Stargate: Atlantis/Season 4 (MGM) (5 DVDs)
When I watched the original debut of Stargate: Atlantis four years ago, I admit I wasn’t that impressed.
I mean, yes, the basic premise, rediscovering the city in the title was on a planet in a different galaxy initially only accessible through the Stargate, was kind of cool. From there though, the new villains, the Wraith, left me with the impression they were just badly dressed goth players with skin conditions. Certain characters were just shallow knock-offs of the original SG-1 team. As the cast explored the city, it became more and more underwhelming with each new episode.
I guess MGM got the word, particularly after they cancelled SG-1. They must have realized if they were going to survive on this series until Stargate: Universe launches. So they effectively killed the Atlantis team’s leader, Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson), brought in (now) Colonel Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) to replace her, and upped the responsibilities of resident aliens Runner Ronon Dex (Jason Momoa) and Teyla Emmagan (Rachell Luttrell). Yes, resident brainiac Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett) still strikes me as a Daniel Jackson wannabe (the same for Dex being the Pegasus galaxy equivalent of SG-1’s Teal’c), but I’ve grown to like the annoying little guy. As for lead hero John Sheppard (Joe Flannigan), he always got the job done.
To be honest, I thought the fourth season, which had the city actually take off from its planet and go into hyperspace, was something I was really going to look forward to. I had always been a sucker for the seminal science fiction classic James Blish book series Cities in Space. The concept of a city travelling through space, and it being the now found city of Atlantis, struck me as just too good to miss.
What mattered though is this season’s two-part debut, “Adrift” and “Lifeline,” did something I never expected from the show, it managed to dash my expectations into little bits, yet not disappointment me. Series showrunners Joe Mallozzi, Brad Wright, and Robert Cooper brought in the idea of what toll setting the city out into space would take, and the power needed was way more than it had. The denouement being not only did Atlantis have to go earthbound again, but find a way to take out the series other B-List villains, the Asurans, in the process. Never being a big fan of those boogie men to begin with, I found that to be particularly sweet.
Actually, if anything, the scripts felt just plain more imaginative this season than in any previous season. Maybe it’s partially due to the creative team having half as many episodes to write (from the killing of SG-1), maybe it’s that they finally got the right mix of talent and setting, but Season Four didn’t have a single stinker in the mix. I hate to knock one actor down for another, but the replacement of Weir for Carter was a vast improvement. The concept of having humanity team up with the Wraith to take out the Asurans, was a nice touch. Further, the expansion of the role of the Wraith called Todd finally was a master touch. It gave us viewers a villain up there in the league of the very complex and enjoyable heels I used to watch on Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (which, let’s face it, had the best villains in the Trek world).
As for the extra content, each episode comes with a commentary track, which has its plusses and minuses, depending on who’s doing the commentary. Other highlights include a nice interview with Tapping as well as a much needed season summary on the final disk. There are other little inserts I found handy if not entertaining in their own right.
As for the series itself? Well, as everyone now knows, Tapping is leaving shortly to work on yet another SCIFI Chanell show Sanctuary. Sources talk about further expanding the roll of Keller (Jewel Staite) and the introduction of a personal favorite actor of mine, Robert Picardo, to the cast. I’ll admit I’m actually excited about this next season. Get this boxed set and you’ll see why.