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MGM Studios DVD presents
Stargate SG-1: Season 1 (1997-1998)

"They're feeding the revised coordinates into the targeting computer right now. It'll take time to calculate, but it should spit out two or three destinations a month."
- Captain Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping)

Review By: Dale Dobson  
Published: June 14, 2001

Stars: Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge
Other Stars: Don S. Davis, Teryl Rothery, Alexis Cruz
Director: Mario Azzopardi, Dennis Berry, Brad Turner, Jonathan Glassner, et al.

Manufacturer: Laser Pacific Media Group
MPAA Rating: R for (pilot: nudity; series: TV-level violence, language)
Run Time: 16h:19m:53s
Release Date: May 22, 2001
UPC: 027616859174
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+CB C-

DVD Review

The Showtime cable network originally aired MGM's Stargate SG-1 series, based on the 1994 movie Stargate, directed by Roland Emmerich. For series purposes, the producers posit that the Stargate is not simply a link between Earth and the planet Chulak, but part of a vast network of Stargates, enabling nearly endless interstellar exploration as Stargate Command works to understand the threat posed by the Goa'uld, an alien species bent on galactic domination.

The series suffers from visible budget limitations in comparison to the movie—reused music and set designs help to establish a family resemblance, but the slick CG transformations of the alien guards have been replaced with clunky mechanical effects, and there's often a rushed feel to the physical production. A certain "warmed-over Star Trek" flavor apparent in the movie achieves greater prominence here, with several episodes obviously inspired by Gene Roddenberry's classic sci-fi TV series, and alien dialects are conveniently abandoned—almost everyone the SG-1 team encounters speaks English.

Still, the series at its best is quite good. The cast takes the material seriously, with surprisingly good work by Richard Dean Anderson, who successfully leaves his MacGuyver days behind him (putting William Shatner to shame in the process). Some episodes rely too much on Stargate travel as a substitute for "beaming down," but the best episodes grow naturally out of the concept, and towards the end of this first season the show hits a fairly consistent stride. With that said, let's look at the individual episodes.



Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Pilot Episode #1

Children of the Gods
Directed by: Mario Azzopardi

"Seen one before, I take it?"—General Hammond

The double-length pilot reactivates the Stargate, picking up the story a few years after the movie's timeline ends. Colonel Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson replacing Kurt Russell) and his team return to Chulak, bringing anthropologist Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks in the James Spader role) back for all-new adventures. In the process, the Stargate SG-1 team (now part of a larger Stargate Command organization) discover an unexpected ally in Teal'c (Christopher Judge), a Goa'uld guard who chooses to join the SG-1 team to fight for his people's freedom.

The show is still finding its footing here, but it establishes the basic premise and character chemistry (it also includes some full-frontal nudity, an element trimmed from the series after this pilot episode). A "MacGuyver" joke pokes inside fun at Richard Dean Anderson, and former slave Skaara is again portrayed by Alexis Cruz, the only member of the movie cast to turn up in the series. The special effects are serviceable, and it's a promising beginning.

This episode rates 3 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #2

The Enemy Within
Directed by: Dennis Berry

"I want to know the minute that godforsaken thing can be taken out of my officer."—General Hammond

A surprising plot twist (foreshadowed in the pilot) pits the SG-1 team against one of its own, Major Kawalsky (Jay Acovone), infected by an alien Goa'uld parasite while on Chulak. Teal'c possesses a similar parasite, typical of the Jaffa caste to which he belongs, and volunteers himself for experimentation at great personal risk, proving his loyalty to the SG-1 team. Despite concentrated efforts, all attempts to remove or otherwise quiesce the creature fail, and Kawalsky's life hangs in the balance.

I have to give Stargate SG-1 credit for risking the life of a major character, and the unexpected ending makes this a solid early episode. The story also provides quite a bit of information about the Goa'uld, lending some depth to the concept unseen in the pilot, and establishes Earth's primary role in saving the universe from the alien threat.

This episode rates 4 1/2 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #3

Emancipation
Directed by: Jeff Woolnough

"This could be some forbidden zone."—Teal'c

The SG-1 team visits the planet of Simarka, where a warrior culture treats its women as property. Captain Carter (Amanda Tapping) urges a chieftain's daughter to rebel against the system, leading to significant societal changes.

This one feels like an unsold Trek script, taking an unconvincing, facile approach to a complex social problem. Guest star Soon-Tek Oh contributes a strong performance, and Carter's determination is appealing, but her ability to singlehandedly undo centuries of misogyny rings wholly false, with a disturbing echo of imperialism.

This episode rates 1 1/2 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #4

The Broca Divide
Directed by: William Gereghty

"We need medics, Section C, STAT! Two men down."—Captain Carter

The SG-1 team discovers a planet with two cultures, one civilized society occupying the "Land of Light," one extremely primitive, banished to the planet's dense forest. When members of the away team develop aggressive characteristics after returning, Stargate Command must contend with a bizarre viral threat.

Richard Dean Anderson turns in a very nice performance during his stint as a neo-Neanderthal, and the episode explores some science-versus-military issues precipitated by the involvement of the SG-3 team, a group of "jarhead" U.S. Marines. The rapid response scenario is far-fetched, and the Star Trek resemblance is unmistakable, but this isn't a bad episode overall.

This episode rates 3 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #5

The First Commandment
Directed by: Dennis Berry

"We're off to see the Wizard."—Colonel O'Neill

When the SG-9 team fails to return, SG-1 investigates, discovering that the team's leader, Captain Hansen, has proclaimed himself a god, using technology to deceive the members of a developing culture. The SG-1 team must end his abuse of power without getting themselves into trouble with his followers.

An interesting concept goes largely unexplored here, turning a potentially fascinating idea into a mundane adventure story, with lackluster performances from everyone involved. "The horror... the horror..."

This episode rates 2 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #6

Brief Candle
Directed by: Mario Azzopardi

"Look at these people. They look like they've never heard the word 'unattractive.'"—Daniel Jackson

The SG-1 team visits the planet Argos, discovering a race of people whose life cycles have been artificially accelerated by the Goa'uld. They live only 100 days, rapidly maturing, reproducing, and dying, held in a perpetually childlike state until the Stargate Command scientists find a cure for the condition.

Another unabashedly Trek-ish episode; Anderson gets to show off his acting skills as he becomes infected and ages rapidly, but this is otherwise standard-issue stuff with little to recommend it.

This episode rates 1 1/2 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #7

Cold Lazarus
Directed by: Kenneth J. Girotti

"Jack seems very... focused"—Daniel Jackson

The Stargate team discovers unusual blue crystals, a form of living energy; when Colonel O'Neill touches one while separated from the rest of the SG-1 team, the crystals generate a doppelganger and send it back to Earth in his place. Confused by its misunderstanding of O'Neill's memories, the clone seeks out his son Charlie, who died in a gunshot accident years earlier.

The concept is classic science fiction, and this episode fills in Colonel O'Neill's backstory with sensitivity and genuine emotion, introducing us to his ex-wife Sarah (Harley Jane Kozak). Some nicely-handled CG effects and an intelligent, dignified sense of pacing distinguish this episode, making it one of the best of this set.

This episode rates 5 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #8

Thor's Hammer
Directed by: Brad Turner

"Maybe the beam transported them somewhere else on the planet."—Captain Carter

On the planet Cimmeria, the SG-1 team finds itself split up by a mystical transportation beam created by the Norse god Thor. Teal'c and O'Neill are sent to a dangerous labyrinth, while Jackson and Carter meet a Jaffa woman who has been able to resist the commands of the Goa'uld parasite nesting in her stomach, thanks to her early religious training.

This episode has some good qualities, expanding the series' scope significantly, though the juxtaposition of the gods of Asgard with the Stargate universe is a bit awkward. The illusion isn't helped by the hilarious costuming accorded to Thor—his brief appearance calls the World Wrestling Federation to mind, seriously undermining his presumable status as a god despite a stentorian voiceover by James Earl Jones.

This episode rates 2 1/2 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #9

The Torment of Tantalus
Directed by: Jonathan Glassner "It's about time."—Dr. Ernest Littlefield

Daniel Jackson discovers archival military film footage from the 1940s, and learns that the Stargate was actually activated shortly after it was discovered, swallowing young scientist Dr. Ernest Littlefield. Littlefield had been engaged to Jackson's friend Catherine, the woman who brought him into the Stargate program, and the SG-1 team brings her along on a mission to rescue the man she thought was dead. Time is of the essence, as the abandoned seaside castle where the Stargate resides is in imminent danger of collapse.

Kenne Curtis does a great job as the aged Littlefield, a scientist whose bitterness over being abandoned for five decades is balanced by his eagerness to show Daniel an amazing alien encyclopedia he has been exploring during his extended stay. This strong episode focuses on the awesome scientific possibilities of the Stargate, without abandoning the show's action-oriented approach.

This episode rates 4 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #10

Bloodlines
Directed by: Mario Azzopardi

"We will go to my former home. The ceremony should take place there."—Teal'c

Teal'c and his friends from Stargate Command return to Chulak in an attempt to save his son Ryak from the Goa'uld implantation ceremony undergone by all Jaffa.

Christopher Judge delivers a great performance in this episode, communicating the deep emotions beneath his stoic exterior, and the script takes a genuine risk by pitting Teal'c against his former wife, who does not share his desire to rebel against the Goa'uld. The plotline's ultimate resolution is left open for future exploration.

This episode rates 3 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #11

Fire and Water
Directed by: Allan Eastman

"Daniel's dead."—Colonel O'Neill

Dr. Jackson is abducted by an aquatic humanoid creature, leaving his SG-1 colleagues with a false memory of his fiery death. Daniel befriends the creature and shares his knowledge of Babylonian history, answering its queries as to the fate of its mate, who fought Ra many years earlier.

This episode is genuinely touching, with a great performance by Gerard Plunkett under heavy prosthetic makeup. His costume looks kind of cheap on dry land, but the script is solid and it's nice to see a truly alien creature who's not a villain, for a change.

This episode rates 4 1/2 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #12

The Nox
Directed by: Charles Correll

"Where's the Stargate?!?"—Colonel O'Neill

While exploring a planet reputed to contain creatures with the gift of invisibility, all four members of the SG-1 team actually die at the hands of Goa'uld soldiers under the command of Apophis (Peter Williams). They are revived and healed by the Nox, a tree-sprite people who derive great power from their closeness with nature. A later conflict with a Goa'uld soldier injured in the battle results in the SG-1 team's expulsion from the planet.

Another very solid episode, which dares to suggest that Earth is not the most advanced civilization in the universe, and that with great power comes great responsibility. Good stuff, and the costuming accorded the Nox is very effective, skirting the "nature boy" look with style and taste.

This episode rates 4 1/2 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #13

Hathor
Directed by: Brad Turner

"How does she know of the Stargate?"—Teal'c

In an ancient Mayan temple, archaeologists are surprised to find Egyptian hieroglyphics. A long-sealed sarcophagus opens, permitting the revival of Hathor, a Goa'uld "goddess." Hathor makes her way to Stargate Command, where she proceeds to use her pheromone-enhanced beauty to bend the largely male staff to her will, seducing Daniel Jackson in order to use his DNA as a blueprint for Goa'uld larval parasites. Captain Carter leads a team of women on a mission to regain control of the Stargate.

This episode has some fun with the show's mythology, and Amanda Tapping gets to strut her stuff as a leader and scientist. We learn more about Goa'uld reproduction, and Hathor ultimately escapes, presumably to return in future episodes.

This episode rates 3 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #14

Cor-Ai
Directed by: Mario Azzopardi

"I will not run."—Teal'c

Visiting the planet Chartago, Teal'c is accused of a murder committed while he served the Goa'uld forces. Jackson and Carter attempt to defend their friend, who is willing to give his life to atone for his past crimes, under the rules of the Cor-Ai process.

Classic-style courtroom drama fills the bill nicely in this episode, with solid acting. The script manages some serious discussion of justice, guilt, war crimes and rehabilitation, as well as the difficulty of imposing one culture's legal process on another.

This episode rates 4 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #15

Singularity
Directed by: Mario Azzopardi

"Someone from SG-7 should have been here to greet us."—Teal'c

An observatory established by Stargate Command suffers a mysterious catastrophe, leaving a little girl named Cassandra (Katie Stuart) as the sole survivor. As the ensuing investigation reveals the outlines of a Gau'uld plot, the SG-1 team fears that Cassandra may be a Trojan horse, a nuclear time bomb in human form.

This episode is one of the weakest in the Season 1 set, generating almost no drama in spite of its time-driven plot; a cop-out deus ex machina ending certainly doesn't help.

This episode rates 1 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #16

Enigma
Directed by: William Gereghty

"I've said enough, I'll say no more."—Omak

The SG-1 team rescues a group of aliens from a planet in volcanic death throes. The technologically-advanced humanoids don't trust their rescuers, fearing that Earth's residents would destroy themselves if given access to the secrets of the universe. Unable to rejoin the evacuees from their home planet, and unwilling to stay on Earth, the visitors are sent to the planet of the Nox.

Another thoughtful episode, willing to portray our culture as militaristic and paranoid, and the ties to previous episodes do much to solidify the series as a whole.

This episode rates 3 1/2 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #17

Tin Man
Directed by: Jimmy Kaufman

"Well, that sounds ominous. Let's fall back."—Colonel O'Neill

Planet OX3 989 casts the SG-1 team into a strange, industrial environment, where they wake up feeling entirely unlike themselves under the care of Harlan, their bizarre, apparently half-mad host. After returning to Earth, the team realizes that they've been completely roboticized, and they travel back to OX3 989 in search of their original bodies.

This episode feels like a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode, with more humor than usual, though it doesn't explore its intriguing premise as much as it might have. The ending seems abrupt, with unanswered questions and no hint of a sequel to follow.

This episode rates 2 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #18

Solitudes
Directed by: Martin Wood

"They could not have been more than two metres behind... I do not know."—Teal'c

The Stargate space "wormhole" collapses in transit, dumping O'Neill and Carter in an icebound cave next to a broken Stargate. Captain Carter's attempts to repair the Stargate are thwarted by cold, darkness and dwindling resources, while Colonel O'Neill slowly freezes to death with a badly broken leg. All hope seems lost, until help comes from an unexpected source.

Strong performances by Amanda Tapping and Richard Dean Anderson enhance this episode, which reveals some interesting information about the structure of the Stargate network and manages a "surprise" ending that actually makes sense.

This episode rates 4 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #19

There But for the Grace of God
Directed by: David Warry-Smith

"We must return to Earth as quickly as possible. This place is not safe."—Teal'c

An ancient artifact in an alien museum transports Daniel Jackson to a parallel universe, where the Goa'uld have attacked Earth and wiped out most of its population centers. His visit to Stargate Command places familiar faces in radically different roles, and he learns the location of the Goa'uld base, valuable information if he can make it back to his own reality.

This episode begins the three-episode arc that closes out the season. Its approach to the speculative theory of "alternate realities" is simplistic but entertaining, though it raises some questions (of paradox and chains of events) that it never really answers.

This episode rates 3 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #20

Politics
Directed by: Martin Wood

"Daniel, it's not that we don't believe you..."—Captain Carter

The Stargate Command program is threatened by budget cuts, just as Daniel returns with information that may mean a Goa'uld attack is in the works. Powerful Senator Kinsey (Ronny Cox) thinks the Stargate project is worthless, and there's no hard evidence to justify its existence.

Despite a great performance by Ronny Cox and a pointed jab at Roland Emmerich's ID4, this episode gets low marks. It's a "cheater" show, using a hearing with the Senator as an excuse to recycle lengthy clips from previous episodes and the Stargate movie; in this boxed-set context, it's largely a waste of time.

This episode rates 1/2 out of 5 Stargates:





Stargate SG-1: Season 1—Episode #21

Within the Serpent's Grasp
Directed by: David Warry-Smith

"Let's face it, it was a pretty wild ride."—General Hammond

With the Stargate Command shutting down by order of Senator Kinsey, the SG-1 team risks courts-martial by commandeering the Stargate and traveling to Daniel's supposed Goa'uld base. They find themselves aboard a Goa'uld ship, under the command of Jackson and O'Neill's onetime friend Skaara (Alexis Cruz), now host to an alien parasite. The team learns that the ship is on its way to attack Earth, as foreseen in Daniel's alternate reality excursion.

Tension and drama are nicely handled here, raising the stakes as Earth itself is threatened with utter decimation. It's a cliffhanger episode, designed to lead into Season 2, so no answers are provided as the Stargate SG-1: Season 1 set draws to a close, but this episode does a good job of ending the season on an anticipatory note.

This episode rates 4 out of 5 Stargates:



Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: MGM's DVD set presents Stargate in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio, with an anamorphically enhanced transfer. The series was apparently shot on film but edited on videotape, leading to a fair amount of graininess, chroma noise, smeariness in fine details and visible edge-enhancement that occasionally becomes distracting. It's a clean image otherwise, with no false red/blue colors or other analog video artifacts; not a stunning transfer, but certainly watchable, and a visible improvement over typical DBS and cable signals.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Stargate SG-1 features its original Dolby 2.0 Surround audio mix, with English, French and Spanish soundtrack options. The early episodes are typical modern TV surround material, with surround and bass activity in small, gimmicky doses. The sound design improves noticeably toward the end of the season, with more subtle atmospherics and fairly strong bass. The show's soundtrack is enhanced by intelligent variations on David Arnold's original Stargate theme, providing bombastic, orchestral music that fits the series quite well. Decent stuff, at least by matrixed 2.0 surround soundtrack standards.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 130 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
2 TV Spots/Teasers
5 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
5 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:27m:16s

Extras Review: MGM's Stargate SG-1: Season 1 set is light on supplements, with 130 chapter stops and a number of brief promotional "extras" produced for broadcast support. Unfortunately, these featurettes contain significant spoilers, several of which refer to episodes not even included in this Season 1 collection! Menu designs are consistent across the discs, though Episodes 2 and 3 are misnumbered on Disc 1, where they are listed as Episodes 1 and 2 after the Pilot. The supplements, such as they are, are all presented in 1.33:1 full-frame format, spread across discs 2 through 5:

Cast and Crew Featurette:

Four-and-a-half minutes of interview clips, featuring stars Richard Dean Anderson, Don S. Davis, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping, and Christopher Judge, as well as series producers Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner. It's typical promotional material, too brief to get into any depth.

Promotional Trailers:

Two television spots used to promote the series—one runs thirty seconds, the other two minutes. Both are relatively content-free, though the 1.33:1 pan-and-scan presentation does make one appreciate MGM's widescreen presentation of the series itself.

Featurette: Profile on "General Hammond":

Don S. Davis, a familiar "military" presence in genre series including Twin Peaks and The X-Files, ruminates on his career and involvement with Stargate SG-1. He's an affable fellow with a good sense of humor, and this is an interesting six-minute segment (though it does contain major Season 2 spoilers).

Featurette: Profile on "Captain Carter":

Amanda Tapping discusses her role as the primary female character on Stargate SG-1, with some thoughts on the show's concept and science-fiction appeal. Ms. Tapping comes off as intelligent and thoughtful in this five-and-a-half minute profile, though, again, major upcoming plot points are revealed.

Behind the Scenes with the Producers of Stargate SG-1:

Producers Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner (also involved with Showtime's The Outer Limits update) discuss the Stargate SG-1 series' origins and casting in this five-minute featurette, which is too short to get into much detail.

Stargate SG-1 Costume Design Featurette:

Costume Designer Christina McQuarrie discusses the challenges of costuming alien races on a tight budget and compressed television schedule, with some up-close looks at key wardrobe elements. This is the most interesting of all the featurettes, filling its four-and-a-half minute running time with informative, visually interesting footage.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Stargate SG-1 successfully expands the original Stargate concept into series format, with some thought-provoking scripts and well-choreographed action sequences that overcome the show's budgetary limitations. MGM's complete Season 1 DVD box set is a fine introduction to this entertaining (if uneven) genre series.

 


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