Stargate: Atlantis

Rating: ★★

The younger and somehow even more American sibling to SG1 that nobody was asking for, but which we got anyway. On its best days, it was a tie-in exploring the Stargate universe at the point where the fledgling human empire was starting to spread. At its worst, it seemed to slap together plots from nonsense contrivances, throwing in a few highly-predictable fight scenes that were so pointless and boring that I found myself using them as an opportunity to check my email. Definitely a drop in quality from SG1.

The central premise is that Dr. Rodney McKay, who appeared in a couple of SG1 episodes as a weird sleazy guy from Area 51, is sent to the Pegasus galaxy as the chief scientist for the mission to the lost city of Atlantis. McKay then becomes an exaggerated Sam Carter figure, and has to fix basically every piece of technology in the galaxy as part of a general mission to pick up where the Ancients left off. To make this more exciting, the show throws in some new bad guys (the Wraith) and gives McKay some armed sidekicks and a foil in the form of John Sheppard, who mostly just shouts at him to do impossible things faster.

As a premise this is fine. In execution, however, it was totally a flop. Firstly, the Wraith. We are told that the Wraith defeated the Ancients 10,000 years ago, and basically rule the Pegasus galaxy, farming the human population. This is apparently a really small population, because when the Wraith learn of a planet with 7 billion people on it, they all wake up and plan to go feed there. We then get to see that the Wraith are completely incompetent, that even barely-functioning relics from the Ancients can wipe out significant proportions of their population, and that despite theoretically having enhanced capabilities, they are in fact very easy to shoot dead -- a weakness only enhanced by the fact that they fire only stun-guns and never, say, use their disintegration beams to just destroy stuff rather than to capture people who will inevitably escape after being reintegrated. Seriously, the Wraith were nerfed to all hell during the show.

Secondly, we were presumably meant to grow to like the central team, much like SG1. However, the team never made any sense. McKay is a chief scientist on the base, investigating the vast trove of wonders that is Atlantis, but he is regularly dragged out on military manoeuvres and supply runs for which his talents are wasted. It made sense for Sam Carter, because she was an Air Force officer who happened to have a technical skill-set. It makes no sense for the civilian McKay. Sheppard is a less loveable O'Neill, one who is not just prepared to do the hard thing, but positively trigger-happy about murdering prisoners, betraying allies and generally being a self-centred dick (and without O'Neill's quirky humour to smooth it over). We then have Tayla, whose defining characteristic is the amount of standing around looking concerned she can do, and Ronan, who is essentially Teal'c except without any sort of mission -- so he just looms around being threatening-looking and occasionally runs after someone.

There are a lot of individual flaws with plot elements, of course. Replicators show up in Atlantis, but they're also extremely nerfed compared to the replicators from SG1. They seem to forget that they're machines at all, leading to ridiculous scenes where replicators work on building something by first assembling human bodies and then using those bodies to manipulate lab equipment. Generally, things seem dumber than SG1. It's not like the show's predecessor never handwaved something away or left a character hanging in case they wanted to bring them back, but it happens so frequently in Atlantis that it becomes almost a defining trait. Hell, even someone who was dead and buried for several episodes was resurrected because they decided they wanted to use him for something.