Every day this week we are counting down to the 25th anniversary of Stargate (1994), with “Finding Fandom.” Today Jacqueline looks at a few of the creative choices that make the franchise resonate with so many people.
There are various reasons as to why Stargate is still loved by many. And while praise has been given to the main cast and the portrayal of their respective characters, kudos also have to go to those who worked behind-the-scenes — from directors and producers to the writers and how they took the original idea from the 1994 movie and opened up entirely new scenarios and worlds for viewers.
This installment looks at a few of the fans’ thoughts on the inspiration behind the stories and its characters.
SCIENCE FICTION vs. MYTHOLOGY
“The concept of stepping through a device and travelling across the galaxy was always very cool,” KirstyNumbers told me. “I also liked how they [the writers] tied it into Egyptian mythology and then, of course, Norse mythology later. The story arcs always seemed so well planned out. There’s always the story / alien / planet of the week, but it’s all part of a bigger story. I like that.”
real_sgafan agreed with this sentiment: “The use of mythology in both [SG-1 and Atlantis] was smart and inventive. It made for a very original show and storylines in what is often a cookie-cutter world of TV.”
“I like the main setup of the show,” 4thWall_Kat said. “The gate system provides such an easy way to tell fresh stories every week and they can range from pure sci-fi to politics or cultural issues, or just plain human issues.”
“I really appreciate the way they created the different alien races and cultures, each with their own respected customs,” jacci_sulueti told me. “I thought that was awesome.”
From the beginning Stargate was unique in its mixing of science fiction and the images and mythology of ancient cultures. “Definitely one thing that pulled me in was the whole Egyptology tie in,” xbleeple said. jengenexer agreed: “The Egyptian and earth-based mythology. I think setting the show in present day and grounding it in human myths and stories makes the show immediately accessible and interesting to the audience.”
Even though Stargate’s premise was rooted in the science fiction genre, the fact that it was set in the present day was a draw for a number of fans. “Stargate is a science fiction show that takes place in our time, but the fact that it is taking place ‘today’ makes me feel closer to it,” MertMuftugil said.
And isidentical also supported this view: “I like the ecosystem; the galaxy they created. It doesn’t start in [the year] 2500 with already researched technology. It starts from [the movie in] 1994, and we can see this technology and how it is researched and gained.”
“I just love the way it creates such a deep and varied world, one that you can truly let your imagination wild in,” vividlyvanessa added. “It is also very grounded in what we currently have today on earth, so I love the way it’s relatable in terms of technology and the challenges on-world the team faces.”
The many challenges the team faced and how they unfold is something I always loved to watch. But it’s only now that I’m older that I can fully appreciate and understand the important social and cultural issues that ran beneath the surface of these stories. And, often, it was the most controversial and difficult situations where the team’s ethical morals really broke through.
It has already been said that these characters, as much as we love them, aren’t perfect. They are fallible and flawed and go through distressing situations, but they always strive to do the right thing – regardless of the consequences at times. And I think one of the things I enjoy most when I re-watch episodes of SG-1 is how we get to see those consequences. Things doesn’t always work out the way we – or the characters – hoped. They aren’t “let off the hook”; sometimes significant sacrifices have to be made for the greater good, and it’s a sobering thought.
However, to see the team remain true to their beliefs, and determined to do the right thing regardless, is a positive message. They don’t compromise who they are, no matter how difficult the decision might be.
As ladiosabri put it, despite what the characters have been through “they never gave up, nor did they ever compromise their values and their love for the freedom and life of others.”
An example of this is Season Four’s “The Other Side,” when O’Neill makes the decision to close the iris on Alar. He believed it was the right thing to do, regardless of the consequences and the potential fallout with his team.
Again, in Season Six’s “Unnatural Selection,” O’Neill orders Carter to betray Fifth to ensure that the Replicators remained trapped using the time dilation device. Both Jonas Quinn and Sam feel guilty that they used Fifth’s humanity against him. Yet O’Neill remains insistent that Fifth wasn’t human, and tells his team that they did the right thing.
Similarly, in “Red Sky,” Jack’s anger influenced his actions. Under guidance from a village elder called Malchus two of the planet’s inhabitants blew up a rocket, killing members of SG-6. O’Neill – understandably furious – then attacked Malchus and came close to executing him, only for Daniel and Carter to step in. They were able to talk their team leader out of committing murder and subsequently convinced him not to abandon the villagers to their fate. They tried to do the right thing to fix their mistakes on K’Tau. The situation is resolved (to an extent), but the incident is another example of how the team works together and holds each other to account when events in the field can cloud their judgment.
These kinds of episodes can be uncomfortable to watch. They make us think and question the situation. Often, the sign of a good TV show is one that sucks the viewer in and makes them feel like a part of the action; it makes them think about what they would do in the same situation, how they would react if they were in that character’s shoes. Stargate is one of those shows.
It isn’t all doom-and-gloom, however, as there are also regular moments of comedic genius to be found. Stargate’s humor is cited as another reason why fans watch — and in particular the dry wit of Jack O’Neill (“two Ls!”) received a special mention from fans. RDA himself has previously said this was his one stipulation for coming on board SG-1 in 1997.
I adore the humor of the original series. Jack has a very dry, self-depreciating sense of humor and when it’s thrown in with his sarcasm (particularly towards the Goa’uld or those in positions of authority) it is both amusing and endearing.
“Sam Carter definitely became sassier as the seasons progressed,” another fan pointed out. “Perhaps this was O’Neill’s influence? I don’t know, and we’ll maybe never know, but the whole team played off each other really well.
“However, my favorite moment will forever be Teal’c sharing a ‘Jaffa joke’ and the booming laugh of his that followed. It seemed so out of character for him at the time, but I think it’s sweet that we were able to see his character develop and witness a lighter side to his personality as the years went by too.”
O’NEILL: Jaffa jokes? Let’s hear one of them.
TEAL’C: I shall attempt to translate one, O’Neill. A Serpent Guard, a Horus Guard, and a Setesh Guard meet on a neutral planet. It is a tense moment. The Serpent Guard’s eyes glow! The Horus Guard’s beak glistens! The Setesh Guard’s … nose drips.
These are just a few reasons why fans have enjoyed Stargate since its television beginnings, so it’s no surprise the franchise has achieved such success. But 22 years after it first aired, the fans keep returning to Stargate SG-1 and the spin-offs that followed. Why is Stargate still experiencing a strong and active support from viewers in 2019?
“The shows are still fresh after all these years and still stand up today,” fellow GateWorld contributor Sara Kehoe told me. “The storylines, humor, and adventure still suck me in.”
“You can watch [the stories] anytime,” agreed CinkaLucifer. “I have episodes I go to when I’m feeling down, when I need a good cry, or a good laugh. The stories don’t grow old.”
Vinstry also agreed: “The show itself is just timeless and too good to ever really stray from. Discussing theories or my favorite ‘what ifs’ with other like-minded people is just amazing.”
For sammyyflowerr, however, another influential factor for returning to the franchise is because “every time you watch it, you find something new.” anitacsatlos agrees with that, saying, “I always find new things in the episodes – even though I’ve watched them many, many times.”
“For me it’s like reading a good series of books, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy,” stacypa42041454 said. “You get to the end and you feel like you’ve lost something … but you can start at the beginning and find the adventure again.”
Sadly, we live in a world full of upset, of conflict and stress — and for many, watching Stargate or just being able to interact with fellow fans over the show, is a chance to escape this disharmony.
“Re-watching Stargate takes my mind off of the horrible things going on out there for a little while,” BeverleyJeffre2 shared. Similarly, jacci_sulueti said: “I see SG-1 as an escape. It’s a source of comfort and release — especially if I’ve had a hard day.”
“It’s a perfect blend of entertainment, emotion, and escapism,” LetitiaTHELemon said.
AngieVonAsgard beautifully summarized the reason why she always returns to the show: “Stargate feels like home.”
And it does feel like home. It’s a safe haven for the fans, a place they can go to and enjoy and know that they can come back at any time. And that, in my opinion, is what elevates Stargate from a good show to a great show.
Not only has it built up a dedicated fan base, but it has been able to retain its fans. Despite no word of the franchise being revived (yet!), it is the fans who are helping to keep the legacy alive. Whether it’s discussing their love of the characters, organizing re-watches, or participating in Twitter polls, these activities all work together in support of the show.
In a wider context, it also represents just one of the many ways in which the fan base demonstrates its appreciation. Next up, we look at other areas of fandom including conventions, podcasts, and the widely-debated issue of fan-created works.
All this month GateWorld is celebrating 25 years of Stargate! “Finding Fandom” explores the franchise’s characters, themes, and the family that is Stargate fandom. Post your memories below or use the hashtag #Stargate25 on social media.