The season premieres Friday at 8 p.m. on Sci Fi.
By DAVE MASON
"Stargate SG-1" launches a new season Friday with a new leader "Farscape" fans will love. More important, the series has returned to epic storytelling.
Ben Browder, aka John Crichton of "Farscape," succeeds Richard Dean Anderson on the Sci Fi network series, which dives into a new mystery surrounding the Ancients. They're the beings who built the stargates that allow people to travel vast distances across the galaxy.
The episode (8 p.m.) kicks off Sci Fi's Friday season premieres, which include "Stargate: Atlantis" and an unforgettable "Battlestar Galactica."
On "Stargate SG-1," Browder plays Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell. The episode establishes Mitchell as a pilot and hero who defended SG-1 during its discovery of the Ancients' city of Atlantis in Antarctica.
This week, Mitchell is surprised to learn that not only did he get his request to be on the SG-1 team; he's the new leader.
Mitchell discovers that when he meets Gen. Henry "Hank" Landry (new cast member Beau Bridges), who has succeeded Brigadier Gen. Jack O'Neill (Anderson) as the leader of Stargate Command. Landry tells Mitchell that the other SG-1 members -- Lt. Col. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) and Teal'C (Christopher Judge) -- have moved on to other projects. It's up to Mitchell to assemble a new SG-1 team.
Mitchell doesn't want a new team. He wants Carter, Jackson and Teal'C to return. He can't seem to convince them, but circumstances change when guest star Claudia Black -- yep, Aeryn Sun from the Sci Fi network series "Farscape" -- drops by. Black reprises her "Stargate" character from last season: the scheming thief Vala Mal Doran.
As the team begins to solve this cosmic puzzle, I felt like I was watching "Stargate" from its earlier seasons. Back then, O'Neill led the team on missions to new worlds, and there was the sense of the unexpected. When O'Neill got stuck behind a desk as the base commander last season, the series lost much of its off-world flavor.
Browder is the right one to lead the SG-1 team. His character, Mitchell, may remind "Farscape" fans of the early John Crichton -- before the villainous Scorpius messed with his brain (literally) and drove him crazy. Mitchell's the guy next door who explores the cosmos. And Mitchell has that John Crichton wit.
Browder has arrived at the right time. And "Stargate" continues to balance a mysterious universe we can't fathom with a sense of humor that brings the whole thing down-to-Earth.