As a newly-initiated fan of Stargate SG-1, it was an easy leap for me to be attracted to Stargate Atlantis when it premiered a week and a half ago. And although I had some serious doubts about any Stargate spinoff — matching the chemistry of the original team is a very tough thing to do — I think that this will end up becoming a successful series.
One of the things I was most glad about was how easy it was to get into Atlantis. Unlike many other spinoffs (especially Crusade and Voyager) that relied heavily on backstory, Atlantis doesn’t require an overwhelming body of knowledge about the Stargate universe. Sure, I’m already a fan of the series, but since I’m only into the second season of SG-1, it’s a good thing that I didn’t need to have too much knowledge of the immediately preceding seasons. And the relative lack of spoilers (aside from O’Neill’s promotion) was a big plus!
Initially, I was very concerned about how much of a cookie-cutter cast the Atlantis team appeared to be. The expedition leader, the military leader, the egghead scientist, the random soldier guy, and the token Human-looking alien — it sure seemed like a fairly boring group to me! After watching three hours of the show, I’m not entirely convinced of some of the characters — especially Ford and Teyla — but I’m still willing to give them some time to develop.
There were two things about Atlantis that impressed me the most. The first were the new sets, combined with the visual effects. The Lost City is quite simply amazing! Although most modern science fiction shows have never had trouble creating believable sets, I’ve never seen such a grand scale attempted before. An entire city risen from the depths of the ocean is one of the most amazing sights I’ve seen in recent memory, and one of the best effects shots I’ve ever seen (right up there with the combined fleet at the Battle of Coriana Six on Babylon 5 or the battle to stop the Xindi superweapon on Enterprise). All of the equipment, the decor, the lighting — it really looks like a million-year-old alien community.
The second thing that really impressed me was the new villain of the series, the Wraith. Now, I’m not a fan of the horror genre by any stretch, but these guys just about knocked my socks off, they were so creepy! I seem to be in the minority opinion about them, though, from what I’ve read — maybe it’s just because I’ve not watched that many suspense and horror films before. But the idea of an alien race that’s out to get you, not to conquer you, but to eat you, is a really chilling idea for a villain. I was pretty creeped out that night, after finishing watching the premiere at 11 PM, let me tell you!
I do have one major criticism of the show, though — and it concerns the setup of the Atlantis Project and their mission out to the Pegasus Galaxy. It seemed that Doctor Weir made a point of criticizing the SG-1 team for making an enemy out of the Goa’uld in the early days of their mission, and landing Earth square in the targets of a powerful alien race. But isn’t that exactly what the Atlantis team has done, too? Thanks to the plot device of only being able to power Earth’s Stargate for one open wormhole trip out to the Pegasus Galaxy, it was an all-or-nothing leap for the group. But thanks to that leap, the entire team has now jeopardized Earth once again, by attracting the enemy that defeated the Ancients. Any criticism of SG-1 strikes me as pure hypocrisy by comparison.
But that’s just one almost throwaway line in an otherwise excellent show. I’m glad they’ve kept the tongue-in-cheek humor that made SG-1 such a great show (although Major Sheppard is certainly no Richard Dean Anderson!). I’m glad they’ve developed a powerful and truly frightening villain to keep our attention. I’m glad that they’ve got some awesome sets and effects, not to mention some cool technology to play with.
I’m unquestionably looking forward to seeing where Stargate Atlantis will lead. I eagerly await the next episode!