Stargate S1 (1997-1998)

I’ve watched Stargate only sporadically over the years, despite the fact that I’ve always liked what I’ve seen. Upon rewatching the first season of the series, I realized just how much I had actually seen, though never in the proper sequence. And I also realized just how good the show was. Not just fun to watch, but excellent science fiction to boot. Due to the stargate concept the show managed to combine the best aspects of ship-based shows like Star Trek/TNG/etc and station based series like DS9 and Babylon 5. Also, it’s one of the few shows that manages to do space opera with a modern day setting, unlike comparable shows. This makes it pretty unique IMHO.

Based on a good-looking but overall mediocre movie, the show heavily expanded on the original concept of a single connection between Earth and another world controlled by an alien (a parasite who uses humans as a host) who plays god for the local human-derived population. Instead of just one connection, the show poses that there’s a whole network of stargates that connect Earth-like worlds all over the galaxy. Most of those are controlled by other aliens who have taken the place of old Earth gods (or to be precise, the old Earth gods were the aliens in the first place). Unlike most similar shows, there’s also a good explanation why most other cultures they meet are human-based.

So, back to season one, which is chock-full of good stuff. We have a few episodes that set up the new status quo, then we get introduced to some of the typical human-derived cultures that will be the butter-and-bread-stuff of most explorative missions for the series on the whole. In general there are two types of episodes, those that play into the bigger story-arc and stand-alone exploration missions. The story backbone of the first season is to establish the Goa’uld as the major threat to Earth, while the stand-alone episodes show the diversity of the stargate universe. A few episodes also reveal more information about the overall setting, like Thor’s Hammer, The Torment of Tantalus and Fire and Water.

Stargate for its whole running time was about false gods, or god-like beings misusing their powers, or good aliens posing as good. Most of all, it’s an exploration of the interaction between cultures with different stages of technological progress. And us humans are far from being the most advanced. It’s not always about technology, though. One could easily see the Goa’uld as culturally much more primitive than Earth, while Earth is much less advanced than some of the cultures the SG-1 team meets. But that doesn’t mean anyone has to follow something stupid and unrealistic as the Prime Directive from Star Trek, instead it’s about finding ways to communicate despite the differences. It doesn’t always work, but at least it’s better than playing self-absorbed, intergalactic lurker or barbarians at the (star)gate.