MGM // 2004 // 900 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // March 14th, 2007
(When faced with rebooting the computer that runs the starship Daedalus, after hopefully deleting a deadly virus.)
Sheppard: This is what I do when I have problems with my laptop, I turn it
off and then I...turn it on again.
Dr. Weir: I think this is a little bit more complicated than that.
I never saw the movie Stargate, and I find the original Stargate: SG-1 TV series to be a bore, but when I saw the first promos for spin-off series, Stargate: Atlantis, I was immediately sucked in. I wasn't alone. In the shadow of its popular and successful older brother, Stargate: Atlantis rose to the challenge just like the city of Atlantis rose from the oceans -- strong, compelling, and beautiful. With its intricately detailed standing set and a wider variety of weekly characters, the series soon gathered a fan following of its own and is ready to accept the baton as Stargate: SG-1 retires this year at the end of its tenth season.
The gate address has been dialed and it's time to pay a visit to Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Second Season.
Atlantis is an intricately built, technological dream of a city created by The Ancients, the race of creators that the entire Stargate mythos is built around. The city is located in the far-off Pegasus galaxy and has been abandoned for many a year. A Stargate team headed up by scientist Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson), brilliant but self-absorbed Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett), and military "everyman" Major John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) sets out to explore this forgotten city but the explorers get in over their heads -- literally. The city is underwater and the water is on its way in. Apparently, The Ancients sunk the city on purpose to keep it out of the hands of the evil lifeforce-sucking Wraith. Unfortunately, when the Stargate team arrived, they "woke up" the city, causing it to rise from the ocean and right onto Wraith radar. Good going, team. Now, Sheppard, Weir, and McKay must use all the resources at their disposal to not only ensure their own survival but to keep the Wraith from opening a doorway back to Earth.
* "The Siege: Part 3"
* "The Intruder"
* "The Lost Boys"
* "The Hive"
* "Critical Mass"
* "Grace Under Pressure"
* "The Tower"
* "The Long Goodbye"
* "Coup D'etat"
The second season of Stargate: Atlantis picks up quite literally where the first season left off, with the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. When we last left our intrepid heroes at the end of Season One, the Wraith had infiltrated Atlantis, leading to an all-out battle to save the city from falling into enemy hands. Sheppard, in his infinite, cowboy gung-ho wisdom, decides to blow up the Wraith hive ship, simply ignoring the fact that he'll be blown to smithereens along with it. Pretty darn exciting!
Fast forward several months to the start of Season Two and I don't think it would be too much of a spoiler to say that "The Siege: Part Three" has Sheppard surviving and the Wraith sent packing to fight again another day. Come on, you knew they weren't all going to die, right?
Much of the credit for winning the battle goes to new character Col Caldwell (Mitch Pileggi, The X-Files) and his stunning starship Daedalus. What makes this more than your ordinary starship? It comes complete with an Asgard alien in the engine room. This is a crossover link from Stargate: SG-1 and I must say it's my least favorite addition to the new season. I can't help but laugh at the fact that The X-Files alum Pileggi and the little gray alien both showed up at the same time! Makes me wonder if Mulder and Scully will be making an appearance anytime soon.
Another addition in Season Two is series regular Ronon Dex (Jason Momoa, Baywatch), who is introduced in the third episode of the season, "The Runner." Loaded with brains and brawn, Ronon was part of a humanoid game preserve forced to fight for his life time and time again as the Wraith hunted him for sport. Though rough around the edges, Ronon is one hunky fella and he adds an element of danger to the team. Armed to the teeth and sporting one huge chip on his shoulder, Ronon can always be counted on in a fight, which is good, because he starts a lot of them.
The second season of Stargate: Atlantis also comes with a bigger budget. The production company hired its own in-house digital special effects guys and the work never looked better -- from gorgeous views of Atlantis at sunset and the image of the city reflecting off the water to all-out space battles that rival anything you've seen on the big screen. But not every episode is a computer-generated tour de force. Like all good sci-fi shows, they're also known for turning a harsh light on the choices we make as human beings.
A good portion of the second season arc is devoted to a storyline involving Dr. Beckett's retro-virus, which has the ability to return a Wraith to its original human form. Though it seems like a good idea on the surface, the moral ambiguities of forcibly changing a creature from one form to another are examined in "Instinct" and "Michael"; it's these episodes where the show really shines.
This season ends on another great cliffhanger, but it's so similar to the first-season cliffhanger that I wonder where they'll go from here.
The DVD itself is something to be proud of. Excellent art graces the box and each of the plastic cases inside. The navigation screen is a replica of an Atlantis computer readout, featuring a short animation as well as the theme song. Speaking of the theme song, U.S. watchers will be happy to know that the new title credits are included on this DVD. Yeah, I know that doesn't sound like a bonus, but the lovely titles were eliminated from the U.S. run of the series on the idea that Americans would change channels if they were forced to watch a 30-second intro! Truly incredible.
The bonus features on this DVD are impressive in quantity but a bit lacking in diversity. First off, there's a commentary on every episode. Some are better than others depending on who's at the helm, but there's a nice mix of directors, writers, and actors. They go from interesting to "Okay, got it, move on," but overall, they're very enjoyable. One clever gag is included on the episode "Condemned." Director Peter DeLuise invites his friend, a Stargate: SG-1 semi-regular, to join him as the uninformed audience point of view. It works straightforwardly for a bit, then spirals down into an extended Mystery Science Theater 3000-style commentary that is actually pretty entertaining.
The "Mission Directives" are well put-together behind-the-scenes looks at individual episodes told from the POV of the director. If it's true that the director sets the tone of the set, then these guys must be having a ball. Sarcasm abounds and I like that.
There are also a half-dozen other short features that introduce you to characters, actors, and crew members on the show. I found them to be interesting for the most part, since I really enjoy these looks behind the scenes. I think that the fact that these guys are all overgrown fanboys themselves helps them choose material that really resonates with the viewers. Good job there!
My husband, who's never watched the show, asked me what other sci-fi show it was like. Interesting question. First off, it's nothing like Stargate: SG-1, an idea that perplexes me even though I've heard the producers say they've made a conscious effort to make the shows as different as possible. In that they have succeeded. It's less Star Trek and more Star Trek: The Next Generation. It has the humor and action mix of Firefly without the edginess. Wait! I've got it! Take the old and the new Battlestar Galactica and put Stargate: Atlantis squarely in between. If you've never seen this Sci-Fi Channel staple, you've got to check this DVD set out.
This court declares that Earthlings are better than any other race in the universe and as such we have a right to wipe out any species we don't like. Not guilty! Ha! Take that!
Review content copyright © 2007 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 900 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary on All Episodes
* Mission Directive Featurettes on "The Intruder," "The Siege," and "Instinct"
* Introduction to Ronan Dex
* Profile On: David Hewlett
* Profile On: Paul McGillion
* Road to a Dream with Martin Gero
* Stargate Atlantis: Stunts
* Photo Galleries
* Production Design Galleries
* Official Site