As Stargate Universe approaches its September 28th premiere date, Syfy announces the addition of Victor Garber, David Hewlett, Robert Picardo, Kathleen Quinlan and French Stewart to its roster of guest stars. The five join Robert Knepper and Julie McNiven, both of whom have multiple episode arcs as members of the Lucian Alliance that attempted to wrest control away from Col. Everett [Louis Ferreira] in the first season finale.
Stargate Atlantis premiered as the original Stargate series, SG-1, was going into its eighth season. It was immediately darker than the original – there was a key death in the premiere, and the alien race they encountered, the Wraith, didn’t require technology to suck the life from their victims. There was also the possibility that the team might not be able to return to Earth. The odds were stacked against the expedition – which was composed of members from around the world.
Stargate Atlantis [Sci Fi Channel, Fridays 9/8C] closes up shop one week from tonight with its one hundredth episode – but before we get to that double milestone, there’s a small matter of a series of inexplicable murders in and around Las Vegas.
Subtly entitled Vegas, the show’s penultimate episode opens as a clever riff on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – but the murders under investigation are way beyond any normal cops and forensics units’ abilities. Fortunately, Detective John Sheppard [Joe Flanigan] is on the case – making it easier for Dr. Rodney McKay [David Hewlett] to trust him with a top secret tale of familiar dimensions. In an unusual and slightly unsettling way, Vegas sets the stage for the series finale.
Enemy at the Gate brings the battle with the Wraith to Earth in an unexpected manner. In the episode, sometime Wraith collaborator Todd [Christopher Heyerdahl] approaches Atlantis with news that an underling has taken over his hive ship – which is now equipped with a ZPM and being turned into an invulnerable dreadnought. In a twist foreshadowed in the previous episode, that bigger, better hive ship will cause a great deal of turmoil – not the least of which is the show’s second James Blish reference [that’s the only hint you get – look it up].
Atlantis’ final episodes do what the show has always done best – science fiction adventure with deft humor, intriguing characterization, and some show stopping effects [I suspect the SGA creative team may have cut a few corners to give the series a big finale and it definitely worked]. The writing is especially noteworthy for the way Robert Cooper [Vegas] and the team of Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie not only play with sci fi conventions, but the conventions of the series they’ve worked on for the last five seasons.
Cooper also directed Vegas and he definitely catches the essence of CSI before the ep moves back into a version of more familiar territory. Andy Mikita deserves commendation for taking the series home in Enemy at the Gate [which is another title that works on a couple of levels, as you’ll see in the ep’s final sequence].
Several old friends are on hand to give fans a last chance to enjoy series favorites like Amanda Tapping [Col. Samantha Carter], Paul McGillion [Dr. Carson Beckett], Mitch Pileggi [Col. Steven Caldwell], Colin Cunningham [Major Paul Davis], Matthew Glave [Col. Paul Emerson], Ben Cotton [Dr. Kavanaugh], and the inimitable Gary Jones [Sgt. Walter Harriman].
Stargate Atlantis ends on a high note. All we have to do is enjoy.
One thing you can say about the Stargate franchise – it may rarely reach brilliance, but it’s equally rarely less than fun. Season four of SG Atlantis found Torri Higginson’s Dr. Elizabeth Weir leaving her command for a pretty good reason – to keep the Replicators from destroying Atlantis. In her stead, the Atlantis Expedition welcomed [all except for maybe David Hewlett’s Rodney McKay] Col. Samantha Carter [Amanda Tapping] as their new commander.
Along with other familiar villainous faces [like the Genii], season four also brought the former Wraith Michael [Connor Trinneer] back and tied his arc into the story of Teyla’s [Rachel Luttrell] pregnancy [Luttrell’s real pregnancy sparked the writers’ ideas]. We got to see Rodney attempt to propose marriage; the deserted Atlantis of twenty-eight thousand years in the future, and a fable about a little girl who was about to become queen. The season’s creative high point may have been Tabula Rasa [with everyone’s memories gone, including his, Rodney has to save the city], but I particularly enjoyed Midway wherein Col. Carter asks Teal’c [Christopher Judge] to help Ronan [Jason Momoa] prepare for his IOA interview – and things go, of course, hilariously wrong.
Overall, Atlantis’ fourth season rarely disappoints. The writers have a firm handle on the characters and seem able to produce interesting new riffs on the many aspects of the series. The cast is a well-oiled unit, figuratively speaking, and each has shown the capacity for bringing new shadings to their characters as the writers delve more deeply into them.
Features include: Audio Commentaries on nineteen of the twenty episodes [excepting only the one I wanted most, Midway]; four Mission Directive Featurettes [Doppelganger, This Mortal Coil, Quarantine and Outcast]; A New Leader: Amanda Tapping Joins Stargate Atlantis Featurette; The Doctor is In: The Return of Paul McGillion Featurette; The Making of Trio Featurette; A Look Back at Season Four Featurette; Bloopers; Deleted Scenes, and the usual collection of Photo & Design Galleries.
Grade: Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Season Four – B
Even more than its parent series, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis has embraced the fluidity of life. Every season has had some kind of major change. By now, most Atlantis fans know of the change in command that’s coming to the returning series [Fridays, Sci Fi, 10/C], in tomorrow’s season premiere – which kind of spoils the surprise of the ep’s final seconds. Fortunately, with all the various instances of cliffhanging peril to be resolved, there’s plenty of opportunity to be surprised before then.
Search and Rescue finds members of the Atlantis team buried under tons of rubble from Michael’s imploded compound; Teyla [Rachel Luttrell] about ready to give birth on Michael’s [Connor Trinneer] flagship; and the city itself, for a change, is fine…
With all the action and mayhem in Stargate Atlantis’ fifth-season premiere, the scariest image of all might just be midwife Rodney [David Hewlett]. That’s right. Rodney McKay is the only one with Teyla when the baby decides to make its debut. That is more unsettling than earlier scenes with Rodney and Lorne [Kavan Smith] buried under Michael’s compound, or Sheppard [Joe Flanigan] and Ronon [Jason Momoa] about to be pulled from the rubble by members of Michael’s crew – or even a badly injured Sheppard leading the mission to save Teyla when what he really needs is surgery and a transfusion.
To say that Search and Rescue is another entertaining Atlantis episode is to understate the situation. Writer Martin Gero has produced an ep with space battles, hand-to-hand combat, exploding hyperdrives, lots of weapons fire and even a few more moments where Rodney’s spine solidifies briefly. Veteran Atlantis director Andy Mikita keeps things moving at a [mostly] breakneck pace – making certain implausiblities virtually unnoticeable. Combined with sharply observed performances, the result is definitely a lot of fun.