Dave Foster ventures into the Pegasus Galaxy once more, this time with an early look at Volume 3 of Stargate Atlantis which contains an action-packed two-part spectacular in the 4 episodes featured…
Volume 3 includes episodes 9 to 12 of Stargate Atlantis Season 1…
Episode 9: Underground
With food supplies fast becoming a problem on Atlantis, Weir decides to act on Teyla’s recommendation to trade with the Genii. Known to be a simple people (portrayed here like the Amish) Sheppard and his team embark on a mission to negotiate a deal but when McKay picks up strange readings their nose for disaster picks up a scent they cannot turn down. To reveal anymore would spoil the true face of the Genii, as while the twist is setup prior to the title sequence the payoff doesn’t come until shortly after. What this episode provides is another confrontation with the Wraith as the Major embarks on a stealth mission to obtain necessary intel, which not only gives both Atlantis and the viewer a greater idea of what they’re up against but also makes for some fairly tense moments. These come as we witness the interior of another Wraith vessel, this time containing “food” cocooned ready for when their hibernation ends giving the proceedings something of an Alien vibe complete with dim lighting upon the largely organic construct. Colm Meaney makes a special guest appearance as the Genii’s leader and does his usual stand-up job though could probably stand to lose a few pounds when he trades in those Amish slacks for more formal attire.
Episode 10: The Storm and Episode 11: The Eye
Sheppard and Teyla are making an excursion to the mainland to see how the Athosian people are progressing with their new settlement, but along the way discover a storm front the likes of which could threaten Atlantis. Following a proper analysis the storm is confirmed to be a serious threat to the city, certain to destroy both the mainland settlement and the ancients’ finest achievement unless McKay can devise a plan to activate the shield. The first part of the story, The Storm, begins not only by setting up the threat and ensuring we know how serious it is but also lets McKay untap that arrogant mind of his as he sets about working on a defence. This also allows another character – Doctor Zelenka (David Nykl) whom we first saw in Thirty Eight Minutes – the chance to make another impression and when teamed up with McKay shows there is great potential for a double-act as two great minds work and play together as one. Beyond the science which is handled very well combining techno babble and comedy to great effect the secondary aspect of the story is evacuating Atlantis to a neighbouring planet. Unfortunately Sheppard hasn’t made a great many allies and their first choice aren’t exactly welcoming, begrudgingly accepting their request before playing Atlantis into the hands of the Genii who, following the previous episode have a serious grudge to bear.
What plays out in the latter part of The Storm and comes to a conclusion with The Eye is Atlantis under siege, not only from a storm comprising multiple hurricanes but also a Genii strike team specifically trained to take supplies and, if possible, Atlantis while the city is sparsely populated with only those essential to completing McKay’s plan. From the initial decisive Genii strike led by special guest star Robert Davi, Weir and McKay are held hostage, working under pressure to stay alive and keep the city from sinking back to the depths, while Sheppard working solo within the city must find a solution to regain control. This he chooses to do by force, leading to a situation not entirely dissimilar to McClane’s efforts in Die Hard using the enemy’s radios against them and playing a risky game involving the lives of his friends and colleagues. That all of this is directed with a great understanding of suspense and tension makes it a real treat for the viewer, seeing Sheppard drop his wry optimistic act and truly take command when he is needed brings a greater sense of respect for the character while McKay and Weir are both put in very different but equally difficult situations allowing both characters to grow in the viewers confidence. Also making a pleasing leap in my personal books is the character of Teyla, who from the very start has been billed as a skilled warrior though glimpses of her in action so far have been rather brief. Here though playing on a personal vendetta gained toward her from the previous episode Teyla must fight an honourable fight, pitching knives and hand to hand combat with a character also setup as a trained warrior. The staging here manages to impress, only succumbing to minor quick edits while the actresses do most of their own stunt work which creates a fine little sequence that finally shows us what Teyla is really capable of.
Episode 12: The Defiant One
Sheppard, McKay and two previously unseen scientists are exploring a satellite in the far reaches of the Pegasus solar system when they pick up a feint distress signal on a nearby planet surface, a Wraith distress signal. Determining the crashed Wraith ship to be a casualty of the war between Wraith and Ancients some 10,000 years ago the lack of life signs makes this an ideal opportunity to collect some intel on their technology. Upon landing and entering the ship they make a disturbing discovery which leads them to believe they might not be quite as alone as they thought, and following an attack by the defiant one of the title Sheppard is left to face an incredibly strong adversary alone with minimal weapons and any chance of a rescue party 15 hours off. With the fate of the new members of Sheppard’s party obvious to anyone familiar with sci-fi this episode quickly becomes a case of how and when as the action unfolds at a decent pace and inventive tactics are required as ammo begins to run short. McKay has a little heart to heart with one of the other scientists, a scene which though a little awkward does allow the writers opportunity to openly define the character he has become over the series’ course, while his little quip regarding Captain Kirk is just one of many great little references they’ve worked into the series always guaranteeing a laugh and perfectly in tune with the timeline (present day) they occupy.
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 and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound continue to please with this series truly looking like one made for high definition TV. The two-part story found on this volume is a real treat, with the water-soaked actors bristling with detail as droplets run down their skin while the action packed episodes make good use of your surround setup.
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.
In a disturbing trend with these releases the two featurettes present on this disc feature a wealth of spoilers for later episodes in season one. The first, Mission Directive: Sanctuary, is an 11-minute behind-the-scenes look at a future episode. As a brief featurette it’s very well done, with light-hearted interviews from the cast on set and the director talking us through shots and the storyline with some neat split-screen looks comparing behind-the-scenes and edited footage. Unfortunately this being an episode I’ve not seen it also felt like far too many secrets were being revealed. The second featurette, Wraithal Discrimination (also 11-minutes) is a tongue-in-cheek look at the villains of the series going behind-the-scenes with the actors portraying them and the make-up effects employed. All is going well until a bombshell is dropped for another future episode which again, rather annoyed me. Surely these would be better placed on volumes with the corresponding episodes?
The remaining extras are the usual Production Design and Photo Gallery and internet promotional ads, along with trailers for SG-1 and Atlantis which are forced upon you before the main menu is displayed.
The first two-part story since the pilot shows exactly what Atlantis has to offer, making for a fine 80 minutes of suspense packed action book ended by two slightly less involving, but still entertaining episodes that keep audience interest high. The extras once again disappoint, not because they’re woefully bad, just poorly chosen for the volumes they are placed on.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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