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Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Series Collection

1 rating: 3.0
Science Fiction & Fantasy and Television movie

Now for the first time you can own all five seasons of this groundbreaking science-fiction series in this 26-disc set, including a bonus disc with exclusive, all new special features.Atlantis build thousands of years ago by the highly evolved Ancients, … see full wiki

Genre: Television, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
1 review about Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Series Collection

Solid Show & Price Keeps Improving

  • Nov 4, 2009
Rating:
+3
Despite considering myself a bit of a science fiction connoisseur, I was a very unlikely candidate for Stargate Atlantis fandom. How come? Well for starters I could only go as far as labeling the 1994 feature film Stargate, the one that started it all, as merely an average effort. I went to the theater opening week, owned the VHS then DVD incarnation but there was never any real danger of it dethroning such classics as my Star Trek collections. Then there was SG-1, which I considered entertaining enough whenever there wasn't anything better on the tube. It carried on with many of the finer moments of the film, perhaps going as far as improving upon several of them. While it was solid enough for broadcast television, I fear a lack of connection with the characters made it not quite compelling enough to warrant purchase of the colossal 10-season & multiple-movie dvd releases.

Enter Stargate Atlantis, a spinoff of a spinoff and at five seasons, precisely half the size of SG-1. Somehow I was able to avoid catching a single episode in its wildly successful broadcast history and hadn't even really considered buying the Complete Collection on DVD except for the simple fact that with every scifi DVD purchase I made of late (Star Trek Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica Complete Collection and so on), this collection was recommended. And so without so much as a single episode to draw from, took a gamble and purchased the Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Series Collection.

First the facts: This set contains all five complete seasons (100 episodes) of the show spread across 26 discs with a 27th disc full of bonus material (which in this case contains two new featurettes: Mission 100: Stargate Reaches a Milestone & Stargate Atlantis: A Retrospective). It should also be noted that all of the extras from the original season releases are retained here. The region 1 release is presented in widescreen format with the default language being English as was the case with the broadcast version. Additional language options are available in the form of subtitled text.

The story goes something like this: set in present-day, a military team from Earth led by John Shepard (Air Force Major then Colonel later on), along with two dozen other teams from various nations, venture to the lost city of Atlantis in the distant Pegasus Galaxy.

They use the title-inspired device known as a Stargate to make the trip, which just so happens to be located in an abandoned "Ancient" outpost in Antarctica. Atlantis, it turns out, exists underwater on an aquatic planet labeled "Lantea". The technologically advanced city was built tens of thousands of years prior by one of the most advanced races of the Stargate universe: the Ancients.

After a plague in the Milky Way Galaxy some ten thousand years ago, the Ancients were forced to set up shop in the Pegasus Galaxy with Atlantis operating as their home base of operations. There they populated life on countless worlds just as they had done in the Milky Way. Things were going great until a threat known as the Wraith awoken and stopped the poor Ancients in their proverbial tracks with a brutal war that lasted some hundred years and ended with the Ancients getting their butts handed to them and ultimately having to submerge their central base of Atlantis beneath Lantea's ocean to hide it from their brutal adversary.

After ten thousand years of dormancy, the city of Atlantis is reactivated due to the aforementioned visit by Shepard and company. The tale links seamlessly with the SG-1 thread that introduced it back in Season 7 and the flow is such where even the most fair-weathered viewer of SG-1 (ahem, me) can pick it up and follow along.

As is often case even in the most revered of science fiction franchises, the first two seasons struggle to find their rhythm. The case of earthlings immediately expands to include several humans from Pegasus Galaxy worlds that were reached through Gate jumps. It also doesn't take long for the Wraith, which have been in a state of hibernation, to become awakened by this sudden increase in activity. No pushovers, these Wraith, as the crew quickly discovers. Looking a bit like a veiny vampires with long wispy white hair and a penchant for leather, these creatures feed by literarily sucking the life force from human prey through a slit in the palm of their hands. Borrowing a bit from the ALIEN franchise, they live in hives led by a single queen. However, and not to give any spoilers, the Wraith are certainly more intelligent in this comparison and, as revealed in the later seasons, not entirely the evil feeding machines as initially perceived.

Yes there is quite a bit of cool technology scattered about but unlike the mechanical bits of say Star Wars or Star Trek, much of the spacecraft, weaponry and locales of Atlantis have a decidedly organic slant to them thanks in no small part to having been designed by the very same Ancients who brought us the Stargate.

The crew spends a lot of time exploring neighboring worlds throughout the course of the program ("offworld" as it is known here) but be forewarned that every single one of them is identical to earth. Now before you get bent out of shape by saying obviously, since earth is where the show is made, I'm not talking about the deserts of Dune, swamps of Dagobah, or icy tundra of Hoth here. I'm talking every environment is basically a forest with a sun, a village, breathable air, lakes, clouds and so on. The logic here is that since the Ancients populated these worlds initially (presumably as they did with earth), the environments would have to be similar to sustain life. Fair enough but they certainly could have pushed the boundaries a bit here with foliage, native creatures, cultures and so on. Perhaps some CG to create a different colored skyline or an earth-like atmosphere where the inhabitants live in floating pods. You know- typical scifi gags.

As it stands, however, most offworld voyages are basically Middle Ages earth visits with water wheels, windmills, and some incredibly well endowed native women. The space scenes on the other hand are generally very well done with high budget CGI, great sound effects, and plausible physics.

The show's not without some cast discrepancies as well. Some characters you'll spend dozens of episodes getting to know die off without warning while others still die, come back to life, die again and so on. It becomes a bit wearisome later on once the whole concept of death not being final sinks in. Worse still, there are far too many cheap threads that do little more than serve to allow the cast members from SG-1 a chance to make a cameo appearance. While I'm sure fans of SG-1 were delighted, it does kind of make the viewer feel like the show's development didn't have complete faith in their new cast's ability to draw ratings.

The show's format isn't entirely linear in its progression either. The early shows followed a system where our heroes went offworld, encountered a problem, solved it, then returned to Atlantis all within the 48- minute runtime. The third and fourth season shifted to massive story threads with ongoing battles of epic proportions. In my opinion these larger threads (against the Wraith, Replicators, Genii and so on) represent the show's greatest moments and I was quite surprised (disappointed) to discover that the 5th and final season went back to the beginning format with basically a bunch of self-contained episodes.

The show's conclusion, though satisfying, does instill a feeling of unfinished business in several near-forgotten story threads throughout the show's run. Of course by this point in time it was pretty well known that the creative forces behind Atlantis (& SG-1) had been commissioned to work on an all new incarnation of the franchise, Stargate Universe.

While I certainly felt that the characters were a step-up from SG-1, the show's biggest fault lies in its conservatism. Like the environments of the worlds, we're basically given a hodge-podge of humans (either military or scientist) to follow along with. Though there are a few cool races out there (the Asguard, Wraith, Replicators), these are all few and far between compared to the incessant sniveling of guys like Dr. McKay and Beckett.

In all the show does entertain, which I suppose is the aim of any fictional property. There are a few too many annoyances to consider it top tier science fiction but it certainly, in my opinion, manages to continue to improve upon the tradition started back in the early 1990's. Amazon is selling The Complete Collection for $92.99 (free shipping) these days (down from $233.99 last week), making the set a literal steal when compared to the price of some of the other shows I mentioned above (Complete Star Trek TNG or Battlestar Galactica to mention a few). In that line of thinking, it's money well spent and the perfect means of eating up many a cold, dark winter's night.

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