Stargate: Atlantis - Fans’ Choice (Blu-ray)
Directed by Martin Wood, Andy Mikita
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 88/46 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish; 3.0 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.98
Release Date: August 4, 2009
Review Date: August 6, 2009
Stargate: Atlantis had a healthy five year run on the Sci-Fi Channel (as it was then called) from 2004-2009. This new Blu-ray release pairs the episodes which won the highest number of votes on the series’ website and features cover art that was also voted on by fans of the series. The two episodes chosen as the winners were the series’ original feature-length pilot episode and, ironically, the series’ last episode. Even for someone like me who had never watched the show during its lengthy run, watching these episodes was a pleasurable experience even if the promises of a very original series from the pilot seemed to have become a little more derivative by the time the show ended. Still, the episodes are fun, adventurous yarns with the good guys and bad guys easily delineated.
In the first episode “Rising,” an ancient Stargate base is found buried in the ice of Antarctica, and an international team of soldiers (led by guest star Robert Patrick) and scientists from Earth journey to a distant planet in the Pegasus Galaxy. There they discover the legendary lost city of Atlantis under the control of Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson). Atlantis, currently under the sea but protected by an energy field which is slowly collapsing, holds another Stargate network that opens onto several human worlds. As they explore this new galaxy, they come into contact with a ruthless, powerful enemy species known only as the Wraith.
Five years later in the series finale “Enemy at the Gate,” the Wraith are still as deadly and merciless as ever and have now locked on Earth’s position initiating an attack on Earth as a future source of their sustenance. By now, Major John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) from the pilot has been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and is in charge of stopping the Wraith aided by telepath Teyla Emmagan (Rachel Luttrell), the always amusingly bemused Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett), and right hand warrior Ronon Dex (Jason Momoa).
A few things become perfectly clear in watching these two episodes back-to-back in one sitting. CGI effects (and likely the show’s budget for them) improved greatly between seasons one and five. Atlantis looks very artificially rendered in the pilot but seems much more realistic by the end of the show’s run. Writers by season five seemed to be borrowing plot points and even sci-fi lore from other space franchises like Star Trek. All of the terminology concerning “cloaking,” “beaming aboard,” and “shields up” for protection from oncoming enemy fire sounded very familiar. The dogfight in space that forms part of the climactic scenes from the last episode seems straight out of Top Gun of all things.
None of the performances in either episode seemed especially riveting, but Joe Flanigan seemed up to the task as the show’s nominal male action hero, and certainly Rachel Luttrell’s Teyla was reserved and authoritative enough. I did get a kick out of Paul McGillion’s talkative Scotsman Dr. Carson Beckett, and David Hewlett seemed to be enjoying playing the fretful Dr. McKay in both episodes on the disc.
Both episodes are framed at 1.78:1 and presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Color density and richness seems much more pronounced on “Enemy at the Gate.” Colors seemed more reserved and even a bit undersaturated in “Rising.” Sharpness is spot-on in both episodes, but contrast and black levels both register more strongly in the series finale. The pilot has been divided into 16 chapters while “Enemy at the Gate” has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is more impressive on the pilot episode. Being feature length, there are more opportunities for pans and discrete effects to be channeled around the soundstage. The music for the series gets a worthwhile placement around all available channels and aids in giving the action scenes in both episodes some added potency.
There are no bonus features apart from 480i and 1080p trailers for Stargate: The Ark of Truth, Stargate: Continuum, and Stargate: Universe.
3/5 (not an average)
Fans of Stargate: Atlantis now have two of the series’ ninety-nine episodes in high definition. There are no bonus features to give the package added value, but the video and audio quality of these two programs certainly do the series proud.