Stargate Atlantis – Initial Impressions

Let me start this out the right way:

I am now and forever a Stargate fanboy.

Not the “mouthbreathing, pseudo-uneducated, mindlessly slaving away wishing the franchise would be reality and not understanding why not” kind of fanboy, but the loyal kind of fanboy who finds a franchise he enjoys and watches every episode available and still wants more.

When my dad and I started watching Stargate SG-1 a while back, I had no idea the kind of attachment I would foster with the series. In the time that we’ve been working through those DVDs, SyFy has begun airing Stargate Atlantis from the beginning; it caught my attention, so I began DVRing them.

Stargate Atlantis I already watched the beginning of SGA back when it debuted. I was looking for a new sci-fi show, and I knew that SG-1 was supposed to be great (I just hadn’t started watching it because it was already around 8 seasons in). I never could get that into SGA, and I eventually stopped watching a month or so into its run. I heard it was getting good reviews, but at the time, I really didn’t care.

Now that I fully appreciate how awesome the Stargate franchise as a whole is, I can really appreciate the things that SGA does.

I’m only a few episodes in, the last episode I’ve watched being “Poisoning the Well.” I’m hooked.

Obviously, there are things I both like and dislike about the series, but the likes far outweigh the minor quibbles I have this early on.

Probably my main grip is that the acting isn’t quite up to the standards set by RDA and the rest of the SG-1 cast, but I’m getting used to it. The characters seem forced at times, but I’m sure by the time I get through even the first season, the relationships will be set up, and I’ll care about the characters. I think I was a little spoiled by SG-1 because I had the movie to fall back on by really liking Daniel Jackson and having him act as kind of an anchor for me to get used to RDA instead of Kurt Russell playing Jack. In SGA, I don’t have that kind of anchor, so my perceptions are of the cast as a whole with no one standing out as being my favorite. Yet.

My only other complaint this early on is the Wraith. They’re cool and all, and I’ve read the Gateworld wiki entry and the Wikipedia page on them, so I know the cool twists coming up regarding their insectoid ancestry(so sue me, I get excited about new shows. They feel like Goa’uld 2.0, the new, improved symbiotic galactic big bads. Where the Goa’uld had technology that made them nearly invulnerable, the Wraith have evolved to be physically regenerate. The Goa’uld used humans as a seed race across the Milky Way to host their parasite selves, and the Wraith use humans like cattle—a herd to cull whenever they get hungry. The similarities are so striking that I can’t help but hope the other races the Atlantis team encounters are a little more interesting.

My main like? Atlantis itself. I’ve been enamored with the legend of the sunken continent since I was a child. When most kids were reading Golden Books, I was reading my father and grandfather’s issues of OMNI and various Time-Life Ancient Mysteries books that had diagrams of what Atlantis might have looked like. I was hooked on that stuff, and Stargate Atlantis takes an idea already dear to my heart, extrapolates it, and integrates it seamlessly into a franchise I’ve come to adore. I admit, even though it was Sci-Fi Channel CGI from five years ago, watching the city come out of the water in “Rising” gave me nerdy chillbumps.

I also like that the SGA team is doing more with the gate itself than SG-1 does. By that, I mean that SGA has at least one gate in space that must be accessed via vehicle, and with the Puddle Jumper playing such a prominent role in their exploration, I expect more unique placement of Stargates. For a while, I’ve been curious about why all the gates on SG-1 have been on the ground. None of them are ever underwater, hanging over cliffs, etc. I know they send the probe in first, but a mention of something other than “on the ground” would be nice. So SGA seems to be doing a little more with placement than SG-1. It’s a small thing, but something that shows narrative evolution.

I also like how Stargate Atlantis is stand-alone. I read that the show breaks off from SG-1 immediately following the events of the Season 7 finale/Season 8 premier. I really like how I don’t have to know what happened in the previous seven seasons–or even those two episodes–to understand the story of SGA. And in that same vein, I like that watching SGA does not really spoil things for SG-1 that I’ve not already watched. Sure, I know that Jack becomes a General at some point and that Daniel never dies despite continually being killed (the man dies a LOT in the first part of SG-1 only to be resusicitated), but none of that really matters. Sitting down to watch Stargate Atlantis feels as though I’m watching an evolution of a show’s mythos rather than a continuation, which is the way I feel it should be done. I don’t feel as though I’m missing out by watching them concurrently rather than staggering seasons and watching them like they originally aired, which is how I’m told that I will get the most out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I just don’t like the idea.

All in all, I’m pleased with Stargate Atlantis. I think the series has a load of potential it can (and from what I’ve read, will) realize in the coming seasons. I do regret that I am not watching it with my dad, as he would really enjoy it, too. But with another eight seasons of SG-1 on our hands, it would be a while before we can delve into it. And who knows, once we finish that project, we just might watch SGA even though I’ve already seen it. The best shows are the ones you can watch over and over again. I just hope that SyFy continues to air it in order so I can keep watching it on my DVR rather than spending money on DVDs.

Comments

  1. Tesh

    "Poisoning the Well" is one of my favorites in the series. It highlights my favorite character, Carson Beckett. (He's one inspiration for my son's name, as it happens. If you ever get to Gateworld's forums near the end of SGA season 3, let me know…) Maybe I'm just a sucker for a Scottish brogue, but Beckett really seemed to epitomize the "international everyman professional" aspect of SGA that made it interesting to me. Well, that and Atlantis itself. (Must… resist… spoilerish… rant…)

    SGA does indeed feel like an "evolution" or parallel track rather than a continuation of SG-1, and that is one of its big strengths. I never did like the Wraith, though. Too much Bram Stoker on PCP, not enough character development.

    My sister was sort of late to the Stargate world, and she watched SGA 1 and 2 more or less concurrently with SG-1 9 and 10 (how they were aired), and it worked out pretty well for her.

  2. pasmith

    When SGA started, I had friends who were really into SG-1 but I'd never watched it, so I seized on SGA as a way to get in at the beginning.

    I loved all 5 seasons of the show (not saying I loved every single episode, but the show overall) and was sad to see it end. I has so happy to see Joe Flannigan guest star on Warehouse 13 this week!

    As you suspect, the cast does get a lot more comfortable in their roles and their relationships with each other.

    I've noticed lately that I'm a big fan of what I call "Scooby gang" [stolen from Buffy fans] character palettes in my sci-fi. When you get a group of characters that get along well enough to start bantering, I'm pretty well hooked.

    SGA & Eureka do this currently (and it's part of the appeal of Ghosthunters for me…yes, I really do enjoy that show), Warehouse 13 is getting there, and of course going back a few years, Firefly, Buffy & Angel all do this really well…

    Thanks for the post… it brought back a lot of fond memories of SGA. And I still haven't watched SG-1. Maybe its time to do so.

  3. Jack Greenwood

    I watched all seasons of SG-1 over the space of about a year. Great show. I also saw all of SGA, another great show. Haven’t seen Universe yet (has it started? I am so not in realtime, I am hopelessly timeshifted backwards as far as TV goes, and I love being able to watch one ep after another if I feel like it.. which I could do with a DVR, but I’m too lazy and disinterested in them… much nicer to buy the series (or rent it) for that “one after another” feeling!

    • Yeah, Universe is halfway through it’s first season. You definitely should start it up. It’s not quite as quirky as the other Stargates, but it has a lot of the same character-driven dynamics. It’s a more serious show, kind of like Battlestar Galactica. It kind of takes all the best parts of my favorite SF TV shows and puts them into one place. I know some of the episodes are up on Hulu.com, but I don’t know if they all are; they were also supposed to release the first 3 episodes as a DVD set called “Air” soon. Check for it. I think you’ll like it.

  4. I always thought Stargate: Atlantis was a blatant clone of SG1. Now that’s not bad, it’s fun to watch and as they say, when something ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But what drives me crazy, what I absolutely hate, is the Wraith. Can you say vampires in space? I want to watch SF, not fantasy wrapped in SF. So, if I watch SG: A, the first thing I do is go, “Is there any Waith?” If the answer is yes, I turn it off.

    • I feel the same way about the Wraith, and about the show as a whole. It’s fun, but it is very much a case of “SG1 did this right so let’s emulate it.” By the end of the second season the cast congealed a bit, too.