SG-1 remains the champion of episodic sci-fi

Science fiction thrives on premises. A simple story of two space nations battling each other has been killed off, with the geopolitics of space deeply delved into as an opportunity for aspiring worldbuilders. What did star trek so brilliant was the way its episodic format allowed each episode to explore a stunning new “issue of the week” built on the creativity and imagination of writers whose love for sci-fi was evident in character unique to each episode. The cosmos is a strange and unexplored place filled with dangers, but also incredible wonders. star trek was limited only by the imagination of its authors. Tragically, the franchise suffered a ratings slump that hurt the series in the 2000s. The movies became the face of Trek, but even there they focused more on action and spectacle than the original shows. . Fortunately, this torch has been taken up not only by Doctor Whowhich was experiencing a revival in the new millennium, but by an unfortunately often forgotten property that opened up a new path in science fiction — stargate.


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Picture via Showtime

In 1996, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released stargate by iconic disaster movie director Roland Emmerich. The film opened to mixed reviews, with many critics lambasting how the film’s superb mystery and its construction to unlock a mystical doorway to another planet ultimately led to a wasteland. However, the idea itself still held incredible potential that obviously wasn’t lost on the studio, and two and a half years later, a new Canadian-American television show had emerged, a direct successor to the film: Stargate: SG-1. An episodic military sci-fi series, the show follows a team of mostly four characters, one of several highly specialized “SG Teams” in the US Air Force who venture on missions through the “Stargate”. in a secret complex under the Cheyenne mountain to explore new worlds. and acquire alien allies and/or technology to use in Earth’s defense.

The main cast of the series usually consists of four characters who are often where some of the fun is. Although sometimes replaced, some permanently towards the end of the series’ life, the original four principals are still the face of the series. Colonel Jack O’Neill, played by Richard Dean Anderson of MacGyver (1985) fame, leads the team with an oddly jaded attitude. Despite his leadership role, he is naturally funny and has a sharp tongue. He is once described in later seasons of the show as a man who “laughs in the enemy’s face even when it’s inappropriate”. However, beneath her confident exterior, there’s a depth to her character that the show displays with lovely subtlety throughout her tenure. Doctor Daniel Jackson (Michael Shank), initially indistinguishable from James Spadergenius archaeologist, is a natural diplomat and a master of ancient cultures. His attitude and moral backbone lead him to clash with O’Neill on a regular basis, despite the friendship developing between the two hard-headed individuals. Over the years, his growth as a character makes Daniel a distinct and stronger hero than his namesake in the film. He represents the moral center of the team and, for a time, is the perfect audience surrogate as they struggle to adjust to a military lifestyle.

stargate sg1 amanda tapping
Picture via Showtime

Samantha “Sam” Carter (Amanda Tappinglisten)) is the show’s resident technical assistant. Holding the rank of major early in the series, his brilliant mind often finds the scientific solution to these problems too complicated for the other characters to handle. Despite her technological prowess, she is also an extremely capable fighter in her own right, well-trained among the Air Force’s best and brightest. Teal’c (Christopher Judgelisten)) is among the first alien characters the team encounters in the series. Originally an obedient lieutenant to the series’ first big bad, he defies his gods and joins the people of Earth in seeking freedom for his enslaved people, the Jaffa. His growth throughout the series is perhaps the most profound, gradually immersing himself in Earth culture with each passing season, to the point that his interactions with the blissfully ignorant outside world are among the most endearing moments in the series. series.

Of course, the villains of the series cannot go unnoticed. The main antagonists of the series are the Goa’uld, parasitic snake-like aliens who take on human hosts with which to pose as gods (each based on deities from ancient pantheons) and oppress innocent beings from the Galaxy. Although they are technically advanced and armed with an army of genetically engineered soldiers called Jaffa, they are culturally archaic, making them and their minions reasonably susceptible to the weapons of Earth’s heroes. Other top villains in the series include the Replicators, a swarm of self-replicating spider-like machines whose sole purpose is to increase their numbers in perpetuity, but their complete lack of bias or soul as they spread like a cancer makes them arguably as intimidating as Star Trek’s cybernetic villains, the Borg.

stargate sg1 window of opportunity
Picture via Showtime

Somehow, for most of its history, the show has balanced seriousness with comedy perfectly. Humor was a part of the characters, and the characters had enough dimension that their wits never undermined the drama of the story, but there are those comedy-focused episodes that reveled in their hilarity. Season 4 episode “Window of Opportunity” sees O’Neill and Teal’c trapped in an endless time loop reminiscent of groundhog day (1993). Shenanigans ensue, but the episode has a deeply poignant resolution despite being one of the funniest episodes of the series. The Season 5 episode “Wormhole X-Treme” sees the SGC learn of a mid-production TV show done in suspicious resemblance to the real Stargate program, but the similarities are distinctly satirical and make it a very self-aware parody of the episode. . The Season 6 episode “The Other Guys” follows a trio of timid SGC scientists trying to save SG-1 from capture, and more shenanigans ensue.

But the show isn’t great just for great writing and great characters. When Star Trek gasped in exhaustion in the 2000s, struggling to carry on the legacy of episodic sci-fi, it was Stargate: SG-1 who continued to run. Each new episode has been built around a fascinating idea, a new and creative problem to overcome with each episode. If the idea was new, it blew the audience away. If the idea was old, it has been refined and perfected. These stories simply wouldn’t be possible outside of the science fiction genre. The greatest works of science fiction have always worked the same way, embracing mind-bending possibilities to explore everything from the most compelling adventures to the most thoughtful exploration of humanity. Star Trek did it well, and Stargate: SG-1 did it too. This format is preferable for this type of series, not only because it allows for more self-contained explorations of the genre, but because the serial format is generally more akin to stretching a film over a longer period of time to focus on one giant story. . With SG-1there’s nothing stopping viewers from picking up one of their favorite episodes to revisit one of the team’s best adventures, instead of watching an entire season from scratch to revisit a single giant story.

stargate sg1 a matter of time
Picture via Showtime

It’s not hard to find the episodes that thrive in this format. In the Season 2 episode “A Matter Of Time”, the SGC composes a world being consumed by a black hole, and gravitational feedback through the wormhole threatens to pull the entire Earth through the carries stars. In the season 4 episode “Scorched Earth”, SG-1 is faced with the moral dilemma of deciding between the automated terra-former seeking to repopulate the embryos of an extinct civilization seeking a second chance, or the primitive tribe that he threatens to annihilate in the process. In the season 8 episode “Avatar”, Teal’c tests out a new virtual reality simulator built using alien technology, only to have the simulation give him the toughest challenge he can concoct, forcing him to repeat the seemingly impossible “game” over and over again. as the mock invaders overcome his best attempts at victory, with no escape. The list continues.

That’s not to say the series is perfect. The later seasons, especially 9 and 10, saw a drop in quality, and the more realistic military theme was dropped as the heroes began to be replaced by sneakier, funnier characters who were more superhero-like. only to soldiers. Next is the environments, where most of the alien planets tend to be the same forest in Vancouver, which is particularly frustrating. This and most of the transplanted human aliens in the series seem to speak English. There is also significant Americanism, an episode that makes it very clear that the Stargate program should be entirely within American jurisdiction, and that other countries should contribute their efforts to Earth’s defense while not waiting for any decision to be made. shared on how the Stargate is operated. .

But despite these flaws, the series is exhilarating. The mid-seasons are by far the best, embracing the status quo of its premise while allowing its characters to grow as the series explores the creative limits of sci-fi. Doctor Who was the show’s competitor in the 2000s, including against the equally big spin-off show Stargate: Atlantisand while the iconic, campy British series performed better for the most part, its Canadian-American competition on the SyFy channel took itself more seriously despite its humorous ingredients, making it a worthy successor to the Star Trek legacy. while forging its own path in the concept of space exploration.


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