I've always found Stargate Atlantis a generally much more appealing show than its parent series SG-1, boasting a more interesting setting with less reliance on the military and an extremely likeable cast of characters with genuine chemistry. The fifth and, sadly, final season of Atlantis demonstrates all these qualities admirably, with a very consistent batch of episodes that include some of the finest the series has ever produced. If you've seen the previous four you're most definitely not going to want to miss out on this.
A bit lighter and with more variety after the darker, more involved tone of season four, the series starts out by resolving the explosive cliffhanger of 'The Last Man' and does away with Samantha Carter as the commander of Atlantis, replacing her with Robert Picardo's Richard Woolsey, an initially unpopular move that ended up being an enormously successful gambit. Picardo is a great actor, welcoming the opportunity to somewhat humanise the previously unlikeable and somewhat neurotic IOA man. While being something of a stickler for the rules, Woolsey soon realises that the situations that Atlantis has to deal with aren't as clear-cut as he expected, forcing him to make some difficult decisions. I'd say that Woolsey is without a doubt the best commander the series has seen, certainly better than Carter who spent much of her tenure looking a bit lost, and it's a shame that we only got one full season of him.
Elsewhere, the regulars are their usual loveable selves all of whom get a chance to shine over the season. Indeed, the always slightly bland Teyla gets her best showcase ever, channelling her darker side in the disturbing, political power play of 'The Queen'. While some fans seem to have taken great exception to Jewel Staite's character Dr Jennifer Keller, I must admit that I fail to really see any problem with her. That said it's still fantastic to see a few hugely welcome guest appearances from her much-loved predecessor Carson Beckett over the course of the season. The delightfully sinister and dryly amusing Wraith "Todd" pops up a lot too, enhancing every episode he appears in.
The episodes are generally pretty high quality, with some exceptional offerings to be had in the form of 'The Shrine' (quite possibly THE best episode of the entire series), 'First Contact'/'The Lost Tribe' (featuring a guest appearance from Daniel Jackson who gets to share plenty of witty banter with Rodney), 'The Prodigal' (Michael returns for a final reckoning with the Atlantis team), 'Vegas' (a thrilling alternate reality episode that good-naturedly spoofs the CSI franchise) and the series finale 'Enemy at the Gate', a jam-packed hour of television that provides a wonderful, visually-stunning ending to the series. There are also some interesting and very successful experiments, like the mini horror movie 'Whispers' and the earthbound environmental-themed comedy 'Brain Storm'.
There aren't any outright duds, although dull, clichéd body-swap caper 'Identity' comes dangerously close and 'Remnants' wastes some awfully good drama on a pretty poor twist from the very worst kind of Star Trek episodes. 'Tracker' and 'The Seed' are enjoyable but a bit by-the-numbers. 'Infection' is a fun offering, but it's the first real sign that the Wraith storyline is in need of being wrapped up as it brings nothing really new to the table. I would mention 'Inquisition', but that manages to rise above being something of a clip show thanks to some fantastic character moments.
A great season of a hugely entertaining series that still had plenty of life left in it. There are story threads set up here that were obviously meant to be explored further in a sixth season that ultimately never came, but should still get some pay-off in the forthcoming Atlantis movie. Hopefully we won't have too long to wait.