Stargate SG-1

Volume 1

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Details At A Glance

General
Extras
Category Science Fiction/Television Main Menu Audio and Animation
Rating
Year Released 1997, 1998
Running Time 220:27 minutes
RSDL/Flipper Disc 1: No/No
Disc 2: RSDL (66:49)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection, then Menu
Region 4 Director Mario Azzopardi
David Warry-Smith
Martin Wood
Studio
Distributor
Showtime
MGM
Fox Home Entertainment
Starring Richard Dean Anderson
Michael Shanks
Amanda Tapping 
Christopher Judge
Don S. Davis
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $34.95 Music Joel Goldsmith

 
 
Video
Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Automatic Pan & Scan English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 256 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 256 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
Miscellaneous
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Presentation Rant

    I almost promise - I will only mention it once or thrice, but this really is something that I have to complain about. Not so long ago, here on Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page we ran a poll that overwhelmingly indicated that you, the consumer, had a very strong preference for television series to be issued in boxed sets on a season-by-season basis. This did not surprise me in the least as it is my preferred method of presentation for television series. The preference is not just an Australian one either, for every poll that has been run on overseas sites, at least those that I am aware of, have indicated an almost universal preference for the season-by-season box set concept. So why, in the overwhelming face of this consumer preference, have we gotten this inferior presentation of the first two DVD set of season one of Stargate SG-1? On just about every level you care to name, this is a shoddy package. Apart from the faults that will be detailed below, the entire package makes little sense.

    Firstly, a fair chunk of the first season of Stargate SG-1 was built up episode by episode, so that planetary visits, people and events in previous episodes could be referenced in future episodes - and that is quite amply demonstrated by the four episodes here. Since this was the heavy basis of the first season, why on earth have we been stuck with a selection of four episodes comprising the pilot and three very late in the season episodes? There is certainly little real connection between the first episode and the last three, and this is highlighted by references to previous events that we are not aware of from the episodes.

    Secondly, and infuriatingly, the fourth episode on the DVD is a "to be continued" effort - arrrgggghhhhhhhh! Yes, I know that it is the final episode of the season and sets up season two, but what about the other seventeen episodes of the season? They all combined to set up the final episode of season one, yet we barely get to sit down and enjoy anything of season one and get thrust straight into the set-up for season two. Even if I include the two different episodes on the Region 1 release, we are still fifteen episodes short of a full season before we get on to the next season, and thus the non die-hard fan is going to be left with huge gaps in their understanding of what is going on.

    Thirdly, through the non-sequential issuance of episodes, it would seem that we are going to miss out on the rest of season one. The next issue, being Volume 2, is apparently of season two episodes. This makes no sense at all and even the most die hard Stargate SG-1 fan, amongst whose number I count myself, is going to be very disgruntled about the missing of episodes. Indeed, on the evidence of Volume 1 and the announced Volume 2, it would seem that all we are going to get is the same idiotic releases as have been issued in Region 2, right down to every fault it seems. Frankly, I can see little purpose in MGM releasing the series in this way and I can only suspect that it will ultimately lead to reduced sales overall. At least Region 1 had the right idea for their first DVD, even if it has not yet been followed by any subsequent issues - possibly as a result of a rethink of the issuing procedure? The solution is fairly simple I would have thought: forget the season two releases, concentrate the efforts on getting all of season one mastered, get this sadly faulty issue remastered, then release the whole of season one in a nicely presented box set like Buffy The Vampire Slayer (sorry, I am not a big fan of The X-Files Season One presentation), a good example of how we do want television series to be issued. They could then follow up with a season two box set fairly quickly, as most of these would already have been issued in Region 2 by the time we get the season one box set. I would much prefer a further delay in the Stargate SG-1 DVDs to get the thing done right, than put up with dribble releases that fail to satisfy. After all, we have been waiting for over two years as it is for one of the best television science fiction series of the past twenty years - what is a few more months to wait?

Plot Synopsis

    Now, on with the show. For those that have not guessed by now, Stargate SG-1 is a television series created to follow on from the events depicted in the feature film Stargate. The short summary thus is: mysterious artifact found at Giza, Egypt in the 1920s turns out to be a gate to the stars, but we don't know how to operate it. Enter one Daniel Jackson who discovers how to operate the device, huge military infrastructure is in place to exploit said device. Jack O'Neill leads a team of military types, plus Daniel Jackson, through the gate to find out what is at the other end - which turns out to be Abydos, a planet inhabited by humans, descendants of people carried away from Egypt thousands of years ago by the great god Ra. Well, at least a being that assumes the form of Ra, who keeps the humans subjugated, not only on Abydos but other planets through the use of the stargate, until the military types arrive and ultimately blow Ra to pieces with a nuclear device. O'Neill returns to Earth, Jackson stays on Abydos. The television series picks up about a year later, with a few old characters - Colonel Jack O'Neill (now played by the more animated Richard Dean Anderson rather than Kurt Russell in the film) and Doctor Daniel Jackson (now Michael Shanks rather than James Spader in the film) - and a couple of new ones - Captain/Doctor Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) and renegade jaffar Teal'c (Christopher Judge). An honourable mention too for General Hammond (Don S. Davis) and my favourite Dr Frasier (Teryl Rothery), whose presence is sadly missed in the episodes presented here.

   The episodes on offer are:

   Despite this being a television series, the production values are more than decent and this really comes over as a quality show from the very beginning. Whilst the first episode lacks a little cohesion due to the newness of the roles for the cast members, it remains a good 90 minute introduction to the series. By the time we got to the last three episodes of season one, all had grown into their roles well and the overall cohesion of the show is much, much better. As much as I like the film Stargate, I found this to be a far more enjoyable experience on television and that has a lot to do with the strong cast. Generally well-acted, the series leaves little overall room for complaint from an entertainment point of view.

   If the presentation was more in keeping with the desires of the consumer, this would have been a far more welcome release. As it is, the mishmash of episodes does no favours to the show or the viewer, and it has to be said that the quality of the video transfer here is not the best. Whilst I welcome the arrival of anything of Stargate SG-1 on DVD on Region 4, I am afraid that this can only be welcomed in a lukewarm manner.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Well, if you have read any of the Region 2 reviews of this collection, you know what is coming. Despite this being a Region 4 coded DVD only, in view of the consistency of the problems here with those highlighted by the Region 2 reviews, this is nothing more than the Region 2 release recoded to Region 4. If you have not seen any Region 2 reviews of the DVD, then it can all be boiled down to one word - grain. Oodles and oodles of grain - in fact more grain than seen in the Wheatbelt during harvest time. Indeed, the general appearance here is such that I would almost be tempted to suggest that this is an electronic NTSC to PAL conversion, but that would make more sense if the equivalent Region 1 release had already been issued.

    The transfers are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. Despite the television origins, the ratio is correct. Like many shows in recent times, they have been filmed for widescreen presentation in anticipation no doubt of the move to high definition television and the growing preponderance in most markets of widescreen televisions and widescreen broadcasts. However, the DVD is also encoded with Auto Pan & Scan information, so you can also get to suffer the grain problem in full blown Pan & Scan, too.

    Just about everything you can possibly say about the video transfer boils down to the one issue - that darn grain. This is an incredibly grainy transfer that hides an awful lot of everything. The overall sharpness is much reduced and at times becomes a tad too indistinct for my taste in this sort of show. Detail as a result also suffers somewhat, although generally is quite good. Shadow detail is generally good although there are the odd lapses into the average realm. However, this is no worse than one would generally expect for a television show. Obviously this is not collection of really clear transfers at all. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer, although the grain could have hidden any such problem pretty well.

    In general, the colours have come up pretty well. Obviously much of the show is filmed in enclosed environments and one would not be expecting loads of bright, vibrant colours. Still, when the opportunity was given in exterior locations, the colours did come up quite bright and vibrant, and quite utterly natural. There is no problem with oversaturation nor colour bleed in the transfer.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, apart from what looked to be a little blockiness in the background of the first episode around the 62:55 mark. This was also around the same mark that there was the start of a rather unusual artefact in the transfer, and one that I am not familiar with. It would appear to be a problem with the video interlacing, but I am not certain. Starting at around 62:55 of disc one and continuing until about 64:25, there is what appears to be a distinct see-through line down the middle of the picture. The video on the one side seems to be very so slightly out with the video on the other side, and at the same time the motion seems to be a little jerky. I really do not know what it is, but once I noticed it, it really distracted my viewing. Other than that, there was minor problems with film-to-video artefacts, mainly some minor aliasing here and there that really was not of a huge concern. There are no real problems with film artefacts here at all.

    Disc two of the two DVD is an RSDL formatted DVD and the layer change comes at 24:23 during the second episode on the disc, making the overall change point 66:49. You cannot miss it - its right in the middle of a scene and Carter's head just seems to hang in the motion of doing something. I would have thought that there were far better places to insert the layer change since the show would have "natural" breaks where television stations would insert their advertisements.
 
 

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on the DVD, being Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtracks in English and German. Since I have no desire to test my German, which barely stretches past asking for a Big Mac and large fries at McDonalds (and that is when reading off the menu), I of course was a coward and stuck to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up well and is quite clear and easy to understand throughout the episodes. There did no seem to be any issue with audio sync here at all.

    The original music comes from Joel Goldsmith in general, with the aid of a bunch of other people on an episode by episode basis. As is to be generally expected from a television series, there is not much here that is liable to be confused with a masterpiece, but it does its job pretty well and is quite supportive of the show throughout.

    For a television show, this is not a bad surround-encoded soundtrack. It is quite distinctly surround-encoded with a fair deal of action through both the front and the rear surround channels,. It certainly is not going to be confused with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack with loads of surround channel usage, but it is pretty decent. Obviously lacking any bass channel at all, it is only missed rarely - notably when the Goa'uld death glider crashes. Perhaps a bit more bass would have helped the experience of the Goa'uld energy weapons, but overall there is not much to complain about for what it is. Just a little congested at times, it is better than would normally be expected from a television source.
 
 

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

Extras

    I did not realize that this was a Disney release - could have sworn it said MGM on the lackage... err, package. Apart from some decent main menu audio and animation, all you get is an almost A5 sized piece of paper, folded, and showing chapter listings and episode credits. This does not qualify as an extra in my view.

Menu

R4 vs R1

    There is no really equivalent release to this in Region 1. The Region 1 release is a single RSDL formatted DVD that in addition to the common first episode, Children Of The Gods, contains episodes 102 and 103 - The Enemy Within and Emancipation. Whilst it too suffers from its share of problems as far as the video transfer is concerned, it makes a little more sense in its presentation.

Summary

    Stargate SG-1 would normally be welcomed with open arms by me and a whole bunch of fans of the show. The presentation of Volume 1 however is sub-standard, in not being part of the preferred complete season one box set and in having a rather problematic video transfer. If you especially hate grain, then you should not come within the length of the Murray River of this release. I would hate to think how bad this would look on a large screen display device. Even fans of the show would be advised to rent this first to see if they are less affected than I by the video transfer. Non-fans would be best advised to await a better sampler than this.
 
 

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
17th December 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL