the rantings and ravings of a not quite sane cow

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

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

For those not familiar with Stargate, Children of the Gods was the 2 hour (with ads, so it ends up being closer to an hour and a half) pilot that premiered around 12 years ago. And, to be honest, it hasn't aged well, especially when compared to newer episodes of the series.

Okay, first let me discuss finances. I paid $50 for the first season. This DVD of just the first episode is $30. Is it worth it? Hell yes!

If you like CotG as it is... congratulations, you're in the minority. While it's a decent episode (most Stargate episodes are), it's pretty poor compared to some other episodes. Some of the dialogue in it is just painful to listen to, the pacing slows to a crawl at some points, the special effects are bad, inconsistent, and badly inconsistent, the video quality is pathetic in some spots, some of the shots give you a great view of everything but the action, the music feels like awkward mashup of the Stargate movie theme and new stuff, some people's voices sound nothing like they should, it's completely unsuitable for kids (hey, Stargate is supposed to be a family friendly show), and there are plot holes big enough to fly a 747 through. In short, calling it a train wreck is overly generous. Despite all that, it's a good episode (by TV standards. By Stargate standards, it's not great). But it stands up to the test of time far worse than most of the early episodes.

If you don't want me to spoil anything for you, just scroll down to the second bold text after this. If you've already seen it or you don't care, read on.
Okay, now let's look at what they've done to make it better. First, visuals. The old opening title sequence is gone and there's a new one, not similar to anything you've seen from Stargate before. It's not badly done, but it does nothing to seem like it belongs to Stargate - just change the text and it could serve for anything even remotely related to sci fi. A decent number of the special effects shots have been redone, things like gate puddles and wormhole effects have been redone to look like they do later in the series (although some of the puddles don't seem to have been redone, and they stick out pretty badly). There's also more serious changes like redoing the glider chase on Chulak, as well as a couple of fairly distinctive scenes (like leaving the pyramid on Abydos). Some of the shots in the original were actually pretty poor quality, and some had noticeable defects, these have been fixed.

Sound: Most of the music has been redone so that it doesn't awkwardly include the movie's theme... sounds good but isn't particularly notable (unlike the original, in which it was notably bad). Some of the dialogue has been recorded, so characters now sound much more like... themselves.

Okay, now I really have to warn you. SPOILERS AHEAD. If you don't want to read them, scroll down to the next bold text (not far).
Now for how it's been cut. I'm not going to lie to you (about this): it's about 5 minutes shorter than it used to be. Among the cuts are possibly parts you may like (such as Carter's famous line when meeting "the boys" for the first time), but many of those are "so bad it's good" parts, so not a great loss. Also gone is the infamous nude scene. Stargate is supposed to be a family show... in that kids may not like it but there's no harm in showing it to them. There are still scenes with unclad ladies, but everything's tastefully obscured. Also gone is the bit just before the end with Kawalski alluding to the next episode... now it can stand by itself. This maybe gives the episode a bit of a happier ending than it should have (since Sha're and Skaara have both been made hosts) but is better in the long run. Overall it feels like the whole episode goes together a lot better... and it feels like it belongs to the series a lot more. The original cut, excluding the familiar characters, settings, themes and basic premise, could almost seem like it belongs to another series.

Good news! No more spoilers. Bad news! There's not much review left. Good news! There's not much review left.
Special features: sadly not much. There's a new commentary on it, full of Brad Wright pointing out changes you may or may not notice and Richard Dean Anderson being funny. No, really, if you have the DVD, listen the commentary now. If you don't have the DVD, buy it and listen to the commentary. There's also a short piece on how this came about and a few of the changes they made - it's good for watching once but that's about it. And... that's it, no more special features. I would have preferred some more in-depth stuff about redoing it, maybe some interviews with some of the cast... oh well.

Overall: if you're a Stargate fan, buy this. If you're not a Stargate fan, buy this (it makes for a great introduction to the series, better than the original cut).

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