DVD MOVIE REVIEW:“Stargate: Continuum” (2007)

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This is the second straight-to-DVD movie to come out since Stargate:SG1 was cancelled a bit over a year ago. The first one, “Stargate: The Ark of Truth,” was somewhat disappointing. When the show was abruptly cancelled by Skiffy (And confusingly as well, since it was at that time their second-highest-rated program), it was in the middle of a major plot arc involving a war with aliens called the “Ori.” Ark of Truth had to take all the plot elements that had been intended for seasons 11 and 12 and cram them into a single 109 minute movie. They didn’t completely blow it, but at the same time it can’t be considered a smashing success.

“Continuum” works much, much better simply because it isn’t obliged to wrap up such a sprawling story.

Continuity-wise, the movie takes place immediately after the beginning of the 5th season of Stargate: Atlantis, with Samatha Carter being recalled to earth because “The caught the last Ba’al Clone” (Ba’al being a major recurring villain in the second half of the series run). Immediately prior to Ba’al’s execution, he reveals he’s set up a failsafe to protect him in the event he’s killed, and lo and behold, some time travel shenanigans ensue, changing “The Present” and decimating the SG-1 team in the process. (And BTW, one thing I’ve always liked about the Stargate franchise is that “The Present” is always the real present, in this case, 2008. Likewise, the 1999 season took place in 1999 and not in some goofy distant Star Trekian future or whatever.) In this version of “The Present,” the Stargate Program never began, and from that point on, we’re in Cosmic Reset Button territory.

Generally I hate Cosmic Reset Button stories – by which I mean time travel stories that erase themselves at the end, and result in the story never having happened – but this one held my interest all the way through, though an extended montage in the middle where the surviving SG1 members attempt to adapt to their new, unsatisfying lives, dragged on a bit.

What makes it work, though, is that most of the recurring characters show up in the film, all with something relatively substantial to do, including people who’ve since left the show, and other characters are allowed to play entertainingly alternate versions of themselves. In the case of Ba’al himself, this is particularly intriguing.

True, Ba’al is the big bad villain of the piece, no question about that. But he’s not quite the evil bastard he always used to be. He’s learned from his repeated defeats at the hands of Humanity, and now that he’s altered the timeline so that Earth never entered interstellar space, there’s nothing to stop him from being utterly victorious. What’s interesting about this is that this “Alternate” Ba’al is still pretty damn evil, but he’s developed a sense of honor and an understanding of psychology that the “Mainstream” Ba’al lacked, which inevitably led to his (repeated) defeats. This “Alternate” Ba’al shows every sign in the movie of becoming an enlightened despot – certainly not your friend, but not much worse than Napoleon Bonaparte, and probably a hell of a lot better than Maximilien Robespierre – and they make a point of telling us that “He’s managed to keep every promise he’s made to his allies and his enemies.” He even cautions against the complete subjugation of humanity, which was what he always wanted in the past, simply because he’s learned that to be too much trouble to deal with. This Victorious Alternate Ba’al is really the most fascinating iteration of the guy we’ve seen, and the price of his success is shocking and totally unexpected because, for once, the guy deserved better than he got. (Whereas in the past he annoyingly got better than he deserved.) It’s a tasty reversal.

Richard Dean Anderson is in the film. One thing that concerned me about the movie is that the commercials made it look like Anderson was once again the main character. He actually left the show two years before it was cancelled, and since then the star has been Ben Browder. I really liked Browder, and felt he got rather screwed, both by fans who hated him simply for not being MacGuyver, but also because the abrupt end of the show made him more of a footnote than a leading man. I’m happy to say that’s not the case. While Anderson *is* in the movie, and he *does* play a substantial part, this is very much The Ben Browder Show. The oddly hot Claudia Black also joined the show in its final two seasons as a major character, and she also plays a pretty important part in this film, but oddly enough, the oddly-hot Claudia Black is not oddly-hot in this. I don’t get that either, but there it is.

Bottom line: this is essentially a really good two-part episode with more profanity, vastly better production values and a better soundtrack than the show had, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually works its way into the syndication package for the show as such. Well worth a watch if you liked the show during the Sci-fi Years (Seasons 6-10), but probably kind of “huh?” if you’re not a fan as it trades on character-based stuff you probably won’t get.