Stargate SG-1: A Brief History
There are billions and billions of stars in the universe, as Professor Brian Cox puts it, and the folks behind Stargate seemed intent on proving there are just as many gates to match…
Conceptualising a space-based sci-fi series that doesn’t revolve around spaceships is night on impossible, and Stargate is one of the stellar examples. Not only do the main characters manage to traverse the vast expanse of the galaxy without the aid of a ship (at least, in the first five seasons), but it is refreshing to see a sci-fi with distinctly real-world military overtones.
If you are wondering how on earth they manage this feat, then allow me to explain. The Stargate is an ancient piece of technology, allegedly unearthed from an Egyptian burial site, which forms a wormhole between another Stargate elsewhere in the galaxy on entry of the correct planetary code. It’s a bit like a phone dialling system, except, it allows matter to be transferred and re-materialised (in order!) on the other side. It is this technology which allowed aliens to visit our world in our historical past, aliens which became immortalised as gods in various world cultures.
The series was made in 1997, which is when the story is meant to begin. It adopts an X-files style approach to alien contact: all people on Earth save for the select few on the Stargate Project under Cheyenne Mountain, are blissfully unaware of the existence of aliens, nor of the constant averted threats to Earth and battles raging way up above Earth’s atmosphere. This unawareness extends to many other planets the SG-1 team visit, and on numerous occasions they have to shield the fact they are aliens from the inhabitants, who, like those on Earth, would not be prepared for such revelations.
Stargate SG-1 picks up from where the 1994 film left off. Dr Daniel Jackson, the hero of the film, is happily living out his life on another planet when the Goa’Uld aliens return to wreak havoc. Daniel Jackson, losing his family, returns to Earth through the Stargate and joins his captain from the first mission, Jack O’Neill (played to hilarious effect by Richard Dean Anderson of MacGuyver fame), and a military scientist named Samantha Carter on a mission to stop the new threat. Along the way they pick up an alien named Teal’c, warrior and former servant of the Goa’Uld. The four become known as the SG-1 team, the first official team to be formed through the Stargate program. As the Goa’Uld target Earth once more as they did thousands of years ago, the US Government auhtorises the Stargate program to expand and counter the threat, which is exactly what they spend the next ten seasons of the series’ decadal run doing.
What I love about Stargate is its devotion to mythology and realism combined. As a huge mythology geek, I appreciate their use of various world mythos, and in many cases their portrayal of it. The Egyptian Gods (portrayed as the alien race named the Goa’Uld) are the main focus of the series, as they are in the film. After the film introduced and subsequently tore down the father of all Egyptian gods, Ra, Stargate SG-1 brought out Ra’s nemesis, Apophis, then the lesser Egyptian deities, and later some very unexpected ones. Later series saw the additions of gods from Mayan, Japanese, Slavic, Irish, Norse and Roman pantheons, amid others. It became a smorgasbord of gods, if you will, and while I can always find areas to nitpick, on the whole it is a couple of orders of magnitude better than the representations in most other media. The only truly disappointing thing is the way they portrayed the Norse gods, but then again I am a big fan of the whole burly muscles thing, so I may be biased! Later on in the series, and, I notice, after the publication of the Da Vinci Code, they started to take on matters of a more monotheistic nature with the Ori arc, but sadly the show was stopped only two seasons later. I do wonder why. Official word says the creators felt the series had run its course, but in my eyes, things had just been hotting up to a big battle with an interstellar organized religion. I will always feel that the series was stopped prematurely, and although Stargate Atlantis, the follow-up, was interesting, it was never the same without the enemy gods we came to know and the SG-1 team we came to love.
The other thing that I love about Stargate, and that is impossible to miss, is its self-deprecating humour. They are all completely aware of the tropes they use (and I bet have spent much time reading TV Tropes.org ). Overacting with ridiculous explosions, commenting on the nature of the bad guys’ ability to monologue incessantly, frequently discuss how ridiculous some of the things they’ve done are, and in one stunning case, parody the entire genre of sci-fi with one hilarious recap / name-that-sci-fi episode (I’m looking at you, Series 10 Episode 6…).
In short: Stargate – so much love for that show. The series in full has recently been released on both Netflix and Lovefilm, so get watching!
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