This episode is part 1 of 3; it is followed by "Adrift" and "Lifeline".
Gallery Episode Transcript

"First Strike" is the twentieth episode of the third season of Stargate: Atlantis.


The new Earth battle-cruiser Apollo arrives in Atlantis to launch a preemptive strike against an armada of Asuran ships preparing to take off to Earth. However, after the strike is finished, a weapons satellite appears above the city and attacks its shields. If they cannot find a way out of the situation, Atlantis will be no more.

Previously on Stargate: Atlantis[]

The Atlantis expedition made first contact with a surviving colony of Ancients called the Asurans. When the Asurans capture Lt. Colonel John Sheppard's team and Dr. Elizabeth Weir and probe their minds, Dr. Rodney McKay realizes that they are not people, but machines, a new threat of Human-form Replicators. They escaped, only to find that a few months later, they were driven out of Atlantis by Ancients, only to be taken over by the Asurans again. The team planned to take back Atlantis and rescue Major General Jack O'Neill and Richard Woolsey. They turned Atlantis' shield into an Anti-Replicator field and took back the city. In the end, Weir told Sheppard, "We beat them this time. Maybe we scared them off."


Keller Weir Civilian

Weir talks with Keller.

While walking through the halls of Atlantis, Dr. Elizabeth Weir is approached by her new acting head of medicine, Dr. Jennifer Keller. Keller is daunted by the task of managing the entire medical staff for the Atlantis expedition in the wake of Dr. Carson Beckett's death, and asks Weir to replace her as soon as possible. Weir says that's up to the International Oversight Advisory, but for right now, she tells Keller that dealing with the pressure will get easier over time; she should get used to her new position.

As Weir enters the control room, Dr. Rodney McKay approaches her and complains about having to fill out personnel evaluation reports for the people under his command. When she tries to convince him that it is necessary, Lt. Colonel John Sheppard enters the room, turning in his already completed reports to Weir. She is annoyed when she sees that he has ranked everyone with "excellent" and "above average". He retorts that they did perform excellently and above average, and a good leader shouldn't lie. Before Weir has a chance to respond, they are notified that Earth's newest Daedalus-class battlecruiser, the Apollo, has just dropped out of hyperspace. The commander, Colonel Abraham Ellis, beams down to the city and meets with Weir and her staff. He has come to inform them that the Daedalus, which has been conducting routine reconnaissance of the Asuran homeworld, has detected evidence that the Asurans are building a fleet of warships with the possible intentions of attacking Atlantis or, even worse, Earth. Ellis informs Weir and her senior staff that he will be conducting a preemptive strike against the Asurans to see that they never have an opportunity to launch their ships.

Horizon Explosions

The Apollo attacks Asuras.

After viewing images taken by the Daedalus evidencing the construction of the ships, the IOA authorized this first strike. They sent the Apollo to Atlantis with the Horizon weapons platform on board. Horizon is a module containing six Mark IX "Gatebuster" Nuclear warhead and four decoys that can be deployed from orbit. While McKay argues that since the Asurans are actually Replicators, if just one nanite survives, they will be able to reproduce their society, and Horizon doesn't have the power to destroy them all. Ellis explains that their target is only the new Asuran ships; they are constructed of conventional alloys, so the Mark IX's will be enough to completely eliminate them. Once the scientists at Area 51 complete their latest project, the Planet-Wide Anti-Replicator weapon, or P.W.A.R.W., Ellis and the Apollo will return to the planet to destroy the Asurans for good. For now, though, this will have to do.

McKay and Dr. Radek Zelenka beam up to the ship to inspect the Horizon and prepare it for launch. Meanwhile, Weir expresses doubt about the whole idea; the Asurans haven't recently made any aggressive moves against Atlantis. Attacking them now would invite a counter-attack upon the city that could have disastrous effects. Ellis proceeds anyway, despite her warnings. Upon arriving in orbit of Asuras, Ellis deploys the Horizon, which successfully delivers the nukes through the atmosphere to their targets. The mission is a success, and the Asuran ships are obliterated.

Apollo Asuran Sat 11

The satellite attacks the Apollo.

Later, an object is detected exiting hyperspace and entering orbit of Lantea. It's not a Wraith ship, but it doesn't have a recognizable transponder signal either. Apollo moves in range to investigate, and finds that it is a small satellite with a Stargate inside it. As the ship moves in closer, the Stargate activates, and shortly thereafter, the satellite maneuvers so that the wormhole's event horizon faces the Apollo and fires a sustained energy beam at the ship. The ship's energy shields are quickly drained. Before it is seriously damaged, though, the satellite rotates, moving the beam down to the planet, sweeping toward Atlantis. The city's shield is raised just in time. The beam is sustained and fires continually at the city.

McKay briefs Atlantis' senior staff and Ellis about the attack on the city. The satellite is protected by a shield powered by the beam, and the beam itself is powered by a large number of Zero Point Modules; clearly, this is the work of the Asurans. With this near-infinite power source, the Asurans will be able to maintain the wormhole and the energy beam indefinitely. Unfortunately, the humans can't maintain the city's shield anywhere close to indefinitely; their sole ZPM will be depleted in 29 hours. Then, the shield will fail and the city will be destroyed.

Weir opens communications to Asuras through the satellite gate. She is surprised to see Oberoth again. He tells her that each Asuran exists within a collective consciousness and can be replicated multiple times. Her efforts at diplomacy fail, and when the Asurans try to send a computer virus into the Atlantis mainframe, she terminates their communication link.

In light of recent events, Sheppard goes to Ellis and confronts him about the negative repercussions of their mission. Ellis responds that he is just speaking on Weir's behalf. Ellis goes on to say that while Sheppard has blemishes on his record, he should be the one leading Atlantis. Meanwhile, Teyla Emmagan meets with Weir, and the expedition leader reveals that she is deeply troubled by the threat Ellis poses to her authority. She rants to Teyla that the IOA may back her regularly, but when Atlantis faces dangerous circumstances, Weir is nothing more than their scapegoat. Worse than the IOA, though, is the military; sometimes it seems like Major General Jack O'Neill is the only one in the military who supports her command of Atlantis. She muses to Teyla that if they survive this, she may have to step down. Teyla tries to be reassuring but is clearly troubled by Weir's words.


Atlantis comes full circle

Later, while reviewing possible options, McKay and Zelenka reach a brilliant solution to their problem; submerge Atlantis to the ocean floor. The Ancients did it once before, ten thousand years ago. Previously, the team couldn't submerge the city because several necessary systems were offline. However, those systems were restored when the Ancients returned to Atlantis. Once underwater, the beam's intensity will be attenuated. Its weakened strength will buy Atlantis more shield time. This is by no means a permanent solution to the problem, but it will buy them several hours to come up with one. Weir gives the go-ahead, and McKay makes the necessary preparations. The city sinks and lands on the Lantean ocean floor. Sadly, McKay and Zelenka find that the three hours of work necessary to sink the city have saved the ZPM only nine hours worth of shield power. Another solution must be found very quickly.

Atlantis Emerges

Atlantis emerges from the ocean

Sheppard and McKay realize that they will always be in range of the satellite on Lantea, and their only hope of escaping the beam is to leave the planet and escape to space using the city's Stardrive. The problem is, there's not enough energy in the ZPM to lift the city out of the atmosphere while shielding it from the beam at the same time. In another shared stroke of genius, McKay and Sheppard suggest to Ellis that he dispatch Major Evan Lorne to lead a squadron of F-302 fighter-interceptor's toward Lantea's moon. The squadron will tether themselves to one of several asteroids orbiting the moon, and maneuver it into the beam. If all goes according to plan, it will disrupt the beam for several crucial minutes during which the shield's stresses will be alleviated. Even then, one ZPM wouldn't be enough to operate the Stardrive, but supplementing it with power from the Ancient Mobile drilling platform, it should be enough to get into the atmosphere.


Atlantis leaves Lantea

The plan is approved. All non-essential personnel are evacuated to the Apollo, and the F-302's make their way to the selected asteroid. Ellis tells Weir that while he may not like her, he does respect her, and he apologizes for attempting to overstep her authority. Weir appreciates the gesture; Ellis returns to his ship, the F-302's move the asteroid into the beam's path, the geothermal platform works perfectly, and the city begins its ascent.

Beam Hits Atlantis

The satellite's beam hits Atlantis

Unfortunately, there is still not enough energy to power the Stardrive. The city makes it to the ocean surface but can't get far up into the atmosphere. Weir suggests dropping the shield; McKay argues they won't be able to contain an atmosphere without the shield. However, Sheppard, flying the ship from the Control chair, agrees that they should deactivate it; they won't need artificial atmosphere until about 18,000 feet. Once the shield is down, Atlantis moves off into the atmosphere. After reaching 18,000 ft, Sheppard engages the shield. However, at that moment, the Asuran beam destroys the asteroid blocking it, and races down toward Atlantis. It strikes the city before the shield closes, grazing the control tower. Several windows blow out, and the blast from the beam injures many people, including Ronon Dex and Weir. The control room is severely damaged. Despite the damage, Sheppard gets the city out of harm's way, exiting the atmosphere and going into hyperspace.

Sheppard sits up, relieved but the mood is interrupted by a frantic McKay stating that he needs a medical team to the control room because there are multiple injured persons.

With that, Sheppard gets up and rushes up to the control room, arriving to a scene of carnage where there's a lot of heavy damage and many injuries. Keller loads Weir onto a stretcher. She appears to be severely injured. When Sheppard tells her she'll be okay, Keller says she isn't so sure about it. Sheppard goes into the control room, and finds Ronon there, severely injured, having to order him to get medical attention.

Immediately after, Atlantis abruptly drops out of hyperspace. McKay realizes that they have not arrived at the planet designated to be Atlantis' new home, M12-578. Rather, they are truly in the middle of nowhere; there are no nearby stars, planets, or other navigational markers.

Atlantis is lost in space, and neither McKay nor Zelenka know what happened to the hyperdrive. Worse, the ZPM has 24 hours of charge left. When it has expired, they will lose atmosphere and die.

It then cuts to show the city of Atlantis floating helplessly in space.



Appearances for First Strike





Sentient Species



Notable quotes[]

McKay: Can I please have someone else do these?
Weir: Performance evaluations?
McKay: Yes.
Weir: No, year end employee reviews are important. They help people get promotions and raises.
McKay: Look, asking me to do performance evaluations is ridiculous. I am the first person to admit — I don't know who these people are, nor do I care to. Look, if you'd like, I could take you down the hall to the labs and just point at the people who annoy me more than the rest, but that's about as useful as I get.
(Sheppard enters Weir's office and hands her a tablet)
Sheppard: All done.
McKay: Oh of course.
Weir: That was quick. Hey, John, wait a minute. You've just given everyone excellent and above averages.
McKay: Ohh, can I do that?
Weir: No. I know this is not the most glamorous part of your job but you are in leadership positions and unfortunately that comes with administrative responsibilities.
Sheppard: Everyone who works for me is excellent and above average. You want me to lie? Because I don't think leaders should lie, Elizabeth.

Weir: So we can assume the Replicators are behind this?
McKay: Well, I hope so.
Weir: You hope so?
McKay: Well, otherwise we've discovered yet another super-powerful enemy.

McKay: We were throwing some ideas back and forth — well, (pointing to Zelenka) he was throwing them forth and I was throwing them back — and while he was droning on about some idea that might have worked, it suddenly occurred to me: This city has encountered problems like this before. So, I —
Ellis: We don't need the history of your idea, Doctor. I'll let that be a surprise when I read your autobiography.

McKay: Look, as much as I hate to say it, Zelenka is not infallible.

Ronon: I need to learn some science.
Sheppard: What for?
Ronon: I'm not all that useful in situations like these. If you get into a fight, or need to break out of somewhere... you know, kill someone... I'm your man. But a laser attacking the city shield... I don't know where to chip in.
Sheppard: Well, that's why we're a team. Like...the Fantastic Four. (Teyla looks confused.) It's a comic book. Where superheroes fight crime and stuff. See, I'd be Mr. Fantastic, Ronon would be The Thing, McKay would be the Human Torch, and you'd be the Invisible Woman.
Teyla: (Defensively) I am not invisible.
Sheppard: No. No, and McKay's not a human torch.
Teyla: Well, how come you get to be Mr. Fantastic?
Sheppard: Because he was the leader, and I'm the.. .I'm just saying, they were a cool team and we're a cool team and they used their strengths to... you know....
(Ronon and Teyla stare at him.)
Sheppard: I'm gonna go check on McKay.

Zelenka: If we survive this, I'm putting in for a transfer.
McKay: Oh, please, we both know that you've done your best work under me.
Zelenka: Under you? I'm my own department head you know.
McKay: Oh, please, we both know that department is a joke...
Sheppard: Why don't you guys just make out and get it over with?

McKay: You sure you can do this?
Sheppard: Fly the city?
McKay: What else could I possibly be talking about?
Sheppard: I flew a V-22 Osprey once.
McKay: Was it as big as a city?
Sheppard: You had to use your hands and feet for that one; this one you just have to sit down and think, "fly."

Weir: May I have your attention? As you all know, we have found ourselves in a spot of trouble. The reality is that no matter where we try to hide on this planet, the Replicator satellite will be able to track us. Therefore, Doctor McKay and Colonel Sheppard have come up with a rather ingenious way for us to escape the satellite's range altogether. In the next few hours, we will fire the city's stardrive and head into space. Atlantis is leaving this planet.


Main Characters

Guest Stars


  • The "Previous on" segment misquotes Niam's speech. "Our intention is to destroy it" was referring to Atlantis, but the recap suggests Niam was talking about Earth.
  • The name of the technician played by Chuck Campbell was revealed as Chuck in this episode. In an interview at the Pegasus 2 convention in the UK, Chuck Campbell stated that his character was never actually supposed to be given a name and that it was an error on the part of Torri Higginson. However, Director Martin Wood decided to keep it in the final cut.
  • Season 4 picked up right where this episode left off. Due to Colonel Samantha Carter's role in that season, this episode (and Season 4) must take place after Stargate: The Ark of Truth, despite the latter being released well over a year after "First Strike" aired.
  • Dr. Jennifer Keller was originally intended to be a Canadian character by writer Martin Gero. In the scene where she is tending to the wounded, her uniform was filmed with a Canadian flag patch on it, but was subsequently removed in post-production at the insistence of Executive Producer Paul Mullie, due to the fact the show already had two Canadian characters; Dr. Rodney McKay and "Chuck" the technician.
  • This is the only Atlantis season finale not to involve the Wraith.


  • It is pointless to assume the Asurans require ships to reach Earth - they have all the prerequisites for using the Stargate, since they have ZPMs at their disposal, intimate knowledge of Lantian technology (could recreate the dialing crystal), and know the location of Earth.
  • Once again, one of the expedition team members from Germany was wearing the flag patch on his uniform upside down (gold-red-black instead of black-red-gold).
  • When Colonel Abraham Ellis beams into the control room, someone can be seen walking by in the far background who just disappears during the beam-in process.
  • When the Asuran satellite's beam weapon hits the ocean of Lantea, it is clear that the ocean is spreading out caused by the path of the beam. However, the next scene shows the laser merely hitting the water and clearly not spreading out.
  • The asteroid is shown moving sedately through the path of the beam and being sliced like butter. The realities of physics would have the asteroid forced out of its trajectory and spinning away the instant the beam hit it.

Other languages[]

  • Hungarian: Első csapás (First Strike)
  • German: Der Angriff (The Attack)
  • French: Nom de Code: Horizon (Code Name: Horizon)

External links[]

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