The first page of this review is spoiler-free! If you don’t want to know any details about what has been changed in the new edition of “Children of the Gods,” just stop reading after this first page — or jump straight to the final page, linked below.
In the spring of 2008 Stargate SG-1 co-creator Brad Wright revealed in an interview with GateWorld that he and editor Brad Rines were revisiting “Children of the Gods,” the original 2-part pilot episode that started the franchise that now spans 12 years and 314 produced episodes (and counting …). He had come across the episode on television, and decided to fix the flaws and bring everything the Stargate team has learned in more than a decade. Stargate SG-1: Children of the Gods – Final Cut is the realization of that vision, and it’s on DVD this week (North America).
The process consisted of several steps. The Brads returned to archival footage of original dailies, choosing some different takes, trimming some scenes, and restoring material previously cut. With advances in technology, it was then time to revisit the show’s visual effects — such as making the Stargate puddles look like the bluer, more polished version that emerged as the series went on. There were also audio issues to revisit, including some dialogue in need of replacement. And finally, the original episode’s somewhat awkward use of score from the 1994 “Stargate” movie had to be stripped out, and SG-1 composer Joel Goldsmith’s original work allowed to shine.
The result? Final Cut is a much better movie. The episode and its story are very much the same, so the nostalgia factor has not been paved over with a new super-highway. No, this is still the “Children of the Gods” that we know and love — but now it is better. All those points at which many fans would roll their eyes and think, “Well, it was the first episode — they got better as the show progressed” have been fixed or taken out.
It’s a great example of how a different cut of an episode can dramatically improve the overall quality. Much of what there is to like here is not just in the new material or improved visual effects — its in those differences that casual viewers (and even long-time fans) wouldn’t notice. Scenes shift placement; awkward dialogue is excised; and the pace drives the story forward in a more engaging way.
Among the changes in Final Cut: Almost all of the Stargate puddles have been updated.
The value of Goldsmith’s score for the Final Cut cannot be underestimated. David Arnold’s original film composition was a tremendous piece of art, but it was made for that film — not for this one. MGM owned the rights to the score, however, and understandably wanted to make strong connections between the movie and its spin-off TV series.
A desire to restore Goldsmith’s original work was one of the driving factors behind this project, and here it is truly allowed to shine. While there are still cues reminiscent of the 1994 movie, the Final Cut score is entirely original. The movie score felt tacked on, sometimes out of place with the on-screen action, and there was just too much of it. Here Wright and Goldsmith have given us a score that fits the story beats, that is (in Wright’s words) “more understated” than the bombastic music from the movie, and helps “Children of the Gods” feel like a original TV movie instead of a pilot that drew heavily on existing assets due to budget constraints.
When I first heard that this classic chapter of Stargate history was going under the knife for revision, I was a teensy bit worried. Much ado has been made over the revisionist editing of George Lucas, who did more than just restore deleted footage and improve the visual effects of Star Wars — he made Greedo shoot first. That decision retconned the Star Wars story and changed the sort of character Han Solo was. Would Brad Wright make the same sort of changes to Stargate?
For those interested in just what Children of the Gods – Final Cut looks like, on the following pages of this review we’ll discuss some of those changes. Some do consider those changes to be “spoilers,” however. If that’s you, jump past the analysis to our look at the bonus features on this release, or our spoiler-free conclusions.
Also beware of SPOILERS in the reader comments below.
NEXT: What has been cut?