Showtimes Stargate Reopens Semibrightly

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"Serpent's Lair" starts a promising second
season for Stargate SG-1, but this Showtime science-fiction series still needs to
make its cast of regulars less bland, its plots more gripping and its range of villains
broader.

Even though the action series opens with Earth about to be
vaporized by the despised Goa'uld race, the suspense never reaches the level of its
parent motion picture, starring Kurt Russell. The key difference: Moviegoers were never
sure which characters would live or die.

This opener borrows not only from its parent Stargate theatrical,
but also from Independence Day. Stargate SG-1's stories generally are
very much in the Star Trek tradition, as the SG-1 team explores new worlds each
week through the Stargate and tries to defeat the Goa'uld, who are to Stargate
what the Klingons are to Star Trek.

The series' special effects -- here reviving those
transporter rings from the original flick -- strike me as better than those on the Star
Trek
series. Although the Goa'uld's Egyptian-style, serpentine headgear is a
lower-tech version than what appeared in the film, the producers have definitely heavied
up on the effects in this continuation of last season's cliffhanger, "Within the
Serpent's Grasp."

Richard Dean Anderson of MacGyver fame is far less
surly than Russell was as Col. O'Neill, and Teal'c (Christopher Judge) is too
expressionless. The camaraderie has grown among the main characters, also including Daniel
(Michael Shanks) and Samantha (Amanda Tapping) -- in the process eliminating some of the
forced antagonism that didn't work early on.

But even in dire situations during this episode and
previously, Anderson and the rest are too smug, and their attempts at humor tend to fall
flat.

Some story lines take too long to fully develop. It took a
whole season for the producers to pick up a story thread from last fall, when the
team's teen-age Jaffa friend, Skaara, was kidnapped by the Goa'uld. Skaara
(Alexis Cruz, reprising his movie role) hadn't been mentioned since, until he
returned in the season finale, transformed into the "son" of the series'
archvillain, Apophis.

"Serpent's Lair" is hampered by several
far-fetched plot elements and a disappointing ending, including surprisingly fake scenes
showing the Stargaters piloting alien attack gliders.

Stargate returns June 26 at 10 p.m., and it'll
repeat during late-night July 2.

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