The entertainment industry is abuzz this week over good news coming out of negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the motion picture studios. A deal has been reached, bringing an end to a labor strike that has stretched nearly 150 days.
Next up is a fair deal for the Screen Actors Guild. Since the studios have reached an agreement with the writers over sticking points like streaming residuals and the use of generative A.I., there is room for optimism that SAG negotiators will be able to extract similar concessions and end that strike in short order.
Hollywood is getting back to work — and that’s a good sign for Stargate.
Why? What do these labor disputes have to do with a legacy sci-fi franchise that has been sitting on the shelf for most of the past 12 years? Fans of Stargate have been waiting with bated breath since Amazon acquired Metro Goldwyn Mayer in 2022, knowing that Amazon is looking to make use of MGM’s legacy properties. We know that Stargate is near the top of their priority list for new film and television development, alongside the likes of James Bond, Robocop, Rocky, and Legally Blonde.
So what’s next for Stargate … and are fans finally about to actually get a concrete announcement?
There are good reasons to think that, yes, the next chapter of the franchise is just around the corner. And when the studio finally pulls the trigger, and hires a creative team, the first order of business will be world-building: setting up a universe not just for a single show or an entertaining movie, but for years of new storytelling.
The end of the writers strike at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday means that guild members who might already be tied to a new Stargate project can officially get back to work. (The WGA has authorized work to resume in the interim between now and early October, when members will vote to formally ratify their new contract.) Or, if the writers’ deal with Amazon and MGM isn’t set yet, now they are free to sign on the dotted line.
While of course the studio has remained silent so far on just who that might be, reporting from late last year gives us some ideas. Amazon passed on an existing script written by SG-1 co-creator Brad Wright, opting instead to take pitches from other creatives for an entirely new idea. As a result they had several options on the table, but were especially favorable toward what they heard from Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (who co-created The Expanse, adapting it for television from the novel series).
Now looking ahead to 2024, Amazon and MGM have two big choices to make in order to get Stargate moving again. First, will the next Stargate be a hard reboot of the fictional universe and its mythology, or a continuation of what has already been built? And second, should that next story be told in the form of a movie, or a weekly series … or perhaps something else? (I hear that Amazon head Jennifer Salke is inclined to starting with a movie that in turn sets up a streaming TV series.)
Whatever choices are made here, it’s clear that the creative team will need to do some world-building in order to tee up not only the next project but an ongoing franchise. This is what Amazon no doubt hopes to build, and their first decisions here are going to set the tone for everything that comes after. Whether that world is set in the existing television continuity or stars over from scratch it will need characters, settings, antagonists, and ideas deep enough to sustain the next generation of adventures.
CONTINUING THE WORLD
The best option by far is to continue forward with Stargate’s existing canon, made up of three movies and more than 350 episodes of television. This is the world created by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, by Jonathan Glassner and Brad Wright, and beloved by so many fans around the world who are still connected to this iteration of Stargate.
Imagine Disney closing the deal to buy Lucasfilm in 2012 and not only declaring things like the previous novels to be no longer canon, but even de-canonizing the original Star Wars trilogy! Or imagine CBS wiping out all of Star Trek’s continuity in order to launch Discovery in 2017. Even J.J. Abrams gave Trek a “soft” reboot in 2009, employing Leonard Nimoy’s Spock (and a bit of time travel) to maintain a clear connection between his new Enterprise and the Prime Universe timeline.
Stargate is not anywhere near the size of those franchises, of course, but the principle remains the same: fans who are already invested in this universe want more of it, not a completely different version of it that ignores the characters and stories that made them love Stargate to begin with.
So let’s start here: If the writers of the next Stargate continue on with the universe as it was left in 2011, what does it look like? Where are our favorite characters at — and, perhaps more importantly, who are the people we will follow in new adventures?
The first question to be answered concerns who is going through the Stargate, and where the gate is located. Is it still inside Cheyenne Mountain, operated as a top-secret facility of the U.S. military? While the Stargate and the existence of alien life might not have gone public, by 2024 it seems necessary that the S.G.C. has evolved to a more international operation.
While I’d rather see someone like General Hammond call the shots on the base, rather than an I.O.A. toady, there should be clear and significant involvement from the other governments of the world. The Atlantis expedition struck a nice balance here, with a neutral command post made up of international scientists and soldiers, and a leader who was supported by the military but ultimately answered to an international body.
There’s also the pesky problem about Atlantis’s presence on Earth, as of the spin-off’s final episode. The rules of gate travel say that the newer Atlantis gate takes precedence for all incoming travel, so the new script at least needs a mention of the city having returned to the Pegasus Galaxy at some point — which was the plan for the unfilmed Atlantis movie, Stargate: Extinction.
As for the characters? By Air Force regulations General O’Neill has honorably retired by now, and it’s easy enough to make references to other main characters without the need to integrate them into the show. Name-check General Samantha Carter, Drs. Jackson and McKay, or Colonel Sheppard and then plan for some big guest appearances down the road.
In building out the existing canon for new storytelling, this world needs new central characters, new allies, and new antagonists. Just the sheer amount of time that has passed for Earth is nearly a soft reset of its own — “Stargate: The Next Generation,” with new people in charge and brave men and women ready to explore new worlds through the gate. New story ideas can introduce new technologies, or deal Earth some setbacks like temporarily grounding its fleet of advanced ships.
A continuation has the advantage of already having all the building blocks in place: Earth has been using the Stargate since the 1990s, with hallowed names like Jack O’Neill and Daniel Jackson having saved the planet countless times and helped Earth to grow into a major player in the galaxy.
Starting everything over from scratch, though, requires that once loyal viewers set aside everything they know about the Stargate universe — how the Stargate works, who is using it (and for what purposes), what species are out there in the galaxy, etc. It requires that everything begin again at the beginning, with no more zats, no more Goa’uld, no more Replicators or Tok’ra … heck, the wormhole might not even be one-way!
From a creative standpoint, the reboot is appealing because it cuts loose the baggage of 354 episodes — established character traits, defeated enemies, how technology works, etc. It’s kind of an anti-franchise move, though. Rather than building a storytelling franchise, the studio would be killing one off in order to use its name. Real franchises are hard work, and they require institutional memory to maintain a degree of continuity across multiple projects made by different creatives. (If you want that canon consultant, guys, I’m here. Really.)
It’s hard to speculate about the world-building that a new team of writers might choose to do here. Perhaps, like Glassner and Wright, they would start from the 1994 feature film and elaborate from there. Or perhaps they’ll reboot that too, with a different sort of alien portal discovered somewhere else in the world. Will the Stargate still be round? Will the show have the same elements of history and mythology? Will it even include the military at all? Do they leave their people behind?
As the writers of a reboot begin to ask themselves what elements are necessary for a new show to still be Stargate, it seems that the final product could take most any shape. It might end up quite close to the heart of SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe. Or it might be its own unique entity, unrecognizable to those looking for something of the old spark.
It would be up to the new writers and their ability to take the brand name “Stargate” and remake it with their own vision. Hopefully, even if it used different names and chronicled a very different history, a movie or show like this would still feel familiar to those of us who love the original.
STARGATE WAS NEVER DEAD
Again, the reboot is not the best case scenario for Amazon and MGM’s big creative choice, and what I hear suggests that this is not their preferred path. A hard reboot risks much more than starting from scratch in building a new fan base; it also risks alienating some fans and turning them into active and vocal opponents of the next Stargate.
A little history lesson is in order to explain why I think that’s the case. It has everything to do with the fact that Stargate’s fan base is not just still active, but holds the memory of a series of unjust cancellations more than a decade ago.
Stargate Atlantis didn’t go off the air in 2009, or Stargate Universe in 2011, because either of those shows had played themselves out. Stargate was put up on that shelf because of a conflux of MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy, the collapse of the DVD market, the industry’s struggle to account for DVR-delayed viewing, legal and financial shenanigans inside the studio making the MMO-RPG Stargate Worlds … and, most of all, a cable network with new leadership that had already decided it was done with hard sci-fi (and with Stargate in particular), and so shuffled off Stargate to give its long-held time slot over to professional wrestling.
There was some interest in a third season of SGU at Syfy, but the timing with MGM’s bankruptcy could not have been worse. As the Powers That Be tell the story, when the network called to negotiate a possible renewal, there was nobody at MGM there to pick up the phone.
I was there. I covered the rise and fall of the franchise in real time here at GateWorld, as nearly everyone I knew at the studio was forced to pack up and move to their next job. If we want to stick with the death metaphor, in 2010 Stargate didn’t die off … it was MUR-dered!
OK, that’s overly dramatic. But my point has everything to do with the same fan base that is still active today, and the stories that still have so much life left in them.
Stargate is far from a dead franchise, needing a brand new take to breathe life back into it. And so a hard reboot of the canon is the wrong choice right now. Stargate isn’t a brand associated with some old show your parents watched but which no one thinks much about any more. Stargate still has millions of fans around the world who are waiting for its revival — still watching reruns, still welcoming newcomers who discover the shows on streaming, still going to conventions and buying up merchandise.
We’re waiting, Amazon. Make a good choice. We want to see the world you will build.
What do you hope to see from Amazon? What shape do you hope the next Stargate project takes? Sound off in the comments!