So, today let’s talk about Stargate SG-1. For those who don’t know, this show began as a feature film released in 1994 titled simply Stargate. It starred Kurt Russell and James Spader. Ok, right there you should be hooked. Kurt Russell in a sci-fi action movie? Genius awesome. The premise was that archaeologists found this giant metal ring buried in Egypt during a dig in the 1920’s. It took them 70+ years to figure out what it was, what it could theoretically do, and how to control it. Then they bring in a young archaeologist with wacky theories named Daniel Jackson (Spader) who proceeds to solve the last piece of the puzzle with a sort of book-nerd distraction. What ensues is a trip across the galaxy and a battle with an alien posing as an ancient Egyptian god, in a city of people who were taken from Earth and enslaved millennia ago.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know the details and how it all ends. If you haven’t, I highly recommend doing so. We’ll wait, but hurry back.
Ok, you’re back. Cool, wasn’t it? But didn’t you find yourself wondering what came next? Well, in 1996-97 Showtime started producing a weekly show called Stargate SG-1. The “SG-1” came from the designation given to the first team of explorers to begin using the Stargate on a regular basis, after the whole thing (which had been mothballed after the events of the film) had been “restarted” by another alien/god/being looking for slaves. The team consisted initially (by the end of the pilot) of Col. Jack O’Niell, the character played by Russell in the film, now played by Richard Dean Anderson (TV’s McGuyver), Michael Shanks taking over Daniel Jackson’s character from James Spader, Amanda Tapping as Captain Sam Carter, and Christopher Judge as the alien warrior/defector, T’ealc.
The show ran for ten seasons, surviving several casting changes and a network change (from Showtime to SciFi Channel). It spawned three spin-offs (including a Saturday morning cartoon) and two direct-to-DVD movies. Unfortunately, due to studio decisions, the property is officially dead on-screen. There have been novels, comic books, video games, and even a highly detailed RPG (which I played for quite some time…someday I’ll tell you about Col. Matthew Valentine and SG-4). There are still novels being written, at least I saw one at B&N the other night on the “New Sci Fi” shelf.
So, why should you watch this show? After all of that, you still need to ask? Fine. I recommend it because it is a good sci-fi show, with plausible science, accurate technical details, exceptionally well-conceived and executed characters, and, unlike many sci fi shows, it evolves. The humans of Earth begin as very “young” and “naïve” in the show, but grow through the course to become a major player in a huge universe. It involves military action, ancient history, theoretical physics, and damn good storytelling and character development.
And as a bonus, if you are a fan of Star Trek, you will no doubt recognize many of the plot devices and tropes. I think many of these were included as an homage to the granddaddy of all space exploration shows. Well, the one that really put the genre on the map, anyways.
So, there you go. All of the seasons are on DVD (maybe Blu-Ray, if not yet, then soon I’m sure), and are currently available for instant view on NetFlix. If nothing else, watch the pilot episode. Oh, and then skip to season four for the episode entitled “Window of Opportunity.” If you do not laugh and cry during that episode, something is wrong with you.