July 11 is the premiere date for season five of Stargate: Atlantis. To get ready for that, let's consider the past season. It had some changes, to be sure. It wasn't the best season, but it did the job of furthering Atlantis' adventures.
The biggest change in the fourth season of SGA was at the captain's chair, so to speak. Weir was, basically, killed off and Samantha Carter from SG-1 took over. They gave her a nice offing: she sacrificed herself to save her team. This allowed the writers to pursue the Replicator storyline through the course of the season. Due to Weir's knowledge of Atlantis, Replicators built a replica of the city, only these were good Replicators, those seeking ascension. That's right, digital immortality. One of these good Replicators even went messianic — sacrificing herself to destroy the Replicator homeworld. The orbital battle above their world was outstanding, full of Earth battleships, Replicator battleships, and even Wraith battleships.
With that story arc preventing the Replicators from reaching Atlantis and with the city effectively hidden from the Wraith, some of season four was spent trying to do some character development. For example, "Missing" puts Keller and Teyla together on a mission. They end up being pursued by a bloodthirsty tribe and must work together to survive. Keller is forced to toughen up. Also, this story introduces the "missing Athosians" story line which consumes much of the latter half of the season.
"Quarantine" strands groups of the Atlantis team together in various parts of the city when it senses a virus and goes into lockdown mode. The pairings are both interesting and predictable. Rodney and his girlfriend are stuck together (which ends up killing the relationship); Sheppard and Teyla are together (they have "issues" to work out, like Sheppard's overprotective tendencies); and then there's Ronon and Keller. That was the most fun to watch as a romance rears its head. Then came episodes like "Outcast" and "Trio." They added little to the season or the characters.
Some other episodes of note were "Travelers" and "The Seer." They introduce factors that come into play later. For example, "The Seer" tells of a dark future for Atlantis. An old man has a vision of Atlantis being destroyed by Replicator warships. The team debates the veracity of his vision for about two episodes. Then it apparently comes true in "This Mortal Coil," where a Replicator version of Atlantis (that's right, built by the Replicators seeking ascension) is wiped out by the other Replicators.
"Travelers" introduces a new race to SGA, one with space travel capability. In fact, they live their life in space aboard generational ships. They did it originally to avoid the Wraith. Now its their culture. They could be friend or foe, just depends on the story. Sheppard strikes up a friendly rivalry with the gorgeous leader of the Travelers, Larrin, portrayed by Jill Wagner.
The season finishes with some excellent episodes. "Midway" was easily the best show all year. It has T'ealc visiting Atlantis to coach Ronon Dex as he's about to be interviewed by the I.O.A. (the resident bureaucratic bad guys of the Stargate universe). As they wait on the Midway station to cross to Earth, it comes under attack by the Wraith and the two warriors end up destroying a legion of life-sucking Wraith by themselves. The heat of battle, of course, forges their friendship and all. The writers and producers put together a finely balanced episode; if they'd handled it wrong – favoring either T'ealc or Ronon – they easily could have upset the entire fanbase. But the relationship was handled well, the characters were both respected. A 'well done' is deserved by the writers.
"The Kindred," parts I and II, resolves the "missing Athosian" story arc. They also reintroduce to us Michael, the debased Wraith from last season. He's holding a grudge against Atlantis for how they've made him an outcast both to human and Wraith. Plus, he wants Teyla's baby. It'll make him all-powerful since it has Wraith DNA. He's breeding some kind of hybrids and wants to wipe out everything. He's gone over the edge and it's fun to watch.
These episodes also bring back another character, Carson Beckett. His return was much anticipated and, while it's nice to have the good doctor back, it's difficult, too. They made him a clone instead of the "real" Beckett so that will be an ongoing issue to deal with. The story used to explain the clone could easily have been used to make this Beckett real. Michael allegedly took some DNA from Beckett during the third season episode "Misbegotten." Michael has been using this clone to create things like an illness which sweeps through Pegasus, killing humans. It would have been even better if he'd managed to capture the real Beckett and the clone had been killed off last season. But they didn't go that way. It should be an interesting storyline to watch evolve.
"The Last Man" was a fun time travel episode, giving us another glimpse of Atlantis' possible future. It ends with a wonderful setup for the next season. Teyla is still being held by Michael. Sheppard leads his team to a possible location for her. But, the building ends up collapsing on them — a nice booby trap left by good ol' Michael.
The attempted character development wasn't as successful as it could have been. "Midway" is a good example. Ronon didn't change or grow as much as he could have. He resented T'ealc, which was expected, ended up respecting him in the end – but that was virtually a given. When being interviewed by the I.O.A he responded with very brief yes and no answers. What else would we expect? Did anyone really think he'd just blast them all? No. Plus, he'd just spent some time expending all his hostility on Wraith, so he was at ease when he was finally interviewed. Well, it's not like they do a lot with Ronon's character anyway, which is a shame.
Overall, it was a decent season, if a little slow. It set up a number of stories that need to be completed in the next season.