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Stargate: Continuum
cast: Ben Browder, Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks, Claudia Black, and Richard Dean Anderson

director: Martin Wood

98 minutes (12) 2007
widescreen ratio 16:9
MGM / 20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Andrew Darlington
Although Stargate SG-1 was the runt of the sci-fi shows - an unpromising opportunistic spin-off from the 1994 big-screen movie, it nevertheless flourished into a hugely successful franchise in its own right where others series - the much-anticipated Star Trek: Enterprise and edgy post-apocalypse Jericho fell premature victim to the network axe. Running from 27th July 1997 to 13th March 2007 it prospered through 214 TV episodes across ten seasons, threw off the related Stargate: Atlantis, and now lives on first through the Stargate: The Ark Of Truth standalone feature, followed by this second film, Stargate: Continuum.

The reasons have got to involve the likeable character-chemistry that lifts each episode, the bantering relationship between members of the stargate crew, the strongly supportive Canadian-American production base... plus the unique premise. The events it portrays are happening now, only kept under secure Area 51-style military news-blackouts. And they relate, not to the future, but to the past. Stargate rewrites history in ways that draw in elements from the Erich von Däniken pseudo-mythology, and even H.P. Lovecraft's dark gods of prehistory.

Everything we think we know about the past is wrong. Early human civilisation was kick-started by slave-hunting alien intervention; our surviving religions and myth-figures are the distorted remnants of those lost memories. Naturally, there have been many such precedents in literary science fiction, but the concept delineates the series' clear distinction to its telefantasy rivals. The original movie established the premise by discovering the ancient stargate artefact in 1928, which uses a 39-symbol key to open an 'energy vortex' dimensional-portal to Abydos where the ancient Egyptian gods still hold sway under the control of the parasitic Goa'uld.

Inevitably the TV series built on and developed the themes, connecting the SG-1 team into a web of worlds with not only Apophis and Anubis, but a galaxy of other, even more ancient races, such as the Asgard, as well as the Ori, and the relentlessly hostile mechanoid Replicators. Continuum neatly bookends the story-cycle by arcing back to 1939, with the steamship 'USS Achilles' transporting the original stargate across the Atlantic from Giza to America, then leaping forward to the SG-1 team gating out to the Tok'ra home-world to witness the execution/ extraction of Ba'al, last of the defeated Goa'uld system lords.

But when Vala and Teal'c disappear, O'Neill is killed, and the Tok'ra city begins to vanish tower-by-tower, it becomes obvious there's been some cloning around, and another Ba'al is out there tampering with time. By interrupting the voyage of the 'Achilles' he's "shifted the time-lanes" so that the stargate never reaches the Cheyenne Mountain complex and all of the series-history is undone. Carter, Daniel, and Mitchell escape back to a strangely altered Earth, "in the here and now, wherever or whenever that is" as Mitchell points out. In the freezing arctic a frostbitten Daniel does the Captain Oates heroic sacrifice thing. Then, in a sequence recalling The X-Files' season two End Game episode set in the Beaufort Sea, there's a rescue sub in which they meet an alternate O'Neill.

During a debriefing in Alaska, Carter is mistaken for a lost astronaut, Mitchell is a 'grandfather paradox' who was never even born, and the world that is supposed to be is - according to Landry, a 'relative' concept. Marooned in a parallel world, unable to intervene, denied the assistance they need, amputee Daniel is reduced to finding a book by his 'discredited whack-job' alternate-self, and phoning himself! Until the UFOs appear, the all-conquering Ba'al prepares to take over Earth with Teal'c as his First Prime and Vala his queen. Suddenly the SG-1 team are taken seriously.

This hugely entertaining movie combines the best intimacy of the one-time runt of TV sci-fi shows, while the spectacular visual effects of space fleets and the bombardment firestorm of Washington are movie-quality. Daniel says "oh shit" which I don't think ever happened in previous SG-1 episodes. Plot-wise it could be argued that the alternate Teal'c is a little too easily convinced to switch sides, and that if the alternate Vala (as Qetesh) is so treacherously ruthless - "this world is not enough," she puns, then must not the real-world Vala also be suspect? And more poignantly, with General Hammond present, the DVD also provides a last-chance-to-see actor Don S. Davis, who died 30th June 2008.

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