Stargate SG-1 Review
Out of the three franchises with ‘Star’ in the title, Stargate is the most overlooked. While it has a dedicated fanbase, it never reached the heights of the others despite its 17-season run (admittedly this was over 3 shows, but still). For me though, it was the one I loved the most. From the first episode I saw (Tin Man), right up to the finale of the second spin-off Stargate Universe; this show just clicked with me.
Now, I’m going to take a look at each episode- right back from the first. I aim to do one of these a week, so with the number of episodes produced this should conclude in 2076, or thereabouts. I did give a lot of thought to starting with the original movie but decided that due to the recasts and the different production team, I would just start with SG-1. Maybe I’ll write up a review of it at some other time. So, let’s begin at almost the beginning with the feature-length opening episode, ‘Children of The Gods’
Children of The Gods
Stargate Command, or the SGC as I will be referring to It from here on in, is closed for business. The most exciting thing happening is a poker game being played by 5 members of the Air force who clearly have far too much time on the hands. The gate itself is covered up by one of the largest sheets known to mankind, but to the surprise of the sole female- the sheet starts moving. (I probably should point out that the SGC is deep underground under Cheyenne Mountain, therefore a breeze through an open window is not a possibility- her concern is valid). This happens a couple more times, but the airmen refuse to believe her so she goes to take a closer look, as you do. The ground then starts shaking and the gate fires up.
It’s at this point someone would normally yell “incoming wormhole”, but they hadn’t hired the bald guy with glasses to say it yet. Anyway, the airmen grab weapons and take aim at the Gate while the female takes a closer look, going right up to the event horizon (the wobbly bluey bit in the middle, that is the last time I will explain ‘event horizon’ for obvious reasons). A sphere drops out of the gate onto the floor and scans her, serpent guards appear grabbing her, while the men dally about not shooting for some reason. A golden serpent guard is at the back. This is Apophis; a Goa’uld. He’s essentially our big bad from here on in. Notice also the large bald guy holding our girl? Well, that’s Teal’c, a Jaffa; More on him later. Apophis uses a device on his hand to subdue the girl and the men finally realise they need to use the guns they are holding. They do, but sadly they are all killed. Ah well, they took a couple of bad guys down with them. More soldiers run towards the Gate room in stock footage that we will see many many times in the future, along with General George Hammond, just in time to see Apophis, Teal’c and the girl whose name I don’t know disappear through the gate. I don’t know how they were able to dial it.
Major Samuels heads out to a cabin, home of retired Colonel Jack O’Neill (two L’s now) and finds him sitting on his roof staring out at the stars. They tell him he is needed at the SGC and after some persuasion, he agrees to go. Upon arriving, he meets with Hammond who fills him in on the events he had missed, including showing him the dead Jaffa and letting him play with a staff (which is a weapon, not a euphemism). Jack assures him that Ra could not be responsible as he is dead (see the movie- former big bad) but Hammond is not convinced that Jack nuked Abydos like he was supposed to (again see the movie, but he didn’t). His old teammates, including Kawalsky, are also being questioned separately. Hammond threatens to send a nuke through the gate to Abydos but Jack admits the truth and reveals that Dr. Daniel Jackson is alive and well and living there with his new wife; which was a strange marriage, to say the least. Hammond still orders the bomb to go through though, showing that he is not as nice as comes to be, and puts Jack into a holding cell.
It’s the same cell as Kawalsky, unsure why they would do that but they did, and they discuss Abydos and Skaara, a young boy who idolised Jack and reminded him of his son. Kawalsky comments that he never knew Jack had a son, despite the fact it is later established they were old friends. Note to writers, don’t change details from the pilot; we will notice and mock you. Jack’s son died by the way by shooting himself accidentally with Jack’s gun- more on this in future episodes too. Hammond walks in and maybe he is nice after all as he is reconsidering nuking thousands of people. What a lovely guy. Jack asks to take a team through the gate and Hammond agrees (boy, he really has had a change of heart). Jack then heads off to conduct an experiment with a box of tissues. (Minds out the gutter, please). The gate is dialled (hey, It’s the bald guy with the glasses!) and the tissues go through the gate. Shortly after a note returns saying “send more”. Daniel’s alive! It’s time to assemble a team.
In the meeting room, which as far as I can see doesn’t change throughout its 10-year run, Jack and co are working out the details of the return to Abydos when Samantha Carter enters the room to join the trip. She also gets the worst line in the history of television when defending the fact that she is a woman “just because my reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside doesn’t mean I can’t handle what you can handle”. Way to make an entrance Carter! After establishing burying the gate won’t do any good, the mission is approved; which I thought it was anyway. Oh, and a 24-hour deadline is set before the bomb goes through.
The team head through the gate and are greeted by Daniel and Skaara, Jack is more pleased to see the latter. Sha’re, Daniels wife also emerges from a tent to say hi. Carter is also amazed to find a DHD (dial home device) which is used to key in the address for the gate to dial. They also discover, thanks to Daniel, that Earth and Abydos are not the only planets that can be dialled. There’s a hell of a lot more. Which is handy as this series would get very samey, very quickly otherwise.
After a meal, some very strong moonshine, and a bit of exploring, Abydos is attacked and many are killed; including some of our own. Some are also taken including Skaara and Sha’re by Teal’c and Apophis. Jack orders the team back to Earth including a reluctant Daniel who orders the Abydonians to bury the gate for 12 months and on that day, he will bring the missing back. Back on Earth, the SGC has somehow attached an Iris made of pure titanium to the gate so that can be closed to prevent people coming through… fast work! Much better than a sheet. Daniel asks to be on the rescue team but Hammond harshly shuts him down.
Jack takes Daniel back to his cabin where they catch up on what the past year has been like, and how much great a person Sha’re was. Jack also reveals he has separated from his wife and will never be able to forgive himself for his son’s death.
Back off Earth, Teal’c walks into a room where all the women are being kept prisoner and chooses the woman kidnapped from the SGC to be brought before Apophis. He wishes her to be a vessel for his future Queen, using his hand device thingy (they haven’t told me the technical term yet) he sedates her and removes her clothes, laying her on a table. His Queens current host approaches and a snake/worm creature emerges from a pouch in her stomach; a Goa’uld larvae (symbiote). It assesses whether it deems her to be a worthy host, it doesn’t. Apophis then kills her, ordering a pensive looking Teal’c to send another woman.
Back at the SGC Daniel explains that he believes Ra was not the only one of his kind; others may be posing as Gods. Hammond announces that the President has ordered 9 teams be set up to explore different worlds and bring things back that may aid them in defending themselves. Jack will head up SG-1 along with Carter, and after some persuasion, Daniel. Kawalski gets his first command by heading up SG-2. An injured soldier also happened to get the gate address to where Skaara and Sha’re were taken. The two teams head out and again have 24 hours before they will become stranded. They are preceded by a MALP (Mobile Analytic Laboratory Probe) which is essentially a large remote-controlled vehicle with a camera on it.
Teal’c has now chosen Sha’re who gets the same treatment as the lady before, only we see her completely naked (this felt jarring). The symbiote decides that Sha’re would be a great host and moves into the back of her neck. All of this is watched by an even more pensive Teal’c. This Jaffa has some doubts going on!
After leaving the SGC, SG-1 head off, leaving SG-2 to guard the gate. They bump into some locals and Daniel introduces himself. They don’t speak any English (something that doesn’t tend to happen again) but Daniel is able to persuade them to take them to the local village; Tulak. It’s not long though before they are greeted by Jaffa serpent guards, Teal’c, Apophis, and the new queen- Sha’re. Daniel runs up to her asking her to remember him but the Goa’uld is now in control of her. The three are captured and taken to the same holding facility as Skaara. Teal’c approaches them and they tell him they are from Earth. Daniel even draws him the gate symbol which seems a bizarre thing to
The Goa’uld appear again. This time they are choosing who will be the children of the Gods and one will be host to Apophis’s son. One guess who they choose. Yup, SG-1’s first day isn’t going swimmingly as Skaara is picked. Jack does, however, notice the anguish that one Jaffa is going through witnessing this.
Everyone is ordered to be killed and all Jack can do is yell out to Teal’c that he can save these people. His words strike a chord as Teal’c turns on his own troops and gives SG-1 a fighting chance by throwing Jack a staff weapon- that he luckily already knows how to use. They shoot a hole in the wall allowing everyone left inside to escape. Teal’c, knowing that he will be killed for treason is given a lifeline when Jack tells him to come with them.
With less than an hour to go until time runs out, the now much larger group make the trek to the gate, stopping only to be horrified at the symbiote inside Teal’c. Jaffa all carry them for the Goa’uld and gain strength from them. While this is happening, Apophis, Sha’re and a converted Skaara ring down from a ship (actual rings drop down and act as a teleporter) and they prepare to leave the planet. A Death Glider (small ship) appears and starts shooting our team and the civilians. Luckily, Kawalsky is a crack shot with a rocket launcher and shoots it out the sky. Jack runs to stop Skaara leaving, but glowy eyes mean bad things and Jack is thrown across the ground and can only watch as they leave through the gate.
With an irritating Major Samuels hassling General Hammond to close the gate off permanently, time is running out and Jaffa troops are closing in on the team. Daniel rushes to dial the DHD and he and Carter run through and announce they have refugees with them who appear after them. After a firefight, the majority of people make it through. Kawalski, however, makes it after having a Goa’uld symbiote bury its way into his neck, unseen by anyone else. Teal’c also makes it, surrendering his weapon to Carter and getting several amusing looks of shock by the SGC personnel. Jack comes through last and Carter yells to close the iris- the ominous thuds heard after its shut being Jaffa dying upon rematerializing. Hammond’s confused face is a picture as he surveys everyone that has come back with them. Should be an interesting debrief. Jack also introduces Teal’c and has a request that he join SG-1.
So, a happy ending then. Well, except the fact that Skaara and Sha’re are missing and hosts to the Goa’uld, and Kawalski has a severe case of glowy eyes!
Jack: Oh, here we go, another scientist. General, please!
Carter: Theoretical Astrophysicist
Jack: Which means?
Hammond: Which means she’s smarter than you are Colonel
Jack: I think in her heart she forgave me about what happened to our kid, she just couldn’t forget.
Daniel: And what about you?
Jack: I’m the opposite, I’ll never forgive myself, but sometimes I can forget. Sometimes.
Samuels: I wish I could go with you.
Kawalsky: I’m glad you’re staying behind.
Jack: I can save these people! Help me. Help me.
Teal’c: Many have said that. *turns and shoots the Jaffa* But you are the first I believe could do it.
Jack: Come on.
Teal’c: I have nowhere to go.
Jack: For this, you can stay at my place. Let’s go.
Hammond: Colonel O’Neill, care to explain?
Jack: General Hammond, this is Teal’c. He can help us.
Hammond: Do you know what he is?!
Jack: Yes, Sir I do, he’s the man who saved our lives. And if you accept my recommendation, Sir, he’ll join SG1.
Carter: Just because my reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside doesn’t mean I can’t handle what you can handle *I believe this line was mocked later on in the Stargate run, for good reason.
Each episode I’ll pick an actor who was the highlight, be it one of our regulars or a guest. What fitting way to start with Richard Dean Anderson. It really was like he was just born to play this role. He slips into the role of Jack with ease and just seems like it’s no effort at all for him to play the part. The scene in the cabin where he talks to Daniel about his son’s death is just perfect and understated. Little touches like the gentle knock he gives while trying to reassure Skaara that they will try and find Sha’re really helped to make this character seem so real. While I can only pick one per week I will give a shout out to Michael Shanks who debuts very well here. Teal’c doesn’t get a great deal to do here while Carter comes across as irritating for quite a lot of the episode. No disrespect to Amanda Tapping, she does well with what she’s given.
I thought it might be fun to keep a tally of how many times Teal’c say’s his famous “indeed”. So, imagine my disappointment when he doesn’t utter it once here. Admittedly he doesn’t get a great deal to say at all. Here’s hoping the first time comes next week, although I suspect it’s quite a while before he debuts it.
Pilots can be a tricky thing to get right but Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner do a pretty great job here. Spinning off from a movie with different actors, this could have gone terribly but thanks to the casting of Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks, the previous actors are almost instantly forgotten (Not that they weren’t great in their own right). Shanks nails a near perfect interpretation of James Spader, while RDA does his own spin on the character of Jack, making him more light-hearted than he was previously; something I feel is needed for the lead role in a show like this.
Of course, with every pilot there are issues. The character of Samantha Carter doesn’t come across particularly well here. No fault can be laid with Amanda Tapping who does an admirable job, but she’s written in such an entitled way that’s it surprising Jack warms to her so quickly. I’m hoping this is fixed fairly soon as Carter goes on to be a great character. General George Hammond (played brilliantly by the late Don S Davis) is different to the character we know and love here too. He’s a lot harsher for one. The way he talks to Daniel, who has just lost his wife, being an example. It’s too soon to say if this is an issue as such, it may well just be a case of him having to warm to the team over time- we’ll see. Several things with the gate and the travel itself are also inconsistent with the rest of the show here too. Why did the sheet covering the gate start to move before the gate had even started to activate? And why does the gate cause the building to shake? Why were people flying out of the gate after they have travelled? I have a vague theory this one might be addressed as I remember the same happening in Stargate Universe when they arrived on the Destiny. I’m glad they opted to drop the ‘frost effect’ too as that would have got old very quickly.
Oh, and hello full frontal nudity! I had completely forgotten that was in the episode, so that very much took me by surprise. I’d be interested to know why they went down this route as it doesn’t fit at all with what the show very early on becomes.
Mild niggles out the way though, there truly was a lot to love here. The humour was present right from the start which I was happy to see. Loved seeing Jack cut Carter’s amazement at the wormhole short by pushing her through. Carter’s use of the word MacGyver was also a great nod to RDA’s previous role of the title character in that show.
Christopher Judge also deserves praise for his portrayal of Teal’c. Throughout the run of the show, he has to show his feelings through expression due to the monosyllabic nature of the character. He does wonders here, showing the inner turmoil he is going through being Apophis’s first prime. Speaking of Teal’c, I can’t remember whether it is ever revealed to Daniel that he was the one who brought Sha’re to Apophis, I really hope it is. Some great effects were on display too. The Stargate itself looks brilliant and the explosions in the woods were equally as impressive.
All in all, a very enjoyable beginning to a television franchise that spawned 17 seasons. I was concerned that the show wouldn’t hold up as well in its early years, but if ‘Children of The God’s’ is anything to go by then my fears are unfounded.(4.5 / 5)
As a side note, I would just like to point out that I won’t be breaking down the episode going forward as I have here. Instead, I’ll skip straight to a more detailed review. The reason for that is purely time-related.