Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | FAQ | RSS RSS
Stargate News
Why was Stargate Atlantis cancelled?

Saturday - January 10, 2009
Category: OPINION | Tags: ,

The second Stargate series has taken its final bow in the United States, with the finale airing Friday night on the SCI FI Channel. But why was the show cancelled? And what is next for Stargate?

Since many viewers who don’t frequent GateWorld or other Stargate sites may be looking for answers today, we’ll do our best to answer these questions here.

There is a bit of debate on just why the show was ended when it was. MGM and SCI FI Channel jointly announced in late August that the current fifth season would be Atlantis‘s last, as the show moved to the world of TV and DVD movies. Some 48 hours later, they also announced that a new series, Stargate Universe, would premiere this summer.

Low Ratings?
The debate over the show’s cancellation has to do with how great the ratings were a factor. The show’s Nielsen numbers have fallen dramatically over the last five years. In Season One ratings were well over the 2.0 mark; today ratings of 1.2 (Live + Same Day) are typical. Like the rest of television, much of this is attributable to the rise of TiVo and other digital video recorders. More people are “time-shifting” their television viewing, and the industry is still struggling to properly measure the viewers of a television show (and its commercials, which pay the bills).

Though the raw ratings numbers are down, viewership for Atlantis has been inching upward for the past couple of years. When DVR-delayed viewers are accounted for (though they may be skipping past commercials), Atlantis hasn’t lost all that much of its U.S. audience.

DVD Movies? Or Stargate Universe?
Instead of ratings, many fans point to the fact that the studio and network are replacing the show with the third series, Stargate Universe. Was one cancelled for the other (since the producers don’t want to do two series simultaneously again, as well as SG-1 movies)?

According to series co-creator Brad Wright, the matter seems to be more complex than that. The producers, MGM (the studio that owns the franchise), and SCI FI executives sat down in the summer of 2008 to strategize what they felt is in the best interests of the entire franchise over the long term. Add to this mix the typical life cycle for a television show and the importance of full-length movies to the show’s creators, and a picture begins to emerge: In order to make Atlantis DVD movies successful (among an audience much broader than the fan base), they should be made before general interest in Atlantis has waned. If the TV show runs long enough to be cancelled due to low viewership, in other words, the studio won’t be eager to pour millions of dollars into making a Stargate Atlantis movie.

At the same time, Universe was in development and had been pitched to the network the previous fall (and received well). Launching a new series always draws new attention to a network and a franchise, and plans are to make the third series a bit different from its predecessors. (More on that later.)

According to Wright, the three parties mutually decided to end Atlantis and make movies, and then launch Stargate Universe. This would allow the SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe “legs” of the franchise to continue to run together, hopefully far into the future.

Make of all that what you will. The short of it is that Stargate Atlantis was not cancelled due to low ratings — though as Wright recently hinted, significantly higher ratings would certainly have changed the discussion. Rather, when a studio like MGM has found such success in the DVD market (especially with last year’s SG-1 releases, The Ark of Truth and Continuum), the nature of what “cancellation” means has changed. With DVD movies now a major part of this franchise, Atlantis has in some ways been a “victim” of Stargate’s success.

NEXT: The future of the franchise


Darren created GateWorld in 1999, and today is the owner and managing editor. He lives in the Seattle area with his wife and three children. (More)

COMMENTS (92):Rules | Report Comment | Trackback

  • Thanks for the information. In a way it’s good to know that falling ratings were not the reason Atlantis was cancelled.

    Sorry, I’m still not interested in Universe and I don’t plan on watching. But I find it quite fascinating the way suddenly, some new, “older” characters are being added to quell the 90210 comments. But whatever, I”m not buying it. This is a show aimed at a new, younger demographic. The oldies are just tokens.

  • In all fairness, this Season averaged around a 1.6 HH rating and 5 years ago was like a 1.8 to 1.9 HH rating. Not only has time-shifting changed, but the entire network has dipped. Even shows like Eureka don’t get those 2.0+ stellar ratings anymore. People are going to argue and call it spin, but they don’t understand how it works.

    In all respect to Brad, no show on SCI FI pulls what SGA/SG-1/Eureka/ECW/BSG used to do. I think the highest rating was a 1.9 for Ghost Hunters. How can they expect epic ratings from a channel that is entirely down. But are ratings really down? No, you cannot compare a rating point from one year to the next especially 5 years ago. They are always changing. It is the viewer totals that are what is important.

    People don’t understand because the amount of houses that get SCI FI increased it changes the ratings denominator. A 1.5 now was like a 1.8 three years ago.

  • I feel betrayed.
    I keep watching, being a loyal fan and all and what do they do with my favourite show? They cancel it.

    Good job, Sci-Fi/MGM.

    Universe is gonna suck…

  • Well, I do feel what they did will benefit the overall franchise. It will definitely expand it and make it greater..

    and jasong, if you’ve read the character details, (new ones) and the storyline, this show has the potential to be amazingly great.. You will be missing out but it’s no loss to me..

  • Seems like they’ve never heard the saying “If it aint broke don’t fix it”

    Now the fate of the Stargate franchise lies in a new untested show Stargate Universe, which if it fails will most likely be the final nail in the coffin for the Stargate franchise.

    While I’m going to take a wait and see approach on Stargate Universe and cross my fingers that it turns out to be really good, if they really want broaden their market spot wasting time making direct to DVD movies and go all out on a big budget movie that can be released at cinemas instead.

  • Ok so can we bury the hatchett that it was not ratings that got the show canned? Even if you scratch out DVR the show is still getting a 1.3 HH rating which is enough for the top 5, even 3 most weeks for the network

  • Insaneboy, why are you betrayed? they ended it with the approval of the creators, are you the kind of person who goes. “how dare they end a 2 season show that had a very specific storyline and wouldn’t have made it past 2 seasons!”

    Firstly they are making movies, which while not the show are still the same characters with the same actors playing them.

    Universe is the logical step, why would you make another show that has all of there actors in their mid to late 30’s? what it does is mean you have a time limit on how long you can have realistic damage being done to them, they can’t get shot in season 5 or 6 cause that could very well kill them a lot quicker than say i don’t know. a 24 year old.

    There were always going to be older cast members in Universe, its just that everyone leapt on the casting call that wasn’t official and never mentioned the full cast.

    My one concern is how many people will be on the ship with them, cause how can they have characters die if there is only 50 or so people…. I suppose it will be like Voyager, where the number of crew always change and no one really knows how many people are left.

    People suck it up, if you don’t like Universe don’t watch it, but don’t judge it before you’ve seen at least the first episode. I’ve judged many things on the Pilot, and Pilots are so raw.

  • I myself am getting excited about SGU. We will have more SG-1 and SGA along with a new series. I just have been trying to prove a point that it was not SGA’s performance that led to it’s end. I think a lot of folks see that now.

  • I think Universe has great potential, especially with Cooper and Wright at the helm. What they did in seasons 9 and 10 of SG-1 was pretty amazing. Personally, I think Atlantis started to go downhill when they left as show runners and let it get decidedly darker in tone. Unfortunately–and this is what has got me worried–is that they are going after the “darker in tone” approach to storytelling. One of the great things about SG-1 was that it stayed optimistic and avoided Battlestar’s “everybody is a scumbag” approach to its characters. So, if they can keep it family-friendly then I think it has a good shot. Regardless, I will definitely be watching it this summer.

  • Lets cut to the chase. Atlantis finale not so good. First we could never get back then we could get back then we move the whole thing to Earth. Dumb as dumb gets. Can’t wait for the new series but what will they do with Atlantis on Earth? And as far as spending money on movies let us face the other reality that its more like a movie of the week than a feature film. Bleed us for the DVD but go cheap on the production. As for ratings, maybe if sci-fi would put it on at a decent hour it would have done better and if sci-fi maintained a regular schedule, (where is Eureka and Who and Torchwood?) maybe we’d be able to tune in. I really wish some geeks with money would go into competition with Sci-Fi. Hey, Sci-Fi wrestling anyone? Give me a break!!

  • When Universe fails can they realize they made a mistake and restart production of Atlantis?

  • The ratings may have stayed the same but the production costs have been going up. The US dollar has tanked compared to Canadian. Atlantis had to get much better ratings than it was to stay profitable. It didnt so it got the axe. Brad Wright talks to the people who made the decision. I’ll believe him before I believe anyone here who thinks they know what happened.

  • honestly, and I know that there are people out there that are going to disagree, but I think it was more than time that the show ended. It did not end the way it should have. The writing has gone down hill for a long time now and there have been nothing but problems with fully integrating the main characters into a believable team unit – even as far back as rainbow sun franks.

  • if the writing has been goin down hill for atlantis wouldnt that mean when univers starts the writing will suck to begin with

  • After what the writers/directors/producers have done with SG1 and SGA, I have only confidence in what they’re capable of and, I really look forward to SGU.
    As for SGA, while I’ve liked that series (though never even nearly as much as SG1, though that’s a personal opinion, of course), it always seemed to lack some cohesiveness or camaraderie between its characters that SG1 always had and had easily without even trying- One of the most glaring differences was in how relationships and characters always seemed to work well in SG1, and how there was always a strong interconnecting between them – amazingly, this continued, even after SG1 introduced new characters late in the series – Somehow, the characters in that series and how they worked together always seemed natural, whereas, unfortunately, at least in my opinion, both the characters and their relationships often seemed forced and somehow a bit awkward in SGA. I think the writers and creative persons involved recognized this immediately but didn’t know how to ‘fix’ that.
    Worse, instead of working to somehow resolve this, they thought maybe there was something about the character that wouldn’t ever easily work and so, it began to seem that every year another major character would go off on some weird tangent and was then ultimately jettisoned from the series. Perhaps because of this, or perhaps additionally, while I thought that there were a few great storylines, I also thought that (just as some of the characters and how they related seemed forced) many of the stories and whole storylines also seemed really forced (and, as a result, unbelievable) as well.
    The fact that so many main characters were so unexpectedly abandoned after having substantial roles only seemed to point out that the producers and writers must themesleves have had continued difficulty making those characters work and thought it was easier to get rid of them rather than to try anything else. I was disappointed with how they ‘dismissed’ all those that they did through the last four years – and none more than what really was the essentially ‘killing off’ of Elizabeth Weir who had been the most believable character and the most cohesive ‘holding-together’ force in the show. I still think that was a real mistake, though oddly enough, and ironically, her character gained more credibility, clarity and respect because of the horror she had to endure at the end. (Though, I think that was just somehow an accidental consequence of that decision to remove that character).
    My point overall is that I think one of the reasons SGA met an unexpected early demise was that for whatever reasons, the writers, and creative persons involved had problems with making the characters interact comfortably, creating credible storylines and all that such involved – problems they never had with SG1. And, I think that, correctly, they believed they wouldn’t have that sort of problem with any SGA films; and better to end SGA now before another year went by and all those same bits of awkwardness only became more and more exacerbated. (When they did somehow find some storyline that seemed to work (e.g. Michael) it sometimes seemed they were so glad to find something that worked that they almost drove it to an extreme death. And, when one didn’t work, for example, introducing Dr. Keller as Rodney’s love interest … well, in this case, having the series end also saved having to resolve that storyline… most probably. That such a situation just didn’t work was no fault of either actor. (I liked the Dr. Keller character except for the interreaction with Rodney, and I think again, it was easier for the writers to write something that was new than to find stories for characters that they obviously somehow just couldn’t develop as they’d originally expected). Again, my opinion only, and perhaps everyone reading will disagree).
    Despite the above thoughts, I did enjoy SGA, it had a great last episode and there were a few I’ll remember – not as many as SG1 where I can watch almost any episode I’ve already seen over and over, but, I’m glad that SGA have a chance to continue and I certainly look forward, hopefully, to many more SGA adventures and I hope, even more SG1 as well.

  • dave howe summed things up fairly well. scifi wanted a replacement for battlestar galactica

  • To the comment made by someone who said “But I find it quite fascinating the way suddenly, some new, “older” characters are being added to quell the 90210 comments.” Your flipping riddiculous. They claimed that they wanted an older lead, which makes sense. General Hammond and Colonel O’Neil were the older leads of SG-1. When SG-1 first started Amanda Tapping was 31, Christopher Judge was 32 and Michael Shanks was TWENTY SIX. In essence these three were a young cast and the aim of SGU is aiming for somewhere around TWENTY SIX. So enough already. It’s not going to turn into a fracking drama of who slept with who every week. Another thing that there giving us is more character development which is what was lacking in SGA.

  • I hate to say it, but I for one hope that SGU fails.

    I know that many will disagree, but SGA wasn’t finished by a long shot. The only reason why I accepted SG1’s fate was because of SGA (had a couple of seasons to establish itself before SG1 was cancelled – SGU won’t have this luxury).

    The executives need to learn if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it. It isn’t time for SGU yet or should I say Stargate: Voyager.

  • All I am going to say is I am glad Atlantis is not gone, I hope it goes to big screen at some point…and go SGU!

  • I’m sorry but I’m still not excited about SGU. I loved SG-1 and I adored SGA (even though in S5, they stripped it of almost all the things that I loved about the show, team-ness and the bickering between John and Rodney, and they crammed romance down our throat with a shovel) but SGU seems too riddled with cliches for me, from the characters (a spoiled party girl, really?) to the premise (ST: Voyager, anyone?). The cancellation of SGA left a bad taste in my mouth, just like the execs idea that fans are like sheep: throw them enough fodder of a similar nature and they will baah contently. I’m looking forward to the SG-1 and SGA movies (even though the apparent lack of enthusiasm for the movies the writers show is appalling) but I’m not sure if I will follow the new show.

  • To comments above that the team never jelled in Atlantis, that’s patently ridiculous. The strenght of the series is the fantastic team dynamic and I’m really going to miss it. Roll on the movies.

  • I am sorry I would rather have had Atlantis continue as a series rather then hoping that each time they actually make a movie for it that my favorite charter/actor will be on it. I am not interested in a SGA movie or even another SG1 movie if the ALL the cast members I love are on it still.

    They could have had that with the tv show continuing but they can’t promise that with a movie every one or two years, if we even get that. They seem to think that the actors won’t have other jobs and are maybe to busy to come and make a movie with them.

    I don’t only blame Sci Fi and MGM for the bad decisions of late regarding Stargate. From all I have been reading and hearing I have to say a lot of the blame also belongs to Brad Wright and company.

  • Stargate SG-1 & Stargate Atlantis Was Two Of The Best Shows On TV & They Are Cancelled The New Stargate Show Is Going To Be Awesome I Know & You Know It But Stargate SG-1 & Stargate Atlantis Should Not Be Cancelled

  • Well i think that any star gate fan should atleast watch the pilot even if they dont like the intial plot or whatever.

    And i aslo dont see why peaple feel betrayed it not the end of atlantis, they made this so hopefully the show and the franchise would live LONGER!!, and a TRUE STAR GATE FAn WOULD SUPPORT UNIVERSE FOR THE SAKE OF THE FRANSCHISE, i mean the same creator gave us SG-1 and atlantis why would unvivers be so much worse? have same faith

  • I think TPTB are taking a big risk with Universe. The show will carry the Stargate name yet they are looking for a different audience with their “darker, grittier” show. If the older audience doesn’t like it, and this new audience doesn’t tune in, the show (and the franchise) could crash and burn. The worse thing they did was cancel Atlantis and then right away announce Universe. It created a great deal of animosity among the Atlantis diehards.

    I will watch the pilot and probably the first 2 or 3 episodes. However, I have very low hopes for Universe. I just haven’t heard one thing about the show that even remotely sparks my interest.

Sign in below or register to post a comment.


RSS FEEDS | ©2006-2016 GateWorld. All rights reserved. This material may not be reprinted without written consent from GateWorld. Click here to learn more.

Apple iTunes

News by Category

Stargate News

SGU Season 2

Stargate News

On the Web...

Add GateWorld Headlines To Your Site!

"Stargate" and all related characters and images are the property of MGM
Television Entertainment. Please read the site's copyright notice.

©1999-2016 GateWorld. All rights reserved.