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Book Review: Stargate SG-1: Dialing Up – The Official Guide to Seasons 1-5 by Thomasina Gibson

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If you're a fan of Stargate SG-1, North America's longest running science fiction television series (if it wasn't for Dr Who we wouldn't have to make such a distinction), Thomasina Gibson has put together a book that should prove enjoyable.  It's called Dialing Up: The Official Guide to Seasons 1-5.

It's an 8-1/2 x 11 sized book packed with photographs from the series.  Some are of the episodes, some of the actors – in and out of character – some are drawings and conceptualizations of the sets.  In fact, there's lots of talk about set design and costume design and special effects throughout the book.  We'll come back to that later.

Each episode of the first five seasons is given a one page treatment in Gibson's tome.  The book is laid out chronologically, beginning at the beginning, as they say, with the pilot episode "Children of the Gods."  One page covers one episode.  A still photo from the episode is provided, plus a choice quote from one of the characters in that episode, predominantly Jack O'Neill, the jaded and witty leader of the SG1 team, played by Richard Dean Anderson.

All right, the quotes aren't always that choice, but they are usually amusing. My favorite  example is from the episode "The Fifth Race."  Therein O'Neill gets the memories of the Ancients – the aliens who designed the stargates and seeded the galaxy with life – downloaded into his brain.  Slowly, their knowledge and vocabulary begins to take over his puny brain and he begins to say things like, "I've lost the falatus to speak properly."  (The word 'falatus' is, you know, not earthly).  It was funny in the episode, speaks basically to what the episode was about and Stargate fans will appreciate it.  After these quotes there's a three or four paragraph treatment of the episode.

The only complaint I have about the book is with these treatments.  They seem superficial.  Maybe I expected too much, or the wrong thing.  When I saw 'episode guide' in the title, I was hoping for a little more insight into the storyline of pivotal episodes or what new and important characters or worlds or technologies were introduced in a particular episode (yes, I am apparently an elementary sci-fi geek, according to my children).

But, as mentioned earlier, most of the treatments deal with set design and costume design and we get to hear how and why certain actors were pegged for certain roles (there's a cool sidebar on each page which lists writers, directors and guest cast members so you can follow your favorites throughout the book).  Granted, the special effects and set design was extraordinary for a weekly show; credits and kudos and all that deserve to be strewn about the heads of the crews in charge of such things.  But getting into the minds of the writers would have been more fun.

However, there are interviews with the major players and even a small essay's from Amanda Tapping and Don Davis regarding their adventures on set and thoughts for their characters.

In the end, it is just a TV show and the book is pretty cool to thumb through.  Thomasina Gibson has been writing about Stargate for several years.  She's compiled books for each season of Stargate in addition to this guidebook.  You can read a little about them here.   To understand more of the story of Stargate and really getting an in-depth look at each episode, visit GateWorld and Joseph Mallozzi's blog.

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