Stargate: Atlantis
Volume 4 (Season 1 - Vol 4)

Starring: Joe Flanigan, Torri Higginson, Rachel Luttrell, Rainbow Sun Francks and David Hewlett
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 13 June 2005

When members of the team show signs of an unusual infection, it is discovered to be caused by a nanite virus, which induces hallucinations and then death due to brain haemorrhage. Though the team attempts to disable the nanites with an electromagnetic pulse, they fail when the pulse is not strong enough. Can the deadly technology be stopped before it cuts down the entire city...?

Hot Zone sees the Atlantis team in a race against time. At stake are the lives of all onboard the station. While this is not a very original story, its execution is flawless. There's real tension in this episode and I loved the way that time after time a solution would appear only to evaporate before our eyes. This building up of hope and then flooding the viewer with a wave of disappointment really takes you on a roller coaster ride.

I was also a little concerned to see that the producers are already putting into place a race that will be more of a threat than the Wraith. Look away now if you don't want a small plot development spoiled... but it seems that the nanite virus has been specially designed to wipe out humanoid species but not by the Wraith. This now means that there is potentially another threat to humanity waiting in the wings.

A well plotted episode that doesn't disappoint.

The Atlantis team visits a pre-technological paradise and requests that they be allowed to bring refugees of Wraith attacks there for sanctuary. The locals refuse, believing that the goddess Athar has restricted their planet from colonisation by outsiders. But when Sheppard invites Athar's high priestess back to Atlantis, is he inviting trouble into their midst...?

Sanctuary is an interesting episode. Just when it starts to take itself a little too seriously the writers inject a little humour to ensure that everything lightens up a little. This is very welcome as the blossoming romantic relationship between Sheppard and Athar's high priestess is a little unbelievable - it just moves too quickly. I know that's how 45 minute episodes have to work, but it still moves a little too fast.

McKay makes some spot on references to Sheppard behaving like Star Trek's Captain Kirk (in the '60s TV series - not the movies) - always getting the new alien girl. There is also an amusing scene where, in the middle of a meeting, Sheppard asks if he can be alone with their guest for a few minutes - to which all in the room cry in unison: "No!"

Also this episode really brought home to me how out of order McKay is. He came across as more arrogant than usual and really does need to tone it down a little. Are there really people out there that just say whatever they think? Well, obviously there are, but wouldn't they be disciplined a little more in the profession McKay is in?

Even though it's rushed a little, I still found this to be an above average episode.

The Atlantis team discovers a stasis chamber holding a woman who appears to be over 10,000 years old. Excited by the possibility that she is one of the alien race that built Atlantis, the team decides to bring her out of stasis despite the risks to her health. But everyone is shocked when, once reanimated, the elderly woman identifies herself as none other than Dr. Weir...!

Before I Sleep sees Atlantis doing a Back to the Future - a film that McKay has issues with as he says: "Don't even get me started on that movie," when Sheppard mentions it.

The make-up effects in this episode are incredible and I was also impressed with Torri Higginson's acting as an older version of Weir. Normally, whenever someone is aged in this way (take for example Julian Bashir in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Season Three episode Distant Voices or any of the actors that were aged in Back to the Future II) they over act the ageing process. Not only that, but the eyes usually give away that there is a energetic, young actor under all those layers of rubber. That is certainly not the case here.

Back to the Future fans, as well as anyone who loves getting their heads around time travel stories, will be in their element here. A riveting tale from start to finish.

The Atlantis team travels to Dagan, a planet populated by a people whose ancestors once worshipped a ZPM as a religious symbol. But even as the team searches for keys to its whereabouts, the Genii have learned of their activities on Dagan and planted a sleeper agent amongst them. Now, with the Atlantis team closing in on the location of the ZPM, the Genii close in on them...!

The Brotherhood stars Robert Davi once again. The thing I love about his character is that he is not your stereotypical villain of the week. He is not a bad man at all, and is simply trying to help his people by any means necessary. This is not unlike the Atlantis team, who seem to have no problems with stealing from other cultures.

There is something of an Indiana Jones story being told here too. There are certainly elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark in the script. Some of the scenes openly pay homage to that movie. Davi's character is very much in the mould of Dr. Rene Belloq. And the scene with the Atlantis team trapped in the underground chamber is very similar to the scene in Raiders where Belloq stands above the Well of the Souls with Indy and Marian trapped below.

There is a very impressive time elapse scene. This episode starts with the Brotherhood fleeing the city as it is under attack. As they run outdoors you get to see a wonderful view of their city. This view then rapidly ages to depict crumbling city walls and buildings, and then the camera pans back to show the Atlantis team inside the main building, thousands of years later.

This is certainly the best episode in this collection.

Extras include Mission Directive featurettes for Before I Sleep and The Brotherhood. These are 14 minute extras that go behind the scenes of the filming of each episode. There is also a 22 minute featurette hosted by David Hewlett (who plays Dr McKay) - Behind the Stargate: Secrets Revealed - Part 1. This is pretty interesting and very funny and goes behind the scenes of both SG-1 and Atlantis. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing how this series of featurettes progresses.

There was one annoying aspect of this disc - which has grated on me for some time now with a lot of DVDs. Why do DVD producers insist on putting trailers at the start of these collections? Why not list them under additional features? Some DVD players are unable to skip these - which must be very annoying for anyone unfortunate enough to have to sit through them. It's not that they are bad - they are actually quite interesting, it's just that this is the sort of thing you expect when you rent a DVD or video, not when you've paid £20 for it - especially when it is the same collection of trailers on each disc.

Pete Boomer

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