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The Stargate franchise is one of sci fi television’s most beloved series, ranking alongside shows like Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek for its dedicated fanbase and impact. Unfortunately, the franchise had a tough time staying profitable after Stargate SG-1, ultimately resulting in the cancelation of Stargate Atlantis, and then Stargate Universe. Joe Flanigan, who played John Sheppard on Stargate Atlantis is a stalwart fan of the series. After feeling frustrated with MGM over how they treated the franchise, Flanigan himself tried to purchase the rights. 

Why was ‘Stargate Atlantis’ canceled?

Joe Flanigan as Lt. Col. John Sheppard, Jewel Staite as Dr. Jennifer Keller, Robert Picardo as Richard Woolsey, Jason Momoa as Ronan Dex, Rachel Luttrell as Teyla Emmagan, and David Hewlett as Dr. Rodney McKay in Stargate Atlantis
Joe Flanigan as Lt. Col. John Sheppard, Jewel Staite as Dr. Jennifer Keller, Robert Picardo as Richard Woolsey, Jason Momoa as Ronan Dex, Rachel Luttrell as Teyla Emmagan, and David Hewlett as Dr. Rodney McKay in Stargate Atlantis | F. Scott Schafer/Syfy/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Fans of Stargate Atlantis have spent plenty of time speculating as to why the series was canceled after Season 5. Some felt as if the show was torpedoed to make way for Stargate Universe, but show writer Joseph Mallozzi says it was a matter of economics.

In a 2008 blog post, Mallozzi pegged the cost of Stargate Atlantis in the midst of a challenging economy as the major reason for its cancelation. 

“This will be Stargate Atlantis’ fifth and final season. I’m disappointed but not surprised. We came into this year knowing that renewal would be a longshot. With 100 episodes under our belts, rising production costs, and the US dollar’s steep decline, the odds were stacked against us,” Mallozzi admitted in his post

“It’s been a bittersweet couple of days. On the one hand, I’m sorry to see the series end but, on the other hand, I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished. 100 episodes is a pretty damn impressive feat and, as evidenced by the quality of recent stories and the uptick in the ratings, we’ll be going out on a high,” Mallozzi added.

Fans at the time were very angry with MGM, who they blamed for ending the show. Mallozzi suggested that they should try to acknowledge the hand MGM had in creating the show in the first place.

“Even though I see a lot of anger directed at both MGM and Sci Fi, the fact is we couldn’t have done it without their support,” he wrote.

Joe Flanigan tried to buy franchise to save series

Actor Joe Flanigan played John Sheppard on Stargate Atlantis — a committed Atlantis team member who plays fast and loose with the rules, Flanigan’s character was a fan favorite. And Flanigan himself adored the series — so much so that when it was canceled, he tried to purchase the Stargate franchise to film additional episodes.

“Then MGM went through bankruptcy. So what I had done is, during that process, I had contacted a few investors and we had made an informal arrangement to either buy or lease the franchise,” Joe Flanigan explained at The Edmonton Expo.  

“And I’d led a small group of people and we had the informal agreement — the guy who ran MGM said, ‘I can’t let you buy the franchise. That would require a level of approval that we can’t even muster up these days because we’re going south. But I can maybe make an informal agreement to lease this thing on a ten-year lease.’”

Unfortunately, other factors soon made Flanigan’s attempts to buy or lease the series borderline impossible. 

MGM’s bankruptcy seemingly spoiled the ‘Stargate’ deal

Joe Flanigan played John Sheppard on Stargate Atlantis
Joe Flanigan played John Sheppard on Stargate Atlantis | Brian de Rivera Simon/Getty Images

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MGM soon went through bankruptcy, and Stargate Atlantis star Joe Flanigan says this process torpedoed his efforts to reboot the franchise.

“And we came up with all the numbers, and we basically said okay, that will work for us if that will work for you. Then they went through the process of bankruptcy. And when they emerged, nobody was there that I had previously spoken to,” he explained. 

“So I had to re-engage this conversation with Spyglass, which manages the library for MGM. And I went in there and I said, ‘I have had fairly extensive talks with you guys before you went through bankruptcy and this is what I’d like to do, I’d like to lease the franchise.’”

Flanigan went on to explain that he had an entire plan, including the money to back it, that he delineated to the folks at Spyglass and MGM. 

“‘And I plan to shoot 20 episodes and we’re gonna shoot them in Europe, we’ll shoot them for this cost, we’re gonna pre-sell them all over the world, and we’re gonna come back to American networks. It’s one of those things that audiences want now, and it’s one of those things that make for a good business model.’ … The answer was pretty much, ‘Wow, that’s a really good idea. Thank you.’ And I wasn’t sure if they were gonna do it, or whether they just weren’t interested.”

Ultimately, Spyglass and MGM didn’t engage with Flanigan’s plan — another reason for Stargate fans to feel bitter towards the companies. However, Flanigan’s attempts at rebooting the franchise independently have cemented him as a true fan in the hearts of Stargate viewers.