The Stargate story began with Catherine Langford. When the gate was lifted from the sands of the Giza Plateau she was there. When the U.S. government decided to back research to figure out how to use it, she was there. And when Daniel Jackson cracked the code and the gate was dialed, Catherine was there.
In some ways her life story is the story of the origins of the Stargate program — from childhood to her young adult life, from the loss of her fiance to her final years.
Stargate Origins will tell the story of an important, never-before-seen chapter in Catherine’s life. To get ready for that, let’s do a deep-dive into everything that we know about Stargate’s founding matriarch …
CHILDHOODCatherine was just a young girl of 12 when she accompanied her father, Swedish archaeologist Dr. Langford, to a dig at Giza, Egypt in 1928. It was here that the Stargate was discovered, buried thousands of years earlier after humans rebelled against the Goa’uld System Lord Ra. (Here, too, is where she first acquired the Eye of Ra amulet — which she would eventually give to Daniel Jackson.)
We know rather little about Catherine’s relationship with her father. She obviously followed in his footsteps in devoting much of her adult life to the Stargate and the mysteries it held. Later in life he would show a willingness to lie to her about the fate of her fiance, and Catherine believed that he would have done so in order to protect her.
YOUNG ADULTHOODCatherine may likely have gone on to scientific and archaeological studies of her own. We don’t know for certain what she studied in her school years, or if like her father she ever completed a PhD. But she did show brilliant insight during the early years of experimentation on the Stargate. By 1945 the gate had been put into a U.S. military facility, where her father led a team that attempted to make it work — and briefly succeeded (“The Torment of Tantalus”).
In fact it may have been Catherine’s advice — to use direct rather than alternating current to charge the gate — that allowed it to be dialed to Heliopolis.
But as a young woman Catherine was evidently kept at a distance from her father’s work. She knew all about the gate and what it was he was doing in his work, but was not permitted to participate.
CATHERINE AND ERNESTIt was in the 1940s that Catherine would have fallen in love with a young scientist working alongside her father: Ernest Littlefield. Their relationship was tender and grew serious, with Catherine prodding her beau to speak to her father about their future together.
When the Stargate was successfully dialed in 1945 Ernest volunteered to go through, not knowing if he would survive or be able to return. When he did not return (and was presumed dead), Dr. Langford told his daughter that he had died in a laboratory accident.
This at least allowed her to grieve and to move on with her life, not knowing that the man she loved had chosen the Stargate project over her.
CATHERINE’S CAREERWe don’t know what it was that Catherine did with her professional life. Did she teach? Work for the military? Become an international archaeologist in her own right? She did amass an impressive archaeological collection over her lifetime (which upon her death would be bequeathed to Daniel).
Following the accident and the end of World War II the government abandoned the project, locking away the Stargate. Thus the gate was not available to her for many years, though her research intensified.
We do know that she lived in New York and that she spent some four decades trying to convince the government to take the Stargate out of mothballs and restart the research program. She had some knowledge of her father’s associates, including a German named Heinrich Gruber. Following the death of her father she received what she believed to be all of his notes (though she remained unaware that the gate had been dialed successfully in 1945).
In the late 1960s Catherine herself began research into the Stargate — possibly motivated by her father’s death, or possibly by a visit from Daniel Jackson and Samantha Carter in disguise (“1969”). At this point the gate itself, however, remained locked away in an armory in Washington, D.C.
THE STARGATE PROJECTIn her later years Catherine finally succeeded in the life’s ambition: after petitioning multiple presidential administrations she finally convinced the government to restart the research into the Stargate. Starting in the early 1990s Catherine herself headed up the project, which was to be located at a military installation at Creek Mountain, Colorado, under the supervision of General West.
On her team were engineers and archaeologists — experts in astrophysics like Samantha Carter, and in ancient cultures and languages like Gary Meyers and Barbara Shore. A dialing computer was devised to provide the most basic operations of dialing the Stargate, allowing the inner ring to spin and the chevrons to be encoded.
But the work stagnated. What they did not have was a viable address to dial.It was at this point that the elder Catherine approached Dr. Daniel Jackson, a young man clearly brilliant but belittled by the academic community for his theories about alien involvement in ancient human civilizations (“Stargate” the Movie). Daniel was recruited and brought into the program, and within weeks had cracked the code.
When he stepped through the Stargate for the very first time, Catherine gave him the amulet she had found in Giza as a child.
After the first Stargate team’s battle with Ra Jack O’Neill returned to Earth and convinced his superiors that the gate needed to be shut down. He returned Catherine’s amulet, and she (no doubt with some reluctance) entered her years of quiet retirement. She knew only that Daniel had chosen to stay behind on Abydos.We do not know if Catherine ever married or had children. She did have at least one sibling as well as a niece, Sabrina Gosling.
Some time after Daniel’s return a year later and the opening of Stargate Command (now at Cheyenne Mountain, under the command of General George Hammond) Daniel discovered film recordings of the 1945 experiments. He approached Catherine to learn more, visiting her at her home.
Catherine was incensed to learn that the program had been reactivated and, just as when she was a young woman, she had been kept out of it. Daniel insisted that she be read in, and Catherine joined SG-1 on a trip to Heliopolis. There they found an aged Ernest, alive and more-or-less well. After surviving a storm that destroyed the seaside castle where he had been living for 50 years, Ernest and the team returned home to Earth.
FINAL YEARSCatherine and Ernest were able to reconnect and live out their final years together. Not only had she been reunited with the man she loved, but Catherine had the chance to see her vision fulfilled: the gate had been unlocked, and teams of brave men and women were using it to explore the galaxy. And she stayed in contact with Daniel.
Eight years after the inception of the S.G.C., Catherine Langford died (“Moebius, Part 1”). Daniel Jackson attended her funeral, and spoke these words to her gathered family and friends:
Catherine Langford was more than just kind and generous. She had a gift — of an endless, open-minded, child-like curiosity. She saw the world not for what it was but for what it could be — and she saw potential in people that others failed to recognize. Like her father before her, her contributions to science have changed the world more than most people know.
I for one have no idea where I would be today if I’d never met her. She changed my life in more ways than I ever could have imagined.