Greetings, intrepid sci-fi lovers! In this short review I shift tone from my last post to a more light-hearted topic: Sci-Fi.
Have you ever seen a show that piqued your interest and then kept it? Was that show ever whacky or goofy? The show I’m going to talk about today is all of those things.
The television program “Stargate SG-1” was a popular show that ran from 1997 all the way to 2007 for ten seasons. It was produced by MGM and created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner. Interestingly enough, the show is a direct sequel to the 1994 film directed by Roland Emmerich.
The show stars four main characters and two supporting characters. For leads we have Colonel Jack O’Neill (played by Richard Dean Anderson), Major Samantha Carter (played by Amanda Tapping), Dr. Daniel Jackson (played by Michael Shanks) and the renegade Jaffa Teal’c (played by Christopher Judge). Our secondary characters are General John Hammond (played by Don S Davis) and Dr Janet Fraiser (played by Teryl Rothery).
Before I get any more detailed about the show’s premise or characters let me tell you about my personal framework; how I got into the show.
My wife and I sat down on our comfortable living room couch in January of this year and began to watch the show together. While my wife and I both had watched smatterings of it separately we never watched it together. This was a momentous occasion. We had just had a hard year and we wanted to start it off on a high note; “Why not watch a famous sci-fi together?” we thought.
The opening title card began and heroic triumphant music played. Our ears were greeted by loud trumpets, subdued woodwinds and a whimsical string section that would crescendo and decrescendo in flourishes. This clash and union of styles makes for a brash, heroic, innocent and even patriotic feel to the show before the episode ever begins. Hooray for good composers!
The first episode begins with Col. Jack O’Neill being recruited by Gen. John Hammond to find and eliminate a threat: invading aliens searching for human hosts. In order to counter this threat they seek out Dr. Daniel Jackson. Jackson is an idealistic retired archaeologist living on another planet called Abydos with a primitive culture based on Egyptian history. Reluctantly, they and Major Samantha Carter (a soldier in the Air Force and a physics genius) team up and encounter a new Goa’uld boss: Apophis. Despite killing Ra in the film Apophis, a new and brutal dictator, has assumed his place and attacks Abydos. The team is captured and Jackson’s wife is taken against her will and forced to become a Goa’uld host. While all this happens a Jaffa (foot soldier of the Goa’uld) wavers in his loyalty, choosing to help O’Neill and his team fight off the Goa’uld. All of them escape and form the newly founded SG-1 team.
The following episodes involve our new team learning to trust each other. They fight off different alien races, build bonds of trust with different humans and aliens across the galaxy, they’re also abducted and cloned, they wind up stranded, are killed then revived, mind-controlled by a horny Goa’uld before finally discovering an alternate universe where SG-1 is overrun by Goa’uld with Earth destroyed. Talk about an adventure!
The team finally use the knowledge acquired from the dying alternate Earth to uncover an upcoming attack in secret. This is after the U.S. Government attempts to sabotage the Stargate Program! They successfully board a Goa-uld Mother Ship bound for Earth. Once onboard it is a race against time for our heroes to use their newfound knowledge and skills to save the planet where it all began.
Season One was a major blast! This show, although features a main antagonist with a revenge plot, is primarily a hopeful show about exploration and patriotism (especially in the first season). Allow me to explain: SG-1 mainly spends time on Earth-like planets doing humanitarian aide sanctioned by the U.S. government. The opening theme, with its trumpet-heavy music, reinforces the notion of patriotism in the show. Obviously, the fact that this show takes place in an American military base with a brash and cocky patriotic soldier also colors the show even more in the nationalistic vein. But, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, with today’s cynicism and negativity I could use a little old-fashioned patriotism in my sci-fi.
Furthermore, Stargate SG-1 takes place on a lot of Earth-like planets with mostly North American flora in the background. The props and special effects are also mostly inexpensive-looking. That feature makes this show a bit of an acquired taste. When your show mainly seems like it was filmed in a Canadian forest on a few thousand dollars it will not be a hit for everyone. Thankfully, I did not mind these elements, and they even made me appreciate what the producers could do on a limited budget.
On a separate note, this show makes the mistake of not allowing some scenes to breathe. When Daniel Jackson loses his wife Sha’re he is devastated. However, for several episodes he doesn’t mention his loss and seems just happy and excited to explore. This almost makes it seem like him saving her isn’t really important to him. It also closes the episode “Tin Man” prematurely by having the reveal that the team is made up of clones a little too quickly. By contrast, this story thread could have been used as a two-parter, which would have kept the audience glued to their seats. Missed opportunity!
With regards to the characters: they are, for the most part, relatable people with relatable problems. O’Neill is a happy-go-lucky guy who tries to take everything in stride in order to conceal his inner pain, grief and doubt. Jackson is a brilliant yet emotionally mature man who often hides his character defects in order to make everyone else happy. Teal’c is a soldier who has effectively abandoned his race, his wife, his child, this culture and his security all because he wishes to no longer serve a despotic and sadistic tyrant. I relate to all these characters; I am quite the idealist like Daniel Jackson, I am a wise-cracking optimist like Jack O’Neill and a decisive man of few words when I feel threatened like Teal’c. Of the Stargate SG-1 characters I relate to the least is Samantha Carter. She is a bit too ‘perfect’ and bland for me; while she uses her intelligence and determination to save the day there is little much more to say about her. She is not funny, charismatic or particularly intriguing. Perhaps I may see her differently in the future. We’ll see…
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this series because it is ultimately a series about people. Stargate SG-1 tells the story of four very different individuals exploring other worlds for their own motives. While it does that it also makes a hefty commentary on humanity as a whole: tales of greed, prejudice, exploitation, innocence, love, hope and telling the truth even when it brings no profit.
I recommend Stargate SG-1 Season One because it is a fun show with a remarkable introduction. It presents us with a whole new world of heroes, aliens, false gods, and new planets populated by strange peoples. This season gets a 79% approval rating from me. Some filler episodes like “The Torment of Tantalus”, “Singularity” and “Solitudes” just bored me to apathy, otherwise this season would get a much higher rating. Despite this, the show has a clear premise with convincing characters and intriguing ideas that it handles well.
If you haven’t watched Stargate SG-1 yet, check out the first season and share your comments below! Thanks for reading!