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Stargate SG-1 is a continuation of the blockbuster Stargate movie from 1994. Staring Richard Dean Anderson as Colonel Jack O'Neill previously known for his portrayal of Angus MacGyver from the ABC television series MacGyver. O’Neill’s job is to lead a team of military personnel through interplanetary gateways, called Stargates to discover new worlds and civilisations. Not all of the civilisations are nice mind you, and for this reason they are always kept on their toes.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 29
Episodes
Volume 29 contains episodes 13 through to 16 from season 6, they are entitled: Sight Unseen, Smoke and Mirrors, Paradise Lost and Metamorphosis; with two of the four being mainly set on Earth.

Sight Unseen
After a successful mission for SG-1 on a dessert planet, Jonas discovers an ancient cylindrical shaped device that was activated from touching it. Once activated, the device emitted an unusual glowing effect with multicolour crystal-like structures sticking out one end. The source of the energy producing the glowing effect is a mystery and they hope further examination at base can help to understand and take advantage of it.

Unfortunately things are further complicated by sightings of weird alien organisms appearing randomly throughout the base and spreading to surrounding countryside. The area is quarantined and it is up to SG-1 to find a solution and keep things under wraps.

This is a good episode with lots of CGI effects. We get to see the team on Earth interacting with normal civilians, featuring lots of varied locations around Vancouver. It relates to past episodes but no extra knowledge is required to understand what is happening.

Smoke and Mirrors
We start by watching Colonel O'Neill readying a sniper rifle in a small room aside a window. Outside Senator Kinsey is walking from a building (turns out to be the MGM building) and getting into his car; O’Neill puts Kinsey into the target and fires. Senator Kinsey is assassinated, and O’Neill makes his escape.

On return from his fishing trip O’Neill is obviously accused of assassination; being caught on the building’s CCTV around the same time with the sniper rifle doesn’t help. It is up to the Stargate team to try and solve the mystery and prove O’Neill’s innocence before it’s too late.

More like a detective show than Stargate SG-1, we find Teal'c pairing up with Jonas, whilst Carter is checking up on an old friend as they try to solve the mystery. This was obviously one of those episodes where Richard Dean Anderson had other work commitments, as he only features at the beginning and the odd few scenes through the later parts. That said, it’s a fun episode that allows both Amanda Tapping and Christopher Judge’s characters to develop further.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 29
Paradise Lost
In a previous episode entitled Prometheus a gang disguised as a camera crew attempted to steal the Prometheus device and use it to transport them to a world containing a Goa’uld weapon store. Here O’Neill receives a visit from Colonel Maybourne – a guy on the run from the government, again, a story from another previous episode. He proclaims to have a key to a device that will open a portal to that very same world, and intends to use it as a bargaining chip in return for a presidential pardon.

Eventually Maybourne gets his way and is allowed to join the SG-1 team as they investigate this portal. Everything appears to go well until Maybourne makes an apparent mistake with the code; in the commotion he captures a weapon and with the key, he jumps through the gateway with only O’Neill able to follow.

I liked this episode a lot, it’s essentially the story of O’Neill and Maybourne stuck somewhere together, they aren’t exactly best of friends and during the episode things happen that make them turn on each other. Some excellent visual effects are used to demonstrate the conditions they are under; the style almost reminds me of Apocalypse Now or, say, Platoon – maybe I’m talking it up a bit too much!

Metamorphosis
This one is a continuation of a previous episode. It involves a Goa’uld called Nirrti who O’Neill had previous dealings with. Previously he decided to let her go after committing an evil atrocity in the hope that she would learn from her mistake. Unfortunately the Russian Stargate team discovered a race that is being experimented on genetically by the evil Nirrti; it appears she is still attempting to build a super race of hosts by experimenting on these people.

SG-1 and their Russian counterparts must now team up and stop Nirrti in her tracks before she obliterates the entire race of bemused laboratory experiments.

Written by the Visual Effects Supervisor Tichenor it is no surprise this episode features lots of special effects and plenty of action. It is also very dark, both in story and visually – touching on issues that somewhat relate to modern day problems with genetic manipulation. I liked this episode, for only his second script, Tichenor demonstrates a talent for writing.

Video
Stargate SG-1 is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen. It was at this stage that they started filming the odd episode exclusively for a widescreen audience (that is, not making compromises by framing for 1.33:1). All episodes feature an excellent transfer which is particularly demonstrated in the dark dungeon environment of Metamorphosis, and the high contrast, low colour scenes featured in Paradise Lost.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 29
Elsewhere on the disc, the extras aren’t up to the same standard – well except the stills gallery which is excellent. The SG-1 Directors Series appears to be shot on digital video and doesn’t have the same production values as the rest of the material, so it is no where near the same quality – suffering from juddering when camera pans occur.

Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is available in either: English, German or Spanish. This being a television series that is mainly dialogue driven, emphasis is placed on the front speakers; that said, rears are used well where needed, particularly in the Paradise Lost episode where it becomes very atmospheric. At one point lasting several minutes there is absolutely no dialogue, so the creative soundtrack plays an important rule in maintaining the tension.

Extras
When the disc is first loaded you are given the option of reading the menus in either: English, German or Spanish – this also plays a version of the episodes in whatever language you select.

Like the previous disc there’s some SG-1 Directors Series to choose from, although this time there’s only two episodes covered – the DeLuise directed ones. These behind-the-scenes promotional materials are always interesting if not professionally done. I always get the impression that it’s someone just pissing about on-set until someone else gets annoyed and kicks him off! In fact, that very thing happened; shooting was running late on one of the episodes, so he was asked to stop filming as it was slowing progress. That said they are a useful insight into the making of Stargate, and you get to see the people that regularly appear as credits. DeLusie happily introduced Stunt Coordinator Dan Shea by saying he rarely wears underwear.

As always there are four commentaries – one for each episode – consisting of at least two people from the cast/crew. They’re recorded with all participants present, offering up a relaxed discussion of both behind-the-scenes information and what’s happening on-screen.

For Sight Unseen we hear from Director Peter F. Woeste, Director of Photography Andrew D. Wilson and Chief Lighting Technician Rick Dean. As with the previous discs, these three offer up the most technical commentary on the disc. Covering such issues as how the scenes aren’t shot sequentially, using this episode in particular highlighting that much of it was filmed by a second or third unit. This commentary suffers particularly from pauses – they even apologise and attribute it to the fact that six months had passed. Other topics include lighting and how comedy is used to help the story progress. Not the most exciting commentary, but still worth a listen.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 29
Smoke and Mirrors is discussed by Director Peter DeLuise, Visual Effects Producer James Tichenor and Actor Gary Jones. This one is both fun and entertaining. Since DeLuise is involved there’s plenty of background information about the actors and sets, this always helps to fill out areas normally silent. At the beginning there’s a lot of talk about the difficultly of filming the sniper scene and their newly earned respect for other sniper orientated movies. Gary talks about his auditioning experience and how most of the actors that failed were simply pronouncing the unusual words incorrectly. Some continuity irritation is evident when they notice a tie jumping around from scene to scene! This is definitely the best commentary.

Paradise Lost includes both Executive Producers Robert C. Cooper and Michael Greenburg. It turns out to be quite interesting, suffering from the odd pause but no where near as much as Sight Unseen. We hear about the reasoning behind the decision to make this episode focus on the chemistry between the two lead actors. They comment on Richard Dean Anderson’s request that the new Sci-Fi Channel title sequence be changed somewhat. How the episode was specifically shot for 16:9 in mind without - for the first time - considering framing for 4:3, and they also mention the special visual techniques used that gives this episode that special feel. I liked this commentary, a good effort for a two-person arrangement.

Finally we have the commentary for Metamorphosis with Director Peter DeLuise and Visual Effects Supervisor James Tichenor. As well as the usual interesting DeLuise information about actors, we find out this episode is the first to feature a lone Russian Stargate team. James Tichenor actually wrote this episode and talks about his experience, given he is normally in charge of visual effects and is only the second episode he has wrote. Probably the more interesting tip bit was a matt painting created by a bloke from England in charge of visual effects for Tomb Raider 2. In summary, this one turned out to be informative, focusing on special effects, writing and actors.

Other features include a stills gallery, volume 30 episode previews and a sort-of trailer for the Stargate SG-1 Fan Club website. The stills gallery is of a very good quality, containing lots of behind-the-scenes photos, whilst the episode previews are the usual affair – looking at them now; the episodes don’t look as appealing as those featured in the previous volume.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 29
Overall
This is an excellent collection of episodes. I could tell from the previous disc’s previews that volume 29 would be far more action packed. I’m not saying that being action packed is a good thing, just with the average episode of Stargate SG-1 you get used to seeing some small exciting scene somewhere in an episode and then the rest of it consisting of dialogue driven sequences. Having such a concentration of it like in Paradise Lost is simply a welcome change.

Paradise Lost particularly stood out for me in this volume with a good choice of set, haunting soundtrack and those high contrast / low colour shots really made the episode feel like something special. From what I understand it was both a challenge to act and direct; with one special effect in particular causing lots of problems.

Overall this disc is a better volume than the previous except for having one less SG-1 Directors Series promotional title. I would recommend it for Paradise Lost alone!


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