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MGM Studios DVD presents
Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Third Season (2006-2007)

Woolsey: That was the worst thing Iíve ever experienced.
OíNeill: It gets worse.

- Robert Picardo, Richard Dean Anderson

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: October 25, 2007

Stars: Joe Flanigan, Torri Higginson, Rachel Luttrell, David Hewlett, Paul McGillion, Jason Momoa
Other Stars: Mitch Pileggi, Richard Dean Anderson, David Nykl, Amanda Tapping, Robert Picardo, Chuck Campbell, Beau Bridges, Connor Trinnear, David Ogden Stiers, Jewel Staite
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for television audiences)
Run Time: 14h:31m:00s
Release Date: September 18, 2007
UPC: 027616086686
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-AA- A-

DVD Review

Earning credibility hasnít been easy for Stargate Atlantis. Even some devoted fans of its parent show Stargate SG-1 have criticized its similar themes and plot structure. The writers face a consistent dilemmaóthe series must stay original, but if they shift too far from the formula, fans may stop watching. Another difficulty is the presence of tough, dramatic sci-fi like Battlestar Galactica that challenges the viewer and reveals the dark side of each character. Also airing on the Sci-Fi Network, that gripping series exists at another level, but we shouldnít expect that type of material here. Atlantis is a fantastical adventure with nasty alien enemies that conveys a more light-hearted, team dynamic. After struggling early to escape the shadow of its origins, the show has developed into a consistent, often-inventive alternative to more serious fare.

The surprising truth is that Atlantis has been superior to SG-1 for the past two seasons. While the original struggled to incorporate new cast members and keep its long-time actors engaged, its spin-off has developed a stronger mythology and its own unique tone. Stars Joe Flanigan (Sheppard) and David Hewlett (McKay) both deliver big laughs while sniping at the other about the latest conflict. Rachel Luttrell (Teyla), Jason Momoa (Ronon), Paul McGillion (Beckett) and Torri Higginson (Weir) all improve during the third season, which helps build the team chemistry that drives each episode. This collection of 20 episodes includes a large group of standouts, with the first half of the season being especially strong. Excellent guest stars like Richard Dean Anderson, Robert Picardo, Robert Davi, and many others take the pressure off the leads. Although there are a few missteps along the way, the quality remains solid throughout the year and delivers the best season to date.

The season begins with the exciting conclusion to the season two cliffhanger Allies, which revealed Earthís location to the Wraith. Scrambling to keep them from reaching our home, the team must take desperate measures. No Manís Land includes stunning effects and a sense of true peril that sometimes has been missing in past years. This story concludes with the compelling Misbegotten, which blurs the line between Wraith and human. Both episodes include great writing and performances from the entire cast, and itís unfortunate that theyíre followed by the clunker Irresistible. Richard Kind (Spin City) fits the part of Lucius, a goofball who draws people to him. But thereís not enough material for a full episode and his character quickly grows tiresome. Kind returns later in Irresponsible, which provides only a slightly better episode. That story includes the nasty villain Kolya (Robert Davi), but there was no need for a second dose of Lucius. Thankfully, Davi gets another chance early on in Common Ground, which involves vicious torture of Sheppard by a captured Wraith. The increased stakes perfectly embody the success of this group of stories to rise above the showís typical output.

The first half of the season features several standouts that rank among the finest episodes of the entire series. Sateda delves into Rononís past while placing him at the mercy of a vengeful Wraith warrior. As he struggles to stay alive, flashbacks reveal key personal details about his home worldís destruction and a past love. The washed-out photography brings a rougher edge to this action-packed tale that is always refreshing. The other gem is Progeny, which reveals the existence of human-form Replicators, who might be unstoppable. The downside to these new enemies is their similarity to SG-1ís long-time nemesis, but the writers manage to overcome this hurdle. The major difference is remarkable visual effects that bring more weight to the Replicators. Instead of flying around in a typical ship, they live in a souped-up version of Atlantis that dwarfs our expectations. Familiar face David Ogden Stiers also delivers as the enemy leader who sees little need for friendly debate. Each of these episodes does well as a standalone, but they also push the larger story forward in an interesting direction.

Another highlight is the appearance of Richard Dean Andersonís Jack OíNeill for the mid-season two-parter The Return. While the first part is mostly set-up, the conclusion gives OíNeill the chance to perform some heroic underwater feats. Andersonís interaction with the Atlantis cast is highly entertaining, and Iím hoping for his return in future episodes. Following this energetic tale, the second half of the season shifts gears and becomes inconsistent. A prominent exception is Sunday, which includes some great personal moments and the heartbreaking death of a main character. Martin Gero does his best writing in a story that could not have been easy to create. The departing actor will be sorely missed, but Iím excited to see the creators are willing to take interesting risks. Another shocker occurs in the season finale First Strike, where a Replicator attack places the life of another key team member in jeopardy. This intriguing episode provides interesting parallels to the war in Iraq as our ďheroesĒ deliver a preemptive strike on their enemies. The ramifications of the move are only briefly discussed, but itís good to see the creative team pushing the characters into murkier territory. As expected, this decision leads to unfortunate consequences that will play a considerable role in the fourth season.

After three thrilling seasons, Stargate Atlantis continues to provide entertaining adventures and some surprising dramatic moments. The writing might not reach the pinnacle set by other sci-fi series such as Lost or Battlestar Gallactica, but the lighter tone brings a refreshing change of pace. The slight downturn in the seasonís second half does generate some concern, but Iím hoping the powerful finish will propel the show to an excellent fourth year. The additions of SG-1ís Amanda Tapping (Carter) and Fireflyís Jewel Staite (Keller) to the main cast should lead to some interesting new storylines. Carterís move from the original series to Atlantis is intriguing, and I trust that the writers will give her interesting areas to explore. This is probably a ďmake or breakĒ year for the series, but I expect it to be even stronger than the outstanding third season.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The third season of Stargate Atlantis offers a stunning 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that improves considerably on its predecessors. The previous releases also had clear pictures with minimal grain, but this collection raises the quality to a pristine level. The visual effects of the space battles and complex new worlds look better than ever, which creates a more believable experience. A highlight is Progeny's Replicator world, which ranks among the finest creations of the entire series.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: It's hard to complain about the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer, which presents the action-packed episodes effectively. I'd place the audio slightly below the picture quality, as it could use a bit more depth and work for the rear speakers. However, the presentation remains top-notch throughout each episode. This release also includes a French 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track, which also conveys acceptable sound.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 240 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Stargate SG-1: The Ark of Truth teaser
10 Documentaries
19 Feature/Episode commentaries by by cast and crew (see below)
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
5 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo and Production Design Galleries
Extras Review: Each Stargate release consistently provides commentaries on nearly every episode, enjoyable documentaries, and large photo galleries. While these extras are much appreciated, it seems like the producers have grown too locked into the same formula. I would love to see deleted scenes, bloopers, and documentaries that go beyond a single episode or production aspect. Giving fans a new perspective would enhance the sets from very good releases to must-own collections. On the positive side, the featurettes remain worthwhile and offer a unique perspective. The value of each ďMission DirectiveĒ depends on the episode portrayed and its director, but each one has something interesting to offer. See below for comments on the individual features:

Iíve praised past Atlantis sets for consistent participation from the main actors on the audio commentaries. Unfortunately, theyíve all taken a break from this release, which brings a more technical spin to each discussion. The directors, writers and other crew members still provide good background, but the result is less impressive than the first two seasons. Itís a shame that the always-entertaining David Hewlett, a frequent past speaker, completely disappears from this set. Iím guessing the actorsí schedules and the shorter lag time between releases was to blame, but itís still disappointing. The only episode that doesnít include a commentary is The Real World, which is unfortunate due to its divergence from the typical episode. For those of you with a lot of time on your hands, hereís the listing of all the participants:

No Manís Land: Writer Martin Gero and Director Martin Wood
Misbegotten: Writer Paul Mullie and Director Martin Wood
Irresistible: Director Martin Wood and Director of Photography Michael Blundell
Sateda: Director Robert C. Cooper and Director of Photography Brenton Spencer
Progeny: Director Andy Mikita and VFX Supervisor Mark Savela
Common Ground: Director William Waring and Director of Photography Brenton Spencer
Mckay & Mrs. Miller: Writer Martin Gero and Director Martin Wood
Phantoms: Director Martin Wood
The Real World, Part 1: Writer Martin Gero and Executive Producer Paul Mullie
The Real World, Part 2: Writer Martin Gero and Executive Producer Paul Mullie
Echoes: Director William Waring and Director of Photography Brenton Spencer
Irresponsible: Director Martin Wood and Director of Photography Michael Blundell
Tao of Rodney: Director Martin Wood and Director of Photography Michael Blundell
The Game: Director William Waring and Director of Photography Brenton Spencer
The Ark: Director Martin Wood and VFX Supervisor Mark Savela
Sunday: Writer Martin Gero and Director William Waring
Submersion: Director Brenton Spenser and VFX Supervisor Mark Savela
Vengeance: Director Andy Mikita and Creature Effects Supervisor Todd Masters
First Strike: Director Martin Wood

Inside the Stargate Atlantis Visual FX Department (17:53)
This informative feature introduces us to the seriesí in-house visual effects department in Vancouver. VFX Supervisor Mark Savela describes their groupís members and gives us a walking tour through the area. We learn some interesting facts about the process and how itís incorporated into the filming. Savela also focuses on the seasonís complex visual episodes like McKay & Mrs. Miller and First Strike.

Mission Directive: Sateda featuring Director Robert C. Cooper (15:34)
As one of the seriesí executive producers, Robert C. Cooper is involved in the daily workings of every episode. He steps into the directorís chair for Sateda and comments about its expansion of the Ronon character. This feature contains impressive stunt footage of the hand-to-hand battles, which include some nasty bruises for Jason Momoa. We also hear about the actorís excitement to sink his teeth into some meaty scenes.

Mission Directive: Progeny featuring Director Andy Mikita (10:57)
Although it covers one of the yearís best stories, this is not one of the setís better featurettes. Andy Mikita spends too much time on plot summary that is obvious to anyone who watched the episode. There are a few pre-vis/final version comparisons that deserve a look, but the rest is pretty basic information.

Profile on: Rachel Luttrell (14:56)
Teyla is not one of my favorite characters, but the blame should not rest with Rachel Luttrell. The striking actress does her best with limited material, and needs better writing to develop her character fully. This featurette includes a warm interview with Luttrell, who had no fight training prior to joining the series. Martin Gero also bestows accurate praise and some big plans for her during the upcoming season.

Mission Directive: Phantoms featuring Director Martin Wood (14:41)
Martin Wood has been a mainstay director of Stargate SG-1 for many years, and he brings considerable expertise to each DVD extra. This episode is not one of his best, but it does effectively showcase the fears of each team member. Wood presents plenty of behind-the-scenes footage in this worthy feature, which presents impressive technical details.

General OíNeill Goes to Atlantis (13:59)
Itís hard to screw up a feature depicting Richard Dean Andersonís return, but we hear too much from other people besides the actor. Martin Gero and Brad Wright discuss the reasons from bringing OíNeill back, why they used him on Atlantis, and his penchant for changing lines. Anderson does provide some engaging comments with his typical casual demeanor, but I would have enjoyed a lengthier interview.

Mission Directive: The Game featuring Director William Waring (13:32)
Itís difficult to care much about an extra depicting one of the seasonís least effective stories. The fault partially lies with William Waring, who doesnít have much to say, but it mostly falls on the mediocre script. There is some silly footage of Jason Momoa doing some awful singing and guitar playing, which is a treat. We also learn a bit about the creation of the unconvincing game boards.

Masters of the Alien: A Look Inside the Masters FX Studio (17:52)
Todd Masters provides tons of great information about the creation of some unique creature effects. His Vancouver studio was opened specifically for Stargate and helped to create the Wraith and other monsters. They provide excellent details on the makeup for Satedaís Uber-Wraith and the aging effects in Common Ground. Providing lots of notable material, this feature is one of the best of the set.

Mission Directive: First Strike featuring Director Martin Wood (11:52)
Martin Wood returns to discuss the energetic season finale and reflect on everyoneís weariness by the yearís end. A highlight is footage of Weirís stunt double performing an extremely dangerous stunt involving exploding glass. It takes some quick thinking by a crew member to avoid a possible injury. Wood also speaks about the capable guest stars and making the city appear to be a large structure. This brief feature covers some interesting elements and deserves a quick viewing.

Stargate Atlantis: A Look Back on Season 3 with Martin Gero (20:16)
Martin Gero did a similar overview during the first season DVD set, and this time he gives more top-notch information. The pivotal elements marked for improvement this year were team chemistry, a more diverse Wraith society, and a formidable new enemy. He also discusses a laundry list of guest stars, which include David Ogden Stiers, Richard Kind, and Mitch Pileggi. The final segment covers Geroís favorite episodes, which include McKay & Mrs. Miller, Sunday and First Strike. I canít argue with any of his choices and definitely appreciated this lengthy interview.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Following SG-1ís cancellation, Stargate Atlantis stands alone for the first time. Will it thrive under the new circumstances or wilt under the pressure? Iím hoping that the new arrivals will inject more energy into the already enjoyable cast. The forerunning series casts a huge shadow, and thereís a big chance for its spin-off to remain exceptional for many years. The improvements of the third season show tremendous promise for more development into becoming a premier sci-fi series.


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