Stargate SG-1 is the best and most balanced series to have ever aired on television. Ok, so some of you who have followed me for a very long time are thinking, “He’s making the same mistake he did on Splash Panel, reviewing the best too early on!” and you’re right. I guess I just find it hard to move forward with my mind constantly drafting the review of my favorite, so it’s time to get this out there.
Beginning in 1997, Stargate SG-1 was more or less a sequel to 1994’s original Stargate film (read the Rewatch review here). There are some notable small differences for whatever reason, but the point is, if you’re a fan of the original movie, there’s no reason you wouldn’t be a fan of this series too. It expanded the mythos, characters, and the overall Stargate universe for 10 whole seasons, 2 straight-to-DVD films, and 2 successful spin-offs. If you were sad that there was never a film sequel to Stargate, this is far better than you could have ever hoped for.
The series follows Colonel Jack O’Neill and Doctor Daniel Jackson from the original film, joined by new characters Captain Samantha Carter and Teal’c. The series kicks off quickly when we learn that Ra of the original film was not the only alien posing as a god in our galaxy. In fact, his entire race, the Goa’uld, make quite the habit of it. Stargate Command quickly assembles several SG teams to both explore our galaxy’s vast Stargate network, and to take down these false gods whenever they can. Our main cast makes up SG-1, in particular Teal’c joins during the first episode. Cementing the show’s premise, he’s a former Jaffa First Prime of Apophis (like a second-in-command), who turns on his master when he realizes that SG-1 may be the first who can convince everyone that the Goa’uld who have dominated the galaxy are nothing more than false gods.
The cast takes about a season to really mesh together, but that may very well be a story element too, as Carter and Teal’c really haven’t worked with O’Neill and Jackson before, and O’Neill and Jackson weren’t exactly the best of friends either. There really isn’t one stand-out actor here, Richard Dean Anderson as O’Neill, Michael Shanks as Jackson, Amanda Tapping as Carter, and Christopher Judge as Teal’c are all outstanding and bring constantly believable depth and emotion to their characters.
Where Stargate SG-1 shines for all 10 seasons is its balance, and I really have never seen a show balanced this well since. It manages to maintain long over-arching plots with constantly returning enemies (Cliff Simon as Ba’al is a personal favorite) alongside fun stand-alone episodes with relative ease, and much of that is due to the engaging characters. Like a good book series, you aren’t watching the next episode based on its synopsis, you’re watching to see what these characters do next. The world that the Stargate film crafted seemingly never stops growing, and you will easily find yourself watching all of it. There is no “best episode” in this case, it’s simply a wonderfully engaging experience.
As with any long-running series, there are cast changes, but surprisingly not many for a series of this length. Shanks left the show after season 5, replaced by Corin Nemic as Jonas Quinn, who was then replaced by Shanks when he returned in season 7.
Anderson retired after season 9, replaced by Ben Browder as Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell for the final season. And if you thought Browder wasn’t enough to bring back the Farscape nostalgia, don’t worry, Claudia Black also joins the team in the final season as maybe-reformed and possibly ex-thief Vala Mal Doran. The incredibly low cast turnover really helps you engage with the characters for the entire length of the series.
Besides running for 10 seasons, Stargate SG-1 was followed by Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum, both straight-to-DVD films which wrapped up the show’s remaining plots. Two successful spin-offs followed the show, which I’ll get around to reviewing eventually. Stargate Atlantis (read the Rewatch review here) began in 2004 during Stargate SG-1’s 8th season, running for 5 seasons, and Stargate Universe (read the Rewatch review here) followed in 2009 for 2 seasons. 2002’s animated Stargate Infinity is loosely considered a spin-off and fun if you have kids to watch it with. 2018’s Stargate Origins completely ignores any continuity established by any of the television shows and is actually pretty terrible.
You can stream Stargate SG-1 for free on Netflix or buy the complete series on iTunes for just $99.99. If you love military science fiction, if you love long-running and engaging characters, or even if you just love the original Stargate film, watch at least two episodes of Stargate SG-1, and I guarantee you’ll be sufficiently locked in for the rest of it.
Ah, SG1. After all these years it remains one of my favorite TV shows. It held up pretty well, too, so I always enjoy re-watching an episode from time to time. I follow Stargate Command on YouTube, and they broadcast a random episode every month; that’s a good way to re-watch an episode here and there. 🙂
I still like the Ancient / Asgard story arcs best (The Fifth Race is among my favorite episodes), as well as most episodes revolving around Jaffa culture. There were some really great standalone episodes too: Window Of Opportunity is obviously at the top of list (any Sci-Fi show worth its salt must include a time loop episode), as well as most of the science-themed ones (A Matter Of Time comes to mind).
I don’t enjoy the Replicator arc as much, though, not sure why. And I always find it hard to get into the Ori arc, but after a few episodes you get into it.
All in all, this remains a great series, and the 2 spin-offs, while not as good, are worth watching as well. I guess I am going to have to start watching it again, thank you 🙂
I definitely agree on the Replicators. I think Atlantis handles introducing them better. When the Replicators first showed up on SG-1, they just seemed like a generic cross between the Borg and LEGOs, but once they started to grow them as a force and dropped the mystery, they became pretty engaging as well.
And that’s really the show’s strength, it’s ability to grow any characters and plots. Anything with a weak introduction will eventually be engaging.
But Atlantis is better. 🙂
(Agree on mostly everything, though, and I’m currently rewatching the series right now)
Atlantis is pretty darn good too, I’m almost done re-watching it, half-way through season 5. 🙂
I think my only problem with the series is that the solution to most enemies was genocide — they killed all the Go’a’uld, the replicators, and the Ori. Rarely, if ever, was there a division of zones of influence and alliances like in the Star Trek universe. That said, I’ve recently rewatched not only SG-1 but SG Atlantis and SG Universe. That last one deserved another few seasons. And I get excited when I’m watching some other show and see that Amanda Tapping is directing. She has a good eye.
Indeed, that approach was quite frequent, but at least the show set them up as irredeemable. There were a few attempts to bring over a few antagonists to their side, all unsuccessful (or temporary).
Atlantis did a much better job of making the alliances, although tenuous, last a bit longer.