Stargate SG-1 has ended up becoming one of my favorite science
fiction TV shows, and for good reason. It's a show that recognizes
the importance of high-quality storytelling on an episode-to-episode
basis; Stargate SG-1 has plenty of "wow!" moments in
its episodes, but what really makes the series work is how it always
makes sure all its ducks are in a row for a thoroughly entertaining
experience. We've got a nifty idea, consistently solid writing, good
characters, a commitment to internal consistency, the productive use
of backstory, and a willingness to take on
big stories that actually have consequences. What's not to like?
Season 5 follows up on an outstanding Season
4, so there's quite a high standard to live up to. Those high
expectations may be part of the reason why it feels like Season 5
doesn't start out on as strong a note as the previous season. The
season premiere, "Enemies," is excellent, as it continues
with the events from Season 4's finale: the SG-1 team and Samantha's
father Jacob are stranded in a faraway galaxy on board a Goa'uld
ship... along with Apophis, who managed to escape destruction and
follow them. This solid episode, however, is followed by the weakest
of the entire season: "Threshold," in which a brainwashed
Teal'c undergoes a Jaffa ritual designed to bring him to his senses.
(You know it's a bad episode when the episode revolves around the
characters just sitting around a hospital bed, talking.)
After this early stumble, the series begins to get back on track with
a number of solid stand-alone episodes. "Ascension" has a
few weak spots in terms of plot (which is surprising for a Stargate
episode) but it makes up for it in some very nicely done humor, which
(as usual) I can't comment on without spoiling the storyline, since
it's very much drawn from the situations and characters. "The
Fifth Man" is a nicely done piece in which the SG-1 team is
convinced that they have a fifth team member... one who doesn't show
up in any SGC records and who is remembered only by SG-1. The story
turns out to have an intriguing resolution, and on top of that we see
the recurring character of Col. Simmons (John DeLancie). "Red
Sky is a reasonable adventure that references the Asgard, and the
otherwise only so-so episode "Rite of Passage" is enlivened
by the discovery of a new Goa'uld adversary, which is particularly
interesting since Stargate is adept at using loose story ends like
this into subsequent episodes.
As the middle of the season approaches, things start to heat up with
more and more episodes that pick up on recurring story threads,
characters, and situations from previous seasons and episodes. For
instance, the Unas aliens (who stand as an example of outstanding
makeup and design – they look unnervingly real) are at the
heart of "Beast of Burden," and the SGC's new and shaky
cooperative relationship with the Russians is put to the test in "The
Tomb." Stargate is never afraid to venture into gray
areas or have plots that don't wrap up neatly, as we see in the
excellent "Between Two Fires," in which the highly advanced
Tollan people unexpectedly renew their contact with Earth. "2001"
is a direct sequel to last season's outstanding "2010," and
as we get closer toward the end of the season, we get some major
events going on with the Goa'uld and the Tok'ra, in episodes like
"Summit," "Last Stand," and "The Sentinel."
And without spoiling anything for viewers who haven't seen these
episodes, there are some significant events that happen in the last
two episodes of the season, "Meridian" and "Revelations."
While the main focus of the series is on action and drama, let's not
forget that Stargate SG-1 also manages to be a surprisingly
funny show. Humor is a very hard thing to get right, and science
fiction shows in particular often struggle with it (Babylon 5,
we're talking about you...). But Stargate SG-1 gets its humor
exactly right, with Col. O'Neill's wisecracks being an essential part
of his character (as well as being really funny), and touches of
humor springing up unexpectedly in various episodes that are
otherwise perfectly serious. As with the previous season, Season 5
also has an episode that leans almost entirely to the comic side: in
this case, it's "Wormhole X-Treme!" which even manages to
fit nicely in with the overall continuity of the series.
Stargate SG-1: Season 5 is a five-DVD set, with each disc
packaged in its own keepcase, and the five discs enclosed in an
attractive and very sturdy cardboard slipcase, as with the other
seasons. This isn't the typical flimsy paperboard slipcase, but a
durable hard cardboard shell that will support a lot of wear and tear
while still looking nice. Menus are attractively themed to the series
while also being very clear and easy to navigate.
Stargate SG-1: Season 5 appears in its original widescreen
aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is anamorphically enhanced. As with the
previous season, the image quality is excellent. The image is
clean-looking and free of noise or flaws, though I did spot one
instance of an odd colored halo around the edge of a character.
Colors look excellent, with an overall natural but also vibrant
appearance, and contrast is handled well.
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack provides a solid, enjoyable listening
experience for all the episodes here. The overall sound is crisp and
clean, and the surround channels are used effectively throughout the
episodes, from ordinary sound effects like the stargate opening to
intense action sequences.
Once again, fans have plenty of reason to thank MGM for supplying a
really nice DVD collection. Every episode in the set has a
full-length audio commentary, and what's more, they're good
commentaries, with interesting insights into the making of the
episode. The participants vary depending on the episode, but we
always get some combination of the episode's director, the visual
effects producer, the director of photography, and the writers.
Amanda Tapping also contributes to "Red Sky."
Apart from the commentaries, we get a few minor special features
spread across the discs. Three "SG-1 Video Diaries" appear
here, each about 10 minutes long. Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge,
and Michael Shanks were each given a camera and told to go film
behind-the-scenes material for the DVD, and each takes a slightly
different tack. Tapping gives more of a broad overview, showing the
sets and introducing the crew (we get to meet the stand-ins, for
instance), Shanks takes a light-hearted approach that includes a
"behind-the-scenes look at the behind-the-scenes" material,
and Judge's contribution (the most interesting) is somewhat more
For miscellaneous material, we have an incredibly lame featurette
called "Inside The Tomb," which is basically just a
6-minute recap of that episode, and a 6-minute piece called "Dr.
Jackson – A Tribute," featuring Michael Shanks reflecting
on the evolution of his character.
SG-1 has been on a roll, turning out season after season of
high-quality, intelligent science fiction and proving that a show can
feature action and adventure while aspiring to more than just lots of
explosions and fight scenes. In addition to many excellent
stand-alone episodes, Season 5 continues to develop the struggle
against the Goa'uld, and makes great use of drawing on backstory as
well as adding new and interesting elements to the mix. With a nice
transfer and a full slate of audio commentaries to boot, Stargate
SG-1: Season 5 is highly recommended.