The final season of Stargate SG-1. At last, after five years of thinking the show was ending, after multiple “series finales,” the end has arrived. Well, sort of — with DVD movies coming in 2008, the adventure continues.
But the tenth year of SG-1 will go down in history as the team’s last 20 episodes on television. One year earlier the producers tried to do something remarkable in relaunching what is essentially a new show: new team members in Cameron Mitchell and Vala Mal Doran, a new commander in General Hank Landry, and a new unstoppable enemy in the Ori. Season Nine was a year of introductions and ramping up, and as Season Ten began the Ori armies had finally invaded our galaxy and begun to wreak havoc, using force to convert worshippers to the evil ascended beings.
The last two seasons of the show therefore stand together, as set-up and development, but without the final pay-off and closure that the movies (especially “The Ark of Truth”) are going to provide. Some criticize these final 40 episodes as a shadow of what SG-1 used to be — but, in truth, it seems to us that it is simply a different show, one that is a natural outgrowth of Jack O’Neill’s SG-1.
Season Ten has some excellent episodes that will surely stand the test of time. Daniel’s discovery of Morgan le Fay’s true identity in “The Pegasus Project,” Teal’c’s battle with the dragon in “The Quest, Part 2,” and Tomin’s confrontation of the Prior in “Line In the Sand” are stand-out moments that hold up with the best of Stargate‘s ten-year run.
And its premature cancellation (yes! premature even after ten years, since the writers planned to continue the story of the Ori into Season Eleven) means that whatever you think of Cam Mitchell’s SG-1, the story of Seasons Nine and Ten has yet to be finished.
But Season Ten does prove that Stargate SG-1 never faltered in its overall quality, maintaining production values and storytelling that rivals just about anything on television.
As is evident from the screen shots below, the menus here are crisp and pleasantly free of clutter. There is no animation and no transitions, which we don’t mind in the least. One nice touch: the cursor icon that highlights each menu option as you scroll up and down is a constellation symbol from the Stargate, and the symbol changes for each menu item. It’s the little things that count.
The main menu for each disc features two main characters — Daniel and Sam on Disc 1, Sam and Teal’c on Disc 2, Teal’c and Cameron on Disc 3, Cameron and Vala on Disc 4, and Vala and Daniel on Disc 5.
AUDIO / VIDEO
As with our review of Stargate Atlantis Season Two, I’ll say up-front that my technical knowledge is not such that I end up with a lot to say about the show’s video transfer, 5.1 surround audio balance, and other techie aspects of any DVD release. I can say that the episodes look and sound great, better than when fans watched them on SCI FI’s standard television broadcast. That is, after all, one of the many reasons why we buy DVDs.
Video is clean and sharp, with rich colors and no obvious defects. The full surround-sound audio mix gives the viewer the very best experience, especially when it comes to big action sequences and space battles. These people really know what they are doing.
The set includes commentaries from various writers, directors, and crew members on all 20 episodes. Unless you read or listen to behind-the-scenes interviews on sites like GateWorld, these are people you may have never heard talk about the show — but definitely need to. Robert C. Cooper, for example, not only executive produces the show as SG-1‘s day-to-day show-runner, he also writes and occasionally directs for the show.
Commentaries that we reviewed include “Flesh and Blood” (Cooper, director William Waring, and director of photography Jim Menard), and “Line In the Sand” (writer Alan McCullough and actress Amanda Tapping). These commentaries are utterly fascinating, at least for the berfans like us. These guys have insights into the processes of writing, casting, filming, editing, etc. that just cannot be found anywhere else. McCullough offers numerous insights into what he originally had in mind for his episode, and as an actor Tapping has an equally wonderful perspective that focuses on very different parts of the show, such as excellent performances by guest stars. They are also never afraid to talk about what didn’t quite work, as well as what they like about the finished product.
Audio commentaries greatly enhance the value of any DVD set, and Stargate’s have always been interesting and entertaining.
The Ori: A New Enemy is an especially strong piece to kick off Season Ten on DVD, with a full 18-minute look at Stargate‘s newest ber-villain. From the ascended beings to the Priors to the religion of Origin, from ships and technology to Adria, this featurette includes substantive interviews from producer Robert C. Cooper, writer Alan McCullough, production designer James Robbins, and props master “Evil” Kenny Gibbs. In addition to the featurettes that give us glimpses of the behind-the-scenes production of the show, it’s great to see new pieces that explore the mythology of the fictional universe. A good DVD ought to have both features that give viewers a peek at the real-life production and the fantasy world within the show, and Season Ten notably succeeds here where past Stargate releases have not.
Stargate SG-1: Behind the 200th is a meaty and engaging 18-minute piece covering the creation of SG-1‘s milestone 200th episode. From conceptualization to execution, Robert C. Cooper gives fans a blow-by-blow rundown of an episode that, originally, he thought was going to be like any other. The “Treehouse of Horror”-like vignettes are detailed from the ironic (such as using Richard Dean Anderson to film scenes where he was to be absent) to the downright hysterical (the faces of the SG-1 marionettes when their batteries die). Anderson and “200” director Martin Wood also give interviews that can’t be missed.
Fans who are into film production will find “Setting the Mood with Jim Mendard” to be one of the set’s strongest features. In this 23-minute segment, director of photography Jim Menard explains his job. Just what does a D.O.P. do? From lighting, to mapping out stage space, to the advantages of film versus HD cameras, to shutter speed, it is a fascinating look at how Stargate gets its on-screen look. You’ll even find out what a “grip” and a “gaffer” do! “Setting the Mood” is a pleasant surprise, and after ten seasons of DVD releases, it’s about time.
In “Life as a Tech with Gary Jones”, long-time series co-star Gary Jones — better known as Chief Master Sergeant Walter “Airman Davis” Harriman (say that three times fast) — gets a camera and a chance to shine in the DVD set’s funniest piece. Included is a sit-down interview with Gary with his trip around The Bridge Studios’ lot, asking crew and cast members about their favorite Harriman moment from the last ten years. The actor shares his unique perspective after sitting in the S.G.C. control room’s chair for ten years.
Fans who have never seen Gary Jones at a convention on a behind-the-scenes special may be pleasantly surprised with the man who didn’t get to say a whole lot more than “Chevron 1 encoded” for several years. Gary is a comedian and a true entertainer, and “Life as a Tech” is full of fun, funny moments as he moves from crew member to crew member (Michael Shanks and Ben Browder also appear). The only drawback — and it feels odd saying this about a DVD bonus feature — is that it’s a little too long. At nearly 20 full minutes, the piece wears the same gag a bit thin. But if anyone deserves a bigger spotlight, it’s Gary.
Each disc includes one of five installments of the SG-1 Director’s Series, each averaging around 10 to 15 minutes long. Some of these are better than others, with Robert Cooper’s “Unending” probably taking the cake. This impressive featurette includes a sit-down interview with Cooper and looks at several key shots throughout SG-1‘s final episode, and also gives a first-hand look at the final night of filming. Cooper also gives an honest appraisal of the episode’s flaws, including the make-up that ended up “too old” and unrealistic for what he was going for.
In the “Unending” featurette you can also catch a peek of some moments that might have made a blooper reel, had one ever existed — such as Ben Browder’s line to Beau Bridges, “Get that damn plant out of my face, sir,” during the blocking of a scene.
THE ARK OF TRUTH TRAILER
When we picked up our Season Ten DVD box, we were thrilled to find a sticker on the outside packaging (on the shrink-wrap, not the box itself) promoting the first exclusive trailer for the upcoming DVD movie, “Stargate: The Ark of Truth.” It isn’t even listed in the set’s disc contents as a bonus feature … and apparently for good reason.
The trailer is a 45-second teaser that auto-plays before the menu screen when Disc 1 is inserted into a DVD player. It includes scenes from Season Nine and Ten episodes “Origin” (the Doci’s crusade speech), “Beachhead” (the Prior throwing back the Jaffa residents), “Line In the Sand” (Tomin and Ori soldiers marching through the village streets), “Unending” (the Odyssey attacking an Ori warship), “Crusade” (Vala explaining the Ori’s plans for a holy war, and the vision of the Ori flames over her bed), and “Camelot” (what looks like Cam and Daniel on the bridge of the Korolev). Interspersed are the lines: “the lines has been drawn;” “the battle has been waged;” “only one thing can save us:” “the Ark of Truth – coming soon.”
There is no footage from the movie. The trailer is not available from menu, and it cannot be paused or rewound. The only way to rewatch the spot is to stop the disc, restart it, and sit through the FBI piracy warning screens. Our DVD player is one of many models that remembers where you left off if the disc is stopped — so we must completely eject it and put it back in.
On the one hand, it is terribly disappointing that the producers could not get any footage from the movie ready for this trailer. But at least it’s a freebie that hasn’t been promoted as an actual bonus feature. The trailer’s contents are so sparse, so been-there / done-that, that we must question the decision to sticker the packaging and use it to help sell the set.
Now this is what we have been waiting for! Stargate fans have been clamoring for bloopers and deleted scenes for years, and the producers have finally come through on one out of the two. This 23-minute feature includes an introduction (and optional audio commentary) by executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, with cut scenes from “Morpheus,” “The Quest,” and “Memento Mori.”
The scenes are usually nice and long, though only a few stand out as particularly interesting — such as Sam and Vala’s relationship-builder originally intended to start off “Morpheus,” Teal’c’s long hallucination sequence in “Morpheus,” and Daniel’s helpless frustration over Vala’s disappearance in “Memento Mori.”
Unfortunately, the scenes are noticeably low-resolution, not color-corrected, and are stamped with the time code from the editing bay — indicating that they were pulled out of Editing and not given the full polish that an episode’s final cut gets. It is also a disappointment that the studio saw fit to include scenes from just three episodes (meaty as they are), and only from episodes penned by Mallozzi. But for any Stargate completist, they are absolutely not to be missed. Here’s hoping that MGM and FOX see the huge value that deleted scenes (and bloopers!) add to a DVD set — and that they make this feature a little more robust for future releases.
Wow — ten seasons of adventures, 214 episodes, a plethora of outrageous bad guys and a cast of characters to be remembered always. It’s a pretty amazing accomplishment when you think about it. On top of that, keeping up DVD releases that even remotely compare to the quality of the series is pretty amazing, as well. Kudos to MGM, FOX, and especially special features producer Ivon Bartok and his team for some of the best bonus material Stargate has done to date.
Still, with all the touchdowns, we feel it’s important to note a couple of fumbles.
Bloopers are the most obvious. Whether or not The Powers That Be were willing to present these to fans, it is truly puzzling that this, the number one draw to buy the units from the shelves, has continuously been overlooked. Just how badly do they want viewers to buy them if they won’t give us the one thing we want most (though we’re certainly not complaining about finally getting a few deleted scenes!)? In addition, three-time Emmy nominated composer Joel Goldsmith has been a shining star in SG-1‘s musical skies for the entire run of the series; so after ten years, why has he never been given a feature? Quite an oversight.
But there is more than enough to make up for what we wish was here. With so many original featurettes, deleted scenes, art galleries, and audio commentaries, Stargate delivers much more added value than most TV series out there on DVD.
As for the episodes themselves: they are obviously well-produced, made by a team that has created a well-oiled machine. Ironically, Seasons Nine and Ten have been criticized for dropping the Goa’uld and introducing a new, long-term antagonist — but it is these arc episodes, such as “Flesh and Blood,” “The Pegasus Project,” “Counterstrike,” and “The Shroud,” that are the best of the year. This year’s less compelling episodes are the stand-alones where a good kernel of an idea just wasn’t realized very well, including “Bounty” and “Family Ties” — the latter of which capably illustrates that not even a comic genius like Fred Willard can make anything funny.
Season Ten, while the end of Stargate SG-1 historic, record-setting television run, is not the end of the story. As successful as SG-1 is in DVD format, we can be assured of more top-notch stories out of the series. With “The Ark of Truth” and “Continuum” less than a year away, rumors are already circulating that the folks at Stargate Productions are already cooking up ideas for a second set of SG-1 DVD movies.
For now, the series in episodic format is now fulfilled with this collection, and FOX has done well by fans. Now bring on the complete series set!