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Serpent Guard

Stargate SG-1
by yo go re

Stargate is an odd property. The movie came out in 1994, and had an associated line of toys, but they were both pretty much failures. Three years later a spin-off tv show debuted on Showtime, but that was really before cable had a reputation for good shows. The show's still running, nearly a decade later, and is still wildly popular - which is why it's finally getting some decent toys.

Diamond Select Toys was originally just a distributor. They picked up the Buffy license and released the remaining figures when Moore Action Collectibles had to bow out of the game. Then they took over distribution for Art Asylum's Star Trek line, and now they've got a few of their own lines coming out. Thankfully, the Stargate figures are much better than the supremely disappointing Serenity line.

Serpent Guard The first series of the line comprises three figures - two heroes and a villain. While you might have to be a fan of the show to buy Col. Jack O'Neill or Dr. Daniel Jackson, the Serpent Guard is just cool and exotic enough to appeal to a wider base.

Born into Goa'uld slavery, the Jaffa are the ultimate fighting machines for the wicked System Lords. Adorned in battle armor bearing the mark of their gods, these fierce warriors fight to the death to win their master's favor.

The Serpent Guards, servants of Apophis, have a great look. Their uniforms look like chainmail beneath larger armored panels that cover the chest, shoulders and abdomen. They wear knee-high greaves and have bracers that are actually more like gauntlets. They have metal skullcaps and, in keeping with the Egyptian theme, they wear little skirts.

The entire line was sculpted by Jean St. Jean, another ex-McFarlane employee who has broken out on his own, once again proving that the reason Todd doesn't credit his sculptors is because he doesn't treat them well enough to keep them once they gain even the tiniest sliver of fame. Anyway, Jean did an excellent job on the two human figures, but he absolutely knocked the Seprent Guard out of the park.

Their costumes have tons of thin, intricate lines running across the surface, Shak'l? and they actually look like they've been etched in metal, rather than sculpted in clay. The bodysuit has a look that's halfway between chainmail and a knit sweater. The skirt is stitched up the side. It would take a die-hard... hmm, what's the SG1 equivalent of a Trekkie? Because one of those guys would probably know if this Serpent Guard's face is based on a real Serpent Guard or if it's just straight out of St. Jean's head. The raised symbol on his forehead suggests he's the new First Prime - lesser ranking troops just have a tattoo, not the golden brand.

why am I a freaking Martian?! Speaking of heads, that's one of the Serpent Guard's accessories: his big snakey helmet. The guards in the movie wore Anubis and Horus masks, so this one was created for the show. Rather than a hollow piece that drops over the figure's head, the helmet is a solid head - the guard's head pops off at the neck, and the mask clicks in place. That seems to have confused a lot of people, who couldn't figure out why it didn't fit. Because it connects directly to the balljoint, the helmet has a good range of motion, and there's even a notch in the back to accommodate the Guard's raised collar. That is great design.

In addition to the fancy hat, Serpy has a few weapons and a BAF piece. First is a zat'nik'tel, or zat gun - a little handheld weapon that resembles a mechanical snake. It's a three-stage gun: one shot acts as a stun, two shots kill, and a third will disintegrate the target. The toy zat is more intricate than the tv zat, which has a smooth casing, but he still holds it well. Then we've got a staff weapon, which is half blaster, half quarterstaff. An almond-shaped pod on the end of the staff opens to fire highly destructive blasts.

you can't pronounce half of these

Of course, the toy doesn't actually open (much like most of the props on the show), but it does have interchangeable heads to simulate the different modes. The staff is a bit short - it should be about 1 1/4" taller - but that's a minor complaint. Finally he has a silvery-blue orb with a big red dot on it. It's a tacuchnatagamuntoron - a tac, for short - which has only ever appeared in two episodes. In Season 3's "Deadman Switch," it acts like a sentry gun, and in Season 7's "Orpheus," it's more like a flash grenade. The Guard can't hold it ramp in either case, and it seems like it should plug into something, but it doesn't. Just a loose accessory.

All the figures in Series 1 and 2 of the SG1 line come with a piece of the Stargate. Collect them all and you can build your own SGC. The Serpent Guard has the rather pedestrian (ha!) embarkation ramp that leads up to the gate. Half of it, anyway. One support strut, one railing, and one half of the floor grating. Serpy even gets the stand that will eventually let the assembled Stargate stand upright.

Elite Serpent Guard The Stargate figures are in the 7" scale, and actually have decent articulation. The Serpent Guard has the aforementioned balljointed head, balljointed shoulders, swivels at the biceps, wrists (gloves), waist, hips and thighs, and hinges for the elbows and knees. Maybe we've been spoiled by the bicep joints on Marvel Legends and DC Superheroes, but the plain swivel cut through the middle of the upper arm is unimpressive.

The paint is simple, but handled well. He's basically solid grey, but there's silver on his belt and in every tiny crevice on that detailed sculpt. There's also a mail-away offer for an Elite Serpent Guard, which uses the same sculpt as the regular guy, but has a red and gold paint scheme and no snake helmet.

package Even the packaging is good. The figures are on blister cards, and they look really nice in them. The card has a graphic of the Stargate along the top and bottom, and the upper lefthand corner is curved. The blister is actually shaped and layered, so it's more impressive than a flat bubble. The figure is displayed nicely, and his accessories stand out well. The uneven profile probably means storing these things would be a problem for MOC collectors, but eff 'em; who cares?

Stargate: SG-1 Snakes on a Plane is the longest continual sci-fi program in history: only Doctor Who is longer, but it had huge gaps interspersed throughout. SG1's popularity rivals or surpasses even Star Trek, the big dog of the genre. The DST toy line may rely too heavily on variants, but that's been true of them since the beginning - Diamond Select loves minor costume changes as retailer exclusives. The Serpent Guard, however, has no alternate costumes, no other versions to hunt down. On the other hand, he is a good army builder, so you may want multiples anyway.

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