Another day, another Stargate disc. This time, we find ourselves at the beginning of the end. This is the first disk of the final season of Atlantis, and it sure delivers a wealth of reasons as to why that is a bad decision.
Search And Rescue leaves off from the season four finale, in which most of the Atlantis team are trapped under a collapsing building after going on a misinformed rescue of the Pregnant Teyla (Rachel Luttrell). I never thought much of that finale, as you knew that with a fifth season already being filmed, that most if not the entire cast would be fine. It’s fortunate then, that the writing team behind SGA manages to set the tone incredibly well with a fantastic introduction. Shepard dreams that everything is fine, and that he and Teyla are enjoying some wine. Soon enough, the dream turns sour, and Teyla and a guest star role from the MIA Lieutenant Ford let him know that nothing is alright, and that neither of them were rescued. It’s a dark start to this season, and the little changes to Atlantis don’t stop there.
It appears that, in a last ditch effort to save the show, small changes to characters and style were put into play that, on the whole, make the series finish on a high that is almost as good as how it started. Needless to say, the first episode is a great example of the great work to come and shows characters at their best.
It is now time for another big change to Atlantis, in the next episode, The Seed. The torch gets passed from long-time SG-1 fan favourite Sam Carter over to Star Trek Voyager alumni and IOA figurehead Richard Woolsey (Robert Picardo). Of course, it wasn’t just for the story, as Amanda Tapping had signed a contract for one more season that SG-1 couldn’t deliver, so the change in command was inevitable. Changing to such a scared, by-the-book character may have seemed like a strange choice at first, but even in his first event as leader of the Atlantis expedition, Woolsey shows his capability in dealing with the situation, even if it does take the least amount of rule-bending possible.
In this episode, an alien pathogen from the previous episode has attached itself onto Dr Keller (Jewel Staite) and is expanding, taking over various parts of the city. How lucky then that she had just freed the frozen Dr Beckett (Paul McGillion), and cured him of his disease. It’s one of those freak of the week episodes, wherein the freak comes in, gets defeated, then gets gone, which is no bad thing, especially when it’s executed this well.
Next up, we have Broken Ties, a direct follow up to an episode from exactly one season previously, in which Ronan (Jason Momoa) was reunited with three old friends. Those friends turn out to be agents of the Wraith, who end up betraying Ronan in exchange for a taste of longer life. It gets two of them killed, but one, Tyre (Mark Dacascos), gets away when Ronan lets him slip through his fingers. Now, Tyre captures Ronan in an attempt to get back the taste for longer life that the Wraith denied him after Ronan got away last time. While it does pray on old emotions, they do still have tremendous impact on Ronan’s story, being yet again betrayed by the ones he thought he could trust. This time however, it works, and Ronan is forced to turn over to the dark side. Thankfully though, it’s a temporary switch, and by the end of the episode, he is back to ‘fighting’ fit. It’s a fair episode, but for the most part seems like rehashing an old story for a new episode.
Lastly, we have The Daedalus Variations in which Atlantis finds the Daedalus battle cruiser in orbit, without any people on board, and with signs of battle damage to the hull. When the team go to investigate and Atlantis disappears from below them, it becomes clear that the ship is, in fact, from another reality. Two over, in fact, as one more incarnation of Shepard’s team had already failed to get back to their reality and, in fact, had died on board. It seems that the Alternate Reality drive found on board is malfunctioning, and has them jumping from reality to reality every 10 or so minutes. In each reality, new problems add to the already overwhelming amount, including aliens, space battles and burning up in the face of a red giant. As with any good alternate reality sci-fi episode, we get a conversation between two different John Shepard’s, in which they both compliment each other very highly, before going their separate ways. It’s a great little adventure and a great bunch of fun.
As for the extras, you have the usual analysis of a few episodes, namely Search And Rescue and The Seed, and a fight analysis from Broken Ties. This includes talking about sets, shots, and characters, and is pretty thorough, especially when looking at the creature from The Seed. They also have photo galleries too, as on most Stargate disks, which personally, I feel add not a lot to the experience, especially since they are just basically screenshots from episodes.
The commentaries are as good as ever, including lots of effects, budget and scripting talk. However, they do fall into the trap of only having one with an actor featured, which is the Ronan centric Broken Ties star Jason Momoa, even mentioning that it’s his first ever, in four years. What’s most interesting is the tale of his dreads, which were cut off in a deleted scene, which the network didn’t agree to. He then had to have it sewn into his leftover hair, causing neck pain and tearing of his scalp.
All in all it’s a fair disc, but still fails at the same points as any other Stargate disc, which is mainly on the commentaries side. Sure, they’re fine examples of what happens when you get producers and directors in a room to chat about technical stuff, but for entertainment value, it’s not the best use of their talents. Still, the main focuses of the disc, the episodes, are brilliant so it’s still well worth the money.
Stargate Atlantis season 5 Vol 1 is released on Monday May 11th.