The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite books, so the first time I saw Common Ground, the first time I heard Todd's voice from the cell next to John's, I thought, "Aha! There's the old guy who's going to help him break out." Yes. And no.
I already loved what they were doing with the Wraith after Instinct, and so Common Ground was the next logical step. With Ellia we met a baby Wraith, a child who had been taken out of her culture and raised as a human girl, a "tame Wraith" who was in some sense safe, presented as a figure of sympathy. With Todd, we were taking the next step. There is nothing safe about Todd, and he is not divorced from his culture. Todd is not a Wraith who wants to be human. Todd is a Wraith.
And yet he's failed. Something has gone seriously pear shaped for him to be Kolya's prisoner, tortured just as surely as John is, starved and beaten and locked away. So that was my first question, my first starting point: how did Todd come to be Kolya's prisoner? What had already gone so terribly wrong?
The second thing we know is that in some very important ways Todd is unusual for a Wraith. To begin with, even among Wraith his resilience is extraordinary. The parallels with John are drawn very early. Both of them are incredibly tough. Both of them are survivors. The other thing we know is that Todd is a man without allegiances. He finds a new hive and a new queen, but it's not his own, and he's not entirely trusted. Like John, he's on his own. Why is that? And why, in season five, does he need Teyla to masquerade as his queen? Why isn't there someone else? Why does he not have a real queen, or pledge himself to one?
Another thing we know is that Todd is old even for a Wraith. He was there when the Atero Device was first used. Even given that he's spent most of the intervening time hibernating, Todd is incredibly old and experienced. And he's willing to do whatever he needs to do to protect his people.
Again, like John. So the parallels drawn between John and Todd (even in Vegas!) was one important place we started.
And the first place was Todd's name. We never learn his real name, just the one John has given him, but he obviously has one. It makes sense that, as telepaths, Wraith names are about more than the sound of words. Melissa came up with this -- Wraith names are about how their mind feels to other Wraith, about what they "taste" like mentally. And so any word is just a rough approximation of the name, like saying "allegro" instead of hearing the chord.
Todd's name is Guide. He is the one who goes before, the one who leads the others behind, who renders sure a path through uncertainty. Rather like a shepherd. Which is how John's name is translated into Wraith. Sheppard is Guide as well.
The second thing we looked at had to be Wraith culture. I could write about ten essays about what we've put into Wraith culture and how we've developed different aspects of it, but that's integral to Todd. He's not a feral child, like Ellia. He's fully part of his culture.
Leading me to one of my favorite episodes, The Queen. He cannot just produce a queen out of thin air. Teyla may not be aware, but he has given her the name and lineage of a young queen who went missing years ago, and who might reappear plausibly -- Ellia. She is pretending to be the woman Ellia would have been, had Ellia been raised as Wraith. But Ellia is a human name, and Teyla never heard her Wraith name. She does not know she is taking the identity of the girl John killed. Todd, on the other hand, has no idea what actually happened to the young queen in question! How would he know that?
One of the fascinating things in that episode is the way Todd and Teyla interact once she has become the queen. He's courtly. Protective. Possibly attracted? There are some fascinating implications.
Todd is one of my favorite characters, and he's definitely Melissa's favorite, so he has lots of screen time in Legacy, beginning with Homecoming. The end of the series left him in a bad place, come full circle, once again a prisoner. This time he belongs to the IOA, not the Genii, but he can't expect much better. After all, the IOA voted to execute Daniel when he'd been turned by the Priors in season 10 of SG-1, and he was human and had been a valued part of the team for ten years. Todd can't really expect better than Daniel, can he? At best he would be a medical experiment until his inevitable death by starvation.
And so that's one of the questions facing the team at the beginning of Homecoming. What about Todd? Without his help they would have been defeated. Now his future is bleak. Of course they could hand him over and step away, let the responsibility fall to someone else. But would our guys do that? Would John do that?
And thus our story begins....