SCI FI Channel says they’ve renewed Stargate Atlantis for a 20-episode fifth season.

Stargate Atlantis is set to resume production in early 2008.

Per the press release:

“SCI FI is proud to bring Atlantis back for another season,” said Mark Stern, Executive Vice President, Original Programming for SCI FI.  “Atlantis truly came out from under the shadow of its sister series this year and proved that it’s a hit in its own right.  With this season’s exciting new characters and vibrant storylines, Atlantis also shows every sign of matching its sibling’s longevity.

"All of us at MGM are pleased to be extending the Stargate legacy with 20 new original episodes of Stargate Atlantis for our friends at SCI FI," said Charles E. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President Finance and Corporate Development, MGM.  "Viewers the world over clamor for exciting new stories of space exploration, distant civilizations and the marvels of technology, all of which continue to be delivered by Stargate Atlantis."

Co-star Amanda Tapping was a little anxious about the renewal as reported here on Multichannel.  Joe Mallozzi, interviewed at Comic-Con, worried about the loss of Stargate SG-1 as the lead and stiff competition from broadcast net fall premieres.

Facing network launches for the first time, Stargate Atlantis’ fourth season premiere ratings dropped to a 1.2  HH rating, 1.698 million total viewers.  But the DVR numbers - we’d report those if they were made available - would probably bring the totals up.

Variety is reporting a season-to-date average of 1.8 million total viewers vs. Sci Fi’s primetime average of about 1.3 million total viewers.

UPDATE: Multichannel’s editor Tom Umstead clarifies some data here:

Season four of the series…. has averaged 1.39 million viewers for its four premiere episodes since its Sept. 28 debut. However, the numbers skew much higher when gauged on live, plus seven-day total. To that end, the fourth season premiere on Sept. 28 attracted 2 million viewers, while the second pulled in 1.68 million, resulting in a 1.84 million average, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

I like this unsung series.  It works nicely on a plasma screen and the series is perfect escapist fare for a rainy Friday night.  Congratulations to the cast, crew and producers.  And - thank you SCI FI Channel.