Atlantis, set in the Pegasus galaxy far away, where giant CGI towers protect a conglomerate of earthlings from a race known as the Wraith whose sole purpose in life is, conveniently, to suck the life out of mass human populations (They all speak English!), turning them into grotesque masses of jerky. Sounds a little over-the-top and silly? That’s because it is…
Season five doesn’t waste any time, shocking audiences off the bat by firing strong, intellectual, often hot-as-hell (but only with long hair) Stargate alum Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), replacing her with Richard Woolsey (Robert Picardo), whose list of adjectives would not be nearly as exciting to word vomit into print. You probably don’t remember him as Coach Cutlip on The Wonder Years, a show that has not yet made it to DVD. Once the Atlantis base settles down, the team continues their work fighting Wraith and saving various races from whatever trials and obstacles that may come their way.
It seems silly that Brad Wright’s formulaic babies would continually disband to be sent to another galaxy once the villains have grown stale. It may be easier to build a new cast in a new place every now and again to keep the average audience member interested; however, the audience then loses the on-screen rapport that is one of the most charming components of this final season. McKay (David Hewlett) fighting with Ronan (Jason Momoa) over Dr. Keller’s (Jewel Staite) affections may not be the most brilliantly affected moments—this may have something to do with Momoa’s verbal acting deficiencies. Regardless, several moments where little action is required, for instance in “The Shrine” when Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) and McKay drink and exchange sentiments before McKay’s succumbing to disease or in “Remnants” where the entire team jokes and relaxes in a lazy evening light capably show onscreen rapport to full effect.
The episode “Vegas” is shot CSI style, a refreshing change-up for Stargate: Atlantis, one with many a copied camera angle, plot line, and film coloring. Honestly, I would have much preferred an homage to Bones, but probably I’m biased. The episode does bring a little of Earth’s flavor into the show’s normally otherwise off world plotlines and is noticeably sweeter because of the addition of Marilyn Manson, The Rolling Stones, and Johnny Cash. Producers must have tossed most of their budget into licensing those big boys. It’s almost like watching Freaks and Geeks, you know, sans awkward adolescence. And with explosions.
In season five, true to the Stargate franchise, the villainous Wraiths wreak havoc, build alliances, and occasionally ask for help in a matter much like their SG-1 counterpart the Goa’uld. There are several stock episodes based on mysterious diseases—one in which McKay, normally ever the cocksucker, falls ill and shows a rarely divulged vulnerable side. The infiltration episode requirement for the season is filled by Teyla (Rachel Luttrell) who is able to cross enemy bounds by turning herself into a Wraith. At some point Sheppard and his team are forced to deal with pesky, less educated villagers who aren’t entirely down with the bold and brazen Earth (or American) way. None of these plotlines are remotely new. But that’s not why people watch Stargate. They watch it because it’s campy, kitschy, and fun—a guilty or not-so-guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, without a drastic change in villains or environment, tired plotlines will eventually hit a wall. When this happens, there is nowhere to go…except a new galaxy…or universe, if you will.
The discs are fanfare-filled—possibly attempting to keep sci fi fans from wondering why they are spending money for a ridiculous television endeavor when they could be saving money for when ASIMO hits the public market. Highlights include: Mission Directives, otherwise known as Behind-the-Scenes explanations for “Search and Rescue,” “Whispers,” “Tracker,” and “Brain Storm,” respectively.
There are also two sets of deleted scenes introduced by ultra-animated, awkwardly endearing co-producer Martin Gero. The real gem within these scenes is a nostalgic moment where guest star Bill Nye does his “science guy” thing—it’s too bad they couldn’t find an extra fifty seconds of film to throw audiences back into nineties-style educational programming. I’ve oft seen worse extras and sometimes seen better, but I certainly do not usually see as many options as these discs have to offer.
Side note: If interested in the upcoming release of Stargate: Universe, the first disc features a pretty spectacular preview. Here’s to hoping this won’t be a Medellin-like trailer tease.