Stargate SG-1: Volume 20 Review

The Episodes
Way back in 1994 the “blockbuster movie” team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmirich gave us the original Stargate movie. Its science fiction plot featured a team of US soldiers lead by Colonel Jack O’Neill (then Kurt Russell) along with archaeologist Daniel Jackson (James Spader) venturing through a gateway across the universe, finding a desert planet where the people live as slaves to false gods. The story was slight but entertaining, and very sequel friendly. However, instead of a second film it was spun off into a television series. O’Neill (now played by MacGyver actor Richard Dean Anderson) and Dr Jackson (Michael Shanks) are now a team – SG-1 – which is completed by new recruit Major Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) and eventually Jaffa rebel Teal’c (Christopher Judge). Being a weekly TV series allowed the writers much more time and space to expand the story, and now the SG-1 team travel throughout the galaxy by Stargate, encountering many more alien races and dealing with the ever-present threat of the Goa’uld.

Like so many other US shows of the genre the first season was not particularly great, when the show was still finding its feet. But since then it has steadily improved to be one of the best SF shows on television, ranking alongside Buffy as a genre show where the TV version has developed into a far better entity than the original film ever was. The interplay between the main characters is very strong, and Richard Dean Anderson especially is excellent as the straight-talking O’Neill. Like any other TV series the episodes will always vary in quality, but in general the storylines are strong. Possibly one of the shortcomings of the show is that it sometimes suffers from “Dr Who Syndrome” in that, instead of gravel pits, so many other worlds seem to look like the Canadian wilderness. This is a minor quibble though, and this series has continued to improve over its (now) six seasons.

These are the first four episodes from the fifth season of the show and are:

(note: minor spoilers here)

Enemies


This is the second part of a season spanning cliffhanger, following the episode Exodus. The SG-1 and Tok’ra plan to destroy Apophos’ fleet has largely succeeded, but they now find themselves stranded in deep space with Apophos’ ship for company. Teal’c meanwhile has been recaptured by Apophos, and has now apparently returned his loyalty to his “God”. Just to complicate matters further, the ship has now been invaded by an army of Replicator bugs.

Threshold


Teal’c has been rescued but is still in service of Apophos. In order to get his mind back, Bra’tac (Tony Amendola) arrives at the SGC. His plan is to put Teal’c through the Rite of M’al Sharran, a dangerous ritual that could free Teal’c’s mind, but could also kill him.

Ascension


On a mission on a devastated planet Major Carter collapses whilst investigating a strange device. Even though she appears to be unharmed she is put on temporary leave. Whilst on leave she is visited by a strange man who may really be an alien inhabitant from the planet.

The Fifth Man


On planet P7S441 whilst under heavy fire from a large number of Jaffa soldiers, Carter, Jackson and Teal’c have to temporarily abandon Col O’Neill and new SG-1 team member Lt Tyler. The problem is that when they return to Earth, no one has any knowledge of “new member” Lt Tyler. Col Simmons (John De Lancie) uses this as another opportunity to undermine the SGC and General Hammond’s command, whilst O’Neill and Tyler are forced to make a heavily outnumbered stand.

These are four very good episodes from season five, the first two being the conclusion of the previous season ender and overall continuations of the main show story arc. The third and fourth are very watchable stand-alone episodes. Enemies is a good special effects heavy actioner, whereas Threshold gives us a chance to see a bit of Tealc’s previous life as he became the First Prime of Apophos. Even though Ascension is a little derivative of Starman it is still an entertaining episode – and features a great Star Wars gag. Finally, The Fifth Man is another interesting episode, with the always entertaining guest starring of John De Lancie as the somewhat unpleasant Col. Simmons.

Picture
Given that I’m used to watching this show on Sky One’s “hacked down the middle” picture on a very grainy analogue cable service, pretty much anything here would have been an improvement. As it is the anamorphic image is extremely good indeed, so good that it feels like watching the shows for the first time. Enemies, the first episode here, looks particularly impressive as it is set aboard a Goa’uld ship which along with the Jaffa battle uniforms features vibrant and striking primary colours. This is a TV show that is shot onto 35mm film rather than video and as such looks excellent here. In fact in the episode Enemies the image quality is almost too good as the clarity of the image now makes special effects squibs on the scenery that were meant to simulate gunshot hits clearly visible.


Sound
Likewise the sound is superior quality to television broadcasts, being as it is Dolby Digital 5.1. It’s not quite as powerful as I’d hoped but it is a marked improvement over basic stereo, with plenty of directional effects. Such ambient effects as the background engine noise on board the Goa’uld ships is more prominent here, which certainly adds to the overall atmosphere.

There are also DD 5.1 tracks available in German and Spanish available on the disc.


Video Extras
The main extra on this disc is director, cast and crew commentaries for every episode. Each one features the director, plus the most relevant additional people to that episode. Hence, Enemies features director Martin Wood and visual effects supervisor James Tichenor, as it is a very SFX intensive episode. They talk about the effects, plus such things as making one set look like many different locations, and the art of maintaining the same camera orientations when filming on board a travelling spaceship. The Teal’c episode Threshold features director Peter DeLuise, James Tichenor and Teal’c actor Christopher Judge. They discuss technical elements of filming along with the developments of the characters, particularly the back-fill of Tealc’s character before he joined the SGC. Likewise as Ascension is a Samantha Carter episode this commentary features Amanda Tapping along with director Martin Wood and James Tichenor. Discussions include how filming for TV with a limited budget and running time is done and some cut scenes (though unfortunately we don’t get to see them). Finally, The Fifth Man features director DeLuise and screenwriters / producers Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, and unsurprisingly much time is devoted to talking about writing for a long running series. These commentaries are certainly all of interest to anyone who is a fan of the show, particularly the contributions of actors Judge and Tapping. Both directors are regulars so know a lot about the show, though I personally found Martin Wood more interesting than Peter DeLuise, who had a tendency to clown about more. But then he is the son of madcap actor Dom DeLuise, so I guess it’s just in the genes…

A continuing series on these discs are the video diaries where various members of the cast take us behind the scenes and chat with various members of cast and crew. Here we have the SG-1 Video Diary: Don S Davis (who plays General Hammond). He talks to such people as the sound coordinator, the stuntman who often appears in cameo roles and the guy who sets up all the on set video displays. It runs for just under nine minutes.

Listed on screen as “WWW” this is not a web link but instead a fan club spot which is a very brief plug for the online Stargate SG-1 fan club.

Finally, the Volume 21 Episode previews are brief trails for the four episodes on the next disc. With an appalling voice-over and too many spoilers, these are best avoided.

DVD-ROM Extras
You might expect at least a weblink to the official site, but alas there are no ROM features here.


Final Thoughts
Stargate has come a long way since the original movie. These are four decent episodes of one of the best SF shows on television and are presented with very good picture and sound quality here. Given that this is a long running series of discs the extra material here is very good as well. Highly recommended to all fans of the show and anyone who appreciates quality SF.

Film
8 out of 10
Video
9 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
8 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 23/06/2018 22:41:34

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