Sequels and spinoffs are hard to do. Just look at The Matrix.
The problem is that the creators have to come up with a movie or show that
is just like the original, but different. If the sequel is too similar,
it comes out as a cheap copy of the original. If it is too different,
it loses the charm and excitement that made the original so popular.
It's a fine line to tread .
That's why I approached Stargate Atlantis with a certain amount
of scepticism. I really enjoyed Stargate SG-1 and was
afraid that this spinoff would, to put it none to lightly, suck.
Happily my fears weren't justified. Stargate Atlantis is a
good show that manages to capture the spirit of the original show, without
mimicking it too closely. Now the first season of this entertaining
show is available on DVD. Hopefully it will be the first of many
If you haven't seen Stargate SG-1, or at least the movie Stargate, you
might be a little confused at the beginning, but the show explains all
you need to know in the first episode, Rising. There are Stargates
in our galaxy that allow people to travel from planet to planet in the
blink of an eye. They were built long ago by The Ancients, a race
that has long since disappeared, but who had a presence on Earth.
As the show opens, Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks from Stargate
SG-1) discovers that the Ancients moved their city, Atlantis, to the
Pegasus Galaxy. He also determines the dialing sequence that will
open a stargate in their city. The only problem is that it will take
an incredibly large amount of energy. There is a source that can
generate the power, a Zero Point Module, but there's only one of them,
so anyone going will be trapped in Atlantis unless they can locate a working
An expedition is organized, and a group of scientists, doctors, and
military personnel gate to the distant Galaxy. Lead by Dr. Elizabeth
Weir (Torri Higginson) they arrive safely to discover a technologically
advanced city hidden beneath the sea that has been abandoned for 10,000
After discovering a recording the team learns (at least partially) what
happened to the Ancients. It seems that they managed to settle planets
all across the galaxy, until they reached a world and awoke an ancient
evil. This evil force went from planet to planet destroying everything
that the Ancients had built. The battle reached the gates of Atlantis
Not only do the explorers have to worry about a race that was able to
defeat the Ancients, but they also find out that the force field that keeps
the ocean from crushing the city is running out of power and they only
have a few days before the city, and the explorers, are destroyed.
Gating to their first world in hopes of finding a place to evacuate
to, Major John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) and his team discover a peaceful
race, the Athosians. They also find the Wraith, a super-strong alien
race that feeds off of human's life force. The Wraith attack every
inhabited world and harvest people for their food. When several members
of the away team are snatched, Sheppard and the Athosian woman Teyla (Rachel
Luttrell) launch an attack on the Wraith Hive ship. They manage to
rescue their comrades and even manage to kill the head Wraith. That
was a big mistake though. It turns out that most of the Wraith were
hibernating, waiting for the human population to grow so they can cull
their herds again. But now that one of their kind has been killed,
all of the Wraith in all of the hive ships across the galaxy are awakening.
They are going to feed to get their strength back, then attack this new
threat en mass. They've already laid waste to the Athosian village,
and the survivors have taken refuge in Atlantis.
So now the new inhabitants of Atlantis have to try to learn as much
of the Ancient technology as they can, and make as many allies as possible,
not to mention finding food and supplies for themselves, before time runs
out and the Wraith attack.
The reason Stargate SG-1 was such a good show was because of
the characters. Over the seasons you grew to know them. They
were three dimensional characters who had strengths and faults.
Stargate Atlantis takes the same approach. They have a cast of
interesting characters who are put in a tough spot. The great thing
about Atlantis is that they didn't try to clone the people from SG-1.
Sure, some people have similar traits, but no one would ever accuse John
Sheppard of being a copy of Jack O'Neill, and the same goes for the rest
of the cast.
Like SG-1 and the Goa'uld menace, Atlantis has the Wraith.
From a story point of view, this is a great menace. It gives them
a reason for searching other planets and contacting other tribes, while
also giving the excuse for some good space battles. Though the threats
are similar, they are handled differently, and this show has a distinctive
The show also has a good sense of humor, and SF fans will enjoy the
many Star Trek references that are thrown in every now and them.
From Sheppard telling the medical doctor who doesn't like traveling by
Stargate to "stop acting like McCoy" to Dr. McKay's exclamation when finding
Sheppard in a compromising position with an alien ("Oh my God, he is Kirk!")
this running joke plays very well.
One surprising thing about the show is that they manage to take some
standard SF themes and give them a new spin. The plot elements from
Run, Andromeda Strain, and the Star Trek episode
are used (among others), but in the end none of these shows seem like copies.
They all have a unique twist that makes them interesting. (One of
my favorite episodes is a take off of Die Hard where one lone solider
has to take on a group of terrorists who have hostages.)
Like its predecessor, this program has a lot of continuity that really
draws in the viewers. Not only are the Wraith a threat, but there
is a civilization, the Genii, that harbors ill will towards the Atlantis
group and they manage to turn up at unexpected times. They refer
to past events too, which makes the show feel more natural. There
are also several stories that are ripe for a revisiting, such as the status
of the Hoffans from the episode Poisoning the Well, which will make me
continue to watch.
When all is said and done, this is an excellent sucsessor to SG-1.
Atlantis manages to capture the excitement and fun of the earlier
show, without coming across as a carbon copy and also having some original
These 20 episodes come on 5 DVDs in three clear slimline cases with
double sided covers. The three cases are enclosed in a nice slipcase.
The whole thing is much thinner than the SG-1 sets, which is nice for those
of us running out of room for our DVDs.
This set come with an English 5.1 soundtrack as well as a stereo mix
in English and Spanish. These shows sounded very good. The
background music was clear and there was a full range of tones. The
full soundstage was used to good effect, and the fight scenes had a lot
of impact with machine gun fire and laser blasts coming from all corners.
Needless to say, there were no dropouts or distortion. There are
subtitles in English, Spanish Portugese and French.
The widescreen anamorphic image looks outstanding. The show is
recorded and mastered on HD video (as opposed to 35 mm film) and the image
is very sharp and clear with very good definition. Small details
like the stubble on Shepard's chin come through fine, and the colors are
bright. Digital defects are nonexistant. Overall, an excellent
There are a good number of bonus items evenly scattered across these
six discs. The first thing of note are the many commentaries.
There are 14 in all! I was really surprised at how many commentaries
there were, giving all of the major characters, writers, and directors
a chance to talk about the show. These ranged in quality, but none
of them were bad. The commentary to the pilot episode by director
Martin Wood and Joe Flanigan (Major John Sheppard) appears to be the same
one from the earlier release of the first episode. It was very entertaining
and informative and well worth a listen. I was surprised by some
of the choices though. Having Paul McGillion (Dr. Becket) comment
on Thirty Eight Minutes was a little odd since he was hardly in that episode.
In any case, there is a lot of behind the scenes info both of a technical
and personal nature.
In addition to those, there are a lot other extras. Disc one has
an 11 minute tour of the Stargate Atlantis sets hosted by writer/director
Martin Wood and director Peter DeLuise which was interesting, but the comments
by the hosts was really hokey.
Disc two has the Diary of Rainbow Sun Francks (9 minutes).
Francks, who plays Lt. Ford, one of the major supporting characters, talks
about his experiances during the show's first season.
Wraithal Discrimination: It's Not Easy Being Green is an 11 minute
featurette looking at the wraith. Its rather irreverent and a lot
of fun. The other feature on disc three is Mission Directive: The
Storm/The Eye a six minute look at this two-part episode. Most of
it deals with how the created the storm and how uncomfortable the actors
were when they were soaking wet for hours.
On disc four there are two more Mission Directive behind-the-scenes
shorts; one for Sanctuary and one dealing with Before I Sleep.
Disc five rounds things off with A Look Back at Season 1 with
(writer and series editor) Martin Gero (17 minutes) and Mission Directive:
The Siege an 11-minute short dealing with the two-part concluding story.
There is also a photo gallery on each disc.
Stargate Atlantis is a very good spinoff from Stargate SG-1.
It manages to incorporate the good elements from its parent show while
still being new and unique. The characters are interesting, the writing
is good, and the show has a lot of action with a good dollop of humor.
If you haven't been watching Stargate SG-1, this show is still pretty
accessible. You won't know what a Zero Point Module is, or what a
Naquada Generator does, but it's pretty easy to figure out. If you're a
fan of the earlier show, you won't want to miss this. Highly Recommended.