It’s been ten years to the day since Stargate Atlantis premiered on Syfy (then SCI FI) Channel on July 16, 2004.
The show came after seven successful seasons of Stargate SG-1 — five on Showtime, and two on Syfy. The franchise had taken off since moving to basic cable in 2002, and Syfy was ready to make Stargate its own with an original series.
The spin-off also turned Stargate into a bona fide franchise. The original plan was to end Stargate SG-1 and have Atlantis set on Earth, but the network wanted both shows. Producers bit into the very large task of producing 40 episodes of television every year.
“Rising” aired as a 2-hour feature event on a Friday night, drawing a record 3.2 household rating and more than 4 million viewers.
Joe Flanigan starred as Major John Sheppard, an O’Neill-esque mix of courage and humor. On his new team would be David Hewlett as Dr. Rodney McKay (originally written as Dr. Benjamin Ingram, an African-Canadian) — a hold-over from SG-1, now written to be a bit more loveable (if just as surly); Rainbow Sun Francks as Lt. Aiden Ford, a young explosives expert; and Rachel Luttrell as Teyla Emmagan, an Athosian princess (originally named “Mikala”). (Paul McGillion — Dr. Carson Beckett — would be upped from recurring player to series regular in Season Two.)
Leading the expedition to the Pegasus Galaxy was Torri Higginson as Dr. Elizabeth Weir, linguist and diplomat fresh off a short stint as the head of Stargate Command on Earth. (Torri had guest starred in the SG-1 season premiere, “New Order,” the week before.)
The new series was created by Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper. Atlantis would go on to run for five seasons and an even 100 episodes, concluding in 2009.
Happy Birthday, SGA!