Stargate Rewatch

The Stargate Rewatch: Atlantis Season Five

Stargate Atlantis Season 5
Executive producers: Carl Binder, Martin Gero, Robert C. Cooper, Brad Wright, Joseph Malozzi, Paul Mullie
Original air dates: July 11, 2008 – January 9, 2009

Mission briefing. Carter leads a rescue team to get Sheppard and his team out of the rubble of Michael’s facility, then use the Daedalus to rescue Teyla from Michael’s clutches. McKay winds up having to deliver Teyla’s baby and the mission is a success, with Michael’s operation crippled.

Carter is recalled to Earth where she has been removed from command of the expedition, replaced by Woolsey for reasons that are never made clear, but probably relate to the IOA wanting someone more pliable in command.

Woolsey’s first crisis is Keller being taken over by a plant organism, and he has to rely on the newly revived Beckett clone to save her. When McKay is infected with the Pegasus equivalent of Alzheimer’s, Teyla and Ronon bring him to The Shrine, which will cure him—but it’s held by the Wraith, which makes getting there a challenge…

Several old friends return. Tyre enables Ronon to be captured by the Wraith and brainwashed into being a worshipper; Tyre dies helping Sheppard’s team save Ronon and return him back to his lovable self. Shen arrives to warn Woolsey that his job is in danger, but her arrival coincides with an alien being trying to make contact via images of familiar faces—for McKay it’s Zelenka, and for Sheppard, unfortunately, it’s Kolya. And biggest of all, Weir returns with her fellow rebel replicators, but their attempts to ascend have failed, and she has to sacrifice herself (and trick her fellow replicators) to keep the expedition safe.

Stargate Atlantis, season 5

Keller encounters another Runner, who kidnaps Keller to help a little girl he rescued. Keller offers to cure him the way they cured Ronon. Later, Keller finds herself switching places with a thief named Neeva, thanks to the latter finding a couple of communications stones.

A Coalition of Planets has formed to fight the enemies of humanity in the Pegasus Galaxy, but an overture of an alliance with the expedition instead becomes a trial, and Woolsey is forced to whip out his lawyer mojo to defend Atlantis in a court of law.

Alternate realities continue to pop up. The team encounters a Daedalus from another timeline that keeps hopping from alternate timeline to alternate timeline, and one version of Sheppard’s team has already died trying and failing to get home. An Earth scientist—and rival of McKay’s—named Tunney tries to use the bridge McKay and his sister created as a power source, but it’s an even more spectacular failure than when they tried it on Atlantis, and nearly destroys the Earth before McKay can save the day with the help of Bill Nye the Science Guy. Another version of Sheppard, who became a third-rate detective for the Las Vegas Police Department, encounters the Stargate program via a Wraith who is feeding on humans in Vegas while trying to get back home to Pegasus; that Wraith sends a distress signal that goes not only through subspace, but to another timeline…

While Michael has been stopped, his experiments go on. The Wraith target planets to whom Michael gave the Hoffan virus, and any planet who takes in Hoffan refugees is also targeted. Sheppard, Beckett, and a team led by Major Teldy encounter a world that is full of Michael’s hybrid experiments, who have become mutated killing machines, while Michael himself returns to Atlantis to enact revenge on the expedition in general and Teyla in particular; instead Teyla kills him.

Stargate Atlantis, season 5

One of the items they find in Michael’s database is a gene therapy that will remove the Wraith’s dependence on human life. Keller is able to re-create this therapy and they try to get Todd’s group of Wraith to go for it—which he accomplishes by disguising Teyla as a Queen. But when he arrives, they’re sidetracked by the accidental discovery of the Attero Device in a hidden lab on Atlantis, discovered by Jackson at the SGC, who comes to Atlantis to reveal it with McKay’s help. The Attero Device was an attempt to destroy the Wraith, but the side effect is making Stargates explode. An offshoot of the Asgard—the Vanir—wish to use the device, regardless of the consequences, but Jackson and McKay barely manage to stop them.

The gene therapy unfortunately doesn’t work, and it almost kills Todd, though he is able to reverse the effects and go back to being a normal Wraith. One of his subordinates betrays him, stealing a bunch of ZPMs and preparing to attack Atlantis using a souped-up hive ship. But in mid-battle, the hive ship suddenly buggers off, having picked up the signal from the alternate reality where Sheppard was a Vegas cop—the Wraith now know the exact coordinates of Earth.

The super-hive ship makes short work of Daedalus, Apollo, and Sun-Tzu, and Odyssey is unavailable, so Sheppard gates to Earth to operate the Ancient chair and its supply of drones. Meanwhile, Beckett operates the chair in Atlantis to fly the city to Earth, using ZPMs provided by Todd. When the Wraith destroy the chair before it can be used, Sheppard engages in a suicide mission, bringing a nuke aboard in an F-302. However, Lorne, Ronon, McKay, and Teyla are able to gate to the hive ship (the Wraith are using the gate on their hive ship to supersede Earth’s gate) and perform sabotage. Zelenka pulls a solution directly out of his ass, digging up a wormhole drive that McKay developed when he was super-smart, and implementing it, allowing the City to defend Earth from the hive ship long enough for Sheppard and the gang to blow it up.

Beckett manages to land the City safely in San Francisco Bay.

Stargate Atlantis, season 5

Best episode: “Search and Rescue,” and no it’s not a coincidence that the best episode this season is the only one where Carter is in charge. A slam-bang rescue operation, tense action, excellent character work, and frankly a more compelling final battle against Michael than the more clichéd one the character would get in “The Prodigal.”

Runner up: “Enemy at the Gate,” a suitably big-ass finale, one that has everything that’s appealing about Atlantis, a final hurrah from several characters, with the usual mix of science and action saving the day. Best of all, we once again see that Zelenka is the smartest person on the expedition, as it’s his brainstorm that saves the day.

Honorable mention to the “First Contact”/”The Lost Tribe” two-parter, which is not great, but is fun mostly due to snark, not only from Jackson and McKay, but also from Todd; “Inquisition,” the one and only good use of Woolsey in the entire season; “Brain Storm,” which is worth it for the entertaining guest stars and guest scientists; “The Shrine,” which has some spectacular acting by David Hewlett and a clever script structure; and “Vegas,” which is a cute homage to CSI.

Worst episode: How to choose? Should it be “The Seed,” a weak-sauce rerun of “Conversion“? How about “Broken Ties,” a weak-sauce rerun of “Enemies” and “Threshold“? Or “The Daedalus Variations,” a weak-sauce rerun of “Ripple Effect“?

Plus, we have “Ghost in the Machine,” which, despite a superb Torri Higginson impersonation by Michelle Morgan, is an insulting end to the Weir character.

Stargate Atlantis, season 5

And dishonorable mention has to go to “Whispers,” which actually has some nice horror bits, and four excellent characters in Teldy and her team. Unfortunately it’s ruined by some spectacularly stupid scripting (Sheppard’s in charge of the military personnel on Atlantis, so he should know exactly who’s in Teldy’s team, as he would have to approve all such assignments) and embarrassing teenager-level tee-hee idiocy from Sheppard and Beckett, who utter, “Uh, wow, the team’s all girls!” like it’s 1967 or something.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Experiments gone awry are all over this season, from the Attero Device Janus created in “First Contact”/”The Lost Tribe” to Keller’s implementation of Michael’s gene therapy failing to remove the Wraith’s hunger to Michael’s lovely little zombies in “Whispers.”

Yes, but I’m also incredibly lazy. Sheppard’s finest moments are at the beginning and end of the season, both his insisting on rescuing Teyla despite his injuries (after all he went through in “The Last Man,” can you blame him?) in “Search and Rescue” and his insisting on the suicide mission to blow up the hive in “Enemy at the Gate.”

Stargate Atlantis, season 5

I know everything about everything. McKay reveals that he’s in love with Keller in “The Shrine,” and eventually gets his fecal matter together to ask her out, going so far as to bring her to Tunney’s demonstration on Earth as his date.

They are good trading partners. Teyla has her child, giving him the middle name of John. She also rescues the boy’s father from Michael’s clutches, and they are able to raise the kid together.

I was just gonna blow it up. Not Ronon’s best year: he gets kidnapped by his old friend and brainwashed, he loses out on Keller to friggin McKay of all people, and then in the finale he gets himself killed. Luckily, the Wraith revive him to interrogate him, which goes badly for the Wraith.

We’re in another galaxy, how much more out can we get? Beckett has become an itinerant physician in the Pegasus galaxy, mostly helping those suffering from the Hoffan virus, for which he feels a certain responsibility. He also has the second highest CIA—Chair Interface Aptitude—on the base after Sheppard, which really cheeses McKay off…

It might work, sir. On Carter’s watch, the Wraith and Michael were both badly crippled and the replicators were destroyed. So naturally, the IOA removes her from her post…

Stargate Atlantis, season 5

I speak 23 different languages—pick one. Jackson has been researching Janus, the Ancient who was responsible for saving Atlantis in “Before I Sleep,” and discovers a hidden lab with his odd experiments in it—which also leads to him discovering the last of the Asgard…

These are not the decisions I imagined making. Weir and her fellow members of Niam’s rebel replicators are trying very hard to ascend, and not succeeding. She sacrifices herself and them to save Atlantis. The team is in doubt about whether or not this was really Weir right up until she makes that sacrifice.

Wayward home for out-of-work genre actors. Nicole deBoer (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Christina Cox (Blood Ties) both appear in “Whispers.” Tamlyn Tomita (The Burning Zone, Babylon 5, Eureka) for the second time appears on Atlantis as Shen, bringing that IOA official over from SG-1. Dawn Olivieri (Heroes) appears in “Identity.” Amanda Tapping’s future Sanctuary co-stars Agam Darshi and Jonathon Young appear in “Outsiders” and “Remnants,” respectively (Atlantis regulars Christopher Heyerdahl and Ryan Robbins also will star on Sanctuary). Plus Connor Trinneer, Mitch Pileggi, Robert Davi, and (now in the opening credits) Robert Picardo and Jewel Staite are all back.

Plus, “Brain Storm” gives us former Kid in the Hall Dave Foley as Tunney, as well as Bill Nye (the science guy!) and Neil deGrasse Tyson as themselves and “Vegas” has The Sopranos stars Frank Vincent and Steve Schirippa as mobsters (big stretch!).

Stargate Atlantis, season 5

Trivial matters. Amanda Tapping is reduced to a recurring role, appearing in the season opener and season/series finale. The producers wanted to bring Carter back, but Tapping’s web series Sanctuary—in which she starred and served as executive producer—was picked up by SyFy as a series, and so she went over to do that. Both Robert Picardo and Jewel Staite are elevated to opening-credits regulars from recurring, the former as Woolsey takes over the expedition, the latter to reflect Keller’s larger role.

When Carter heads for Earth at the end of “Search and Rescue,” she says she’s been invited to Ba’al’s extraction ceremony, which she’s seen attending at the beginning of the movie Continuum.

Atlantis‘s record of having at least two opening-credits regulars from SG-1 appear each season is maintained thanks to Tapping’s two guest shots and Michael Shanks appearing in “First Contact” and “The Lost Tribe.” (The first season featured Shanks, Tapping, Richard Dean Anderson, and Don Davis; season 2 had Tapping and Beau Bridges; season 3 had Anderson, Bridges, and Tapping; and season 4 Tapping and Christopher Judge.)

Leela Savasta’s character of Captain Alicia Vega was originally intended to be a major new recurring role, with the character impressively introduced as part of the rescue team in “Search and Rescue,” but when she was brought back in “Whispers” as part of Teldy’s team, she was killed. Her role in the former episode was much larger in the script, but many of her scenes were cut for time.

Stargate Atlantis, season 5

“Brain Storm” is the first of two times that Neil deGrasse Tyson appears on television as himself and is berated by a fictional scientist for demoting Pluto from planet status. It’s McKay here, and it’ll be Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory.

Torri Higginson declined to come back as Weir, so the episode “Ghost in the Machine” was rewritten so that Weir’s consciousness was downloaded into the body of FRAN from “Be All My Sins Remember’d,” with Michelle Morgan returning as FRAN doing a very good impersonation of Higginson. In addition, Rainbow Sun Francks makes a cameo as a hallucination of Ford seen by Sheppard in “Search and Rescue.” This means that all the opening-credits characters from season 1 make some sort of appearance this season.

In “Enemy at the Gate,” Carter tells Sheppard that her next assignment will be to command the next 304 ship, which has been renamed from Phoenix (which was established in the alternate timeline of “The Last Man“) to the General George S. Hammond in honor of the first commander of the SGC, which incorporates the death of Don S. Davis into the Stargate continuity. Carter will be seen in command of the Hammond in “Air,” the pilot episode of Universe, as well as “Incursion Part 1” on that show. Between the mention of Hammond’s death, Carter saying that she’s in temporary command of the SGC while Landry is running Earth’s defense, and Woolsey informing Sheppard that O’Neill specifically requested him to operate the Ancient chair in Antarctica, all three Air Force commanders of the SGC are mentioned in the finale.

The series finale includes a hefty number of all the recurring characters, including Beckett, Carter, Zelenka, Caldwell, Ellis, Todd, Chuck, Banks, Marks, Kavanaugh, Harriman, and Davis.

This season marks the final onscreen appearances of Sheppard, Ford, Teyla, Ronon, Zelenka, Beckett, Caldwell, Ellis, Davis, Lorne, Todd, Michael, Banks, and Chuck. McKay and Woolsey will appear in Universe season 2, while Carter and Jackson will both appear in Universe season 1.

Stargate Atlantis, season 5

The story of Atlantis has been continued in the tie-in fiction with the multibook Legacy series written by Melissa Scott, Amy Griswold, and Jo Graham. The books have sent the City back to Pegasus, made use of Carter and the Hammond, and also continued Weir’s story.

Chevron seven locked. And so Atlantis ends with mostly a whimper. Oh, there are some moments here, and you would be hard pressed to find a more fitting series finale to a show than “Enemy at the Gate.”

But still, there’s a whole lotta meh here. There are too many episodes that feel like retreads of previous stories in the franchise. There are also too many “last hurrah” stories that fail miserably. Bringing Kolya back as a figment of Sheppard’s imagination almost works—the notion that the aliens used the image of Kolya, not to torture Sheppard, but as a reflection of how Sheppard tortures himself—which is more than can be said for the lame “Ghost in the Machine” or the really lame “The Prodigal.” Michael’s appeal as an antagonist was his intelligence, but doing Die Hard on the base just doesn’t work as a last hurrah for him. And the less said about the pathetic final episode for Weir, the better.

And so many other things just don’t work. The Keller-McKay relationship is just ridiculous—you can totally see the appeal on McKay’s side (and Ronon’s, for that matter), but it is never at any point remotely clear what Keller sees in him. It feels badly inserted. Beckett’s presence continues to be fanservice in defiance of storytelling, as the series really doesn’t need two physicians, and Keller makes Beckett redundant.

The biggest problem is one that was, of course, out of the producers’ control, and that was the hole left by Amanda Tapping deciding to do a show she could headline rather than play the same role she’d already played for more than a decade. I am abject in my love for Robert Picardo, but the character of Richard Woolsey works best as an occasional irritant—in other words, exactly the way he was used in both SG-1 and Atlantis prior to this—but as the head of the expedition, he just doesn’t work. The only exception was “Inquistion,” which was a brilliant use of the character by letting him be the corporate lawyer he was before he got snatched up by the IOA.

Stargate Atlantis, season 5

The season had its moments, most notably any episode that had Todd in it. Christopher Heyerdahl is one of Canada’s national treasures, and the screen just lights up every time he’s on the screen—not just his usual manipulative snark, but also his alternate timeline counterpart’s starvation-induced delusional rant in “Vegas.”

Ultimately, this season feels much the same as Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s final season: out of steam, albeit with enough juice left for one or two kickass stories.

Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest work is the short story “Back in El Paso My Life Will be Worthless” in The X-Files: Trust No One, a new anthology of stories based on the hit TV show of the 1990s edited by Jonathan Maberry. The book is available in stores, as well as online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

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