Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - MGM Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Ethan Stevenson (7th October 2011).
The Show

I’m a "Star Trek" man through and through. Perhaps not big enough of a fanboy to heatedly debate the differences between a 'Trekker' and 'Trekkie'—although certainly well aware of the fact that there is a difference between the two—but most definitely of the mindset that ‘Trek’, the franchise’s first two live action iterations of it anyway, is one of the greatest achievements in television history. Gene Roddenberry’s "Star Trek" (1966-1969) didn’t just break new ground when it debuted, forever changing the small-screen landscape; it made a massive crater, all the way right to the core of Planet Television. In much the same way life forms sprouted legs and made their way out of the primordial soup we call the ocean, what TV was—and what writers could do with the medium—evolved, transforming overnight. Roddenberry and his paddock of prolific writers began to tackle topical and serious social issues of the then-and-now—particularly race relations and gender politics—through the pretext of science fiction adventure, and that was pioneering. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987-1994), a series I hold even dearer to my heart because its then-new episodes were the ones I watched religiously in my youth, continued more of the same, while literally changing the way television was produced, notable as one of the first and most successful syndicated 1-hour dramas ever (and lent previous unseen gravitas to a mere television program when Shakespearian grade acting came in the form of Patrick Stewart). Each series won’t just be remembered for the types of pioneering stories they told, and the unique ways in which they told them. Even more simply, ‘Trek’ will be remembered because the 79 original adventures of Kirk and Spock, and Jean-Luc Picard’s 176 episodes follow-up voyages aboard the Enterprise D, contain dozens upon dozens of episodes that are indisputably some of the best fifty-ish minutes of sci-fi drama ever conceived of on the small-screen. The legacy of "Stargate: Atlantis" (2004-2009) on the other hand… well…

I’ve written this before—and I’ll likely write it again if another "Stargate" related disc ever shows up on my doorstep—but I’m absolutely astounded by the popularity of "Stargate" franchise. Who’d have believed Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s cheesy, if ridiculously enjoyable, feature film from 1994 would go on to spawn on my last count: Three television series, two direct-to-video movies, a short lived animation, countless novels, and all the other garbage often associated with the a beloved fictional sci-fi universe? Honestly, did anyone expect the "Trek"-esque following that has sprung up in the fifteen-plus years since the first mention of an Ancient device that creates wormholes to other galaxies? The answer is no. Even Devlin admits his befuddlement in one of the supplements on the 15th Anniversary re-release of "Stargate" (1994).

And yet, it happened. There are people who hold the "Stargate" franchise in high regard, believing it to be as good as, if not better than, any other star-stemmed fictional world, be it "Trek" or even "Wars". I’m not one of those people. I don’t think "Stargate", in any of its forms, can even begin to match the best of "Trek"—be it captained by Kirk or Picard, or even Sisko, Janeway, and maybe even Archer (yes, I’m admitting not all of "Enterprise" (2001-2005) was utter shit). Comparing any of the "Stargate" series’ to a full-fledged feature film—specifically the "Star Wars" films (1977-2005)—is a bit unfair (different mediums and all that; and okay, it’s beyond unfair). But I’ll still go on record saying that the best of "Stargate", which I consider to be the later episodes of the short-lived "Stargate: SG-U" (2009-2011), is nowhere near as deserving of praise as the best of Lucas’ groundbreaking bastions of blockbuster cinema. (Though, even the worst episodes of "Stargate"—examples of which are most definitely included in the five season long run of "Stargate: Atlantis"—might not be as bad as "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" (2002). Then again, few things are as bad as the second "Star Wars" prequel. But I digress).

When I typed some of my first words here at the site with the "Fans Choice" review, I was almost entirely green to the "Stargate" mythos. I was a newbie, who had spent less than three hours in the franchise’s vast universe (excluding, of course, the countless times I returned to Emmerich and Devlin’s original film, which I’ll always adore despite its undeniable, but generally forgivable, flaws). That’s no longer true. I am a newb no more. I’ve gone back and watched a bulk of ‘SG-1’ with that Netflix subscription I’m about cancel, reviewed nearly every minute of "Stargate Universe" for this very site, and now, thanks to MGM’s big Blu-ray box, chugged through all 4400-odd minutes of "Atlantis". And yet, I can’t say all the time spent watching the three "Stargate" series’ has really changed my opinion of the franchise as a whole. I’ve always seen the appeal of the central conceit—and why the wormhole-to-another galaxy premise is viewed by the loyal as brilliant—in that it provides, at a base level, the ultimate in escapist entertainment. The gate allows for near limitless possibilities, and I understand, as a lover of many a sci-fi television show, what those possibilities can mean for viewers. But, until I made my way though this set, I never really understood why people kept returning to the assumed long-draw well. The reason for the fandom, which I took away from my experience after watching, isn’t so much the writing and plot, the impressive special effects, or the series’ rocky marriage of military might, science-y intellect, and Canadian Charm™. What matters most with ‘Atlantis’ is actually simpler than that: it’s the characters, which you come to love. Well… you’ll like a few of them anyway, and love hating a few others (and if you’re me, a couple of them you’ll just hate).

"Atlantis" comes out on top when put against franchise predecessor "SG-1", but doesn’t score quite as favorably as "Universe" in my book. The middle-child born from the writing partnership of creators Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper, "Atlantis" is appropriately a bit like both its siblings—decidedly more serious than the tame, tediously PG-safe "SG-1", but not quite as dark and character driven as "Universe". It’s a stopgap, maturing from a horrible clone (in the first season, it’s basically "SG-1" 2.0) and eventually taking the franchise into a darker, grittier, and more dramatic direction. But even at its darkest (seasons four and five) "Atlantis" still has a bit of fun waiting in the wings, ready to be unleashed by the writers when they wanted to lift the audience’s spirit (a quality that the depressing "Universe" didn’t possess).

In "Rising", the series’ feature-length pilot, viewers are introduced to a group, led by Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson), which has unearthed a new Stargate in the Antarctic. The gate launches a team of scientists and military personnel—the usual pairing for the franchise—to an unknown destination in the Pegasus Galaxy. Passing through, they find themselves in an uninhabited underwater city, once populated by the descendants of the lost civilization of Atlantis. When it all predictably goes to hell, and the city and its attached Stargate begin to lose power, Weir’s team—also comprised of Lt. Col. John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan), Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett), Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion), and a wide-eyed young lieutenant named Aiden Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks)—are soon stranded without a way back to Earth.

Sheppard and the doctors slowly repair the city—eventually regaining contact with Earth later in the series—and set about their mission, exploring planets and making contact with many of the primitive human civilizations that call the Pegasus Galaxy their home. One of the first groups they meet are the peaceful Athosians, led by Teyla Emmagan (Rachel Luttrell), a warrior woman and all-around badass, who joins the Atlantis expedition as their Pegasus Galaxy liaison to the other communities within distance of any dialable Stargate. Along the way the team that operates out of Atlantis must cope, like the rest of the galaxy, with the Wraith, cannibalistic aliens who enslave all opposed to their human-eating appetites. Really, "Atlantis" is no different at its core than any other "Stargate" work that predates it. The pilot even features Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) and Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), of "SG-1" fame, making guest appearances, tying this series into the already established universe.

O’Neill’s figurative replacement, presented in a very “pass the torch” fashion, is Sheppard and the character, and actor playing said character Joe Flanigan, remains the standout—funny but not without a sometimes more appropriately serious edge—throughout the series. Sheppard and Flanigan are suitable substitutes for O’Neill and Anderson’s hulking personalities. Sheppard is a cocksure Han Solo type, but Flangian doesn’t ape Harrison Ford and rather plays him with the charm of a second-rate Nathan Fillion (which, really, isn’t a knock). Weir on the other hand, is a poor fill-in for Jackson. In fact, she’s a terrible character and Higginson is a terrible actress—gussied up to easily draw the comparison to what I’ll dub a 'soulless' Sigourney Weaver, or Ellen Ripley, knockoff. Luckily, the terribleness of Weir is made up for with the wonderfulness of Teyla and Luttrell (who does nearly all her own stunts). The Athosian is like a female Worf, and that’s sort of awesome in a totally deconstructionist way, playing both against gender stereotypes and the more sinister archetypes of female characters on TV. Dr. Beckett, with his thick Scottish accent and apathetic attitude, is basically what happens when you merge Bones and Scotty into one character. What makes it work is the writers know that’s what they’ve done, and openly draw attention to it with knowing references and dialogue. Rodney McKay is another amalgamation. Actor David Hewlett has an uncanny resemblance to what I imagine the child of Robin Williams and Quentin Tarantino looking like and he gives McKay—a total dick, a type that Hewlett plays oh so well (see his role in "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011) as further proof)—the slightly douchey, but more asperger-ish personality to match those of his apparent parentage. Francks’ Lt. Ford is another wonky cog that doesn’t really work… until he’s rewritten as a villain in the second season. Joining the cast from the second season on is recent Conan, Jason Momoa as Ronon Dex, a rugged native with a vendetta against the Wraith for annihilating his entire race. He’s, essentially, the Chewbacca to Flanigan’s Han… if Chewie actively murdered people for revenge.

The main problem with "Atlantis" is the ten years of franchise story lines (and god-only-knows-how-many episodes of other sci-fi programs) preceding it. The comparisons to "SG-1" and the variations on the "Star Trek" name (and any other TV series or element of pop culture that seemingly influenced the "Atlantis" writing team) are inevitable, and become almost too fun not to point out. "Atlantis", like "SG-1" and "Universe", falls victim to uninspired and repetitive story lines, borrowing from other established shows rather unapologetically—although occasionally in a more palatable and knowing wink-wink fashion. And so the comparisons with "Trek" and other popular sci-fi series’ can be less kind. Let’s be frank, "Atlantis" will never be looked at as one of the “greats”.

But, playfully—although not always successfully—expanding on a movie that barely sustained the concept for two hours, even if I’d be hard-pressed to call "Stargate: Atlantis" a triumph of television creativity, its also far from unwatchable, and occasionally well written. The show has its share of derivative plots and whole episodes that just smell of rotten dead horse carcass, but is that really unexpected given the central plot is basically the same reheated nonsense seen in the movie and the "SG-1" TV series? No. Bringing something new to the table is near impossible—unless the series decided to go in an entirely different direction, a la "Universe"—when there’s ten years of familiar character beats, alien foes, wormholing adventures, space exploration, time travel and whatever already on screen from the "Stargate" creative team. The few new elements the writers manage to weave into the franchise’s framework—mostly the series’ main antagonist, the vampiric, soul-sucking race of alien demons called the Wraith—expand the mythology to a near-frustrating point of genuine absurdity. But it works. The mythology, usually the basis for the show’s best two or three-part episodes, offers a refreshing reprieve from the usual doldrums brought on by the series’ stampede of standalone silliness. And when the writers are working on a riff, stitching together a larger arc, "Atlantis" proves to be a lot more worthy of its large following.

Season One - The one that started it all—or, at the very least, the first spin-off of the spin-off—starts shakily. The first season of "Atlantis" is probably the weakest of the five, often struggling under the weight of "SG-1", which was entering into its eighth season. The writers and producers we’re obviously (perhaps too obviously) trying to recreate the success of the already long-running predecessor. Cooper and Wright kept the staff on a tight leash, forcing the writers to often blindly follow the formula of the most basic standalone "SG-1" episodes, without adding much to the mythos of a new chapter in the franchise. Too many of the earlier episodes have pointless, joke-ridden, kiddie pleasing subplots (McKay accidentally attaches a device to his body, which creates a shield around him, leading to a series of “funny” mishaps). And most use a simple, horribly derivative formula: team travels to planet and meet a technologically inferior race that eerily mirrors some faction of Earth’s past. Inordinate Wraith arrive and misunderstandings occur with the indigenous people. Team is put in increasing jeopardy while clock runs dangerously close to 40 minutes. Everything is anti-climactically resolved in the span of three minutes. Team goes home to Atlantis. Credits.

The tone and style of writing begins to change about halfway through the season, when writer Martin Gero introduces the first real non-Wraith adversary of the Atlantis team—a group of humans called the Genii. Headlined by two militaristic leaders (Robert Davi and Colm Meaney) the Genii, a society on the verge of successfully achieving nuclear fission and creating their own atom bomb, wish to defeat the Wraith, but aren’t too keen to join forces with the more technologically advanced team on Atlantis to do so. The Genii would rather control the Atlantean base, and Earth’s technology, for themselves. Their arc—"Underground", "The Storm", "The Eye", and the two-part "The Siege" (which carries into season two, sans Genii)—are the clear high points of the debut season. Weak episodes are plentiful, with my three least favorite—"Hide and Seek" (the team battles a black-smoke-monster that is draining power from the recovering city), "The Defiant One" (Sheppard does his best imitation Kirk-punch while fighting a Gorn, er, Wraith, on a hostile desert planet, but not much else), and "Letters from Pegasus" (a horrible recap/clipshow that feels like something out of a sitcom)—might just be three of the worst episodes in the entire series. Everything that’s not the Genii arc, or the pilot—an episode like "Childhood’s End" for instance—is very, very “meh”. Perhaps not on the level of badness as "The Defiant One", but still pretty underwhelming.

Season one includes the series’ two-part feature-length pilot and 18 episodes spread across four discs:

- "Rising: Parts 1 & 2"
- "Hide and Seek:
- "Thirty-Eight Minutes"
- "Suspicion"
- "Childhood’s End"
- "Poisoning the Well"
- "Underground"
- "Home"
- "The Storm"
- "The Eye"
- "The Defiant One"
- "Hot Zone"
- "Sanctuary"
- "Before I Sleep"
- "The Brotherhood"
- "Letters from Pegasus"
- "The Gift"
- "The Siege: Part 1"
- "The Siege: Part 2"

Season Two - Bigger budget, better special effects, and a big-ass ship with giant railguns. Yeah, everything—starting with the introduction of Mitch ‘Skinner’ Pileggi as Col. Caldwell and the massive interstellar weapons platform, er, ship called the Daedalus that he captains, to the promotion of a supporting cast member and the addition of an all new character—is better in season two. First and foremost, one of the weaker characters (and probably weakest actor) from season one, Lt. Aiden Ford (played by Rainbow Sun Francks), is reworked into a villain of sorts. This gives the character some purpose. He was just sort of a pointless sidekick who mostly existed as comic relief— something the series definitely already had in spades with the spastic McKay—in the first season. Season two’s redirection of character gives Francks a chance to show that, push-comes-to-shove, he can act. At least a little bit. Paul McGillion also gets promoted to main cast somewhere along the line. And, of course, Momoa is introduced, giving Flanagan’s Han his Chewie. The Wraith are also further developed, evolving beyond the mindless, sacks of soul-sucking scariness, with the introduction of Michael (Connor “Trip” Trinneer from "Enterprise"), a Wraith stuck somewhere between human and monster. His arc includes one of the more interesting plots in the second season and beyond. In the final episodes of season two his faction floats the idea of a possible alliance with the Atlantis crew.

The one downfall of the second season is—with the addition of Momoa’s Ronon Dex to the team— Rachel Luttrell’s Teyla has a bit of the character’s edginess and uniqueness taken from her. It isn’t a huge loss—she’s still a Worf-ian badass... most of the time—but because the two characters serve much the same narrative and thematic purpose, one gets pushed aside for the other in subplots and development. Because Momoa/Dex was new in season two, he gets most of the screen time (later seasons split the time about equally), leaving Teyla blander and more generically feminine. The Daedalus also carries with it a new ZPM, or zero-point module, giving Atlantis enough power to never have to worry about failing shields, or being stuck without the ability to dial Earth, again (something that plagued the first season like a bad case of herpes, laying dormant until the writers needed the biggest flare up ever to create suspenseful contrivance). Although the new ZPM-powered connection to Stargate Command and Earth might seem like a bit of a copout, and is used as a crutch at times in the series, it also allows for new plotlines, and builds up to a small arc focusing on the possibility of a Wraith attack on Earth. Also, the ZPM means all the stupid wheeling-spinning spent on just trying to keep Atlantis above water in the first season is drastically reduced until its written out entirely… for a while anyway.

Season two includes 20 episodes spread evenly across four discs:

- "The Siege" Part 3"
- "The Intruder"
- "Runner"
- "Duet"
- "Condemned"
- "Trinity"
- "Instinct"
- "Conversion"
- "Aurora"
- "The Lost Boys"
- "The Hive"
- "Epiphany"
- "Critical Mass"
- "Grace Under Pressure"
- "The Tower"
- "The Long Goodbye"
- "Coup D’etat"
- "Michael"
- "Inferno"
- "Allies"

Season Three - After wrapping up the storyline with the failed Wraith alliance over the first few episodes, the series seems to be back at square one with season three… unfortunately. The Wraith are still a constant threat, and the possible Wraith-killing retro-virus savior that’s been at the center of the show for over a season isn’t the answer the crew had been looking for (at least not the cure all like they’d hoped). By the end of season three even that trusty ZPM is worn and near depleted again (damn Atlantean herpes). Much of season three is a genuine attempt by the writers to introduce something new and not repeat themselves, but they fail about half the time, treading familiar ground. Amidst some interesting mythology there’s a few of those dreaded “team-meets-Earth-like-society-stuck-in-the-middle-ages” episodes—no doubt because they’re cheaper to produce than the CG monstrosities that the battle-heavy mythology usually devolves into—and a couple of odd episodes that just don’t work at all.

Weir is recalled to Earth to explain her actions—the beginning of the end for Torri Higginson taking an almost supporting cast role until she’s written out in season four (yay)—and she returns to Atlantis with Richard Woolsey (Robert freakin' Piccardo), a stoogish doctor sent by the military to assess the mission in the Pegasus Galaxy. Although the Wraith are still a threat, another newer enemy—or an old one, really—called the Asurans (nanites who manifest in humanoid form and are essentially a new breed of the Replicators first seen in "SG-1"; there sort of like the Borg, only less cool) have set their sights set on Atlantis. Led by Oberoth (David Ogden Stiers), the Replicators are hell-bent on capturing the city for themselves, culminating in the two-part episode "The Return" guest starring Richard Dean Anderson as, yes, Brig. Gen. Jack O’Neill. Although Richard Kind is a great actor—and plays surprisingly well against type in his two episodes this season—"Irresistible" and "Irresponsible", both episodes featuring his trickster character Lucius Lavin are pretty "SG-1"ish, and thus, pretty awful. The series is also worse off with Paul McGillion’s Dr. Beckett written into stasis for the remainder of the show due to “unfortunate circumstances.” Fortunately, his absence is counteracted by the addition of Dr. Jennifer Keller, played by the always-lovable Jewel Staite.

Season three includes 20 episodes spread evenly across four discs:

- "No Man’s Land"
- "Misbegotten"
- "Irresistible"
- "Sateda"
- "Progeny"
- "The Real World"
- "Common Ground"
- "McKay and Mrs. Miller"
- "Phantoms"
- "The Return: Part 1"
- "The Return: Part 2"
- "Echoes"
- "Irresponsible"
- "Tao of Rodney"
- "The Game"
- "The Ark"
- "Sunday"
- "Submersion"
- "Vengeance"
- "First Strike"

Season Four - Weir is written off—huzzah—and replaced by Col. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping, reprising her role from "SG-1"). Jewel Staite is promoted to main cast, with her Dr. Keller fully accepting duties as Atlantis’ chief medical officer. Teyla is pregnant. The tag team of Wraiths and Asuran Replicators serve as the big bad, although McKay does his best to make the latter more useful in Atlantis’ ever-important mission to wipeout the former. Michael (Connor Trinneer) returns, even more villainous, dangerous to Wraith and human alike. Like most seasons, four has its ups, downs, and in-betweens.

McKay’s ingenious use of the Asurans (their nanite technology in particular) in a mid season trilogy—"This Mortal Coil", "Be All My Sins Remember’d" and "Spoils of War"—is one of the high points of the season. The two-part "The Kindred" is also among the best, with a grander expansion on Michael’s storyline and the reintroduction of another, long thought dead, character. On the other hand, an episode like "Quarantine" (Atlantis is put into lockdown, when a medical alert triggers an alarm, trapping characters throughout the city) seems familiar; too familiar. In fact, I’m pretty sure the creative team already made the episode in season one with "Hot Zone". "Midway" is a total fan-service episode, bringing yet another "SG-1" character (and cast member)—Teal’c (Christopher Judge)—to the "Atlantis" set. The episode forces Teal’c and Ronon to face off in what the writers wrongly assume to be a nerdgasmic delight. Yeah, sorry writers: it’s really a lot less delightful, and more like that one time William Shatner and movie-version Jean-Luc Picard teamed up to fight an old-ass Alex DeLarge in the worst movie ever made (yes, that’s how I prefer to reference the 'plot' of "Star Trek Generations" (1994)).

Season four includes 20 episodes spread evenly across four discs:

- "Adrift"
- "Lifeline"
- "Reunion"
- "Doppelganger"
- "Travelers"
- "Tabula Rasa"
- "Missing"
- "The Seer"
- "Miller’s Crossing"
- "This Mortal Coil"
- "Be All My Sins Remember’d"
- "Spoils of War"
- "Quarantine"
- "Harmony"
- "Outcasts"
- "Trio"
- "Midway"
- "The Kindred: Part 1"
- "The Kindred: Part 2"
- "The Last Man"

Season Five - More casting changes: Robert Piccardo and Dr. Woolsey replace Amanda Tapping and Col. Carter as the new-Weir. Another fan pleasing moment—episodes "First Contact" and "Lost Tribe"—brings the final "SG-1" alum, Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), to "Atlantis" for an admittedly decent two-part crossover. A long running storyline with Todd the Wraith (Christopher Heyerdahl) proves to be one of the better arcs in the series, and provides the base of the mythology in season five. And some of the standalone episodes—"The Daedalus Variations", which is sort of like a poor man’s "Yesterday’s Enterprise"—are fairly well done. Too bad, as the final season of a series, "Atlantis" take-five is kinda crap.

The finale, the unfulfilling "Enemy at the Gate", is open-ended—intended to be wrapped up in a direct-to-video movie that is indefinitely shelved—and there are an unusually high number of episodes that are just really, really terrible. Take for instance "Vegas". The penultimate adventure with Sheppard, McKay, Teyla, Ronon, and the rest of the Atlantis crew is anything but spectacular and, like the season as a whole, is all the poorer when taken in the context of an ever-encroaching ending. The episode takes place in an alternate reality, where reinvented versions of the core characters interact in a "CSI"-like universe. It’s bad. Really, really awful, and even if it weren’t the second-to-last episode of the series, "Vegas" would still go down as one of the worst ever. Season five also includes a horrible clipshow disguised as an episode—"The Inquisition"—to which my only response was a quizzical “why?” A few fun, but disappointingly frivolous diversions—writer Martin Gero’s series directorial debut, "Brain Storm", which features awesome cameos by Dave Foley and Bill Nye the Science Guy—sort of sidestep the series in the middle of its grander mythology.

It’s difficult to label five the worst season of the series—I still think the the first season is the weakest in terms of writing, standalone-to-mythology ratio, and general production value—but I’d have little problem calling the fifth outing of "Atlantis" the most disappointing overall. Season five could have been an epic conclusion. Instead, it’s just more of the same, if not slightly worse, than a regular middle season.

Season five includes 20 episodes spread evenly across four discs:

- "Search and Rescue"
- "The Seed"
- "Broken Ties"
- "The Daedalus Variations"
- "Ghost in the Machine"
- "The Shrine"
- "Whispers"
- "The Queen"
- "Tracker"
- "First Contact"
- "The Lost Tribe"
- "Outsiders"
- "Inquisition"
- "The Prodigal"
- "Remnants"
- "Brain Storm"
- "Infection"
- "Identity"
- "Vegas"
- "Enemy at the Gate"

In the conclusion of my review of the detestable "Stargate Atlantis: Fans Choice" Blu-ray, which I wrote way back in 2009, I mentioned that I didn’t see the complete series “making its way to high definition home video anytime soon.” It turns out I was both right, and, weirdly, at the same time, very, very wrong. Right in that it did take a while—two years in fact—for the Atlantean "Stargate" series to see its debut on the high def format (quite a long wait to finally have what fans were teased with all those years ago by that most horrible of half-assed choices). But wrong too, because—although they may have had to wait—the complete series is ready and waiting to be picked up from the nearest store (or friendly online e-tailer) by the most loyal "Stargate" fiends. Not only that: the complete collection of "Atlantis"—all 100 episodes, now in 1080p—can be had in a neatly packaged 20-disc boxset, which is positively packed with extras and available at a relatively reasonable MSRP. I’ll tell you right now, minor quibbles—with the first season’s high def transfers—aside, this is a set that deserves a spot on any fans’ shelf.

Video

The tech specs (1.78:1 widescreen, 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4) may be uniform across all five seasons of the series, but the resulting high def transfers are anything but comparable. The series’ slow evolution in cinematography and production design into the dark, dingy, gritty recesses of every shadowy set over the course of five seasons mean that each season, and even each episode, has subtle variances in style and visual tone. Taken as a whole, all 100 episodes of this the set, look great. But they don’t look consistent. Sure, colors—skewed towards blues and greens, but generally lush—are satisfying throughout. And most of the series looks really, really good, with generous amounts of high frequency detail, ample depth, satisfying (if occasionally elevated) contrast, and an excellent black level. But the differences in definition, detail, and encoding competency between the first season and other four is somewhat shocking.

The disparity between the debut and the seasons to follow is, of course, not without explanation. "Rising"—the series pilot—was shot on 35mm film and is flatter, duller, grainier, and softer than the rest of the episodes in the series’ first season (all of which are the product of HD video). However, the pilot and the remainder of the initial season share one commonality that makes the earliest episodes of "Atlantis" somewhat of a disappointment. Every special effect, and every shot with a CG element, was rendered in sub-HD resolution and then upconverted in postproduction for the high def broadcast master. What this means, much like Fox’s Blu-ray release of “Firefly”(2002), is sharpness and detail waver, shifting from scene to scene and sometimes shot-to-shot, during the first year. Most close ups, wide shots of practical locations, and basically any shot that doesn’t involve some sort of CG, look as brilliant as the rest of the series (and season two through five have absolutely terrific transfers). But almost every shot with CG in the first season exhibits massive amounts of aliasing, serious banding, and absolutely no discernible texture. Just forget about any shot that’s entirely CGI—the towers of Atlantis are blocky, jagged spires of vaguely rectangular terribleness. The ocean and sky surrounding the city is so poorly graded, showing obvious signs of posterization, that they look like paint swatches for various types of blue. And the “Puddle Jumper” transports and enemy Wraith darks are just a mess of artifacts and jaggy lines whenever they zip across the screen. The constant switching from proper HD to mediocre upconversion in the first season is distracting to say the least. Especially in many of the sequences involving the Gate, when the actors are positioned so the camera angle switches back and forth between one character (usually Sheppard) standing in front of the huge hazy CG wormhole, and a reverse angle of another character (usually Weir) without any VFX in frame. Weir’s angle will have excellent facial and fabric detail, but you can watch the quality noticeably fall off whenever the camera is focused on Sheppard, literally dropping to SD resolution. It’s maddening and makes the first season incredibly frustrating to watch.

Seasons two, three, four and five were also shot on digital video, but, unlike season one, had their extensive CG special effects mastered in native HD. Season one probably won’t impress many viewers, but seasons two through five most definitely will. The high definition transfers on the remaining discs can easily stand toe-to-toe with the best, HD-sourced, TV on Blu-ray releases on the market. Nearly every shot in the later seasons has crackling detail. Not a single frame, CG or otherwise, has jagged edges. Artifacts and banding are far less of a problem, and overall the later seasons have a more consistent appearance. Although small problems—subtle softness, a few overblown highlights, and a couple of spots that are aggressively noisy—occasionally arise during the roughly 4400 minutes of Atlantian lore, generally speaking the later-episode encodes are clean, without any serious faults. And, barring some slight crushing of shadow detail in the later, grittier seasons that tend to be cloaked in darkness more than not, "Atlantis" is really quite impressive. Make no mistake, MGM’s Blu-ray release of "Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Series" is the best the adventures of Sheppard, Doctor’s Weir and Rodney McKay, Ronon, and Teyla have ever looked, and likely ever will look. And assuming one can accept the inconsistencies inherent to the first season special effects, fans will be more than happy with the visual improvements brought about by Blu-ray.

Audio

No worries about the sound, which is consistently impressive across the five seasons. "Stargate Atlantis", and its accompanying English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack (48kHz/24-bit), offers an immersive experience from the earliest episode. In "Rising", when Beckett controls the Ancient drone while strapped into the control chair, Sheppard and O’Neill’s aerial outmaneuvering send their helicopter and the whizzing drone all around the room, pumping effects through each one of the speakers with swift panning and solid stereo separation. Dialogue is clean, clear and well prioritized throughout each season, (although I did notice a few differences in volume from episode to episode at least a couple of times). The onslaught of awesome unleashed in three-part "The Siege" saga in the first and second seasons show, even early on, that the series can contend with the biggest, baddest blockbusters around. Surrounds are active, filled with the buzzing of Wraith darts and a near constant hail of gunfire from the Daedalus’ heavy artillery. Railguns and P-90's populate the soundscape with power and poise. A welcomed, forceful low-end rumble accompanies explosions, and loud punchy effects erupt from the bass. And supporting everything is a dark, ethereal synthetic symphony conducted by series composer Joel Goldsmith, whose themes are presented via the crisp precision and grander dynamics of lossless DTS-HD. Certain episodes are more reserved than others, and not every moment of "Stargate" is the stuff audiophile’s dreams are made of – a simply impossible task given the limited budget and time constraints of a cable series. But a good majority of "Atlantis" sounds simply stunning, and in its best moments the series really is as close to reference as you’re going to get from TV on Blu-ray. Every episode includes optional English subtitles.

Extras

"Stargate: Atlantis" fans rejoice—be glad you didn’t make that original Choice (which was barebones). The Blu-ray release of the complete series includes nearly all of the extras you’d ever want. Spread across the twenty-disc set is an astonishing 88 audio commentaries, over 6 hours of featurettes, and 45-minutes worth of deleted scenes from the fourth and fifth seasons. The downside? It seems a few photo galleries, and 2 documentaries (about the making of the pilot and the finale respectively) from the DVD's are M.I.A., and all of the bonus material is encoded in standard definition. Overall, this is a very strong collection of extras, and well worth digging through.

Each disc and season is authored with a resume playback function and optional bookmarks.

DISC ONE:

All but twelve episodes of "Stargate: Atlantis" have an optional audio commentary. Yes, that’s right – nearly every one of the 100 episodes has some sort of talk track with the cast and crew. There are a mind-numbing 88 audio commentaries across the twenty discs and, time management being what it is, I’ll freely admit to skimming and randomly sampling bits and pieces from the approximately 3700 minutes of illuminating comments on character, enlightening revelations of plot from the writers, pithy peculiarities pertaining to production from the producers and directors, and jovial in-jokes from the cast available in this set, and not tackling the whole stack of commentaries individually. It just would’ve taken forever. What I did hear in my jumps between tracks and episodes was a nice balance between off-topic humor and actual insight into the making of the series, and I’m sure any fan of "Atlantis" will come away learning more than they’d ever want to know about the cast and crew and the fictional world they lived in for five years, after listening to the whole set. I found myself seeking out the commentaries with Martin Gero and David Hewlett in my spot checks because both guys (and usually a third party) are ridiculously entertaining to listen too. In the later seasons Hewlett all but vanishes, and so I gravitated towards Gero and Mikita’s tracks. I definitely plan on revisiting the series soon to listen to all of the commentaries properly. Disc one includes:

- Audio commentary on "Rising" with director Martin Wood and actor Joe Flanigan.
- Audio commentary on "Hide and Seek" with actors Rachel Luttrell, Torri Higginson and Paul McGillion.
- Audio commentary on "Thirty Eight Minutes" with actors Rachel Luttrell and Paul McGillion.

The first featurette in the entire set is, fittingly, "Stargate: Atlantis Set Tour" (1.33:1 480i, 11 minutes 21 seconds). Directors Martin Wood and Peter DeLuise take fans on a fun-filled, very funny, tour of the city of Atlantis and the studio in which it was built. The set is pretty massive, and the guys goof of with a price gun. Those looking for a heady production documentary, look elsewhere. Those looking for a surprisingly amusing featurette, that would’ve probably been dreadfully boring had the crew played it straight, have found one here.

DISC TWO:

Continuing onto the second disc fans will find two more audio commentaries with the cast and crew. Disc two includes:

- Audio commentary on "Childhood’s End" with writer Martin Gero and actors Rachel Luttrell and Rainbow Sun Francks.
- Audio commentary on "The Storm" with director Martin Wood, writer Martin Gero, and actor David Hewlett.

A featurette titled "Wraithal Discrimination: It’s Not Easy Being Green" (1.33:1 480i, 11 minutes 28 seconds) is all about the Atlantis crew’s most dangerous foe. The cast and crew talk about the creation, design and culture of the series’ main green and blue-skinned villains. A bit too fluffy and joke-filled to really bother sticking with for the full eleven and a half minutes.

An enthusiastic Francks chats wide-eyed and green in a featurette called "Diary of Rainbow Sun Francks" (1.33:1 480i, 9 minutes 14 seconds). He talks about working on the pilot, life on set complete with footage he shot with a camcorder, heaps praise upon his fellow actors, discusses his favorite episode of the season, and divulges his hopes for the series’ future.

DISC THREE:

And still more season one commentaries await the fanbase. Disc three includes:

- Audio commentary on "The Eye" with director Martin Wood, writer Martin Gero, and actor David Hewlett.
- Audio commentary on "The Defiant One" with director Peter DeLuise and stunt coordinator Dan Shea.
- Audio commentary on "Hot Zone" with writer Martin Gero and actors Rachel Luttrell, Rainbow Sun Francks, and Paul McGillion.
- Audio commentary on "Sanctuary" with actors Rachel Luttrell and Torri Higginson.

Next up are the first of many "Mission Directive" featurettes to appear in this massive set. The Directives are nifty episode-specific making-of's filled with behind-the-scenes footage and talking head interviews with the principal cast and crew. Haphazardly scattered throughout all five seasons, numerous episodes get these mini-docs devoted to their conception and production, usually running somewhere between six and fourteen minutes in length. The two-part "The Storm/The Eye" gets a disappointingly brief piece, while the other two spotlighted eps on this disc are given more thorough attention:

- "Mission Directive: ‘The Storm/The Eye’" (1.33:1 480i, 6 minutes) featurette.
- "Mission Directive: ‘Sanctuary’" (1.33:1 480i, 11 minutes 35 seconds) featurette.
- "Mission Directive: ‘Before I Sleep’" (1.33:1 480i, 13 minutes 57 seconds) featurette.

DISC FOUR:

Disc four finishes off the season with 4 audio commentaries, including:

- Audio commentary on "The Brotherhood" with director Martin Wood, writer Martin Gero, and actor David Hewlett.
- Audio commentary on "The Gift" with director Peter DeLuise, and “Stargate: SG-1” cast member Gary Jones.
- Audio commentary on "The Siege: Part 1" with director Martin Wood, writer Martin Gero, and actor David Hewlett.
- Audio commentary on "The Siege: Part 2" with director Martin Wood, writer Martin Gero, and actors Joe Flanigan and David Hewlett.

Another "Mission Directive" featurette is included on disc four, dissecting the production of "The Siege" (1.33:1 480i, 11 minutes 13 seconds).

"A Look Back on Season One with Martin Gero" (1.33:1 480i, 17 minutes 23 seconds) is a featurette with the writer and story editor, as he discusses the first 20 episodes of the series. He talks about using the building-blocks laid down by "SG-1" to tell the story of the first 10 episodes, and how he believes “Atlantis” grew into its own in the back 10.

DISC FIVE:

Season two marks the beginning of a gratifying but time-consuming trend: audio commentary on every episode! Disc five offers the first of these cast and crew tracks, including:

- Audio commentary on "The Siege: Part 3" with Martin Wood and Martin Gero, and actors Joe Flanigan and David Hewlett.
- Audio commentary on "The Intruder" with director Peter DeLuise and “Stargate: SG-1” actor Gary Jones.
- Audio commentary on "Runner" with Martin Wood and David Hewlett.
- Audio commentary on "Duet" with Martin Wood, Martin Gero and David Hewlett.
- Audio commentary on "Condemned" with director Peter DeLuise and “SG-1” actor Gary Jones.

Two more "Mission Directive" featurettes are also included on disc five. The episode-specific making-of pieces are a bit different in season two, with new introductory graphics and a tighter focus on the direction and filming of each episode:

- "Mission Directive: ‘The Siege: Part 3" (1.33:1 480i, 10 minutes 45 seconds) featurette with director Martin Wood.
- "Mission Directive: ‘The Intruder’" (1.33:1 480i, 10 minutes 59 seconds) featurette with director Peter DeLuise.

DISC SIX:

Disc six commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "Trinity" with director Martin Wood and writer Damian Kindler.
- Audio commentary on "Instinct" with director Andy Mikita and producer Paul Mullie.
- Audio commentary on "Conversion" with Martin Gero, Joe Flanigan and David Hewlett.
- Audio commentary on "Aurora" with director Martin Wood and co-producer Peter DeLuise.
- Audio commentary on "The Lost Boys" with Martin Gero, Joe Flanigan and David Hewlett.

Another "Mission Directive" featurette is included on disc four. Director Andy Mikita talks about making ‘Instinct’ (1.33:1 480i, 15 minutes 9 seconds).

Robert C. Cooper, the writers, cast, and actor Jason Momoa discuss the genesis of Sheppard’s new sidekick and his contributions to the series over season two, in a featurette called "Introduction to A Character: Ronon Dex" (1.33:1 480i, 15 minutes 4 seconds).

DISC SEVEN:

Disc seven commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "The Hive" with director Martin Wood.
- Audio commentary on "Epiphany" with director Neil Fearnley.
- Audio commentary on "Critical Mass" with director Andy Mikita, actor Rachel Luttrell, and director of photography Brenton Spencer.
- Audio commentary on "Grace Under Pressure" with director Martin Wood, writer Martin Gero, and actors Amanda Tapping and David Hewlett.
- Audio commentary on "The Tower" with producer Paul Mullie and director Andy Mikita.

A featurette titled "Profile On: David Hewlett" (1.33:1 480i, 20 minutes 51 seconds) has writer/producer Martin Gero, various cast members, and even Hewlett himself talking about the actor’s casting in and contributions to the series. Hewlett made his first appearance as McKay when he guest starred in an episode of “SG-1”. The producers liked him, and the douche-tastic character, so much that they rewrote one of the supporting roles on "Atlantis" specifically for him. The featurette is a bit long, but not unbearable. It certainly helps that Hewlett, character aside, is a pretty cool guy.

Another featurette called "Stargate Atlantis: Stunts" (1.33:1 480i, 18 minutes 21 seconds), quite unsurprisingly deconstructs the shows often-elaborate stunt work. Director Martin Wood, stunt coordinator James “Bambam” Bamford, actors Rachel Luttrell and Jason Momoa talk about coverage, conception and execution of stunts from throughout season two, and the difficulty of shooting some of the scenes on such a tight schedule.

DISC EIGHT:

Disc eight commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "The Long Goodbye" with Andy Mikita, Torri Higginson, and director of photography Brenton Spencer.
- Audio commentary on "Coup D’etat" with Martin Wood, Martin Gero, and David Hewlett.
- Audio commentary on "Michael" with director Martin Wood and supervising producer Peter DeLuise.
- Audio commentary on "Inferno" with director Peter DeLuise and “SG-1” cast member Gary Jones.
- Audio commentary on "Allies" with director Andy Mikita, writer Martin Gero, and actor David Hewlett.

"Road to a Dream with Martin Gero" (1.33:1 480i, 19 minutes 14 seconds) is a featurette in which the writer/story editor/producer talks about adding another job title to his resume: Actor! No, not really. The joke of this humor but overlong piece is that Gero pretends to have tired of working behind-the-scenes, and wants to make more money for less work as an actor. The man who seemingly does everything on "Atlantis" also slips in a few bits about making the second season, but this featurette is mostly just one slab of silliness. Yes it’s funny, but not funny enough to stick with for 20 minutes.

Another "Profile On" featurette shifts the spotlight onto the series’ other, more accented, less douchey doctor. "Profile On: Paul McGillion" (1.33:1 480i, 20 minutes 42 seconds) allows Gero, McGillion, some of his fellow cast members and others to talk about the actor and his character’s bigger role in season two.

DISC NINE:

Season three has audio commentary on 19 episodes – one less than the perfect 20 included on the previous season. Disc eight commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "No Man’s Land" with producers Martin Gero and Martin Wood.
- Audio commentary on "Misbegotten" with executive producer Paul Mullie and director Martin Wood.
- Audio commentary on "Irresistible" with Martin Wood and director of photography Michael C. Blundell.
- Audio commentary on "Sateda" with series creator and episode writer/director Robert C. Cooper and director of photography Brenton Spencer.
- Audio commentary on "Progeny" with director Andy Mikita and VFX supervisor Mark Savela.

Two more "Mission Directive" featurettes are also included on disc nine. These episode-specific making-of's have a focus on the direction and filming of each episode:

- "Mission Directive: ‘Sateda’" (1.33:1 480i, 15 minutes 34 seconds) featurette with director Robert C. Cooper.
- "Mission Directive: ‘Progeny’" (1.33:1 480i, 10 minutes 57 seconds) featurette with director Andy Mikita.

Martin Gero, VFX co-coordinator Shannon Gurney, VFX supervisor Mark Savela, and others talk about the series’ extensive use of CG, green screen and models in an illuminating featurette called Inside the "Stargate: Atlantis Visual FX Department" (1.33:1 480i, 17 minutes 53 seconds).

Teyla gets her say in a featurette called "Profile On: Rachel Luttrell" (1.33:1 480i, 14 minutes 56 seconds). Honestly, it’s a bit odd having this show up in the supplements for season three—Luttrell has been in the main cast since the pilot—but whatever. Like the profiles included with earlier seasons, this has Gero, other cast and crew, and Luttrell herself talking about what the character and actress add to the series.

DISC TEN:

Disc ten is where season three skips a track, not offering any discussion of episode six "The Real World". Commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "Common Ground" with director William Waring and director of photography Brenton Spencer.
- Audio commentary on "McKay and Mrs. Miller" with Martin Gero and Martin Wood.
- Audio commentary on "Phantoms" with executive producer Carl Binder and director Martin Wood.
- Audio commentary on "The Return: Part 1" with writer Martin Gero and executive producer Paul Mullie.

Another "Mission Directive" featurette is included on disc ten. Director Martin Wood talks about making ‘Phantoms’ (1.33:1 480i, 14 minutes 43 seconds).

"General O’Neill Goes to Atlantis" (1.33:1 480i, 14 minutes) is a featurette with creator Brad Wright, writer/ producer Martin Gero, actor Richard Dean Anderson, and others. They talk about bringing the actor/character and ‘SG-1’ staple out of retirement for a special appearance in the two-part "Stargate Atlantis" episode "The Return".

DISC ELEVEN:

Disc eleven commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "The Return: Part 2" with Martin Gero and executive producer Paul Mullie.
- Audio commentary on "Echoes" with director William Waring and director of photography Brenton Spencer.
- Audio commentary on "Irresponsible" with Martin Wood and director of photography Michael C. Blundell.
- Audio commentary on "Tao of Rodney" with Martin Wood and director of photography Michael C. Blundell.
- Audio commentary on "The Game" with director William Waring and director of photography Brenton Spencer.

Another "Mission Directive" featurette is included on disc eleven. Director William Waring talks about ‘The Game’ (1.33:1 480i, 13 minutes 35 seconds).

"Masters of the Alien" (1.33:1 480i, 17 minutes 53 seconds) is a featurette about the Masters FX Team, the guys who create the Wraith (and other alien) makeup each week on “Atlantis”. Robert C. Cooper, owner Todd Masters, and others talk about the prosthetics used in the series and the creative process of making creepy creatures on a TV budget and schedule.

DISC TWELVE:

Disc twelve commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "The Ark" with Martin Wood and VFX supervisor Mark Savela.
- Audio commentary on "Sunday" with writer Martin Gero and director William Waring.
- Audio commentary on "Submersion" with episode director Brenton Spencer and Mark Savela.
- Audio commentary on "Vengeance" with Andy Mikita and creature effects designer Todd Masters.
- Audio commentary on "First Strike" with Martin Gero, Martin Wood and Mark Savela.

And yet another "Mission Directive" featurette is included on disc twelve. Director Martin Wood talks about ‘First Strike’ (1.33:1 480i, 11 minutes 52 seconds).

"A Look Back on Season Three with Martin Gero" (1.33:1 480i, 20 minutes 18 seconds) is a featurette with the writer/producer reflecting on the middle season of the series. He talks about listening to fan criticisms, focusing more on creating better chemistry between the core cast, giving depth and purpose to the relatively flat Wraith, and creating a new foe for the the series by looking back to "SG-1". He touches on the special appearances of guest stars David Ogden Stiers, Richard Kind, and Robert Davi, and the two-part episode "The Return", featuring the triumphant arrival of Richard Dean Anderson’s Brigadier General Jack O’Neill to the "Atlantis" universe.

DISC THIRTEEN:

Season four offers audio commentary on 19 of its 20 episodes (for whatever reason episode 17, "Midway", doesn’t have a supplemental track.) Disc thirteen commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "Adrift" with Martin Gero and Martin Wood.
- Audio commentary on "Lifeline" with Martin Wood and actor Amanda Tapping.
- Audio commentary on "Reunion" with executive producer Joseph Mallozzi and director William Waring.
- Audio commentary on "Doppelganger" with series creator/executive producer and episode writer/director Robert C. Cooper, and VFX supervisor Mark Savela.
- Audio commentary on "Travelers" with writer Paul Mullie and director William Waring.

Disc thirteen’s "Mission Directive" featurette is for ‘Doppelganger’ (non-anamorphic 1.78:1 480i, 14 minutes 49 seconds), with director Robert C. Cooper.

"A New Leader: Amanda Tapping Joins Atlantis" (non-anamorphic 1.78:1 480i, 15 minutes 54 seconds) is a featurette focusing on the introduction of Col. Samantha Carter into the "Atlantis" world. Gero, Mullie, writer/producer Carl Binder, actor Amanda Tapping, and others talk about the original "SG-1" character’s presence in the newer series as a replacement for Weir, how they consider each entry into the "Stargate" franchise interconnected, and the impact that the casting change had on season four as a whole.

DISC FOURTEEN:

Disc fourteen commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "Tabula Rasa" with writer Alan McCullough, director Martin Wood, and actor Amanda Tapping.
- Audio commentary on "Missing" with writer Carl Binder and director Andy Mikita.
- Audio commentary on "The Seer" with Alan McCullough and Andy Mikita.
- Audio commentary on "Miller’s Crossing" with Martin Gero and Andy Mikita.
- Audio commentary on "This Mortal Coil" with Joseph Mallozzi and William Waring.

Gero and Mallozzi, god love them, introduce "Stargate Atlantis: Bloopers" (non-anamorphic 1.78:1 480i, 7 minutes 8 seconds), an insufferable blooper reel that is worst than most. They open with an honest disclaimer: the reason bloopers weren’t included with earlier "Stargate" seasons, despite constant fan requests, is because they aren’t very funny. They’re right.

"Mission Directive: ‘This Mortal Coil’" (non-anamorphic 1.78:1 480i, 12 minutes 26 seconds) is a featurette with director William Waring. He discusses the production of the episode from behind-the-scenes while filming.

DISC FIFTEEN:

Disc fifteen commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "Be All My Sins Remember’d" with Martin Gero and Andy Mikita.
- Audio commentary on “Spoils of War” with producer/writer Alan McCullough and William Waring.
- Audio commentary on "Quarantine" with Martin Wood and actor Amanda Tapping.
- Audio commentary on "Harmony" with Martin Gero and William Waring.
- Audio commentary on "Outcast" with producer/writer Alan McCullough and Andy Mikita.

Two "Mission Directive" featurettes are also included on disc fifteen. These episode-specific making-of's have a focus on the direction and filming of each episode:

- "Mission Directive: ‘Quarantine’" (non-anamorphic 1.78:1 480i, 10 minutes 21 seconds) featurette with director Martin Wood.
- "Mission Directive: ‘Outcast’" (non-anamorphic 1.78:1 480i, 10 minutes 15 seconds) featurette with director Andy Mikita.

DISC SIXTEEN:

Disc sixteen commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "Trio" with Martin Gero, Martin Wood, and Amanda Tapping.
- Audio commentary on "The Kindred" with executive producer Joseph Mallozzi and director Peter F. Woeste.
- Audio commentary on "The Kindred: Part 2" with writer Alan McCullough and director Martin Wood.
- Audio commentary on ‘The Last Man’ with Paul Mullie and Martin Wood.

In "The Making of ‘Trio’" (non-anamorphic 1.78:1 480i, 16 minutes 34 seconds), a featurette charting the conception and production of the sixteenth episode from season four, co-executive producer/writer Martin Gero, director Martin Wood, co-exec producer Paul Mullie, and actor Amanda Tapping all say that the episode was their most challenging to date. Perhaps that’s why it get its own making of instead of a more focused “Mission Directive”?

"A Look Back on Season Four" (non-anamorphic 1.78:1 480i, 11 minutes 15 seconds) is a bit different from the previous season’s respective featurettes. Unlike the pieces included on seasons one, two and three, the featurette focusing on Season Four isn’t just Martin Gero reflecting by himself. Producers Carl Binder, Paul Mullie, and Joseph Mallozzi join the discussion, talking about Teyla’s season arc, the introduction of new (and old) characters and actors into the series and how it effected the show’s dynamic, Michael (both the character and the episode), favorite moments from the season, and what they have planned for season five.

I went into season four dreading the deleted scenes promised on the packaging, mostly because, as Gero says in this special feature, what’s cut from an episode of a TV show is usually the worst (or, at least, never the best) material. Rarely do the cut scenes from a series offer greater depth, grander plot, or more grandiose special effects sequences. Usually they’re fat from an overwritten script, and their trimming only has positive effects on an episode. What’s refreshing then about Season Four deleted scenes (non-anamorphic 1.78:1 480i, 24 minutes 23 seconds total runtime) is not that the scenes themselves are good—they’re boring, extraneous fat to the extreme—but the in the way MGM and the "Stargate" producers present them. These aren’t simply the odds and ends trimmed from episodes tuck away in a submenu or simple reel. MGM has instead packaged them in a one-off featurette, with insightful interviews from Martin Gero and Joseph Mallozzi interspersed between the scenes. The producers talk about scenes that didn’t work, why they were cut, and which episodes were the most overwritten, and then their comments flow directly into the scene that they just discussed. It’s very nicely done.

DISC SEVENTEEN:

Season five drops the number of episodes with optional audio commentary down to 15 (out of 20). Disc seventeen commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "Search and Rescue" with executive producer Martin Gero and producer/director Andy Mikita.
- Audio commentary on "The Seed" with director William Waring and executive producers’ assistant Lawren Bancroft-Wilson.
- Audio commentary on "Broken Ties" with executive producer Joseph Mallozzi and actor Jason Momoa.
- Audio commentary on "The Daedalus Variations" with supervising producer Alan McCullough and Andy Mikita.

The "Mission Directive" featurettes change format once again in season five, with new anamorphically enhanced graphics and a broadening of focus to look at both the writing and direction of each episode given the making of treatment. "Mission Directive: ‘Search and Rescue’" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 11 minutes 15 seconds) is a making-of featurette that looks at the season premiere, with comments from Andy Mikita and Martin Gero.

"Atlantis" stunt coordinator James “Bambam” Bamford talks about one of the season’s biggest fight sequences in a featurette called "Showdown! Ronon vs. Tyre" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 5 minutes 49 seconds). Jason Momoa talks about working with Bambam, and the debt the actor owes his great stunt mentor. They both lament the shortening of this big fight, which was cut down for time.

"Bringing the Seed to Life" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 6 minutes 53 seconds) is an effects heavy featurette focusing on the creatures and design of the episode titled "The Seed". This close up look behind the scenes includes lots of interesting scene comparisons of dailies, model renderings, and final output. There’s also a look at the puppeteers and their evil, murderous vine puppets. Too bad it’s so short.

DISC EIGHTEEN:

Disc eighteen commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "Whispers" with executive producer Joseph Mallozzi and director William Waring.
- Audio commentary on "The Queen" with supervising producer Alan McCullough and director Brenton Spencer.
- Audio commentary on "Tracker" with executive producer Carl Binder and director William Waring.
- Audio commentary on "First Contact" with Martin Gero and Andy Mikita.

Two "Mission Directive" featurettes are also included on disc eighteen. These episode-specific making-of's have a focus on the direction and writing of each episode:

- "Mission Directive: ‘Whispers’" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 10 minutes 51 seconds) featurette with William Waring and Joseph Mallozzi.
- "Mission Directive: ‘Tracker’" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 12 minutes 26 seconds) featurette with William Waring and Carl Binder.

"Tricks of the Trade: Submerging the Stargate" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 6 minutes 47 seconds) is a featurette all about the complicated effects shot from "The Shrine". Director Andy Mikita, VFX supervisor Mark Savela, director of photography Jim Menard are on hand to talk logistics in how the effect was achieved on time and within budget.

The man fans love to call Sheppard finally gets his chance to chime in after five long seasons, via a featurette titled "Joe Flanigan: A Conversation with the Colonel" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 6 minutes 13 seconds). The actor talks character, differences between "SG-1" and "Atlantis", his favorite moments from the series, and the daily grind on set while filming in Canada.

DISC NINETEEN:

Disc nineteen commentaries include:

- Audio commentary on "The Lost Tribe" with Martin Gero and Andy Mikita.
- Audio commentary on "Outsiders" with Alan McCullough and William Waring.
- Audio commentary on "Inquisition" with director Brenton Spencer and actor Tobias Slezak.
- Audio commentary on "The Prodigal" with Carl Binder and Andy Mikita.
- Audio commentary on "Remnants" with executive producer Joseph Mallozzi and director William Waring.

"Building a Humanoid" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 7 minutes 20 seconds) is a featurette with production designer James Robbins and writer/producer Martin Gero, in which they talk about season five’s new—man-in-a-bad-ass-suit—villain.

Actor Michael Shanks and the producer’s talk about finally bringing that final piece of the "SG-1" puzzle to the newer series, in a featurette called "Dr. Jackson Goes to Atlantis" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 6 minutes 11 seconds).

"The Life and Death of Michael Kenmore" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 7 minutes 56 seconds) is a featurette in which Connor Trinneer, producer Carl Binder, and others discuss the character of Michael and his arc—one of the great moral dilemmas of "Atlantis", as Binder puts it—throughout the series.

Costumer designer Val Halverson and executive producer Martin Gero talk about, what else, costumes in a featurette titled "Inside the Stargate Costume Department" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 7 minutes 3 seconds).

Martin Gero introduces and talks about another set of skippable deleted scenes, this time from season five, in a featurette called "Deleted Scenes: Part One" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 8 minutes 16 seconds). Again, the best parts aren’t the scenes themselves, but rather the commentary from Gero interspersed between them.

DISC TWENTY:

And finally, the commentaries on the last disc in the set include:

- Audio commentary on "Brain Storm" with executive producer and episode writer/director Martin Gero.
- Audio commentary on "Vegas" with series creator/executive producer Robert C. Cooper, producer John G. Lenic, and editor Mark Banas.
- Audio commentary on "Enemy at the Gate" with executive producer Paul Mullie and VFX supervisor Mark Savela.

The final "Mission Directive" featurette is for "Brain Storm" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 13 minutes 6 seconds) with writer/director Martin Gero.

"Stargate Atlantis Goes to Vegas" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 20 minutes 25 seconds) is the set’s penultimate featurette, fittingly for the series’ penultimate episode. This lengthy making of chronicles the cast and crew’s trip to Sin City, and the packed production schedule for this episode filmed entirely on location.

And lastly, Gero offers introduces and discusses on the final set of deleted scenes from the series’ fifth season, in a featurette called "Deleted Scenes: Part 2" (anamorphic 1.78:1 480p, 8 minute 42 seconds). Again, the comments in-between the scenes are the attraction.

Packaging

"Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Series" includes all 100 episodes on 20-discs in a surprisingly shelf-space-friendly package from MGM and Fox Home Entertainment. The dual layered BD-50's are stuffed into three keepcases, which then slide into a large cardboard slipbox. Seasons 1 & 2 (discs 1-8) are packaged together inside a thick eight-disc case. Seasons 3 & 4 (discs 9-16) are packaged in another fat-spine Amaray. Season 5 is packaged all by itself in a thin four-discer. The set is marked region A.

Overall

I see the appeal of "Stargate: Atlantis", even if I don’t entirely understand it. (It’s escapism—I get it.) The show succumbs to the ills of the TV formula, doesn’t really mature into its own until the second season, and, like the original movie and other shows in the franchise, never really realizes its full potential. Still, I’d never dream of calling "Atlantis" a bad show because, at its core, there’s a great cast, a few likable characters (and a few characters you like to hate) and enough decently written mythology and drama to keep you engaged until the credits roll on that hundredth episode. It isn’t one of the all-time TV greats, and has plenty of episodes that bore you to death with idiocy, but the series is almost always fun, often funny, and a massive improvement in dramatic storytelling over "SG-1" (which I think was just too goofy for its own good most of the time).

MGM’s long awaited Blu-ray packs the entire series in a neat, 20-disc package. The $199.99 MSRP price tag may scare off some, but think about this: that price breaks down to a reasonable $40 per season. And what you get—five seasons of good video, bombastically badass audio, and an almost-endless supply of special features—is well worth that price. Recommended.

The Show: B- Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: A Overall: B+

 


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