Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Third Season – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Cast:
Joe Flanigan… Lt. Colonel John Sheppard
Rachel Luttrell… Teyla Emmagan
David Hewlett… Dr. Rodney McKay
Torri Higginson… Dr. Elizabeth Weir
Paul McGillion… Dr. Carson Beckett
Jason Momoa… Ronon Dex

Release Date: September 18, 2007
Running Time: 871 minutes

The Show:

The third season of Stargate Atlantis is a strong one. It introduces a major new villain, fleshes out some of the characters and has a high ratio of good to bad episodes. In general, it is a solid season.

One of the biggest changes of season three was the introduction of a new major villain. The series was kind of backed into a corner as far as the Wraith were concerned. The Wraith are simply too numerous and too powerful. Going into season three, Atlantis was the only real threat the Wraith had to deal with in the entire galaxy. So the only way to keep the Wraith from simply overwhelming Atlantis was to keep Atlantis off the Wraith’s radar. That’s all well and good, but it really limits your options if you want to put the whole cast in danger, and not just Sheppard and his team.

To solve this problem, we get the replicators. These aren’t the replicators that were established in Stargate: SG-1, however. These replicators are a product of the Ancients (for a supposedly brilliant civilization, they sure made an awful lot of incredibly bad galaxy-endangering mistakes). These replicators aren’t nearly as threatening as the original. They only exist in human-form and unlike their SG-1 cousins, they have to actually build ships, building, etc. It seems kind of lame to introduce what is essentially a B version of an SG-1 threat, but it makes sense for their intended functions.

Having these new replicators (officially called the Asurans, but usually just referred to as replicators) around allows for two things. One, it gives the writers another non-Wraith force to threaten Atlantis – they can only get tricked by the Genii so many times). Second, there is now something else for the Wraith to focus their energy on other than Atlantis. So even if Wraith society learns of Atlantis’ survival, they are less likely to have the necessary resources to endless bombard Atlantis. So, despite being weaker versions of an old enemy, their addition opens up a whole host of story possibilities.

Season three also shows the less evil side of Wraith society, which is a nice follow-up to season two’s “Instinct.” For whatever reason, the Wraith can feed only on humans. In order to survive, they must feed. This kind of leaves the Wraith with no choice but to look down on humans as mere food if they want to survive. That doesn’t automatically make the Wraith evil, it just means their survival instincts are stronger than their ethics. And in season three, we get an opportunity to see that ordinary Wraith are capable of more than just killing people.

The season isn’t without its problems, however. There are a couple of weaker episodes (like “Sateda” and “Echoes”), and a couple of questionable plot/character choices, but there’s really only one episode that stands out as being bad. That episode is “The Real World” and boy is it a doozy.

For some reason sci-fi shows seem to love using the “character wakes up in some kind of institution and is told that the entire series was just a dream/hallucination.” Of course, seeing as it would mean the end of the series otherwise, it always turns out there is some other factor at work. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get an extended period of the main character grappling with the question of what is real before reaching the inevitable conclusion. I suspect that even the people making Atlantis acknowledge what a horrible episode it is; of the entire season, “The Real World” is the only episode not to have a commentary track.

A single episode, even a really bad one, can’t bring down an entire season though. On a whole season three is a great season.

The Episodes:

Disc 1

“No Man’s Land” – Picking up where the season 2 finale, “Allies,” left off the Wraith, having betrayed the Atlantis expedition, are on their way to Earth. Can the Atlantis team find a way to stop the Wraith before they feed on the Earth? (Hint: The answer is yes.)

“Misbegotten” – After the capture of a ship full of Wraith turned human (including their old friend, Michael), it is decided to relocate the newly human Wraith onto another planet until they can figure out what to do with them. One of the Wraith is suspicious of the explanation that they are suffering from a virus and sets out to uncover the truth. Back on Earth, Weir faces a review of her command.

“Irresistible” – After Dr. Beckett is taken in by the charm of Lucius Lavin, Beckett brings the man back to Atlantis so everyone can learn from his wisdom. At first people are skeptical of Lavin’s talents, but before too long almost everyone thinks he is great. However John’s not so sure.

“Sateda” – Sheppard and his team visit a village that took Ronon in while he was a Runner from the Wraith. They blame Ronon for bringing the Wraith to their village and quickly capture him, intending to trade Ronon to the Wraith to secure their own safety.

Disc 2

“Progeny” – When a new Ancient outpost is discovered, every one is surprised to learn it is still inhabited by Ancients who have chosen to forgo ascension. The news just keeps getting better as their leader, Oberoth, assures Sheppard and Weir that they have a plan for dealing with the Wraith. They refuse to rush their plan however, and the team soon realizes that “something is not as it seems.”

“The Real World” – Dr. Weir wakes up in a psychiatric hospital. It turns out that the Atlantis expedition, and indeed the whole Stargate program was nothing more than an elaborate fantasy brought on when Weir collapsed from stress and over-working. These kinds of plots can make for interesting books or movies, but they invariably fail when done with an established TV show (primarily because there’s only one possible outcome). Richard Dean Anderson guest stars, but that’s about the only highlight to be had.

“Common Ground” – Sheppard’s team is ambushed by the Genii. Everyone else makes it through the gate, but Colonel Sheppard is captured. It turns out that his old friend Commander Kolya is behind the assault. Koyla threatens to kill Sheppard if Weir refuses to assist him in overthrowing the Genii government.

“McKay and Mrs. Miller” – When Rodney’s sister (played by David Hewlitt’s real-life sister) comes up with some exciting new formulas, she is drafted by the government to help with a power source Rodney is working on. Things go awry with the project and before you know it, there are two Rodney McKays and a universe in peril.

Disc 3

“Phantoms” – When another team fails to return from a mission, Sheppard and company are sent to investigate. They soon find a malfunctioning Wraith generator that makes various team members hallucinate all kinds of distracting problems and threats.

“The Return: Part I” – The Daedalus happens upon a damaged Ancient starship is discovered traveling at close to light speed. The crew, upon detecting them, makes contact and soon the Daedalus is escorting a ship full of Lanteans back to Atlantis. The Lanteans kind of want their city back and reluctantly the Atlantis expedition is left with no choice but to return to Earth (leaving only Woolsey and Admiral O’Neill behind to serve as ambassadors).

“The Return: Part II” – With Atlantis now under replicator control, Woolsey and O’Neill are pretty much on their own. Sheppard and most of the cast launch an unauthorized attempt to retake the city.

“Echoes” – When many people around Atlantis begin seeing things and suffering physical side effects, it soon becomes clear that whale-like creatures (like the one who played a vital part in McKay’s rescue in “Grace Under Pressure”) are responsible. But are the hallucinations some kind of attack? Or a warning?

Disc 4

“Irresponsible” – Investigating rumors of a mighty warrior, Sheppard’s team is dismayed to find Lucius Lavin. He’s no longer use herbs to win acclaim however, and instead is relying on an ancient shield to make himself invincible. Now he beats up roving bandits to win the villagers’ love.

“The Tao of Rodney” – While exploring an area of the city that only became accessible recently, Rodney activates an ancient device. Rodney soon starts experiencing a number of changes, particularly in his intelligence. A downside is discovered however. The device Rodney activated was designed to help with ascension. If the changes it began can’t be undone Rodney will have only two choices: Ascend or die.

“The Game” – For months Rodney and John have been playing an amazing detailed civilization building game. When another team finds a society that uses Rodney’s face on its flag, it soon becomes clear that there was a reason the game was so detailed. Rodney and John had each been controlling their own society, and between the build-up of armies and increases in technology it seems like war may be inevitable, even with McKay and Sheppard’s attempts to undo the damage.

“The Ark” – Sheppard and friends discover a seemingly abandoned moon base. They soon realize that the base is full of people in stasis. Not everyone is thrilled to awake from stasis though and when one of the survivors sabotages in the moon base, the team has to find a way to got off the moon before it crashes into the planet it is orbiting.

Disc 5

“Sunday” – Everyone is enjoying a much needed day off. Or they were enjoying it until a scientist explodes. Now the search is on to discover the cause of the explosion and undo it before it claims another life. There are some (valid) complaints about some of the choices made in this episode but you can’t deny it is a powerful episode.

“Submersion” – The team finds an Ancient underwater drilling station on Atlantis. An accident leaves them stranded on the station and it just so happens that a Wraith queen is nearby.

“Vengeance” – After losing contact with the Taranians (the people rescued from a super volcano in “Inferno”) Sheppard and his team are sent to investigate. The settlement appears abandoned but they discover an underground complex, a sinister experiment, and Michael.

“First Strike” – There’s a new ship from Earth, the Apollo, in the Pegasus Galaxy. They have intel about a build-up of a fleet of replicator ships. Ellis, commander of the Apollo, is of the opinion that the best thing to do is attack the replicators before they have a chance to attack Atlantis. Not everyone is on board with that idea, but an attack is launched and goes off without a hitch. In the process though, they piss off the replicators. The replicators launch an immediate attack on the city.

The Audio and The Video:

Everything is great in this department. The show, presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, looks fantastic and the Dolby 5.1 surround sound is well done.

The Extras:

Audio Commentaries – There are commentaries here for every episode except “The Real World.” I’m not sure if it is because of the time of year the recordings were done (season 2 was released on DVD only six months prior to season 3’s DVD release so presumably the commentaries weren’t done at the same time in the shooting year) or something else, but there are far fewer participants involved in the commentaries than there were for season two. There’s absolutely zero commentaries from the cast, and the commentaries usually only have two people (as opposed to three or four, and sometimes more, in season two’s commentaries). The commentaries are mainly from the episode writers, directors and various producers.

Even with less people involved in making the commentaries, they are still pretty enjoyable. Refreshingly, the commentators will often point out problems with an episode, or things they think just didn’t work. I suspect this frankness is why commentary for “The Real World” is not included.

Mission Directive: There’s a directive for “Sateda,” “Progeny,” “Phantoms,” “The Game,” and “First Strike.” These run about ten minutes a piece and serve as a bit of a behind the scenes piece hosted by the episode’s director.

Inside the Visual FX – A featurette on the creating of visual effects for Stargate: Atlantis.

Profile on: Rachel Luttrell – Various cast and crew members (including Rachel, of course) talk about Rachel and her character, Teyla. The profile concludes with Rachel answering a number of fan submitted questions.

General O’Neill Goes to Atlantis – A featurette about Richard Dean Anderson’s appearances in season three, particularly focusing on “The Return.”

Masters of the Alien – A featurette on the company, Master FX and the makeup work they do, in particular for the various Wraith, on Stargate Atlantis.

Stargate Atlantis: A Look Back on Season 3 with Martin Gero – Martin Gero looks back at some of the highlights of the season and shares his thoughts.

Photo Galleries – There are tons of photo galleries to look at. I’m not sure if anyone out there actually cares about photo galleries, but if you do, Atlantis has you covered.

The Inside Pulse:

Despite the occasional misstep, Stargate Atlantis continues the improvements it made in season two resulting in a very entertaining show. There are plenty of extras to keep you occupied and all-around, it’s a high quality DVD set.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Third Season
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

8.5
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

8
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
8.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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