Alias-Season 1 (2001)

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Released 4-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Cast And Crew Commentary: Pilot, Episodes 2,17 And 22
Featurette-Alias Pilot Production Diary
Featurette-Inside Stunts
Deleted Scenes-6
Outtakes-Gag Reel
TV Spots-5
Trailer-Alias Video Game Preview
Trailer-Season Two Sneak Peek
Booklet
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 904:11 (Case: 959)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (6)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ken Olin
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Jennifer Garner
Victor Garber
Ron Rifkin
Michael Vartan
Bradley Cooper
Carl Lumbly
Kevin Weisman
Merrin Dungey
Case ?
RPI $99.95 Music JJ Abrams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
Italian
Spanish Audio Commentary
Swedish Audio Commentary
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Titling
Italian Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Alias is currently one of the hottest shows on TV, a mesmerising blend of high-tech action, sassy exposed flesh, trendy fashion, taught thrills and romantic drama. It is an Americanised James Bond with a gender role reversal and slightly less overt sex. You might think that such a blend would be ludicrous, and sure, it is, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

    The overall plot of the series follows the young grad student Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) who is recruited into the elite covert unit of the CIA known as SD-6 as a freshman. However, one day she learns that SD-6 is part of an alliance of rogue intelligence operatives worldwide serving their own interests. To try and atone, she opts to become a double agent for the CIA in order to bring down SD-6. She also learns that the only other double agent is her estranged father Jonathan ‘Jack’ Bristow (Victor Garber), a long term friend of SD-6 head Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin). Moreover, the only person who has faith in her and who she trusts is her CIA handler Agent Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan). Can Sydney bring down SD-6 without getting herself or her father killed or bringing tragedy upon the ones she loves, like her best friends Will (Bradley Cooper) and Francie (Merrin Dungey), or her partner Agent Dixon (Carl Lumbly)? And why is SD-6 so interested in the designs of an ancient and possibly insane inventor, the largely unheard of Milo Rimbaldi?

    Season 1 goes together something like this:

Disc 1

    1. Truth Be Told (63:38) -- Meet Sydney Bristow – a hard working student, engaged to a doctor, and part time covert operative for an elite branch of the CIA. However, when she confesses to her fiancé that she is a member of the Agency, he is killed and she is exiled. With SD-6 assassins on her back, how can Sydney redeem herself in the eyes of the Agency and herself without getting killed?

    2. So It Begins (43:41) -- Sydney comes to terms with just how big SD-6 is and how difficult it will be to bring the agency down. At the same time, Sloane sends her on a mission to recover a nuclear weapon.

    3. Parity (40:25) -- Sydney and her Partner Dixon are sent to recover the other half of a manuscript by Rimbaldi, located in a vault in Madrid. However, they must stay one step ahead of K-Directorate, a Russian secret operative branch with a femme fatale agent of their own, known as Anna Espinosa.

Disc 2

    4. A Broken Heart (42:17) -- Sydney is cracking under the pressure of being a double agent, unable to repair her relationship with her estranged father, and unable to tell her friends of her predicament. At the same time, Sloane sends Sydney to Spain to recover another Rimbaldi artefact which leads to a showdown with Espinosa.

    5. Doppelgänger (43:02) -- Agent Vaughn comes up with a plan to switch German scientists on SD-6 in order to implant a computer virus giving the CIA access to SD-6’s computer systems. But when the doppelganger does not have vital information he should know, Sloane becomes suspicious of Sydney who turns to her father to help her out.

    6. Reckoning (42:54) -- When Vaughn pulls Jack’s file for Sydney she becomes suspicious that her father may have had something to do with the death of an FBI Agent and her own mother.

    7. Color-Blind (42:16) -- Sydney is sent undercover to a mental asylum in Bucharest to gain secrets from an assassin with a split personality triggered by a particular phrase of poetry. However, this man may be hiding more secrets than even Sydney can deal with.

Disc 3

    8. Time Will Tell (42:56) -- A Rimbaldi clock leads Sydney to an Italian inventor. But when he is assassinated before she can get all the information she needs, she and Dixon must travel to South America and uncover a secret underground vault which has lain undisturbed for hundreds of years. But will Sydney succeed in her mission with K-Directorate on her tail?

    9. Mea Culpa (43:17) -- When Dixon is shot and Sydney is suspected of being a mole in SD-6, her life is put in danger as part of a plot by Sloane to test her allegiance.

    10. Spirit (42:41) -- Jack is sent to Cuba to assassinate an arms dealer with ties to SD-6, although he has been given a counter-mission by Vaughn to get the dealer’s client list for the CIA. But when Jack is captured, Sydney insists on going after her father. At the same time, Will’s investigation into Danny’s death leads him to a reference to SD-6, a discovery which puts him in danger.

    11. The Confession (42:50) -- Vaughn takes steps to convince Sydney that evidence she found implicating her father in the deaths of several CIA agents should be taken to the CIA Director. However, Jack has a story of his own that will shatter Sydney’s world.

Disc 4

    12. The Box: Part I (43:13) -- Vaughn is suspended from handling the SD-6 matter for inappropriate conduct. At the same time, a former SD-6 agent takes control of the L.A. Branch of SD-6 hell-bent on revenge against Sloane.

    13. The Box: Part II (43:30) -- Sydney and Jack work to prevent the destruction of the SD-6 building by trying to disarm the failsafe explosives in the basement. But when Jack is captured, Vaughn takes it upon himself to help Sydney take out the attackers and prevent everybody from getting killed.

    14. The Coup (43:11) -- A new faction of rogue secret agents wipe out one of SD-6’s major competitors. However, with no information on this new group, who are apparently working for ‘The Man’, Sydney and Dixon are sent to spy on K-Directorate who have a meeting with The Man’s right hand man, a young newcomer known as Sark. At the same time, Sydney learns a nasty truth about Francie’s fiancé.

    15. Page 47 (43:15) -- When Will gets too close to SD-6 his life is put in danger, as are the lives of those around him. Jack takes it upon himself to warn him away. At the same time, Sydney is invited to Sloane’s house for dinner, and Vaughn orders her to use the opportunity to steal a page from the Rimbaldi manuscript kept at Sloane’s premises.

Disc 5

    16. The Prophesy (42:56) -- When Page 47 of the Rimbaldi manuscript uncovers a prophesy regarding Sydney, she and Vaughn travel to the Vatican to uncover the real Rimbaldi decoder to make sure that the prophesy is true.

    17. Q and A (42:57) -- Sydney is taken into Federal custody and questioned by the FBI with regards to the prophesy. At the same time, Vaughn and Jack conspire to break her free so that her SD-6 cover is not blown. However, Sydney begins to suspect that her mother is still alive.

    18. Masquerade (43:17) -- On an SD-6 mission to Vienna to uncover more information on The Man, who may also lead Sydney to the truth about her mother, Sydney hooks up with a deep cover SD-6 operative who is also her former lover.

    19. Snowman (42:56) -- Vaughn tracks a brutal assassin known as the Snowman in the hope that it will lead the CIA to The Man. At the same time, Sydney’s former lover asks her to leave SD-6 and run away with him. Although tempted by the offer, will Sydney’s desire to find her mother blind her to the truth?

Disc 6

    20. The Solution (42:26) -- Will is getting closer and closer to the truth about SD-6 and goes to Jack to get a persistent informant off his back. At the same time, Sydney and Vaughn pretend to steal artwork so they can put a Rimbaldi artefact on the market in order to trap Sark.

    21. Rendezvous (43:18) -- With Sark in SD-6 hands, Sloane forms an alliance with the young terrorist to lead him to Khasinau, whom SD-6 believes to be The Man. Sloane’s dying wife, Emily, is ordered to be executed by SD-6 after revealing her knowledge of the organisation. And Will is taken hostage by Khasniau and learns of Sydney’s identity.

    22. Almost Thirty Years (43:13) -- The culmination of the entire of Season 1 – with Will in Khasniau’s hands, Jack and Sydney conspire to steal two Rimbaldi artefacts to trade for his life. But Sydney’s actions rouse the suspicions of Dixon who reports her to SD-6’s Security Branch. Vaughn offers his help to save Will, and Jack uncovers a mole at the CIA. Who will survive the raid on The Man’s factory in Taipei?

    The verdict?

    The thing I have to say about this show above everything else is that it is a lot of fun. It is classic comic book storytelling, based loosely around the real world but so far removed from reality that it becomes pure entertainment without consequence. The bad guys are really bad and the good guys are really good, there are high stakes at play and lots of James Bond gadgetry to mess around with. What’s not to like? Plus, the serial nature of the show – i.e. an ongoing storyline that twists and turns like a pulp fiction novel written by a down-and-out author snorting crystal meth between chapters – makes it addictive viewing. It is yet to match the exceptional writing of shows such as Buffy: The Vampire Slayer or The X-Files, but these are early days yet, and at least the show keeps you guessing.

    Another big plus for Alias is its production values. Very rarely are escapist shows like this given the budget they need to indulge in their fantastic plots and daredevil stunts. Touchstone have put a lot of investment in this show to make it a success and it has paid off. While not always as convincing as high budget Hollywood movies where the cast and crew have the flexibility to shoot on location in Europe, Africa or Asia, Alias does an exceptional job remodelling the various Los Angeles locales it has at its disposal. Plus, the costumes, the gadgets, the guns and the outfits all give the show a very slick and impressive feel.

    As to the performances of the actors, whatever you think of Jennifer Garner as an actress, she looks great on-screen and has a definite presence. Sure, her character can be a little annoying in this first season – she is always jumping to the wrong conclusion about everything, which is hardly the best trait for a secret agent. Nevertheless, she is definitely a strong female role model. That said, the best and most believable performances of this first season are those of Bradley Cooper, who plays Sydney’s best friend Will, and Ron Rifkin who, as Arvin Sloane, is a deliciously cold-blooded villain whose only cares are his dying wife and the work of Milo Rimbaldi. How he casually orders people’s executions is just so unthinkingly nasty that you cannot help but be amused by him.

    Alias is one of the few shows left on TV for those of us who like to indulge in a little escapism on the small screen. Better yet, for its sheer entertainment value, it is very hard to pass up. Certainly, Season 2 is a vast improvement in terms of character development and acting, but this collection does all the groundwork setting up the show for its action-packed and emotionally charged second year. Serious espionage thriller this show is not. But if all you are after is a good rollicking time with some great action sequences and some entertaining (and at times amusing) drama, Alias delivers with the best.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, this is the original broadcast aspect ratio of the series.

    This is one of the first shows to be shot and broadcast in the new digital TV format and consequently the transfer to DVD is a stunning digital reproduction from a digital source. I can say, without a doubt, that this is the new benchmark for transfers of TV series to DVD.

    The image is virtually flawless. Richly detailed and very well defined, this is so easy on the eyes it is almost a crime. Stock footage has some slight graininess to it, but the show itself is immaculate with only some very, very faint graininess in the background during slightly darker shots.

    Colours are amazing, and positively radiant. Flesh tones are spot on and well balanced, and you can tell tanned skin from non-tanned skin, the texture of stubble creating darker variants on skin, shadows under the eyes...the lot. Like I said above, clarity here is fantastic. There is no colour bleed except for in the occasional stock footage shot of real locations, which are extremely few and far between.

    Shadow detail is excellent, although it should be noted that all shots in this series are artificially lit for greater definition. But the folds in black clothing are clearly distinguishable, and Jennifer Garner’s various leather clad curves reflect light to give exceptional outlines in night shots.

    There are no MPEG artefacts and only the very, very, very faintest of transfer artefacts. From time to time you catch a grille doing a mild moire effect. But considering how many textured surfaces and closely gathered lines there are in the various shots here, one or two instances of moire amongst a couple of thousand potential areas where this would crop up is major quibbling on my behalf.

    The stock footage of locales had some dirt, but the rest of the show was shot in digital and was absolutely pristine.

    There is an extensive list of subtitle options here: English for the Hearing Impaired, regular English, Danish, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish. They appear as white with a grey/black border and are easy to read. Whether the foreign language titles reflect the actual dialogue, I would need a translator to tell. But the English subtitle track is fairly accurate.

    On the topic of subtitles and translators, here is the major fault of the entire 6-Disc set. For some bizarre reason, many of the foreign language segments do not have the subtitled translations below, and I remember them being there when the show was first broadcast. Most of the time this does not matter, but when two major characters are conversing in a foreign language, say Russian or German, and important dialogue is being relayed, you cannot follow what is going on. And, no, the regular English subtitles do not provide a translation during those segments, even if you have them on throughout the whole episode. Some major instances of this are at 38:15 - 38:24 during the episode Parity where Sydney and her K-Directorate counterpart converse in Russian, at 19:52 - 20:37 during the episode Doppelgänger where Sydney and her target converse in German, at 19:09 - 20:00 during the episode Time Will Tell where Sydney talks to an Italian inventor in his native language, at 38:09-38:17 during the episode The Prophesy where Sydney and another lady talk in Italian, and at 22:17 - 22:20 during the episode Rendezvous where the characters are speaking French and we have no idea what about. The missing subtitles in The Prophesy are particularly annoying because there are a few joking references to this discussion later in the episode, but you have no context in which to frame the jokes. You guys at Buena Vista – big fault there. Please be more careful for Season 2 where there is a lot of pivotal dialogue relayed in Russian.

    The dual-layer pause is in between the episodes, generally with two episodes per layer on most discs. The pilot episode Truth Be Told is on the first layer of the first disc with its audio commentaries and the other two episodes are on the second layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The English 5.1 Dolby Digital remix is, in a word, awesome. I saw Kill Bill: Volume I the night before I sat down to start reviewing this, and some of the sound effects during Sydney’s fight sequences were very reminiscent of the sound effects used in that film (sans the graphic gore of course). Obviously some major tweaking has gone on, and the result is spectacular. None of this pseudo-5.1 Dolby Digital stuff – this is the real deal. Hardcore, smack down, bone-breaking, flesh slapping punch ons. This is, as with the image quality above, the new benchmark for TV transfers to DVD.

    As for more specific detail, well, dialogue is always clear and easy to understand throughout the series, and there were no audio sync problems.

    There is lots of detailed surround information, not mere left-right directional cues, but a heavy implementation of the rears during action sequences and even just during office sequences at SD-6 or the CIA.

    Furthermore, there is an amazing range to this track. Although not comparable to a DTS audio, this 5.1 Dolby Digital mix does a great job with everything from explosions, the voices, to the various popular tracks and original music that make this show so slick and funky. Deep basses and sonic treble are rendered with exceptional clarity.

    The subwoofer was used prolifically to add depth to machine gun fire, bullet impacts, explosions, snapping bones, the hard impact of fists on faces and feet in ribcages, bodies tumbling down staircases or smacking into concrete walls. I even flinched a couple of times. I also noticed its use to flesh out the soundtrack, especially in nightclub scenes where some awesome dance music is used.

    Audio is also available in Spanish and Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital. These alternate audio tracks lose a touch of the ambience due to the overdubbing, but they are still more than acceptable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This box set has an impressive array of special features, which just goes to show that if you are willing to put in the effort you can create a box set for a TV series with a superior 16x9 enhanced image and an awesome 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack and also not skimp on the extras. Good job on that front Buena Vista.

Menus

    All menus, including sub-menus, are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with a 2.0 Dolby Stereo track with various themes from the show.

Booklet

    Buena Vista have very kindly provided us with the original packaging for the review which includes a 12 page booklet full of information, including background details on Milo Rimbaldi, and profiles for each of the characters. There is also a floor-plan of SD-6 and the revealed Page 47 otherwise known as The Prophesy.

Audio Commentary – Episode 1: Truth Be Told (Disc 1)

    This commentary by series creator J. J. Abrams and star Jennifer Garner also includes a 19-second video intro of the two sitting together, presented in 1.33:1, Full Frame. During the commentary, which is in 2.0 Dolby stereo, the two play reasonably well off each other, but are a little slow to get going. There are lots of long pauses at the beginning, but by about ten minutes in they kind of have the hang of it. Most of the anecdotes are to do with the making of the episode and what was going on behind the scenes, rather than an analysis of the show itself, and Abrams does most of the talking.

Audio Commentary – Episode 2: So It Begins (Disc 1)

    This commentary is by director/co-executive producer Ken Olin, producer Sarah Caplan and director of photography Michael Bonvillain. This track is dominated by Olin who is quite fluent and plays well off Caplan, but clashes a little with Bonvillain.

Audio Commentary – Episode 17: Q & A (Disc 5)

    This commentary is by executive producers John Eisendrath, Alex Kurtzman-Counter, and Roberto ‘Bob’ Orci. The episode is largely a ‘clip-episode’ recounting the events of Season 1. These guys explain why they chose to do an episode like this, and then banter on about the making of the show. Never a quiet moment here, and plenty of amusing anecdotes.

Audio Commentary – Episode 22: Almost Thirty Years (Disc 5)

    This commentary is by the entire lead cast – Jennifer Garner, Michael Vartan, Victor Garber, Bradley Cooper, Carl Lumbly, Ron Rifkin, Merrin Dungey and Kevin Weisman – and includes a 22-second video introduction, presented in 1.33:1, Full Frame. The actual commentary is an amusing bungle of many people trying to talk at once. It is quite funny. Garner takes the lead role in trying to make the commentary a little serious, and they settle down a little about halfway in, but not really. No silent moments here, and plenty of anecdotes.

Documentary - “Alias Pilot Production Diary” (18:55)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, this is a documentary all about the making of the pilot and how this set it up for the rest of the show. Includes a lot of footage from on the set and is well structured.

Featurette - “Inside Stunts” (10:29)

    Also presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, this is a short featurette looking at how some of the stunts of the show were done.

Deleted Scenes

    There are 6 deleted scenes:

    All scenes are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with 2.0 Dolby Stereo audio. The picture is quite good, although not as glossy and finished as the actual show.

Gag Reel (2:48)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, this is a short collection of screw-ups caught on film.

TV Spots

    5 TV Spots, one each for the following pivotal episodes:

    All TV Spots are presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with 2.0 Dolby Stereo audio.

Alias Video Game Preview (1:23)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with 2.0 Dolby Stereo audio, this is a preview for the upcoming computer game based on the show.

Season 2 Sneak Preview (1:38)

    This is a look at some of the highlights of Season 2, and an ad for the upcoming DVD release of this season. I'm looking forward to it.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 release of this set seems to be largely identical except for a few of the extras. The R4 release misses out on:

    However, the R4 release has considerably more language options and is not limited by the NTSC picture format. I personally think this is an excellent set and the best R4 release of a TV series I have seen. The R1 release might have R4 beat on extras, but bear in mind that the difference is rather slim.

Summary

    Alias – Season 1 is excellent TV – classic comic book entertainment with a strong female role model, moral quandaries left right and centre, and villains you just love to hate. Too classy by half.

    Video is the best I have seen from a TV series. DVD distributors take note – this is the new benchmark. Sadly, I’m going to have to take some big marks off for the lack of subtitles during certain foreign language sequences, a major oversight on Buena Vista’s behalf which at times hampers the storytelling.

    The sound is a very laudable 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that is truly cinematic in its surround sound effect and range. The clarity of bones snapping, the thud of fists striking skulls ... impressive.

    The extras are too much to get your head around in one go. Nicely done.

    Final verdict – this is what all DVD transfers of TV series should aspire to. If it weren’t for that subtitle glitch, this would be a reference quality release. Hopefully Buena Vista will remedy this fault for a re-release and will not make the same mistake come Season 2.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Friday, November 14, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Subtitles - acassimaty
re:subtitles and extras - Sir_Fireboard REPLY POSTED
Truth Be Told - invertiga
Region 1 Version -
Packaging? -
re: Packaging - Sir_Fireboard
RE : Packaging - REPLY POSTED
not shot digitally -
Shot on 35mm -
Cover Scans - Minotaur
A fantastic television series - Kaiser Soze (I'm not stupid. You're not interested. But my bio is here anyway)
Very washed out picture with both Season 1 and 2 - MichaelCPE