Stargate: Atlantis "Rising" (May 29/05)
In a somewhat unusual and unprecedented move, MGM Home Entertainment is releasing the pilot episode of Stargate: Atlantis as a stand-alone DVD. The episode, entitled "Rising," admittedly does work by itself, yet it's hard not to wish that the studio had just included it as part of a box set featuring season one in its entirety.
The series kicks off with appearances from two central Stargate: SG-1 characters, Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) and Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks). Apparently, the lost city of Atlantis has been found and is now accessible via Stargate. A crew has been assembled to investigate, though they have been told it will likely be impossible for them to return home (the trip requires too much power). Upon arriving, though, they discover that Atlantis' shield (which protects the city from the tons of water around it) is on the verge of collapse - prompting team leader Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) to send out a team in search of alternative power sources.
As a pilot episode, there's no denying that "Rising" gets the job done. It effectively sets up the situation and characters, while also telling a story that features the same sort of wry humor and larger-than-life action sequences that fans have come to expect from the Stargate series. And while the characters occasionally seem a little too similar to their SG-1 counterparts - something that's particularly true of Joe Flanigan's John Sheppard, a wise-cracking hero who's clearly been patterned after SG-1's Jack O'Neill - that's something that's easy enough to overlook, thanks to the better-than-expected performances (David Hewlett, playing a scientist named Rodney McKay, is certainly a standout).
As an introduction to Stargate: Atlantis, "Rising" undoubtedly excels - but there's also a certain level of frustration involved in watching just one episode of an ongoing storyline. Here's hoping that MGM eventually affords Stargate: Atlantis the same sort of season-by-season treatment they've given SG-1...