3.19 "First Strike Part 1"
- 4.03 "Reunion"
- 4.05 "Travelers"
- 4.07 "Missing"
- 4.08 "The Seer"
- 4.09 "Miller's Crossing"
- 4.11 "Be All My Sins Remember'd Part 2"
- 4.12 "Spoils Of War"
- 4.18 "The Kindred Part 1"
- 4.19 "The Kindred Part 2"
- 4.20 "The Last Man Part 1"
- 5.01 "Search And Rescue Part 2"
- 5.02 "The Seed"
- 5.03 "Broken Ties"
- Dr. Carson Beckett and His Clone
- Teyla Emmagan
- Acastus Kolya
- Dr. Rodney McKay
- Jeanie Miller
- Maj. John Sheppard
- Col. Marshall Sumner
- Henry Wallace
- Dr. Elizabeth Weir
- Ancient Gene
- Ancient Language
- Ancient Stasis Chamber
- Atlantis Expedition
- Puddle Jumper
- Stargate Command (SGC)
- Zero Point Module (ZPM)
- Andee Frizzell as Queens
- James Lafazanos as Male Wraith
- Connor Trinneer as "Michael Kenmore"
- Christopher Heyerdahl as "Todd"
--DeeKayP 20:18, 5 Apr 2005 (PDT)