Rodney McKay (David Hewlett in Stargate Atlantis)

Doctor Rodney McKay


We need more mad scientists with great dialogue ! Plus, Rodney McKay has a Fan Club !

Stargate: Atlantis (SGA) was the second spinoff of MGM/Sony’s broadcast television version of the Stargate franchise, airing from 2004 to 2009. You can read our Stargate Command profile to catch up on all that background.

In the United States, SGA was shown on the Sci-Fi Channel. The setting originated in Stargate: SG1’s final episode of season 7 and first episode of season 8, the lost city of Atlantis. Atlantis was an outpost of the Ancients, the aliens who invented the Stargate transport system.


Its discovery brought Stargate Command to a new planet, Lantea, and put them in contact with new allies (the Althosians) and new enemies (the Wraith). With only limited communications with Earth, the outpost in the Pegasus galaxy was forced to be self-reliant.

Using the major stargate in Atlantis, an international Earth task force to run intensive exploration efforts across the cosmos and investigate the fate of the Ancients.


  • Real Name: Dr. Meredith Rodney McKay.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Jeannie Miller (sister), Madison (niece).
  • Group Affiliation: Stargate Atlantis Expedition.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: 5’10″ Weight: 180 lbs Age: Unrevealed.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Black

Powers and Abilities

Dr. McKay is an extremely skilled scientist with expertise in numerous fields. He likely one of the greatest scientists of Earth today. And he’s sure to let you know that!


Although trained in theoretical disciples, he is also a very handy mechanic, electrician and engineer. Although originally a civilian scientist, he has learnt demolition, space piloting and some weapons use in the field.

His drawback is his off-putting personality and style. That is sure to alienate almost everyone he meets. Still, using those lightning-quick mental reflexes to save the day does wonders.

Ancient DNA

Some humans have a rare DNA tag marking them as a descendant of the Ancients. Though all humans are descendants of the Ancients, very few people have this trait. However, by the use of gene therapy several members of the Atlantis Expedition, including McKay, have also been artificially given the ATA-gene

Rodney McKay (David Hewlett) and Sheppard

This way they can access Ancient technology as long as they receive regular treatments of the therapy. This allows McKay to activate and use Ancient equipment, weaponry and ships, such as those provided by the Atlantis base. This therapy is kept secret although a few rogue scientists in the Pegasus galaxy also know of it.

The gene is constantly active and produces low amounts of a protein that is found everywhere in his body as well as on his skin. Merely moving his hand close to a machine is enough to active the device for a long duration. Once activated, a machine can be operated by others who do not possess the gene. As a result, gene-holders have been kidnapped to provide activation.


Dr. McKay is an ordinary looking man. He is seen clad in a Stargate jumpsuit, a laboratory coat, civilian clothing or whatever is appropriate in the setting.

Rodney McKay (David Hewlett) trapped by a wraith

His body language is rather offensive, and he is often seen pushing co-workers out of the way when he rushes to check up on an idea. An eternal worrier, he is often seen with a frown on his face, sometimes clumsily waving a weapon around.


Dr. McKay is one of the most arrogant and condescending personalities found in the Stargate franchise. He once identified himself as a Mensa member and believes himself to be the smartest person in the city, as mentioned in a conversation between Dr. Weir and Carson in “Hide and Seek”.

What makes it worse for his fellow team members is that, while he does not possess the wisdom of many of the other characters, in terms of raw intelligence or at least the occasional fits of insight/brilliance, he is. He is a rather good team-player and follows orders, even if he will nag about things contrary to his own opinions.


Despite his irritating demeanor, many members of the Atlantis expedition are on friendly terms with him. McKay is actually able to keep steady relationships. An alternate version of himself has admitted that he likes McKay for the simple fact that he is able to speak his mind so freely and simply.

Expedition commander Dr. Elizabeth Weir states in “Tao of Rodney” that she and the members of Rodney’s team love him.

Although McKay enjoys deriding medicine as voodoo and fake science, he considered Dr. Carson Beckett to be “the closest thing to a best friend” he ever had. He is close to the people he works with, having referred to them as a surrogate family in a message to his sister Jeannie. As to Jeannie, McKay thinks that she is wasting her talents with “just living a family life.”

Having no contact with his sister for several years, McKay has since restored their relationship and is enjoying the company of his niece.

Other traits

McKay’s Canadian heritage is a frequent source of humor among his teammates, such as his pronunciation of ZPM as a “zed-pee-em”.

McKay is a hypochondriac, claiming at various times to suffer from hypoglycemia, restless leg syndrome, allergy to bee stings and citrus fruit, none of which have ever been confirmed. He enjoys veal, MREs, hospital food, and airline food.

He studied medical science at one time, but stopped because too much information on the human body made him start to diagnose himself with many phantom diseases. McKay comes up with his most brilliant ideas while faced with the threat of death.

I shall be… that hero!

Despite his shortcomings, McKay has performed acts of extraordinary heroism as early as the first few episodes of the show. That included taking the initiative to hand-carry, and then throw, a Naqadah generator through the Stargate in order to lure a creature of floating energy out of the city. And evacuating entire populations from planets about to be destroyed.

In another mission in “The Defiant One”, he was torn between staying with a dying man and going to help the outmatched Sheppard.

Story beats

He often provides comic relief. It comes in addition to his considerable technological expertise and his ability to find solutions in situations of imminent death. In fact, such abilities have been used against him several times to motivate him – overcoming the threat of death by science is like a personal challenge. McKay might subconsciously be addicted to the rush he gets out of danger.

Also his ability to talk incredibly fast is used to great comedic effect many times in the series. Particularly when explaining just how screwed they all are. His relationship with Dr. Keller is also used for comedy as no one believes that they are dating, even Colonel Sheppard.

McKay is somewhat hapless when it comes to affairs of the heart. He behaves awkwardly and occasionally inappropriately with the opposite sex. McKay is known to have dated another woman, Dr. Katie Brown, a botanist, while in Atlantis.

Although the relationship became somewhat serious, culminating in McKay’s plan to propose to her, the relationship declined, if not ended, when McKay’s neurotic behavior during a crisis on Atlantis caused him to realize that he was not ready to take that step.

Get Carter

Fact is, McKay has a predilection for women with short blonde hair, and then in particularly Colonel Samantha Carter. He named the people of Geldar after a blonde girl he once dated; and went so far as advising their women to wear their hair in a manner similar to Lt.-Col. Carter’s.

Rodney McKay (David Hewlett) threatened with an alien gun

In “Grace Under Pressure”, an hallucination of Samantha Carter tells McKay that the reason he could never have a relationship with her is because “you don’t work with people, you don’t trust them”.

By his own admission, he has always envied Col. Samantha Carter’s aptitude for creativity and for having a “sixth sense” when it comes to problem solving. He has also called her “an artist”, and although he considers himself smarter than Carter, he believes her to be wiser.

Their “relationship” reached a low point with his arrogant criticism of her expertise at their first meeting, and his description of her as a “dumb blonde.”


McKay has poor social skills. He is, in general, perceived to be “arrogant, petty, and bad with people,” and himself acknowledges his tendency to be jealous and petty. Yes, he can all too often be sardonic, arrogant and condescending.

He is also a hypochondriac, tending to overdramatize minor injuries and harp on his hypoglycemia, bad back and allergies. He has, in spite of this, shown selfless bravery in the defense of his friends in Atlantis, whom he describes as a “sort of surrogate family.”

Although he is superficially an unlikable person, he has formed close friendships with his team and with his nearest intellectual equal, Dr. Radek Zelenka. Still, he and Zelenka are professional rivals and so Zelenka can’t get any praise.

He was such a close friend of Beckett’s that he was the one to inform the doctor’s elderly mother of his death. Rodney felt terribly guilty that he broke a “date” to fish on the Lantean mainland with his friend Beckett on the day Beckett died, believing that had Carson been away fishing, he would not have been lost.

Although they are very different personalities, McKay and Sheppard are fairly good friends. As to Ronon Dex, they often have a friendly banter going on, which McKay also often takes seriously.


It is safe to say that science is his hobby and his life. He will jump at any chance to discuss any new technology. He is also fond of using superhero references and is particularly a fan of the Batman.

As to food, he prefers food rations since he’s always on the go – he really has (nervous) energy in abundance. Because of this he is also famous for his great appetite.

Having a huge ego, McKay prefers to listen only to praise and completely ignore complaints.

McKay’s biggest fear as seen in Childhood’s End is children. He also has a fear of being eaten by a whale after being read Moby Dick by his father in his childhood. He has admitted that one of his bad habits is ’reacting in a certain way to certain doom,‘ although he might not realize that it also stresses him up into doing incredible feats.


[Sarcastic tone] “Hello. Dr. Rodney McKay. I do the difficult in a few seconds and the impossible in a few minutes.”

[About the Batman] “Hmm. Misunderstood and unappreciated by many, because his most formidable weapon was the power of his brilliant mind. Not just a hero – a superhero.”

“If you are a highly evolved supergenius, put up your hand.” [puts up his own hand] “Oh.”

[To Teyla] “Hey, I’ve been cocooned inside an alien space craft. I’ve had another person living inside me. I’ve met not one, but two different versions of myself. So who am I to judge ? If you say it was a vision, then I’ll believe it was a vision.” [later to Sheppard] “I seriously doubt it was a vision.”

Stargate: Atlantis city

[About time-travel] “Well, according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity there’s nothing in the laws of physics to prevent it. Extremely difficult to achieve, mind you. You need the technology to manipulate black holes to create wormholes not only through points in space, but time.”

[Explaining his work progress] “Slower than I expected, but faster than humanly possible.”

[After injecting himself with Wraith enzyme and beating up two guards] “And that’s what happens when you back a brilliant scientist into a corner !”

“I had to create a whole new form of mathematics. I did it, and now [the task] can be done.”

[Throwing the blame on Zelenka] “You should know that I’ll be giving Zelenka a straight talking to.”

“I built an atomic bomb for my grade six science fair exhibit.”

“Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the pod this morning.”

“I’m sorry, medicine is about as much of a science as… oh, I don’t know, voodoo ?”

“Did I mention that I know almost everything about almost everything ?”

“Well, let me see – we’ve got slow death, quick death, painful death, cold, lonely death…”

“Humble, huh ? I guess I could try everything once.”

[Facing a wraith guard] “So ! This is how it’s gonna be, huh ? Just me ?” [seeing another Wraith guard come up] “OK ! That’s just fine !” [he draws his pistol and points it at them, grinning in bravado] “You want some of this, huh ? Huh ?” [as he goes to fire his pistol, he presses the wrong part of the gun and the magazine ejects and drops to the floor] “Oh.”

Sheppard: “I’m going to send a science team here to check this out.”
McKay: [objecting] “I *am* a science team !”

Weir: “You destroyed three-quarters of a solar system !”
McKay: “Five-sixths, but it’s not an exact science.”

Sheppard [They both look at a destroyed DHD]: “Is there any other way to dial ? And don’t say no if there is *any* possibility, because I am not in the mood for your usual impossible heroics game.”
McKay: “I wouldn’t do that !” [although he most certainly would]

Dex: “Not much point in leaving without blowing this place up first.”
Weir: “How would we do that ?” [everyone looks at Rodney]
McKay: “Oh, that’s me. Right. Surprise, surprise. Look, why don’t I just go on these missions by myself, hmm ?”

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats

Dr. McKay

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Upholding the Good
Int: 08 Wil: 08 Min: 07 Occupation: Mad Scientist, Chief Scientific Officer of the Atlantis Expedition
Inf: 05 Aur: 03 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 016 HP: 055

Gadgetry: 08, Scientist (incl. Computers): 10, Military Science (Cartography, Demolitions): 04, Military Science (Cryptography): 08, Thief (Security Systems): 08, Vehicles (Space): 04, Weaponry (Firearms): 03, Weaponry (Melee): 02

Familiarity (Earth movies), Expertise (The Batman), Genius, Language (“Ancient”, Genii, Wraith, possibly French), Misc. (Gene of the Ancients by gene therapy), Scholar (Astrophysics, Computers, Naqahdah, Technology of the Ancients), Special Credentials (Medium, Stargate Command).

Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard (High), Dr. Carson Becket (High), Dr. Radek Zelenka (High), Ronon Dex (Low), The Atlantis Expedition (Low).

MIA (Hypochondria), MIA (Colonel Samantha Carter; earlier only), SIA (Nagging and bragging).


  • FN-P90 Personal Defense Weapon [BODY 04, Projectile weapons 06, Sharpness (projectile weapons) 01, Ammo 12, R#2, Advantage: Autofire, Limitation: Can only use SLAP ammunition (already factored in)].
  • Ancient Scanner [BODY 03, Detect (Energy) 08, Life Sense 06, Bonus: Detect can do both Qualitative and Quantitative readings, Note: The device can only be activated by a user possessing the gene of the Ancients].
  • Tactical Radios [BODY 02, Radio communications (scrambled) 07].
  • GDO (Garage Door Opener) Emitter [BODY 02, Radio communications (scrambled) 00, Limitation : Can only send an unlocking code to the iris on the SGC Stargate – the current code is never stored in the GDO and must be typed by memory, Notes: Assume GDO has 6 APs for Scrambled purposes. McKay’s GDO identifies him as Doctor McKay of the Atlantis Expedition.].

The difficult in seconds ; the impossible in minutes

In addition to having a huge ego, McKay also is an incredibly talented scientist (INT, Scientist). He is Earth’s foremost expert in the mineral Naqadah and its applications as well as in the technology of the ancients, including Stargate technology (various Scholars).

Also knowledgeable in astrophysics, and everything pertaining to computers, he is one of Stargate Commands top three scientists.

Although he would never agree on it, McKay works best under stress. When in do or die situations, he always manages whatever task is at hand, burning loads of HPs if needed.

In fact, he’s reputed to be skillful enough that the difficult takes a few seconds and the impossible a few minutes (Genius). A true asset… even as he is constantly nagging or bragging.

By Dr. Peter S Piispanen.

Source of Character: Stargate Atlantis.

Helper(s):, , Alan Wilkinson.