Stargate SG-1: Children of the Gods Final Cut DVD Review

Okay, so assuming you already own the complete first season of Stargate SG-1, would you be willing to fork out your hard earned cash for a fancy new edit of the series' original pilot, 'Children of the Gods'? That’s the choice facing hardcore fans of the durable sci-fi franchise as this new DVD release hits the shelves. But is there more to this release than a simple case of pimp my pilot? Frankly, the answer is a resounding 'hell no'. No matter how the distributor might try to spin it Stargate SG-1: Children of the Gods Final Cut can’t escape the foul stench of shameless cash-in.

This supposed final edit is more a quick paint job than an extensive nip and tuck. Not much has really been changed from the original version; the run time is slightly shorter, Joel Goldsmith has recorded a new score and the special effects have been spruced up with some brand new CGI. The original cliff-hanger ending has also been trimmed to make this feel more like a complete movie rather than a series pilot. Oh, and the full frontal nude scene with Vaitiare Bandera (Daniel Jackson's wife Sha're) has been cut so you don't see any naughty bits (boo!).

Of course this fresh polish can’t change the fact that 'Children of the Gods' is far from one of SG-1’s better efforts. Being early days it’s somewhat understandable that the cast hadn’t quite gelled yet but that doesn’t stop a lot of the acting being on the stiff side of things. The plot is littered with holes and over stuffed with incessant exposition, often at the expense of character and action. Oh, and I’d forgotten how painfully dull Apophis was as a bad guy. Why they stuck with this plank for so long is beyond me.

Although, simply for nostalgia, it is refreshing to look back on a time when Richard Dean Anderson’s dialogue didn’t consist entirely of wisecracks and references to The Simpsons.

Rating: * *

Stargate Atlantis: Season Five DVD Review

Friends, Wraith, Replicators, lend me your ears. I come to bury the fifth season of Stargate Atlantis, not to praise it. Two years on from the end of it's parent series, Stargate: SG-1, and the lost city of Atlantis has finally been sunk once and for all. But the big question remains; does anyone really care anymore?

Having viewed the entire fifth season twice now I’d have to say ‘no’. Obviously even the creative forces behind the camera have all grown as tired and disinterested with their own creation as the viewers have done. This final season is a lacklustre assortment of the occasionally good, the horribly bad and consistently bland. Being the show’s swansong year several major plot threads are brought to a conclusion but often in an unsatisfactory way. The ending of the Michael arc is clumsily handled, turning one of the series best villains into a whinny teenager while the series’ grand finale ‘Enemy at the Gates’ is an exceptional disappointment. Clearly no one is bothered about wrapping things up neatly and giving everyone a memorable send off. That’s what the inevitable DVD movies are for.

There are a few diamonds in amongst all the rough. ‘The Shrine’ gives both David Hewlett and Jewel Staite the chance to shine with gusto. The midseason two-parter ‘First Contact’/‘The Lost Tribe’ is a great and features the return of Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks). Although, that did have the side effect of making me miss SG-1 all over again. Finally, the series manages to slip out of format for a week with the brilliant, CSI inspired ‘Vegas’ an episode that gives us the sight of a Wraith strolling through as casino to the sound of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. In a word, brilliant!

Sadly the rest of the season is primarily made up of filler material including a lousy clip show. The cast also don’t seem that enthusiastic this season. The majority of the time they seem just as bored making it as I felt watching it. With Amanda Tapping too busy with Sanctuary to put in any regular appearances Carter is replaced by Richard Woolsey (the great Robert Picardo) but he’s just as underused this season as she was last season. Another in a long line of season five’s wasted opportunities.

Despite it humble begins Stargate managed to achieve what Babylon 5 had failed to do and supplement the once mighty Star Trek as the dominate sci-fi franchise on TV. But at the same time it fell into the same trap as Trek, becoming so safe and stale that audience become disenfranchised and eventually switched off for good. It remains to be seen if Stargate Universe can be the glorious revival its creators are hoping for or will it be just another nail in the franchise’s coffin. Besides, it’s got to be better than Stargate Infinity, right?

Rating: *

Dollhouse: Season 1 DVD Review

Joss Whedon is more that just a writer and a producer to some people. He’s a god, an idol to be worshiped and adored. He created Buffy, Angel and Firefly, co-wrote Toy Story, gave us Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog, wrote the best X-Men comic in a decade and is just a genuine nice and funny chap. You want to give him a great big hug every time you see him. But the truth is that he’s not the messiah, he’s just clever little boy. He’s flesh and blood, like you and me. He’s not perfect and can make mistakes (Alien: Resurrection for one). And for a long time it seemed that Dollhouse would be his greatest folly.

So far Dollhouse is a flaw creation, a work in progress that didn’t show any real promise until the half way point, the much touted ‘Man on the Street’. Before that Dollhouse was a dreary by the numbers affair as week after week Echo (Eliza Dushku) was sent on mission after tedious mission. The first five episodes are obvious attempt by the network to sledgehammer the show into an acceptable format that audience could easily understand and follow regardless of whether or not it was any good. Even a writer’s room made up largely of Whedon alumni struggled with this and produced some mediocre and tiresome episodes. After ‘Man on the Street’ the series hits it stride, only rarely missing a beat. ‘Needs’, ‘A Spy in the House of Love’ and ‘Briar Rose’ are the definite standouts of the season and demonstrate just how great Dollhouse could be when the executives took a step back.

Of course, that still doesn’t excuse them for some really stupid decisions that almost derailed the whole thing. Having now viewed the original pilot ‘Echo’ it is hard to understand why it was ditched in favour of the lousy ‘Ghosts’. Compared to its replacement ‘Echo’ is a far more interesting and dramatic episode that would’ve got the series off to as great start. Also included in this DVD set is the unaired episode 13, the original finale of the first season. Again it hard to fathom the network’s thinking. ‘Epitaph One’ (guest starring the awesomeness that is Felicia Day) is a brilliant piece of television, one of the best of the year and would’ve sent the series out on a massive high after the underwhelming antics of ‘Omega’.

But there is a great big ‘but’ coming. Hard as it is to say but Dollhouse has to be the first Joss Whedon show where I didn’t instantly love a single character. Even after viewing the whole series again I still don’t have any favourites that I love unconditionally. Unlike Whedon’s previous series Dollhouse lacks a strong central figure. Echo is for the most part a non-entity, a vessel waiting to be filled. It hard to relate and sympathise with a character when she’s constantly chopping and changing personalities every five minutes. Ditto Sierra (Dichen Lachman) and Victor (Enver Gjokaj). The supposed romantic lead, Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett), becomes increasingly off putting as the series progress to the point I cheered when he got the crap kicked out of him by Echo. Boyd (Harry J. Lennix) and Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) are both interesting characters and fun to watch but hardly likeable considering what they do for a living. And I know Topher (Fran Kranz) is meant to be a loveable geek, the quirky nerd we all relate to but instead he comes across as an arrogant creep.

Back to the positives. I am fond of Dr. Saunders/Whiskey but that’s more to do with the fact she’s played by Amy Acker (she could play Myra Hindley and I’d still lover her). And I have a soft sport for sweet November (Miracle Laurie), hopefully we haven’t seen the last of her. Plus, the show has some great bad guys. Laurence Dominic (Reed Diamond) makes a great foe for Echo during the majority of the season until big bad Alpha (Wash!) finally steps out of the shadows.

Dollhouse could’ve been Joss Whedon’s first true failure and a blotch on a so far spotless record. While not a shinning success the series has proved that it has the potential to be something truly special. We just have to hope that the network will continue to give Joss the support he needs to fulfil that potential.

Rating: * * * *

The Middleman: Complete Series DVD Review

“I’m just the Middleman”

It’s the same old sad story. Boy discovers new TV show. Boy falls madly in love with new TV show. Mean TV executives cancel new TV show. Boy is heartbroken. Orders the DVD.

The deranged brainchild of Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost, The Dead Zone, Medium), The Middleman is a glorious celebration of all that is nerdy and geeky without resorting to the patronising mockery of lesser TV shows (yeah, I’m looking at you, Big Bang Theory). This is a show where reading comic books and knowing your B5 from your DS9 is not only socially acceptable but the height of cool and an essential requirement if you wish to foil the evil plans of bad guys on a weekly basis.

The basic premise is sheer elegance in it’s simplicity; aspiring artist Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales) is recruited by 50s throwback and fixer of exotic problems, the Middleman (Matt Kesslar), to fight evil, save the plant and exchange witty barbs and pop culture references. Week after week our dynamic duo battle everything from gorilla mobsters, Mexican wrestlers, flying zombie trout, alien boy bands, vampire puppets and doppelgangers from an evil universe where everyone has a goatee. Yes, it’s that kind of show.

Along the way we meet a delightfully quirky and loveable cast of characters including Wendy’s adorable roommate and Middleman crush Lacey (Brit Morgan), their neighbour Noser (Jake Smollett), the Middleman’s cranky robotic assistant Ida (Mary Pat Gleason), the exceptionally named Manservent Neville (Mark A. Sheppard) and the wonderful Sensei Ping (Mark Dacascos).

Throw in subtle and not-so-subtle references to everything from Star Trek, Star Wars, James Bond, The Avengers, Indy, Buffy, Doctor Who, Ghostbusters and too many more to mention and you have possibly one of the greatest TV show ever! So, of course, it was cancelled after just one season.


Rating: * * * * *