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Feature: Stargate Atlantis

Title and Flanigan image

It was a new season, and another change in the command of Atlantis, but for Colonel John Sheppard it was business as usual…

When actor Joe Flanigan filmed the Season Four Stargate Atlantis finale The Last Man, his character Colonel John Sheppard was just that, the last man alive left on the Atlantis base. A malfunction involving the Stargate sent the colonel 48,000 years into the Future, where all his friends and colleagues were gone and the city lay at the bottom of a dried-up ocean. In the episode, Sheppard must, among other things, fight his way through a sandstorm as well as listen to a hologram of Dr McKay recount events after the colonel disappeared back in his own time. It was an unforgettable experience for Sheppard and Flanigan.

The Last Man was an interesting story to work on and kind of cool, too,” recalls the actor, who is enjoying the Vancouver sun while in between takes on Season Five of Atlantis. “I was a little worried when I first read the script, mainly because there was a ton of exposition where David Hewlett’s [McKay] character explains everything that has happened over the past 40,000 years or whatever it was, but I think the episode turned out well. Believe it or not, I actually haven’t seen a final cut of it yet but, as season cliffhangers go, it was a good one.

“As for the sandstorm, I enjoy that kind of stuff,” says Flanigan, smiling. “There were these little tiny wood chips that didn’t all get chopped up and some of them hit me, which kind of hurt a bit, but that also lent a greater realism to the situation. I like when our characters go through intense physical adversity because those types of things just read well on screen. It’s also what makes me watch a TV show because I’m always fascinated how someone could physically survive an ordeal like that. And I always think that that’s a smart way to go with our series in general because Sci-Fi plots can sometimes be a bit esoteric, so to show what the physical price is for something is more fun acting-wise than it is to explain something like, for example, the implosion of a planet

“This job is funny because it’s unlike a lot of others in TV. By that I mean in Atlantis we get to do a variety of things. Because there are no real [creative] boundaries, we can do an episode that’s funny, another that’s dramatic, one that’s scary, etc. In many ways we’re the freest form of TV out there, which you sometimes have to remind yourself of and remember not to take for granted.”

I n the final moments of The Last Man, Colonel Sheppard and three of his team mates are caught off-guard and, courtesy of their longtime adversary, the Human/Wraith hybrid Michael (Connor Trinneer), are buried under the exploded remains of one of Michael’s many off-world research facilities. Their predicament is dire, but not fatal. Atlantis’s fifth season opener Search and Rescue finds Sheppard and Ronon (Jason Momoa) still alive but trapped together, as are Dr McKay and Major Lorne (Kavan Smith). Per the episode’s title, our heroes are rescued and carry on with their mission to find the kidnapped Teyla (Rachel Luttrell).

“I’ll sometimes read certain parts of our scripts and wonder, ‘How are we going to pull this off?’” notes Flanigan. “However, these guys always manage to somehow do that. Between the art department guys, visual effect people and all the other people who work on this programme, we figure out together how to do what has to be done. From there, it’s just a matter of committing to what’s on the written page and going forth, which was the case at the start of this season with Search and Rescue.

by Steven Eramo

Read the full interview and much more about Stargate Atlantis in
TV Zone Special #82

Photo © The Sci-Fi Channel
Feature © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone Special #82, see below for ordering options
TV Zone Special #82
Stargate Atlantis 2008
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