Three years into it, Atlantis has retained numerous familiar elements while continuing to evolve steadily. The core cast is intact, with the cocky wiseacre-hero Lt. Col. John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) and the egotistical, neurotic genius Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett) still the most entertaining of the bunch; as the series explores the characters' personal lives and backstories, we even meet (in "McKay and Mrs. Miller") the latter's sister, who's every bit the wiz that he is. On the other hand, the roles of team leader Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) and members Teyla (Rachel Luttrell) and Ronon Dex (Jason Momoa) are neither especially well-written nor well-played. The return of Richard Dean Anderson (and his sense of humor) as General Jack O'Neill, the SG-1 mainstay during most of its run, for a few cameos is most welcome, as is the presence of the Wraith, the series' principal villains (SG-1 fans will also recognize the "sentient machines" known as the Replicators from that series). With their flowing white locks, cat-like eyes, pale, almost translucent skin, ultra-fine black leather dusters, and, in one case, shades that would make a Hollywood hipster envious, the Wraith remain the coolest bad guys on the sci-fi scene. We already knew that they feed on humans, but this season brings some startling new revelations, particularly in "Common Ground," an excellent episode that finds Sheppard and a Wraith (Christopher Heyerdahl) forming an unlikely alliance against a mutual enemy; we also witness the return of the Wraith known as Michael (Connor Trinneer), who was the subject of the Atlantis team's ongoing "retro-virus" experiment (designed to make Wraiths human) in Season Two and plays a significant recurring role in Season Three. Other developments are apparent as well, but most dramatic of all is the death of one of the team's key members.
Stargate Atlantis isn't the most original TV show ever created; in fact, elements of The Running Man, Alien, The Abyss, Enemy Mine, and other sci-fi works are sometimes so obvious that the characters themselves mention them in dialogue. But as always, the action sequences, special effects, models, and other technical elements are first-rate, as are the bonus features, which include episode commentaries, featurettes, and photo galleries. --Sam Graham
Beyond Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Third Season
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Stills from Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Third Season