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Warehouse 13 and Joshua's Trumpet

on Tue, 09/17/2013 - 00:00

Remember the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the Ark of the Covenant is placed in a crate and stored in a seemingly endless warehouse filled with other crates? What if those other crates were also filled with ancient artifacts that contained similar supernatural powers? That is the basic premise of the Syfy Channel’s Warehouse 13, where a small group of government agents travel around the globe collecting such items and then store them in another seemingly endless warehouse located in the Badlands of South Dakota. The purpose isn’t to study these objects, but to keep them from causing harm to an unsuspecting populace. According to the mythology of the series, the first warehouse was built by Alexander the Great and subsequent locales throughout history have been in the dominant nation of their times—all for the good of mankind.

Federal agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering embarked on many adventures during the course of Warehouse 13, literally travelling from one end of the planet to the other in order to “snag, bag and tag” these supernatural artifacts, and their journeys have inevitably taken them to Pittsburgh on two separate occasions. The first was a brief visit to the Steel City during the second season episode “Buried” when three graduate students from the region abruptly perished from severe hydration in Egypt. Lattimer and Bering met with the mother of one of the victims and discovered that the trio of aspiring archeologists had uncovered the entrance to a lost warehouse that was buried in the sand near Alexandria when the Romans conquered Egypt in 31 BC.

While Pittsburgh played only a peripheral role in “Buried,” it served as a more significant setting the following season during the “3...2...1...” installment of the Syfy series. The agents of Warehouse 13 inevitably arrive at a particular city after some unexplained phenomenon, and it is the sudden disintegration of a billboard installer, as well as part of the billboard itself, that brings Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering to the Steel City. Lightning is the official explanation, but a strange-sounding horn was heard just beforehand and the remnants appeared worn down afterwards, as if from a sandstorm. “So something sand related,” Lattimer speculates. “Sands of Iwo Jima? Annette Funicello’s beach ball?”

It is later discovered that the billboard worker was not the first mysterious death in Pittsburgh. “Day before yesterday, a painter went missing from the top of the Fort Pitt Bridge,” Warehouse apprentice Claudia Donovan explains. “Police thought he fell into the river.” Witnesses, however, heard the same horn right before the man disappeared.

Over a century earlier, one of the agents at Warehouse 12 in England was H.G. Wells, but the “H” in this case stands for Helena and not Herbert. Helena was a scientific genius whose imagination fueled her writings, published under the name of her more famous brother, while likewise bringing many of the “science fiction” inventions from her books into reality. Wells eventually went rogue and was “bronzed”—the Warehouse equivalent of being placed in suspended animation—as punishment for her crimes, only to be brought back to full life during season two of Warehouse 13. Although H.G. Wells was eventually reinstated as an agent, her trustworthiness was always in doubt and when she again went rogue, her mind and memories were placed in a holographic image. In “3...2...1...,” Myka Bering believes that Wells could be an asset and successfully lobbies for the holographic H.G. Wells to join her and Pete Lattimer in their investigation.

It turns out that H.G. Wells actually came across the artifact herself in 1893 when a London astronomer met the same fate as those in Pittsburgh. She also knows what the artifact is—the trumpet that Joshua used to bring down the walls of Jericho. “An ancient ram’s horn that emits a blast of such power that it pulverizes anything in its path,” Artie Nielson, the man in charge of Warehouse 13, explains of the item. “Someone in Pittsburgh has this, and people are going to keep dying until we find it.”

In addition to the basic “snag, bag and tag” assignment, the episode also delves into the question of how Joshua’s Trumpet ended up in the Steel City in the first place. The answer is filled in through a series of flashbacks that not only involve H.G. Wells’ original investigation in 1893 but the work of two other former Warehouse agents in Ohio during the early 1960s. In the first narrative, it is revealed that the head of Warehouse 12 at the time was intent on using the artifact to transform Wells’ latest invention—a rocket ship—into a weapon. “England must use the Warehouse to her advantage,” he tells Wells. “Imagine the fear that will strike in all the world when this device comes crashing down in front of the Reichstag. The mere demonstration will secure British dominance for another century.”

H.G. Wells is able to thwart these evil plans by sending the rocket into orbit around the Earth instead. The trajectory deteriorates over the years, however, and the ship eventually crash lands on a farm in Greenbury, Ohio, in 1962, where the horn accidently kills an unsuspecting bird watcher. The man’s young son believes that spacemen from another planet kidnapped his father, and he quietly sneaks into the trunk of the car used by the Warehouse agents sent to investigate the strange occurrence. When the agents destroy the remnants of H.G. Wells’ rocket ship—as well as, they believe, the artifact itself—the boy steals Joshua’s Trumpet and keeps it hidden for the next 50 years.

The young Daniel Varley parlayed his fascination with the stars into a career as an astronomer, but the disappearance of his father likewise left a psychological scar on his psyche. His mental health deteriorated even further when scientists discovered a region of outer space that seemed to contain all the necessary ingredients to sustain life, eventually causing him to lose his teaching position at West PA Tech University. Still convinced that extraterrestrials were responsible for the disappearance of his father, Varley is now using a former SETI facility to increase the power of Joshua’s Trumpet and firing it into the sky in the hopes of attracting the attention of those very same aliens. The problem for Warehouse 13 agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering is that PNC Park lies between the region of space that Daniel Varley is targeting and the SETI facility that serves as his base of operation.

But although it might look like PNC Park, within the world of Warehouse 13 the stadium is actually called Allegheny Field. The potential for massive death and destruction remains the same, however, as a baseball game is scheduled for that very evening. While Lattimer and Bering are unable to break through the force field that Varley has barricaded himself within, the holographic H.G. Wells not only reaches Daniel Varley but reasons with him as well, convincing the astronomer of the truth surrounding the death of his father and ultimately saving the lives of the 40,000 spectators at Allegheny Field in the process.

Although their visit was short and only lasted one episode, the trip brought a new appreciation of the Steel City for at least one of the Warehouse 13 agents nonetheless. Pittsburgh is rather famous for putting French fries literally “on” its dining options. Steak salads are one example, with “Pittsburgh style” meaning that the salad comes with fries as well as the steak on top of the lettuce. Then there’s Primanti Brothers, a sandwich shop that began as a late-night restaurant for Strip District workers in the 1930s. Because of the short amount of time the workers had to eat, coleslaw and French fries were added to the sandwich in order to expedite their meals, a tradition that continues to this day.

Warehouse 13, meanwhile, not only paid tribute to that tradition in “3...2...1...,” but added its own twist in the process. “I love Pittsburgh,” Pete Lattimer declares to Myka Bering at one point during their investigation. “They put fries on nachos here.”

Anthony Letizia

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