From IGN Film Force:
Stargate: Atlantis Pilot Episode
TV Review: New gate, new galaxy, same ideas.
July 16, 2004 - It's surprising that it has taken 8 seasons for MGM to put together a spinoff to the highly successful Stargate: SG-1. With the original series possibly nearing the end of its run and the ratings continuing to climb, it was either now or never if there was a hope of continuing the franchise. Using the mythology the series has created around various beings that have since become mainstays of human folklore, the creative team responsible for SG-1 have put together something new with an overriding air of familiarity in Stargate: Atlantis.
Picking up where the SG-1 8th season premiere left off, Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) is in command of the base left by the Ancients in the Antarctic. During a visit by General Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), O'Neill's pilot, Maj. John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) is found to have a special gene needed to operate the technology the Ancients left behind. Reluctantly, this military man who plays by his own set of rules (sound familiar?) is added to Weir's team just as O'Neill's SG-1 teammate, Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) discovers co-ordinates that will allow the Stargate to connect with a gate in the legendary lost city of Atlantis. Weir immediately puts together an international team to make a trip through the gate that will take them farther than anyone has ever gone.
One hitch: there's only enough power to make this a one-way trip. What follows is pretty standard stuff for Stargate fans but still entertaining as our heroes find new allies and new villains as they try to explore their new neighborhood in the Pegasus Galaxy. Upon arriving in Atlantis, the script introduces a fully stocked base complete with fighter craft, living quarters and just about anything else you could hope for, probably even a Starbucks. But it seems that the sunken city (the city was put underwater to protect it from an all-out Wraith attack because, presumably, a race that can travel the galaxy can't get to you if you're underwater) has a slight power problem of its own. The protective shield keeping the water from flooding the city is about to give way, leaving the team anything but high & dry. So it's back through the Gate again, this time to find a planet to evacuate to or a way to save the city.
Like most series of this type, it doesn't take our heroes long to ruffle the feathers of the local bullies. In this case, it's the Wraith, a race of beings so cruel and vicious, they managed to take down the Ancients, the race that built the Stargate network. In fact, it's the attempted heroics of Sheppard that result in the Wraith waking from their long sleep so humans may not be the most welcome visitors on a lot of the planets they find.
Considering how long it took to happen, it would be easy for long time fans to be a little disappointed in Stargate: Atlantis. On the surface, Atlantis is little more than a re-dressed SG-1. Closer examination will reveal parallels to the Star Trek franchise, specifically, Star Trek: Voyager. Weir is a lot like Captain Janeway – she's a diplomat, not a military commander. Sheppard has some marks on his record but is really the best officer in the group, much like the Tom Paris character. Lt. Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks) is a young, gung-ho Marine who takes an immediate liking to Sheppard, despite his commanding officer's misgivings, much like Harry Kim. Toss in the token alien, Teyla (Rachel Luttrell), who takes up the Spock / Tuvok spot on the team and you've got the basic formula for an SF action / adventure franchise.
Fortunately, Atlantis has the same creative team behind it that has made SG-1 a success for so many years and their skills are evident here. Atlantis moves along at a good pace, full of the light humor that has become a mainstay in the parent series. While plot elements can be a little sparse, Atlantis manages to keep the viewer entertained throughout, something that was rarely said about Voyager's pilot episode.
If there is any weak link in the series, it would have to be David Hewlett as Dr. McKay. A little of his character went a long way during his appearances on Stargate: SG-1 and too much of him here could undermine the show. McKay aside, Stargate: Atlantis looks like it will become the same kind of destination viewing that has made SG-1 a staple in the Sci-Fi Channel lineup for years to come.
Richard Dean Anderson Fans