MGM // 1997 // 185 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // March 6th, 2000
At the edge of the universe lies a gateway to adventure.
MGM, of all studios, shows Paramount how to release a TV series on DVD with their first, and hopefully not last, installment of the Stargate SG-1 series. Not all episodes on this disc will impress those unfamiliar with the series, but it remains an effective introduction to a little known sci-fi phenomenon.
Those who know me best can assure you that it will be difficult for me to remain impartial in this case. Not only have I followed the progress of Stargate SG-1 from its inception in 1996, but I also have been recently hired by MGM domestic television to oversee the re-construction of their official Stargate SG-1 website -- hence my absence from this site for the past few months. Do note that I fought strenuously to get in on this DVD production in some manner -- help gather materials, give suggestions, et cetera -- but by the time I was hired by MGM the home video department was just about set in their plans for the disc release.
Back to the show itself...Stargate SG-1 premiered July 27th, 1997, on the U.S. cable network Showtime. Although series television on HBO (The Sopranos) seems to skyrocket in popularity, it is hardly the case with series television on Showtime, in which shows gain lesser recognition (The Outer Limits). However, over the past three years Stargate SG-1 has gained momentum through its syndication airings on Fox in the United States. Meanwhile, outside the U.S., the series has garnered a huge following and is a household name in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany. Now airing its third season in the states (production on the fourth season has just begun in Vancouver), Stargate SG-1 is now a mainstay in the sci-fi television community.
The series itself stars Richard Dean Anderson ('80s star of MacGyvr) as Colonel Jack O'Neill, reprising the role originated by Kurt Russell in the 1994 film Stargate (a required prerequisite to the TV series). As it turns out, in the series, the alien Stargate device discovered in the film was not limited in travel to only one other planet, but could be programmed to connect to thousands of other planets around the universe. Hence, the once dormant Stargate Command is re-activated to defend humanity against alien invasions, explore strange new worlds, and boldly go...well, you get the idea.
The DVD itself is jam-packed with over three hours of Stargate SG-1 episodes, including the 90 minute pilot movie, "Children of the Gods," and the first two episodes of the series' first season, "The Enemy Within" and "Emancipation" -- double the content of your standard Paramount Star Trek episode disc for only $5 more.
The pilot episode, "Children of the Gods," picks up one year after the movie Stargate leaves off. Colonel Jack O'Neill (Anderson) is summoned out of retirement when Stargate Command is attacked, through the Stargate, by an unknown alien foe. During the attack a member of Stargate Command is abducted and taken back through the Stargate with the hostile alien entities. O'Neill travels through the Stargate back to Abydos, where he last left Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), who now has discovered ancient alien maps detailing the network of Stargates throughout our galaxy. While on Abydos, the planet is attacked by the same hostile force that was previously encountered on Earth, only this time Jackson's wife, Sha're, and O'Neill's surrogate son, Skaara (Alexis Cruz, reprising his role from the film), have been abducted. Jackson agrees to return to Earth with O'Neill and pursue the alien who abducted his wife.
Following the pilot episode, "The Enemy Within" details the struggles of alien Teal'c (Christopher Judge) as he attempts to gain the trust of his newly found human allies on Earth. Meanwhile, Major Kawalsky suffers from the inhabitation of an alien parasite in his body following a recent mission he undertook to the planet Chulak with Colonel O'Neill and SG-1.
Finally, the third episode, and one of the worst episodes in the entire series, "Emancipation" follows the SG-1 team as they explore a planet with a Mongolian-esque society. Captain Carter (Amanda Tapping) takes it upon herself to help liberate the oppressed women of the Mongols, which, in turn, poses serious risks to her safety and the mission.
Fans of the show who have only seen Stargate SG-1 in syndication will notice certain added scenes in each episode -- especially the pilot. The episodes follow the less restrictive time frame in which they are first aired on the cable network Showtime. When the episodes are prepared to fit into a more restrictive time frame for airing in syndication, scenes are frequently removed.
Each episode on this disc is presented in its filmed 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio -- the disc has been incorrectly labeled as "standard." This will be an added bonus for fans as well, while filmed in anamorphic and aired in standard 1.33:1, the anamorphic presentation of each episode provides the show with a more film-like feel, but rarely does the wider aspect ratio add more to the content of the episode.
Meanwhile, the audio on the disc is about as good as can be expected from a TV series. Each episode contains its stereo surround track with which it is broadcast. The true highlight of the audio track is the sweeping score, based on the original score from the film Stargate, found in each episode. Composer Joel Goldsmith does a tremendous job incorporating David Arnold's original score with new elements to present a unique, but truly "Stargate," soundtrack for the series. Voice and sound effect placement is pretty general which keeps all three forward soundstage speakers in constant use during each episode.
Extra content is virtually non-existent on this disc. There is a two-page booklet enclosed with the disc that contains production notes on the series. One can consider the two additional episodes (not found the VHS release) and the widescreen aspect ratio used on the disc as extra content, but most will agree multi-episodic discs should be standard releases from studios.
The video transfers from each episode suffer from an excessive amount of grain and picture noise, especially during scenes filmed in darker locations. Even with these image defects, the DVD looks better than the show does aired on television. Still, I can't help but think if MGM spent a little more time developing and mastering this disc, the image quality could have been vastly improved.
Finally there's the episode "Emancipation." Now "Children of the Gods" and "The Enemy Within" are good, if not great, examples of episodes from the series, but "Emancipation" is just plain bad. Many fans will state "Emancipation" is the worst episode in the series (I personally feel "Brief Candle" takes that honor). Since the episodes on this disc are ordered as they aired, I take it as a sign for future release of all SG-1 episodes on DVD, and not select "best of" episodes. "Emancipation" certainly would not belong on a "best of SG-1" collection.
Also parents should note there is a scene, not aired in syndication, in the pilot episode containing full-frontal nudity. This is the only instance nudity found in any episode of the series, and does not involve sex, but was removed from the syndication version of the episode so it could be aired on non-cable television.
Even with its image problems and lack of extra content, Stargate SG-1 provides what amounts to four episodes of a great TV series in its original, and rarely seen, anamorphic widescreen format -- with the complete, un-edited for syndication, cuts of each episode. In all fairness, MGM squeezed just about all the Stargate they could onto this disc. Fans of the series owe it to themselves to own a copy of this disc, while fans of the movie, and fans of science fiction in general, should give this disc a rental spin to see what they've been missing out on.
All those involved in the production of Stargate SG-1 are acquitted while MGM is placed on probation pending the results of future releases for this TV series. (Hey, I can't bite the hand that feeds me!)
Review content copyright © 2000 Sean Fitzgibbons; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 185 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Production Notes
* Additional Episodes: The Enemy Within and Emancipation
* Stargate SG-1 (MGM)