Spoiler alert! Level: minor
As the fourth season launches, Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) the Atlantis commander lies in a coma. Without her expertise, the team muddles through a crisis situation.
Lt. Colonel John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) struggles to adjust as he assumes an unaccustomed leadership role as base commander, setting up a not-unexpected but intense conflict with the fast talking, socially inept physicist, Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett). As nerves fray, confident fly-boy Sheppard even seems – dare I say - a little hurt by McKay’s inadvertent slights.
Naturally, the only way to solve their problem (eventually) is to head deep into enemy Replicator territory.
Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion) is missed. He’s replaced by Jewel Staite who is very young and somewhat miscast as a medical doctor. She was probably recruited to attract the 18-34 Firefly demo (a good idea, in theory). She’s a lovely actor who has a lot of range, and she displays maturity beyond her years. In one scene she delivers bad news with believable feeling and compassion. I like her – a lot. I just think the series is better served if McGillion was permanently reinstated. Perhaps the writers could fashion a more appropriate role for the lovely and talented Staite.
In the early years, Sheppard was too much the wise-cracking, fly-boy cliche. But the character has deepened into a more complicated personna. In spite of his fly-boy swagger, and wry humor, he plays his part these days with a hint of vulnerability. Mallozzi says they’ll be exploring more of Sheppard’s backstory this season.
Torri Higginson was excised to make way for Tapping, a transition that could have been awkward. Tapping admitted (during our interview) she was “painfully aware” that Atlantis was “not my show.” “I wanted to be careful about how I approached it,” she said. But she also pointed out that the “cast has been phenomenal and David [Hewlett] and I have a long-standing relationship." (Hewlett’s McKay was first introduced as a character on SG-1.)
Tapping is transitioned without overriding the remaining veterans. The writers deserve some credit for finessing her introduction. Tapping looks better than ever in work overalls, and very fresh in minimal make-up, with her (now) long hair casually held back in a loose bun. And – oh, by the way – Carter’s been promoted.
For anyone still longing for Stargate SG-1, there are echoes of it in Atlantis. Carter’s sidekick is Dr. Bill Lee (Bill Dow), a SG-1 scientist with a penchant for stating the obvious. Chris Judge (SG-1’s Teal’c) makes an appearance later this season and Mallozzi hopes to cast more SG-1 actors. (See my upcoming interview with Joe Mallozzi for more.)