I admit it. I thought our heroes at Stargate Command had finally had it for sure. Were the replicators back? How about the dreaded G’Ould? Perhaps another serious malfunction of the Gate caused by Carter’s meddling was about to tear a hole in the time/space continuum. What was I so sure might spell doom for Earth’s last line of defense? We’ve already escaped fiendish bombs and other devious devices. Plagues and epidemics? No problem. Just business as usual at the SGC. No. These things are just minor worries compar…d to that ruthless killer: major cast changes. Not only do we lose Richard Dean Anderson whose name appeared in larger letters above the title, but some of the new crew makes Stargate SG-1 look like a Farscape spin-off. Ben Browder takes over the team as Mitchell and Claudia Black returns as that interstellar con artist, Vala. Beau Bridges fills the very large shoes left by Don S. Davis as Gen Hammond to command the SGC. Yeah, I know Anderson took the gig for a while, but did we ever really believe that was going to last? A new base doctor comes to life, thanks to Andromeda’s living ship Lexa Doig. Even the villains are the new baddie Ori, and man, are they tough. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Shows like Law & Order have made cast changes the norm, but even on that show, never were so many major characters and threads changed so quickly. So call it Stargate SG-1 version 2.0. So how could all of this occur and leave our beloved series the same animal it always was? The answer is simple. It can’t.
I won’t go so far as to say the show is better, but I will say that it reinvented itself quite nicely after all. The powers that be made some smart choices after all. Teaming Black with Shanks avoids the inevitable Farscape trappings. It turns out the two of them have some rather fine, if awkward, chemistry. How about those new bad guys. Another great approach was to finally give us new enemies. The old story lines have pretty much run their natural course. The Ori are wickedly wonderful heavies. It’s not lost on me the religious fanatic angle either. Fortunately the creative team remains, so the writing and production values remain as high as ever. Now we’re exploring more Anglican mythology as we explore the traditions of Camelot and Arthur. The end result is a show we can still feel familiar and comfortable with, yet enjoy a fresh new take. If you are willing to give it a chance, I think that this new Stargate SG-1 will grow on you. So maybe let’s call it version 1.2.
The 16X9 anamorphic presentation is still quite stunning. Now filmed in HD, the colors are brighter than ever. The detail remains some of the best on television. The transfers are flawless. Black levels are incredibly rich in detail and depth of field. Contrast is dead on. You could calibrate any good monitor on this stuff.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is as good as it’s been since the first season. The same effort put into making the show look as good as it does obviously translates to the sound presentation. Rich score music works in perfect harmony to the needs of the dialogue and ambient sounds. While the rears are not used extensively, they do manage to surprise you now and again with just the right touch to place you square in the action.
All of the episodes come with a commentary track with folks ranging from cast members to writers and directors. As always, Peter Deluise is one of the best.
The features are spread throughout the 5 disc set. Each disc contains one feature, a director series entry, and a photo gallery. I should mention that the packaging has moved from the larger cases to slim cases and a much smaller holder box.
“It Takes A Crew To Raise A Village” The Avalon set is the largest and most ambitious set designed for Stargate to date. It stretches for 280 feet and covers an area of over 12,000 square feet. This is intended as a modular reusable set for future towns on both Stargate shows. This feature takes you on a nicely detailed tour of the massive set as well as a look at the various stages of construction.
“Director’s Series: Avalon by Andy Mikita” Mikita is one of the show’s regular directors and has been featured before. Here he walks us through a very pivotal episode. In Avalon we get to know our new cast members and are introduced to the show’s new mythos. He approaches the episode as if it were a pilot, and with good reason. There is a ton of stuff to set up in this 2 parter.
“Inside The Prop Department” A prop is anything an actor handles, we’re told as this feature begins. This nearly 16 minute presentation shows us the technical differences between props, costume, and set design. Peter Deluise does a great job of demonstrating these terms using an SG-1 cap. We get to see the prop team in action and get a preview of some new and old props for the show. You’ll see just tons of really cool stuff. And I thought my attic was stuffed.
“Director’s Series: The Powers That Be by Will Warring” This episode’s a throwback to the good ol’ G’Ould days. It’s also a great Vala episode. Waring is a cameraman turned director. He’s naturally developed a very visual approach that works well in this episode.
“Inside The Stargate Special Effects Dept.” At 18 minutes this is another chance to see some real cool stuff. We’re taught early on that if it doesn’t actually exist at all it’s a visual effect. If, on the other hand, the effect is created practically and does physically exist it is a special effect. For Stargate this translates to explosions… lots of them. A super look at the crew that creates the “Wow” factor on the series.
“Director’s Series: Prototype by Peter Deluise” Deluise is by far the most animated of the Stargate production crew. His commentary tracks and Director’s Series entries are by far the most entertaining. The guest stars take up much of this feature and Deluise’s obsession with created “evil”.
“SG-1 An Introduction To Ben Browder” Browder needs no introduction to fans of science fiction. After four years on the acclaimed Farscape, he’s no stranger to strange lands. We learn he was originally considered for the role of Shepherd on Atlantis. This is more than a surface piece at 20 minutes long. Oddly, Browder seems to steer clear of Farscape in his discussions.
“Director’s Series: Ethon by Ken Girotti”. A sequel, of sorts, to another story arc, we return to the cold war between Rand and Caledonia. The Ori have upset the delicate balance of power, and it’s up to Girotti to show it all to us. He’s a long talker, but the information is welcome.
“Profile on Brad Wright” Wright was one of the show’s creators and a true unsung hero on the series. It’s about time he got a good look on these DVD sets. It’s safe to say SG-1 wouldn’t exist today if not for Brad Wright. Watch this profile and you’ll understand why.
“Director’s Series: Crusade by Robert Cooper” While Cooper is a long-time member of the Stargate staff and co-creator of Atlantis, this was his first director outing. The results are impressive.
Sci-Fi Channel has recently announced that the current (10th) season of SG-1 will be its last. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve reported on the demise of the show. There have been several “Last” seasons of SG-1. I do believe that even if the series were to finally end here, it won’t really end at all. Wright and Cooper have been pushing for a feature film since season 5. They all but promise one will come on the DVD set. There is also the chance another venue will pick up the series. No doubt there are still more stories yet to tell. It will be interesting to see how Atlantis survives without that Stargate SG-1 link it from time to time has relied upon. Still, I expect to see SG-1 around for a bit longer, even if it’s in animated form. “I know at first blush that doesn’t sound like a viable option.”
Special Features List
- Commentary on each episode
- “SG-1 Director’s Series” featurettes
- “SG-1 Beyond the Gate” featurettes
- “Profile on Brad Wright”
- Photo and production galleries
- “An Introduction to Ben Browder”