Judge Cynthia Boris has been exploring the wonders of ancient technology—namely a black-and-white TV set with a set-top antenna that gets a remarkable four channels!
Our reviews of Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Second Season (published March 14th, 2007), Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Fifth Season (published August 3rd, 2009), Stargate Atlantis: Rising (Pilot Episode) (published July 13th, 2005), and Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Series (published April 16th, 2010) are also available.
Sheppard: We're gonna wreck that thing, aren't we?
I think it's safe to say that the TV arm of the Stargate franchise has far exceeded the reach of the movie that started it all. With Stargate SG-1 calling it quits, it's up to the youngest son to take up the mantle and run. If Stargate: Atlantis ever was hidden in the shadow of its big brother, that time is over. Stargate: Atlantis—The Complete Third Season is here to prove that a spin-off can be just as good (if not better) than the original.
Facts of the Case
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. Two years ago, a team headed up by scientist Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson, The English Patient), brilliant but self-absorbed Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett, Cube), and military "everyman" Major John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan, Sisters) made the city home. Since then they've been exploring the wonders of the ancient technology all the while battling against the villains of space—chiefly, the vampire-like Wraith.
In addition to the team from Earth, Atlantis is home to several humanoids from other planets including the lovely Teyla (Rachel Luttrell, The Aviary) and the hunky runner Ronon (Jason Momoa, Baywatch). Add to that an international cast of supporting characters, some major special effects, and one of the most beautiful sets on TV today and you've got Stargate: Atlantis.
This DVD includes the following episodes:
Like prior seasons, Stargate: Atlantis—The Complete Third Season begins with the resolution of the previous season's cliffhanger and ends on another, equally startling cliffhanger. Reminiscent of the old movie serials, the cliffhangers on this show are always monumental with "out of the frying pan, into the fire" moments piling up faster than you can figure them out.
What this show does well is combine the techno-babble with all-out action so even if you don't understand what Rodney just said, you don't care because Sheppard's blowing something up. It's this combination of brains and brawn that makes the show so appealing.
With any TV show, the third season is usually where the cast and crew hit their stride. They've found their characters, they've solidified the style, and they're not so intimidated by the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. Here, that meant taking some chances, trying out some new tricks, and even killing off a much-beloved character. Yeah, not all of the decisions they made in Season Three were good ones.
One of the best episodes of the season is "Sateda." Here, Ronon is forced to return to his home world for a deadly game of chase with the Wraith. In addition to some fantastic stunt work, this show hits the emotional highs, as Ronon comes to realize how attached he's become to his new friends on Atlantis.
Another winner is "Tao of Rodney," in which McKay's brilliance is pumped up tenfold thanks to an ancient device. Only trouble is, his human body can't stand the strain and he's forced to either ascend or die.
For pure excitement and tension, there's "Vengeance," a bottle show that has McKay, Sheppard, Teyla, and Ronon prowling around in tunnels under Vancouver's Riverview Hospital in search of a missing population. Looks like the townsfolk have become monster chow and it's Aliens all over again with the hunters becoming the hunted.
On the downside is "Sunday," an experimental episode that is supposed to answer the question, what do the Atlantians do on their day off? While I liked the peek into the personal lives of the crew, smaller bites over several episodes would have been a better way to go. "Sunday" also uses a favorite Stargate: Atlantis technique which I've learned to hate—the flashback.
This series is fond of starting with a bang only to hand you a "Three Hours Earlier" title card just after the credits. At first, I found this kind of fun. It becomes a game to figure out how the crew is going to arrive at that point where the story will pick up and resume moving forward from the teaser point. In "Sunday," the director went flashback-happy, jumping backwards multiple times throughout the story each time the plot reached the teaser point. Two hours, four hours, fourteen hours earlier. Not only was the story hard to follow but it made me feel like the director was saying, "Hey, this story is too boring to watch without a gimmick, so here you go." If I need a gimmick to stay tuned, then the episode shouldn't have been produced in the first place.
By the end of the season, the show sets you up for a number of changes that take place in Season Four. Again, some good, some bad, but you gotta give 'em points for mixing it up. Old villains return (much to my delight), new villains are revealed, and the traditional character pairings are shuffled and tested in all new ways. It is another jam-packed season.
As far as the DVD itself goes, it's on par with those that came before. The discs are housed in three plastic snap cases that fit into a sleeve. The artwork is nice, even if Ronon does look a bit too manic in some of the shots. The special features on these discs are always very fan-friendly. There's a commentary on almost every episode but not every commentary is worth listening to, especially if you're a casual fan. And I wish they had listed who gives the commentary on the liner notes but alas, they don't. Each disc has one "Mission Directive," a behind-the-scenes featurette from the director's POV. I'm a production junkie so these are a favorite of mine. You'll also find an assortment of other featurettes, including an introduction to Rachel Luttrell and a look at the special-effects department. I found these to be hit and miss. Some were interesting and some were longer than they needed to be.
The quality of the DVD is excellent, as it should be for a current show, and the audio is really great if you can take advantage of the surround sound. There's nothing cooler than the majestic Stargate: Atlantis theme pouring out of your speakers when you bring up the navigation screens. The menus make clever use of the show's on-screen computer stylings and I appreciate that attention to detail.
While not as strong as the prior season, Stargate: Atlantis—The Complete Third Season still manages to find new ways to thrill, with great action sequences, amazing visuals, and snappy scripts. But the thing that brings me back week after week are the characters. Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon, and even McKay, are all people I'd enjoy spending a day with; that's not something I can say about too many other characters on TV today.
This court finds Stargate: Atlantis—The Complete Third Season not guilty on this planet or anywhere else in the galaxy.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary on almost all episodes
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