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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Stargate SG-1

Stargate SG-1 is the best and most balanced series to have ever aired on television. Ok, so some of you who have followed me for a very long time are thinking, “He’s making the same mistake he did on Splash Panel, reviewing the best too early on!” and you’re right. I guess I just find it hard to move forward with my mind constantly drafting the review of my favorite, so it’s time to get this out there.

Beginning in 1997, Stargate SG-1 was more or less a sequel to 1994’s original Stargate film. There are some notable small differences for whatever reason, but the point is, if you’re a fan of the original movie, there’s no reason you wouldn’t be a fan of this series too. It expanded the mythos, characters, and the overall Stargate universe for 10 whole seasons, 2 straight-to-DVD films, and 2 successful spin-offs. If you were sad that there was never a film sequel to Stargate, this is far better than you could have ever hoped for.

The series follows Colonel Jack O’Neill and Doctor Daniel Jackson from the original film, joined by new characters Captain Samantha Carter and Teal’c. The series kicks off quickly when we learn that Ra of the original film was not the only alien posing as a god in our galaxy. In fact, his entire race, the Goa’uld, make quite the habit of it. Stargate Command quickly assembles several SG teams to both explore our galaxy’s vast Stargate network, and to take down these false gods whenever they can. Our main cast makes up SG-1, in particular Teal’c joins during the first episode. Cementing the show’s premise, he’s a former Jaffa First Prime of Apophis (like a second-in-command), who turns on his master when he realizes that SG-1 may be the first who can convince everyone that the Goa’uld who have dominated the galaxy are nothing more than false gods.

The cast takes about a season to really mesh together, but that may very well be a story element too, as Carter and Teal’c really haven’t worked with O’Neill and Jackson before, and O’Neill and Jackson weren’t exactly the best of friends either. There really isn’t one stand-out actor here, Richard Dean Anderson as O’Neill, Michael Shanks as Jackson, Amanda Tapping as Carter, and Christopher Judge as Teal’c are all outstanding and bring constantly believable depth and emotion to their characters.

Where Stargate SG-1 shines for all 10 seasons is its balance, and I really have never seen a show balanced this well since. It manages to maintain long over-arching plots with constantly returning enemies (Cliff Simon as Ba’al is a personal favorite) alongside fun stand-alone episodes with relative ease, and much of that is due to the engaging characters. Like a good book series, you aren’t watching the next episode based on its synopsis, you’re watching to see what these characters do next. The world that the Stargate film crafted seemingly never stops growing, and you will easily find yourself watching all of it. There is no “best episode” in this case, it’s simply a wonderfully engaging experience.

As with any long-running series, there are cast changes, but surprisingly not many for a series of this length. Shanks left the show after season 5, replaced by Corin Nemic as Jonas Quinn, who was then replaced by Shanks when he returned in season 7.

Anderson retired after season 9, replaced by Ben Browder as Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell for the final season. And if you thought Browder wasn’t enough to bring back the Farscape nostalgia, don’t worry, Claudia Black also joins the team in the final season as maybe-reformed and possibly ex-thief Vala Mal Doran. The incredibly low cast turnover really helps you engage with the characters for the entire length of the series.

Besides running for 10 seasons, Stargate SG-1 was followed by Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum, both straight-to-DVD films which wrapped up the show’s remaining plots. Two successful spin-offs followed the show, which I’ll get around to reviewing eventually. Stargate Atlantis (read the Rewatch review here) began in 2004 during Stargate SG-1’s 8th season, running for 5 seasons, and Stargate Universe (read the Rewatch review here) followed in 2009 for 2 seasons. 2002’s animated Stargate Infinity is loosely considered a spin-off and fun if you have kids to watch it with. 2018’s Stargate Origins completely ignores any continuity established by any of the television shows and is actually pretty terrible.

You can stream Stargate SG-1 for free on Amazon Video if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber or buy the complete series on iTunes for just $99.99. If you love military science fiction, if you love long-running and engaging characters, or even if you just love the original Stargate film, watch at least two episodes of Stargate SG-1, and I guarantee you’ll be sufficiently locked in for the rest of it.

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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch – Earth: Final Conflict

I grew up loving Earth: Final Conflict, so when I decided to start rewatching shows that I grew up with, this was naturally one of the first. Many years later, it still holds a lot of complex feelings about what it meant and especially what it could have meant if it wasn’t utterly sabotaged from season 2 onwards.

Like most people who claim to love this series, I loved season 1, and I barely tolerated the other 4. TV was different back in the late 1990’s, you generally stuck with a show until it ended simply because there was nothing better on, and that’s not saying much. The best episode, Sandoval’s Run, happens half-way through season 1, and that’s never a good sign. The show was based on some notes found after Gene Roddenberry passed away (you know, Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry), and brought to fruition by his wife, Majel Barrett. Roddenberry’s plans clearly ran out when season 1 ended, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The show starts three years after a seemingly benevolent alien species (the Taelons) make first contact with Earth. They have improved almost all facets of our lives, from agriculture to medicine, though some still doubt their sincerity. In this sense, the series walks a middle line perfectly. The Taelons seem to have Humanity’s best interest a heart, yet they also have difficulty comprehending Humanity in general, like our need to explore the stars. “Why risk your lives when we can simply give you the information you seek?” You can see how that rings altruistic, but also with a hint of “What are they hiding?” The Resistance, on the other hand, surely must have our best interests at heart, yet they’re also lead by a “by any means necessary” extremist. An online marketing campaign at the time, even had you sign up for an account and newsletter either with the Taelons or the Resistance.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Leni Parker as Da’an, the Taelon Companion to North America. She brings the character to life in way that I have never seen before nor since. To this date, it is the single greatest portrayal of a humanoid alien I have ever seen on screen. She plays the androgynous character, who is referred to as male throughout, with an incredible feminine grace that is just slightly not human enough to be uncomfortably inhuman and yet incredibly comforting at times. The little things, like how they modulate her voice down for English, but let her natural voice shine through for the Taelon language is incredibly captivating. And for an alien race that generally does not show emotion, she often manages to convey profound sadness, anger, and fear from underneath that facade, many times outshining the rest of the cast. I can’t really come up any further description that does her portrayal justice, so I suppose you’ll just have to watch at least the first episode, it’s worth it.

The second best actor on the show is Von Flores as Ronald Sandoval, attache to Da’an. There’s an impressive conviction to his role, but he’s also the only character in all 5 seasons of the show. Technically he’s one of the villains, but this leaves the viewer in an odd position of following his story more closely, because he’s the only one you recognize throughout, and that just sort of highlights where the problems start.

Kevin Kilner as William Boone wasn’t the strongest actor on the show, but he was the lead for season 1, and he did provide a compelling narrative and almost a noir detective feel. Rumor has it that the studio didn’t renew his contract, so he was killed off-screen between the finale of season 1 and the premier of season 2 (I know, right?!), replaced by Robert Leeshock as Liam Kincaid, a far less engaging, far less mature, and I guess far younger character, but more of a “man of action.” He existed mostly to drag you through whatever was left of the plot. But, Kilner wouldn’t be the only departure. Throughout all 5 seasons, all of the main cast of season 1 left, except Flores. This wasn’t Game of Thrones either, most were not killed off for story or character development reasons, they just ceased to be on the show.

Rumor has it that Majel Barrett left after Kilner’s departure, which left producers scrambling to construct their own idea of where Roddenberry’s story went from there. They did not do a good job. Season 1 left us with a feeling that the Taelons needed us for something, and that we would need them to protect us against an terrifying cosmic force that even they feared. What we got were the Jaridians, a generic military alien that just didn’t like the Taelons, and we were in their way apparently for some reason, shrug. It was all downhill from there, gone was the intrigue of questioning whether or not the Taelons really were benevolent or malevolent. One of the main Taelon characters even launches a plan to steal all of the Earth’s gold “by any means necessary.” Remember when we didn’t know if these were the bad guys or not? Sigh. If you thought it stopped there, don’t worry, the Taelons and Jaridians merge and become vampires that feed off of the humans in season 5. Welcome to rock bottom.

This could have been such a great a show, the intrigue between the two factions was incredible, and the performance of the Taelon characters was captivating in a way that I have seen no other humanoid alien portrayed since. Yet when studio money took the forefront, all good things were lost, and it simply became disappointing and a constant reminder of what we could have had. I wish I could have seen this show fully conceived by either Gene Roddenberry or Majel Barrett, but that will simply never happen. Instead, we got proof that studio heads are a poor substitute for both.

Earth: Final Conflict is available for free on Amazon Video for Amazon Prime subscribers. Season 1 really is worth it, and I hope you love it as much as I did, just like I hope you’ll heed my warning to stop there.

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Nostalgia Technology

The Shadow in the Archive

I’m a fan of The Shadow. I have seen the movie, I have read the comics, I have an awesome Shadow figure, I tracked down some episodes on Spotify, and I loved Masks. You get the picture, I’m a fan of The Shadow. I just love his straight-forward-yet-somehow-mystical approach to fighting crime, it’s perfectly balanced.

I’m also a fan of The Internet Archive. I wrote a whole series on it, you should check it out, and then send them a donation.

I wanted to see what I could find for The Shadow in The Internet Archive, and I found days worth of content! If you’re interested in immersing yourself in The Shadow too, you’ll love this archive of almost half of the radio dramas! If you’re more of the reading type, enjoy The Five Chameleons, The Black Hush, and The Shadow Scrapbook. If you’re more of the watching type, enjoy The Shadow Strikes, Return of The Shadow, The Missing Lady, and The Invisible Avenger.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Shadow, all of that free content should be more than enough to keep you busy for a long time. If you just want a quick look into The Shadow’s world, and you prefer newer things, the latest movie is still too new to be in the Internet Archive, but it’s available to buy and rent on many platforms. It won’t be the greatest film you’ve ever seen, but I think you’ll enjoy it nonetheless.

Overall though, I hope you enjoy The Shadow as much as I do!

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Comics Nostalgia Review

Masks

The weed of crime bears bitter fruit.

Masks is a very interesting mini series from writer Chris Roberson and artists Alex Ross and Dennis Calero. The premise is basically “The Avengers, but with pulp classic heroes.” New York has become shockingly totalitarian, and the only ones willing to put a stop to it are The Shadow, Green Hornet, Kato, The Spider, Zorro, The Green Lama, Miss Fury, Black Terror, and The Black Bat.

The covers and the entirety of issue 1 are done by one of my favorite comic book artists, Alex Ross, of Kingdom Come fame. It must take him a long time to produce this level of photo-realistic art, so I can kind of forgive the fact that Dennis Calero takes over after the first issue. It’s disappointing to lose that level of art so soon, but it’s not a bad follow-up either. I can’t really put to words how great Alex Ross’s art is, so all of the images in this review are from his covers and pages.

The story by Chris Roberson is a bit of an interesting case, I can see why the reviews overall on this mini series are mixed. I’m a fan of old pulp serials and radio dramas, especially The Shadow, and that is exactly what this mini series reads like. Those old dramas weren’t really known for their deep characters, complex worlds, or believable plots, and to be honest, Masks won’t be known for that either. It feels like I’ve picked up a pulp serial from the 1930s, and I love it! I suppose you just have to be the type of person that craves that level of nostalgia.

I love the characters in Mask, I love the art, and I love the style of story it’s telling. It’s the perfect miniseries for me. I’d also love for it to be adapted into a film or a TV series, but the story will definitely need some changes for that to work with the average audience. If you love old pulp serials and radio dramas, you’ll love Masks too!

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Nostalgia Video

Vader’s Story

Say what you will about the Star Wars prequels, I’ve already written about why I didn’t like Attack of the Clones, but above all I have been a life-long fan of Star Wars. In the original trilogy, Darth Vader only appears on screen for a total of 34 minutes, yet he’s one of the most iconic villains in film history. For the majority of the original trilogy, Darth Vader is largely a one-note villain until the very end when he (spoiler alert) saves his son’s life. This redemption story is so important to the character that it even survives alternate universe takes on the series.

The prequel trilogy threw that one-note approach on its head by focussing on Anakin Skywalker, the man who would become Darth Vader. Suddenly, a one-note villain became the Star Wars character with the most depth, further expanded by additional TV shows, books, and comics. You see an ambitious boy grow into a hero, that hero begin to question things to the point that he falters from his path and becomes the villain, and you see that villain realize at the end how far he’s fallen. You may not believe me, and that’s fair, but this short video should put all of that into context:

The next time you watch Star Wars in its entirety, I recommend following this order, and keep in mind the journey of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader and back to Anakin Skywalker.