Hollywood's film archives overflow with the carcasses of dismal movies based on lame '60s and '70s television shows, a syndrome that shows no sign of abating. But here's evidence that the reverse effect, turning a movie into a TV series, can have surprisingly positive results. Indeed, based on the 21 episodes produced for the first season of Stargate SG-1
, it could be argued that this show is significantly better than the 1994 feature it's derived from.
The central conceit of the original Stargate--the existence of an artificially created "wormhole" through which one can travel to different worlds light years away from Earth--was an intriguing one. In seizing on the obvious possibilities for expanding on that premise, series executive producers-writers Jonathan Glassner and Brad Wright have smartly retained some of the film's basic elements (its amalgam of myth and theoretical hokum, or the ongoing clash of wills between scientists and soldiers), while adding a variety of fresh ideas (including new characters, new locations, and a welcome dose of humor, much of it supplied by Richard Dean Anderson, MacGyver himself, who replaces Kurt Russell in the central role of Colonel Jack O'Neill). The result is a show with multidimensional heroes and villains and consistently compelling story lines (many of them introduced in the pilot and carried forward through subsequent episodes) balancing excellent special effects and production values. All this and full frontal nudity, too (at least in the aforementioned pilot). Who can resist?
The first season is spread out over five DVDs; the 100-minute pilot shares the first volume with two other episodes, while discs 2 to 5 contain anywhere from three to five shows each. Sound and visuals (in widescreen format) alike will take full advantage of any home system's capabilities. But aside from language and subtitle options, bonus features are limited to brief featurettes that play like commercials and provide little in the way of background information or insight (there are no features at all on the first disc). Then again, if you really want to know what that symbol on Teal'c's forehead means, or why the nasty, parasitic Goa'ulds look a lot like the fledgling stomach monsters in the Alien series, there is no doubt a Web site out there just for you. --Sam Graham