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If only it were possible to travel vast distances in an instant, hopping from world to world meeting new people and kicking some bad guy ass. In 1994 a movie entitled Stargate starring the likes of Kurt Russell and James Spader appeared on the scene with that very premise. In the early twentieth century an ancient device was discovered buried in the sandy deserts of Egypt, after years of investigation it was found to be an interplanetary transportation device. A team of military personnel were established and it was their job to investigate.

Several years on and there are now many teams investigating these new worlds made accessible via the Stargate. Stargate SG-1 - the spin-off television series - concentrates on the original and most experienced group, that of SG-1. Featuring a completely different cast from the movie, SG-1 is now led by MacGyver himself - Richard Dean Anderson.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 31
Episodes
Volume 31 contains only two episodes (instead of the normal four) simply because this DVD marks the end of season six. The two episodes featured in this volume are: episode 21: Prophecy and episode 22: Full Circle.

Prophecy
In an earlier episode called Metamorphosis the evil Nirrti started carrying out gene manipulation experiments on certain members of the Stargate SG-1 team. With this episode Jonas (a member of the same team) starts falling in and out of conciseness. Whilst in the dream-like states he sees visions of what will happen in the short-term future. It takes a little time for the rest of team to believe he is seeing the future but once it is proved they hope to take advantage of the ability. Unfortunately from Jonas, the ability has been activated by something less than welcome that may have been related to Nirrti’s experimenting.

Prophecy proves to be a thought provoking episode, showing what can happen if an event is interpreted without having access to background information or the context of the events. With plenty action to back up this character driven episode, it is definitely recommended.

Full Circle
This episode is all about reintroducing Michael Shanks’ character Dr. Daniel Jackson back into the series after leaving the previous season. For those not familiar with Michael Shanks, he can be seen guest staring in a few other episode in this season, most recently in The Changeling – that’s volume 30. Given that this is the final episode of the sixth season it should be expected that they are setting up the basis of what will be happening the following season. With that in mind we are taken back to the planet where the original Stargate movie and the SG-1 pilot episode were based on, that of Abydos. It is here where the nasty System Lord Anubis is in search of the Eye of Ra, with Daniel Jackson on hand to somewhat aid the SG-1 team to beat him to it.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 31
With both links to the movie and season pilot, this episode will allow viewers to catch up on some of the background goings on. It also offers lots of action and special effects thanks to a larger than normal budget. These two elements combined make Full Circle a perfect end to the season and the high point of the volume.

Video
Stargate SG-1 volume 31 is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen. The transfer is almost perfect with practically nothing worth complaining about. It would appear that I am becoming desensitised to the level of clarity. Though after reviewing Fox’s 24 season two DVDs, it made me appreciate how good the Stargate SG-1 transfers actually are. With 24 the amount of grain was so obvious that it became distracting in the brightly lit scenes, in comparison, I’ve never actually noticed any problems with the episode transfers on the Stargate SG-1 discs without being picky. A good transfer is one that you don’t notice.

Audio
On offer there’s a Dolby Digital 5.1 track available in three languages: English, German and Spanish. The soundstage is on the whole concentrated towards the front speakers given the nature and source of the material, this is to be expected. There’s good separation between the front speakers and rears kick into action whenever the scenes demand it. The second episode will test the sounds system far more that the first, with a much higher budget there’s lots of bass orientated explosions and special effects to kick off the next season.

Extras
With this edition we get two Directors Series featurettes which are slightly longer than normal. Prophecy concentrates on Director William Waring, although unlike the last disc’s collection, this episode isn’t filmed by the director. We see Waring’s methods he uses to interpret the script into camera movements – a sort of mini story board on each page of his script. We then follow the Assistant Director Bill Mizel as he tried to find a chump to be a medical technician. It ends showing the filming of the last scene from season six.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 31
Full Circle’s Director Series centres on Martin Wood who takes up the job of filming it. It shows some of the methods used to carry out the special effects. There’s a hint of frustration from Wood as he explains that someone or something has delayed shooting of a set of scenes by eighteen hours but resists mentioning who. We get to see Wood’s storyboarding methods, later comparing finished results with original storyboards. Both Director Series are worth viewing.

Something slightly different than usual is the Richard Dean Anderson Video Diary from Paradise Lost – an episode a few discs back that I thought was the highlight of the season. This is Anderson’s behind the scenes viewpoint of filming on location at Kit Lake. It opens with Anderson on his bicycle with a camera attached on his way down to the set commentating as he goes. After that there’s the occasional comment from Anderson and the rest of it is physical special effects. And to finish we see, or more appropriately hear Richard Dean Anderson’s wacky mobile phone ring tone.

There are two commentaries this time around, both technically orientated and as always recorded as a group. First of the commentaries is from Director William Waring, Director of Photography Woeste and Chief Lighting Technician Rick Dean, and they talk about the episode Prophecy. Given the people involved it is mainly covering lighting and photography related topics, such as the sorts of lenses used and why they lit a scene in a particular manner. Every now and then they mention movies that influence certain scenes which are entertaining bits, but unfortunately there’s plenty of silence. Overall this is a very technical commentary with the odd interesting moment.

For Full Circle we hear from Director Martin Wood and Director of Photography Jim Menard. Since this episode is essentially the reintroduction of Jackson ready for the next season, it is one of the main topics of discussion. There’s also a lot about special effects given the style of episode, such as how they created a desert in Vancouver. Quite a few of the explosions went wrong and they point those out. They also pointed out that certain scenes were almost entirely lit by real kerosene (paraffin) burners but had a massive cleaning job afterwards when the sets were covered with the black smoke by-product. Again, this is technical and probably better than the previous, but neither match previous attempts.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 31
Quite possibly the highlight of this disc is the featurette entitles The Lowdown which is chopped into two parts. In total the runtime is approximately an hour and is hosted by Christopher Judge. The Lowdown is an entertaining behind-the-scenes look at what you can expect from the next season of Stargate SG-1. Christopher shows us around his trailer making playful comments about the other cast members, one point I did notice was the large trailers each of the cast members are given. Amanda Tapping provides her take on the new season and Richard Dean Anderson plays his ring tone or theme song as he now likes to call it! There’s loads covered in this featurette, each actor and primary cast member getting their chance to comment.

As always there’s a stills gallery with some good quality shots from a behind the scene viewpoint. And there’s the promotional video highlighting the fan club.

Overall
This is a good end to what has been a very different season. With Michael Shanks missing for most of it, shooting based around Richard Dean Anderson’s diary and a move from Showtime to the Sci-Fi channel, there has been a lot of changes to deal with. And now that Michael Shanks is back-on-board, the series fans can hopefully look forward to plenty more seasons to come.

Volume 31 is slightly unusual in that it only contains two episodes – normally we would get four. However the producers of this DVD have opted to pack in a few more extras than normal to make up for aforementioned lack. These are in the form of an additional Video Diary from Richard Dean Anderson and a two part behind-the-scenes featurette that both reveal the inner workings of the Stargate SG-1 machine, and offer an introduction into the season to follow. Both are excellent productions and considering the latter runs longer than a normal episode, it at least makes up for one missing episode.

Stargate SG-1: Vol. 31
About the only complaint I have with this volume is the commentaries. Normally there’s a good selection of both entertaining and technical options, however this time due to a lack of episodes to comment on and the people that created the episodes, the commentaries for these episodes lacked on the entertainment side. So if you’re not interested in special effects, lighting or camera lenses then there isn’t really anything of interest. Overall, I recommend this disc to the avid fans. For those that haven’t purchased a Stargate SG-1 DVD before, you might be better off buying the entire season collections. The season six collection should hopefully be out shortly after this disc’s release. All they have to do is bung them in a big box.


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