Entry updated 8 April 2019. Tagged: TV.
Canadian-American tv series (1997-2007). Created by Jonathan Glassner and Brad Wright. Producers include Glassner, Wright, Robert C Cooper, Joe Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, N John Smith, Michael Greenburg, and Richard Dean Anderson. Directors include Peter DeLuise, Martin Wood, Andy Mikita, William Waring, William Gereghty, David Warry-Smith, and Peter F Woeste. Writers include Glassner, Wright, Cooper, Mallozzi, Mullie, DeLuise, Damian Kindler, Katharyn Powers, and Alan McCullough. Cast includes Richard Dean Anderson as Colonel/General Jack O'Neill (seasons 1-8), Michael Shanks as Dr Daniel Jackson (seasons 1-5, 7-10), Amanda Tapping as Captain/Major/Colonel Samantha Carter, Christopher Judge as Teal'c, Don S Davis as Major General George Hammond (seasons 1-7), Corin Nemec as Jonas Quinn (season 6), Ben Browder as Colonel Cameron Mitchell (seasons 9-10), and Claudia Black as Vala Mal Doran (season 10). 120-minute pilot followed by 212 60-minute episodes.
Spin-off series from the film Stargate (1994) in which a team of Air Force officers (led by Kurt Russell), accompanied by an Egyptologist (played by James Spader), travels through the titular alien artefact to another planet, and finds that a body-snatching Alien has impersonated a member of the Egyptian pantheon in order to enslave humanity, first on Earth thousands of years ago, and now on the planet they travel to. The series (in which Anderson and Shanks take over Russell and Spader's roles, respectively) widens the film's universe to imagine a whole network of Stargates and an entire race of body-snatching aliens, called the Goa'uld, who are the originals of nearly every one of Earth's mythic figures and polytheistic gods (though not, of course, any of the monotheistic deities) and have relocated and enslaved humans all over the galaxy, amassing vast powers and armies. Together with Carter, a military Scientist, and Teal'c, a member of a genetically engineered warrior race who serve the Goa'uld, O'Neill and Jackson form the titular team, the elite first contact unit of a secret Air Force command dedicated to protecting the Earth from being reconquered by the Goa'uld.
SG-1 ran for ten seasons and 213 episodes. (At the time of its cancellation, this made it the longest-running science fiction series on American television, though it has since been superseded by Smallville [2001-2011].) The secret of this longevity is probably the show's carefully maintained mediocrity. Though SG-1's writers did much to develop the series's world, including creating several recurring races, settings, and characters, the stories they told in that world were variations on a theme. In standalone episodes, SG-1 would travel to a planet, solve the inhabitants' problem, and ride off into the sunset. In plot arc episodes, the current Goa'uld Villain would be thwarted and perhaps even defeated, but always replaced by another, more dangerous villain. The characters and their relationships suffered from the same stasis – Jackson is perpetually crippled by the grief of losing his wife, who is taken by the Goa'uld as a host; Teal'c always hopes to rid the galaxy of Goa'uld so that his people can be freed of their enslavement; O'Neill and Carter nobly suppress their attraction to one another for the sake of the mission. Nor does the show address, in any but the most simplistic terms, the troubling questions raised by its premise: characters who question the US's right to enter into interstellar war on behalf of the whole planet, or the Air Force's competence to wage that war successfully with almost no oversight, are invariably shown to be either evil or wrong.
The result of this deliberate shallowness was a competently-made, lighthearted, and often quite diverting sf adventure series, frequently elevated by Anderson and Shanks's borderline comedic turns as the sarcastic O'Neill and Jackson (Judge is hobbled by his role as the warrior poet, but is occasionally allowed to inject a dry self-awareness into his performance; Tapping, as the sole woman, is rarely permitted to be funny) and by the rapport and palpable affection between the four team members. After several seasons, however, this material had gotten a bit tired, and so had the cast. Shanks leaves the show during its sixth season (his role on the team is filled by Corin Nemec as an alien scientist) but returns for the seventh, by which point Anderson had decided to reduce his involvement with the series. O'Neill is thus promoted to the role of head of Stargate Command, which reduces his screen time as SG-1 goes on missions without him. Given to believe that the show would wrap up after its eighth season, the writers wrote a final victory over the Goa'uld only for Sci Fi to renew the series. They hastily invented the Ori, an evil offshoot of the Ancients, the alien Forerunners who had created the stargates. Farscape alumni Ben Browder and Claudia Black are brought in as, respectively, an Air Force colonel who takes over SG-1 and an amoral alien grifter who joins the team (by this point both Shanks and Tapping were working on reduced episode orders). Both are charismatic (Black in particular makes a rather tired character type her own and is the show's main draw in these seasons) but can't elevate the series above its, by that point, dull and aimless writing. Sci Fi cancelled SG-1 in 2006, citing growing production costs, leaving the Ori story unfinished. It has been hastily and none-too-satisfactorily resolved in a television movie, Stargate: The Ark of Truth (2008), which was followed by a standalone movie, Stargate: Continuum (2008). As well as the movies, SG-1 was spun off into a low-rated animated series, Stargate: Infinity (2002-2003), and the live action series Stargate: Atlantis (2004-2009) and Stargate: Universe (2009-2011). The failure of the latter probably heralds the franchise's end and makes it unlikely that more SG-1 movies will be made. [AN]
- Keith Topping. Beyond the Gate: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Stargate SG-1 (Tolworth, Surrey: Telos Publishing, 2002) [nonfiction: hb/]
previous versions of this entry