Welcome to the world of Stargate! If you are new to this sci-fi franchise and are looking to binge-watch the franchise and catch up on the major story beats — but perhaps aren’t up for watching all 100 episodes of Stargate Atlantis — this list is for you.
Now Atlantis is one of our favorite shows … so we certainly recommend that you watch all five seasons in their entirety. But you have your reasons, so with that in mind we’ve put together a condensed viewing list. This list includes only those episodes that are vital to the show’s major, ongoing story arcs. We’ve managed to whittle down the show’s 5-year run to just 57 episodes.
It wasn’t easy to do, and other fans could rightly argue that you need to see more examples of how various cultures in the Pegasus Galaxy deal with the ever-looming threat of the Wraith. Fair enough … but we have to cut episodes somewhere to make a list like this.
Stargate Atlantis premiered in 2004, as a spin-off of Stargate SG-1. Meanwhile the parent show continued to air alongside Atlantis for another three years. If you haven’t seen SG-1 yet we recommend starting there. Atlantis didn’t begin until after SG-1‘s eighth season premiere (“New Order”). Depending on how you like to binge, we’ve assembled three options for watching the entire Stargate franchise.
Like its predecessor Stargate Atlantis is an episodic series. That means that mostly stand-alone episodes were loosely connected by ongoing storylines, with the story arcs peaking with big season premieres, season finales, and mid-season two-parters. To get the best of Atlantis you should watch more than the episodes on this list, because many of the show’s finest hours (including arguably its finest character piece) are not actually part of the main story arcs. (Pro Tip: Look through the season-by-season episode guides to find other episodes rated 3 stars and higher to create your own curated viewing list.)
STARGATE SG-1 (SEASONS 1 TO 7)
In case you need one more nudge, you’ll get the most out of your Atlantis viewing experience by starting with its parent show. Several main characters cross over after being introduced on Stargate SG-1. And before Atlantis made its debut, the show featured a season-long search for the lost city of the Ancients.
OK, we’ll stop nagging.
STARGATE ATLANTIS: SEASON 1
“Rising” (Episodes 1 & 2). There are two versions of this movie-length premiere. The standard version is available on streaming platforms, while the DVD and Blu-ray releases includes a longer cut with some extra footage. (Don’t worry, you aren’t missing anything vital by not tracking down the extended cut.)
“Thirty Eight Minutes” (Episode 4)
“Suspicion” (Episode 5)
“Poisoning the Well” (Episode 7)
“Underground” (Episode 8)
“Home” (Episode 9)
“The Storm” (Episode 10)
“The Eye” (Episode 11)
“Hot Zone” (Episode 13)
“Before I Sleep” (Episode 15)
“The Gift” (Episode 18)
“The Siege, Part 1” (Episode 19)
“The Siege, Part 2” (Episode 20)
In the second season of the show the expedition must survive a direct assault by the Wraith, while also debating how best to take the fight to the enemy. Jason Momoa (Aquaman) joins the cast.
“The Siege, Part 3” (Episode 1)
“Runner” (Episode 3)
“Instinct” (Episode 7)
“The Lost Boys” (Episode 10)
“The Hive” (Episode 11)
“Coup D’etat” (Episode 17)
“Michael” (Episode 18)
“Inferno” (Episode 19)
“Allies” (Episode 20)
The third year of Atlantis is a pivotal time, as Sheppard’s team encounters a deadly new threat — as well as potential new allies in their fight to protect Atlantis, Earth, and the innocent peoples of the Pegasus Galaxy.
“No Man’s Land” (Episode 1)
“Misbegotten” (Episode 2)
“Progeny” (Episode 5)
“The Real World” (Episode 6)
“Common Ground” (Episode 7)
“The Return, Part 1” (Episode 10)
“The Return, Part 2” (Episode 11)
“Sunday” (Episode 17)
“Vengeance” (Episode 19)
“First Strike” (Episode 20)
In the fourth season loved ones are lost (and found), as Atlantis and its unlikely allies barrel into an all-out war in the Pegasus Galaxy. Here the show also became a bit more arc-driven — at least temporarily.
“Adrift” (Episode 1)
“Lifeline” (Episode 2)
“Reunion” (Episode 3)
“Travelers” (Episode 5)
“Missing” (Episode 7)
“The Seer” (Episode 8)
“This Mortal Coil” (Episode 10)
“Be All My Sins Remember’d” (Episode 11)
“Spoils of War” (Episode 12)
“Midway” (Episode 17)
“The Kindred, Part 1” (Episode 18)
“The Kindred, Part “ (Episode 19)
“The Last Man” (Episode 20)
The final season of Atlantis brings the close of one chapter and the opening of another. There are new strategies for turning the tide against the Wraith, and brand new threats that could put Earth itself in danger.
“Search and Rescue” (Episode 1)
“The Seed” (Episode 2)
“Broken Ties” (Episode 3)
“Ghost In the Machine” (Episode 5)
“The Queen” (Episode 8)
“First Contact” (Episode 10)
“The Lost Tribe” (Episode 11)
“Outsiders” (Episode 12)
“The Prodigal” (Episode 14)
“Infection” (Episode 17)
“Enemy At the Gate” (Episode 20)
Stargate Atlantis was never meant to end at five seasons. When the show was cancelled in 2008 MGM announced that it would move into a series of ongoing movies, which would appear first on DVD and then air on Syfy Channel in the U.S. The first of these was Stargate: Extinction, which was to pick up right where the final episode leaves off.
But in 2009 it became clear that the bottom was falling out of the direct-to-DVD market. A script for the movie was written, but never produced. And by the end of 2010 the show’s sets had been struck, and MGM was going into bankruptcy.
Two non-canonical versions of the Atlantis story’s continuation do exist. Novel readers should look for the “Legacy” series of books from Fandemonium. And comic readers can find the “Back to Pegasus” storyline, followed by numerous subsequent stories, published by American Mythology.
Executive producer Joseph Mallozzi also posted a list of Season Six story ideas brainstormed in the writer’s room. Although none of these were written, they give some provocative hints as to where things might have gone in a sixth year. (Newcomers, be sure to finish the watch list above before you read this!)