In a dusty storage room underneath Cheyenne Mountain, a group of soldiers dodging patrol play a game of poker. They are the unsuspecting victims of Jaffa from the alien warlord Apophys who captures one of the soldiers and injure the others. An investigation of the incident leads to the restarting of the stargate program. A hastily assembled team including Colonel O’Neill and Captain Carter goes through the stargate back to Abydos to retrieve Daniel Jackson (from the movie Stargate) and locate where the mysterious invaders came from. Thus begins Stargate SG-1, a military science fiction adventure you can probably watch with your kids at this point.
Seasons 1 and 2 introduce and explore three themes: SG-1 vs the world, the nature of godhood, and Earth’s place among the stars.
SG-1 vs The World
Several episodes in season 1 require SG-1 to rely on no one but themselves to solve a problem or save a planet or rescue a friend: “Fire and Water” and “Cor-ai” and “Tin Man” are notable examples. A few episodes at the beginning of the series play with this theme, but the characters’ relationships to each other lack the foundation they have later on the series. The turning point is “Fire and Water” which is the first time Daniel Jackson is believed to be dead and actually isn’t. While the team struggle to accept his death on Earth, Jackson is interrogated by an amphibious alien who lost his lover in Babylon a couple thousand years ago. SG-1 recovers their memories and goes to rescue Jackson.
Perhaps the most telling is the episode “Within the Serpent’s Grasp” which is the big finale finish for the opening season. SG-1 boards an invading Goa’uld ship with the intent to destroy it only to meet obstacle after obstacle. And with the stargate program closed down, there is no hope of back up coming to their rescue.
The “us vs them” mentality prominent in the first season disperses in the second. SG-1 becomes the flagship team of Stargate Command with all the support of the United States government at their backs (on most occasions). While SG-1 is on their own for a couple episodes, there is no longer the looming threat that the entire world is against them. Stargate SG-1 lost some of its charm with that switch.
The Nature of Gods
The first season introduced multiple societies that mistook SG-1 as gods. SG-1 always waved off these comments by saying they were regular humans like the people they visit, and I really hoped the writers would have gone further with that sort of interaction. What if a society didn’t believe SG-1? What if SG-1 were unwillingly worshiped by a village? Sadly, I may never get this episode.
The second season fixes these problems by not introducing a society that believes them gods in the first place. In this way, travel via stargate is normalized; SG-1 is no longer rehashing the same sentiments in every episode for the viewers that may have missed last week. Additionally, the Goa’uld are believed more and more frequently to be false gods, and this paves the road for the larger rebellion against the Goa’uld System Lords. As emerging technologies prove the Goa’uld System Lords can be defeated, Stargate Command’s mentality shifts from “The Goa’uld Can Be Defeated by Sheer Dumb Luck and More Luck” to “Defeating the Goa’uld Is Challenging But Not Impossible.” This is enough for the viewers (i.e. me) to believe that the Goa’uld’s downfall is inevitable.
So where the first season sets up that SG-1 are not indeed divine, the second season sets up the imminent fall of the greatest threat to humanity.
Earth’s Place Among the Stars
In season 1, SG-1 encounters two societies with technology more advanced than them and hears about an additional four. Those two societies are the Nox, who refuse to use violence even in self defense, and the Tollans, who kept their technology a secret so as not to repeat a sin in their recent past. Both the Tollans and Nox refuse to share their knowledge with SG-1 because Earth is still so very young and foolhardy.
The four other societies were introduced in the episode “The Torment of Tantalus” wherein SG-1 encounters what may have been a meeting place of four different races to form an alliance. One of these races is the Asgard whom SG-1 meets in season 2. While the Asgard have not directly shared technology with SG-1, they do share information in the episode “The Fifth Race.” O’Neill learns that the Asgard were one of the races of an alliance called The Four Races which included the Asgard, the Nox, the Furlings, and the Ancients who built the stargate system. At the end of the episode, one of the Asgard tells O’Neill that the humans of Earth have taken their first steps to becoming the Fifth Race of this alliance.
Which means, if this development keeps going, that Stargate Command might become a mecca of alien life in the later seasons. There is much potential!
Bonus: The Many Deaths of Daniel Jackson
Daniel Jackson is the most prone to odd happenings as a result of his curiosity. Therefore, he’s the most likely to have near death experiences. Or rather, several experiences wherein he was supposed to have died but didn’t. Let’s recap everything in seasons 1 and 2 (out of a total of ten seasons):
- On Abydos in the original movie Stargate, Jackson volunteers to be left behind to study the ruins on Abydos and is reported as dead so no one attempts to look for him. He’s revealed to be alive in the pilot “Children of the Gods.”
- Jackson is kidnapped by an amphibious alien because he could read cuneiform and therefore knew the location of the alien’s lover. The rest of SG-1 was sent back with foggy memories of Jackson’s death but he reveals himself to be alive at the end of the episode. (Season 1, “Fire and Water”)
- Jackson is sent into an alternate timeline where his alternate self is dead and he must convince his friends’ alternatives to let him return to his reality/dimension. (Season 1, “There but for the Grace of God”)
- Jackson is fatally shot in the stomach on board a Goa’uld invader ship, revives himself in a Goa’uld sarcophagus, and then narrowly avoids the C4 bombs that destroy the ships. (Season 2 “The Serpent’s Lair”)
- Jackson is covered by a cave in inside a mineshaft and revived using a sarcophagus stolen from the Goa’uld. He later gets addicted to it. (Season 2, “Need”)
- Jackson unwillingly switches bodies with a rebellion leader named Marcello and spends a whole episode in a dying body while his teammates try to convince Marcello to switch back. (Season 2, “Holiday”)
So we’re averaging about three near deaths a season. Which means the show is going to eventually make a meta commentary and/or running gag. Fingers crossed, y’all!
*Morike recaps Stargate SG-1 on her personal blog KT’s Bookshelf. Check her out for more commentary on intergalactic adventures!