Stargate Atlantis is one of science fiction’s longest-running TV series. For 5 seasons (2004 to 2009), it followed an international team of scientists and military personnel led by Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) as the members discovered a Stargate network in the Pegasus Galaxy and went face-to-face with a new, powerful enemy, The Wraith.
Yes, the series had all the intergalactic bells and whistles–spacecraft, lasers, aliens (such as Jason Momoa playing Ronon Dex), and what have you–but was also infused with humor and had a number of episodes to appeal to even non-sci-fi fans such as “Outcast,” “Miller’s Crossing,” and “Vegas,” where the characters played alternate versions of themselves. Sheppard in particular, was no longer a self-confident, heroic leader but a scruffy, down on his luck Nevada detective.
Whether you’re a fan (the show has a cult-like following) or want to dip your toe into this award-winning series, the top episodes are a good place to start.
10 The Siege: Part 2 8.8
Season 1, Episode 19: Two hive ships are still approaching Atlantis and all hope seems lost until Colonel Everett (Clayton Landey) arrives suddenly from Earth. He is determined to defend the city until the arrival of a ZPM, brought by a new ship.
Colonel Dillon Everett: I want to know the status of those hive ships ASAP.
Dr. Rodney McKay: They’re coming. That’s their status. Tomorrow, the day after, the day after that…eventually, they’ll get here. Whether we’re here to greet them or not is another matter.
9 The Siege: Part 3 8.8
Season 2, Episode 1: The Daedalus arrives equipped with powerful equipment including beaming technology, and the two hive ships are destroyed. Atlantis seems saved, then Dr. Radek Zelenka (David Nykl) detects 12 more ships.
Meanwhile, Ford has been found. He should have been dead, but Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion) finds out he received an overdose of the Wraith enzyme. He’s now addicted to it and seems remarkably strong.
Dr. Elizabeth Weir: What are our options?
Dr. Rodney McKay: Well, let me see–we have slow death, quick death, painful death, cold lonely death…
8 Common Ground 8.8
Season 3, Episode 7: John Sheppard is kidnapped by renegade Commander Kolya who wanted to be the leader of the Genii but was ousted by Ladon Radim (Ryan Robbins). He will free Sheppard if Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) agrees to a prisoner exchange for Radim. Until then, Sheppard is locked in a dungeon with a Wraith. They develop a strange bond and work together to escape.
Lt. Colonel John Sheppard: You think you’re gonna make it?
Male Wraith: If I feed.
Lt. Colonel John Sheppard: Well, don’t look at me.
7 The Shrine 8.8
Season 5, Episode 6: Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett) is infected with a deadly illness known as “second childhood” which diminishes his mental capabilities into a child-like reverie and makes him gradually lose his memory.
His sister Jeannie arrived from Earth to be with him in what everyone believes will be his final days. Ronon suggests visiting a shrine where people in McKay’s state can go and become lucid for one last day.
Dr. Rodney McKay: Believe me, I’ve already forgotten more than most people will ever know.
6 The Lost Tribe 8.8
Season 5, Episode 11: The new race that stole the Wraith-killing device, as well as Rodney and Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), had an ancient grudge to settle, so they force Rodney to activate the device against the Wraith but the side effect is that it could kill millions throughout the galaxy.
Angered by this, the Wraith absconded with the Daedalus in retaliation. Once again, the lowly humans had to take control of a messy situation to keep the races from wreaking havoc in the galaxy.
5 Enemy At The Gate 8.8
Season 5, Episode 20: In the series finale, the Atlantis team is contacted by Todd the Wraith (Christopher Heyerdahl), now marooned on a planet because his underling has taken over the Wraith hive ship that has been transformed into an invincible weapon.
While those on Atlantis try to destroy the ship, it jumps to hyperspace with a very clear destination: Earth. Sheppard is ordered home to man their best defense while Teyla (Rachel Luttrell), Ronon, and McKay find themselves battling the Wraith from within their ship. In the end, Atlantis must travel to Earth for the final battle.
4 The Last Man 8.9
Season 4, Episode 20: After searching for the missing Teyla, Sheppard returns to Atlantis, only to find it deserted, except for a hologram of an aged Dr. McKay who explains that a solar flare had sent him 48,000 years into the future. Once Sheppard learns the demise of Atlantis and everyone on it, he must find a way to potentially change all of this.
Todd the Wraith: I was going to write an elaborate program designed to slowly create a fatal error in the primary capacitor, but I doubt there’ll be time for that now.
Ronon Dex: I was just gonna blow it up.
3 Midway 9.0
Season 4, Episode 17: The IOA is conducting interviews to ensure that Atlantis personnel are suitable for their roles.
Teyla reports back to Atlantis and Ronan and Teal’C (Christopher Judge) return to Earth. The Midway station set up as a place for travelers to serve a 24-hour quarantine is boarded by the Wraith, via the stargate, with the intention to travel to Stargate Command on Earth. What ensues is a battle between the Wraith and the team of Teal’C and Ronan, for control of Stargate Command.
2 First Contact 9.0
Season 5, Episode 10: Dr. Daniel Jackson comes to Atlantis in search of a lost Atlantian room. The discovery reveals a new race. Daniel and McKay are kidnapped by the new race and are forced to finish a device that may kill the Wraith. Todd feels betrayed and takes the Daedalus.
Dr. Daniel Jackson: Look, they stripped us of everything but the clothing on our backs and surrounded us with laser walls. I’m not sure how much play we have here.
Dr. Rodney McKay: We’ve got one thing going for us, at least.
Dr. Daniel Jackson: What’s that?
Dr. Rodney McKay: We’re not dead yet.
1 Be All My Sins Remembered 9.1
Season 4, Episode 11: This episode features some of the biggest space battles ever seen in the Stargate Universe with Asgard weaponry.
Replicators are looking for human-inhabited planets with the endgame of wiping out all life, then the Wraith will eventually die out, as they would have no humans to feed on. Those on Atlantis use 2 Earth ships to wipe out the Replicator spacecraft. They respond by calling their fleet back to orbit their own planet. To even the odds, Colonel Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) forges an alliance with the Wraith who agrees to destroy the Replicator ships and their colony.
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