My introduction to Stargate SG-1 was reviewing Season
2 without any previous experience with the show; since then, this
remarkably well-crafted science fiction series has been steadily
growing on me. It was fun right from the start, but what's impressive
is how it's been sneakily getting better and better with each season.
Season 4 picks up the best elements from an already very interesting
and runs with them, with the result that this season is the best yet.
Good, solid stories have been a strong point of Stargate SG-1
from the beginning, but what really makes them shine is when they're
woven together with connecting threads, as part of a larger picture.
We saw that to a large degree in Season 3, and here in Season 4, the
attention to the larger story arc continues. The conflict with the
Goa'uld is far from static, as Apophis is alive and nursing a serious
grudge against Earth; the Asgard are fighting a desperate battle
against the replicators; the Tok'ra remain
Earth's most valuable allies, but they have their own agenda that
doesn't always dovetail with that of the SGC. Not only do the various
episodes advance different parts of the overall story, but the events
in each story have genuine consequences. I can't be more specific
without giving away any spoilers, but some definite surprises are in
store for viewers in episodes like "Divide and Conquer."
The use of backstory from earlier seasons is handled extremely well;
it's woven into the stories in such a way that it adds an extra
dimension for viewers who have been following the series faithfully,
but at the same time the episodes stand up perfectly well on their
own for new viewers. Just about any episode could be taken as an
example; for instance, both "Watergate" and "The First
Ones" can be enjoyed completely on their own, but they're made
more effective for fans by their use of recurring secondary
characters and aliens whom we've met in an earlier season. In a
sense, Stargate SG-1 is prudently reaping the harvest of
backstory created in "adventure of the week" stories of the
first couple of seasons. While some science fiction series introduce
interesting aliens, technology, and characters, only to develop a
kind of amnesia about them in subsequent episodes (and as much as I
love Star Trek, it's often guilty of this), Stargate
actually builds on what's gone before... consistently. It's one of
the things that gives the series a high degree of believability.
The chemistry between the team members of SG-1 is another
contributing factor in the overall success of the Season 4 episodes.
As I noted in Season 3, O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), Carter
(Amanda Tapping), Jackson (Michael Shanks), and Teal'c (Christopher
Judge) have come a long way from their somewhat cardboard origins,
and their three-dimensionality as characters makes for more depth in
these episodes. There's a generous leavening of humor in many Season
4 episodes, largely from O'Neill's wisecracks, and it works very
well. Whether it's due to being more familiar (and fond of) the
character, or from good writing, or both, there are many
laugh-out-loud moments in episodes like "Upgrades" or
"Window of Opportunity" (one of the most cleverly written
stand-alone pieces I've seen in the series). It's never overdone,
however: since the humor is always entirely character-driven, it
meshes perfectly with the serious adventure/drama of the larger
And adventure we certainly get, in abundance. Stargate SG-1:
Season 4 offers one solid, entertaining tale after another, with
an interesting mix of story styles. Some episodes concentrate on
action on Earth, involving the SGC, while others like "The Other
Side" get the SG-1 team involved with events on alien planets.
The episodes are consistently well-paced, with a high level of
excitement; whenever there's action going on, it's always meaningful
to the story, with something important at stake. The episodes that
contribute to the larger story arc are, of course, particularly
compelling, but even the stand-alone episodes are very well crafted,
with episodes like "Scorched Earth" offering well-developed
stories in which there's no easy, clear-cut resolution to the central
problem. The result is that Stargate SG-1's episodes have an
addictive, "can't wait to watch the next one" quality, and
Season 4 ends up being a whole lot of fun to watch.
Stargate SG-1: Season 4 is packaged in the same highly
attractive style as the previous season sets. It's a five-disc set,
with each DVD in its own plastic keepcase, fitting inside a very
sturdy and attractive cardboard case. This isn't the typical flimsy
paperboard slipcover, but a solid, durable case that looks stylish on
Stargate SG-1: Season 4 appears in its original widescreen
1.85:1 aspect ratio, and is anamorphically enhanced. I was very
pleased with the image quality here: the picture is clean and crisp,
with a pleasing absence of noise, grain, or print flaws. Edge
enhancement is all but absent, with the result that detail is
presented very well. Longer-distance shots tend to be slightly soft,
but this is a minor part of an otherwise extremely solid video
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack does a very nice job of presenting viewers
with an enjoyable audio experience. All the dialogue is clear and
clean-sounding, and the show's great theme music is balanced
correctly with the rest of the soundtrack at all times. The surround
sound makes for a nicely immersive audio experience, with all the
channels being used to good effect. Trust me, when the "offworld
activation" alarm sounds, or the stargate rumbles as it dials
out, you'll feel like you're right there.
Stargate SG-1 fans have reason to be pleased with the special
features on this set. Every episode has its own audio commentary
track; the people involved vary for each episode, but frequent
contributors are the director of that episode, the visual effects
supervisor, and the director of photography.
In addition to the commentaries, there are also three featurettes. On
Disc 1, we get a 16-minute piece on "Special Visual Effects,"
featuring visual effects supervisor James Tichenor explaining
step-by-step how the fantastic CGI visual effects are done. On Disc
2, there's a 17-minute featurette on "Alien Species: Friend &
Foe," which focuses on the concepts of the Goa'uld and the
Jaffa, with various cast and crew interviews. It's not as interesting
as the special effects segment, but it's not bad. Both of these
featurettes are labeled as part of the "Secret Files of the SGC"
and are introduced "in character" by Dr. Fraiser and General
Hammond, which is unutterably cheesy.
The last featurette, found on Disc 5, is actually labeled as "Part
1 of 3" of a larger documentary called "Stargate SG-1:
Timeline to the Future." (I'm not sure where the next part is
going to show up; presumably on a future release somewhere down the
line.) In any case, Part 1, which is called "Legacy of the
Gate," focuses on the origins and early stages of development of
the Stargate series. It's hosted by Richard Dean Anderson and
executive producer Brad Wright, and it's a very interesting piece
that weaves in many interviews with both cast and crew members.
forgotten just how much fun Stargate SG-1 is, and Season 4
served as a very welcome reminder that this science fiction show is
smart, well-written, and extremely entertaining. It's actually quite
accessible for new viewers, though it will be most enjoyable for
viewers who can appreciate the way that the backstory from earlier
seasons is being used and developed here in Season 4. If you've
enjoyed Stargate SG-1 in the past, then Season 4 is a
no-brainer of a purchase; if you've never watched the show, you could
pick it up now, or (even better) you could go back and watch Season
first, since they're well worth seeing. In any case, Stargate
SG-1: Season 4 certainly earns its "highly recommended"
rating, especially since it looks and sounds great.