Every time I want to say something about Stargate SG-1 Season 2, I want to call it Stargate SG-2 and be done with it. I know within the context of the show it can’t be called that because the narrative follows the exploits of a team called “SG-1,” but it would be a much easier, less tongue-tying naming convention if they could.
Naming woes aside, the second season of SG-1 was as wonderfully enjoyable as the first, if not more so. Almost every concern I had during Season 1 was addressed, if not completely voided.
It seems in Season 2 that SG-1’s creative team decided to take more chances with the show and actually branch out. I was impressed, really, because even though not all the episodes were particularly well written or interesting (“One False Step,” I’m looking at you), there were enough episodes like “1969” (despite Daniel’s awful awful awful German accent) defying the traditional genre conventions to maintain the show’s momentum as not being just another military sci-fi show.
What I think this season did particularly well was actually establish the Stargate universe (not to be confused with Stargate Universe) as a unique property that is unlike any other SF franchise. I mentioned in my impressions of Season 1 that I loved how the show integrated mythology into the narrative, and Season 2 really amps it up. Starting with “Thor’s Hammer,” I feel the show upped its game. Gradually introducing the Asgard as a race where the viewers were uncovering their history and mysteries as SG-1 was made all the difference. The Asgard are a major player in the narrative from this point on, but they feel as though they belong there. It is an organic way of storytelling that I think works because it not only fleshes out the fictional world, but it also helps ground the SF elements into something familiar to most audience members.
The Asgard arc in the season really has a nice, well, arc to it. It starts off slow with a few ideas and stories about how Thor was a real person once who fought the Goa’uld. And then it’s periodically talked about here and there, then another episode comes along, “Thor’s Chariot,” that digs a little deeper and lets the lore actually become real. And by the time “The Fifth Race” comes, the Asgard are solidly represented in Stargate mythos. On top of all that, “The Fifth Race” builds on additional information that viewers witnessed way back in Season 1’s “The Torment of Tantalus.” It’s organic in that the show’s creators never force this new information on viewers; they leave the story in the forefront of the series and let that extol any necessary information and background.
“The Tok’ra” episodes, as well as the characters for whom the episodes are titled, help ease my growing fear that the SGC would never actually find any reliable friends in their journeys. In Season 1, all of the alien races who were more advanced and could be real friends were so inadequately advanced, they would be useless in the fight against the Goa’uld. All of the more advanced races (the Nox, for instance, and whatever race Tobin Bell’s character belonged to) thought the humans were too below them to be of help. It’s really a catch-22—they’re either insufficient for SG-1 or SG-1 is too ill evolved for them. So when the Tok’ra came around, I was happy that their presence was consistent if not constant.
My only problem with the Tok’ra arc in Season 2 was that the way Carter’s father was introduced felt a bit heavy-handed. Oh, here’s where we meet Sam’s dad. Oh, he’s the typical military father stereotype. Oh, they’re having a fight. He drops the bomb that he has cancer on him and barges out. A few episodes later, he’s dying of said cancer, and we’re supposed to, as an audience, have an emotional attachment to him, but look! He’s saved by the friendly Goa’uld symbiotes, the Tok’ra, and now he’s a recurring character with emotional ties back to SG-1. Enter the warm fuzzies.
Overall, Stargate SG-1 Season 2 is precisely what a second season of a TV show should be. It builds healthily on Season 1’s themes, motifs, and situations, while still exploring new ideas and technical boundaries that give the season a feel all its own. I never felt that the season was lacking, nor did I ever really get bored with the narrative (I won’t lie and say there were some episodes that were stinkers, though). It always felt fresh and new, and the characters have really started to have that “family” feel that a good ensemble show should have. The characters feel like they’re alive instead of just being written.
The second season of Stargate SG-1 also gave the cast the opportunity to really delve into their roles more deeply, often tackling situations and devices that would have been too off-beat to include in Season 1. For instance, in “Holiday,” every member of SG-1 switches bodies with someone else, making Christopher Judge (Teal’c) impersonate Jack (Richard Dean Anderson) and vice versa in a very amusing bit of acting. I like how the show explores the actors’ versatility in the confines of the universe as well as the narrative itself. Because of this exploration, the show rarely stagnates despite the formulaic, episodic nature of the show.
I was told when I started watching SG-1 that the best seasons were 3, 4, 5, and 6, so I am looking forward to picking up Season 3 (our local Wal-Mart has all 10 season slim sets for 15 or 20 dollars, depending) and seeing what all the fuss is about. If they’re better than the first two seasons, I only wish I had more time in my day.