Stargate is one of those long-running science fiction series that I’ve never been able to watch. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that its syndicated life — and its new SCI-FI Channel one — don’t match up with my own schedule very well.
It tends to air at odd times on Saturdays and Sundays, like 11 a.m. or 4 p.m., and if I manage to watch it, it’s by accident. And because I only caught it rarely, I didn’t always understand the episodes I did watch. While the shows are largely self-contained, there’s enough forward momentum for you to be left scratching your head, especially if your only real SG-1 experience was with the original Stargate movie.
Still, I’ve always wanted to check out the series, and since I’m going to be reviewing the new SG-1 role-playing game in the not-to-distant future, I decided now was the time. I tried renting the episodes at my local Blockbuster and other video stories, but no one has them, and I’m not really looking to buy them.
Instead I turned to Netflix.com, which rents both the first and second seasons of the show. Netflix, if you haven’t used it, charges you a flat $20 a month fee to rent DVDs. You get a “rent queue”, to which you can add any DVD you like. When you’ve picked three, they ship. You can hold them for as long as you like, and when you return them, another three are sent form your queue.
It’s a beautiful thing, especially for catching up on series like Stargate (in fact, I was inspired to try Netflix by my friend Lance Miller, who used it to catch up on his X-Files viewing).
As for the series itself … it’s damn good. I’ve only watched four episodes from Season One, but all of them were better than anything I’ve seen on Enterprise and most of Star Trek: Voyager (though admittedly, the bar’s set pretty low with both of those). What I like most about the series are the light touches of humor, which is something that Star Trek desperately needs. Voyager and Enterprise, as well as the feature Trek movies, are often incapable of laughing at themselves. No, I don’t want my scif-fi to be an unending stream of one-liners, but the occasional throwaway line or wry smile goes a long way.
At the same time, the actual drama is far better than anything in Star Trek. The episode “Blue Lazarus”, in which team leader Col. Jonathan “Jack” O’Neill is forced to confront the accidental gun death of his son, had some of the technobabble that you might see in Trek, but whereas in track its glaring, here its used to support the overall story. The story, not the tech, rules, and that makes all the difference.