- Created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner
- Based on Stargate (1994) by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich
- Showtime Seasons 1 to 5 / SciFi Channel Seasons 6 to 10
- July 27, 1997 to March 13, 2007
- Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Jack O’Neill (Seasons 1–8 main, Seasons 9–10 guest)-Richard Dean Anderson
- Dr. Daniel Jackson (Seasons 1–5 and 7–10 main, Season 6 recurring)-Michael Shanks
- Capt. (later Maj.) Samantha “Sam” Carter (Seasons 1–10 main)-Amanda Tapping
- Teal’c (Seasons 1–10 main)-Christopher Judge
- Gen. George Hammond (Seasons 1–7 main, Seasons 8–10 recurring)-Don S. Davis
- Jonas Quinn (Season 6 main, Seasons 5 and 7 recurring)-Corin Nemec
- Lt. Col. Cameron “Cam” Mitchell (Seasons 9–10 main)-Ben Browder
- Maj. Gen. Henry “Hank” Landry (Seasons 9–10 main)-Beau Bridges
- Vala Mal Doran (Seasons 8–9 recurring, Season 10 main)-Claudia Black
A secret group of military units is formed to explore the Stargate network and defend Earth from System Lords that pose as gods called the Goa’uld.
Stargate SG-1 is quite possibly the finest screen to television transition of any movie. It certainly is one of the more successful. Television has often gone to the big screen for their little screen presentations with more failure than success. The only other iteration I can think of that had any staying power is M*A*S*H. I’m hard-pressed to think of another movie that became a television show that had staying power and pop-culture resonation.
Stargate SG1 took the mythology began in Stargate and built upon it. There were however a few tweaks here and there to the foundational story that were small yet important. The first one that jumps out at me is Stargate Command being moved from the fictitious Wolf Creek facility to the real Cheyenne Mountain complex.
The second was the addition of the Jaffa soldiers. In the movie Ra’s soldiers appeared to be mere mortals. In the world of SG1 they were altered humans with a pouch in their stomach that carried around a larval Goa’uld. These soldiers were not simply incubators. It was a symbiotic relationship. This alien parasite they carried around increased their strength and served as their immune system. While it made them stronger it also made them slaves since without it they would die.
Which brings me to another change from movie to TV show. While in both instances the alien needed to take over a human body in order to live, in the world of SG1 the Goa’uld (who were never named in the movie) are a snake like water dwelling parasite rather than the more stereotypical gray alien.
One I have seen sited but never jumps out to me is that in the film the Stargate connected to a gate in another galaxy. ‘Kaliam’ as named in the film. Near as I can tell this is not a real galaxy but then again the Stargate is not real either. In the TV series it is made explicitly clear on several occasions that the Stargate cannot connect directly to a gate in another galaxy because the power requirement to generate a stable wormhole is too great.
There are other things but those are probably the bigger ones. Minor things such as costumes and set designs can be chalked up to the difference between a television show’s budget and that of a film. I do though applaud them for keeping essentially the same appearance of Stargate Command between the movies and the TV show.
You’re not going to get the same actors from the movie in the TV show so they went about recasting. That can be tricky. A property popular enough to make into a show needs actors that can carry on the parts. You need people that will connect with a majority of the original fanbase and perhaps bring in and hold people new to experiencing the concept.
You always need a strong lead actor and that came in the form of Richard Dean Anderson as Col. Jack O’Neill (with two L’s). O’Neill became a much lighter character than he was in the film. One could be forgiven for thinking the character was a bit on the dumb side in the series but there were moments when you became aware that he was smarter than he let on and you could even think that he hid his intelligence for some reason. He demonstrated greater than average knowledge in areas that were consistent with the character. You certainly couldn’t be a moron and hold the entire Repository of Ancient Knowledge in your head.
Michael Shanks as Dr. Daniel Jackson looked disturbingly (at first) like James Spader did at the time of Stargate and his impersonation of Spader is reportedly what got him the role. Both he and Anderson took these characters and made them their own. They went through arcs and changes during the course of the series which was episodic but still managed to connect back and reference its past. The adventures from the last episode were not necessarily forgotten but could at times play into the season finale or even to later stories.
For those that are aware of Stargate and its television spinoff I would stare say that those who think of Col. Jack O’Neill or Dr. Daniel Jackson think of Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks long before they think of Kurt Russell or James Spader even though both are significantly more famous than the aforementioned actors. That says something about what they were able to do with those parts. It’s difficult to take over a part from a bigger name actor but it’s almost unheard of to take over that role and become more identified with it than the big-name actor that originated it.
But they just did not continue with old characters. They brought in new ones too. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) was introduced in the pilot episode as one of the brains not seen in the movie that got the Stargate to work. She had a line in the pilot about her reproductive organs being on the inside and when I heard that I cringed. Despite that awful opening salvo, she became a strong and intelligent and complex female character that endeared herself to fans. If you doubt that I would like to note a recent incident where Tapping’s Twitter account was taken over. The amount of fan support that came out to help was amazing and was driven by love for her performance in the part.
Carter developed a sense of humor and grew during the course of the series. More importantly though she was the equal of any male character on that show without any of those characters having to be brought down. She gave as good as she got and was a tough and strong as anyone.
One thing that was hinted was that there were romantic feelings between Carter and O’Neill. It was strongly hinted at in “Upgrades,” an episode where they are using these gauntlets that give them superpowers. The plot was a bit on the space magic side but the moment where Jack has to decide whether or not to leave Carter behind was a moment where with very little dialogue they communicated so much about the characters. They had at that at that point had developed a bond and it was becoming more than that of a commanding officer and a subordinate. This show had great acting and great character development!
An adventure show with fine acting and great storytelling? More importantly an adventure show with consistent fine acting and consistent great storytelling? Yes! We need more like that.
Unfortunately that potential romance never came to fruition canonically in the show. Sure there was a line in SGA but that line was cut. This is something that fans really wanted and largely still want. I’ll take a photograph in the background of a show or one or two sentences in an episode but these two characters by the end of the run were made for each other and if there’s ever a point to give fans what they want it’s this.
Teal’c (Christopher Judge) was a new character created for the show and he formed the final member of SG1. He was a Jaffa warrior in the service of and First Prime of the Goa’uld System Lord (the powerful Goa’uld posing as gods) Apophis (Peter Williams). Long story short in the pilot episode when he saw this group of people that might be able to help and the many millennia of slavery and controlled by the Goa’uld he took a chance and not only freed them but joined the team SG1.
This wasn’t like “Oh yeah! Hey here is this new space alien pal. He’s going to join in.” There was a brief period where he had to earn the trust of not only O’Neill but of the rest of the military and that was shown quickly and effectively. It wasn’t a long drawn-out process but the creative minds came up with a story that worked rather quickly.
He was perhaps the biggest change of a character from beginning to end. His presence was to be the non-human commentator. It was a position which he held throughout the whole show but he developed a sense of humor. His character also bonded with O’Neill and they became a very tight unit. A close platonic relationship. He went from alien outsider to embracing not only his heritage but the new culture he found himself in.
And serving essentially as the fatherly figure of the group is General George Hammond (Don Davis) of Texas. It wasn’t often that he got involved to any great extent in an SG1 story but when he did and those events didn’t make sense they were really special moments. He was a tough commander that also one that cared about those under his command but capable of standing strong against a terrifying threat. He was the character we hope is in charge of our troops.
Jonas Quinn appeared in Season 5 as a human from Langara, one of many worlds ancient humans were taken to by the Goa’uld as slaves. He was essentially a genius version of Daniel Jackson. He started to grow on me by the end of his only season but then he was no longer a real factor for the series.
Lt. Col. Cameron “Cam” Mitchell (Ben Browder) took over the leadership of SG1 beginning in Season 9. While I enjoy the character of Cameron Mitchell, I’m not sure why they just didn’t put Carter in charge of the team. Give her one more promotion or whatever was needed to give her command of a Stargate team. The character had paid her dues and I think fans would have appreciated that.
I’m not upset with Ben Browder or Cameron Mitchell as some fins are were and still are. I liked the character. I think it was a nice addition to the dynamic and a good replacement for O’Neill. My issue was just that Carter should have been in charge.
Maj. Gen. Henry “Hank” Landry (Beau Bridges) took charge of Stargate Command in Season 9 when O’Neill departed. Landry took the place of General Hammond and by and large was a Gen. Hammond style character. Don Davis needed to move on and they needed somebody to put in charge after Richard Dean Anderson had to move on.
Landry was a little bit more of an a-hole. He was what I would imagine O’Neil being a few decades after he started taking an active role in the leadership of the Stargate program. I expected him to at some point say this is some bullshit to whatever alien or individual he had to deal with.
Vala Mal Doran (Claudia Black) was a recurring character in 8 and 9 and was only a regular in Season 10. I adore Claudia Black as an actress. I can’t say I’ve seen everything with her that she’s ever done but what I have seen she has done well. On a sidenote I saw her in Roswell as a mom and it was freaky listening to her sport an American accent. My brain just went into conniptions. She was selling it and it was convincing but at the same time I knew that’s not how she sounded.
My issue with Vala is that she as a character was too comedic. She could be the more humorous individual, but she was just too much of a goof at many points. She waffled between a reformed thief character and a cat distracted by a laser pointer. I think they should’ve gone more serious but not so much that she was the most serious one in the group.
This show took place in the present day. It was not the far future with some military group of vague structure zipping around on starships. Rather they stepped through one of the most unique and best looking props in all of television, the circular Stargate, and appeared instantaneously on another planet in the present day. For that alone the film as well as the television series are unique.
The stories strove to be family friendly. It wasn’t family friendly that talked down but rather family friendly that knew how far to go and what they showed to keep itself serious but not inappropriate for the kids. On the whole the characters in the show were all positive individuals. These were good people fighting a big and unequivocally evil enemy.
As stated before they expanded upon the mythology of the Stargate film. Aside from adding in other gods from not only Egyptian mythology and other mythologies of Earth, they expanded upon the science of the Stargate. For instance the addition of a ninth chevron connected to other Stargate networks. The physics of how the wormhole work was expanded upon. Matter could only travel in one direction, but energy could travel in either direction. Without a powerful energy source the Stargate could only stay open for approximately 38 minutes. In other words they made it a believable enough world that whatever they were trying to sell you you bought. And they followed these rules and when they were broken the reasons made sense.
One of the better additions was the creation of the Ancients who were the true Stargate builders. In keeping with their parasitic nature (which was to take things over) the Goa’uld just claimed to have created the Stargate but in truth it was created millions of years ago by a long extinct race now referred to as the Ancients. These now energy based lifeforms would appear from time to time and have impacts upon the story with seasons 9 and 10 being the most significant to the show.
And the expansion of the mythology was necessary. First of all, it seemed pretty clear that only one address really worked with the Earth Stargate but from the pilot episode on it was revealed other addresses could work. The technical would take a bit but it all made sense.
A particular change that I enjoyed was that the symbols on the Stargate were more than just symbols. It was revealed that they were a phonetic alphabet. In other words, each seven symbol address spelled out a word you had to speak. If you knew the name of your destination and you could dial it.
The first two or three seasons were kind of rough. It was certainly a fun show, but it struggled to find its footing. It leaned a little heavy into the cheese and not enough into the action adventure. The show really took off when Anubis became a threat in Season 5. He was unlike any of the previous Goa’uld introduced before. The action became more intense. The stakes became higher and the stories felt bigger from then on.
Time travel has been a part of science-fiction for as long as there has been science-fiction and often occurs in at least one episode of a science-fiction series. Stargate SG1 used it several times and used it quite possibly better than most shows ever have. They never felt tired or cliché or run-of-the-mill. They knew how to have fun with it and play with causality in a way few shows have had the imagination to do.
The stories were fun and exciting but most importantly they were character driven. And these were positive characters. They had their problems but they weren’t terrible people facing off against even worse people. These were heroes you could cheer for. These were heroes that while imperfect were the best and had many aspects to strive to emulate. They all had their positive traits and they all tried to be better. They fought the good fight not because it is what they had to do but because it is what they should do. Not enough shows do that anymore.
Through their wits and creative thinking they faced incredible odds and went on incredible adventures. These were individual of character. This was not a show written by small people who thought everyone was as terrible as they were or worse than them. They gave us heroes that we should live up to and not down to.
The show lasted for 10 seasons for a good reason. And the characters were that reason. Heck even the villains could be characters you could’ve like even if they were totally evil. Ba’al even evolved. He went from a powered villain to an evil guy you could kind of like.
I wasn’t sure about the change to the Ori in season nine. I understood why they did it, but I was a little nervous about it. I’m still not totally sold on the use of Arthurian legend rather than the mythology of some other portion of Earth. Arthurian legend is just feels too recent. I like the possible real-world parallels you could draw from a religiously driven army washing across the galaxy with a convert or die mentality. And they had really cool ships.
Stargate SG1 was a great bit of television science fiction. It had fun and exciting scripts that help to make this show one of the best big screen to small screen transitions in entertainment history. If you haven’t seen this show, then buy it or rent it or just stream it. Whatever you do, just watch it.