Originally published on Set The Tape
The first spin-off series from Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis, took bold new steps in the Stargate franchise, shifting the action to a new galaxy, introducing a whole host of new characters, and a new threat for the heroes. Whilst some fans felt that the new show couldn’t live up to the popularity of the original show it proved to be massively popular, and delivered some amazing episodes. Here are 10 of the best.
10. Thirty Eight Minutes
One of the earliest episodes of Stargate Atlantis, ‘Thirty Eight Minutes’ makes use of one of the central prop of the whole franchise, the Stargate itself. When the Puddlejumper gets stuck midway through the Stargate during an emergency the main team find themselves trapped with only 38 minutes to find a solution before the Stargate deactivates, killing them all.
The episode makes the best use of the arbitrary 38 minute time frame in which the Stargate can be active by having the episode happen in real time, something that had not been done in franchise to date. This choice ramps up the tension and means that things feel really tense for the team. Despite knowing that the show isn’t about to kill of it’s main cast in the third episode, just how things are going to be resolved is still a tense and dramatic episode.
9. The Defiant One
Exploring the system that houses Atlantis a small group of scientists and Major Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) discover a crashed Wraith ship on another planet from the battle 10,000 years ago, a ship that still has one living inhabitant.
Stargate Atlantis started off introducing its new villains, the Wraith, as near unkillable monsters, but towards the end of the first season the team had had some victories over the Wraith, and the fear factor had started to lessen. Having an episode just before the season finale that reestablished just how frightening an enemy the Wraith were was a brilliant choice.
Trapped on a remote planet with no other fighters to back him up Major Sheppard has to fight a hulking brute of an opponent. Add in some dark and emotional moments as a wounded scientist kills himself so as to allow McKay (David Hewlett) to go help Sheppard and this becomes a stand out first season episode.
8. Be All My Sins Remembered
The Season Four mid-season finale left the audience realising that Atlantis was up against worse odds than initially believed when they discover that the Pegasus Galaxy Replicators are a much bigger threat.
‘Be All My Sins Remembered’ sees Atlantis having to work alongside the recently discovered Traveller group, as well as their long term enemy, the Wraith. The ensuing space battle is one of the best the series has ever delivered, culminating in not just the destruction of the Pegasus Replicators, but their entire planet.
Whilst the battle itself is a great spectacle, the journey to it is just as entertaining, seeing these separate groups coming together in an uneasy alliance. It’s an interesting look into the inner workings of the Pegasus Galaxy, as well as how complex and multi-layered the series had become since it first started.
7. Enemy At The Gate
The final episode of Stargate Atlantis sees the entire Atlantis expedition needing to come into action as a Wraith Hive Ship more powerful than anything ever seen before heads towards Earth.
Despite not being the planned conclusion to the series (the show came to an end so that production could begin on Stargate Universe as they wanted to re-purpose several of the sets), the final episode of Stargate Atlantis manages to deliver a mad dash rescue story, where it’s Earth that needs saving.
The surprise arrival of Atlantis on Earth ends the series with many story threads still left hanging (it was planned that a TV movie would tie up some of these loose ends, but the film was never made), yet manages to give a satisfying and hope filled conclusion.
6. Tao of Rodney
Rodney McKay was one of the most selfish characters, even when he’d grown as a person. As such, any episode that gave him focus and the room to grow was a great experience. In ‘Tao of Rodney’ he gets hit with an ancient device that grants him almost superhuman powers, though these changes will kill him.
Faced with his impending death he has to say goodbye to each of his friends, scenes that are genuinely touching and emotional. The scene in which he heals Ronan’s (Jason Momoa) scars is a particularly bittersweet moment that’s played just the right way make you realise just why you love the character despite his many, many faults.
The first season of Stargate Atlantis was the weakest, and this was mostly due to the cast not being quite perfect. Whilst there was nothing wrong with the actors themselves, the team was missing a special ingredient, their own version of Teal’C (Christopher Judge). Once the show introduced Ronan in season two things felt much more familiar.
However, fans kept asking who would win in a fight between the two alien warriors, Teal’C or Ronan. The fourth season of Stargate Atlantis mostly put this argument to bed when the two characters finally came together, first fighting each other in a ‘friendly’ match that went on for hours, before teaming up as a two man army to take down a force of Wraith that were invading Earth.
With some of the best action in the series, the guest appearance of a Stargate SG1 veteran, and the toughest team-up in the franchise, ‘Midway’ more than satisfied fan expectations.
4. The Siege
The three part story that spanned the final two episodes of the first season and the start of the second, ‘The Siege’ finally pitted the inhabitants of Atlantis against the Wraith in a large scale battle that saw the very fate of the city hanging in the balance.
With space battles, reinforcements from Earth, brutal gunfights in the corridors of Atlantis, and a series of desperate plans ‘The Siege’ put our heroes in one of the most dire situations in the entire eight year franchise.
The tense unfolding of events, the heroic sacrifices of certain characters, and the brutal consequences of the Wraith attack make this one of the best stories that the show has given us, and the best season finale.
3. The Shrine
Muck line ‘Tao of Rodney’, ‘The Shrine’ gives Dr McKay a chance to shine, and has the best performance from David Hewlett. After being infected with a disease that acts in a similar way to Alzheimer’s, McKay quickly loses his memory, leaving the audience to watch one of the greatest minds in the Stargate universe dwindle away.
The episode is full of emotion and heartfelt moments, and does rehash a lot of the themes from ‘Tao of Rodney’, but manages to deliver not only some of the best writing and acting in the series, but some of the best scenes the franchise has produced, at times bringing genuine tears to the eye.
As soon as Jason Momoa joined the cast it was clear that he was more than capable of delivering competent action sequences, but it wasn’t until the third season episode ‘Sateda’ that it you could see him as an action star outside of television.
After being kidnapped by a vicious Wraith and dumped on the ruined remains of his home planet, Ronan is hunted down by scores of Wraith in a Running Man style gauntlet.
With Momoa fighting Wraith with guns, knives, jagged pieces of glass, and even his bare hands, the episode shows a brutal and savage side to the franchise that was often overlooked. Thanks to top notch fight choreography and some brilliant directing (in particular one fight in a pitch black room that is only illuminated by weapons fire) ‘Sateda’ is an amazing example of action on a television scale.
Easily one of the most beautifully made and most heartbreaking episodes of Stargate Atlantis, ‘Sunday’ sees the various inhabitants of the city on their day off, enjoying their hobbies and spending time together as friends.
Unfortunately, disaster strikes the city, leading to the shocking and devastating death of fan favourite character Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion). Despite the character returning in a future season (or at least a clone version of him), it doesn’t take away from the heartbreak of the episode, with his funeral service, and the imagined goodbye between him and Rodney McKay being some of the saddest moments in Stargate history.
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