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October 6, 2015

Stargate Atlantis: The Last Man (season finale)

by Brett Love, posted Mar 8th 2008 9:54AM

David Hewlett and Joe Flanigan - Stargate Atlantis
(S04E20) "This is the most elaborate practical joke of all time, or I'm in serious trouble." -- John Sheppard

And there you have it. Atlantis wraps up its fourth season, its first out on its own, with a little time travel and a big cliffhanger ending. It was a finale that I had heard described as "different." Having now seen it, it's hard to argue with the description. Having 56 minutes of your finale be things that didn't actually happen is certainly not the norm. While we can probably all agree on the different label, the bigger question is, "Was it good?"

First up, Sheppard's trip 48,000 years into the future and the fates of the team. Fates that didn't ultimately happen that is. McKay references the SG-1 episode "1969" as he explains things to Sheppard, but for me the whole endeavor called to mind "Unending." Generally, I'm not a fan of these "what if" or "alternate reality" stories. I'm not really that big on time travel in general. It's just asking for trouble. Dr. Who is the only show that has ever consistently done it in a way that I didn't ultimately find lacking.

With that in mind, I wasn't all that enthused as McKay kicked off his tales of woe for the team's post-Sheppard adventures. The McKay/Sheppard banter was good, but we all new that none of this was going to actually happen. Each of the stories did have their moments, but I couldn't help thinking that the first 56 minutes of the hour were taken up by things that didn't actually happen. All while Michael was running about, hatching evil super-villain plans. Given a choice, I would have preferred an hour spent on that.

What I did get out of the future that never happens (or did happen but is now erased, or exists in another dimension with monkeys and typewriters... Time travel, asking for trouble.) was a couple hints at what might be coming in the futures of some of the characters. Carter, for instance. I like the idea that she'll leave her post at Atlantis to take command of her own ship much more than the IOC forcing her out so they can gain more control.

And that McKay/Keller romance... Or maybe that should be Rodney/Jennifer romance, because McKay/Keller calls up visions of TV Squad's Rich Keller smooching McKay, and none of us want to see that. Either way, I think it looks like we'll be getting more of that as we move into season five.

Ronon and Teyla didn't offer up a lot in their flash forwards. In fact, I thought Ronon's was the one that didn't quite fit. Sure, the loss of Sheppard and Teyla would weigh heavy on our old pal Mr. Dex, and that could certainly cause some behavioral changes. But he sure seemed awfully quick to partnering up with Todd back at the base, as opposed to just shooting him on sight. I suppose we can give that one a pass though because future Rodney was making the story up without any of the actual facts, as both of them died in the explosion and there was nobody to tell the tale.

Now, the worrisome bit of the whole shootin' match for me was Woolsey. Our first little look at what it might look like with him in charge at Atlantis really didn't do much for me. It's certainly not fair to judge the whole idea based on this brief little bit that didn't even happen, or did, and then... We'll have to wait and see what season five Woolsey brings to the table. For now though, my expectations meter has swung to the pessimistic side where he is concerned.

As to the four minutes of real time story we got, there's really not much to say. Galaxy going to hell, our heroes in peril, freeze frame and give 'em the to be continued graphic. Pretty standard stuff for a season finale. More from that part of the story would have been better, but it is what it is. On the positive side, with the return of Michael and the disappearance of Teyla, they have set up a great story that should get season five off to a running start.

And finally, given that this was the season finale, we should probably hammer out a grade for the Atlantis report card before we send them off on summer vacation to do something cool, like surf big waves at Waimea. It was an important season for the show, being the first without the protection that came from being paired with SG-1.

It wasn't all smooth sailing. With the whole season now in the rear view, I'd call the Carter move less than successful. I don't think it was a bad idea so much as it was just poorly executed. The limited episodes made it tough, but what they did with those limited episodes didn't measure up to being all that it could have been. On a similar note, the handling of Weir, or I suppose it's better put as the handling of Torri Higginson, really didn't work out very well. And that's unfortunate, because I think the repli-Weir story that they teased had some legs.

My only other complaint with the season would have been one of balance. I would have preferred that balance to swing a little more toward the team and greater mythology side of the scale. I'd call that one a minor gripe though, as many of those episodes that did leave members of the team waiting in the wings played very well. At the end of the day the season had a good amount of progress on the greater Atlantis story, and a nice bit of character growth for all of our main players, except Zelenka. It had more character assassination for him, but that is his lot in life it would appear.

All things considered, for me season four gets a solid B. And that will do it for a little while. We'll pick things back up in the fall, or possibly summer, with a new commander, more Beckett, and a visit from Daniel Jackson. Until then, we'll have to make due with Battlestar.

That's a wrap. What grade do you give season four?
A - Top notch all around.164 (22.4%)
B - Room for improvement, but solid.355 (48.6%)
C - Average, but I'm still watching.147 (20.1%)
D - Why the hell am I still watching again?38 (5.2%)
F - You bastards!27 (3.7%)

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Mack Swift

Fun episode and a great 4th season all around. While not without it's faults, I enjoyed every episode.

I love the alternate time-line/time traveling story. They're always fun what/if stories. I would have liked to see Shep thaw out and jump through the gate just as the planet was biting the dust from the red giant.

The funniest (most fun) part was the Ronin/"Todd" fight.

"Force of Habit."

Thanks to the entire SGA cast, crew and writers for another fun and enjoyable season.

March 12 2008 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

("Window of Opportunity" is my FAV. SG-1 episode... just lilke a lot of fans... LOL)

I guess I am one of those freaky sci-fi people who really enjoy alternate story lines, and alternate time lines.... so I enjoied this episode a lot.

I *LOVED* the way Carter went down in a "blaze of glory" if you will. Fit totally.

As for the season in general... I haven't liked the previous seasons, but watched it because of SG-1 and well... Hubby liked it. I think they did ok... but the Weir thing has left a nasty taste in my mouth. I hope (I mean wish) that Torri Higginson and TPTB would kiss and make up. Ok... TPTB kiss Torri Higginson and make up.

Anyway nice episode, and with it coming back in July I think it was a perfect ending.

March 12 2008 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lorne-ly Lady

Did it work for me? Yes, and no. In a way, that's kind of representative of the whole entire season. It certainly isn't one of my least favorite episodes (I leave any Ronon-centric episode to have that dubious honor), but it will never rank up there with some of the ones I love and re-watch regularly.

That said, though... General Lorne! I LOVE it! He's my favorite character on the show (along with Sheppard and Teyla), and to see him being recognized for all he has done for Atlantis and the SGC was the highlight of the episode. So what if it might not really come to pass? You never know, do you? Maybe that part of the future will still come to be.

And yes, we finally get concrete proof of his first name. General E. Lorne. E for Evan. Thank TBTP for giving him a first name that actually fits him. Now if they would only give him more screen time. LOTS more screen time. . .

March 09 2008 at 5:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I enjoyed the finale although I'm sort of disappointed they didn't actually show how Shepard got out of there (future) but instead opted out to explain it with loads of exposition.

For me the alternative universe thing kind of reeked of the writers and show creators testing out certain things about character development so that they'll have some idea how fans will react to Woolsey being in charge, Carter being gone and in command of a vessel and even the Rodney/Jennifer thing. If the fans react to Woolsey badly they might want to soften him up a little etc.

I also feel that the whole Rodney/Jennifer thing is a very Stargate way of handling personal relationships. Meaning, we get a glimpse of them in an "alternative future" type situation and then that will be that. Besides, didn't they kind of hint that Jennifer might be interested in Ronan and not Rodney? I think we might see that developed instead if at all. I for one opt on the no romantic relationship route :)

I also agree with you on the handling of the Carter storyline. It was weak and I felt so sorry for Amanda Tapping because she was so under used and all in all had weak storylines.

I also feel really bad for Torri Higginson, I think that she got shafted after being on the show for so long and becoming an integral part of it. I agree, the repli-Weir story could have been interesting but they did that on SG-1 with the repli-Sam so it was hardly an original idea (not that any of the Atlantis storylines are particularly original... loads of them are recycled from SG-1 and other sci-fi shows).

I must say, I'm really enjoying the whole Michael as a super villain storyline much more than just having the Wraith as a general villain. Hopefully he'll continue to be a pain in the team's beehind because it sure gives us interesting stories.

March 09 2008 at 5:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The one thing that stood out this season is the overuse of the flashback as a story telling device. Usually there is a 5 minute intro, then the rest of the episode takes place in the past - "3 days ago" or "72 hours ago". I got really tired of seeing that!

March 08 2008 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The problem with Atlantis has always been casting. That first season was great, a lot of exploring interesting stories.

It seems that after that, everything went downhill. They started messing with the cast and anchored everything back to the earth story. The second they got rid of Ford it all went to hell. Its not that Ford was a good character, but it began the trend of just abandoning stories and characters and replacing them with SG-1 stuff. Ford for a Teal'c clone, abandoned in a new galaxy for Earth, Carter for Weir, etc.

I still like the show and enjoyed this very solid episode, but I am not optimistic about the future.

March 08 2008 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I generally agree with this review: these alternate future stories have little emotional impact, at least for me, because I know that sooner or later a "reset button" will be pushed. This happened by the end of the episode and will probably happen again at the beginning of season 5. They're certainly not going to kill off the remaining central cast.

It's very difficult to understand recent casting choices, especially the offing of Carson in the 3rd season and the demoting of Weir in the 4th. My guess is that the show is going for ratings--which makes sense--and Amanda Tapping, who had one year left in her Stargate contract, held the promise of bringing in a bigger crossover audience from SG-1. The problem, as others have pointed out, was not just her frequent absences but also the fact that she didn't ever really seem to be good ol' familiar Carter at all this season. She was more compelling and enjoyable as an hallucination in season 2's "Grace Under Pressure" than she ever was in season 4. I don't blame the actress, though, but the writers: what the heck was she given to do?

Still, Atlantis remains great at picking up on little plot details from previous episodes and bringing back excellent characters including Todd the Wraith, Michael, and Jeannie Miller. It's great to see all of these again, even in futures that will never happen. My favorite bit in the finale, though: General Lorne.

March 08 2008 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Personally, I loved this episode. It gave clarity to the various strengths of the characters. When Sheppard was removed from the current timeline they did not have his strategic drive to push to find Teyla. He thinks outside of the box like O'Neil did and without him they failed in the rescue mission. Something that would not have happened with him there. Sam was shown in all of her glory, fighting the PTB to take care of the people in the Pegasus galaxy. She did the genius stuff with McKay and then did the strategic fighting. She died saving her people and taking out as many bad guys as should could. I loved seeing that she was Sam - the real Sam - to the end.

I thought Ronan was believable. He is loyal to Teyla and Sheppard. He is not like Teal'c who was loyal to the people of Earth. With them gone, I think that he would go out and work with training like he did. He is a fighter who hates the wraith. I think he worked with Todd because of the greater good and because Sheppard had worked with him.

I liked the McKay/Keller line. Two outcasts because of their brilliance. They were included in the "family" on Atlantis, perhaps the first time either one of them felt like they belonged. Keller insecurities balanced Rodney's arrogance. I thought that felt strong and true

Each character saved the day in a way. It felt heroic and genuine. I don't watch sci-fi for canon and believability. I watch it because it takes you worlds away where evil can be conquered, people can be heroic and genius can save the day. The sci-fi aspect takes it away from our current problems in the world so it can be true escapism.

March 08 2008 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Morjana Coffman

No secret here, but I enjoyed the heck out of SGA's season four.

Sure, there were a few bumps in the road, but the majority of the bumps: Lack of Teyla (due to actress real life pregnancy), lack of Carter (due to actress filming the two SG1 movies at the same time) -- were created by real life concerns.

I also like time travel stories. "The Last Man" was a nice nod to "Red Dwarf," and SG1's "1969" and "Unending" but there's also a possibility for a nod to "Window of Opportunity" especially in the season five premiere episode, "Search and Rescue."

And hopefully SGA's season five will premiere in July '08 as has been hinted at recently by a variety of sources (TV Guide Online for one).

Bravo! to the new showrunners, Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, and many thank you's to the entire cast, staff, and crew of Stargate Atlantis for a job well done!


March 08 2008 at 3:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with just about every sentiment said here. Woolsey I'll give a pass one since that timeline won't really happen, but man he did not look good in the uniform. It would be much better if he stuck with the business casual look Weir often had.

As it's first season along, I thought Atlantis did well for itself in most cases. I think you're right, the stand along episodes that featured only a few members of the team didn't work, but I also think Rachel Luttrel's real-life pregnancy had a lot to do with that.

The Carter/Weir situation was probably the biggest failure of the season. Two great characters and actress were ill-used and poorly written. Now, we'll probably never see Weir again considering the bad feelings between Higginson and the producers, but if Hollywood and science fiction we can never really say never, can we?

On a positive note, I think the series is well situated to have a strong season 5. Hell, what else does the Sci Fi Channel have to offer?

March 08 2008 at 2:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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