As near as I can tell, never in the rich and illustrious history of domestic animation has there been a series that's managed to do nearly everything well yet remain as unpopular as Stargate Infinity. And this coming from an individual who was in the theater back in October of 1994 when the lackluster original film debuted then followed along with great interest throughout the various live-action television spin-off series.
Truth be told, I, like MGM, came away from the first motion picture quite convinced the franchise was going to die within the same project that birthed it and who knows, it certainly looked to be the case for the three years that followed until Stargate SG-1 hit television airwaves as an official sequel to the film. I'll be quick to admit that while SG-1, in my opinion anyway, improved upon the movie's promise, there was still an undeniable degree of quirkiness, some plot hole issues, and just enough fluff to prevent it from hitting full geekdom supremacy. From there was born what I've considered the most impressive of the live-action shows, 2004's Stargate Atlantis followed by the most recent and perhaps darkest incarnation of the mythos, 2009's Stargate Universe.
What a lot of Gate aficionados ("Gaters") don't realize however is that amidst all of the live-action success enjoyed by the franchise, MGM and DIC teamed up in 2002 to produce an animated version of the license that we'll be taking a look at in the following critique.
Stargate Infinity premiered in September 2002 as part of 4Kids Entertainment's FOX BOX Saturday morning line-up and went off the air June of 2003. It ran a fairly impressive 26-episodes but unlike most animated efforts, which consist of 13-episode seasons, Infinity is considered a single season.
Domestic DVD releases actually come in two forms; the first of which came out shortly after the show was cancelled directly from DIC that consisted of only the first four episodes. It was looking like that could well have been the best Region 1 fans were going to get of the short lived program until May of 2008 when Shout Factory secured the rights then promptly brought out a full 26-episode boxset. After much deliberation, I slapped down the $30 MSRP and added this, the complete collection into my virtual cart.
Coming in at a runtime of 600-minutes, Stargate Infinity: The Complete Series spans 4 discs which come housed in a pair of thin packs (within an outer cardboard slipcase). Extras are limited to an animated Stargate effects test, animated character walking models and a few Shout Factory trailers on the first disc.
The story takes place roughly 30 years after the events of SG-1 and follows a ragtag unit Stargate Command (SGC) cadets led by the gruff Major Gus Bonner. The initial episode literally opens with Bonner having been framed for a variety of war crimes by a shape-shifting alien. When said shape shifter opens the stargate to allow SGC to become infiltrated by Tlak'kahn (the show's main enemy) agents, Bonner is left with little choice but to flee through the gate with four young recruits and a cocoon of whet they believe to be one of "the Ancients".
Without the option of returning to Earth before having cleared Bonner's name, the team finds itself on the run, forever hopping between gates, a jump or two ahead of the reptilian Tlak'kahn, who followed them from SGC in pursuit of the cocoon (the logic being that whoever aligns themselves with the only living example of the race that built the stargates, would naturally have mastery over them).
Though technically a serial, the show used a pretty ingenious technique to allow the writers and viewers the luxury of standalone plots by ending each episode with the team diving into the gate (and hence the next episode opening with them emerging at another).
Episode pacing is swift and always conclusive with only the major story arcs (which unfortunately never got resolved due to the untimely cancellation of the show) carrying over from one episode to the next.
The setup typically works off the tried and true premise of the SG team arriving to an alien world and encountering some or all of its inhabitants, sharing an action laden experience among them (while trying not to interfere with their culture), then escaping onward toward the next destination. Of course things tend to get heated in the instances where the Tlak'kahn show up through the gate behind them. Fortunately the show makes it a habit of relying upon pretty solid writing to accomplish its goals, oftentimes slipping a valuable life-lesson into the prose for good measure.
I've often heard it compared to the type of formulaic actions of iconic 80's cartoons, but as an 80's animation connoisseur, I can state with absolute certainty that Stargate Infinity is much, much more polished in every conceivable unit of measurement. And speaking of polish, the visuals are quite nice with bright, clean character models and backgrounds with slick CG interludes/ splice cuts.
I suspect much of my own delight with the property stems from the following: First the animated medium allows the very limits of what was conceivably possible in a form that no live-action effort (especially one on a television series budget) could possibly duplicate. Be it locales (underwater worlds, planet-wide scrap yards) or creatures (feathered bird men, translucent alien hybrids), the cartoon isn't forced to play by the restrictions of costumes, animatronics or hokey CG.
Secondly, what few reviews of the property that do exist tend to be uselessly negative (the main complaint, it seems, is that people purchased the set mistaking it for one of the live-action Stargate shows and rated it lowly out of frustration). Lack of pre-purchase consumer research is hardly a reason to bash a property.
Finally, it's rather intriguing to observe the integration of bright visuals, chipper personalities, and youthful enthusiasm in the Stargate universe, a place that has been, until now, pretty drab. The contrast isn't only interesting; it's actually kind of refreshing.
In all, in the event that my review hasn't suggested it up until now, I found Stargate Infinity to be quite a pleasant surprise. About my biggest complaint to the whole affair comes in the form of the show's premature cancellation, which ensured that none of the main story arcs would reach definitive conclusion: A crime that would usually destroy a serial beyond salvation lessened by the simple fact that, as stated above, the show doesn't rely upon a centralized arc to get the job the done. This complete collection is a worthy addition for most animation collectors, Gater or otherwise.