dive into an adventure as predictable as the universe itself
October 6, 2011 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I've started watching Stargate: Atlantis. Does it...get better?

I picked up the first 3 seasons of Stargate Atlantis for dirt cheap at a flea market. I'm 5 or 6 episodes in, and so far feel pretty "meh" about it -- way too glossy with unsatisfying pat endings.

But, I know these types of shows often take some time to find their footing. I don't mind putting in the time with mediocre episodes if I know things are going to improve. Are they?

(This is my first exposure to the Stargate universe, barring the Kurt Russell movie, if that's relevant).
posted by the bricabrac man to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was never really able to get into SG-1 (largely for the reasons you're describing here) but I'm pretty sure that successor series are even harder to get into, as they depend significantly on SG-1 for their background mythology.
posted by valkyryn at 7:51 AM on October 6, 2011

It depends on what you mean by "better." I think it's marginally better than Stargate SG-1, but it's never going to be great television - very cheesy throughout, with poor special effects and implausible plots. (My biggest issue with the Stargate shows: Why do all the alien civilizations speak English???) But if you like silly sci fi and are looking for something mildly entertaining that doesn't take itself seriously, it works. I just finished the whole series recently and tended to watch them mostly while I cooked. I got a lot of laughs out of it.
posted by something something at 7:53 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

No. It really doesn't.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:54 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

The two key features of SG1 that made me a fan - Doctor Who- or Indiana Jones-levels of peril and a vaguely plausible arc about scavenging and adapting alien tech, aren't really present in Atlantis. Kinda knocks it back to the level of Sliders or Quantum Leap. It gets better, but not much.
posted by Leon at 8:02 AM on October 6, 2011

My husband and I made it through all of SG-1, including the made for TV movies. It was really tough going by the end. He refused to even try Atlantis because he hated Rodney. so. much.

FWIW, I felt some of the weakest SG-1 episodes (and that's saying something) were those that crossed over with Atlantis. And anything with Cameron.
posted by chiefthe at 8:03 AM on October 6, 2011

It took me awhile to get into Stargate: Atlantis, but it got more engaging as I watched it. However, part of that was because of the crossovers with and callbacks to Stargate: SG-1, which I loved (even when it got bad toward the end0. I'm not sure I could have gotten into Atlantis at all without having already loved SG1. Maybe SG1 is a better place to start. It'll certainly provide you with a LOT of viewing material. :)
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:04 AM on October 6, 2011

As I understand it from fannish friends (although I've never seen the series myself), even the fanbase thinks the show is pretty terrible and finds it mostly fodder for fanfic. So it probably doesn't get better.

(A hilarious piece of trivia - or I find it hilarious - from the same friends: the people who created the show have no idea why all the aliens speak English; it came about because it was too difficult to plot around alien languages as had been tried in the first series. So there's some big complicated "the stargates have a translation function that encompasses the whole planet piece of fan lore that fans just made up.)
posted by Frowner at 8:11 AM on October 6, 2011

Well, do you like trashy scifi? Because if not, you will never get into SG:A. I happen to love trashy scifi. (Also, non-trashy scifi, though YMMV on what is trashy!) I watched all of SG:A and had a good time with it. I also watched it with a nerdy friend and a lot of what we enjoyed was picking apart some of the premises and plots and the parts that were just Star Wars homages.

SG:A does, in my opinion, get better, but it never becomes, well, good. It just improves, and becomes more the sort of thing that someone into ridiculous scific premises and people with PHDs fighting aliens can really enjoy.

Also, Rodney becomes more bearable. If that helps. (I ended up really liking the character.)
posted by fireflies at 8:16 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Plot-wise? No, it doesn't really get better. They don't even try to make things plausible or internally consistent, and the "reset button' is used liberally. Really the only reason to watch Atlantis is for the character banter, which can be pretty amusing, especially where Rodney McKay is involved. I am a fan of hard sf and silly sf alike and managed to get through the whole series, but only just. It walks a very fine line and imo takes itself more seriously than it should, given the amount of shiny deus-ex-machina it exhibits.
posted by aecorwin at 8:41 AM on October 6, 2011

Oh and I should add that I loved SG-1. Atlantis seemed to be "missing something" in comparison. Possibly the writers just got lazy in the spinoff.
posted by aecorwin at 8:44 AM on October 6, 2011

Possibly the writers just got lazy in the spinoff.

Nah...they waited until SG:U to do that.

Of the whole Stargate franchise, Atlantis is by far my favorite. I started watching it around Season 3, then went back for the first two and kept going from there.

SG:A, as others have noted, is better for its character interaction than the actual 'science' involved. "Tao of Rodney" (S4) and "The Shrine" (S5) explore a bit of the relationship between Sheppard and McKay, while we learn more about Ronon in episodes like "Sateda" (S3), "Reunion" (S4) and "Tracker" (S5).

If you want a really different SG:A episode, there's "Vegas" from S5 - Sheppard, McKay and the others are in a parallel universe where Sheppard never joined the Air Force, but became a detective.

And yes, Rodney does become more bearable as the seasons progress - though he never really gets over his attraction to Samantha Carter's *ahem* attributes.
posted by Telpethoron at 9:04 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I watched the first season, and I lost interest. I kind of liked the storylines with the underground atomic folks, but otherwise, blarg. The wraith were kind of meh for me, and I never really bought the main characters.

Then again, I love McKay and Beckett.

Honestly, Stargate lost me when they introduced ships. I liked the idea of the gate being the only way to travel, as silly as it was to meet the civilization of the week. Once they got the giant space-faring ships, it became "just another sci-fi show."
posted by SNWidget at 9:11 AM on October 6, 2011

Is that the series where Bill Nye, in a special appearance, knocks someone out with a right hook to the jaw? I also remember a freeze ray of some sort…
posted by Nomyte at 9:12 AM on October 6, 2011

Is that the series where Bill Nye, in a special appearance , knocks someone out with a right hook to the jaw? I also remember a freeze ray of some sort…

Yes, in Brain Freeze (S5). Also featuring Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
posted by Telpethoron at 9:15 AM on October 6, 2011

Ack...my kingdom for an EDIT button. It's Brain Storm.
posted by Telpethoron at 9:16 AM on October 6, 2011

I never really got into SG1, but watched a lot of Atlantis. I would most compare it to Star Trek TNG, in terms of "unsatisfying pat endings."

And I hear from people who hate Rodney, but he's my favourite.
posted by RobotHero at 9:18 AM on October 6, 2011

One word : Vampires.
No seriously ... Space Vampires.
You be the judge.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:19 AM on October 6, 2011

Like everyone has said, it depends on your definition of good, and also your love for cheesy sci-fi. I love cheesy sci-fi, and so I loved SGA*. If you are looking for serious, well thought out writing and plot, it is not the show for you. I loved the characters, many times despite the writing.

* I'm also a fanfic writer, so according to many this makes my opinions automatically suspect.
posted by crankylex at 9:21 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

No, it gets worse. And I'm not even a very critical watcher of sci-fi televesion.

The prematurely ended Stargate: Universe, on the hand, was campy but truly awesome. (But it's not for everyone; you kind of have to understand what they were trying to accomplish differently there.) For SGU I initially avoided the 2nd half of the final season—big mistake, that was the best part. Highly recommend it.
posted by polymodus at 9:42 AM on October 6, 2011

No, not at all.
posted by brand-gnu at 10:04 AM on October 6, 2011

It gets less episodic as the series progresses, so you get fewer "pat" endings--but the downside is that a bad idea gets carried much longer. Personally, I think there are some episodes that are actually quite good, but they're the exception rather than the rule.

I wouldn't have stuck it out if it wasn't for the fanfic. There is something about the show that made it incredibly popular in fandom, and I suspect that fandom is what kept it going so long...
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:30 AM on October 6, 2011

Yeah, no, it doesn't really get better. And this is coming from a fan of SGA. Like Frowner said, even the fandom thinks it was mostly terrible, and used the show more as fodder for reams and reams of fanfic than anything else. But the character interactions were amusing and interesting, and if you like trashy scifi, SGA is the show for you. Just don't expect much in the way of quality.
posted by yasaman at 10:53 AM on October 6, 2011

No, it really is crap. Don't waste your time.
posted by Decani at 11:57 AM on October 6, 2011

There's a continuum of goodness of the Stargate seasons. SG:A season 1 isn't as terrible as SG-1 season 10, for example. SG:A's later seasons are better than its earlier seasons, but there are standout bad and good episodes throughout, and there's some notable "we just don't have the energy to care because this is year 14 for us" writing and production issues. Actually, part of the trouble in the first few years of SG:A is that the producers were forced to continue making SG-1 episodes while also trying to build the series, and that's a bad idea.

I would say that for production quality, overall, you want SGU and nothing else (they spent the money on that one.) For character interaction, seasons 4/5 of SG:A and seasons 2-5 of SG-1 are probably the best. For science, you should be reading Asimov.

In terms of truly awesome episodes, I would say there are about half as many SG:A examples as SG-1. But it only lasted half as long. But the last two years of SG-1 were unbelievably awful. So.

I am also a huge McKay fan. HUGE. Even more than Q on Star Trek TNG, and that's really saying something. So I'm biased. Conversely, if Ronon were to die horrifically in an explosion and everyone danced and laughed and spat on his grave and then never ever mentioned him again, I'd consider it a significant improvement to the series.
posted by SMPA at 12:17 PM on October 6, 2011

SMPA has it. Well, except for the Rodney part, I would have been happy watching a show that was exponentially less The Rodney McKay Show and instead about the rest of the other characters.
posted by crankylex at 12:50 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed Stargate Universe and hadn't seen any other Stargate TV shows.
posted by dgeiser13 at 1:07 PM on October 6, 2011

My wife chimed in up the thread, so I figure I'll throw my 2 cents in. We both enjoy bad sci-fi (Hence watching sci-fi Saturday flicks such as DinoCroc and Mansquito) but when it comes to series I'm much more of a Galactica/Caprica/Stargate Universe kind of person. Crankylex disliked all of those with a great burning passion. I enjoyed SG-1 but that was perhaps because I loved the movie Oh, so much. Atlantis was for me what Andromeda was with Kevin Sore-butt; too silly, and waay too much camp for me. I fought through the first three seasons of Atlantis (Though I actually enjoyed the first season) but it went down hill fast for me after that.

Having mentioned the excess camp of Atlantis, I will say I do like Warehouse 13, and Eureka, both of which are serious in no way, shape or form.

If you liked Andromeda and Zena and Hercules, you have a much higher chance of liking Atlantis. YMMV if you didn't.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 1:36 PM on October 6, 2011

I remember some friends showing me an episode that involved an alien artifact that gave people cancer tumors - tumors that were bombs.
posted by yeloson at 1:41 PM on October 6, 2011

No. But SG:U is awesome. I was so sad when they cut it.
posted by media_itoku at 1:45 PM on October 6, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Yeah, I just watched another "space vampire" episode, and about 30 minutes in I realized I could not care less what happened next. Time to toss these up on eBay.
posted by the bricabrac man at 1:46 PM on October 6, 2011

Doh! I meant Xena. I love Lucy Lawless but that show was meh.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 3:18 PM on October 6, 2011

Actually, the show gelled in the second season, and the third was good. The fourth and wrap-up was meh. Also, it depends on how much you can tolerate Rodney McKay. I have a low McKay tolerance, so I only begrudgingly watched the show finish.

SG:U is far better-- loads of characters, some of whom have more than 2 dimensions, and it's a drama set on a spaceship, not an action show set in another galaxy. Science Fiction should be about humanity facing itself, not about cookie-cutter aliens and CGI battles. The only way SG:A could've been good is if it had been The Wire, developing the aliens as much as the heroes. They dallied with that a little bit, such as Conner Trineer's "Todd" character, and the scarface alien who turns up so much in the last season. By s4, though, Atlantis wasn't out of touch from Earth nearly as much.

Also, replicator rehash in the other galaxy-- snore. (Even if David Ogden Stiers did his turn.)
posted by Sunburnt at 3:54 PM on October 6, 2011

Sort of, I didn't much like the "space vampires" as a threat, as it felt weak. But they moved away from it a little, near the end, and added some other characters. I felt the last season was much more enjoyable to watch than the first.
posted by lundman at 5:43 PM on October 6, 2011

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