(2006) Kathleen Ritter, Dorling Kindersley, £14.99, hrdbk,
144pp, ISBN-13: 978-1-40531-612-5, ISBN-10: 1-4053-1612-8.
Stargate SG1 the Ultimate Visual Guide does exactly what it says on the cover - it provides a visual guide to the TV show Stargate SG1, from the characters to the technology and incorporating just about everything else along the way. The TV show is, of course, a spin-off of the film of the same name in which an ancient artefact is found that turns out to be a dimensional or worm hole gateway to counterpart artefacts on other worlds. Military backed exploration is then needed to find out what is happening in the wider galaxy.
I am more than familiar with the show having watched it since it began and have an awareness of just how many alien races have been encountered, how many missions took place and the great number of characters that have appeared. Bearing this in mind, the author has taken a good stance in how to present that much information in concentrating on the key elements (of which there are many). It is hard to imagine that anyone interested in the show not having an appreciation for the book as the layout, in terms of a visual guide, is simply lovely to look at.
It starts off concentrating on the pivotal element of the show - the Stargate itself - and provides clear pictures with labelling explaining what each of the glyphs on the stargate mean, its history and origins, how it works and how it is dialled with both a dial home device (DHD) or with the technology used at Stargate Command. Each picture is accompanied by straightforward text in a clear and accessible way. The section on the principal SG1 characters is laid on in a similar fashion, charting who they are, what their backgrounds are and providing lovely clear illustrations of the finer points of their uniforms and firearms. This last point would be most welcome for anyone wishing to do their own Stargate costume. The character guides provide an overview of the more key storylines each character has been in along the way - for example with O'Neill, the first mission through the stargate, encountering alien technology, meeting the Asgard and his promotion along the way. In this respect, the book provides a convenient potted history of the characters along the way without over elaborating.
Stargate Command is also covered, and once again proves that the subject matter lends itself well to the visual nature of the book particularly given that Stargate SG1 is a very visual show in itself. It covers the finer points of Cheyenne Mountain, such as the floor plans of level 28 where the gate is housed, what the various levels of DEFCON mean and what is located on each floor, right down to the colour of the tunnel lights and doors. It is nice to see this kind of detail as while these things are alluded to in the show; information like this puts it into context. It is also welcome to see the background characters who are often seen around Stargate Command given their own little sections under the banner of SGC Base Personnel, to name but a few Walter Harriman, who dials the stargate, and Sgt Siler, responsible for carrying out repairs on the gate should the worst happen.
Another aspect of the show to be covered is uniforms including what the various rank insignia are, what types of uniforms are worn for what type of missions - again, the visual nature of the subject matter lends itself well to the layout of the book. The same can be said for the section on weapons used in the show which explains what type the various firearms in the show are, what seasons they were used in and which enemy they were most effective against. There is also a nice section on the Prometheus, a spaceship used by Stargate Command, which includes a guide to key storylines it was involved in, its construction and a labelled diagram as to what is where within the ship and its capabilities.
Another inherent element of the show is technology - both earth based and alien and again, this is covered with pictures and labelling and set into context as both what the technology is and when it was used is explained. There's a section on the Goa'uld including a dictionary of phrases and who the various System Lords are - there are many in the show taking their names from Ancient Egyptian gods and deities from a range of cultures, with guides to their places in the System Lord pecking order and the symbols they use.
Another nice touch to the book is the section on story arcs, which puts the elements of the main story arcs in the show into context, as well as a guide to the pivotal points in each season of the show - once again, as the show incorporates such a varied array of designs, aliens, cultures, characters and technology, it once again proves that the best way to explain them is largely visually.
As I mentioned before, I am familiar with SG1 having watched many an episode and I found that this book answered many of the niggling questions that arise in the show - abut Cheyenne mountain, about which symbols the System Lords use and about the mysteries behind the uniform insignias. What the book does well is put everything into context and provide it with a sense of structure. It is likely to appeal to anyone interested n the show irrespective of whether it is a general interest or a particular appreciation. It is also easy to dip in and out of with clear pictures and relevant captions. It works in the book's favour that everything is kept simple and straightforward - although it is surprising just how much the book covers and indeed just how much has appeared in Stargate SG1 over the years! The guide is a great way to showcase the artwork and deigns that have appeared and fun to read the quirkier terminology - such as the devices worn by the SG personnel to indicate that they're friendly to Stargate Command when retiring through the gate - maybe I missed it but they are called GDOs - which stands for Garage Door Openers!
This book has an added bonus which is only right for a TV show - a DVD featuring mini-documentaries form cast members and an interactive trivia quiz that starts off easy but then proceeds to test your knowledge of SG1... and appropriately enough there is also a gallery of artwork from the show, too.
Personally I found this book a pleasure to dip into both from an information point of view and from the point of view that it is a pleasure to look at all the lovely pictures! It answers questions, it clarifies he more complex subject matters (as previously mentioned, the System Lords) and it is nice and the simple, well laid out format works in the book's favour. In a way it is a shame that it has taken so long for a book like this to be released as I am sure it would have had a market a while back. It also covers the show up to season 9 but ironically it was subsequently announced (2006) that Stargate SG1 was to be cancelled, having had what has been a very long run of airing, and so it is a shame the book falls short of including the last season: that would have added a completeness to it.
In the forward by Richard Dean Anderson, he mentions that the author has done a great job in encapsulating Stargate SG1 in an visual guide and I'm inclined to agree from a presentation and content point of view - and the DVD is a nice touch too! It is also good that in producing such a guide, the visual element was concentrated on as it is the appropriate medium for the subject matter. I think there would be many a Stargate afficionado who would like to lay their hands on this book regardless of their level of interest in the show.
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