“I saw this movie.”
When the film Stargate was released in 1994, I had very high hopes for the movie. The concept was rather brilliant, and I anticipated a kind of Star Trek without the ship. Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin hit it out of the park with Independence Day two years later, but I was sadly very disappointed in Stargate. I loved the wonderful mythology that combined ancient history and aliens. The concept had so much promise but was bogged down in awkward pacing and some of the worst storytelling I’ve seen in a big-budget science fiction film. So when the television series debuted on Showtime in 1997, I didn’t even bother to check it out. I didn’t pay any attention. If I had, I might have given it a try because of the involvement of Richard Dean Anderson, because I loved him in MacGyver, but I intentionally avoided watching the show. Nearly two years later, we had just moved into a new house and I was assembling a metal shelf unit. It was tedious work, so I put on the television for background while I tightened about a thousand small nuts and bolts. The cable box just so happened to be tuned to Showtime, and they were running a string of Stargate SG-1 episodes. I have to admit I was captivated by what I saw. The promise I was so angry had been squandered in the film was very much alive in this television series. The characters/actors were all compelling. Missing out on the show from the beginning was one of the biggest entertainment mistakes I ever made. It’s become one of my favorite shows of all time, right up there with Star Trek: The Original Series, Hill Street Blues, The Rockford Files, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is science fiction television at its absolute best. A rare case where the television series blows the film from which it was adapted away. That hadn’t happened so dramatically since M*A*S*H.
Over the next decade and longer, I became a regular fan of the series. Stargate: Atlantis came along, and while I never thought it quite measured up to SG-1, it was also a quality show. Stargate: Universe? Not so much, although it did introduce me to Robert Carlyle ,who is an amazing actor. I followed the series for its next couple of years on Showtime and then for several years more when the franchise moved to the Sy-Fy Channel. The quality remained high throughout. The next stop was home video, and I wasn’t prepared for the disappointment that brought.
The DVD releases of Stargate SG-1 were nothing short of horrible. The packaging took way too much of your video library shelf space. You got five discs, each in its own full-sized DVD case all in a bulky box. That wasn’t the worst of it. The audio and video quality, particularly in those first three or four seasons, was really bad. The image was filled with compression artifact, and the remaining digital noise left them almost unwatchable. Fortunately (or not), I didn’t have to spend any cash on the releases. We got them to review here. As much as I loved the show, I never ran them more than once. When Blu-ray came along, MGM decided not to re-release the show in high definition. I’m still not quite sure why. Stargate Atlantis and Universe both got Blu-ray releases, and they were vastly superior to the transfers of those SG-1 DVD sets.
I waited for over a decade to see Stargate: SG-1 get the release it deserved. I would often field questions from you guys about any possibility of getting a release. I’m happy to say that your long wait has finally reached its end. Visual Entertainment, Inc. (VEI) has taken over the home video release of the franchise. You can now get a super collection of all of the three shows or each individually. Because I already have and reviewed the other shows, I opted for the Stargate: SG-1 Complete Series on Blu-ray, and here’s what I discovered.
The first thing you’ll love is the packaging. I have not been pleased with complete series packaging. There are the cardboard sleeves that scratch your discs or at minimum force fingerprints on the playing surfaces. Many have overlapping discs, which are very difficult to remove and create an issue of having to put down one disc to retrieve another. Some have standard cases, but the plastics are too cheap and the spindles and holders break. VEI has come up with something I had not seen before. They have a pretty large and sturdy box that contains something like the disc albums you can buy. Each disc slides into a soft sleeve that does not scratch your discs and allows removal without touching the disc surface. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I hope it catches on and give a lot of kudos to VEI for the innovation. The crazy thing is, I bet this is cheaper to make than those complicated systems that don’t take care of your disc. They get an A+ for packaging.
Each disc contains six episodes, leaving four discs for each season. The last disc rounds out whatever is left after the first 18 episodes and ports over all of the DVD extras. The quality of the discs is the big reason you are going to want to upgrade here. These image presentations are light years away from the crap on the DVD’s. This is actually real high definition and not just a convert. The image is clearer than I remember it even on Showtime. After the fourth year the show joined the switch to HD for broadcast, and you do notice the difference once it makes that change. Now there are some exceptions here. In the first few years the digital f/x were created at a lower resolution for video and broadcast. It’s the same thing that happened on Star Trek: The Next Generation and why the f/x were re-created for the Blu-ray release. That is costly, and Paramount could afford that only through its billion-dollar-a-year deal with Netflix for exclusive rights to the content at that time. You can’t really expect that kind of cash outlay here, so yeah, some of these f/x shots look really bad, likely worse when the rest looks so clean now. That’s not a flaw of the release and completely out of VEI’s control.
I do have a bone to pick with the audio. You get the original 2.0 track, and I understand its inclusion for purists. There is a far superior DTS-HD MA track, but it is not the default. Every time you put in a disc you need to first navigate to setup and select the 5.1 track or you get the rather flat and dull 2.0 version. I would suggest in the future that you always default to the best presentation and allow for the viewer to change if they wish to. I suspect most of you will opt for the 5.1 track. I certainly did.
So what about the series itself? The show stars Richard Dean Anderson as Col. Jack O’Neill (with two l’s) who was played in the film buy Kurt Russell. He retired from the Air Force after the mission depicted in the film. The Stargate itself was placed under heavy guard at the NORAD Command Post deep in Cheyenne Mountain. After several years of silence, the gate activates, and some bad guys come through and kill some folks before leaving back through the gate. General George Hammond (Don S. Davis) now commands the post, and he reaches out to O’Neill, who finally admits that they didn’t follow orders and nuke the planet before coming home. All of this, of course, was covered in the film. So Hammond puts together a team to go back and get Daniel Jackson, now played by the rather-arrogant-in-real-life Michael Shanks. The team is joined by the current Stargate expert Doctor. Captain Samantha Carter played by Amanda Tapping. On that first mission they encounter a new “god” and discover that Ra was only one member of a species called the Goa’uld. The true bad guys are a snake-like creature that acts as a symbiote inside a human host. The symbiote trades long-life and healing powers for the Goa’uld to take over. These symbiotes are matured in a race called the Jaff’a, who act as warriors and servants to their “gods”. O’Neill manages to convert one of the Jaff’a who was having doubts about the true nature of the Goa’uld, and he saves them. Tealc is played by Christopher Judge and rounds out the four members of the first Stargate team: SG-1.
Throughout the first five seasons the team encounter many races with the same kinds of issues you might find in a Star Trek episode. They bring back diseases and other threats, making friends and enemies along the way. Throughout the series the Goa’uld are the primary bad guys, but there are others. The Replicators are an evolving mechanical creature that are much like the Borg in that they assimilate other technology and are very hard to kill. Eventually we make friends with the Asgard, who are a race from another galaxy that eventually provides earth with ships and technology. After Season 5, cast changes start to happen. Michael Shanks decided Daniel Jackson wasn’t getting enough to do and kind of quit. I say kind of because he continued to voice alien creatures and appeared in a couple of Season 6 episodes. I met Michael Shanks, and he’s really not a good guy. He treated people at a convention like crap, offering sarcasm to questions and insulting people in line for his autograph. He was replaced that season with an alien named Jonas Quinn, played by Corin Nemec. Shanks would return full time again in the seventh season, and Quinn would be dropped from the show. The ninth season saw dramatic changes. Don S. Davis left the show, replaced by Beau Bridges as General Landry. He was a downhome kind of leader much like Hammond. Anderson would also leave as a full-time member, and Ben Browder would take over SG-1 as Col. Cameron Mitchell. He would soon be joined by his Farscape co-star Claudia Black as the con artist alien Vala. As much as I missed the original team, I was also a huge fan of Farscape and loved seeing Browder and Black back together. The series ended after 10 seasons and two made-for-video films. Those are not included here and did have Blu-ray releases.
If you’ve seen the show, you have been waiting for these Blu-rays a long time. This could well be the release of the year as far as I’m concerned. We’re also happy to be back working with VEI, and I hope to have more of their complete series sets to talk about soon. For now, you really want to pick this up. MGM just got bought out by Amazon, so I worry about the Stargate fate on home video. Get them now while you can. This show had wonderful mythology, compelling stories, and great characters throughout its 10-year run. “Now that wasn’t in the movie.”
Bang it here to check out VEI and their collection of releases https://www.visualentertainment.tv/