I have to say, I’m not sorry to see Atlantis go.

I know, I know, it’s a terrible thing to say, especially about a big-budget franchise show when they’re so few and far between. It’s great to see a show get the clout and capital to create scifi, because the genre is so pricey that few shows can do it at all.

But the last episode came and went, and in my mind … it went with a whimper.

It was a fine idea, to spin off the Stargate franchise and send some explorers to another galaxy where—and to me, this is where the fine idea ends—they do battle with another galaxy-wide bad guy who wants to enslave everyone and feed off of them. The Stargate team still fights them with crude weaponry (guns vs. blasters? Come on!) and always winds up victorious.

I’m not saying it was a terrible program, in fact, I appreciated watching it since before it became the flagship science fiction program on the SciFi channel. They had some really good writing, some good moments.

But the one flaw that I could never get past were the characters that were drawn up for this show. The “cast design,” if you will. They never gelled for me the way they did for SG-1, and they always seemed all wrong:

Sheppard. It was clear from his name what his role was supposed to be. But he never seemed to break out; he was always kind of a one-note character: “I don’t understand what’s happening, but if you can’t magically fix it, Rodney, we’ll shoot our way out of it.” There wasn’t that above-it-all of O’Neill’s character.

McKay. Easily the strongest character in the show. But he shouldn’t have been. He was, in a sense, the comic relief. The hapless technological go-to guy. Carter and Jackson were in similar roles, but never became the focus of the show. I think it was probably easier to write for him and that’s why he was featured so prominently.

Tayla. The most disappointing character. Completely underdeveloped, but left in the mix nonetheless. I’m not sure what I would have done with her character were I writing for the show, but I think making her the “queen” of her people was an odd choice. Where does she go within her tribe? She’s already at the top! And I think that influenced her character too much. She always had this air of “I’m a queen, I don’t have to be with you people, but I choose to.” Teal’c wasn’t the leader of his tribe; but he became one. Like Spock. There was a sense of progression within the context of the show. Tayla was always just “there,” the girl-who-kicks-ass which itself has become a stereotype. She served no real function, except to round out the team.

And then when she became pregnant … well, it’s fine have your characters bear children, but she really became a nonentity after that. And I could see the problem: how do you responsibly send a new mother through the gate and into harm’s way, each and every week?

Ronin. By the fifth season, I was finally seeing some acting. If you really needed a 210-lb hulk of muscle to run around and do the dirty work, it seems to me that there are loads of actors with cut abs who have got their chops down. I don’t know how many times the scene’s attention would be directed toward him and he would have this look on his face like he was still waiting for the director to yell “action!”

And the fact that they could never find anyone to truly take command of the facility. The writers always seemed to put characters into roles that they didn’t quite fit into: Elizabeth Weir always seemed like a DHS case worker unluckily put in charge of an alien outpost. Carter was fine, but didn’t have that gravity that General Hammond did. The bald guy just seems out of place. (Oh yeah, Wolsey.) He works, but shouldn’t there be someone from the military commanding?

My biggest pet peeves, however, were simply the stories themselves. Week after week, they just seemed to be lukewarm episodes of Stargate: SG-1. Not recycled, but poor imitations. There were few episodes that seemed extraordinary, few that really blew my socks off. Week after week the team would find itself in a semi-interesting position and then magically solve it without any serious repercussions. Unlike SG-1, at the end of each episode we always seemed to wind up back where we started: safe and secure. Where was the sense of exploring a new galaxy? Where were the new and interesting races? The Genii were pretty interesting, but even they seemed like one-note pianos: warfare.

So what would I have done differently? I don’t really know. As I watch an episode, any given episode, I find myself thinking about that and scratch my head. Take the series finale, for instance. The big climax was nothing more than Atlantis having to fight a big Wraith ship. Really? And they have to come back to Earth to do it? And the deus ex machine that RODNEY invents: “wormhole flight.” Uh, okay. This was how they magically got back to Earth just in time to blow up the evil ship. Nobody died, nobody got hurt, even Todd was just fine. Right back at square one: all safe and secure.

We left them staring at San Francisco, where presumably in a few years Starfleet will be building their headquarters.

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