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Sci-Fi Tag Team Rolls Out a Galactic Welcome Mat

The hip space sagas 'Stargate SG-1' and 'Farscape' will be paired in a two-hour block on Friday nights.

June 07, 2002|MARK SACHS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's been an adventurous few years touring the entertainment universe for the sci-fi series "Stargate SG-1." But the good news is that the delightfully droll series that helped make space travel fun again will live on for some time to come.

Based on the 1994 theatrical release "Stargate," featuring Kurt Russell and James Spader, the series about a space "portal" that allows instant travel across the galaxy was launched on the Showtime cable channel in June 1997 with Richard Dean Anderson ("MacGyver") at the helm.

The show drew good notices from critics and solid ratings from viewers during its five-year run, the last four in syndication as well. But with its contractual commitment with Showtime up, there were new worlds to conquer, so tonight at 9, "Stargate SG-1" begins its sixth season by debuting, appropriately enough, on the Sci Fi Channel.

The series will be paired in a solid two-hour block each Friday with another hip space saga, "Farscape." And as an added treat for those with the equipment to enjoy it, both effects-rich series will be offered in wide-screen format.

Sci Fi has ordered 22 new episodes of "Stargate SG-1" and has renewed "Farscape" not just for its fourth season, which begins tonight, but for a fifth as well. Programmers at the channel, a subsidiary of USA Networks, apparently believe they have a little programming juggernaut on their hands. And you know what? They just might be right.

"Stargate SG-1," the heavyweight of the Friday night tag-team tandem, comes out of the chute smokin' with the first of a two-parter, "Redemption." In the episode, the Stargate has gone haywire, and if Col. Jack O'Neill (Anderson) and company can't get to the problem within a tight time frame, Earth will shrivel up and die. Now, that's a cliffhanger.

Anderson and co-stars Amanda Tapping (Major Samantha Carter), Christopher Judge (Teal'c) and newly added Corin Nemec (Jonas Quinn) have a smooth rapport, and their sly quippery combined with all the interplanetary carrying-on make for a rollicking good time. Even if you haven't caught the series before, tonight's episode serves as a pretty seamless spot to jump aboard.

And as promised by the show's creators, the switch from Showtime to the Sci Fi Channel has resulted in no apparent drop-off in "Stargate's" slick production values.

"Farscape" is a grungier, sexier take on the space frontier, with Ben Browder starring as Commander John Crichton, a modern-day American astronaut who accidentally gets blasted through a wormhole to the other side of the universe. Darn that NASA.

Tonight's episode, "Crichton Kicks," puts the star in harm's way aboard a creaking wreck of a ship that suddenly is targeted for salvage by some interstellar tough guys--and their dog.

Raelee Hill guest stars as a whose-side-are-you-on? alien who wouldn't look out of place on Hollywood Boulevard in her platform shoes, orange plastic mini-dress and Medusa hairdo.

As in "Stargate SG-1," the humor in "Farscape" smooths things along for those new to the series, and the imaginative sets and freaky co-stars from the Jim Henson Creature Shop have Jar Jar-free appeal.

*

"Stargate SG-1" can be seen at 9 and 11 tonight on the Sci Fi Channel. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be inappropriate for young children). "Farscape" can be seen at 10 p.m. and midnight. The network has rated it TV-14-V (may be inappropriate for children younger than 14, with an advisory for violence). The original "Stargate" movie will be shown at 6:30 p.m.

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