We’re celebrating one of the greats all month long, as Stargate Atlantis marks its fifteenth anniversary! The show premiered in the summer of 2004, and while it should have gone on to a sixth season, the five years that were produced solidified the series as one of the greats of sci-fi television.
But which season was the best? Atlantis went out on a high note, with new storylines spinning up (the Vanir) and the core characters united like never before. But when did the show hit its peak?
This ranking of all five seasons of the show isn’t just our opinion. This year we’ve been conducting a poll for Stargate fans, asking them to pick their absolute favorite season of the show. It’s a tough call, and the votes between each season came in extremely close! (Scroll down to cast your vote.)
Here is the order as ranked by fans, as of July 11, 2019:
#5 – SEASON TWO
Atlantis‘s second season brought the first cast change, with Rainbow Sun Francks’ Lt. Aiden Ford leaving the team. His replacement on Sheppard’s unit would be Specialist Ronon Dex (Jason Momoa), a survivor from a planet left decimated by the Wraith. Ford would return for the mid-season two-parter, but his plan to create a super-powered elite force ended with a whimper.
Just because it ranks fifth out of five, of course, doesn’t mean that Season Two was by any means disliked by the fans. It has some really stellar episodes, including the body-swapping “Duet” and the creepy Wraith thriller “Michael” (which introduced Connor Trinneer’s character). This season is also where you’ll find Sam Carter and Rodney McKay stuck underwater in a Puddle Jumper (“Grace Under Presure”), and a ship full of sleeping Ancients (“Aurora”).
#4 – SEASON FIVE
Change was in the air once again for the base commander’s office as the show charged into its fifth year. Richard Woolsey (Robert Picardo) stepped in to fill some big shoes left by the base’s previous two leaders. This year the expedition’s mission in the Pegasus Galaxy began to produce some blow-back — Wraith-worshiping Satedans, rogue Asgard coming out of hiding, and a newly formed coalition that sought to hold the team responsible for the chaos in Pegasus.
The final season of Atlantis runs just behind Season One in our poll. In fact Season Five was slightly ahead a few weeks ago — so don’t be surprised if these two change places. This year is full of engaging stories and sci-fi adventure, from an ailing McKay (David Hewlett) in “The Shrine” to the reality-skipping “The Daedalus Variations.” And in “Vegas” we see a very different sort of story, and a road not taken for John Sheppard.
Despite the fact that Season Five opened up some exciting new possibilities for future stories, it would end up being this show’s last.
#3 – SEASON ONE
In its eighth year of operations Stargate Command launched a new adventure into the Pegasus Galaxy. Led by civilian diplomat Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson), the expedition discovered the lost city of the Ancients, filled with advanced technology. But they were unable to dial the Stargate back to Earth, cut off from home and without any backup. When they woke up a terrifying species from hibernation the military contingent’s commanding officer was killed, and Major John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) stepped up as the ranking officer.
Season One of Stargate Atlantis was exciting. It was a new team, with a whole new galaxy to explore and new friends — and enemies — waiting around every corner. Stargate was finally a “franchise,” with two shows airing back-to-back on Friday nights. Sheppard’s team learned just how far many of the oppressed human worlds were willing to go to escape the Wraith — ritual sacrifice on M7G-677, a secret military society in the Genii, an ascended being guarding a hidden sanctuary, and in the Hoffans a people willing to sacrifice their own to make it impossible for the Wraith to feed on them.
SGA‘s freshman year set the tone of the show, quickly building a mythology that led to an epic, multi-episode storyline … as the Wraith approached Atlantis to lay siege to the city and destroy it, once and for all.
#2 – SEASON FOUR
Atlantis was really firing on all cylinders when the fourth season bowed. Behind the camera Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie took the reigns as day-to-day showrunners, and creatively the writers paid off some major storylines. Before a pregnant Teyla (Rachel Luttrell) was captured by the Wraith hybrid Michael, before Sheppard found himself alone 48,000 years in the future, and before Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion) returned from the dead … there was war.
The fight with the Replicators stretched through the entire first half of the season. This saga included the loss of Elizabeth Weir, an alliance with the Wraith against their common enemy, and a prophecy of the city’s destruction. There were new allies in the Travelers, and an ongoing mystery in the missing Athosians — all under the watchful eye of new expedition commander Colonel Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping).
Season Four has the show’s most epic space battle in “Be All My Sins Remember’d,” which saw the climactic end of the war with the Replicators. Another standout here is the face-to-face meeting of the greatest warriors from two galaxies, when Ronon Dex met Teal’c of Chulak (Christopher Judge) in “Midway.”
#1 – SEASON THREE
By a razor-thin margin, fans have voted the third season of Atlantis as the best of the series. And it’s no wonder why: Season Three has character development (some of our favorite individual episodes for each main character); some new additions to the supporting roster (Todd the Wraith, Rodney’s sister Jeannie, Abraham Ellis — even Jack O’Neill paid a visit); and the start of some significant new stories — including the introduction of the Replicators (the Asurans) to the Pegasus Galaxy. All-in-all, the team — and the writers — finally felt comfortable inhabiting this city.
In addition to meeting (and barely escaping) the Asurans, John Sheppard and his team were really put through the ringer this year. Ronon is forced to return to the ruins of his homeworld (“Sateda”), Weir is trapped in her own mind (“The Real World”), Sheppard is held hostage by Kolya (“Common Ground”), McKay gets superpowers (“Tao of Rodney”), and Teyla must confront a Wraith queen (“Submersion”).
But in the end, the biggest moment of Atlantis‘s best season is a moment of heartbreak. On an otherwise ordinary Sunday, Carson Beckett came to the aid of those in need — and gave his life in the service of his duty.
The third and fourth seasons are neck-and-neck in our poll, showing just how beloved these two years of Stargate Atlantis are. The show had found its voice, and it sang an amazing song.
Which season of Stargate Atlantis is your favorite? Vote in the poll then explain your own ranking in the comments below!