Stargate is one of the greatest science fiction universes in modern pop culture, and the franchise is ready for a comeback. But capitalizing on fans’ current enthusiasm will take swift action from Amazon, the company that is now in the process of purchasing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion.
MGM’s library includes some 4,000 films and 17,000 hours of television, including the Stargate franchise. Starting with the 1994 feature film from Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, Stargate spans three movies, 354 hours of television, and a movie-length Web series. Through first-run cable, syndication, international distribution, licensing, and home video and streaming, Stargate is a billion-dollar property. When it was in production between 1997 and 2011, Stargate was said to be regarded inside the halls of MGM as the studio’s second biggest franchise (after James Bond).
But with the exception of the 2018 Web series Stargate Origins, the gate has been quiet for more than a decade. Stargate Universe went off the air in 2011, in part a casualty of MGM’s bankruptcy the previous year.
GateWorld has been covering all things Stargate for more than 20 years. Last week when we polled readers about their feelings on Amazon’s acquisition of MGM, they voted overwhelmingly in favor — precisely because Amazon has the ability to break the logjam and get a new Stargate series moving again.
Despite being benched for the 2010s Stargate is still a relatively big brand for MGM, and after 10 years off the air it is ripe for a return with a new series. It should also appeal to Amazon to move quickly on Stargate, because science fiction is very friendly to the streaming audience — and Amazon is about to have something of a need here. The Expanse is currently in production on its sixth and (for now) final season, so Amazon will want another genre franchise ready on deck behind it.
Stargate also has a live project that has been in development for more than two years — so it’s ready to go, once Amazon has its chance to weigh in on the pitch. And to make the deal even sweeter? The fourth live-action Stargate television series pitch hails not from some untested newcomer, but from Brad Wright himself — co-creator of all three previous series.
As our friend and industry expert Jenny Stiven put it on “Dial the Gate” last week: Stargate is low-hanging fruit. It should be an easy choice for Amazon to act on this franchise quickly.
But will you, Amazon, make the show that legions of existing Stargate fans actually want to see?
The day that the purchase of MGM was announced outgoing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said: “The acquisition thesis here is really very simple. MGM has a vast, deep catalog of much beloved intellectual property. And with the talent at Amazon and the talent at MGM Studio, we can reimagine and develop that IP for the 21st century. It will be a lot of fun work and people who love stories will be the big beneficiaries.”
That’s encouraging and also a bit unsettling for Stargate’s long-time global fanbase, which seems right now to be growing as new and younger viewers discover the three shows for the very first time on streaming services. Bezos suggests that library IP (like Stargate) is ripe for new development projects … but also that Amazon wants to work with MGM to “reimagine” those franchises.
After MGM picked up the Stargate feature film in 1994 the TV universe was created by Brad Wright, Jonathan Glassner, and Robert C. Cooper over 14 years in production. To long-time Stargate fans who fell in love with that world, “reimagine” sounds uncomfortably close to “reboot” — as in, wipe out more than 350 episodes of continuity and start over. And that is precisely what most fans don’t want.
On the other hand, “reimagining” can certainly be a more benign word. It may simply mean returning to the universe that fans love, only now with fresh eyes and a new idea for storytelling. This we would love to see, so long as it’s an idea that honors Stargate’s long and treasured legacy and avoids rebooting the world.
The dreaded “reboot” might be easier on a new staff of writers, but for fans it is a bulldozer that demolishes something we have known and loved for a significant portion of our lives. Amazon cannot take for granted that a critical mass of those fans will show up for a completely different Stargate universe.
We’re still here, watching and celebrating these shows and welcoming newcomers to this fandom — now more than 10 years since the last show went off the air. Many fandoms slowly wither and die; but Stargate fans are perhaps as vocal and animated today as they were in 2011.
Why the enthusiasm? Why such a deep-seated commitment to this fictional world? It’s because we love these characters and the world they inhabit. We welcomed Sam and Daniel, John and Teyla, Everett and Camille and Eli into our homes every week. Stargate was “appointment television.” And through reruns and streaming, boxed sets, novels, and conversation with our fellow fans those characters have continued to live in our minds for a quarter of a century.
Stargate is special. Stargate matters to our lives. These characters and stories have shaped us in innumerable ways. If Amazon wishes to sustain and nurture that passion, the last thing the franchise’s new owners should do is take the canon behind the woodshed so they can cast a new Jack O’Neill, in the hopes of lowering the bar of access for new viewers.
New viewers are still jumping onto the Stargate bandwagon right now, each and every day — with 354 episodes and counting! These viewers are smart enough to catch up with backstory and in-universe rules. It’s simply a task for the new show’s writers to help new viewers come along, just like Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper did when they launched Stargate Atlantis to millions of cable viewers in 2004, and Stargate Universe in 2009. Both shows expanded Stargate’s mythology, but were also eminently accessible.
The show that we’d like to see is a fourth series in the existing canon. And I think this is true of the vast majority of the still-active fanbase. It shouldn’t just reunite the former shows’ cast members (though we’d certainly like to see them turn up every now and then!) but build a new team, pushing Stargate forward with a new setting and a new idea driving the narrative each week.
“Reimagine” Stargate for a new generation, but within the existing canon. Otherwise you risk burning a very active fandom, and having to start from scratch rather than adding new viewers to our number.
A DEEP WELL OF STORIES
Just as that shimmering puddle evokes, Stargate is a deep well of possibilities for new adventures. That gate is the ultimate science fiction story generator, and in each of its iterations the franchise has excelled at exploring the human condition.
Today Stargate may not have the viewership or the cultural recognition of Star Trek. It may not sell as many subscriptions as the MCU. But one of the reasons why Stargate is every bit as grand in its potential is the nature of the Stargate device, and the way that the writers have built out this universe of humans and aliens, their conflicts, and their alliances. If Star Trek is a utopian vision of who we might one day become, Stargate has always been about who we are now: We’re out there, stumbling about the galaxy, trying to make it a better place.
With a fourth show and an ever-growing franchise that world will no doubt continue to expand into new corners, with new teams discovering new worlds and new threats — both within and without.
Amazon, this is such an easy choice. You’re buying MGM in order to make the most of its well of stories — and there is perhaps no well as deep as the Stargate. It’s a plumb franchise with an eager and global fanbase. It has already laid fallow for ten years. And one of the creators of that universe is at your door with a script.
Although the acquisition of MGM won’t be complete until late this year (at the earliest, and pending regulatory approval), it’s not too soon to start making plans. Stargate fans are ready to be won over — but not just any spinny gate story will do.
How do you think Amazon should move Stargate forward? Let’s hear it in the comments below! But remember to keep it nice and positive: Bezos has already saved one beloved sci-fi franchise, and he might be watching …