HISTORY OF THE WRAITH

Writing Credits:  Information borrowed from
WIKIPEDIA site.
E-Mail for that site can be sent to
 

In the science fiction television series Stargate Atlantis, the Wraith are the original antagonistic alien species, first introduced in the pilot episode "Rising". In the early seasons of the show they dominated the Pegasus Galaxy, the show's setting, and were an almost unstoppable and fatal threat. In Season 1, it was the prime objective of the characters to find a way to save themselves from a siege by the Wraith, similar to how the characters of Stargate SG-1 (Atlantis' sister-show) were originally focused solely on protecting Earth from attack by the Goa'uld.

The Wraith are depicted as a hive-based species that grew to their level of power through parasitism (much like SG-1's Goa'uld), and have traits very similar to those of vampires. As Stargate often uses its plots and events to explain myths and religions on Earth, many fans speculate that they are meant to be the original vampires. Wraith "feed" by "sucking" the life-force from a human being.
  

OVERVIEW
The Wraith are sentient, intelligent creatures who are humanoid in form, but insect-like in other aspects such as behavior and being hive-based. This is due to having been evolved from insects into their current form after exchanging DNA with humans while feeding on them. Typically, Wraith have pale teal or white, waxy-looking skin; typically white, long hair; translucent yellow pointed teeth, and are very aggressive. They are exceptionally skilled martial artists. It is common to see them dressed in human-like gothic clothes (again accounting for vampire culture), such as long, black trench coats.

The Wraith view themselves as vastly superior to humans and treat them similarly to how a human might treat cattle or livestock, although in a much more sadistic and brutal way.

Hibernating for (human) generations at a time, they will eventually awaken and cull various planets throughout the galaxy by attacking them with Dart Fighters that harvest humans. These humans will then be consumed by the hive later on. Once the harvest is complete the Wraith will return to hibernation to allow the planets' populations to regrow before another culling. In consumption of a human, the Wraith does no overt physical damage to the person, but rather "drains" them of their life. It is speculated by some that the Wraith may consume ATP, sugars, fat and some proteins such as collagen and pigments in hair and body accounting of the aging.

Natives to the Pegasus Galaxy, where a team of humans have taken up residence on an exploration mission, the species are vastly technologically superior to humans, though are less advanced in comparison to the more advanced alien species depicted on both Atlantis and SG-1. Despite their technological inferiority, the Wraith exist in overwhelming numbers that are enough to drive even a more powerful foe into submission. In the back-story of Atlantis, the Ancients were driven from the Pegasus Galaxy after being unable to win a war against the Wraith.
   

PLOT
In 2004, an expedition from Earth, led by Dr. Elizabeth Weir, travelled by Stargate to the abandoned Ancient Lost City of Atlantis in the Pegasus Galaxy. When it initially became apparent that Atlantis might be an untenable new home for the expedition, a team comprised of Colonel Marshall Sumner, Sergeant Bates, Lieutenant Aiden Ford and Major John Sheppard happened upon the planet Athos in further exploration of the galaxy through its native Stargate network. Within 48 hours of landing on the planet, Sumner's team and the Athosians were attacked by the Wraith. On this mission, Sumner was abducted, and the Wraith learned from him (through a form of telepathic mind-reading) of a "fertile new feeding ground" full of humans they could eat (i.e., Earth and the Milky Way in general). Because Earth is accessible only via Atlantis' Stargate, the Wraith set to work to besiege Atlantis.
  

It is discovered from a holographic recording in the City that 10,000 years ago the Wraith were at war with the Ancients, and slowly came to dominate the galaxy, forcing the Ancients to leave Atlantis (and subsequently become almost extinct). Humans had already evolved in the Pegasus galaxy before the Ancients left, giving the Wraith plenty of food as they waged this war. However, after the Ancients left, the Wraith were left with a feeding ground that was not as fertile as in the years previous to the Ancients' departure (the Wraith had also fed on Ancients). Hence most of the Wraith went into hibernation.

A small caretaker force would always stay awake to protect those in hibernation, and make sporadic small-scale cullings (said by some to remind humans of the Wraith's power), some of which were still large enough to wipe out entire planets. Although most of the race would remain in hibernation between the devastating large-scale cullings, generations would pass in which every human planet in the Pegasus galaxy lived in constant fear of the Wraith. As any planet that attained a technological level sufficient to potentially threaten the Wraith was immediately targeted for annihilation, the humans of the Pegasus galaxy were left incapable of developing a unified defense, even at a planetary level.

With the arrival of the Atlantis expedition, the galaxy began to see some hope for defeating or stopping the Wraith. First, however, the team had to understand the creatures, and have captured three during their time. The first was inadvertently poisoned in an experiment attempting to develop a drug that could be administered to a human, the purpose of which was to prevent the Wraith from being able to feed on them. Major Sheppard dubbed this Wraith "Steve". Later a Wraith scout and saboteur surreptitiously entered the city by beaming himself in before self-destructing his dart. Following his capture and imprisonment, Major Sheppard decided to call this Wraith "Bob". "Bob" was executed by Sheppard when he refused to furnish information on what he had been sabotaging in Atlantis. A third captured Wraith, dubbed Michael, was captured to test the effects of a retrovirus developed by Dr. Carson Beckett. The virus was designed to strip the Wraith DNA away from a living Wraith, leaving only human DNA behind, but it was only a prototype and could only temporarily suppress the DNA. So, an inoculation had to be delivered every 24 hours or so to keep them "human". The virus also induced amnesia, facilitating a cover story delivered to the patient Wraith/Human so they believe they have always been human. Of course, the amnesia was not complete, it left almost a sort of shadow over Michael, leaving him with the urges and some of the nature of a Wraith. The longer you go without the virus, the more memories and stronger urges return. After a while, Michael discovered what he was and escaped Atlantis, rejoining the Wraith, and partially transformed back into a Wraith himself. It seems that the transit to a human leaves a Wraith unable to completely revert to their form, so it could mean that the Wraith protein-producer system is damaged by being temporarily unused or the Wraith DNA is affected by the virus directly.

The Wraith sent a force to take Atlantis but the humans fooled them into thinking they destroyed the city. With their food source low, the Wraith began a civil war. The strong survive while the weak die. Hive ships, under the command of Michael, tricked the Tau'ri into thinking they exposed their weaknesses, but while studying how to modify their engines to get to Earth. They succeeded but were destroyed or turned into humans before that could happen. Hypothetically, if the virus were to come in to the hands of the Wraith, they might be able to form a version of the vaccine that did not include the amnesia and would last longer, allowing the Wraith to infiltrate Atlantis.
 

ORIGIN
While few details have been given regarding Wraith evolution, certain things are known. The Wraith are known to be descendants of the Iratus bug, a tick-like life-form that was encountered by Major John Sheppard. When it wrapped itself around Sheppard's neck, the pursuing Wraith soldier left Sheppard to die, knowing, it is presumed, that the Iratus bug would drain the life from him ("Thirty-Eight Minutes").

It was theorized by the scientific team back on Atlantis that the Iratus bugs fed on the humans that inhabited the planet and that a genetic mutation gradually developed in the bugs, resulting in a hybrid species, the Wraith. However, they are closer to the Iratus bug than to humans ("The Gift"). In "Conversion" Dr Beckett explained that the human aspects of the Wraith had been extracted by the Iratus bug when humans had been seeded on the homeworld of the creatures, which accidentally allowed them to feed on the humans. From this process, the Iratus bug began to mutate and assume characteristics of humans that are advantageous: bipedal motion, opposable thumbs and a large brain.

Also in "Thirty-Eight Minutes", Dr. Carson Beckett theorized that the Wraith evolved after the Ancients arrived in the Pegasus galaxy. This theory was confirmed in the episode "The Gift" by Dr. Elizabeth Weir, when she determined that the Wraiths' language was a derivative of Ancient. It is speculated that the Ancients may have had a more active role in the development of the Wraith.
 

BIOLOGY
ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY
The Wraith are characterized by a pale blue or light-green epidermis, yellow eyes, and white, black, or red hair. As a species they have a social structure similar to that of Ants or other hive/nest-based creatures, with distinct physiological differences between castes of Wraith, tailored to facilitate different functions within the society. They also possess psionic and telepathic abilities. They have displayed in several episodes phenomenal physical strength, along with phenomenal physical agility. Their eyes can glow in darkness, giving them night vision and thermal vision abilities.

The majority of Wraith so far observed are male. Adult female Wraith have been seen to fill the higher echelons of Wraith society as 'Queens' ("Rising", "The Hive") although a male leader was seen in "Sateda", it remains unknown if he fills the role of a "King". Beneath the Queens are workers, soldiers and drones. The lowest echelons are distinctly different; they lack intelligence and are larger and much more muscular. From the recent episode "No Man's Land" it was believed that the Wraith Queens tend to have a stronger biology than the males and were resistant to the retrovirus weapon developed by humans.

Wraith exhibit bipedal locomotion and have mostly humanoid characteristics. These characteristics include noticeable sexual dimorphism; female Wraith have protruded breasts while male Wraith exhibit noticeable facial hair. While it is unknown how Wraith reproduce, it is likely that they procreate similarly to placental mammals, given their presumed origin and other sexual characteristics similar to those of humans. The "soldier" caste, presumably also "male", exhibit noticeable muscular definition as compared to the male Wraith of the "leadership" caste, who are considerably meeker. According to Michael, the soldiers are unimaginative, and possess rigid thought patterns. Within the separate castes, however, males differ very little.
  

An adolescent female, Ellia, was a key character in "Instinct". Based on her appearance, it seems that the Wraith maintain a more human appearance until they reach their equivalent of puberty. Ellia possessed dark brown hair and a more human complexion. It is unknown whether Ellia is an entirely different kind of female Wraith, or if she would have eventually metamorphized into one of the females of the type seen in "Rising" and "The Lost Boys". It is also not yet known if all young Wraith start off looking this way.

The Wraith are virtually immune to the effects of aging, due to highly evolved regenerative abilities. A Wraith's ability to regenerate is directly proportional to how well-nourished he or she is. A Wraith crewmember of a "supply ship" that crashed, containing hundreds of captured humans in suspended animation, was capable of surviving for over 10,000 years by feeding on the "cargo" and his fellow Wraith crewmembers ("The Defiant One").

Wraith are also able to give back life. "The Gift of Life", as a Wraith referred to it, is typically reserved for devout worshipers and their "brothers". John Sheppard was returned to normal and perhaps even younger then he was previously after being fed upon numerous times by a Wraith, who he escaped with from Kolya's prison. Dr. Mckay commented on how he looked younger than he did before.
 

MEANS OF NOURISHMENT

Nourishment for the adult Wraith is the human "life force". Humans or very similar beings (e.g. Ancients) are the only food source that can properly nourish a Wraith, although they are capable of cannibalism. It is also unknown whether or not the Wraith require fluids (e.g., water), to facilitate other bodily functions. The exact science of the life-force drain is not described, although it is portrayed as a materialistic process. This drain is depicted as though it could be likened to the sipping of a drink through a straw. The Wraith can drain their victims slowly in order to torture and obtain information, or just to perform an act of sadism ("The Defiant One"). As the victim is drained of life, the victim experiences pain and appears to age rapidly. This is not actual physical aging, but a by product of the feeding process.
   

Despite the presence of teeth, the Wraith do not use their teeth to puncture the epidermis of a human. Rather, the life force is drained via specialized organs in the palms of their hands; apparently, one arm is the "feeding arm" ("Duet"). Wraith typically attach this organ to their victims' chest, particularly right near the heart, where the skin is punctured. To facilitate the feeding process, a fast-acting enzyme is released to prepare the victim for the life force drain ("Poisoning the Well").

Large doses of this enzyme have been known to increase the strength, speed and agility of regular humans. In Season 2, Lieutenant Aiden Ford became the first of these 'supermen' when he received a large dose of the enzyme after the death of the Wraith feeding on him. The numerous drawbacks of the high dose include altered brain chemistry and addiction to the drug requiring addicts to actively search for and kill Wraiths.

The Wraith can consume human food and drinks, but apparently it gives them no nourishment and is strictly done for pleasure. This is apparently considered to be a more sophisticated type of enjoyment, and not all Wraith do this. When the Wraith are young however, they consume normal human foodstuffs (which explains their possession of a fully functional digestive system). As the Wraith mature, they begin to crave feeding on the human "life force", regardless of whether or not they have tasted it before ("Instinct"). But not only can wraith take away life they can also give life as we saw in the episode Common Ground, when Sheppard gets life put back into him by a wraith.
 

COMMUNICATION & TELEPATHY
While the Wraith have tongues and vocal cords, their primary means of communication is telepathic in nature. In effect, the Wraith have developed a telepathic network, allowing for communication over vast distances.
  

It has been determined that the proper introduction of Wraith DNA into human DNA, likely via gene splicing, permits humans the ability to access the Wraith mental network, although the humans who do connect can be summarily controlled by the Wraith. (Whether this is a result of superior psionic abilities or superior experience in using these abilities is not clear.) Even a small amount of properly introduced DNA is enough to allow this telepathic ability to occur; it remained even after a number of generations of the genes being "watered down" by breeding with humans without this modification ("The Gift").

The Wraith are also capable of psychic projection, causing humans to hallucinate (resulting in disorientation), and also enabling them to undermine the ability to resist Wraith interrogation through the power of suggestion. This ability was demonstrated on Colonel Marshall Sumner during his interrogation by the "Queen Keeper" Wraith, when she wished to know from where the Colonel and his team had come. Another Wraith Queen later used this ability to interrogate Sheppard, but was interrupted. However, the Wraiths' use of this ability is quite rare, and they do not appear to be able to utilize it while in direct combat. They also seem to be unable to directly read the thoughts of a human mind, but can still affect it ("The Gift). Another time they use the hallucination powers is when they are in the middle of a culling. This is shown in Rising (Part 2), when they use the hallucinations to keep the people in one place so it makes them easier to cull. During this time they use a shadow/ghost to scare the people away from the forest. The Wraith are also able to keep their thoughts from other Wraith, as Michael was deceived by his hive regarding their intentions toward their alliance with the Atlantis expedition, and was also able to deceive another Wraith when he said he was asked by the Queen to interrogate Colonel Sheppard ("No Man's Land").
 

KILLING A WRAITH
The Wraith are difficult to kill, due to their regenerative power; emptying a P90 magazine into a Wraith's chest will stun it, but within a matter of 2-3 minutes, it will have fully recovered. This recuperative ability is apparently affected by how recently they have fed; The Queen Keeper in the pilot episode "Rising", was shot while in the act of feeding and was able to heal her wounds almost instantly. However, a captured Wraith that had not fed for a long period of time was killed by multiple well-placed shots from a pistol ("The Siege (Part 1)"). A headshot will also put the Wraith down for good, as seen in Sateda.

Additionally, the Wraith can be poisoned. When testing a drug devised by the Hoffans (another race of Humans from Pegasus), the Wraith dubbed "Steve" was poisoned after trying to feed from a subject inoculated with the drug. This unintended side-effect resulted in systematic failure of Steve's internal organs, causing death.

The Wraith are also susceptible to a special retrovirus created to suppress the Wraith parts of their DNA. Though the retrovirus doesn't actually kill them directly, it results in the loss of their superhuman abilities including regeneration. This makes them far more vulnerable to conventional weapons and Wraith feeding ("Michael", "Allies", "No Man's Land", "Misbegotten").

The Wraith are also susceptible to their own stunner weapons and can also be temporarily incapacitated by the use of multiple electroshock guns, fired simultaneously ("Suspicion").
 

SOCIETY
The Wraith civilization appears to center around massive "Hive-ships". One was seen in the pilot, although because it had been lying dormant for centuries, it was overgrown with trees. Intelligence recovered from a downed Wraith Dart's flight-computer revealed that there are over 60 Wraith Hive-ships in the Pegasus galaxy.
 

The Wraith also posses an extremely strong territorial instinct, making inter-hive cooperation rare without a common enemy. Politically, there have been indications of rampant civil wars and factional rivalry among the Wraith: the Atlantis expedition from Earth caused them to end their hibernation 50 years early, and as a result, there aren't enough humans in the galaxy to go round. This caused fierce competition over the now-limited feeding grounds, and soon, open fractionalization. In the episode titled "Allies" the Wraith named Michael stated that this was because the human population of the Pegasus galaxy was too small to sustain the Wraith who had awakened.

The Wraith detest hunger and base their entire society around the "culling". A society of this nature appears to exclude the need for artisans and intellectual pursuits, except for the improvement of their technologies, e.g. such as better ways to feed on humans. Despite the fact that the Wraith possess a telepathic communication network that encompasses their entire species, the Wraith species is not controlled by a hive mind, but is composed of individuals.

Despite the fact that they are perhaps the most hated race within the Pegasus galaxy, the Wraith have shown more noble traits and they are not all evil monsters. As already mentioned, the Wraith are capable of giving back the life force they have drained from a person. The Wraith who performed the deed stated that 'the gift of life' is only given to their most devout of worshippers or their brothers. This appears to extend to those people the Wraith feel they owe a debt to, such as the case was with Colonel Sheppard.

Within Wraith society there is an undesirable caste namely the hybrids who were created by a retrovirus from the Atlantis Expedition. These partially human Wraith are outcasts that are only tolerated if they are useful and are somewhat isolated from the Hive as was the case with Michael. It is unknown how the growing number of hybrids will affect Wraith society in the future.
 

WRAITH TACTICS
When culling their "human herd", hive ships will enter orbit of a planet, usually escorted by smaller cruisers. If people suspect that a culling is about to begin, the Wraith will dial the Stargate of the planet they are culling in order to prevent escape, much in the same way that the Goa'uld dial in to prevent the escape of the population from a planet they are trying to conquer. Unlike the Goa'uld, however, the Wraith send Darts through the Stargate, in addition to the swarms emerge from the hive ships to aerially bombard population centers and cull substantial numbers of people. Most of the time they will use their transporter beams to scoop up prey but sometimes they transport foot soldiers to the ground. In the attack on Atlantis, darts attacked railgun emplacements by removing the human operators using their transporter beams. Additionally, the Wraith use their psionic ability to confuse their prey with false "ghosts" apparently lurking just out of sight around them.
 

During a culling of a village in "Letters from Pegasus", a beam seemed to come from a ship in high orbit, striking the center of the village. The village itself was not apparently destroyed, and despite Sheppard's investigation, the purpose or nature of the beam was never discussed. Fan forum speculation is that the beam either acts as a "tag" to signal to other Wraith that the population on the planet has already been culled, or that this beam connects to a device into which darts re-molecularize their captured humans, which then sends them up to the hive ship.

In the event that a hive ship is dormant, but the guards still need to feed, a small number of darts will launch and go through the Stargate. These darts will then do a small scale culling, then return with the small amount of food required to feed a dormant Hive ship.

As for any captured Wraith, males typically have a self-destruct mechanism integrated into their armor. Such a device was activated during the events of "Suspicion" when the Atlantis expedition attempted to capture a living Wraith for information extraction. Darts also have self-destruct devices, as witnessed in the episode "The Brotherhood". In addition, Wraith soldiers are outfitted with homing beacons which signal other Wraith to their location, should the Wraith become incapacitated ("Childhood's End").