It was 20 years ago (that’s right kids, 1994) that the first Stargate film saw Kurt Russel walk through a primitive computer-generated water effect, and the TV series and various spin-offs vastly improve on the original formula. Stargate SG-1 remains one of the most engaging, well-written and above all approachable sci-fi series of all time – and it’s like crack for geeks.
It All Started With A Film
The Stargate franchise began with the release of the Stargate film in 1994. Starring Kurt Russell in a role he refused when it came to making the fondly-remembered TV spin-off, Stargate mixes a present-day sci-fi universe with historical and spiritual elements not often seen in the genre.
It didn’t take long for the TV series to establish itself, with a team consisting Jack O’Neil, Samantha Carter, Daniel Jackson and off-world member Teal’c becoming known as SG-1, hence Stargtate SG-1. Under increasing internal scrutiny the team undertook missions that spawned multiple intertwining story arcs and character nuances.
Stargate regularly looks to history and folklore to fill in the gaps between our present world and the fictional alien universe, with Egyptian, Nordic and Celtic themes regularly appearing. In SG-1, Enemies take on the forms of “false gods” who use advanced yet ancient technology against primitive peoples – a nod to the brutality of these often glorified ancient civilizations.
SG-1 is the meat and gravy of the Stargate universe. It ran for a full ten seasons, from 1997 until 2007 and MGM spent on average $1.4 million per episode. The show ran for so long that actors age noticeably, character relations mature almost organically and the balance between action-heavy adventures and human and political aspects was fine-tuned to perfection.
Here are a few choice moments from SG-1’s incredible back catalogue of episodes.
Children of the Gods (S1E1)
The beginning is as good a place as any to begin, and Children of the Gods is more like a film than a sci-fi TV show. It was this hour-and-a-half long pilot that tied together many of the loose ends from the 1994 film, introduced new characters and established a base for the Stargate SG-1 crew to call home.
Window of Opportunity (S4E6)
Window of Opportunity takes a very serious problem and turns it into a hilarious running joke. When time suddenly begins to loop after one off-world adventure, only Jack O’Neill and Teal’c appear to notice. Now they’re stuck in an infinite loop, which provides plenty of opportunity for viewers to glimpse the more human aspects of a Jaffa and military Captain.
Think teeing-off into the Stargate, learning to juggle – that sort of thing..
Thor’s Chariot (S2E6)
Another example of how the Stargate takes existing mythology and figures, then re-wires everything to fit its own agenda. Thor’s Chariot refers to Thor’s spaceship of course, and Thor is who else but a small grey alien..
Wormhole X-Treme! (S5E12)
A good sense of humour was key to SG-1’s success for so many years, providing plenty of light moments and even light episodes. Episodes like Wormhole X-Treme, in which a cheap parody of the SG-1 team visit distant planets by walking through wormholes. A truly funny and masterfully written episode..
Redemption (S6E1 & 2)
True to the feature-length roots of the franchise, SG-1 manages to pack in some gripping multiple-part episodes – often at the end of the series. This was a time when producers would make you wait a whole season break to find out whether a character lived or died, and Redemption is a particularly gripping politically-themed struggle from the beginning of season six. Watch Part 1 on Daily Motion.
Stargate survived beyond SG-1’s fateful tenth season, at which point a number of key characters had been replaced with (equally likeable) counterparts. Two films were made to tie-up ends with the SG-1 franchise, the first being Stargate: The Ark of Truth, for which I’ve put the trailer below. It deals mostly with the Ori, a civilization encountered toward the end of SG-1’s original run.
The second, Stargate: Continuum, sees old enemies the Goa’uld return to wage a massive attack. Both films are generally regarded as being worth a watch, particularly if you’ve made it to the end of season ten and are still demanding more from your favourite Air Force personnel.
Next came Stargate Atlantis, which departs hugely from SG-1 in that it is set on an off-world base named after another of earth’s mysteries. While the original crew (particularly Daniel Jackson) do make appearances, this doesn’t take the form of SG-1, and the series doesn’t follow their adventures. It only ran for five years due to a lukewarm response, though Atlantis has plenty going for it.
Stargate’s gloomiest hour came in the form of Universe, a promising show that took two seasons to find its feet before being cruelly cancelled by Syfy in 2011. The worst part of this is that the producers – expecting a third season – left the last episode on a cliffhanger. What’s more, the planned Universe film announced after this news was also cancelled.
Should you bother with Stargate: Atlantis, or worry that Universe never took off? No – because Stargate SG-1 consists of ten seasons of wonderful sci-fi that is very watchable to this day. If you’ve never seen it, then you’re lucky – you’ve just stumbled upon one of the most accessible and rewarding sci-fi shows of all time. And if you’re a long time fan, then isn’t it about time you paid homage on this 20-year anniversary and re-discover one of Canada’s finest exports?
You probably have your own Stargate and other sci-fi memories – throw them my way, I’d love to get all nostalgic with you in the comments.