Atlantis manages to succeed in all the ways SG1 did, while also occasionally falling into the same holes. At it’s heart this is an episodic sf series with a group of great characters and an abundance of sarcasm. The plots are usually interesting and fun, occasionally suffering from large holes or hammering home the ”shades of grey” moral issues a bit much. The arc storylines focus on exploring and setting up the new Atlantis base and the threat from the vampirey Wraith. The former allowed for some budget episodes and the chance to distinguish themselves from the more military feel of SG1. The latter plot was well handled through the first season and made a refreshing change from the complex political situation that the Gould became in SG1.
What sells this series for me though are the great characters and their interactions. Frankly all of the characters are at least faintly annoying, but that only makes them more interesting. The ”snarking” between characters is hilarious and feels very natural, they feel like real people not just The Doctor, The Soldier. The Jack-Daniel double act is replaced here with Shepherd-McKay, but here the Soldier also happens to be a bit of a geek and The Geek is something of a force of nature. The alien (Teyla) and the sidekick (Ford) get a bit of a slim deal in the first season but they manage to be more than their stereotypes even with only a few lines each episode. Probably the weakest link is Weir who never quite manages to have the gravitas that’s required from the leader, always coming across as rather deferring and wet.
Atlantis plays to its target audience with the geeks saving the day half the time and with characters referencing Star Trek and Back to the Future enthusiastically. It’s not the best science fiction out there, but it’s a very entertaining watch each week.
DVD Special Features (Region 1)
The Region 1 dvd is truly a thing of beauty, from the nice slim line box, to the huge amounts of special features to the great quality video. There are commentaries on about 1/2 the episodes including contributions from all the main actors, the writers, directors and even a couple of SG1 people that seemed to wonder in and feel like chatting. They are all as crazy and dedicated as each other and the commentaries are hilarious and interesting. The featurettes cover the usual stuff like set tours, make-up and behind the scenes on a couple of the episodes. The season 1 review is actually a showcase of everyone messing about and failing to take anything seriously. This show is either amazing fun to work on or everyone is a great actor.