- "A new gate will open. A lost city will rise again."
Stargate Atlantis is a television series spin-off from Stargate SG-1. Stargate Atlantis began airing in 2004, and concluded after five seasons. "Enemy at the Gate", the final episode of the series, aired on January 9, 2009. A follow-up film titled Stargate: Extinction was announced and would have continued the plot of the show. If it was successful more movies like it would have been made, but the project was recently announced to have been postponed indefinitely. Atlantis is followed by a third series, Stargate Universe.
Stargate Atlantis was set up with the seventh season finale of Stargate SG-1, "Lost City, Part 2", in which SG-1 discovers an advanced outpost, built by the Ancients, under the ice of Antarctica. It is through this outpost that, in Stargate Atlantis' series premiere "Rising", an eight symbol gate address is found that leads to the long-sought-after "Lost City" of the Ancients— also known as Atlantis. The search for this city had been an ongoing theme since the sixth season of Stargate SG-1.
An international expedition is thus sent through the Stargate to the far off Pegasus galaxy where the Ancient City-ship Atlantis resides. However, soon after the discovery of this grand city, a terrible enemy known as the Wraith is awakened. Throughout the series, the Wraith serve as the main antagonists, with the Atlantis expedition being the protagonists. The ultimate driving force of the series is the protection of Atlantis and the discovery of advanced Ancient technology, continuing the SGC's original mandate.
The show itself has the same feel as the later seasons of Stargate SG-1 in that the overall atmosphere is light, with the exception of more serious moments.
When Stargate SG-1 producers, Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper thought the series was going to end after season five, due to Showtime's announcement that they were canceling the show, they came up with the idea of making a new feature film. However, as the ratings on its new home at the Sci-Fi Channel were quite good, the idea was pushed after season six and later, after season seven. Talk then began of a spin-off series and the producers were left with a serious dilemma, since the seventh season of Stargate SG-1 had been planned to lead up to the great discovery of the lost city of the Ancients, Atlantis. The seventh season of Stargate SG-1, the two part episode "Lost City, Part 1" and "Lost City, Part 2," was supposed to be a bridge between Stargate SG-1 and a new spin-off, either a show or a movie, which was not planned to run at the same time as Stargate SG-1. Wright and Cooper rewrote the script as the two-part season seven finale, and moved the setting of the story. The city of Atlantis, originally planned to be on Earth under Antarctica in place of Stargate Command, was moved to the Pegasus galaxy. The change was to prevent fans from wondering why Stargate Command would not come to help them, and also gave the producers the chance to start afresh and not be an identical copy of the original show.
The series received the green light on November 17, 2003 and started shooting in February 2004. It premiered on July 16 of the same year. From the start, Wright and Cooper ruled out casting "star names", on the basis of the financial pressures they were already experiencing with "star names" on Stargate SG-1. The casting was made more complicated because Atlantis got the go-ahead in November, and had to compete with other networks during pilot season.
The character most difficult to cast was the then-called Dr. Ingram, an unexcitable scientist expert on the Stargate. As the first day of shooting drew nearer and they were unable to find the right actor, they came to realize they had brought in the wrong character. Longtime Stargate director Martin Wood and Brad Wright thought it should be Dr. Rodney McKay, who had already appeared in a guest role in three episodes of Stargate SG-1. Actor David Hewlett was contacted and arrived at the set the day after filming had started. Dr. Ingram had already been written in to the pilot episode of the show and so the same script was used and the character's name simply changed to Dr. McKay. Later scripts were written with Dr. McKay in mind.
Stargate Atlantis episodes feature a self-contained story that also contributes to the larger storyline of the war against the Wraith and their search for the means to destroy their enemy. Each season has also featured a two-parter episode, and a few episodes that, while not technically two-parters, had continued directly the story of the previous episode (for example, season 3 "Progeny" and "The Real World"). Each season of Stargate Atlantis features 20 episodes, and in the United States they are broadcast in two series of 10 episodes. The first 10 episodes air from mid-July to September in the United States, ending in the cliffhanger of a two-parter episode. The second half airs first in Canada, from November to January, ending also with a cliffhanger. In the United States, the second half aired from January to March during seasons 1 and 2, but season 3 aired from April to June 2007.
Each show begins with a cold open, sometimes preceded with a recap of events relevant to the upcoming narrative. The opening credits feature an original theme by Joel Goldsmith. Though they were drastically cut at the start of season 2, the full credits were recovered after the mid-season parter. The show blends different types of approaches to science-fiction, from action to comedy.
Stargate Atlantis was shot at Bridge studios in Vancouver and on location in several places in British Columbia. The Pemberton Glacier doubled for Antarctica during the opening flying sequence in series premiere "Rising".
Season 2 brought casting changes. The creators found themselves with a problem with the character of Lt. Aiden Ford, a first season regular that the producers, and the actor himself, felt had not worked as intended and was highly underused as a result. Unwilling to write him out, the writers came with an idea to make the character more important, but that downgraded him to recurring. To replace him, they created Ronon Dex as a sidekick for Lt. Col. John Sheppard, but finding an actor with the physical presence and the acting ability necessary was not easy until they saw Jason Momoa's tape. Mitch Pileggi was added to the cast in the recurring role of Col. Steven Caldwell. Paul McGillion's character, Dr. Carson Beckett, became a regular from the forth episode.
Season 3 and 4Edit
Seasons 3 and 4 changed the cast lineup again. Paul McGillion's Dr. Carson Beckett was killed in the season 3 episode "Sunday", then brought back at the end of season 4 as a recurring character. Amanda Tapping's Samantha Carter crossed from Stargate SG-1 for 14 episodes in Season 4, as the new leader of the expedition, while Torri Higginson's Elizabeth Weir became a recurring character in Season 4 instead of a regular.
Season 5 began with the departure of Samantha Carter as a lead in to the second Stargate SG-1 movie, "Continuum". Richard Woolsey of the IOA, played by Robert Picardo, took her place as Commander of Atlantis. Picardo and Jewel Staite, who played Jennifer Keller, were added to the main credited cast at the beginning of the season.
The decision not to proceed with a 6th season has been hotly debated. The producers have stated that the decision was made entirely due to monetary reasons, as they did not want to pay the cast's increasing salaries. An initial boycott of Stargate Universe was proposed, but never executed. Some Sci-Fi fans continue to hold the decision up as an example of corporate greed, whilst others respect the decision.
See also: List of main characters