- Directed by Mario Azzopardi
- July 27, 1997
Col. Jack O’Neill is recalled to Stargate Command after it is attacked by an alien force that came through the Stargate. Now, with the help of Dr. Daniel Jackson, O’Neill must face off against the Goa’uld Apophis.
And this is how it began. Ten years of Stargate SG1. Five years of Stargate Atlantis and unfortunately only two years of Stargate Universe. Stargate SG1 was a great action-adventure science-fiction series and this was a very promising start to that. The original movie, while it had more serious moments, was fun in total. This embodies that fun.
Before I get too far in one difficulty I encountered was knowing where this all goes and not looking at it based on that. I definitely get a different feel watching this now than I did all the way back in 1997.
I loved Stargate SG1. It was must see TV for me and I certainly consider it to this day one of the finest movie to television translations of any property ever. It took the mythology laid out in the film and built upon it in logical and entertaining directions. A few changes were made such as moving the action from the fictitious Wolf Creek to Cheyenne Mountain as well as keeping the action within our galaxy rather than galaxy hopping as was definitely stated in the theatrical film but by and large the changes were minimal.
One change was the addition of the Jaffa soldiers. It’s clear in the movie that Ra’s guards were quite human. They were not some kind of weird alien gestation things like the soldiers presented here are. A line or two in the pilot by O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) confirms that they were indeed all human and he was rather surprised at the pouch that the soldiers from Apophis (Peter Williams) had. An interesting bit of in story detail and a rare instance of trying to smooth out a discrepancy between the television and the film.
Things begin with a bang when Apophis comes to Earth through the Stargate. What bothers me is why he chose to come to Earth at all. Seriously. Considering that the gate to Earth hadn’t been accessible in any way for a very long time why would anyone try the coordinates again? Why they came through is clear though. Why they tried a gate address that clearly would not have worked for some time is never even hinted at.
We get reintroduced to returning and as well as introduced to new characters. Richard Dean Anderson takes over the role of Jack O’Neill (here spelled with two L’s). It’s “O’Neill,” There’s another Colonel O’Neil with only one L, and he has no sense of humor at all. Anderson took the part and made his version of the character more humorous. We would’ve had a very different show if the movie Jack O’Neil had become the TV Jack O’Neill.
Michael Shanks takes over the role of Daniel Jackson. He’s a slightly better built James Spader in appearance. Seriously. They went very hard on making him look like James Spader from the movie and it worked. He was a man of deep feeling here who wanted peace over conflict.
Of the core series characters, Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) was introduced in this. The opening interactions with O’Neill make her too much of a hard ass. I really thought she was going to be that unnecessarily abrasive character who exists to question every action of whoever the leader of the group is. That though changed by the end of the pilot as she became more willing to support O’Neill and offered advice or a different perspective to accomplish shared goals.
A lot of shows have unnecessarily adversarial characters and it often brings any action they have to a screeching halt. Turns out that was Daniel Jackson’s job before he died and got resurrected. Seriously. I love the show and I always have but one thing Daniel Jackson’s character could do was stop the action. As a civilian he needed to question but how could he get everybody to focus on him rather than be forced to follow and explain? He manages to do that here no matter what is going on.
Teal’c (Christopher Judge) is also introduced in Children of the Gods. He starts off the story as working for Apophis and ends the film in the custody of the SGC. The story was crafted to give him an excuse to join the cast as he was a series regular but his abrupt change from alien enforcer to helping the humans didn’t make sense in context of the story. It was just too abrupt and while it was a cool moment and you were moved through it by the action, if you stop and think about it in the isolation of the pilot film it doesn’t make sense. He just decided to do it. His words to the contrary, what did they really show him that changed his mind? It only gained context and logic with later episodes.
Peter Williams gives Apophis a little bit of camp and plenty of menace in his initial presentation. It is easy to see how he obtained such staying power in the series. He’s just a bad guy doing evil things and the actor and Peter Williams is just so good behind it.
As introductory episodes go this does an amazing job of introducing all the key figures and differentiating them enough so that you are not left wondering who is who at the end of the pilot episode. There have been plenty of shows that I watched and enjoyed but I’ve been left uncertain of who is who after I’ve watched the first episode. There was enough there to keep me interested but not enough to tell each one distinctly apart from pure memory. This doesn’t suffer from that and that goes to the quality of not only the writers but of the performers. There are no slouches in this movie.
The story is great and builds upon many elements of Stargate even if it does change others. I am not a fan of the Jaffa costumes. The ones in the film were absolutely epic and maybe there was some copyright issues or something else that prevented them from being translated properly onto television. They just looked too plastic in my opinion and lacked an ancient feel.
Then there is Apophis’s base of operations. The planet Chulak always struck me as Medieval in appearance rather than ancient Egyptian. Still bothers me to this day. Either hang some vague Egyptian graphics or find some old movie props or something. They were in Canada but did it need to look so much like Canada or cheap Europe in the first episode?
From the first few moments of the film all the way to the end they kept the story action packed with the occasional breather. The dialogue is witty and even contains one small blink and you’ll miss it joke to Richard Dean Anderson’s other well-known series. The story manages to balance out the humor and the serious nature of everything without tipping the scales too far in either direction.
Children of the Gods is not only a great first episode but also a great continuation of a film to television. If you’re a fan of television science fiction or just good television this is something you should check out. I highly recommend it!