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Inspired by mediocre blockbuster Stargate featuring the likes of Kurt Russell and James Spader, Stargate SG-1 follows on from where the movie left off with the help of a completely new look-a-like cast. SG-1 focuses on the activities of the lead Stargate team headed by Colonel Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) as they traverse from world to world via interplanetary gateways called Stargates. SG-1 isn’t just your average movie-to-TV rip-off series; featuring a 1.4 million dollar budget per episode, a huge following and an interesting array of storylines, Stargate SG-1 is one of MGM’s prize possessions. With both a new season planned and a spin-off series in the making, it is likely to be with us for some time to come.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 28
Episodes
Volume 28 features four episodes from season 6: Allegiance, Cure, Prometheus and Unnatural Selection. All of which feature Corin Nemec who replaced Michael Shanks until he returned the following season. Stargate SG-1 had only just moved from Showtime to the Sci-fi Channel in the US and was experiencing some of its biggest audience share throughout the showings of these four episodes.

Allegiance
In this episode we see the - much talked about - SGC Alpha Site for the first time where a settlement of rebel Jaffa have taken up residence. With the help of another SG team, a group of refugee Tok’ra are rescued from a Goa’uld attack and brought to the SGC Alpha site to temporarily join the Jaffa. Unfortunately the Jaffa and the Tok’ra have a history of mistrust and war between them, for these reasons unrest results.

Later on in the episode one of the Tok’ra is killed but the would-be assassin decides to keep quiet, resulting in a heightened sense of tension in the camp. More events occur later still and it becomes apparent that the assailant must be caught before all control SG-1 has over the situation melts down.

This episode has a very strong underlying theme of the pearls of racism, what causes it and what can happen as a result of it. It’s definitely one of the more involved episodes with a large number of extras employed and shot at various locations.

Cure
Pangar is the home to a civilization of humans that are a few technological decades behind us. SG-1 visit to investigate their intensions, plus give them the key to their version of the Stargate - provided they aren’t a bunch of stark raving loonies. Although suspicious of SG-1’s motives for helping them, the people of Pangar take them up on the offer and ask for help on dialling in on some of the Goa’uld home worlds.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 28
Obviously Colonel O’Neal isn’t willing to give up such information as it would almost certainly spell the end of the Pangar people. However the Pangar have a bargaining chip in the form of tretonin – an immortality serum that they have developed and perfected over the years using a secret process. O’Neal requests a sample to be sent back to Earth for testing and awaits the result.

Possibly the weakest of the four episodes, it at least keeps you guessing at what the Pangar people are up to. There’s the odd bit of suspense and it is quite literally packed with information – could have easily become a two-part episode in my mind. There’s a strong link to the Allegiance episode – although likely as a result of chance rather than planning.

Prometheus
A continuation from a previous episode a couple of seasons back, Prometheus centres on a reporter and her struggle to learn more about a project codenamed Prometheus. After harassing Carter in a parking lot she receives unwelcome attention from the military who threatened her; this gets them nowhere as she has backup plans, so instead they give her and the camera crew a guided tour around the facility that homes Prometheus. What she doesn’t know is whilst going about this tour, the person leaking the sensitive information will hopefully be tracked down and after the tour the military plan to take away all the evidence and kick them out!

Things don’t go to plan as you’d expect, and it deteriorates into chaos. Prometheus falls into enemy hands, is successfully stolen and used to help them escape. Fortunately some of the SG-1 team aren’t far behind.

This is an exciting episode with a couple of big name actors. This and the episode that follows stand out as the better productions, featuring a large specially built set and a lot of special effects.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 28
Unnatural Selection
Continuing on from Prometheus the team have a new challenge. Stuck out in the middle of nowhere they are approached by Thor of the Asgard (a race that has been at war with the Replicators (technologically powered bad thingies) for some time). Thor explains that they created a futuristic trap called a time dilation device that they hoped could be used against the evil Replicators to slow their progress down; it would do this by creating a bubble of slow moving space/time. Unfortunately for the Asgard, the Replicators got to the device before it could be activated and they are now using it to speed up time in order to evolve quickly to become more efficient killing machines. It is now up to the SG-1 team to penetrate Replicator territory with the help of Prometheus and attempt to reverse the effects of the time dilation device.

This is an interesting episode which is both suspenseful and thought provoking. It also brings up the idea of humanity and how it can be used to manipulate your own desires.

Video
Stargate SG-1 is presented in 1.87:1 anamorphic widescreen. Video quality is top notch and colours learn towards a slightly warm feel. At times dark scenes can be a little too black, so are difficult to see but apart from that there are no problems.

Other features on the DVD are presented in 4:3 and aren’t at the same standard. The Directors Series (covered later) in particular looked to have been shot on digital video or gone through a lot of compression considering camera panning in particular is very jerky.

Audio
This DVD offers Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English, French and Italian. Emphasis is on the front as with most television series and rears used on rare occasions such as weapon fire and other special effect driven scenes. The soundtrack makes better use of the rears. Dialogue is as expected: clear and easy to understand.

Extras
When the DVD first loads users are given the option of viewing the menus in: French, Italian or English. It is clear that a lot of effort has gone into the design of these menus and I am sure they have been perfected over time.

There are three SG-1 Directors Series - essentially promotional behind-the-scenes extras that last for a few minutes. These extras mainly involve some bloke with a camera bothering the people on-set and getting in the way wherever possible. They are a nice insight into how the Stargate episodes are made, but are too short to be of much use. Episodes covered include: Allegiance, Cure and Prometheus.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 28
All four episodes feature a commentary with at least two people involved in the production. Commentaries are recorded with all participants present in the same location and therefore they converse with each other.

First is the commentary for Allegiance and involves Director Peter DeLuise, Visual Effects Producer James Tichenor and Actor Gary Jones. It starts of with plenty background information about the actors and sets. They point out a scene where the circus of trucks used for the production make it into the background of the set even after their best efforts camouflaging them. Talks about how many of the extras were previously featured in another episode and how they managed to avoid using looping even with the best efforts of the rain. Additionally they cover how writing styles changed after moving the series to the Sci-Fi channel which is more climax driven for advert breaks. This is quite a funny, relaxed commentary that is probably the best of the four.

Second commentary for Cure involves Director Andy Mikita, Producer Damian Kindler and Director of Photography Jim Menard. In this one they reveal that the opening for Cure has been planned for some time and they were just waiting for the right time to use it. Concentrating on issues relating to writing and lighting, this commentary is again relaxed but also more technical that the previous. There’s the odd interesting moment like the planet wasn’t originally called Pangar, they had to rename it after they accidentally used the name of Buzz Lightyear’s home world!

Prometheus’ commentary includes Director Peter F. Woeste, Director of Photography Andre D. Wilson and Chief Lighting Technician Rick Dean. Considering the director of this episode is usually a cinematographer, this one is a lot more technical concentrating mainly on the 3D visual effects, a lot about lighting the sets and the odd bit of background info. It is very serious and has a lot of pauses where normal episode audio is used. For that reason I consider it to be the weakest.

Final commentary for Unnatural Selection features Director Andy Mikita and Director of Photography Jim Menard. This was a good technical commentary covering many different issues such as puppetry, visual effects, shaky cam facilities, shooting at 500 frames per second and how the title sequence was adapted for the Sci-Fi Channel using unusual cameras and strong lighting to allow for excessive close-ups to be carried out. Not exactly fun but definitely informative.

In addition to the commentaries there’s the four episode previews for volume 29. They appear to be from the sci-fi channel and as always, give away too much! All four episodes appear to be a lot more action packed than those featured in this volume – at least from the viewpoint of seeing these previews.

To end the extras roundup, there’s a stills gallery containing lots of high quality shots relating to these four episodes, and a short promotional video advertising the official website.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 28
Overall
I was surprised to see how much work has been put into the making of this Stargate DVD. Considering that I’ve never purchase one before, there’s a good chance I might buy some of the older ones now. Having a commentary for each episode and a short promotional title for almost all of them really makes you more involved in the series and helps to show the sort of work involved in the creation of this series.

Probably the best feature of all is the lack of: advertisement breaks, the announcer at the end saying what’s on later tonight and what are often referred to as dogs (those graphics that appear on TV channels to reinforce their identity). I never realised how much the above effected my judgement on what I like and dislike. Seeing this DVD has got me interested in watching Stargate SG-1 again, although I don’t think I’ll be watching it on TV again. In the UK we have Channel 4 broadcasting it in anamorphic widescreen but change the schedule so much that there’s little point in attempting to watch any TV series and then there’s Sky One with their dog and plenty of adverts.

To conclude, if you are interested in Sci-Fi TV series and want to give Stargate a go then I see no reason not to start with this volume. They purposely try to make it so that you can pick up an episode without knowing too much about the background information. For everyone else that have previous editions, I’m sure this one won’t disappoint.


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