Most recently I have found myself in a serious desire to absorb as much Science Fiction as possible. This includes books, short stories, movies, and television shows. I go through these phases on occasion, though I have to admit there is a special place in my heart for Sci-Fi. Because of this I have gone through another marathon run of an epic Sci-Fi show. This time it was the exceptional Stargate Franchise. Whereas I only watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, I watched every second of of the entire Stargate franchise which included not only the Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin film but the subsequent 10 seasons of Stargate SG-1 (SG-1), 5 seasons of Stargate Atlantis (SGA), and 2 seasons of Stargate Universe(SGU) as well as the two SG-1 movies that ended the series. From here I will break down each series beginning with the movie that started it all.
Stargate was a story about ancient aliens using a device to almost instantly travel across the known universe. The device, dubbed the stargate, had been uncovered in Egypt back at the turn of the century and studied ever since by a team of scientists under the supervision of the United States Air Force. With the help of Daniel Jackson, a linguist who had been laughed out of academia for crazy theories about aliens and the pyramids, the secrets of the gate are unlocked and a connection is made with a far flung planet. Upon reaching the planet, Daniel and his military escort immediately begin to try to find a way back, which is very difficult as there is no possible way to reconnect the gates because there are no symbols nearby to find an address home. Antics ensue as the Pharaoh Ra shows up to push his enslaved people around. Daniel, Colonel Jack O’Neil, and the other soldiers fight the new threat showing off some seriously nice computer graphics in a mid 90’s movie. Jack is able to destroy Ra and his crazy pyramid ship followed closely by Daniel figuring out a way to redial Earth. All is well, though Daniel decides he belongs on this alien planet and stays behind to learn all he can.
Stargate was a fantastic movie when it first came out and would eventually expand into a full blown franchise rivaling even Star Trek. The premise in the movie suggested that the Stargate only connected from Earth to the far flung planet (later to be named Abydos in the series). However with some creative twisting of the canon, the Stargate was reborn as the massive plot device it would become in the television series.
I won’t get into the differences of the original movie versus the television show. Just understand that there are differences and this review is mostly of the franchise. It just didn’t feel right talking about the entire franchise without mentioning the thing that started it all. One final note: Emmerich has talked about making two more Stargate movies wherein he would completely disregard the television canon and just continue the story as he sees fit.
Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007)
Outside of Dr. Who, this is one of the longest running Sci-Fi shows in history. While it was a sequel, in essence, of the original movie, there were a few changes between the story arcs. Names were changed here and there and the whole idea behind the Stargate changed. In the original movie it only connected Earth with another planet, in the series it connected to a countless network of other Stargates allowing for a serious plot device to be born. The Stargate could essentially lead a team and the viewer anywhere to any circumstance.
The premise of the show followed the events of the movie though a few years removed. The Stargate is all but forgotten in it’s Colorado home under a mountain. Out of nowhere it turns on and a new foe who looks and acts a lot of Ra from the movie steps through. This foe, Apophis, will become the first in a series of Egyptian baddies who will cause problems for the foreseeable future in the world of SG-1. The old duo of Jack O’Neill (2 L’s this time along with a serious attitude shift. Less serious, more joking) and Daniel Jackson are called upon once again to save humanity, though they are joined by the Techno Babble Queen herself Samantha Carter and the former enemy turned good guy Teal’c.
The show follows the four person team as they search the galactic (not universal like inthe movie) network of Stargates. Each adventure is on par with Star Trek in which the team must beat the odds and save the day before the credits roll and the advertisements air for the last time. The show follows the arc of Egyptian style bad guys for most of the series until Richard Dean Anderson (RDA) calls it quits so he can be with his daughter more. Don’t fret, RDA makes the occasional appearance much to this fan’s delight. Eventually the story arc would move to a new bad guy from a different galaxy and follow more of an Arthurian mythology.
Near the end of season 6 there began development on the newest spin-off in the Stargate world. This time a team of adventurers would travel to a distant galaxy to fight a brand new enemy.
Stargate Atlantis (2004-2009)
In an attempt to keep the franchise new and moving in the right direction, SGA was developed to continue the story of the Ancients and to introduce a brand new and horrible bad guy known as the Wraith. The Wraith were unlike anything seen before in the SG universe. They were a life sucking foe who literally couldn’t control their most basic nature of feeding. They had all but taken control of the entire Pegasus Galaxy and had been forced into hibernation in an effort to allow the galaxy to repopulate.
Meanwhile a new and somewhat suicidal group of adventurers agrees to step through the Stargate on a one way trip to another galaxy. They have no way of getting back and almost five seconds after they arrive at their new home they are forced to save the day before everyone involved is killed. You see, the Ancients had indeed built a city called Atlantis but had decided to move it from the Milky Way to Pegasus for unknown reasons that would be fleshed out through the series. The team of adventurers uncovers the famous city and spend the next five seasons exploring its mysteries. To save their bacon, the Ancients had then decided to sink the city under a vast ocean. The new adventurers show up and immediately cause the shields holding back the ocean to fail. Luck saves the day and we are gifted with 5 great years of SGA.
The Wraith are a fearsome enemy. Atlantis is in itself a plot device as sections come into play throughout the entire series. The new galaxy to explore allows for brand new adventures while the crossover of SG-1 with SGA leaves many fans wanting more. SGA was an awesome series with some great characters. It was a great follow up to the foundation of SG-1. However there seemed to be a push for something more realistic. What followed would give that realism.
Stargate Universe (2009-2011)
On the heels of other more realistic Sci-Fi shows like Battlestar Galactica and the 2009 JJ Abrams Star Trek, you had a push by some in the industry to make less campy shows. Stargate Universe was a perfect example of this. SGU was bold in its scope. A team similar in nature to the SGA team was going to try to open the Stargate by using all 9 chevrons instead of the 7 from SG-1 or the 8 it took to access SGA. Using later enemies from the SG-1 world as the catalyst for the show, the team of adventurers were forced to enter the Stargate or die. Where the SGA team was put into instant peril, the SGU team is beyond screwed unless the brightest minds in the known universe can help. Luckily two of those brightest minds are sent through with the group.
SGU takes place on a derelict and extremely old space ship called the Destiny. It was sent away from Earth millions of years ago by the Ancients in an effort do something mysterious and for the most part unexplained. Apparently other ships were sent before it to “seed” the universe with other very ancient Stargates, allowing the eventual crew to gain resources by gating to these seeded worlds. The Destiny has been travelling from one galaxy to the next waiting for a crew and moving ever closer to its endgame. As the story unfolds you find out that there is something fundamental about the mission of the Destiny. It is attempting to figure out the origins of the universe. The Ancients found a pattern in the universe that showed serious intelligence rather than random chaos as so many had previously thought. Destiny’s mission is to seek out the source of this pattern and unravel its mysteries.
The new accidental crew of the Destiny is ill equipped for their forced mission, but in the tumult that caused them to flee through the Stargate, one of them had the foresight to grab some Asgard communication stones that allow for instantaneous communication with those back on Earth regardless of the extreme distances. They may be in the literal middle of nowhere, but at least they can communicate with Earth. This also allows for the occasional cameo from SG-1 and SGA cast members, most notably RDA himself. The crew is forever trying to refuel Destiny and find enough resources to stay alive and possible return home to Earth. New threats present themselves as the ship doggedly continues its journey through the cosmos.
The biggest problem with the show was that it was cut short too soon. The first season was lacking a bit and by the airing of the second season, studio execs had already pulled the plug. The problem is, the second season was when the show really hit its stride. The final episode of the series was phenomenal and left it with such a huge cliff hanger I find myself still wondering what happened to the crew. All in all, the series should have kept going long enough to give it completion and a true finality. At least that’s my very humble opinion. But after 17 seasons of a massive franchise that rivaled Start Trek, it seemed time, at least by studio execs, to end the run. That’s not to say it will forever stay gone. Who knows.
Overall, the entire arc of all of the shows combined was something special to watch. I’m better for having been a part of this franchise, in whatever small way that may have been. Like Star Trek, this show was always fighting for the greater good. Unlike Star Trek, this show didn’t mind getting its proverbial hands dirty by making main characters flawed on occasion. I find myself, from time to time, clicking a bookmarked link to GateWorld, a wiki devoted to all things Stargate, hoping there will be news of a new TV series in the works. Until that happens Stargate takes a seat next to Star Trek in the bus of “when will we hear from them again”? Hopefully sooner rather than later.
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