I'm still amazed every time think of the following and spin-offs the original 'Stargate' movie spawned. It seemed like for the past decade or so we were hearing an announcement of a newly minted 'Stargate' series every year. It's a perfect sci-fi television premise. Gates have been built by an ancient race and placed around the universe. All one needs is a gate to dial and they can hop an interstellar highway to planets millions of light-years away. With a seemingly infinite number of gates an infinite number of episodes can be written. The characters can travel from place to place for eternity, or until we get bored.
We've seen the original 'Stargate' movie go on to spawn 'Stargate SG-1,' 'Stargate Universe,' and 'Stargate Atlantis. There was even an animated series called 'Stargate Infinity'. Needless to say, 'Stargate' has a steady stream of sci-fi fans who enjoy the concept. So much so that the gates keep getting used in minor reiterations of the original movie.
'Stargate Atlantis' survived for five seasons. It begins as a direct spin-off from 'Stargate: SG-1' even going so far as giving Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks extended cameos in the first episode. 'Stargate Atlantis' jumps off from the seventh season of 'SG1' where an Antartic base built by the ancients has been found and they've figured out, from there, where the lost city of Atlantis is and how they can get there through a stargate.
The expeditionary team is large. This is a monumental trip for human kind. All the people that have volunteered to go on the mission know that there's a good possibility that they'll never make it back to earth. Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) is more or less the leader of the group and the genius brains behind the operation. Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett) provides much of the show's comedic relief as a bumbling but brilliant scientist. Lt. Colonel John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) is the muss-haired maverick who wasn't supposed to even come on this mission, but since he shares some of the same genetics as the Ancients he's recruited for the voyage. Robert Patrick even makes a short appearance at the beginning of the series, but is soon dispatched. It was saddening, just because I always liked Patrick as John Doggett in 'The X-Files' and would've loved to see him continue on in the series as a no-nonsense a colonel.
The series bad guys are soon introduced as the Wraith. A mean, ugly race of humanoids who feed on other humans throughout the galaxy. They harvest people from other planets by using the same stargates that the expedition from earth are using. The Wraith soon find out that these new humans who have found Atlantis have come from a place called Earth, a virtual smorgasbord human flesh to devour. They've spent so much time culling their food from the outer reaches of the galaxy, finding a planet like Earth would be a feeding gold mine.
That's more or less how the series plays out. Most of the seasons deal broadly with the team's problems with the Wraith, while many of the episodes act as stand alone pieces that have little to nothing to do with the long run.
It would seem that only fans of the series would pony up the hefty amount of dough needed to buy this set, although for five seasons of a fairly popular sci-fi show, the prices don't seem too bad.
I never became too big of a fan of 'Atlantis', but then again I wasn't always that big a 'Stargate' fan to begin with. I did enjoy 'Universe', but that's because it seemed a bit more down to earth and dramatic, while 'Atlantis' plays out more like a sitcom version of a stargate story. That's okay though, it wasn't meant to be deep philosophical television. More of a way to easily pass the time while watching a mildly interesting story.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Stargate: Atlantis' comes in a complete collection set from MGM. It comes with three separate keepcases. The first two keepcases are larger and house two seasons each, while the third one houses just the final fifth season. The keepcases fit snuggly into an outer cardboard box that holds all three. This is a great way to package such a large set. Your limited shelf space will thank you. There are a whopping 20 50-GB discs in all. It is purported to be a region free set.
MGM's video presentations of late have been real hit or miss. Like they've been throwing stuff onto Blu-ray without really taking the time out to make them look right. While 'Stargate: Atlantis' isn't the worst MGM transfer to have hit the shelves, it also isn't the best. It sits somewhere in the middle, which is okay for a niche TV show from the SyFy Channel.
The 1080p picture looks good for the most part. Great detail and depth. Faces harbor a lot of intricacies that may not have been visible on sometimes murky cable receptions like stubble left on haggard faces, or dried blood after a battle. There are quite a few darker scenes, which sometimes suffer from crush. While it is noticeable at times, most of the time it's a negligible occurrence that's easy to forget in the grand scheme of things.
The show does suffer from lower production values, and the fact that large scale visual effects never work quite that well on television. With the help of high definition a lot of the CGI effects in the series look even more hokey. When Atlantis rises out of the water it's easy to see aliasing around the edges and in general, a softness and phoniness that comes along with cheaper CG. I did notice a steady amount of errant flecks and blips that pop up as the series chugs along. It's nothing more than you'd get from any general catalogue release, but it's something worth noting.
On the whole I thought that the five seasons of 'Atlantis' looked rather well done, especially considering MGM's very spotty track record. This could have been a set that they just threw together and put in the stores in hopes of scoring a few quick sales. It seems like they took some time with it to make it look decent. Fans will be happy.
Each episode of this five season series comes complete with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is surprisingly engaging. I was surprised by the activity in the rear channels. Whether it be zooming Wraith ships or an underwater city threatening to crumble in on itself the rear channels are alive with sound. They keep you interested in the show and engaged in what you are seeing. Panning effects work smoothly as spaceships zoom overhead transferring from the front to rear speakers seamlessly.
Dialogue is always clear and never soft or unintelligible. There are a lot of people here, and lots of extras to make up the expeditionary team. There's always a group of people no matter what's going on. Voices are well placed throughout the sound design to give a nice all-encompassing feel.
LFE is energetic and sometimes thunderous during battles with Wraiths and other baddies. It could've been a little more resonant on occasions, but it's what you'd expect from a TV show. In short this is a great soundtrack that is sure to please any fan.
Okay, there are a ton of special features on this set. Fans should be ecstatic about that. MGM hasn't skimped on the audio commentaries either. There are 88 of them total, out of the show's 100 total episodes. That's a ton of commentaries, especially when TV seasons on Blu-ray usually take the cheap route and do two or three commentaries per 24-episode season. This special feature package is simply a monster.
Seasons 1 – 5
Here's a quick and dirty rundown. There are 14commentaries in season one featuring: directors Martin Wood and Peter DeLuise; series regulars like Joe Flanigan, Rachel Luttrell, Torri Higginson, and Paul McGillion. Other crew members pop up on occasion like stunt coordinator Dan Shea.
The second season features 20 separate commentaries featuring many of the same players but adding in directors like Andy Mikita and Neil Fearnley; and producer Paul Mullie.
The third season offers up another 19 commentaries that feature more of production aspect of the show. Writers like Martin Gero offer up their commentary. Also VFX supervisor Mark Savela covers some of the visual effects that you see on screen during the show's run.
The fourth season has another 19 commentaries. New voices joining the commentating team include executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, writer/director Robert C. Cooper, and writer Alan McCullough.
Finally, the fifth season offers up16 commentaries to bring our gargantuan total of commentaries to 88.
These Mission Directives are great behind the scenes featurettes that give access to the making of the show and provide fans with a look at what goes into making a given episode.
'Stargate' definitely has its fans. 'Atlantis' had a good run. Five full seasons to tell its story of a group of earthlings who travel to a distant planetary city. This certainly is a set intended for fans only, but would be a good pick up for anyone that was interested in getting into the show. It's just that the sticker price may be a bit too high. If you do plan on purchasing it, know that the video and audio produced by MGM are decently strong this time around. Also, there are so many special features you'll be trying for weeks to get through them all. It's truly a set designed for fans of the show. The 88 audio commentaries are a real treat. This one is worth a look if you can get past the sticker shock.