John Sheppard never planned to be here. Released from a dead end mission at the end of the world, he found himself on an expedition to the lost city of Atlantis in the distant Pegasus galaxy. When the group was cut off from Earth and its commander killed, Sheppard had to step in and take over the military contingent and the base’s main off-world reconnaissance team.
Sheppard was played by actor Joe Flanigan, who had worked in politics and writing before turning to acting. He had a string of dramatic roles on shows like Providence, Profilerand Dawson’s Creek. In 2004, Flanigan was cast as the leading man in stargateand shipped to Vancouver, BC for five years and 100 episodes of great sci-fi stories.
Here we count our five favorites Atlantis Stargate episodes centered on John Sheppard. Check out our list below or watch the video version, then post your five favorite Sheppard episodes in the comments!
We’ve narrowed our list down to just five great episodes – episodes where John himself is front and center. But it’s worth acknowledging a few honorable mentions that are important to the character, but narrowly missed out on the top 5 list.
Season 2’s “Conversion” sees Sheppard transform into an iratus insect-like humanoid after coming into contact with experimental gene therapy. What he gains in super strength, dexterity and climbing ability costs him his humanity – as John Sheppard the man slips away.
It’s an entertaining hour, because Atlantis gives us his take on the classic sci-fi movie Fly. The makeup is top notch and the characters are all about taking care of their friend. And hey, if you’ve been waiting since season one for sparks to fly between John and Teyla… well, this episode has the show less romantic kiss ever! After watching this one, I left feeling like there was no longer any sexual tension left between these two.
Then there is “Epiphany”. Sheppard is drawn into a bubble of time dilation, where a community of humans are trying to learn how to ascend. Time passes much faster here, so Sheppard lives six months with the villagers while outside the bubble his team tries to rescue him.
Joe Flanigan himself contributed to the story here – and for the most part, it works. Despite the brilliance of “MALP On a Stick”, in a 2006 interview with GateWorld, Flanigan himself expressed some dissatisfaction with the final product. That final conflict with an unseen monster is a bit lackluster, and in the long run, it’s unclear that Sheppard actually grew up living with Teer and his people.
“You know, not every episode is great,” Flanigan said. “Some are less good than others. I know I’m supposed to sit here and plug this in, but I’m also a viewer. I’m a regular part of the world of viewers and I know I love the shows I would watch And it’s a show I would definitely watch, and some episodes are better than others.
Now, with honorable mentions aside, let’s move on to our five favorite Sheppard episodes…
Number 5: “Outcast”
“Epiphany” wasn’t Joe Flanigan’s only story credit on the show. In the fourth season, he engineered what became “Outcast”, with a teleplay written by Alan McCullough.
John returns home after the sudden death of his father, accompanied by Ronon Dex. But her troubled family history ends up being the least of her problems. A woman approaches them with information about Henry Wallace, whose company she believes works with advanced nanite technology acquired off-world. In a lab, the company has created what is, in effect, Earth’s own human-form replicator.
A replicator on the loose on Earth makes for an intriguing story. And it’s a nice change of pace to see Sheppard and Ronon running around Earth. In the process, we finally gain more insight into John’s backstory, which has remained largely obscure for many years. We meet John’s estranged brother, Dave, as well as his ex-wife – Nancy (played by Cursors‘Kari Wuhrer). As John pays homage to his late father, we see that John spent many years running away from him.
And look, look! It’s Bates! Season 1 cast member Dean Marshall returns, revealing that after being injured by a Wraith and reassigned to Earth, he joined a new IOA task force.
Number 4: “The Eye”
After its commander, Colonel Sumner, was assassinated by the Wraith during their first mission to the Pegasus galaxy (“Rising, Part 2”), Major Sheppard quickly stepped in and took charge of the army assigned to shipping. He has proven himself a capable leader and a cunning soldier, from those early Wraith encounters to an entanglement with the backstabbing Genii.
In the first two-part mid-season installment, we see what Sheppard is truly capable of as a warrior and field strategist. After the Genii commander Kolya (Robert Davi) takes over the city and takes his friends hostage, John plays a deadly game of cat and mouse – moving stealthily through the city, taking out the Genii and sabotaging Kolya’s invasion of the ancient city in the midst of a once-a-century storm.
It was not only a great episode for Sheppard’s heroism, but it also laid the foundation for his continued rivalry with Kolya. We would see Commander Genii return many times after that… and also later on our list!
Number 3: “Travellers”
When he’s not tangling with Genii or looking for a way out of a Wraith hive ship, John is perhaps the most fun to watch training with his allies. In the season four episode “Travelers”, his Puddle Jumper is scavenged by an alien race we’ve never encountered before: the Travelers are a nomadic civilization that have lived on colonial ships for generations, in order to keep a ahead of the Wraith. .
Their leader is Larrin (played by Jill Wagner), who is quite the match for Sheppard’s intelligence and stubbornness. She wants Sheppard to use her latent Ancient Gene to help them activate a Lantian Battleship.
The two have instant chemistry, and the episode keeps us guessing as Sheppard and Larrin alternate between cooperation and excitement against each other. John turns the tables on her and steals her shiny new ship… only to run into the Wraith.
Ultimately, they must work together, and Sheppard forges a crucial alliance with the Travelers.
Number 2: “Vegas”
Our second pick for Best Sheppard Episode is probably the most unusual hour of Atlantis Stargate. And, in fact, it’s not even our John Shepard. “Vegas” takes place entirely in a parallel universe, where Sheppard is a failed police detective who has never crossed paths with the Stargate program.
While on the trail of a killer, he learns that this criminal is not an ordinary man, but a life-sucking creature – a Wraith, who has been stranded on Earth and is now trying to contact his kind. .
Originally called “CSI Atlantis” by writer and director Robert C. Cooper, “Vegas” is a treat – from its unique setting and visual style to the very intimate look at the road not traveled. This Sheppard was pretty much beached, with one foot out the door, leaving town with a bag of cash found during his investigation. But when he realizes where the Wraith is hiding, he pursues it, putting his life on the line for the sake of others – to get the job done, knowing he’ll never receive thanks or accolades for doing the right thing.
And the music is fantastic here. This episode turns into a firefight in the desert, as Sheppard is killed in a heroic effort to stop the Wraith from reporting his people and dooming Earth. As Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Solitary Man” plays, the camera lifts and pans away from this alternate Earth…leaving this version of John Sheppard to die alone in the dirt.
Number 1: “A Common Ground”
We saved the top spot on our list for a story about our Sheppard, the John Sheppard whose adventures we have loved for five wonderful years.
“Common Ground” sees the return of Acastus Kolya in season three. Since they last met, the Genii government has been overthrown in a coup, leaving the once-proud commander on the outside. Now he leads a small band of loyalists, and his agenda includes ambushing the team and kidnapping Sheppard.
John is a prisoner throughout this episode, as Kolya subjects him to torture – allowing a captured Wraith to feed on him again and again. Kolya contacts Atlantis and demands that they hand over Ladon Radim, the new Genii leader who led the coup and usurped Kolya’s position. (Ladon – played by Ryan Robbins – was actually one of Kolya’s underlings during the invasion of Atlantis in Season 1.)
In addition to those brutal scenes where Flanigan flexes his acting muscles, and in addition to one of Sheppard’s finest hours against Kolya, “Common Ground” really shines in the Colonel’s complex relationship with his fellow inmate. The Wraith we later know as “Todd” (played by the great Christopher Heyerdahl) has long been separated from his hive and imprisoned by the Genies. This Wraith has nothing against Sheppard, but he has to feed himself…and he resents the exploitation of Kolya as an instrument of torture.
In the end, Sheppard and his captive companion work together to escape, and John lets the Wraith break free – introducing one of the Atlantis Stargate‘ the most original and compelling characters. The Colonel’s relationship with Todd will take many twists and turns as the series continues, until the series finale.
“Common Ground” is a great episode, and it shows John Sheppard at his best: under pressure, facing terrible odds, but smart and compassionate in turning the tide on his enemy while remaining true to his own character.
Let’s hear your picks for your favorite Sheppard episodes! Do you think John is at his best when he’s forced to be alone, like “Epiphany”? Or does the character shine as he leads his team across the Pegasus galaxy? Leave us your Top 5 in the comments below, or on YouTube.
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