While the Kurt Russell/James Spader 1994 movie "Stargate" (a film about ancient gates that allowed beings to travel huge distances across space to other gates) likely remains a fuzzy memory for all but the film's fans, the story has lived on in a way that I think few likely expected. First, "Stargate SG-1" (which stars "MacGyver"'s Richard Dean Anderson) became a hit in syndication, starting in 1997 and running a whopping ten seasons so far, showing no signs of slowing down.
Now, "Trek"-like, the series has spawned its first spin-off, "Stargate: Atlantis", an enjoyable effort that airs on the Sci-fi channel. The series has a new team of scientists who head to the distant Pegasus galaxy, where they find the mythical lost city - and a deadly enemy in the Wraiths, a vampire-like species that snacks on humans. Lead by Major John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan), the explorers must defend themselves from wraith attacks while learning about their mysterious new world. The third season continues "The Siege", a 3-parter (the first two parts were the finale of the debut season), as the team attempts to try and save the city from an all-out assault by the Wraiths.
The show's production values prove that it is quite possible for a cable series to still look quite dazzling at times. The show's visual effects artists quite capably fill out the show's many on-screen battles with an impressive level of detail and controlled chaos. Production design and cinematography are also excellent, and the entire production consistently offers viewers a show with the looks of a feature film. Performances are excellent, including the great addition of "X-Files" star Mitch Pileggi as Col. Steven Caldwell., who makes his debut on the series in the season opener.
21. 2- 1 201 15 Jul 05 Siege, Part 3
As Lt. Alden Ford recovers from his near-fatal encounter with a Wraith, the team faces against time to save the city from a Wraith assault.
22. 2- 2 202 22 Jul 05 The Intruder
A mysterious intruder has infected the Dadealus' computers with a virus that may allow them to take control of the ship.
23. 2- 3 203 29 Jul 05 Runner
Ronon Dex, a fierce survivor of a Wraith attack, may be the team's only hope in combating the Wraith-infected Ford.
24. 2- 4 204 5 Aug 05 Duet
A technical glitch during their rescue from a Wraith ship forces McKay and Lt. Cadman to coexist inside McKay's body.
25. 2- 5 206 12 Aug 05 Condemned
The team visits a technologically advanced planet inhabited by a civilization mysteriously unharmed by the Wraith.
26. 2- 6 205 19 Aug 05 Trinity
McKay may have found a new and potent source of energy for Atlantis based on unperfected ancient technology.
27. 2- 7 207 26 Aug 05 Instinct
While experimenting with a retrovirus that could turn Wraiths back into humans, Dr. Beckett inadvertently puts Shepard's life at risk.
28. 2- 8 208 9 Sep 05 Conversion
The team races to find a cure for the retrovirus that is mutating Shepard into a Wraith.
29. 2- 9 209 23 Sep 05 Aurora
The discovery of ancient warship whose millenia-old crew lives in a virtual environment leads Sheppard and his crew into a direct contfrontation with the Wraith.
30. 2-10 210 23 Sep 05 The Lost Boys (1)
As they are exploring a new planet, Sheppard and his crew find Lt. Aiden Ford living in a cave under the influence of a powerful drug and planning revenge on the Wraith.
31. 2-11 211 6 Jan 06 The Hive (2)
The effects of the enzyme's grip on the Atlantis team begin to wear off, sending them into withdrawal as they try to escape the Wraith hive ship.
32. 2-12 212 13 Jan 06 Epiphany
Sheppard is pulled through a mysterious portal and trapped in a world inhabited by ancestors of the ancients.
33. 2-13 213 20 Jan 06 Critical Mass
The team races against time to foil the Goa'uld's plans to destroy Atlantis.
34. 2-14 214 27 Jan 06 Grace Under Pressure
Help comes to McKay in an unlikely form after his puddle jumper crash-lands in the ocean.
35. 2-15 215 3 Feb 06 The Tower
The team encounters a village with an enigmatic leader who possesses the ability to protect his subjects from Wraith attacks.
36. 2-16 216 10 Feb 06 The Long Goodbye
Sheppard and Weir become a threat to Atlantis when their minds are taken over by hostiles.
37. 2-17 217 17 Feb 06 Coup d'Etat
When the team learns that the Genii are posing a new, dangerous threat, they realize that the truce with their old foe may be over.
38. 2-18 218 24 Feb 06 Michael
When the team attempts to turn a Wraith into a human with Beckett's vaccine, the results are disasterous.
39. 2-19 219 3 Mar 06 Inferno
McKay must save the team when they are trapped on a planet with a super-volcano.
40. 2-20 220 10 Mar 06 Allies (1)
The team is shocked when the Wraith call for an alliance.
VIDEO: "Stargate: Atlantis" episodes are presented here in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the show's original aspect ratio. The presentation remained crisp and detailed throughout much of the episodes, with only a couple of slightly soft moments here-and-there. No edge enhancement was noticed, but a few scenes did display some minor artifacting. Colors looked bold and bright, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: "Stargate: Atlantis" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Unlike most shows, the series makes good use of 5.1 audio, putting the surrounds to work to deliver plenty of various sound effects (laser fire, ships, etc.) and ambience. Audio quality is marvelous, with a full, rich-sounding score and powerful, well-recorded effects. Dialogue also remains clear, even in the most intense sequences.
EXTRAS: All episodes include audio commentary from cast and/or crew. We also get photo galleries, production design gallery, "Mission Directive: The Intruder" featurette, "Mission Directive: The Siege - Part III" featurette, "Mission Directive: Instinct" featurette, "Introduction to a Character: Ronon Dex" featurette, "Road to Dream" featurette with writer Martin Gero, "Profile on David Hewlett" featurette and "Stargate Atlantis: Stunts" featurette.
Final Thoughts: "Stargate: Atlantis" is a terrifically entertaining spin-off to the enjoyable original series, with great performances, an engaging story and great visuals. The DVD provides loads of bonus features and very good audio/video quality. Recommended, although those new to the show should definitely start off with the first season or risk being lost.