Back in the long long ago of the 2000s, SyFy (then called Sci-Fi) would often marathon shows during the week. Some were older shows like Tales from the Darkside, the ’90s Outer Limits, and Friday the 13th: The Series and some were current (at the time) productions like Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate: SG-1.
This is how I discovered the latter’s spin-off, Stargate: Atlantis.
In this series, Stargate Command sends a team through the gate on a potentially one-way trip to the Pegasus Galaxy and the mythical lost city of Atlantis. The expedition is lead by Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Tori Higginson) and includes scientists Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett), Dr. Radek Zelenka (David Nykl), medical man Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion), and Chuck the Technician (Chuck Campbell). Their military attachment is initially led by Col. Marshall Sumner (Robert Patrick), who unfortunately doesn’t last long, forcing Lt. Col John Shepherd (Joe Flanigan) to assume charge, and whose men include Major Evan Lorne (Kavan Smith), and Lt. Aiden Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks). They’re aided in their exploration of the new galaxy by local Athosian Teyla Emmagan (Rachel Luttrell).
However, this new galaxy has no shortage of dangers and enemies, most notably Wraiths, humanoid creatures that literally suck the life out of humans.
In the course of five seasons, Dr. Elizabeth Weir is replaced by first Col. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) from SG-1 and then later IOA official Richard Woosley (Robert Picardo). After a tragic encounter with a Wraith, Lt. Ford becomes addicted to Wraith enzyme and goes rogue. His place on Shepherd’s team is filled by Satedan and former runner Specialist Ronan Dex (Jason Momoa). And after a devastating incident, Dr. Beckett is replaced by Dr. Jennifer Keller (Jewel Stait). The expedition is also reconnected with Stargate Command and the Milky Way, sometimes by stargate, but usually by an Asgard ship called the Daedalus that’s commanded by Col. Steven Caldwell (Mitch Pileggi).
Much like SG-1, the point of the expedition is to explore the Pegasus Galaxy, make friends, and fight enemies. Unfortunately, the expedition itself is the reason their biggest enemy, the Wraith, is even around. During one of their first trips looking for friends, they accidentally wake them up. They also find plenty of human enemies as well, most notably the Genii, who covet their technology.
Some folks passing through the Pegasus Galaxy include: SG-1 alums Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Christopher Judge, Claudia Black, Ben Browder, Bill Dow, Gary Jones, Beau Bridges, Don S. Davis, and Dan Shea; in recurring roles Sharon Taylor (Amelia Banks), Connor Trineer (Michael Kenmore), Dean Marshall (Sgt. Bates), Craig Veroni (Dr. Peter Grodin), Ben Cotton (Dr. Kavanaugh), Linda Ko (Marie), Patrick Sabongui (Kanaan), David Ogden Stiers (Oberoth), Andree Frizzell (Wraith Queen), Claire Rankin (Dr. Kate Heightmeyer), Michael Beach (Col. Abe Ellis), Kate Hewlett (David Hewlett’s sister playing his sister Jeannie Miller), and Christopher Heyerdahl (as both Athosian Halling and Todd the Wraith because he’s just that damn good); Genii Robert Davi, Ryan Robbins, and Colm Meaney; Mark Dacascos, Richard Kind, Jaime Ray Newman, Jill Wagner, Jodelle Ferland; Mike Dopud and Patrick Gilmore, who hold the distinction of being in episodes of all three Stargate shows as different characters; Kari Wuher, Dominic Zampronga, Laura Harris, Dave Foley, Nicole de Boer, Alan Ruck, Leela Savasta, Janina Gavankar, Christina Cox, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Patrick Gallagher, Steve Schirripa, Frank Vincent, and Danny Trejo.
It’s a fun sci-fi adventure show with plenty of action, a certain measure of wit and one-liners, and just enough emotional weight. The heart of the show lies in the characters and their relationships. Tight bonds are formed in high-pressure situations, especially when cut off from home. The episodes that highlight those relationships are the ones that I tend to like best.
“Tao of Rodney” is a perfect example of this. Rodney is hit with a beam from a piece of Ancient technology that increases his brilliance and gives him telepathy and telekinesis. It also supersizes his already supersized ego, which nearly costs Zelenka is his life. After it’s revealed that the purpose of this machine is to accelerate evolution to the point of ascension (all of this makes perfect sense if you watch the show) and Rodney is going to die, he ends up making very sincere gestures towards the people he cares about as he reconciles his fate.
Spoiler alert: he doesn’t actually die. But it’s still meaningful just the same.
Also, it is no secret that Zelenka is my favorite, so many of my favorite episodes have him in them. I’m biased and I don’t care.
One interesting aspect of the show is how often accountability comes up. Obviously, you have the unending accountability of accidentally waking up the Wraith, but there’s also the ramifications of them trying to battle them as well. They attempted to engineer a deterrent to prevent Wraiths from feeding on humans and it caused a plague. They attempted to genetically change the Wraiths into humans and ended up with incredibly bitter Wraith-Human hybrid Michael who causes a whole shitload of problems. They attempted to genetically alter the Wraith so they no longer had to feed and it caused severe issues for their frenemy Todd the Wraith.
We see it again with the Genii and again with the Replicators. Hell, at one point they’re put on trial for it all. Granted, their harm wasn’t intentional, but it was widespread. And in some cases catastrophic.
I feel like that elevates the show. Sure, they’re the heroes. But they’re our heroes, not everyone’s. We know they’re only doing what they think is right, but those decisions have consequences. And we get to see those consequences spread out in the ripple effect that these sorts of decisions tend to create. They’re human, but fallible and we love them.
The show only lasted five seasons, which is a drag.
So much of the Pegasus Galaxy was left to explore.