Stargate Atlantis: What was SUPPOSED to have happened?

Kevin Long
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I’m not sure if a show that’s been dead and gone for five years can have spoilers, but I may have some here.

If I have one big beef about the ‘Gate franchise, it’s that it’s dead. If I have two beefs, the second is that none of the shows got a really proper sendoff. My third beef is how Altantis went completely off the rails in season 4, never recovered, and then ended abruptly. Atlantis was originally conceived of (In quite a different format) as a vehicle for Amanda Tapping’s “Samantha Carter” character, who would have been the star. Initially it would have been set in Antarctica, then on Venus, but as SG1 was perpetually renewed, this proved untenable and the whole show was moved to the Pegasus Irregular Dwarf Galaxy. This was probably for the best.

Judging from the premier movie, the basic premise of Atlantis was to have been: We’re cut off from earth, we’re at war with the wraith, we’re living in a big ancient city that is perpetually energy starved and only partially functioning, we’ve taken in a tribe of locals, and we’re forced to trade for supplies and stuff.

That’s not remarkably dissimilar from Stargate: Universe.

Much of this was dropped early on. Teyla’s people effectively disappear 2 or 3 episodes in to season 1, the ‘short on supplies, forced to rely on trade’ thing was abandoned at the same time regular contact with earth was established at the start of season 2, and while the wraith were a kickass enemy, they were more of a frustration than a real danger through much of the run of the series. Then in season 3, the suits at Skiffy started mandating changes – kill off someone, we don’t care who. Bring in Carter. Bring in someone to replace Carter.

Some of these changes were for the best – such as establishing regular contact to earth, and I think Colonel Caldwell added a lot to the show – as the ‘Let’s find a ZPM’ episodes were always tedious. I’m not convinced that wasn’t intended to happen at some point in the show’s run anyway, though perhaps not exactly when, where, and how it was ultimately filmed. Other things, like bringing Sam in, were disastrous, and the show never recovered. Around the same time Shepherd starts receding into the background (He’s the freakin’ star!) and it became “The Rodney McKay Show!”

I don’t think that SGA had a Straczynskiesque “Six Year Plan” (The show was signed for 6 seasons up front, they ended it a year early for reasons that are still contentious and debated), but they do generally seem to have a plan for the season before it starts, and given they had a commitment to six seasons, I think they probably had an endgame in mind when they started. They knew Season 1, and they probably knew the last 5 or 10 episodes from Season 6, conceptually, but everything in between would have been/was figured out as they went along.

So what was the plan? How can we know?

Well, those in charge aren’t going to give us a nice Robert Hewett Wolfe one-act play telling us the way the show was SUPPOSED to go down, dammit, but we can make some surmises.

Many of the plights SGA faced were similar to ones faced in SGU: Ancient tech, no supplies, semi-totally cut off, eventually they have to deal with human aliens in their midst. A second-in-command who’s way the hell too young, thrown into the position by bad luck, and who’s dealing with substantial guilt issues. I’ve had a hunch since about 5 episodes into SGU that much of it was what the producers had *HOPED* to be able to do with SGA, but weren’t able to.

That’s not to say SGU was a ‘do over,’ just that the shows were similar enough on a basecode level that some unused-but-planned elements from SGA could be salvaged and used on the new show. Working backwards, then, we can surmise some of the stuff that would have happened on SGA.

First thing to notice: Season 5 of SGA chugs along chug chug chug, they’re introducing new story elements, then – bam – the last two episodes happen and they don’t fit at all. They’re unrelated to the rest of the season. SGA seems to have known they were getting cancelled a year early late in the season (Gate seasons are always written and ready to go by the time they start shooting for the year), and they probably surmised it considerably earlier. Otherwise, why introduce plot threads like the cyborg aliens and the “Federation” and the Pegasus Galaxy Asgard that are never going to be revisited, much less resolved?
My hunch is they would have said “Oh, crap! We’re getting cancelled. Scrap the scripts for the final two episodes, and let’s use as much of our intended endgame as we can.”

What that means is that I think the series was always intended to end with Atlantis returning to earth, just probably in a less abrupt, less rushed fashion, in a 2 or 3-part finale, which would have been epic and cooler. (A lot of neat stuff happens in the SGA finale as filmed, and yet it’s strangely sugarless and flat)

-What of Weir? She would have ascended. Duh. Eli very likely ascends at the end of SGU, and that seems to have been the arc for his character from day one ("Eli" means "Ascended" in Hebrew). Weir was always bringing it up, when the subject arose she was the knowledgeable one. She would have ascended, and in the process done something that would have allowed Atlantis to save the day.

-What of Sheppard? Harder to figure, but I think he would have hooked up with Teyla. The producers seem to have been interested in that, despite the utter lack of chemistry between the actors. This was set up in the pilot, there are several out-of-nowhere awkward moments between them, and the “Stargate: Extinction” script eventually has them settling down together.

-What of the Wraith? I think the idea of a federation was probably there from the outset, with the various races and species of Pegasus putting together a unified front against the wraith. This would eventually have won, forcing most of the wraith out of the galaxy entirely, and forcing others to hide in hibernation.

The escaping wraith would doubtless have attacked earth, which would have led to the huge crazy battle sequence that would have been similar to what we saw, but much, much better. Such wraith as hid in hibernation would be treated by some *WORKING* version of the Hoffan Drug Retrovirus Thingie so that when they emerged, they’d be human.

That’s my theory. I’ve limited myself to no wishful thinking, this is simply what I honestly believe would happen had the show continued. What do you think?
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Kevin Long is eight kinds of awesome, and is the former head writer of Republibot. He’s since left the band and gone solo. You should check out his website here: http://www.kevin-long.com It’s effortlessly interesting, and you can buy his very-well-reviewed books there.
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