The adventures in the Pegasus Galaxy continue with episodes 5-8 of Stargate Atlantis. Dave Foster reviews…
Volume 2 includes episodes 5 to 8 of Stargate Atlantis Season 1…
Episode 5: Suspicion
Following another Wraith attack on Major Sheppard and his team while out searching off world planets what at first seemed to be a coincidence develops into suspicion with the Athosians first on the list of possible Wraith associates. Causing disruption in Atlantis, the Major is appalled with Weir and her security officer’s decision to ‘get to know’ each and every Athosian via a series of interrogations, while those under suspicion feel betrayed by Teyla’s decision not to oppose the course of action being taken. This leads to a major change around Atlantis as following the discovery of a land mass on the surface the Athosians, led by Halling, choose to leave Atlantis and create their own home, minus Teyla. This change of circumstances is an important one, reducing the head count on Atlantis by removing the Athosian people but at the same time establishing what could almost be considered a secondary base of operations, allies on the planet surface where future storylines could and almost certainly will take place. Teyla remains on Atlantis, now an integral member of Sheppard’s team she is also key to discovering the source of betrayal which culminates in a welcome throwback to the opening episode while also adding significance to the ancient gene that was established in episode one. This in part further defines the character of Sheppard who is gifted with the gene and superior control of its power, while the episode also goes some way to further establish his disillusionment with the traditional military way, clashing frequently with the security officer who immediately suspects and quarantines the Athosian people. We are also treated to a traditional mainstay of science-fiction series which rears its head following the capture of a Wraith, a compliment to the persistence of man as the captive voices his surprise at the humans’ decision to persist and fight back rather than choosing to run and hide. It’s Star Trek all over again…
Episode 6: Childhood’s End
While out on an excursion Sheppard, Teyla, McKay and Ford hit a spot of trouble when their systems die on them and leave their jumper stranded. Happening upon a civilisation where the inhabitants are all children and the village elders no older than 24 the human explorers discover an extreme plan set in action to keep the Wraith at bay and like all good human explorers, stick their noses where they aren’t welcome but despite a few mishaps and violent outbursts do the community some good. This episode serves as a hint of what is to come from the more standalone episode stories, with the four regular off world explorers practically the only regular cast members to be seen other than a minor though quite commanding appearance by Weir. Instead we are introduced to some guest actors playing the roles of inhabitants on the world Sheppard et al are exploring, with the predicament facing them more considered than most and certainly worthy of some thought beyond the obvious ‘identify and fix the problem’ boundaries. Along the way we are treated to more of Sheppard’s dry wit and sarcastic tone citing the planets inhabitants as “kids! what do they know?” while McKay and children just don’t mix heightening the usual comedic overtones from the character and giving him a chance to develop some paternal instincts.
Episode 7: Poisoning the Well
Major Sheppard and his team have discovered an industrial civilisation slowly rebuilding itself from the last Wraith culling. In amongst the technological advances the Hoffman civilisation is also working on a defence against the Wraith, an inoculation which prevents them from feeding on humans. Naturally excited by such a possibility Sheppard convinces Weir to allow Doctor Carson to help, taking along some of their advanced technology to speed the process up. What begins as a question of validity regarding the drug and its purpose soon changes to one of medical ethics as the civilisation developing the drug maintain the ethos of victory at all cost. Extending to sacrifices required to achieve their goals in a sped up testing phase events transpire that once again show the fear the Wraith dominate throughout the Pegasus galaxy. Going beyond his usual secondary character role Carson is brought to the fore and given the chance to work with a bonnie lass who is quite taken with Carson’s Scottish accent and fancy technology. Foregoing any real opportunity to develop the character beyond that of a geek desperate for the women and a man of science who holds his principals dear the proceedings become a little stale as the breakthroughs continue. There is however some extended screen time with Sheppard and Steve, the affectionately named Wraith prisoner they obtained back in episode five, with whom the Major has developed quite a rapport in his own sarcastic way. The decision to bring the story to an end on a somewhat negative agreement between Atlantis and the alien civilisation is commendable rather than going down the usual path of solving the impossible, offering some light at the end of an otherwise unexceptional episode.
Episode 8: Home
Discovering a planet which appears to be one giant energy ball McKay determines that he can modify the Stargate to create a wormhole back to Earth, though it would only be good one-way, and therefore it is decided to use it for relaying information only. Upon making the necessary modifications and contacting Stargate Command back on Earth Weir and her team are delighted to discover there is a way back via a newly developed spacecraft and very quickly step through the gate. With the usual away-team suspects joined by Weir and back on earth they each begin to determine that something isn’t quite right, as their fractured realities keep throwing up strange anomalies the team begin to discover the truth. Although I’m not going to spoil the story’s conclusion, I will say this is a tried and tested sci-fi formula and one that is executed well for Atlantis. From the decision to step through the gate in which those most important to the Atlantis expedition leave without a moments consideration to the careful staging of their return and subsequent experiences the oddities are slight enough on first viewing to go by unnoticed for a brief period yet utterly apparent on second viewing to warrant enjoyment from appreciating the methods employed. From careful framing and tight one-shots to short but significant cuts between characters the reality is not held for a great period of time but does work long enough to keep the questions coming once the secret is out. What this episode does best of all is offer some further character insights, with the distant relationship between Weir and her boyfriend that was hinted at in the pilot extended here alongside the development of Sheppard’s rather overactive imagination. The only real disappointment that stems from the proceedings is how obvious it becomes that Ford is barely given a second thought in terms of scripting, with his character pushed aside to the odd brief appearance now that Weir is heavily involved in her first departure from Atlantis. Though inevitable the way his character just stands around in the background seems very lazy making you question the purpose of his inclusion in the episode beyond contractual obligations or simply that of keeping him in the public’s eye.
My complaints regarding the chaptering of episodes from the first volume remain, with Dave’s basic rules of TV Episode chaptering ignored meaning manual forwarding of ‘previously on’ and title sequences is required. As with the first volume the disc is coded for regions 2 and 4.
Picture and Sound
The anamorphic widescreen transfer impresses once again with a clear source image transferred across to DVD with good levels of detail, great depth of colour and barely no compression issues other than some minor aliasing and some macro blocking on the final episode which has an abundance of mist in the background for selected shots. The 5.1 sound mix also continues to please making full use of the soundstage in the more action packed episodes with sound effects spread nicely while music and dialogue are always crystal clear. Much to my surprise on such a modern production was the presence of sound glitches, however minor they may be, with some very brief crackling on two occasions over the course of the disc.
A German Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also present, with subtitles on the episodes available in English, German and Finnish. Extras are subtitled in English and German only.
First on the menu is an actor diary with Rainbow Sun Francks which runs for just under ten minutes and sees the actor recount his experiences on the first season with thoughts on the cast and crew along with his picks for favourite episodes. The small problem with this comes in the form of spoilers, as for someone like me watching the series for the first time he discusses episodes I’ve yet to see with clips to compliment. Continuing with this theme of minor spoilers is a bizarre choice for a featurette, one running just under six-minutes that goes behind-the-scenes of a future two-part episode. Why this is included here is anyone’s guess, having no direct correlation to the episodes on this volume. It is short however and though I only breezed through it, focuses mainly on how they drenched their actors with water for a shot.
The other bonus features are a short production design and photo gallery along with an internet advertisement. Trailers for SG-1 and Atlantis are once again present, playing as forced trailers when you first insert the disc.
Although slightly mixed in terms of overall quality the episodes here provide enough entertainment to prove distracting on more than one occasion, continuing to ease us into the Atlantis mission and the characters involved. The extras are a little disappointing especially with features completely irrelevant to this volume though they do manage to give a good taster of what is to come.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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