SALT LAKE CITY — “As a family we always had pizza night with the kids when ‘Atlantis’ was on,” said Lisa Denoncourt. “The show was a perfect balance of sci-fi, humor and lots of sarcasm. But most of all, we were bonding as a family over one of our favorite shows.”
Denoncourt is one of many fans who recently took to Twitter to share their favorite memories of “Stargate: Atlantis,” the beloved sci-fi hit that ran for five years and is celebrating its 15th anniversary.
The first of two spinoffs from “Stargate: SG-1,” the show transported viewers across the universe alongside their favorite characters.
“Imagine the lost city of Atlantis was real. Imagine you could step through a portal and get to it in seconds,” said actress Jewel Staite in an interview with the blog From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring. “But enemies abound in this new galaxy!”
“Oh yeah,” she said, “and the city can fly.”
According to the show’s producer, Joe Mallozzi, “The Atlantis expedition was like extended family members you visited with once a week. It’s a grand tradition that made both ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Stargate’ so relatable.”
One of the essential ingredients in the show’s recipe for relatability was Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett), a loquacious and irritating physicist with an aversion to dangerous situations he seemed to overcome on a weekly basis.
Hewlett was thrilled to reprise the character he played on “SG-1,” but discovered fans were initially less than enthused.
“When it was first announced that Rodney would be joining the new series, I went online and people were horrified,” said Hewlett. “What was great for me though, was that we had this guy established — as a crazy smart jerk — so now it was all about unraveling who he was and what made him that way.”
The least likeable character quickly grew into one of the most irreplaceable figures of the series.
But Hewlett almost wasn’t involved in the popular spinoff. According to Mallozzi, they were auditioning the role of Dr. Ingram, and they couldn’t find the right actor. As their time dwindled, executive producer Robert Cooper suggested bringing Rodney McKay on board.
“And, in the end, he became a fan- and writers room-favorite,” he said.
That Cooper guy is a genius! 😉 https://t.co/gafCnX0uTV— David Hewlett (@dhewlett) July 1, 2019
Hewlett had favorites of his own, such as Jewel Staite, who starred in the sci-fi Western “Firefly” alongside Nathan Fillion, and a well-known ensemble cast. But he worried their first behind-the-scenes encounter might also be their last.
“I arrived on set so excited to meet (Staite),” said Hewlett. “But what was I met with — this poor woman in full lizard makeup?!”
Staite’s first appearance was as a Wraith, an alien species in the Pegasus galaxy that fed off the life force of humans.
She still remembers the agony involved in the makeup process for that early guest appearance: “My alarm went off (at 3 a.m.) for my first day … to get into hair and makeup,” she said. “Know what time Starbucks opens? 5.”
To the delight of Hewlett and fans across the globe, Staite was not deterred by the early hours and later returned to the series as the precocious Dr. Jennifer Keller in seasons 4 and 5.
“That show was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” she said.
The enthusiasm Staite and Hewlett brought to the series translated to the screen in a way Mallozzi considers essential to the perception of the series.
“I think the legacy of ‘Atlantis’ will be … its sense of fun and camaraderie,” he said.
And there may be more fun on the horizon.
A 2018 fan movement to bring back the show didn’t have immediate results, but industry rumblings suggest a third spinoff could be on its way.
“I know MGM is considering launching a fourth ‘Stargate’ series,” said Mallozzi. “At this point, it’s just a matter of when.”
But would fan favorites reprise their roles?
“Name the day and I’m there!” said Hewlett. “McKay is still my favorite role.”
“Of course I would,” said Staite. “I’ve literally compared every job since to it.”
This article was originally published in the Deseret News.