Shutting Down The ‘Gate: ‘Stargate Atlantis’ Ends Its Five Year Run

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This week marks the final episode of SCI FI Channel’s original series Stargate Atlantis. Although there will be movies to follow, this marks the final weekly adventure of these characters barring any of them jumping over to Stargate Universe. However, the series finale, “Enemy At The Gate”, also marks the 100th episode of the series and that is certainly something to celebrate, especially in this age of networks canceling shows within hours of the debut episode airing. It would be easy to think of Atlantis as just a spin-off of Stargate SG-1, but that would be doing the show a vast disservice.

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From Beginning to End
The show started off with the premise of a group of adventurers taking what could be a one-way trip through the Stargate to the lost city of Atlantis, located in the Pegasus Galaxy. For the first season, the show kept the characters isolated from Earth and thus was able to prove itself without having to rely on familiar characters from the first series. And yet, Atlantis was able to maintain and refine the core meaning of Stargate, that being adventurous exploration. Only after the show went through its growing pains and stood on its own two feet did the creators finally allow more regular contact with Stargate Command and, eventually, appearances by characters from the sister show.

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One thing Stargate Atlantis became known for was several changes in the main cast. The series began with six main characters, John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan), Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett), Teyla Emmagan (Rachel Luttrell), Lt. Aiden Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks), Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) and Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion, technically only recurring in season one, however he appeared in all but five of the initial twenty episodes). By the beginning of season four, only the first three would remain as main characters. Ronon Dex (Jason Momoa) joined the Atlantis Expedition early in season two and took Ford’s place on Sheppard’s team after the latter fled the city following becoming addicted to an alien enzyme. Dr. Jennifer Keller (Jewel Staite) was a recurring character through season three and became Chief Medical Officer after the death of Becket (don’t worry, he got better, kind of). Stargate SG-1‘s Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) replaced Weir as the leader of the expedition for season four, only to find herself replaced in the season five opener by Richard Woolsey (Robert Picardo). There were also several recurring characters that weaved themselves in and out of episodes, some becoming main characters with some primary characters becoming, or even returning to, recurring status. It may all sound confusing, but it is all surprisingly easy to follow and really enriched the whole Stargate universe.

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Speaking of the characters or, more specifically, those actors who portrayed them, I was able to pose a couple of questions to three of the principle cast recently regarding the end of the show and some of their thoughts. Below are my Q and A’s with David Hewlett, Jewel Staite and Robert Picardo.

David Hewlett
PCZ: Would you be interested in directing an Atlantis movie or an episode of Stargate Universe?

DH: Sure! When do I start?

PCZ: You portrayed Rodney McKay for over six years. Will it be difficult not to play him full-time anymore?

DH: I don’t so much find it difficult not to play him (though I do catch myself sounding like him every now and again!) as much as I just plain old miss the guy!

PCZ: What’s next for you?

DH: Dinner Theatre…a murder mystery or a bedroom farce or maybe something in tights.

Jewel Staite
PCZ: Are you interested in being on another sci-fi type show or going for something different?

JS: I’m mostly interested in doing quality projects and working with great people. The sci-fi genre has done great things for my career, so I’m not opposed to doing other sci-fi projects in the future. But interesting scripts and characters that are challenging and fun to play are my first priorities in choosing my future projects.

PCZ: What expectations did you bring to the job on Stargate Atlantis and what experiences from the show will you take with you?

JS: I knew the show was in a groove, having been running for so many years, so I expected a well-run set and a lot of camaraderie. And I couldn’t have been more on the mark. I’ve never worked with such a talented, easy-going crew! I was always amazed at how much we were able to achieve in a twelve hour day, and everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Since I was the new kid stepping in to some hard shoes to fill, I was a little worried about fitting in, but they all made me feel so incredibly welcome, right from the very beginning. I’ll always remember the cast and crew for that.

PCZ: Are you looking forward to continuing as Dr. Keller in the Atlantis movies?

JS: Absolutely! Nearing the end of season five, Dr. Keller was just beginning to show her true colors. I would love to explore more of that in the future!

Robert Picardo
PCZ: Are you pleased with the overall character development of Woolsey, from his first appearance in season seven of Stagate SG-1 to the end of Atlantis?

RP: Yes I am. Mr. Woolsey went from an officious, self-important, arrogant think-tank guy with no practical experience in the field to a thoughtful and determined decision-maker and leader. And he did it in a relatively short time frame. Dick Cheney–eat your heart out.

PCZ: By the end of season five, do you think Woolsey has been fully accepted by the Atlantis crew and has he earned their respect?

RP: I do think Woolsey has earned the acceptance and respect of his crew. Not to rub it in but that’s Woolsey 2, Cheney 0.

PCZ: Would you be interested in reprising the role of Woolsey for guest spots on Stagate Universe?

RP: I have already been approached by producer Brad Wright and I told him I would be delighted to do the show. Thus far, no feelers have gone out to Dick Cheney (who will very shortly be on permanent availability).

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The Finale
So, how does it all end? Well, the very end I will let you discover on your own, no spoilers here. However, I will say that “Enemy At The Gate” works very well as a bookend to the entire series, while leaving the show in a very interesting place for the TV movies that are to follow. There are cameos by a few characters we haven’t seen in a while, including Colonel Samantha Carter and Colin Cunningham’s Major Davis.

There is a very touching scene between Carter and Sheppard in which Carter reveals her new assignment. It is a scene that very easily could have been cut given how much is going on in the episode. The fact that it is given the amount of time that it has and the dialogue between the characters is truly a testament to the class of the production crew. You’ll know the scene the moment you see it and I won’t reveal anymore of it.

My only real gripe with the episode is a pivotal moment near the end with Ronon that is reversed a few minutes later. I don’t understand why they did what they did, as the moment loses it’s poignancy on the reversal and doesn’t really serve any point to the story. Other than that, though, the story, while fairly dense at times, flows very well. Each character gets their moment to shine. The closing moments are both bittersweet and full of promise for the future. There’s one minor question as to a character’s fate left dangling at the end and one big whopping “what happens next?” plot point that will leave you wanting more. And that’s the perfect time to bring down the final curtain.

The Future
So, what happens next? Currently, scripts are being written for both a Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis television movie. The tentative plan is to shoot them simultaneously in the spring. No word yet on what characters are set to appear in the two films, but shooting them at the same time would afford ample crossover potential. Also in pre-production and in the casting stage is a brand new weekly series, Stargate Universe. Theoretically, this will feature an all new cast of characters, however, as revealed above, Robert Picardo at least has been approached about his willingness to appear in some capacity in the new series. It’s very possible we may have a familiar face or two along for the ride on Universe. After all, McKay, Weir and recurring character Major Evan Lorne (Kavan Smith) all appeared on SG-1 prior to Atlantis. All in all, the ending of this series only signifies the closing of a chapter as the Stargate universe as a whole will continue to thrive in new ways. Part of the fun will be seeing when or if a favorite character or two might show up. I will miss the weekly dose of Stargate Atlantis, just like I miss Stargate SG-1, but there are many more adventures of both series as well as intriguing new explorations from Universe to look forward to. 2009 will be a fantastic year to be a Stargate fan.

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