Spin Off Special: Stargate Atlantis, or in another galaxy they speak modern English?

 

First aired: 12th October 2004

Cast (Main):

Joe Flannigan Maj. John Sheppard

Tori Higginson Dr Elizabeth Weir

Rachel Luttrell Teyla Emmagan

Rainbow Sun Francks Lt. Aiden Ford

David Hewlett Rodney McKay

Paul McGillion Dr Carson Beckett

Cast (Guest):

Richard Dean Anderson Gen. Jack O’Neill

Michael Shanks Dr. Daniel Jackson

Robert Patrick Col. Marshall Sumner

Andee Frizell Wraith Queen

Spin Off Specifics:

Where did is spin-off from? Stargate SG-1

When did it spin-off from? This season ran alongside SG-1’s season 8.

What is different? Rather than set on Earth and dealing with the Go’auld, this was set in another galaxy in an alien city. Other than that it was a new cast, but very much a stargate show.

Was it necessary? The Lost City plot only really has a point if you are going to go to the Lost city, so there’s a story that can be told.

How did it compare? It was very much a companion show. It wasn’t tonnes better, but it didn’t take anything away from the other show either.

Plot: Several Million Years Ago a city sized space ship leaves Earth.

Present day and in the aftermath of Anubis’ failed invasion of Earth, the staff of Stargate Command; including Dr. Elizabeth Weir , Dr. Daniel Jackson and Rodney McKay are trying to understand and use the ancient technology that was left after the ship left, which aided in the Anubis’ defeat. So far they have learned that only people possessing a particular gene sequence can use some of this technology.

Flying to the outpost is newly installed head of Stargate Command, Brigadier General Jack O’Neill, with him is his pilot Major John Sheppard, who has no knowledge of anything to do with the Stargate at all and as such is surprised when they are almost shot down by a drone accidentally fired by medical head Dr. Carson Beckett. When they land it turns out that Sheppard also possesses this gene sequence and is a natural at using the ancient technology. Daniel is able to prove that there was a city there and that it left and that they know where they went. Gen. O’Neill authorises the expedition to find this lost city and convinces Sheppard to be amongst that number. Some time passes and the 8 symbol address is dialled and the dozens strong international mix of soldiers and scientists, led by Dr. Weir, with the soldiers under the command of Col. Marshall Sumner, go through the gate and arrive in the ancient city of Atlantis.

The joy of arrival on this city of wonders, under an alien ocean is cut short by Rodney pointing out there isn’t enough power to keep the shield protecting them from the ocean on and they may need safe harbour, or at least another power supply. Using information gleaned from a holographic record, they learn that when the Ancients left Earth, they created new life in this Pegasus galaxy, this human life thrived, until a new threat was discovered and the city was besieged until finally abandoned. Knowing now that there are more local gates to try a team is sent including Sheppard, much to Sumner’s chagrin.

Through the gate they meet the Athosians and their leader Teyla Emmagan, Sumner is abrasive and dismissive towards here, but Sheppard wins them over and she agrees to trade with them and show Sheppard ancient ruins. There he learns about the threat the Ancients spoke of, the Wraith. The Wraith feed on humans, routinely culling the human population and waiting for the numbers to grow. When there is a crop worth having, they return to cull the herd once more. Even when dormant, they still send raiding parties to pick off a few here and there.

Well you can imagine what happens next can’t you? The gate opens and several dart shaped ships fly through and head to the Athosian village. They start taking people left and right, including Teyla and Sumner. The people at the gate, including a Lt. Ford see the address they use to go back. Feeling there is no safety there, Sheppard orders and retreat to Atlantis, including the surviving Athosians. Sheppard wants to go and get the missing, but Weir has no interest of sending people to die with an advantage that will give them at least a fighting chance. This is where Rodney points out the small gate-sized ships in the city. Sheppard can no only find them, but can cloak the ship from sight too. As this is going on, the shields face collapse and the city rises from the ocean floor to become an island on that alien world. With the city safer and the ship ready to go, Sheppard, Ford and a bunch of other soldiers (Red Shirts, to be more honest) head off to find Sumner and the others.

Speaking of Teyla, Sumner and the other missing, they are being held on another ship by the Wraith, all long white hair and goth clothes. They take one of the Athosians, whom you get the impression knows for sure that he’s not coming back from wherever they take him. Sumner is next and is brought before the only female Wraith you see, a Queen, who questions him about where he is from and the billions of people shaped meals that live there.

The ship (dubbed the Puddle Jumper) arrives on the planet. Sheppard and Ford sneak into the Wraith ship and free the remaining prisoners. Ford starts planting explosives and Sheppard looks for Sumner.

Sumner is being fed on by the Queen and in seconds is emaciated. He sees Sheppard and a look is exchanged. Sheppard takes this as permission and shoots Sumner through the heart as an act of mercy. Sheppard is then captured, but is saved by Ford and is able to turn the tables and kill the Queen, who warns him that the rest of the Wraith will now awaken and feed. As bad as things are, they are about to get a lot worse.

The team escape and in the Jumper get to the gate, which is in orbit and after a battle between the Jumper and several Wraith darts, the team make it through the gate. The darts follow, but a shield on the other side makes sure that they never make it. At the end of it, Sheppard and Weir discus the new status quo, how they will need allies, that there’s no immediate way home and a new and merciless enemy has been unleashed. The adventure is just beginning.

Notes: While Stargate SG-1 was a flawed show that arguably went on too long. However by the end of it’s 7th season, it was a well oiled macing with a fleshed out universe, movie-level effects, actors who were at home in their characters and a production that really knew what it was. It made sense that at this point a spin-off could be made and the Lost City plot-line was the ideal story to go with for it. So with the world already fleshed out by seven years and a movie, the spin-off had a lot of the heavy lifting already done and could just get into the story. The story in this case being an expedition to the lost city of Atlantis, somewhere in the Pegasus dwarf galaxy.

TV Sci-Fi is a bit of a formulaic beast and so just like SG-1, you have a couple of stock character archetypes in there, the likable everyman leader, the wide-eyed scholarly type, the scientific person, the gruff military guy, the rookie and the alien stranger. This time however, they mixed up the ingredients, the scholar is in charge, the alien is personable, rather than not very good at people, that role falling to the scientist, the gruff military leader ends up being expendable member of the team who doesn’t make it out of the pilot.

The returning cast from SG-1 are as capable as ever, Joe Flannigan (the man with the weirdest ears on TV) excels as the newcomer to all this mixed with the disgraced soldier, but honestly he seems to be having lots of fun. He has an easy chemistry with Rachel Luttrll’s Teyla, which often comes off like friendly flirting. In comparison Luttrell often looks confused by what she’s doing there. Robert Patrick could do this sort of thing in his sleep, which to be honest he is kind of doing here. Overall it’s a cast that has yet to gel, so it’s all a bit uneven in regards to tone and quality. And then we get to the Wraith. Part vampire, part insect and all goth, they’re a sinister and disquieting foe. They see people just as food, but feel the need to torture them as well, their food must fear them. They are all impulse, there’s a scene where the Queen is struggling with the idea that despite being hungry Sumner won’t eat. She’s amazed that they wouldn’t just indulge. There’s moments like that and the oft-times lighthearted tone mixed with the horror that gives you the impression that it will find it’s feet faster than SG-1 did.

Verdict:

Does it work? It did, clear story opening and room to grow.

Does much need fixing? The format isn’t set, but the cast are in place and we are ready to move forward.

Does it stand up? Better than Children of the Gods did.

Did I want to watch the next one? Like with SG-1, I will wait a bit, but yes.

Did I enjoy it? I did, it was fun and was glad that I put it on.

Overall: A solid follow up to Stargate SG-1 and a good show in it’s own right.

Published by Munky

Liverpool based family man and unrepentant geek, trying to understand what's going on in my own head, which is not always being a good place to be. Remember always, we live in a world of wonders.

One thought on “Spin Off Special: Stargate Atlantis, or in another galaxy they speak modern English?

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