Stargate SG-1: Ten Seasons of Awesomeness

stargate sg1 Sometimes, I’m prone to hyperbole.  I’ll state that Stephenie Meyer is the worst writer who’s ever lived, when I’m pretty sure there are worse ones who have gone unpublished.  I might say that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the best theme park ever created, but I haven’t experienced every theme park in the world.  For all I know, EuroDisney rocks its socks off.

However, when I say that Stargate SG-1 is very likely the best science fiction television show ever created, I say it with not the least bit of exaggeration or hyperbole.  I truly believe it.

After watching tons of SF TV in my life, I can honestly say that the ten seasons of SG-1 are consistently the highest quality of any shows I’ve seen in terms of production, acting, entertainment, and narrative.

A Year of Awesome

Though the series initially ran 1997-2007, my dad and I watched all ten seasons (and the two movies) in just under 12 months.  We had been hesitant to start the series because of its length; ten seasons is a big commitment to make to a show, even as good as we always heard SG-1 to be.

Admittedly, when we first started the series, we had some reservations.  Everyone spoke English, no matter what planet they were from, and most of the planets visited were primitive, making Earth seem like a bastion of civilization that it really shouldn’t have been.  There was unnecessary nudity in the pilot, and that kind of bothered us both.  Not because of us being prudes, but because we feel that there’s not much of a point.  Move the story along with those boobs, ya know?

Stargate SG1 DVD collection But as we moved past the first few episodes, and even seasons, the show began to really find its stride.  The Goa’uld were a real threat, and interesting to boot.  We were finally introduced to a snake-head who was not Apophis, and by the end of the series, there are other big bads (the Replicators and the Ori) who are far worse than the Goa’uld ever thought about being.

And now that it’s all over, I’m both sad and satisfied.  Sad because, well, there is no more.  After finishing the second movie, I’ve now seen everything that was ever filmed for SG-1.  And I’m satisfied because over the course of ten seasons, I learned to care about these characters and their stories in a way that I’ve never done with a TV show  before.  When they were all over, I felt like it was okay.  Because I had experienced the narrative, and while I wanted more, I could not complain about the quality of what I had been given.

Perfect Casting

Sometimes, casting directors just get it right.

Amanda Tapping as Sam Carter?  Genius.  She’s normal-person-pretty, but not movie-star-hot, which I much prefer.  I can believe she’s actually an astrophysicist and still be attracted to her, which is impossible when they cast someone like Jessica Alba to play Sue Storm.  Teal’c is frighteningly large and impressive physically, yet his dry humor comes through Chris Judge perfectly.  Don Davis and Beau Bridges bring the SGC the right kind of command presence the narrative needs, and the other, smaller characters each consistently make me smile because without them, the show would seem lifeless—Sylar, Walter, even Dr. Lee.

But there are three characters/actors who really stole the show for me.  Michael Shanks as Daniel Jackson, Richard Dean Anderson as Jack O’Neill, and Claudia Black as Vala Mal Doran.

Obviously, RDA is awesome.  MacGyver is a pop culture phenomenon for a reason, and only part of that is because of being able to make fighter jets out of three bendy straws, a rubber band, and two ounces of hydrogen peroxide.  When taking on the role of SG-1’s leader, though, RDA brought a kind of fun and pizzazz to it that the movie’s character (played by Kurt Russell) simply lacked.  By the time he left the series after Season 8, I felt that I knew Jack.  I felt that I knew Jack because I had experienced so much with him, and I felt that the show was a little weaker without him in it.   The character always had something snarky to say, but always had an edge of seriousness to it that showed the actor knew what he was doing in playing a military role.

When Vala Mal Doran was introduced to the show in what seemed like a throwaway episode, I thought she was funny.  Claudia Black had a strange kind of chemistry on the screen that I couldn’t help but like.  And while she’s not the kind of person I typically find attractive—overtly sexual and in possession of a smoky/raspy voice—I found myself laughing at her and enjoying her escapades.  So when she came back and became a major player in the cast during Season 9/10, I was thrilled.  She, more than anyone, brought that lightheartedness that was missing since RDA’s absence back to the series.  And when she and Daniel finally admitted to having feelings for one another and spending their lives together in a time-dilation field in “Unending,” well, I won’t say that I didn’t tear up a little.

Title - Stargate SG-1 And then there’s the man.  There’s Daniel Jackson.  Just let me go ahead and say it: Michael Shanks is one hell of an actor.  I always knew that he was better than the movie’s James Spader, but it wasn’t until a few seasons in that I realized that Shanks is a real actor.  When tasked with playing another character in Jackson’s body, he’s believable.  When asked to be a bad guy Daniel, he does it believably.  Whether he’s being beaten and killed for the umpteenth time or simply reading through some books in his office, I never once thought that his role was forced.  So when he left the series during Season 6, I avoided spoilers and did a little nerdly glee-dance when he returned throughout the season as an ascended being.  And when he came back as a full-cast member?  I was ecstatic.  He moves the SF archetype of the smart guy into the next generation, making it not something to loathe and be ashamed of but to embrace because, hey, smart people can be bad-asses,too.

Religious Differences

Norse.  Egyptian.  Judeo-Christian.  Greek.  Probably others I’m forgetting after 200+ episodes. At some point in the series, Stargate SG-1 utilizes the religious philosophies of each of these ideologies within its narrative.  And each time, its well-done.

One of the things I hate about science fiction is how it often avoids the subject of God or any other religion.  It’s almost as though because we can’t quantify faith, we shouldn’t fictionalize it, either.  Well, SG-1 taps into every corner of Earth’s mythology and crafts a narrative that does a pretty good job of not just sounding like another “ancient astronauts” History Channel special.

The best part is how easily integrated these mythologies are within the universe of SG-1.  It’s no big deal that the Thor from the Asgard race is the actual Thor Nordic peoples worshipped centuries ago.  O’Neill yells, “Thor!  Buddy!” when he comes in, and it fits.  Not just because of O’Neill’s character, but also because the world is set up that it’s no big deal.  The same comes when dealing with Hathor, Set, Osiris, Chronos, Apophis, or any of the other characters who, in the world of the narrative, are the actual “gods” of old religions.  It’s no big deal to the characters, but to me, the interesting part for me as a viewer is that these aren’t titular usurpers; they’re the actual beings from the stories.

Even though it gets a lot of flak among fans, the ninth and tenth seasons are probably my favorites of the series.  Why?  Because they deal directly with philosophical ideas regarding faith and its ability to empower anyone.  They deal with religious zealotry and choice and agency vs. truth and moral ambiguity.  And all the while, the Ori and the Alterans are weaved inextricably through Judeo-Christian belief systems, even explaining in the vilification of fire as evil instead of cleansing.

As my dad says, "she's mean, but super hot." And while the Goa’uld were nasty, nasty baddies, the Ori are infinitely more terrifying.  Because the Goa’uld were never possibly a threat to us.  The real us.  They are based off of religions that are long dead, and their followers, the Jaffa, are caricatures.   The Ori on the other hand, are steeped far more intrinsically in Judeo-Christian belief systems we are more familiar with, and the storyline involving them calls-out religious fanatics, and begs of them the question “why does that deserve your faith?”

So while the Ori may not be as SF as the Goa’uld, I think they make for much more interesting villains because the situation they incur becomes far more easily relatable than anything Apophis, Anubis, or Ba’al ever came up with.

Self-Aware

I love any work of fiction that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  And Stargate SG-1 certainly fits that bill.  Early on in the series, a TV show within SG-1 was created called “Wormhole X-Treme” for the 100th episode that let the creators have a little fun with the absurdity within the series that was ordinarily off-limits.  Then, in the final season, the 200th episode—aptly titled “200”—brought “Wormhole X-Treme” back, only this time it had been optioned for a movie.

wormhole The great thing about “200” was that each of the segments that made up the episode was based on another fictional work.  One was Farscape, another was The Wizard of Oz, while yet another was Star Trek: The Original Series. Daniel Jackson even says to a character, “No, that’s Star Trek.”  The inclusion of a Farscape scene was also very interesting, given that Claudia Black and Ben Browder (two new actors in SG-1) were Farscape’s main characters. Also in “200,” it is said that the TV show did poorly on TV, but was optioned for a movie because of strong DVD sales—an obvious nod to the whole Firefly/Serenity scenario we’re all too familiar with.

By not taking itself too seriously, the producers of Stargate SG-1 were able to make the series watchable over long years.  Can you imagine how emotionally drained we would all be if Battlestar Galactica had lasted for ten seasons?  Sure, they would have been great, but they would have been nearly unwatchable in marathon settings, which is where I feel that SG-1 shines.  By being able to meld seriousness (ala the Ori storylines I mentioned) with camp like “Wormhole X-Treme,” the series knows precisely where its boundaries lie and just how far to edge over them and when not to.

The Best Ever?

I think so.  I really do.  I care more about the characters from Stargate SG-1 even than those from LOST.  I know…blasphemy.  But it’s the truth.  The SF in the series is better than any Star Trek I’ve seen.  And for the length of the series, the narratives are surprisingly complete, even if there are a few filler episodes here and there.

Overall, I recommend SG-1 wholeheartedly.  Luckily, Stargate Universe has actually become quite good after a good start and lackluster follow-up.  And I really can’t wait to get back into Stargate Atlantis. Do I wish that the show were still running?  Well yeah, I do.  But I can’t complain after having ten seasons, two movies, and two other entertaining spin0ff series.  Watching all of SG-1 in right around a year has been one heck of a ride.  In a way, I look forward to being able to sit down and watch the entire series again.  I’m sure there’s a lot there that I missed the first time through.

Comments

  1. Man… best sci-fi ever? SG1? I will be the first to admit that in its last, oh, four seasons or so, the show was pretty darn good. And that from the get go, the cast, as you say, was good too. But there was a lot of mediocrity in the early years, not to mention several episodes that were outright bad.

    The religious references are cool, but to me, that’s really all they were – some shallow name-dropping references. Beyond the “the ancient gods were all really aliens”-idea (which was present already in the movie, anyway), they never really did anything very interesting before the Ori plot in the last few years. Furthermore, they never capitalised in any way on the potentially highly fertile ground they had in their ancient religion-trappings beyond the mere decorative “oh, would it not be cool if this Goa’uld queen was named Hathor?” parts. So that was a disappointment.

    The self-awareness was absolutely fantastic. The acting, the towards the end quite impressive show mythology, and several awesome recurring characters – the show certainly had its moments. Certain episodes were outright amazing, like the gut-wrenchingly sad “Heroes”. But all in all? This is the show that took three years to become something more than “Charmed in space”, with gimmick-planets-of-the-week and never-ending streams of newly discovered people-who-conveniently-speak-English-unless-we-need-Jackson-to-spend-time-interpreting-for-plot-related-reasons. It is the show which, admittedly aside from Daniel Jackson, did next to no character development on its principal cast of well-acted stereotypes over the course of TEN years.

    While the latter years of SG1 could probably compete, I would say that even a dated-feeling show like Babylon 5 deserves the title of best sci fi show ever more than SG1 as a whole does. Not to mention the Battlestar Galactica remake, which even in its weakest season was SG1 far superior.

    Of course SG1 had merit, most of all because of the immensely impressive steady growth of quality over the years – even after losing one of its best characters in O’Neill. Most shows weaken and tire as they grow older and the writers run out of ideas, but SG1 got better practically with every season it got. It had an amazing ability to grow and build upon itself – one which SG:U with its recentmost episodes seem to successfully carry on. I am and will always remain thoroughly impressed by that accomplishment. But I cannot in good conscience see this much praise for the show and not get a word in sideways to the contrary – I mean, have you even SEEN the absolute travesty that is “Emancipation”? I am not saying the first couple of seasons did not have their good points, but any show with that shoddy a beginning cannot possibly be the best in its genre. And it did not get from bad to great nearly as fast as you indicate in this post – it was a long, arduous process. I remember still feeling outright bored during several episodes in season 4. That really should not happen.

    SG1 was a great, great show by the time it was done, but… if a show premiered this year with the same quality as its first season had, I would drop it within weeks. And that does not a Best Show Ever make.

    To end on a positive note, because I feel I got too wordy in attempting to communicate my disagreement, one great thing about SG1 I feel you neglected to highlight was its ability to tell stories that could ONLY be told in sci-fi. So many sci-fi shows are poorly disguised cop-shows or sitcoms or political dramas or whatever, which just happen to occur in space or with time machines and what have you. SG1 quite frequently did stories only sci-fi (and usually fantasy) can do. The planet of people with tiny lifespans, the questions of artificial intelligence, the questions of identity and clones – if it had been less long since I watched the series, I could probably mention another dozen remarkably well done stories and themes. More than anything else about the show, this, to me, is what gets it the closest to deserve the title you give it. Because SG1 really, really knew it was science fiction. And it really, really knew what that meant it could do.

    • I thought the initial religious stuff was basically name dropping. I mean, I had no idea who Apophis was prior to SG1 (it wasn’t until Riordan’s “The Red Pyramid” that I realized he was as big a deal as he was), but as the series drew on, the characterization actually made a lot of sense. I loved the idea that Anubis was caught somewhere in between life and death, and I felt that was a fitting way to modernize his myths. I see where the shallowness exists, but I don’t think that’s all there is to it.

      As for it knowing it was SF, you’re spot on. One of the great things about BSG was that it was not that it was SF, but that it was a military drama set in space. It didn’t need more hardcore SF tropes because the story it told didn’t need them. SG1 did, however, and excelled because of it. Because the writers knew who their audience was, the show didn’t have to pander to the mainstream like, say, Dancing with the Stars does. 😉

      I agree about B5, too. But I always thought that it got screwed more than SG1 did. I mean, JMS had a full 5 seasons planned out, but found out his show was cancelled mid S4. He wrapped things up as tidily as was possible, and then got the greenlight for S5. Because the whole series was written to be so cohesive and serialized, its being broken up and the Shadow War not lasting 5 whole seasons really messed it up. I love the show, but I think that because SG1 was able to completely resolve its Goa’uld, Ori, and Replicator plots goes a long way in making it a better show.

      • Well, as a geek on ancient religions, I knew who Apophis was during elementary school, so just name-dropping him did not really put me off. I went “Oh, well, I guess that makes sense, since he was Ra’s old nemesis. I wonder how they will keep using the mythology like that”, and then they for the most part really did not. Nor did the presence and enormous influence of aliens (both Asgard and Goa’uld) in human past come to light as an actual influence on history. Hardly ever did they say that “oh, having had aliens on the planet for centuries, ruling peoples and nations, that caused the history of the human race to develop so and so”. Whenever aliens actually had anything to do with human development, it would be the Ancients, whose involvements was so handily distant in time that it could be obscure and pre-historic.

        The whole use of religion on the show felt all too often like a gimmick without texture. Sure, they did a sometimes decent job of portraying it out in the rest of the galaxy (the Goa’uld enslavements, mostly), but the supposedly huge roots of it all in our own world hardly ever had any actual resonance, reason or effects. Except for the few little details that would handily allow Jackson to figure a key plot point out when needed, of course.

        But I guess it has to do with the old syndrome of “everything on TV seems fine, until you see them talk about something you actually know things about”. I am sure someone deeply interested or experienced with the US Airforce would have an insane list of complaints too. Not to mention someone who actually understand advance physics. 😛

        With B5, I agree it was weakened tremendously by network meddling towards the end. But the thing is, B5 took a little over one season to hit its stride, shed most of the weak-feeling one-offs and focus on plot and (in admittedly few cases, but considering the age of the show, I think it is impressive even so) character development. SG1 did not start properly impressing me until the odd episode in s4, and not consistently doing so until s6. That is longer than B5’s entire lifespan, and so B5 feels to me a much more consistent and well-made show when viewed as a whole. No offense, again, to SG1, who as I said deeply impressed me with their ability to build on themselves every year. But that does not change that I loved over 3/5 of B5, and only something like half of SG1 – and unevenly distributed at that.

        Finally, on BSG and SF. You are right, certainly, to some extent, but, BSG did definitely know and take advantage of its SF status. The questions of identity they spent entire arcs on, and not to mention the basic premise of human life on the brink of extinction and all the ethical issues arising from it, these were both major themes that could only have been explored in SF or fantasy. In its early seasons, though, I agree that at least compared to SG1 it was more of a political/military drama in space. By the end, however? I think s4 of BSG made every bit the use of its genre that SG1 did. In fact, the two shows would probably be my poster examples for good use of the SG genre’s possibilities. (Whereas Babylon 5 for the most part just as well could have been set on Earth, with no SF at all).

  2. Longasc

    I really like SG1. A great team of friends on adventure – this is also what made several other series great.

    I did not like the Ori, I think I might disagree with you there. Maybe there is a good reason why religion is often totally ignored in SciFi. Both the Bajorans in DS9 (Rodenberry was an atheist and intentionally purged Star Trek of all religion, so DS9 by Berman and Piller was really something new) and the Ori really got on my nerves. And I think while both religions were well developed, they reduced religion to fanaticism.

    So I rather morned the end of the Goa’Uld. But I really liked Vala / Claudia Black. She is a great actress, at least in that role. Her raspy voice and attitude would not work in every series, but she really kept a lot of late SG1 episodes going just by her sheer presence.

    While Atlantis was also very cool, the team never touched me so much as did SG1. And I think this is also what is missing from Stargate Universe: The chemistry between the actors/characters is somehow not there and some characters are outright horrible. You probably know I am one of the guys who want to see Chloe dead and gone.

    I also read Loki’s comment and agree to a lot what he said. I would like to comment on one thing in particular: No main character development over 10 years. That’s true. But in which SciFi series did characters develop much or at all? Aside from a silly kid becoming Darth Vader.

    • The team in Atlantis really had to grow on me. By the end of Season 2, they had started to really fill out, but they never really gelled like SG1 did, you’re right. SGU took a while, too, but by the end of S1, I think it evened out. I hate Chloe, too, and was really hoping she would have died in the finale. But, spoiler alert, she didn’t because she’s OMG HAWT. But then again, I don’t like Seven of Nine or T’pal or any of the other eye-candy SF females.

      I’m with you on the SF character evolution. Some progress and advance (Gaius Baltar, Daniel Jackson, G’kar, Data), but a lot of them remain close to the same as they were when introduced. I don’t think that’s necessarily a flaw; I think it could be interesting character implementation. Not saying that it is, but it could be. There’s a reason we like these characters from the get-go.

  3. Longasc: Agreed regarding Atlantis team vs SG1. That said, McKay and Beckett were lovely on Atlantis, and I always had a soft spot for Wolsey. But while individual characters might compete in charm, the team dynamic never rivaled that of SG1.

    On Atlantis’ merit overall, I would say it was from the get-go about as good as SG1 got a little past halfway through its run. Sadly, it never grew a lot past that. Its only real development was in the relationships between the characters, and only the episodes capitalizing directly on that stood out in the later seasons as better than even the first few episodes to my mind. So it was a show well worth watching, and of much more even quality than SG1, but I cannot compare it favourably to the final few seasons of SG1. It just didn’t have as much heart.

    To your final question… Well, you might make a valid point there, but it is not as bad as all that. Several shows have done a great job of this, even from the relatively small amount I have seen. I would for instance hazard a claim that the development of Gaius Baltar, Saul Tigh, Laura Roslin and Caprica Six in Battlestar Galactica was quite extensive. Similarly the development of several Babylon 5 characters, especially G’Kar and Londo Mollari, was both complex and believable. While I am not a big Lost-fan, I would also claim that several characters there, notably Sawyer, Ben, Hurley and my oh-so-hated Jack, had developed quite a lot by series’ end. Firefly died before it could grow characters like Whedon did in his other shows, but even in its tiny run you could see changes in, say, the character of Simon from the pilot to the final episode and following movie. Speaking of Whedon, Dollhouse might have had its flaws, but there is no denying that characters like Adelle and Topher developed a whole lot more in its two short seasons than Samantha Carter did in ten long seasons of SG1. (Nothing bad about Carter, mind you, but she goes from a well-adjusted hyper-intelligent brave officer of the airforce to a well-adjusted hyper-intelligent brave officer of the airforce). Finally, “Kings” might be dubious as sci-fi (being set in an alternate dimension is basically its only claim to it, and with the pseudo-direct involvement of a divine power it is likely better classified as fantasy), but there is again a one-season show which in several characters’ cases did a lot more developing than most of the main cast of SG1 ever did.

    Racking my brain for further good sci-fi shows I have seen, I am drawing a blank right now. But I feel I have given a lot of counter-examples now, and even had I not, “the others do not do it!” is hardly a good argument in favour of SG1’s lack of this anyway. It is that kind of thinking that gives genres like sci-fi a stigma. If a laywer drama or a sitcom can do it, why cannot SG1?

  4. You make a decent point on religion = fanaticism on SG1, by the way. I have not seen DS9, but SG1 could definitely take some criticism on that front. Then again, I feel it is understandable. Their basic premise was always “the old gods were really evil aliens” – it is not very easy to go from that to a nuanced view of religion without falling in the just as bad, but much more glaring, trap of saying “but of course present-day monotheism is exclusively good and right, as opposed to these old heathen fake religions”. The enemy was the religious ones, and their gods were the evil force to be fought – ergo the only solution is 1. all enemies are evil, or 2. the enemies are brainwashed fanatics who do not know any better. Neither is optimal, but 2. at least has a measure of texture and believability to it.

    I should probably also mention the Ancients, ascension and all the pseudo-religious stuff surrounding it, which was on the whole portrayed very positively on the show. So not all religion was equated to fanaticism – just the ones were the gods were actually evil.

    Which, come to think of it, is actually a pretty nice message.

    • I think that’s a good point. The idea of Ascension was always pretty positive; it was always the after-effects that were condemned (the Ori’s absorption of faith for power or the Ancient’s no interference policy). I mean, Daniel wanted to ascend, liked being that way, but hated that he couldn’t do what he was “meant to do” there. Like most things, there is some interpreting to be done, but I think SG1 does a good job of not simply labeling religion as a fanatic’s playground, even if it does portray that occasionally.

      But portrayal is not promotion.

  5. SG-1 has a top spot in my library simply because it has a ring of truth to it that many shows lack. Yes, it’s unabashedly science fiction and yes, there are some awful stinker episodes, but the backbone of the show, people more or less just like us dealing with some pretty crazy stuff, let it explore ideas in ways that a Trek or BSG never could. Also, Roddenberry (saints preserve him, or whatever) was pretty anti-military and it showed sometimes. The guys behind SG-1 tried to respect the US Air Force and play it straight. That integrity to the “real world” pays off in believability.

    While Carter and Daniel were pretty Mary Sue/Marty Stu flavored, they were at least interesting. Teal’c was a walking ball of tropes, but a good natured one. Still, the heart of the show for me is O’Neill. Carter and Daniel bounced off of him in realistic ways (even though the Sam/Jack Moonlighting thing got old fast… just resolve it already!), and even Jack’s friendship with Teal’c felt real. I really have to wonder how much of that can be attributed to the relationships of the actors; they just seem to honestly like each other… and it seems to me that a lot of scenes in the show are genuine reactions to their personalities interacting. I can’t help but think that RDA adlibbed quite a bit, but that it worked, and brought out the genuine interpersonal relationships that are sometimes sterilized from actors just doing a job.

    There’s also a curious dichotomy in there. RDA and O’Neill seem to be very similar people from what interviews I’ve seen… but Shanks really seems to be putting on a role with Daniel. He does it well, to be sure, but it seems that Shanks is *acting*, and RDA is *living* the role. Neither is wrong, but it’s interesting to see the difference. RDA seemed to do that with MacGyver, too; he was a quirky sort of guy.

    The show lost that in the last two seasons, and while Cameron and Vala were entertaining, the chemistry of the show was altered, and while it was still great, it was different, and I didn’t like it as much. The Ori “religion is bad” angle got too onerous, too. OK, we get it, the writers don’t like religion. As if that’s something new in Hollywood. Move on and try something a bit less biased, hm? Tomin was good, though.

    • I agree. The Jack/Sam thing went on way too long. I mean, they finally let Daniel have some resolution with Share, so why not Sam/Jack? One way or another, they should have resolved that far before S8.

      I need to see some of these Shanks interviews, then. I’ve never actually caught any, but if he’s really “acting” in those, I’m interested because I always thought he was the best actor of any of them up there. The others were great, but he always seemed to be more…invested.

      I, too, loved the military influence. I thought it was nice to have a show that gave as much respect to the military as SG1 did. Too often shows can fall into political tirades that bash the current climate, and SG1 does a good job of representing–I think–what a real world situation like this would entail.

      • Just want to add about Michael ‘acting’ Daniel…you are quite correct Michael is such a brilliant actor that everything changes when he takes on a character posture the works…it is what attracted me to him…he really cares about the characters he plays even ones in the really bad sci fi movies he has done…oh that is his opinion not just mine…LOL

        But yes if you can see the Behind the Scenes you will see especially the one on the Season 7 set ‘Michael Shanks – beyond the gate’ on disc 1.

        Kriss 🙂

  6. I would like to say what a great review. I feel in love with the show after it finished airing always watched but never really got into it.

    I just wanted to add about why the show went to DVD and not film is because one of the original producers of the film, canal plus, would of got 50% of the earnings if it had to big screen. MGM did not think that this was fair as they would not be putting any of its own money into the production but would gain from it anyway.

    Kriss 🙂

  7. I tried to watch SG-1 years ago but it stalled out for me somewhere in Season 2. I felt like each story was so unrelated that there was no overarching narrative and that really bugged me. I like feeling like a show is working toward a big reveal or event. Each episode in itself was interesting enough, but I had trouble watching SG-1 in any kind of marathon session (which is how I usually watch TV).

    I may go back and give it another try after reading your review. Is there any particular spot or season where the show really picks up? It might help if I had a place to jump back into it.

    • I think the best seasons are 8 and 9, based SOLELY on the story. 3-6 are probably the best seasons of the series, though, given that they are the ones where the writers finally find their footing and give the best episodes of the series. To fall on a cliche, they have the most meat in them of any of the seasons. If you stopped during S2, I suggest powering through it and getting into 3-6 since you’re so close anyway. They should keep you going through all ten if you like them.

      • Agreed and seconded, actually. Had you not already plowed through s1 and 2, I would tell you either not to bother, or to start with s4. In my opinion, as stated above, it does not get consistently good until season 6, but at least 4 and 5 had several really good episodes sprinkled in to keep you going. However, seeing as you have already gotten through s1 and 2, s3 does not seem like that big an additional investment considering you get the payoff of knowing the mythology and characters that much better.

  8. Prenden2

    Great review! I grew up watching SG-1 and it’s pretty much tied with The Sopranos as my favourite tv-show of all time. I loved the fusion of Egyptian mythology and sci-fi; I thought that the writers did a fantastic job balancing drama and humour, and some of the stand-alone episodes still resonate with me today. Also, the series seven finale, ‘The Lost City’, is definitely my favourite episode of any tv-show I’ve ever seen. Can’t get much more hyperbolic than that!

    Regarding SG:U, I go through alternating periods of loving and hating it. I know that one of its main goals is to be more ‘character-driven’, though in my opinion, it’s actually got a lot less heart than the previous series. Plus, it hasn’t got an RDA or a David Hewlett.

    @Void: I’m trying to think of a good jumping-off point for you but, honestly, that’d just be doing you a disservice. There are so many great stand-alone episodes exploring sundry issues and taboos, it’d really be a shame to skip them. It doesn’t so much build up to a big reveal as it charts SGC’s struggle to get itself out of the mess it landed in during the pilot episode. Other than that, I guess the Anubis arc (series 5-7) is probably the most likely to tempt you, if you’re in the mood for a big payoff.

    • I agree. One of SGU’s biggest weaknesses is that it doesn’t have an actor or character with a huge personality. There’s no Rodney. No O’Neill. They try with Rush, and with Eli to an extent, but they fail at it. I think they get the ensemble right, though. The interactions of the crew are spot-on, and I’m glad there’s as much tension between the different factions as there is because that’s how it’d really be. I am amazed we haven’t seen more suicides, honestly, but that’s about it.

      The end of SGU’s first season really hit its stride, and I think S2 is going to be fantastic. They finally set up some good stories that tie into the normal SG mythology without falling back on tropes and plots that have to be rehashed.

      • I actually disagree on SGU not having a huge personality character. Eli is relatively unimpressive, agreed, but by season end both Rush and Young were far more three-dimensional than Rodney or O’Neill were by their respective s1 ends. And they both had more than a season of development at that point – O’Neill in the movie, Rodney in his appearances on SG1. Of course they still fall short of the years-long portrayals the other characters have had, anything else would mean that the shortcomings of character development on SG1 and SGA were a lot more damning than even I thought they were.

        SGU cannot compete with later seasons of SG1, and while it picked up steam towards the end, I do not think the season as a whole could even compete properly with the better portions of SGA. However, it shows a lot more promise to me. Blatant BSG-rip-off though it is, it just caters a lot more to what I want in a show: it is serialized far more than its two planet-of-the-week-predecessors, its characters seem to genuinely grow and change by the insane events they have to live through, and as I said I think several of its principal cast is a lot more textured right out the gate than any characters on the previous shows were.

        Completely agree with your final comment, Beej. Once they started dipping into the established mythology but used it in their SGU-milieu, the show really went from “occasionally okay” to “wow, I am enthused! When is the next episode?!” I wonder how audiences not familiar with the other SG-shows feel about those episodes though. I hope they feel the same way, but… long-established mythology is always a risk.

  9. Basically, there are three archetypical SF franchises: Dr. Who, Star Trek, and Stargate. For my money, the best of these is Stargate. It’s not as smart as a lot of the other SF shows, but it’s never dumb and it *is* smarter than it needs to be. I love that it isn’t afraid to re-invent itself, and it isn’t afraid to admit when mistakes have been made. I like that they were able to break out of the ‘one villain only’ trap that plagued both Galacticas and so many other shows. I like that they play around with the format a lot and occasionall take chances with how they tell stories, trusting the audience to be able to figure it out.

    Best of all, though, ‘Gate has that certain dash, you know? That ‘get out there and swash yer buckle’ kind of thing, an excitement about what it’s doing, something that Trek hasn’t had since, what, 1969 or so?

    • That’s one of the main things I love about SG–that it was never afraid to poke fun at itself, which is why “200” is one of my favorite episodes. It always felt smart even when it wasn’t, which does not happen when going back to TNG and other classics, sadly.

      I’m also glad, like you mention, there were a multitude of villains. I didn’t like Apophis, so if I had to deal with him for 10 seasons with no reprieve, I might have quit right there. As it stood, I enjoyed the other Goa’ulds more (especially Anubis), and the Ori the most.

  10. Personally, I preferred Ba’al myself.

    I think the test of a good series/franchise is how well it evolves with the times. For me, Trek from 1987-2005 or whenever it finally died, was trying really really hard to avoid evolving (DS9 notwithstanding), and there’s really only so many times you can do the same trick without either boring your audience or learning a new trick. Trek steadfastly refused, which is kind of odd when you think about it: that a show that’s so utopian, so humanistic, so secular, so idealistic, so classically 1960s Liberal should end up so conservative and staid about itself. I mean, why? It’s not like that *has* to happen. Doctor Who never had that problem with re-invention, right?

    The SG franchise has always tried harder, and been more inventive.