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Featured TV on Blu-ray Review: Stargate: Atlantis: Complete Series Megaset

August 4th, 2011

Stargate: Atlantis: Complete Series Megaset - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Stargate: Atlantis was a spin-off of Stargate: SG-1. This is not the first time this five-year series has been released on the home market. It's not even the first time the show has been released on a Complete Series Megaset. But it is the first time it's coming out on Blu-ray. (Not counting the three-episode Fan Choice Blu-ray.) Because of that, and the fact that it is a 20-disc / Three-day Megaset, it's the Blu-ray specs that are of most interest.

The Show

For those that are familiar with the Stargate franchise from the beginning, the basic premise is relatively simple. For those who have never heard of the franchise, topics like Stargates and Ancients might leave you a little confused. Stargate: Atlantis is not the best place to jump into the show and watching the movie is the fastest way to get caught up to speed, but there are many characters from Stargate: SG-1 that make appearances from time to time.

In the beginning of this series, technology from the Ancients is found beneath the ice in Antarctica, and through the research of Dr. Daniel Jackson, they may have found where the Ancients went. They took the City of Atlantis and flew away to the Pegasus Galaxy. Now a group of scientists (Elizabeth Weir, Dr. Rodney McKay, Dr. Carson Beckett, and later Dr. Jennifer Keller, Samantha Carter) and soldiers (Marshall Sumner, John Sheppard, Aiden Ford, and others) find a way to jump to this address, with the use of a powerful energy source. However, because of the enormous energy required to dial up such a distant gate, they might not have the energy to get back.

When they get to their destination, they find the Lost City of Atlantis, and just like the myths said, the city had sunk beneath the ocean, just not any ocean on Earth. The initial euphoria of the successful jump and the wonder of learning where they are ends when they realize not only can they not get back to Earth, there's not enough power to run the shields for more than a few days, and when the shields fail, the ocean will crush the city. They also learn that the enemy that hunted the Ancients nearly to extinction, the Wraiths, are still around and are now coming after them. They do make some allies, like Teyla Emmagan and later Ronon Dex, but they also make numerous enemies over the years (Genii, Replicators, and more).

I'm leaving out a lot of details, because it's a five-year show and even little details quite quickly add up to major spoilers. (I didn't even get to Robert Picardo, because mentioning how he fits into the cast and when is too far into spoiler territory.) But that's enough detail to get you into the TV series.

There's a rather heated debate among fans of the franchise over which series is better: Stargate: Atlantis or Stargate: SG-1. It is a very close call and both shows are extremely well done. In my opinion, this show is slightly better, with Dr. Rodney McKay being the tiebreaker early on and Dr. Jennifer Keller helping in later episodes as well. The fact that the Atlantis team is stranded in another galaxy helps separate it from its predecessor, even though they are interconnected with some characters and storylines in both. There are more conflicts here than in the earlier series, which is very team oriented, although not nearly as much as in Stargate: Universe. They are more like a dysfunctional family and not two factions that may actually try to kill each other at any moment.

Fans of the movie, or of either series that came before or after will also want to check out this show. Hell, fans of Sci-fi TV shows in general (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica remake, etc.) should check out this series as well. It might be useful to start from an earlier point in the franchise, but it is certainly worth the effort.

The Extras

There's a good news / bad news situation on the extras. The bad news is, there doesn't appear to be any Blu-ray exclusives and all of the featurettes are in standard definition. The good news is this 20-disc set is loaded. Nearly every episode has an audio commentary track (I think there's a dozen episodes that don't have audio commentary tracks, out of one hundred episodes that were made). With a very wide range of participants, you get to hear a huge amount of information from a wide variety of different points of view. It would take more than three days straight to watch all of the episodes, so to listen to all of the audio commentary tracks would take about two and two thirds days, and no, I did not listen to them all. Or even most of them. There are about four hours of Mission Directives, which are behind-the-scenes featurettes on specific episodes. Interviews with just about every cast member and many of the crew that run a combined two or three hours. Behind-the-scenes featurettes on the locations, the stunts, the make-up, the costumes, etc., etc., etc. that add another couple hours to the Blu-ray's extras. Deleted scenes, outtakes, season wrap-ups, etc. add about two hours more. I think it would take a full week to explore every part of this set.

Looking in on the technical specs, we also get good news and bad news, and like the extras, the good news overwhelms the bad news by a large, large margin. For the most part, the show looks great. The level of detail is amazing, the colors pop, the shadows are deep without swallowing up details, contrast is strong, etc. There is an issue with consistency, as some episodes do look better than others and watching the show in a marathon setting you will notice this. Also, and here's a complaint that might seem a bit unfair, some of the special effects look dated. It's a basic cable TV series, so the budget wasn't huge. Plus, the special effects were made before High Definition was a consideration. (The first Blu-ray was released just before the third season debuted.) Don't get me wrong, overall it is still amazing and maybe it would rate a seven or eight out of ten, compared to a nine or ten out of ten for Lost, which at the time was the best TV on Blu-ray release I reviewed. The audio is as good as the video, but more consistent. The dialogue is clear, which is the most important aspect. The surround sound speakers do get a work out, as does the bass from time to time. This is certainly the best the show has looked or sounded.

Finally we get to the price. The list price for the Blu-ray Megaset is the same as the list price for the previously released DVD Megaset. Granted, the discount is much deeper for the DVD at the moment, but that's to be expected. You can't accuse the studio of trying to gouge its fans with this set.

The Verdict

The city of Atlantis never existed. I don't mean people used to think it existed, but it has since fallen into mythology, like Zeus, or Hercules, etc. I mean when it was first mentioned, it was mentioned as a hypothetical island. It was never meant to be taken as literally true. There are probably more people alive today that think it really did exist than there were in the time of Plato. That has nothing to do with the show, just an interesting fact that I was reminded of while I was watching the show.

Stargate: Atlantis: Complete Series Megaset - Blu-ray is absolutely worth picking up for fans of the franchise, or for fans of Sci-fi in general. It's a great show with amazing writing and a fantastic cast, while the 20-disc set is loaded with extras, and the upgrade to High Definition audio and video is worth the price and worth the upgrade. It's a Pick of the Week contender for sure.

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