20 years of Stargate SG-1

Richard Dean Anderson in 2004
Richard Dean Anderson in 2004

On July 27, 1997 the TV show “Stargate SG-1” made its debut.

In 1994, the movie “Stargate” was released, which was a box office success and also received some awards such as the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film but also received negative reviews. Personally, when I heard about it, I saw it as a variant of the story of the classic “Doctor Who” serial “Pyramids of Mars” and after watching it my impression was pretty negative.

Producer Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich initially conceived a trilogy but at the time nothing more was produced. The rights were given to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which decided to carry out the project differently by creating a TV show. Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner proposed different ideas and were commissioned to work together at the project that became “Stargate SG-1”.

The TV show begins a year after the events of the movie making it its direct continuation. Some of the protagonists are the same (though in the movie O’Neill has only one “l” in his surname) but played by different actors and in my opinion a positive element of the first episodes is a definite improvement in their characterization over the movie.

“Stargate SG-1” cast consists of:

  • Richard Dean Anderson (photo ©Mickey W. Sanborn) as Jack O’Neill
  • Michael Shanks as Daniel Jackson
  • Amanda Tapping (photo ©Jill Bratcher) as Samantha Carter
  • Christopher Judge as Teal’c
  • Don S. Davis as George Hammond
  • Teryl Rothery as Janet Fraiser (seasons 1-7)
  • Corin Nemec as Jonas Quinn (seasons 5-7)
  • Ben Browder ruolo di Cameron Mitchell (seasons 9-10)
  • Beau Bridges as Hank Landry (seasons 9-10)
  • Claudia Black as Vala Mal Doran (seasons 8-10)

At the beginning of the first season, the SG-1 team is formed and the complex work of creating the show’s mythology began. The first enemy is another of the aliens remembered in human history as gods, Apophis, served by the Jaffa, humans that were genetically modified and enhanced with Goa’uld larvae, parasites that in their adult form use human bodies as hosts.

The SG-1 team is initially completed by Samantha Carter and in the pilot episode there’s the meeting with Teal’c, the Apophis’ First Prime, who lost his faith in the Goa’uld as gods and decides to join the Earthlings. The first season is formed by episodes with plots that sometimes are a bit rough but there was a need to introduce many elements of a complex fictional universe.

The underlying idea is in some ways opposed to that of the movie, where human soldiers went on another planet ready to kick any alien ass and nuke them. In the episode “The Nox”, you can see that humans are like children arriving in a universe they understand just a little about and is inhabited by much older and advanced species.

The SG-1 team is part of the armed forces in a structure governed by General Hammond called the SGC but it also aims to start the exploration of the worlds reached by the Stargate system and establish contacts with any populations that inhabit them. The balance between the various goals is also seen in the composition of the team: Samantha Carter is a career officer but is also a scientist and Daniel Jackson is a civilian scientist.

In the course of the “Stargate SG-1” seasons these characteristics were developed offering both peaceful encounters with other peoples and armed clashes, particularly with the Goa’uld. After the Nox, the SG-1 team discovers the existence of the Tok’ra, who belong to the same species as the Goa’uld but oppose them in any way, and the Asgard. The clashes involve other Goa’uld besides Apophis until the Anubis story-arc.

The progressive construction of that fictional universe offered a series of ideas during the seasons to build stories ranging from single-episode to long narrative arcs. In the second half of the show some plots were also based on changes in the cast: the first was temporary with Daniel Jackson almost abandoning the show in the sixth season but later there were definitive changes.

Starting from the eighth season, Don S. Davis’s presence was significantly reduced due to the actor’s health problems and sadly he passed away us on June 29, 2008. From the ninth season, Richard Dean Anderson’s presence was reduced And General Henry “Hank” Landry took over SGC command in the last two seasons. There was also a kind of transplant of the protagonists of the TV show “Farscape” with the arrival first of Claudia Black as Vala Mal Doran and then of Ben Browder as Cameron Mitchell.

The success of “Stargate SG-1” also led to the production of the spinoff “Stargate Atlantis” with Rodney McKay, who was a recurring character, among its protagonists, but in 2006 the Sci Fi channel announced that it would not renew the parent show. The show had a coda in 2008 with the TV movies “Stargate: The Ark of Truth” and “Stargate: Continuum”. In 2009, another spinoff started, “Stargate Universe”, which however had limited success and lasted only two seasons. Recently, a prequel called “Stargate: Origins” has been announced.

“Stargate SG-1” was a science fiction show that showed many other planets but at the same time kept strong ties with the reality of Earth, so much that the production had the collaboration of the American military, including the presence of real U.S. Air Force personnel. Its success was built on a good mix of adventure in exotic places, technological and scientific developments and on strong characters that were well developed over time.

Amanda Tapping at Comic Con 2007
Amanda Tapping at Comic Con 2007

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