As regular readers of CinemaSpy will know, those of us that work at that website are big fans of the Stargate franchise. It was with excitement, therefore, that I opened a package from Random House to reveal a review copy of Titan Book’s Stargate Atlantis: The Official Companion Season 4.

Last year I was lucky enough to visit the set of this enjoyable series during a press event. The pleasure I get from watching the show has not been dispelled by knowing that above the medical bay is a tangle of wires and scaffolding, while the inside of a Wraith ship smells like a giant condom. Like many other Atlantis fans, I received news of the show’s cancellation with sadness, tempered by the realization that a straight-to-video feature-length adventure and Stargate Universe are on the way. A few months prior to its cancellation, Stargate Atlantis won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Sci-Fi show. It goes to show that awards are no guarantee of longevity.

Stargate Atlantis: The Official Companion Season 4 is written by Sharon Gosling. She also wrote Titan’s Companions to the series’ first three seasons, as well as Stargate SG-1: The Illustrated Companion Season 9. Furthermore, she is the former editor of The Official Stargate SG1/Atlantis Magazine. That bi-monthly periodical is another Titan publication, so it is no surprise to find that the style of this 158-page book is similar to that of the magazine. The chapters consist of background information on episodes, characters and personnel and each topic is covered through a combination of descriptive notes, anecdotes and quotes from some of the people involved.

The book opens with an introspective Foreward by Stargate Atlantis star and self-confessed science fiction fan David Helwett (Dr. Rodney McKay in the series). That is followed by a chapter outlining the history of Season 4, noting the transitions and other challenges that took place that year.  These included the departure of Torri Higginson (who played station commander Dr. Elizabeth Weir) and the arrival of Stargate SG-1 veteran Amanda Tapping (Samantha Carter) as her replacement. In addition, there was the introduction of a new doctor played by Jewel Staite (Firefly), the pregnancy of leading actress Rachel Luttrell and the transfer of show-running duties from Brad Wright to Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie.

Following on from Chapter One is a section devoted to every episode of the fourth season. Since the first Star Trek Companion this is the material that I have find most intriguing in books like this. For each episode there is a brief outline of the story, followed by a page-and-a-half of behind-the-scenes information that may include the inspirations for the story, a particular director’s approach, difficulties encountered or other directions the script could have taken. Be warned, though; there can be spoilers here. If you don’t like to know what happens before you have seen an episode, watch the show before you read about it.

The rest of the book is comprised of sections on the fourth season’s main and recurring characters and various production and post-production processes. Those processes include costume design, set construction, casting, sound and stunt work. There is a lot of interesting stuff here for fans, although some of it might already have been covered in issues of the  Official Magazine. Every article is accompanied by black-and-white pictures and there is a separate section of colour shots. The text is easy but not patronising to read and, as would be expected from an ‘official’ book, everyone involved in the series comes across as nice. With Stargate that may not be as unrealistic as it could seem to cynics. On the set visit I attended, the cast and crew seemed to be a modest and affable group of people.

If you are a fan of Stargate Atlantis and you have been collecting the Companion series, there is no reason not to add this one. If you haven’t bought them yet, this volume is as good a starting point as any, providing you either know what has happened in the series’ first three seasons or don’t mind finding out in this book’s pages. No doubt some of the interviews and production material will be replicated (no pun intended) in articles that have appeared in the magazine. Even so, there should be enough here to please most Atlantis devotees.

Stargate Atlantis: The Official Companion Season 4 is currently available. The Season 5 Companion is due for publication on May 26.

Michael Simpson is the Associate Editor of the Vancouver-based film and TV website CinemaSpy and a freelance writer on a wide range of topics (CinemaSpy; Home).

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