An ancient facility beneath Antarctica becomes the launching platform to the lost city of Atlantis. Atlantis is buried beneath an ocean in another galaxy and can only be reached with an additional symbol on the Stargate. Because of power limitations this trip, at least for the time being, is a one-way adventure. A crew of scientists and military officers from many countries assemble to explore the Pegasus Galaxy from the Atlantis gate. Led by scientist Dr. Weir (Higginson) and Maj. John Sheppard (Flanigan) they take over the Atlantian command center and begin to explore. In their initial investigations they accidentally awaken the area’s top bad guys, the Wraith. These vampire-like beings suck the life-force out of humans.
When Stargate SG-1 was about to enter its ninth year, there was speculation that after season 8 the series would bow out gracefully with the anticipated exit of Richard Dean Anderson. With that plan in mind, the folks at Stargate Command decided it was time to spin off the franchise, and so was born Atlantis. Stargate Atlantis boasts pretty much the same production team as SG-1. The quality of the production and tight storytelling have translated well to this sister series. Stargate Atlantis took a little getting used to. I wasn’t sure the characters had enough chemistry or were even dynamic enough to carry the high expectations for a Stargate series. Those concerns eventually evaporated by the time Atlantis began to live without the SG-1 companion series. These characters really took off, and they’ve developed into nearly as strong a group as SG-1 ever was. Now with Atlantis available on high-definition Blu-ray, you’ll have the chance to explore where the show from beginning to ending.
Season 1 sets the whole thing up.
Rising: This two-part episode brought us from Earth to Atlantis and introduced us to the characters and the new bad guys, the Wraith.
Hide And Seek: We really get to know McKay in this episode. He activates a private force field, and it looks like loads of fun being invincible until he can’t turn it off. While the device protects things from hurting him, it also keeps out other things like food and water.
The Storm/The Eye: This two-part episode has a huge hurricane bearing down on Atlantis. The city is evacuated and a small crew is left behind to engineer some protection. That’s when the Genni strike and attempt to overtake the city. It’s Die Hard on Atlantis as Sheppard moves about picking off members of the strike team.
The Siege: Another two-part episode that serves as a cliffhanger. The Wraith have arrived, and Atlantis is under full attack without the resources to defend herself.
Season Two: When last we saw our courageous Atlantis crew, they were in dire straits indeed. The series had just completed its first season, and not without at times relying on the mother series, SG-1, for help along the way. Would the show now find its own legs in its critical sophomore year? Would the Sci-Fi Channel continue to support it or take out its legs unrepentantly as they had done with Farscape not many years ago? Oh, and then there was that pesky Wraith problem we were left with in the season 1 ending cliffhanger… The Wraith are about to destroy the city when a wormhole from Earth delivers an SGC unit to assist.
Martin Wood asserts in one of his interviews that Atlantis and SG-1 were beginning to look too much the same on the surface of things. So one of the mission statements for the second year was to give Atlantis its own look and identity. Without a doubt, Atlantis became darker, but without losing its humor or charm. A hard thing to pull off, indeed. Season 2 brings changes for Atlantis. Some I like. Some not so much. I’m not sure I’m happy with more permanent and reliable contact being restored with Earth. One of the show’s strengths was its isolation. Thus, the temptation to lean too heavily on its parent show would be minimal. I know there was the danger of the Deep Space Nine Syndrome, but I’d be willing to risk it. First off, these characters are far more interesting than those DS9 had, and while they might have been cut off from Earth, there was indeed an entire new galaxy to explore. One of the best moves was to take a rather mediocre character like Ford and turn him into a wonderfully complex villain, of sorts. With a greater range to draw from, we find out that Rainbow Sun Francks was a far better actor than season 1 would indicate. If you haven’t seen his new persona, you should get these DVD’s just for that experience. Another brilliant move was to use Paul McGillion more as Dr. Beckett. Once a throwaway character, he has blossomed this season into one of the better members of the team. The character chemistry between Beckett and McKay (Hewlett) is priceless. The most significant change for season 2 is the addition of Ronon Dex, played by newcomer Jason Mamoa. For me the jury is still out on Ronon. I understand that he brings a hyped-up action persona to the mix, but I might have liked to have seen Teyla provide more of that in the future. The portrayal is quite good, but I’m not sold on the mix yet. The character reminds me somewhat of Vin Diesel’s Riddick.
The best episodes here include:
The Siege (part 3): The episode finishes the cliffhanger and turns Ford into some kind of hybrid dosed up on an enzyme he can only get from the Wraith. He will no longer be a regular but shows up from time to time as a threat.
Grace Under Pressure: Another good McKay episode that finds him alone in a sinking puddle-jumper in the ocean. He conjures an imagined Samantha Carter to help him figure a way to survive. Fans of Amanda Tapping will love this episode.
Runner: This episode introduces us to Ronan.
Michael: Star Trek Enterprise‘s Trip Conner Trinneer guests as a Wraith turned human. This is going to come back and bite the team on the behind.
Which brings us to season three: Stargate Atlantis went into its third season with a lot to prove. Its companion and older series SG-1 was winding down and preparing to take its show to the longer direct-to-video path. Atlantis rose to the challenge and had what was arguably its best season to date. The best decision the show runners could have made was the one to concentrate on their core characters and give us episodes that were obviously intended to help us learn more about them. We meet McKay’s sister and Ronon’s wife and family along the way. We get to witness Sheppard in his alluded-to battle in Afghanistan. This is also the year we lose Dr. Beckett, at least in heroic fashion. We all expected that Paul McGillion would turn up on the next Star Trek film as everyone’s favorite starship engineer. It wasn’t through lack of trying and fan support that the film went in another direction, but we will get to see him in some sort of cameo. The Wraith and the Geni are both featured in some strong episodes.
Some great season 3 episodes:
No Man’s Land and Misbegotten: These first episodes continue with the Michael story that ended season 2. Connor Trinneer returns as the “is he a Wraith or is he a human” Michael. While the team struggles with whether to trust him or not, Dr. Weir is recalled to Stargate Command where the group overseeing the Atlantis mission question her leadership skills. Woolsey (Picardo) ends up coming to Atlantis to see for himself and report back to the group. This episode foreshadows the return of Woolsey later as the head of Atlantis in season 5.
Irresistible: Here we share a more lighthearted episode likely intended as a breather from the pumped up season openers. Richard Kind creates one of Stargate’s best characters in Lucius. Lucius has found a drug that makes him irresistible to all others. When he’s brought back to Atlantis he has the entire population eating out of his hands. He loves to regale his admirers with tall tales of his heroic exploits, and all listen in awe and admiration, all except Sheppard who was not exposed to Lucius’s drug. There’s a lot of Harry Mudd in Lucius, and he fortunately returns again before the end of the season. I have a soft spot for these mostly-harmless characters that are more con artists than true villains. Lucius comes from the same mold as Q, Harry Mudd, and Cyrano Jones.
Sateda: If you like rock ‘em sock ‘em action, this is an episode for you. Ronon is captured by the Wraith and returned to his destroyed home world, Seteda. There he is reunited with his wife and set again as a runner for the Wraith’s enjoyment. He fights his way across the planet. The episode is not only rich in action but provides wonderful insight into Ronon through his own past. Seldom has episodic television packed more into 45 minutes than this one.
McKay and Mrs. Miller: Rodney has a sister, and guess what, she’s played by Hewlett’s real sister, Jeannine Hewlett. We also get a dose of Amanda Tapping’s Carter in this episode as well. Top it off with 2 Rodney’s, one a very modest nice guy, and it’s another nicely done light moment in the Stargate universe.
The Return: This is a two-part episode. Again the crew meets up with what could be ancients. The Atlantis Mission is ordered to vacate the city and return it to its rightful owners. When the team returns to Earth, O’Neill and Woolsey are left alone in the city acting as liaisons with the Atlantians. It’s nice to see O’Neill in need of rescue for a change by the former Atlantis team who are ordered not to go. This is also the first test of the new Carter Stargate Bridge that would allow traffic back and forth from Atlantis to Earth without the need of a Z point module. Using a string of harvested gates, a ship or traveler can make the trip in about 30 minutes. There’s more replicator action just in case you can’t get enough.
The Tao Of Rodney: How about a McKay with super powers? Can you imagine if he could read minds? Imagine no longer with this lighter moment in Atlantis lore. They say what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, but in McKay’s case what makes him stronger is gonna kill him. Again Rodney’s arrogance has him rushing in where wise men fear to tread. Everything’s just peaches and cream until he discovers the powers come with a price. He’s only days away from ascension, as in dead. Now Rodney has to become a nice guy so at least he can ascend instead of just dying; good luck with that, Rodney.
Sunday: This is such a bittersweet episode for Atlantis fans. The episodes offers a rare look at the team enjoying time off and interacting without the constant threat of life or death on their heads. Unfortunately this is where we lose Dr. Beckett. At least the episode provides a nice long look at the character and a fitting demise. Of course, he does return somewhat again, but this marks his last episode as a series regular.
Season Four was a huge change for Atlantis. Fans of the SG-1 series rejoiced when Amanda Tapping came aboard as Samantha Carter to take over the command of Atlantis. Episodes include:
Adrift/Lifeline: Guess who’s back. It’s the Replicators, and they are meaner and more powerful than ever before.
Tabular Rasa: Everyone but Teyla and Ronan have lost their memories. It’s a great episode for the regular characters here.
The Mortal Coil/Be All My Sins Remembered/Spoils Of War: What happens when the team must deal with both the Replicators and the Wraith? That’s what happens in this three-part episode that begins with a probe crashing into Atlantis.
The final season of Atlantis saw Carter relinquish command of Atlantis to Woolsey, played by Robert Picardo.
The Seed: Beckett is finally taken out of his stasis chamber, and it’s a good performance indeed. The show was missing the character, for sure. But there’s also a dangerous being infecting Dr. Keller and attempting to take over the city.
The Shrine: McKay is dying from a disease much like Alzheimer’s called Second Childhood. Teyla takes him to an ancient shrine where people are given one final day of clarity before they die. You can guess the results. It’s another great McKay episode.
First Contact/The Lost Tribe: Michael Shanks returns as Daniel is finally able to get to Atlantis. He’s there to investigate an ancient lab. Todd the Wraith takes over the Daedalus.
Enemy At The Gate: In the show’s finale the Wraith have found a way to power a hive ship to get to Earth.
All episodes are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at by an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. Gone is any of the grain or saturation of SG-1’s filmed texture. This is a clean, if somewhat sterile, image. Colors are incredibly sharp, as is the contrast. Blacks are dead on perfect. The range of color and light is considerably expanded in this format. I keep saying that this series cries out for HD, and this release merely proves the point. In the second episode I was very pleased with the detail on the Wraith makeup, particularly the Todd character.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is rock solid. The same effort put into making the show look as good as it does obviously translates to the sound presentation. Rich score music works in perfect harmony with the needs of the dialog and ambient sounds. While the rears are not used extensively, they do manage to surprise you now and again with just the right touch to place you square in the action.
All of the features from the original releases of all five seasons remain intact here. These are basically the exact discs from the single season sets down to the artwork on the discs themselves. You can find descriptions of these features in our single season reviews. This includes all of the Audio Commentaries.
I hope that the release of Atlantis on Blu-ray is a sign that SG-1 is on the way. If you want to see that happen, it’s important that you support this release and show the powers that be that we want more Stargate and we want it in high definition. The set gave me a wonderful chance to go back and revisit the series. While I still like the SG-1 better, this one has grown on me even more. And I liked it a lot before. The visuals are quite dynamic in a way they never could be on television or on DVD. With the demise of Stargate Universe, the Atlantis Extinction film is now on hold. The future is now up in the air and this set just brings it back home for me. Stargate is facing a threat much bigger than the Wraith — studio executives. “Indeed. This city has become quite familiar to me. Almost a respite from daily life. It would be a shame to see it destroyed.”