When Judge Bill Treadway went through the Stargate, he saw streaks of flashing light, an endless vista of sand dunes, and a bunch of shiny discs with great sound quality and cool extras.
Our reviews of Stargate SG-1 (published March 6th, 2000), Stargate SG-1: The Complete Second Season (published September 3rd, 2002), Stargate SG-1: The Complete Third Season (published June 27th, 2003), Stargate SG-1: Season Seven (published February 9th, 2005), Stargate: SG-1: The Complete Ninth Season (published November 29th, 2006), and Stargate SG-1: Children of the Gods (published July 21st, 2009) are also available.
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About to enter its eighth season, Stargate SG-1 is one of the most popular series on cable television today. Now MGM has released the sixth season of SG-1 on DVD for the first time. Does this set do the series justice, or is it yet another letdown?
Facts of the Case
The main players of Stargate SG-1:
Colonel Jack O' Neill (Richard Dean Anderson, MacGvyer): the leader of the SG-1 units
Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks): O'Neill's friend and partner who died at the end of season five but reappears in ghost form in several episodes
Major Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping): the gutsy, intelligent officer who is an expert at decoding alien equipment
Teal'c (Christopher Judge): an alien ally from the Tok'ra race
Jonas Quinn (Corin Nemec, Parker Davis): Jackson's replacement, an alien with a human host
General Hammond (Don S. Davis): in charge of the SG-1 program for the U.S. military
I enjoyed the original 1994 film Stargate. I found it to be an intelligent and engrossing science fiction film that didn't rely solely on elaborate special effects. What impressed me most was the fully drawn, three-dimensional characters. I had become so used to the standard cardboard cutouts most sci-fi films featured that it blew me away to see real people!
I did not have cable television when spinoff series Stargate SG-1 originally aired on Showtime; it shifted to the Sci-Fi Channel several years later. Even though episodes were airing in syndication, I didn't give SG-1 much thought. It was my godfather who told me to check out the series, saying it was a great show, and as always, he was correct. SG-1 is one of the most extraordinary series ever to be spun off from a successful movie—well, since M*A*S*H, anyway.
Why does Stargate SG-1 succeed where so many spinoff series have failed? I think it's due to several factors, the first of which is the writing. Every script is written with intelligence and care. While most television series tend to dumb down the writing to become more accessible (a dumb reason if I have ever heard one), the SG-1 writing team refuse to do so. They know their audience is smart and realize that it would be condescending to offer shallow, simplified writing. The second successful factor is accessibility. Each episode stands alone extremely well. You do not even need to have seen previous seasons to enjoy this one. If any back story is needed, a short montage before the episode provides it. The third successful element is the balance between visuals and character. As with the film, visuals take a back seat to smart characterizations and good storytelling. Andromeda pales by comparison because it wants to have its cake and eat it too, which means that the visuals too often drown out the story. SG-1 gets it right.
The last key element is the acting. The cast is one of the finest ever assembled for a television series. Richard Dean Anderson fits perfectly in the role previously filled by Kurt Russell. In fact, I think he is even better than Russell. He is the show's authority figure, but Anderson does imbue O'Neill with real human qualities: He's a tough guy, but he can be sympathetic too. Amanda Tapping does a good job of taking a potentially stereotypical role and investing it with real human qualities. At last, we get the strong female action heroine who isn't only eye candy. Christopher Judge makes a stoic alien; he's the SG-1 equivalent of Spock. Don S. Davis takes the typical role of the authority figure and transcends genre conventions.
The 24 episodes from the program's sixth season appear on five discs. I've rated them on a scale of zero to five stars.
• "Redemption, Part 1"
• "Redemption, Part 2"
• "Shadow Play"
• "The Other Guys"
• "Unnatural Selection"
• "Sight Unseen"
• "Smoke and Mirrors"
• "Paradise Lost"
• "The Changeling"
• "Full Circle"
MGM presents Stargate SG-1 in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfers look quite good. Some episodes contain a bit more grain than I would have liked, and some edge enhancement creeps up in several episodes, but other than that, the image is clean and crisp. If you've seen SG-1 on television, you'll be amazed at both how clean some scenes look and how uneven others appear.
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks have been provided for each episode. All episodes sound great on the sound system: Dialogue is easily understood, and the musical score sounds appropriately majestic. The sound effects sound extremely impressive. There are some moments so clear that I found myself ducking to avoid being shot. For a sound mix to get me that worked up is very impressive. Some light hiss in one episode prevents me from giving this a perfect score, however.
MGM has really given Stargate SG-1 the royal treatment. You'll find commentary tracks on each and every episode in the set. The "cast and crew" credit here is a bit misleading, though: the only major cast members you will find here are Judge and Davis. The others are MIA this time around. The crew consists mainly of the director, cinematographer, and visual effects supervisor, in various combinations. That being said, how are the commentaries? They're actually very good. A plethora of behind-the-scenes information is offered here, all of it welcome. The participants are all enthusiastic speakers. Several of these tracks work as entertainment as well. You'll also find 12 behind-the-scenes featurettes. All titled "SG-1 Director's Series," these are the perfect companions to the commentary tracks. The sole detriment is that they are on the brief side.
Some might complain that there should be more extra content. Hell, I'm stunned that there are commentary tracks for every single episode. Warner Bros. should look at what MGM has done here and take stock.
MGM has placed a $59.99 retail price tag on the sixth season of Stargate SG-1. While I believe that the set is worth every penny, some may be dismayed at the high price. If you love Stargate SG-1, shop around. I'm sure you'll find a lower price that agrees better with your wallet. If you're new to SG-1, rent any of the sets or catch the reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel to see science fiction television at its best.
MGM has raised the bar for DVD box sets everywhere. All studios who have made a habit of issuing barebones box sets should take a look at the SG-1 releases and learn how to do a box set properly.
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