Stargate Atlantis
Season One Box Set

Starring: Joe Flanigan, Torri Higginson, Rachel Luttrell, Rainbow Sun Francks and David Hewlett
RRP: 59.99
Certificate: 12
Available 13 March 2006

Fans of Stargate: Atlantis can now purchase the entire first season as one complete box set. This collection is basically the five discs that were originally released, but now inserted into a rather attractive box with plastic trays. The front of the packaging employs lenticular imaging (an image that changes) that shows the Atlantis crew or a Wraith depending on which angle you are viewing it...

Season One gets off ot a pretty impressive start. To follow are reviews of some of this season's episodes...

When SG-1 discover what they believe to be the remnant of the Lost City of the Ancients - the originators of the Stargates - Stargate Command launches an investigation. A new team of explorers, headed by civilian Dr. Elizabeth Weir, travels to the distant Pegasus Galaxy, where they discover an advanced but deserted city on the ocean floor, a group of nomadic humans and a deadly enemy that feeds on humans as an energy source...

Rising, the first episode of Stargate: Atlantis, gets the show off to a flying start. It successfully introduces all the regular cast and sets up the new enemy threat.

Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson (from Stargate: SG-1) help ease fans into the opening of the series - it was great to see Jackson itching to go through the gate to join the Atlantis crew. I also couldn't help notice that Gary ("Chevron One encoded") Jones's character had been replaced by another actor. While this character didn't do much in these scenes, it would have been fun to have seen Jones appear. Robert Patrick (Terminator, The X-Files) also turns in a great performance - shame he didn't stick around for the duration of this series.

We get a rather nasty introduction to the new alien threat in this area of space, the Wraiths. These vampire like creatures make the Replicators look cuddly in comparison. I'm really looking forward to seeing how these creatures are weaved into the storylines.

This opening episode is extremely impressive. It's action packed, well paced and very funny. Stargate: Atlantis really couldn't have gotten a better introduction than this.

Dr. McKay's DNA is altered to match the Ancient genetic coding, allowing him to use the Ancient technology abounding in Atlantis - but leaving him unable to eat. Meanwhile, during a game of hide-and-seek, one of the Athosian children inadvertently releases a dark entity. And when Atlantis goes through a series of technical malfunctions, the team realises that the shadowy creature is actually feeding off the power supply...

Hide and Seek starts well, but then seems to lose some of its momentum. The opening scenes are extremely funny. McKay manages to activate one of the Ancients' devices that gives him his own personal shielding device. No one or thing can harm him... but he also is unable to turn it off. Sadly, this means nothing can touch his body - so there is no way he can eat or drink.

But the whole dark entity storyline is really, really dull - something that felt like it had been lifted straight out of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

However, despite its flaws, this episode does give us more of a feel for the main characters. And it's not really as bleak as I seem to have painted it - just not that great either.

Fleeing from a surprise encounter with the Wraith, the Atlantis team's puddle jumper speeds back towards the Stargate but becomes trapped when it suffers a mechanical failure. They have only 38 minutes before the Stargate shuts down... and with the front half of the ship already dematerialised in the event-horizon, the puddle jumper will be cut in half...

Thirty Eight Minutes is a pretty 'edge of your seat' experience. Every time you think nothing else can go wrong, it does.

One of the puddle jumpers (I really do prefer the other name knocked around for these craft: 'Gateship') is heading back to Atlantis through a Stargate. Onboard are Teyla, Lieutenant Ford, Dr McKay and Major Sheppard (who is having the life sucked out of him thanks to a large bug that has attached itself to his neck). As they enter the Stargate the puddle jumper becomes caught on the sides of the gate and it appears there is no way to dislodge it.

This is a pretty intense episode, fast paced and incredibly nail-biting - which is pretty impressive as the majority of the episode is set in two static locations (Atlantis City and the puddle jumper). The alien bug clinging on to Sheppard's neck screamed: "Face Hugger rip off from Alien!" In fact, the conclusion to this episode would suggest that the writers were indeed paying homage to that movie.

It is also interesting to see some surface tension between Weir and at least one of her crew. There is an exchange she has with one of her team which shows the possible future struggles she will have keeping the chain of command.

This episode plays out well and has a satisfactory conclusion.

Dr Weir begins to suspect that one of the Athosians is actually in league with the Wraith when the Atlantis team are ambushed by their enemy on an off world trip. Taking action despite Teyla and Sheppard's concerns Dr Weir starts interviewing the Athosians in order to weed out the Wraith but alienates the community who start leaving the city in droves...

Suspicion is a rather dull affair. There's a little too much "Oh! I'm hurt! How dare you accuse my people of being spies!" and "Let's tread softly, softly". There just didn't seem to be enough material to stretch over 45 minutes.

However, this episode, unlike others on this disc, is slotted in at just the right time in the series. We still don't know the Athosians very well and, even though it's obvious Teyla will be around for some time as she's on the opening credits, we are still not sure how loyal her people are.

The Atlantis team discover a primitive forest dwelling tribe untouched by the Wraith. An electromagnetic field protects them but the tribe believe ritual suicide keeps the Wraith at bay. Sheppard must try and convince the tribe this ritual is unnecessary but the 'elders' are not so sure...

Oh look, another forest planet! Fantastic. Childhood's End is not original in any sense of the word. This episode features a culture where the inhabitants must die before they reach full adulthood (a bit like Logan's Run). The Atlantis team make friends with the elder of the village who just so happens to be preparing to top himself that evening as he has reached the age where it is necessary to die. And guess what, his replacement wants the Atlantis team out of his village one way or another.

While this episode is clichéd in just about every aspect, it works! Don't ask how, or why... it just does. The scenes with David Hewlett's bumbling Doctor McKay help keep everything very light hearted and the end result, while not fantastic, is entertaining.

The Atlantis team encounter the Hoffans a civilisation who claim to be close to developing a drug that will make them immune to the Wraith. Learning of the awakening of the Wraith the Hoffans demand to inoculate their people before the drug is properly tested, to the horror of Dr Beckett...

In Poisoning The Well the Atlantis team visit a race whose fashion and culture seem to be derived from a cross between Victorian and '40s influences.

The main problem I had with this episode was that the team are starting to think that it is their duty to police the galaxy. Does Sheppard really have the right, or the authority, to speak to the Hoffan leaders the way he does? What gives the Atlantis team the right to interfere so much in another culture? Sheppard's comments are particularly at odds with the team's views in Childhood's End where they were prepared to discuss sacrificing another culture in order to obtain the power crystal to get back to Earth.

This is the first episode that really sees Dr Beckett take centre stage and his scenes work really well. There is also a nice gag about him playing the same role as McCoy in Star Trek.

Overall, an enjoyable episode.

While investigating another planet Dr McKay discovers that its unique atmospheric fog may provide enough power to allow the team to communicate with Earth. Better still, they may be able to go back there. When the team manage to return to their home planet they are informed that the Atlantis programme is to be terminated...

For some odd reason, Home is the final episode on this disc. If these releases were following the original transmission order, Underground should have been the final episode on this collection with Home beginning the next disc. Strangely the PR information we received with this disc indicated that Underground was the final episode of this collection too, so I'm not entirely sure what happened there.

Overall I really enjoyed this episode, but I had some major issues with it. Firstly this episode really should have been included later in the show's first season. We've only just arrived at Atlantis and the team are all racing to get back to Earth. Another problem was the fact that the twist in the tale is spoilt by the fact that Hammond is still in charge of the SGC (as he was when they left). So you already know that something is wrong.

There are some great gags here - my favourite being the fact that despite months having passed, there are no messages on McKay's home answering machine.

A pretty enjoyable episode even if anyone with half a brain will work out what is going on in the first 15 minutes.

When members of the team show signs of an unusual infection, it is discovered to be caused by a nanite virus, which induces hallucinations and then death due to brain haemorrhage. Though the team attempts to disable the nanites with an electromagnetic pulse, they fail when the pulse is not strong enough. Can the deadly technology be stopped before it cuts down the entire city...?

Hot Zone sees the Atlantis team in a race against time. At stake are the lives of all onboard the station. While this is not a very original story, it's execution is flawless. There's real tension in this episode and I loved the way that time after time a solution would appear only to evaporate before our eyes. This building up of hope and then flooding the viewer with a wave of disappointment really takes you on a roller coaster ride.

I was also a little concerned to see that the producers are already putting into place a race that will be more of a threat than the Wraith. Look away now if you don't want a small plot development spoiled... but it seems that the nanite virus has been specially designed to wipe out humanoid species but not by the Wraith. This now means that there is potentially another threat to humanity waiting in the wings.

A well plotted episode that doesn't disappoint.

The Atlantis team visits a pre-technological paradise and requests that they be allowed to bring refugees of Wraith attacks there for sanctuary. The locals refuse, believing that the goddess Athar has restricted their planet from colonisation by outsiders. But when Sheppard invites Athar's high priestess back to Atlantis, is he inviting trouble into their midst...?

Sanctuary is an interesting episode. Just when it starts to take itself a little too seriously the writers inject a little humour to ensure that everything lightens up a little. This is very welcomed as the blossoming romantic relationship between Sheppard and Athar's high priestess's is a little unbelievable - it just moves too quickly. I know that's how 45 minute episodes have to work, but it still moves a little too fast.

McKay makes some spot on references to Sheppard behaving like Star Trek's Captain Kirk (in the '60s TV series - not the movies) - always getting the new alien girl. There is also an amusing scene where, in the middle of a meeting, Sheppard asks if he can be alone with their guest for a few minutes - to which all in the room cry in unison: "No!"

Also this episode really brought home to me how out of order McKay is. He came across as more arrogant than usual and really does need to tone it down a little. Are there really people out there that just say whatever they think? Well, obviously there are, but wouldn't they be disciplined a little more in the profession McKay is in?

Even though it's rushed a little, I still found this to be an above average episode.

The Atlantis team discovers a stasis chamber holding a woman who appears to be over 10,000 years old. Excited by the possibility that she is one of the alien race that built Atlantis, the team decides to bring her out of stasis despite the risks to her health. But everyone is shocked when, once reanimated, the elderly woman identifies herself as none other than Dr. Weir...!

Before I Sleep sees Atlantis doing a Back to the Future - a film that McKay has issues with as he says: "Don't even get me started on that movie," when Sheppard mentions it.

The make-up effects in this episode are incredible and I was also impressed with Torri Higginson's acting as an older version of Weir. Normally, whenever someone is aged in this way (take for example Julian Bashir in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Season Three episode Distant Voices or any of the actors that were aged in Back to the Future II) they over act the ageing process. Not only that, but the eyes usually give away that there is a energetic, young actor under all those layers of rubber. That is certainly not the case here.

Back to the Future fans, as well as anyone who loves getting their heads around time travel stories, will be in their element here. A riveting tale from start to finish.

The Atlantis team travels to Dagan, a planet populated by a people whose ancestors once worshipped a ZPM as a religious symbol. But even as the team searches for keys to its whereabouts, the Genii have learned of their activities on Dagan and planted a sleeper agent amongst them. Now, with the Atlantis team closing in on the location of the ZPM, the Genii close in on them...!

The Brotherhood star Robert Davi once again. The thing I love about his character is that he is not your stereotypical villain of the week. He is not a bad man at all, and is simply trying to help his people at any means. This is not unlike the Atlantis team, who seem to have no problems with stealing from other cultures.

There is something of an Indiana Jones story being told here too. There are certainly elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark in the script. Some of the scenes openly pay homage to that movie. Davi's character is very much in the mould of Dr. Rene Belloq. And the scene with the Atlantis team trapped in the underground chamber is very similar to the scene in Raiders where Belloq stands above the Well of the Souls with Indy and Marian trapped below.

There is a very impressive time elapse scene. This episode starts with the Brotherhood fleeing the city as it is under attack. As they run outdoors you get to see a wonderful view of their city. This view then rapidly ages to depict crumbling city walls and buildings, and then the camera pans back to show the Atlantis team inside the main building, thousands of years later.

This is certainly the best episode in this collection.

Having learned that the entire Wraith armada is headed towards the city, the team decides to use their remaining power to send Stargate Command a message containing information about the Wraith threat and the well-being of everyone on Atlantis. As most of the team are recording messages to their loved ones, Sheppard and Teyla embark on a mission that takes them directly to the Wraith army...

Oh dear! It's time for a clips show. We've not even completed the first season and off go the writers on a time and cost cutting exercise. Actually Letter from Pegasus is not your average clips show and almost works. It's just a shame that we had to revisit old episodes so early on.

The main thing that saves this from being really dull is (surprise, surprise) Dr McKay. His lengthy message back home is extremely funny and well worth trudging through some of the other, rather bland scenes. An average episode.

When terrifying nightmares about the Wraith haunt Teyla, she visits the city's psychologist and learns that she can sense the Wraith. Determined to discover more, she leads a small team on a mission to a planet from which victims of the Wraith "miraculously" return. There, they uncover what appears to be a genetics laboratory. Could Teyla's connection to the Wraith be the result of genetic experimentation...?

The Gift is a Teyla episode and one I have issues with (well, more of a nit-pick really). We are told that the Wraith (or one Wraith in particular) sent the abducted test subjects back to their loved ones, hoping that the way he had altered them would be dampened as they gave birth to future generations. Now, wasn't that a bit of a stupid risk to take? As the Wraith eat humans anyway wouldn't it have made more sense for him to just kill them? I think this is one I'm going to hand over to Johnny Fanboy... once his answer is live you can read it by clicking here.

It's good to see some good old fashioned blokey humour injected into this episode. McKay says: "I've got a little..." to which Ford asks: "You've got a little what?" The rapport between McKay and Ford is very realistic and is something which I hope the writers will expand upon next season.

With the Wraith armada closing in on Atlantis, tension builds between Teyla and some of the other members of the team over her connection to the Wraith. When she is accused of revealing the team's location, after a scouting mission ends in a fire fight, Sheppard steps in to defend her. But even he begins to harbour doubts when her accuser is left unconscious after an attack by an unknown assailant...

The Siege (Part 1) is a pretty gripping episode. Although, as this two-parter unfolded I couldn't help but be reminded of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine station battle story arc - which was obviously a huge inspiration, although the Atlantis story line is not as intense.

Teyla's new found 'gift' drags up a whole heap of complications. Actually, having this episode follow straight after The Gift was a little sloppy. It felt as though the writers were desperately trying to think of a way of making us question her loyalty - maybe it was her that was letting the Wraith know about the Atlantis crews movements and secrets. And so, The Gift was simply written in a hurry to add a little more tension to the finale.

The ending is an interesting cliff-hanger, and may actually have worked a little better as the season conclusion.

As the Wraith attack on Atlantis begins, the team is bolstered by the appearance of reinforcements from Earth armed with nuclear warheads and good news: The battleship Daedalus is due to arrive in four days. But when the warheads are easily destroyed by the Wraith, it becomes increasingly clear that the reinforcements aren't enough to protect the city for four hours, let alone four days...

The Siege (Part 2) doesn't really go anywhere. What I mean is, after 45 minutes we are really no further on than when the episode started. Okay, there are a few surprises (one big one if you don't already know - although the synopsis above, which is taken from the DVD cover, spoils it). The conclusion seems a little too much like the end to the first part (in essence) but there are plenty of highs and lows along the way. First their plight looks hopeless and then there is a glimmer of a solution on the horizon, then that too is dashed at the last minute, and so it goes on.

Not the most exciting cliff-hanger, but it certainly leaves us wanting more.

Extras in this box set include numerous behind the scenes features but no audio commentaries - which is a little odd.

I did have a few small issues with this series - ones which I'm hoping will dissipate over time. Firstly the theme tune is instantly forgettable and borrows a little too much from other obvious sources (including Stargate: SG-1), the digital effect work wasn't as good as it could have been - some of the puddle jumper shots are really poor in this first season.

And finally I had a slight (very slight) feeling of deja vu. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine anyone? No? Okay... The Atlantis city is not dissimilar to DS9 in construction (especially when you see cross section diagrams which show the city's internal sensor readouts); the city is now a human base but the Atlantis's team have to share their new home with the Athosian families who they are harbouring - a little like DS9 became the home for the Bajorans who the Federation were protecting from the Cardassians; the Atlantis crew are far away from earth and (even though the SGC can dial out to them - they can't dial earth) any rescue operation would be hard - a little like the crew of DS9 being isolated from the Federation; the Stargate is a little like the wormhole from DS9; and finally the puddle jumpers look very similar to Trek's runabouts - especially the way the tail section opens in order to let the crew in and out.

Pete Boomer

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