What Could Have Been: Stargate Atlantis Season 6? TV Movie?

AtlantisThe demise of Stargate Atlantis has long been a point of contention in the Stargate fandom. While the story of how it ended has changed over the years, the commonly believed version is that Atlantis was canceled to make room for Stargate Universe, which aimed to take the franchise in new (not necessarily fan-approved) directions. The truth is a bit more complex, but even at the end of its run, Atlantis was popular, with solid ratings, an active fanbase, and growing good will for accepting and addressing some of the more common criticisms of the show. Whether its cancellation was deserved or not, we have to face the fact that with the reboot in the works, there’s no going back to Atlantis. With that in mind, the show’s writers have been uncommonly open about their plans, particularly Joe Mallozzi, who posted in great detail what he felt he could share about Stargate Atlantis season 6. There’s a lot to dig through, however, so I’m going to try to condense it all in one place.

The first plans for Stargate Atlantis season 6 began, naturally, bouncing around the writer’s room in season 5. It’s not uncommon for leftover ideas that didn’t make the cut for one season to be brought up again in the context of the next (One famous case of this is the recycling of an old Star Trek: Phase II script in The Next Generation during the writer’s strike of 1988, effectively using an idea that had laid dormant for over a decade). Mallozzi posted a photo of a whiteboard containing a list of potential episodes, roughly in order, that would make up a sixth season. Most of these are little more than premises and some even less than that, such as “a story about the Asuran Replicators.” A few of them, however, were decently well developed. Here are the more significant ones:

  • The premiere would have seen Atlantis return to the Pegasus Galaxy, naturally. But we’ll save this one for a moment.
  • An episode revolving around a group of children found cryogenically frozen on an abandoned ship. The team thaws them out and tries to get them where they belong, but soon find out they’re being hunted by a mystery ship. Given that this is Mallozzi’s idea, he probably had a little more developed, but he seems to imply that these are no ordinary children (hinting at it by referring to the episode’s working title as “Children of the Corn/Fantastic Four”) and quite possibly evil. It’s a common enough sci-fi plot, and it vaguely reminds me of the episode “Innocence” from Star Trek Voyager, but hopefully a lot more interesting.
  • A “rashomon” style episode, where Carter is being court martialed and the various witnesses each give their own version of events. This is a pretty popular story telling device, as the different versions of the story can often reveal aspects of the person telling it. They did a trial episode in season 5 with “Inquisition,” which was fairly successful (and specifically the one mentioned above that addressed criticisms), given it was a clip show. But having one trial episode does not preclude the use of another; just look at Star Trek TNG‘s “Measure of a Man” and “The Drumhead,” which are both well-regarded. This one would also have featured an event not previously seen, as opposed to clips. Obviously, the fact that Carter was no longer on Atlantis might have impacted the story just a bit.
  • The “Red Shirt” episode, a “day in the limelight” for one of the nameless soldiers who gets shot down in those fight scenes. The idea for this story would be that our red shirt gets captured instead of killed, and the regular cast have to break him out. It sounds a bit like an inverted version of “The Other Guys,” an entertaining SG-1 episode which dealt with two minor characters trying to rescue the apparently captured SG-1 team. The minor characters in question even compared themselves to red shirts in that episode!
  • An episode in the style of the film “Crank,” which would have featured Sheppard living on borrowed time and trying to figure out why this was done to him. Mallozzi rightfully points out that the premise would lose a lot of its punch in a TV series, where the audience would know it was unlikely for Sheppard to actually die from this. I can see how this might be an attractive idea from a writer’s point of view, however, and given enough tinkering I suspect they could have made it work. Borrowed time is always going to force characters to reanalyze their priorities, and that can be quite revealing. On the other hand, it could just as easily have turned out formulaic.
  • One idea suggests that the entirety of Sheppard’s team is spontaneously lost without a trace, only to reappear six months later–long enough for Atlantis to have formed a new expedition team and settled in to routine once more. The episode, then, would focus on the tensions between Sheppard’s team and the replacement team, who aren’t just going to step back from being the primary. How would the two groups work together? Would any of the previously known characters, like Major Lorne, have been a part of the replacement team? Eventually any animosities would have to be set aside, as the aliens responsible for Sheppard’s team disappearing show up. This is probably one of the most interesting undeveloped episode ideas, and I’d have loved to see this play out, especially if it had ramifications that lasted for more than just the one episode.
  • The so-called “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” which would have McKay develop a time traveling puddle jumper and set off a series of time travel shenanigans both in the present, 5 years in the past (AKA season 1), and 5 years into the (bad) future, where the Wraith had taken over Atlantis. Mallozzi pitched this one himself, and describes conflict between all three different versions of the team, as they each try to secure the time machine for their own (fully justified) purposes. Of course, this brings with it a level of timey-wimey that would even give some Doctor Who writers a run for their money. Stargate has usually had a very consistent approach to time travel, as seen and described in “1969,” “2010,” and “2001,” so this might have had some tricky problems to get past.
Just who were these guys? McKay even says himself that some things happened faster in the other universes...

Just who were these guys? McKay even says himself that some things happened faster in the other universes right before this…

And that’s more or less all the even slightly developed episode ideas, according to Mallozzi. I’ve heard other rumors, specifically some surrounding the “Unknown Aliens” seen in season 5’s “The Daedalus Variations,” but he doesn’t mention them in the season 6 plans. However, in a guest post by Alan McCullough, the writer of the episode in question, it was mentioned that he’d have liked to see them again. And given how many of the alternate universes seen in that episode had events play out sooner than they did in the prime universe, it certainly seemed like they were being set up for a reappearance down the line. Mallozzi also speculated about a potential Stargate Atlantis season 6 finale, featuring an alternate Atlantis where Michael had taken over and converted everyone into wraith/human hybrids. Seeing the team fight the vampire versions of themselves might’ve been neat.

But what about that premiere? Well, you see, after it became clear that Atlantis wasn’t getting a full season and that Stargate Universe would be coming up in its place, the writers considered the possibility of doing more Atlantis through direct-to-DVD or TV movies, much like SG-1 had done with The Ark of Truth and Continuum. It’s hard to describe it better than Mallozzi did; after all, he wrote the thing, he’s more attached to it than any of us fans could be. So I’ll just leave you with a link to his post on the film, which would have been called Stargate: Extinction. It would have featured most all the things we loved about the series, some kickass action scenes, and given us a glimpse of yet another galaxy in the universe of Stargate.

I gotta say, putting together this Stargate Atlantis season 6 article has been a bit more depressing than the previous one for Star Trek Enterprise was. I’m not entirely sure why; part of it is that the writers of SGA were so open about what they had planned, and their disappointment comes through as very earnest when reading about it. Part of it is that the downfall of the Stargate TV franchise is a lot more recent, and it struck in several stages, effectively taking out all three pillars of the franchise in a row. We’ve all had nearly 10 years to get over Enterprise, and much like with SGU, it took time for that show to win people over. But SG-1 and Atlantis, they were beloved shows for a long time. Enterprise also didn’t have as many open plot lines as the various Stargate series did, although there were certainly plenty more it could have tackled if they felt like it. And of course, the recent announcement of the reboot trilogy has reopened that wound, reminding us that any hope of a Veronica Mars-like revival are but the desperate dreams of a fanboy now. There’s also the sense that the Stargate franchise didn’t die because of its own failings; while Enterprise had been lacking in the ratings department for some time, Atlantis was still going fairly strong, and the two DVD/TV movies were moderately successful for what they were. Outside factors, like MGM’s financial problems, change of leadership at SciFi (which became Syfy soon after), and the general decline of the economy in 2008 brought the whole thing to a close. There was just a lot of bad luck involved, which makes the whole situation all the more tragic.

Stargate Atlantis Season 6

There are worse ways to end a series, though. It has a note of finality to it. Unlike another Stargate series I could mention…

Of course, there are still more tragic endings ahead, as that’s the nature of this feature. I’m planning on doing these at the end of each month, so if you enjoyed this, be sure to check back September 29 for the next one, Stargate Universe season 3. You can also subscribe to the “What Could Have Been” RSS Feed here. If you’d rather dive back into Atlantis, you can watch it on Amazon Instant.

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  1. Everything that happened with all the stargates is just wrong. I thought shows where made and aired on what the people wanted and if the company made money. stargate had many many followers. if it wasn’t popular sg1 wouldn’t have lasted 10 years. longer then star trek. witch by the way they are still making movies on. stargate fans need to ban together and let MGM know how we feel. myself, I have not bought 1 movie produced by MGM since they canceled the last stargate show.

    • I agree. I sorely miss Star gate Atlantis. I’d love to see the series back. And they couldn’t make a few SGA movies fast enough for my tastes: I wish there were several available to watch now.

  2. I say give the people what they want, season 6 or no more watching anything MGM related. The People have spoken, give us access to our star-gate or I will send out a distress signal to the RATHE to cull your ass!

  3. To bad it ended like that. Their credibility dropped after they cancelled it for universe which was a bad move . Atleast finish the series

  4. Pingback: 4 of the Weirdest Alternate Realities – Friday Four | My Daily Deep Space Nine Notes

  5. why stop atlantis. is a very good series. waarom stopt die is een goeie serie snap niet dat jullie heb hebben laten stoppen. niet eens een fatsoenlijk einde. de rave is niet eens dood en er is nog geen genees middel gevonden. en de aarde kan elk moment aangevallen worden. dus bij deze wtf waarom. ga terug naar je studio en maar s06 af.
    if you can not reed it >> translate will help you. bye bye and i hope to see s06 soon.

  6. Wish they would make another Stargate Atlantis, they have the new worm drive for the city and they could go get the Destiny in the Stargate Universe. It’s been 3 years to get them across that empty void of space, and the young scientist could have fixed the broken sleep pod so he would be alive …… Also on Atlantis did Tayla leave Toren John with his father and her people, and what the heck are they going to feed Todd, more dying people, or criminal’s. Both the city and the Destiny could work together and become the “Atlantis Destiny”. All the actors will of cores be older. Would love some more Stargate of any kind ….. but not a cartoon. They could stop and get the Athosens and the other runner. whoops, he’s already on the Destiny. I call myself a Gater- Trecer

    • For a time (after only having just – 6.16 – seen the episode on the net after many years of not watching TV), I was hoping there’d be an episode when Rodney finds an opportunity to time travel to the past to motivate himself to take Dr. Becket on that promised fishing outing, preventing him from being killed by the exploding tumor, etc. But it was still good to see that they found another way to restore and employ Becket as a clone. Too bad MGM had to spoil the party for EVERYBODY including of course all those great actors! Now why can’t a producer somewhere round all those folks up, give them a program with another uncopyrighted title (SpaceGate Continuum?), and at least have them in an alternate reality. Actually, in real time, “What can be conceived can be done:” The question is, realistically speaking, who is doing the conceiving and what is their motivation, i.e. for better or worse? Relevant to this, let us not forget for ourselves in this sad world the bit of wisdom mentioned by the Seer in “The Seer” episode: “The future is predetermined by the character of those who shape it.” See what happens as a result of who you choose to vote for in 2016, i.e. your character reflects his!

  7. The movie they were talking about making would have been amazing, any chance of it still happening? Is there a petition for that lol?

  8. The people that be SUCK!!!! How can someone be SO stupid to cancel a show when ratings were so high, with a HUGE fan base to boot? Apparently someone was afraid of making more money, and wanted to piss lots of people off.

  9. Its kind of unbelievable that SG-Atlantis was stopped after 5 seasons..Having watched it entirely in ~3 months or so on Hulu
    this past fall (2016) ..I do think another profitable 2-3 seasons would have been doable…It was a solid sci-fy show with decent ratings & likable characters..too bad it ended so prematurely

  10. Noooo!! What a Shame they are not doing anymore stargate Atlantis! ☹️☹️☹️We were so looking forward for season 6! Even my 11 yrs old daughter love watching it! She was so disappointed when I told her there is not going to be anymore! Plzzzzz make a few seasons more!

  11. Star Trek Enterprise was awful and messed with the time line and tech continuity almost as much as the new ST reboots have which are just also terrible, STNG and DS9 will forever be supreme and complete in my mind. What I have seen of SG1 and Atlantis and having seen the original movie many, many years ago back in the 90’s both were very good however if you are going to make a series of something at least finish it right and never plan for an extension otherwise it just ruins the continuity of it, if it is ever picked up again. That’s the problem with basing your shows on viewer ratings is an incomplete or rush product when finished so these things have to be planned so that they can climax their stories right otherwise it kind of blows the who continuity of the entire show and all the work.