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It's almost that time of year again when you have to start thinking about spending all your money on frivolous items to give to others. Personally I've already finished all my Christmas related thinking (feel free to hate me) and so I've got a little spare time to enjoy while everyone else flies around frantically. In the meanwhile it leaves me some spare time to waste on entertaining myself.
===Money makes my world go round===
Last year, just after Christmas, I was a little bored and had some extra money due to the fact it was also my birthday. Most people had chucked money my way to put towards tattoos and various other stuff. After paying off a chunk of a tattoo, I focussed my energy on the Stargate SG1 complete collection box set. I've been wanting it for years but I never seemed to catch it at the right price when I had money. The box-set fluctuates in price throughout the year and almost always dips considerably just after Xmas and New Year for a few weeks. Most of the year you'll be paying anywhere between £130 and £200 for this box set. After Christmas, however, the price dips to around £80 - £90. The moral of this story is that if you want it, wait. Watch it like a hawk and pounce on it when it hits sale.
If you were thinking about being sneaky and buying the box sets individually, then I chortle at your idea. Each individual set is currently sitting at around £20 each. For ten of them you'll pay over £200 and that won't even include the two movies for between £5 and £10 each. In short, this is the best value way to do it.
===What is this "Star Gate" you speak of? ===
Stargate was a huge movie back in 1994, starring Kurt Russell and James Spader. The Americans manage to find an ancient Egyptian artefact buried in sand. They know it's called a Stargate and that it's big and round and pretty. They employ Dr Daniel Jackson who has a theory that ancient Egyptian pyramids were landing pads for spaceships and that the gods referred to in texts were actually a race of aliens. When he gets let at the Stargate he manages to make it work. What does it do? Basically it transports you pretty much instantly from one gate to another. The other gate just so happens to be light years away on another planet called Abydos.
Now that it works, the government send an elite team through the gate to explore, headed up by Colonel Jack O'Neill (Russell). They find an enslaved race of humans bowing to their "God" Ra, who turns out to be a parasitic alien with grasp of powerful tech-toys. After a touch of a scuffle they do the wise thing and nuke the alien and return to earth. Since Daniel Jackson managed to fall in love on Abydos, he stays behind and O'Neill tells him to bury the gate so he can convince the U.S. Government that he blew it up along with the alien. Happy endings all round.
===Three years later===
After this happy ending, someone smart at MGM realised there was an opportunity for a great story and the T.V. series was born. Recasting Richard Dean Anderson (think MacGyver) as the sarcastic O'Neill and Michael Shanks (think...er... Stargate...) as Daniel Jackson the television series begins deep within the storage facility of a military base. A bunch of soldiers who are slacking off are taken off-guard both figuratively and literally by alien troops similar to those of Ra's and kidnap one of the female guards. The U.S. air force quickly realise that the gate doesn't just go to one planet and quickly set up the facility to work the Stargate again and mount a rescue operation. They soon realise that Ra was not the only malevolent alien out there and that the ancient Egyptian gods were all evil rulers who have spread humans throughout the galaxy to serve them.
Once they realise they have incurred the wrath of these aliens (who, by the way, are basically human hosts with parasitical snakes in their brains) they set up air force teams to explore the universe in an attempt to gain information and technology that will one day help them bring down the Aliens (who are called the Goa'uld, pronounced gooh-ahh-oold).
The T.V. series only makes the smallest reference to events that happened in the film and it's generally held within the first season. You don't need to have watched the film to understand what is going on at all though I would argue that if you really want to get into it, probably best to give it a watch so you see where the references are. They also keep fairly true to the original other than the fact that they change the aliens from big bug eyed things (you only see a quick glance of the aliens true form in the film) to a snake in the head of a host. Either way, don't worry too much about the film; you don't need to see it to get the TV series.
The ten seasons that came after followed the main air force team, SG-1, on their missions through the gate. As they are the main team they are the ones who get to do all the fun stuff like meeting new alien races (mostly human) and blowing things up (mostly bad-guys, occasionally themselves).
For the first five seasons the team remains the same, headed up by Richard Dean Anderson as Colonel Jack O'Neill who is a bit grumpy and tends to dumb everything down. He is used a lot to make sure that everyone can understand what is happening even if they didn't quite understand the sci-fi geek-babble that occasionally falls from someone's mouth. He's a very funny character which counters his very dark past brilliantly and leads to some heartbreaking episodes when they delve into his serious side.
His second in command, Major Samantha Carter (played by Amanda Tapping), provides a very strong female lead. Not only is she uber-smart she's uber sexy. She does most of the tinkering with alien tech when they come across it and has a fantastic ability of making all the men she meets want to lick her toes.
Michael Shanks provides a bit of humour and humanness to the team as Dr Daniel Jackson (language and history expert). He tempers the military outlook with a strong set of morals and is allowed to give a lot of cheek back to O'Neill due to the fact he is a civilian rather than part of the air force. The whole team manages to have a great back and forth between them anyway, but they can't order Jackson to shut up and do what he's told which creates some great friction. His character does get a touch annoying at times as he seems to climb upon his high horse a touch too frequently, but you do learn to love him. If you do hate him then you will be glad to know his character dies at least twice in almost every season. I think the writers liked to take their rage out on him.
The last regular member of the team is Teal'c (known as Christopher Judge for the entire time he was in Stargate but now known as Douglas Christopher Judge). Teal'c is a rebel Jaffa. No, not the cake. The Jaffa are the foot-soldiers to the Goa'uld who also act as incubators for the larval form of the alien. They have a pouch cut in their stomach at a young age and a baby snake is put inside it until it is old enough to take control of a human. The "snakes" also act as the Jaffa's immune system so if they want to live full (ish) healthy lives, the Jaffa have to serve their "God". Teal'c, having seen the atrocities committed by his "God", rebels against him and joins SG-1. He comes in handy for knowing how to work some alien tech and fill in gaps in SG-1's alien trivia.
Later additions to the team include Ben Browder and Claudia Black who where both leading roles in another Sci-fi programme Farscape and Corin Nemec who is basically just a bit of hotness. There are hundreds of other actors who come and go in bit roles and if you are a sci-fi fan you will probably enjoy spotting a few of them: John Kramer (the killer from saw), Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Allison Blake from Eureka), Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol from Battlestar), Robert Picardo (from star trek voyager), all of them make appearances and every time I feel the need to have a little geek-gasm. I know. I'm strange.
===Is it any good? ===
You may have realised by now that I am a huge Stargate fan. You'd be right. Allan on the other hand hated the whole idea of it. At least, he did until he started watching it. I may have forced him. He now happily suggests we put it on as he really enjoys it. So that's a thumbs up from me (a huge geek) and a thumbs up from Allan (a tall non-geek). The writing throughout the show is great and pretty much every episode is packed with action, adventure and a good plot. Very occasionally you will bump up against a clip show but not often enough to put you off. The episodes are easy to understand with nothing too crazy to grasp, but when there is, you can rest assured someone in the show will require it dumbed down for them too. The writers delved deep into human history all over the world and related most of what goes on in the programme to something rooted in our own actual history which, to me, makes the whole thing that much more entertaining. It's sort of similar to "Wicked" in that it takes historical things that we all know and looks at it from a completely different angle. Sheer brilliance.
===What your Wad gets===
This particular box set is the cheaper of a few out there. It contains all 10 seasons of Stargate from start to finish and also has the two brilliant feature length episodes / movies Continuum and Ark of Truth that were made after Stargate had ended. The case is long and black, decorated with stars like you are looking into space. The big side of the set is emblazoned with the product description "The complete series, Stargate sg1 including continuum and ark of truth" and can, to be honest look a little over-wordy if you plan on displaying it. On each end of the set (width of a normal DVD box) is a very pretty picture of a Stargate (basically a big ornate ring with a shimmering pool of water in the middle"). The opposite side to all the bumf is where you will be able to see your DVD's. Each season is contained within a separate box within the set and all are numbered accordingly, with the two feature length episodes in their own boxes at the end. This is the side I usually display as all the boxes are different colours and it looks rather pretty all neat inside my DVD cupboard. It also makes it easier to just slide a season out while keeping the rest of the DVD's in place. The only thing that ISN'T included in this set is the original Stargate movie, however, this is generally viewed as a completely separate entity due to the different cast and time between shooting. If that bothers you, you can pick up the original for around a fiver online.
Talking of sliding DVD's out, the box they come in is quite a tight fit. I have noticed that I struggle to get a box out a little if the set is full. As such I usually leave whatever season we are watching out of the box so I can get the next one out easily when it comes around to it.
The first real thing that got on my nerves about this box set was that, rather annoyingly, the discs don't follow a set pattern. For the first seasons the discs are simply numbered 1 to 6 for each season then from season two onwards it suddenly switches so that each disc is a designated a volume number that simply gets one higher each disc and continues across seasons. This means that if you open a box in the middle your first disc is volume 14 rather than a simple 1 to 6 numbering for each season. Even more annoyingly, when the discs switch to Volumes rather than disc numbers at the start of season two, the volumes start at volume 2 onwards as if all the discs you've watched so far were all volume 1. It makes no sense. Is it a huge deal? No. I'm just a bit of a neat freak and knowing that the discs aren't all matching niggles me. The other slight niggle is that in season two they obviously felt the need to fill some space and threw two previously included episodes from season 1 on to the last disc of the season two. It perplexed me, it really did. It also made me not realise we'd reached the end of the season till I put the episode on and realised we'd already seen it. This (apparently) was due to the original release of season two doing the same thing to allow people to "catch up", basically assuming that you're daft enough to forget the previous season. They didn't give fans enough credit I think. Grr.
To make up for it, the back of each season's box will show you the episodes in order and what discs they are on. It also lists any special features included there too so you can, at a glace, see what you are getting with each season. This saves having to put discs in an out to find the right episode or a searching through the seasons for a special feature you want to watch. Just have a look on the box!
Each season comes with its own unique set of menus, usually featuring the Stargate, the base or another planet. The menus are beautifully done most of the time, though in earlier seasons can seem a little bit naff (Keep in mind the show started in 1997). They are easy enough to navigate no matter what season you are watching.
The quality of the earlier seasons can be a little grainy and some of the bigger special effects are a bit obvious, again probably due to the age of the show, but the later seasons (from about three onwards) improve significantly in quality with the film footage being a lot clearer and the special effects being a lot more convincing.
There is only one thing that I would be wary of. If you let an episode play right through and out of the credits, there are warnings that come up about piracy after it's played out. They flash slowly through about ten different languages and a lot of DVD players and computers won't let you back out of this segment until it has played through. Our computer restarts the DVD where it left off so if we do accidentally let it run we have to wait for it to warn us in every language before we can do anything else. It's not a huge thing but it is a bit frustrating so I'd suggest you put it back to the main menu of the disc before the credits play out for quickness sake.
There are an absolute tonne of extras. Previously I'd borrowed the old individual box sets from my friend and from season three onwards they all had a ream of really great extras. I had worried that when I bought this one they wouldn't include the extras. Thankfully they done the sensible thing and every season has the same extras that you would have gotten had you purchased each season individually. Cast interviews, making of documentaries, commentaries, cast-video diaries, special effects documentaries, blooper reels, looks at the real science behind the show, there really is an absolute plethora of extra footage to watch included in every season. Would I recommend watching it? God yes. Not only are the cast hilarious when they aren't filming, the history and science behind the show is actually fascinating. If you like the show then I'd say you'll probably love the extras just as much and that, my friends, is a rare thing for me to say. Usually extras are much of a muchness. These ones really live up to their title as Special features.
As a Stargate fan, this is a must have for me. I wouldn't suggest paying £200 for it, but it's definitely worth the £90 that I paid. There is another full collection box set out there which is smaller and slightly prettier but I don't think that comes with separate boxes for each seasons. As far as I'm aware all the discs are in one place rather than separated out into seasons. The set does what it needs to do and gives you all the same perks you would have got if you had collected the seasons over the years. It actually gives you a lot more space than if you'd done that as the original box sets had a DVD case for each disc and were therefore huge. Ten of those stretch out a fair distance. The programme is my favourite of all time and this box set is a great addition to any sci-fi fans collection. Just be sensible and wait for the price to drop before you buy it. I have to knock a star off due to the strange change in the way the discs are labelled and the fact it doesn't have the movie that started it all, but other than that, a brilliant box set with everything you could want (as long as you don't want the original movie). Go explore this brilliant piece of TV!