Stargate: SG-1
Volume 49 (Season 9 - Vol 6)

Starring: Ben Browder, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge and Michael Shanks
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 14 August 2006

Mitchell and Carter manage to get transported to an alternate dimension. Meanwhile, Teal'c is off world visiting the Sodan warriors home planet. He believes that Volnek, a warrior, may have been brainwashed by the Ori...

Arthur's Mantle has plenty of comic potential as Mitchell and Carter end up walking around the SGC without anyone being able to see or hear them. I couldn't help but be reminded of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Next Phase, in which Geordi LaForge and ensign Ro find themselves slightly out of phase with the rest of the crew of the Enterprise. It wasn't just the fact that two character end up in an alternative dimension that reminded me of the Next Gen episode, it was also due to the fact that Mitchell goes off world with another SG unit and discovers that Volnek is using a cloaking device to wipe out his own men - in The Next Phase Ro and Geordi tag along with Data on a shuttle mission where they learn that the Romulans are secretly testing a new cloaking device.

The audio commentary (with writer Alan McCullogh and director of photography Jim Menard) is well worth a listen. McCullough takes us through some of the original draft ideas that never made it into the finished episode. They also discuss a number of nit-picks like how come when Mitchell and Carter are in the other dimension they still cast shadows and are able to walk on the floor without falling through it?

This is an enjoyable episode that helps to set things up for the season finale.

Vala somehow manages to reappear in the body of Daniel Jackson. She comes with important news, firstly about what has happened to her since her disappearance, and secondly of a major threat to Earth...

Crusade sees the welcome return of Claudia Black as Vala. The writers cleverly incorporate Black's real life pregnancy into the story without making it look forced. In fact it looks like she's also unwittingly managed to influence how a major story arc in next season will unfold. Maybe she should ask for two additional fees - one for the fact that she has helped to shape the future of the show, and another for the fact that her unborn child is actually a major character in this episode.

Seriously, though, this Crusade sees Vala appear in Jackson's body as she uses an Ancient device in order to communicate with the SGC from the region of space populated by the Ori. She has some very important news for them, but she feels the need to go around the houses and fill in the back story before she reveals this earth shattering news. It's a bit like a fireman bursting into your house, then telling you what a day he's had before he tells you that your house is on fire and you'd better get out quick.

But, ignoring that slight fact, this is a fantastic episode. It also stars Michael Ironside as Seevis, and I loved the way that the writers played with our preconceived ideas of Ironside's usual roles.

The audio commentary, with writer/director Robert Cooper and director of photography, Peter Woeste, is interesting too. This is Cooper's first attempt at directing, and the results are incredible. In fact, the one scene I had problems with (there is a very poor segment in the SGC where the hand held camera is being operated by someone who seems to have the shakes) was actually shot by Peter Deluise - shame on him. Cooper is also brutally honest about his experiences on this episode and how he couldn't sleep at nights after leaving the set. He also offers a refreshingly honest view of working with a well known actor. While he doesn't complain about Ironside, he does offer an interesting tale about working with him.

Upon receiving a lead on an Ancient device, the team travels off world to Camelot in order to track down Merlin's weapon that maybe capable of killing the Ori. But can SG-1 work out the riddle and gain control of the weapon before the first batch of Ori ships begin arriving at Earth?...

Camelot sees our heroes heading off to the Stargate address that they discovered in Arthur's Mantle. When they arrive they are surprised to discover that this is Camelot, mythological homeland of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The centrepiece of the village is the famed sword in the stone, which the villagers believe will see the return of Arthur should one of their number manage to free it from the stone. This episode stars Katharine Isabelle (of Ginger Snaps fame) as a young villager.

The audio commentary, with director Martin Wood and Amanda Tapping, reveals some interesting facts. It was a shame that a scene paying homage to Monty Python and the Holy Grail was cut due to time constraints, and I was a little disturbed to hear that Ben Browder had tried to weave a little bit of a love story in between his character and Isabelle's - her character's supposed to be 15 years-old. Wood also points out the scenes in which Tapping was ill, as well as describing exactly how sick she was - very amusing.

This episode has something for everything - from sword fights to large space battles. And, being the final episode of Season Nine, there's the obligatory cliff-hanger. It was interesting to learn that when this episode was written they had no idea whether they would be coming back for a tenth season. Thank goodness they are as this would have made a really odd conclusion to the show.

Extras, other than the audio commentaries mentioned previously, include Directors Series Crusade featuring Robert Cooper (15 minute look behind the scenes of the episode Crusade); Profile on Brad Wright (21 minute featurette on the role that Wright has played in the Stargate franchise); and Production Design and Photo Gallery.

Darren Rea

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