With Stargate SG-1 having completed its eighth season, and rampant speculation that star Richard Dean Anderson would leave the series, the folks at Stargate Command decided it was time to spin off the franchise, and so was born Atlantis. Stargate Atlantis boasts pretty much the same production team as SG-1. As such, the high production values, and tight storytelling that made SG-1 so popular, were very much in evidence with Stargate Atlantis.

Stargate AtlantisFrom the start, Stargate Atlantis set a darker tone than its sister series—there was a key death in the premiere, and the Wraith, vampire-like beings they encountered, didn’t require technology to suck the life from their victims. There is also the distinct possibility that the team of scientists– Led by scientist Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) and Maj. John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan)—sent to the lost city of Atlantis might never be able to return to Earth.  Having to fight off the Wraith, the push-pull of intergalactic war, issues with Stargate-travel and the predictable interpersonal emotional dramas within the team form the basis for the series’ five year run.

While the premise at the center of Stargate: Atlantic seems intriguing, the series is strangely committed to bogging the show down with overly complex, dramatic situations, and too many characters to follow. As soon as you begin to get acquainted with the characters onscreen, and what they’re doing, the series introduces a whole new character or situation. While Stargate Attlantis has some inventive plotlines (and a couple of truly effective double-and triple-crosses by various characters and political factions at its stories’ cores), it never really pulled me into the entire adventure for long haul.

If you haven’t guessed already, I wasn’t really a big fan of Stargate Atlantis when it first aired (I think I saw five episodes) and I’m not now. The narrative just doesn’t quite work for me—I guess I’m just more of a Star Trek girl—nonetheless, this enormous box set is a Stargate: Atlantis completist’s dream: It boasts high-def editions of the show’s entire run, and an impressive set of special features.

These 1.78:1 1080p presentations look pretty darn good. The print is clean and with no scratches or dirt, and black levels are solid. Color is a bit saturated, and flesh tones get lost in the mix when compared to the bright greens and blues that dominate the show’s visual palette, but that appears to be because of the production’s design, not an issue with the transfer.

The 5.1 Master Audio sound mixes serve the series well. Music and effects are aggressive, utilizing both front channels and surrounds with beautiful frequency responses, but for some reason, dialogue is really pushed down in the mix. Often, it gets completely lost in the shuffle. These mixes set a great atmospheric mood.

English SDH subtitles are included.

In addition to several extended episodes (none of which are identified anywhere), the 20-disc Stargate Atlantis box set boasts an incredible amount of supplemental content, all presented in standard definition.

  • Audio Commentaries (Seasons 1-5): Eighty-eight audio commentaries. Eighty-eight. Of course there are stellar tracks and not-so-stellar tracks. Season One has the weakest tracks (relatively, anyway) — it’s clear everyone involved is still getting a handle on where the mythos, stories and characters are headed — but that doesn’t mean those tracks should be avoided by any means. They’re still quite good on the whole. Meanwhile, Seasons Three and Four offer the most extensive tracks, but only because the cast and crew, after so many years, finally have a solid grasp on things. No, I didn’t listen to eighty-eight audio commentaries this week, nor would I try to fool anyone into believing that’s even possible. You’ll have to forgive my skimming. Season One offers fourteen full-length commentaries — “Rising, Parts 1 & 2” with director Martin Wood and actor Joe Flanigan; “Hide and Seek” with actors Rachel Luttrell, Torri Higginson and Paul McGillion; “Thirty Eight Minutes” with Luttrell and McGillion; “Childhood’s End” with writer Martin Gero and actors Rainbow Sun Francks and Rachel Luttrell; “The Storm” with Wood, Gero and actor David Hewlett; “The Eye” with Wood, Gero and Hewlett; “The Defiant One” with director Peter DeLuise and stunt coordinator Dan Shea; “Hot Zone” with Gero, Luttrell, Francks and McGillion; “Sanctuary” with Luttrell and actor Torri Higginson; “The Brotherhood” with Wood, Gero and Hewlett; “The Gift” with DeLuise and Stargate SG-1cast member Gary Jones; “The Siege, Part 1” with Wood, Gero and Hewlett; and “The Siege, Part 2” with Wood, Gero, Flanigan and Hewlett.Season Two ups the ante with twenty episode commentaries — “The Siege, Part 3” with director Martin Wood, writer Martin Gero and actors Joe Flanigan and David Hewlett; “The Intruder” with director Peter DeLuise and Stargate SG-1actor Gary Jones; “Runner” with Wood and Hewlett; “Duet” with DeLuise, Gero and Hewlett; “Condemned” with DeLuise and Jones; “Trinity” with Wood and writer Damian Kindler; “Instinct” with director Andy Mikita and producer Paul Mullie; “Conversion” with Gero, Flanigan and Hewlett; “Aurora” with Wood and DeLuise; “The Lost Boys” with Gero, Flanigan and Hewlett; “The Hive” with Wood; “Epiphany” with director Neil Fearnley; “Critical Mass” with Mikita, actor Rachel Luttrell and director of photography Brenton Spencer; “Grace Under Pressure” with Wood, Gero, Hewlett and actor Amanda Tapping; “The Tower” with Mullie and Mikita; “The Long Goodbye” with Mikita, Spencer and actor Torri Higginson; “Coup D’Etat” with Wood, Gero and Hewlett; “Michael” with Wood and DeLuise; “Inferno” with DeLuise and Jones; and “Allies” with Mikita, Gero and Hewlett.Season Three follows suit with nineteen more — “No Man’s Land” with producer/writer Martin Gero and supervising producer/director Martin Wood; “Misbegotten” with Wood and executive producer Paul Mullie; “Irresistible” with Wood and director of photography Michael Blundell; “Sateda” with producer/writer/director Robert C. Cooper and director of photography Brenton Spencer; “Progeny” with director Andy Mikita and VFX supervisor Mark Savela; “Common Ground” with Spencer and director William Waring; “McKay & Mrs. Miller” with Gero and Wood; “Phantoms” with Wood and co-executive producer Carl Binder; “The Return, Part 1” with Gero and executive producer Paul Mullie; “The Return, Part 2” with Gero and Mullie; “Echoes” with Waring and Spencer; “Irresponsible” with Wood and Blundell; “Tao of Rodney” with Wood and Blundell; “The Game” with Waring and Spencer; “The Ark” with Wood and Savela; “Sunday” with Gero and Waring; “Submersion” with Spencer and Savela; “Vengeance” with Mikita and creature effects designer Todd Masters; and “First Strike” with Gero, Wood and Savela.Season Four tacks on another nineteen cast and crew audio commentaries — “Adrift” with co-executive producer/writer Martin Gero and supervising producer/director Martin Wood; “Lifeline” with Wood and actor Amanda Tapping; “Reunion” with executive producer Joseph Mallozzi and director William Waring; “Doppleganger” with executive producer/writer/director Robert C. Cooper and VFX supervisor Mark Savela; “Travelers” with Waring and executive producer/writer Paul Mullie; “Tabula Rasa” with Wood, Tapping and writer Alan McCullough; “Missing” with director Andy Mikita and co-executive producer/writer Carl Binder; “The Seer” with Mikita and McCullough; “Miller’s Crossing” with Gero and Mikita; “This Mortal Coil” with Mallozzi and Waring; “Be All My Sins Remember’d” with Gero and Mikita; “Spoils of War” with McCullough and Waring; “Quarantine” with Wood and Tapping; “Harmony” with Gero and Waring; “Outcast” with McCullough and Mikita; “Trio” with Gero, Wood and Tapping; “The Kindred, Part 1” with Mallozzi and director Peter F. Woeste; “The Kindred, Part 2” with Wood and McCullough; and “The Last Man” with Mullie and Wood.Season Five rounds out a massive collection of commentaries with sixteen tracks — “Search and Rescue” with executive producer Martin Gero and producer/director Andy Mikita; “The Seed” with director William Waring and executive producer’s assistant Lawren Bancroft-Wilson; “Broken Ties” with executive producer Joseph Mallozzi and actor Jason Momoa; “The Daedalus Variations” with Mikita and supervising producer Alan McCullough; “Whispers” with Mallozzi and Waring; “The Queen” with McCullough and director Brenton Spencer; “Tracker” with Waring and executive producer Carl Binder; “First Contact” with Gero and Mikita; “The Lost Tribe” with Gero and Mikita; “Outsiders” with McCullough and Waring; “Inquisition” with Spencer and actor Tobias Slezak; “The Prodigal” with Binder and Mikita; “Remnants” with Mallozzi and Waring; “Brain Storm” with Gero; “Vegas” with Cooper, producer John G. Lenic and editor Mark Banas; and “Enemy at the Gate” with Mullie and Savela.
    • Mission Directives (Seasons 1-5, SD, 242 minutes): Each season offers a series of excellent episode-centric behind-the-scenes featurettes, ranging from six to fourteen minutes apiece. (Totaling four hours.) Segments include “Sanctuary,” “Before I Sleep,” “The Storm,” “The Eye,” “The Siege, Parts 1 & 2” “The Siege, Part 3,” “The Intruder,” “Instinct,” “Sateda,” “Progeny,” “Phantoms,” “The Game,” “First Strike,” “Doppleganger,” “This Mortal Coil,” “Quarantine,” “Outcast,” “Search and Rescue,” “Whispers,” “Tracker” and “Brain Storm.”
    • Stargate Atlantis Set Tour (Season 1, SD, 11 minutes): Martin Wood and Peter DeLuise take Stargate fans on a tour of the Atlantis sets.
    • Wraithal Discrimination: It’s Not Easy Being Green (Season 1, SD, 11 minutes): Season One’s second featurette amounts to the cast and crew cracking eleven minutes of jokes.
    • Diary of Rainbow Sun Francks (Season 1, SD, 9 minutes): An enthusiastic Francks chats about his work on the pilot, his first-season run and the antics that ensued on set. Segments include “In the Beginning,” “A Day on Set,” “Fellow Cast Members,” “Favorite Episodes” and “The Success of Atlantis.”
    • A Look Back on Season 1 (Season 1, SD, 17 minutes): Writer/story editor Martin Gero reflects on Season One, its evolution, characters and themes, weaknesses and strengths, its similarities and differences to SG-1, and the distinct shift that occurs between the first and second halves of the first season.
    • Introduction to a Character: Ronon Dex (Season 2, SD, 15 minutes): Actor Jason Momoa storms the Atlantis universe, bringing gunslinger Ronon Dex to life. Both cast and crew discuss the character’s importance, his contributions and his role as a series wild card.
    • Stargate Atlantis: Stunts (Season 2, SD, 18 minutes): Stunt Coordinator James Bamford and key members of the cast and crew dig into the series’ stuntwork accordingly.
    • Road to a Dream (Season 2, SD, 19 minutes): Martin Gero reminisces about the fulfillment of a lifelong dream — becoming an actor — in this genuinely funny, tongue-in-cheek mockumentary.
    • Profiles On: Paul McGillion (Seasons 2-3, SD, 57 minutes): David Hewlett nabs twenty-one minutes in the spotlight, Paul McGillion earns twenty-one minutes of his own, and Rachel Luttrell picks up another fifteen minutes in this trio of meet-the-actor featurettes.
    • Inside the Stargate Atlantis Visual FX Department (Season 3, SD, 18 minutes): Learn about the development, creation and realization of the series’ visual effects, as well as the computer wizardry used to bring the Atlantis galaxies to life.
    • General O’Neill Goes to Atlantis (Season 3, SD, 14 minutes): SG-1‘s fan-favorite leading man, Richard Dean Anderson, lends his wit, charm and muscle to Atlantis, and has a blast doing so. (As does the rest of the Atlantis cast and crew.)
    • Masters of the Alien (Season 3, SD, 18 minutes): Makeup, prosthetics and the men and women who’ve mastered them and applied their craft to Stargate Atlantis take center stage in this terrific “Makeup Studio” featurette.
    • A Look Back on Season 3 (Season 3, SD, 20 minutes): Gero returns for an overview of Season Three, analyzing its place in the Atlantis mythos, how it builds on the series’ past and how it looks forward to the series’ future.
    • A New Leader: Amanda Tapping Joins Atlantis (Season 4, SD, 15 minutes): SG-1 alum Amanda Tapping makes the long, perilous journey to Stargate‘s preeminent spin-off in Season Four, and this featurette charts her transition from one gate to the next.
    • Stargate Atlantis Bloopers (Season 4, SD, 7 minutes): An outtake reel, apparently included by popular demand, gives Gero and Mallozzi an excuse to take a few pot shots at the first official Stargate blooper reel… all while pointing out how unfunny blooper reels typically are.
    • The Making of Trio (Season 4, SD, 16 minutes): This behind-the-scenes featurette is a welcome addition to the Season Four supplemental package, and shows how the creative process can lead to countless surprises.
    • Deleted Scenes (Season 4, SD, 24 minutes): While Seasons One through Three didn’t include any deleted scenes, Season Four has a generous collection, some good, some not-so-good.
    • A Look Back at Season 4 (Season 4, SD, 12 minutes): Gero sinks his claws into Season Four, talking about its place in the series, its function as a fourth chapter in the Atlantis arc, and the challenges the creative team faced along the way.
    • Bringing the Seed to Life (Season 5, SD, 7 minutes): The Seed overtakes Atlantis… and the series, its crew, its visual effects team, its budget and the tireless efforts of its creative team in this rather truncated behind-the-scenes VFX featurette.
    • Showdown! Ronon v. Tyre (Season 5, SD, 6 minutes): Stunt coordinator James Bamford returns to take fans through yet another hard-hitting series fight.
    • Tricks of the Trade: Submerging the Stargate (Season 5, SD, 7 minutes): Director Andy Mikita, VFX supervisor Mark Savela and director of photography Jim Menard submerse themselves in the submersion of a stargate and, really, an entire episode.
    • Joe Flanigan: A Conversation with the Colonel (Season 5, SD, 6 minutes): Continuing Season Five’s trend of quick-hit featurettes, this John Sheppard mini-doc gives the field team’s commanding officer six minutes in the hot seat.
    • Building a Humanoid (Season 5, SD, 7 minutes): James Robbins and Martin Gero examine Season Five’s introduction of a new series baddie: a squad of scrawny super-suited aliens.
    • Dr. Jackson Goes to Atlantis (Season 5, SD, 6 minutes): SG-1 mainstay Michael Shanks talks about bringing Dr. Daniel Jackson to Stargate Atlantis for the mid-season two-parter.
    • The Life and Death of Michael Kenmore (Season 5, SD, 7 minutes): Moral dilemmas are a crucial component of the best Stargate Atlantis episodes, a point actor Connor Trinneer and other members of the crew discuss in this strong but, again, short featurette.
    • Inside the Stargate Costume Department (Season 5, SD, 7 minutes): Gero and series costume designer Val Halverson elaborate on the logic and design sense that dictates the costumes, armor and clothing that graces Atlantis.
    • Stargate Atlantis Goes to Vegas (Season 5, SD, 21 minutes): Stargate Atlantis‘ alternate reality episode covers a lot of ground and takes its time doing so. I wish more Season Five episodes were given the full nines, but with so much supplemental content on tap, it’s difficult to complain.
    • Deleted Scenes (Season 5, SD, 17 minutes): Like Season Four, Season Five tosses in a number of deleted scenes, hit-or-miss as they may be.