I’ve written before about one of my favourite science fiction shows, Star Trek Voyager. I really liked the format of that post, where I break the show down into bitesized chunks, so I decided to do it again with Stargate SG-1.
What I love about SG-1 is that the characters aren’t from the 23rd century, and they’re not from Kobol and the Twelve Colonies, and they’re not from a galaxy far, far away. They’re people now with the strengths and flaws of us as we exist today. Well technically as we existed in the late 90s, but still. It’s so easy to relate to the characters because they’re so much closer to us as an audience.
One of the largest villains in the first season is a goddamn US Senator who thinks the whole Stargate program is too expensive and wants to shut it down to save money. That would totally happen!
What damaged SG-1’s reputation more than anything was its timing. Sci-fi isn’t fun anymore, and Stargate happened just as sci-fi was transitioning to the dystopian stories we have today. If Stargate had been a few years earlier, or Battlestar: Galactica had been a few years later, I think SG-1 would enjoy a much nicer reputation than it does today.
So let’s have fun!
SG-1 has arcs that span many seasons, intertwined with episodic stories. It’s a really great balance and is written well enough that you can watch an episode without any background knowledge and still really enjoy it. Generally, SG-1 can be divided into three parts:
The first season begins with a strong pilot written by Jonathan Glassner and Brad Wright, the two people responsible for adapting the Stargate feature film to television. SG-1 quickly establishes the tone of the show: they know the kinds of stories they want to tell and how they want to tell them. Here are my favourite episodes.
Find Season 1 on Amazon Video.
The show expands on the mythology established from the first season. Concepts and storylines are revisited, and you see more and more character development. By the end of Season 2, Teal’c has really opened up to bonding with the rest of the team beyond a warrior’s role. From what I gather, Christopher Judge wanted more creative input on the show and started taking his portrayal of Teal’c a lot more seriously later in season two.
Find Season 2 on Amazon Video.
The next season really works on crafting the storytelling techniques, but episodes are still a bit hammy. This fades over the course of this season, but the show stays as fun. Foothold is one of my favourite episodes, and Urgo features Dom DeLuise playing opposite roles as a funny and serious character.
Find Season 3 on Amazon Video.
The fourth season is my favourite. For a show with such a strong start, you can really tell when it hits its stride. The show continues themes and storylines established in the previous seasons, while exploring the relationship with the Tok’Ra, the Aschen, and the Russians. Quite a ride!
Find Season 4 on Amazon Video.
This is the season the show started to feel a little stale, and afterward the show actually moved from Showtime to the SciFi channel for season six. There are still some great episodes: 2001 is the perfect follow-up from last season’s 2010, and 48 Hours introduces a new recurring frenemy: Dr Rodney McKay portrayed by David Hewlett. Oh, and Daniel dies in Meridian, but don’t worry he’ll show up in the next season a few times before returning permanently in season seven.
Find Season 5 on Amazon Video.
Okay, so season six isn’t too popular with SG-1 fans, probably because Daniel’s gone and there’s this new character. But it’s a great season! The switch to the SciFi channel included a switch to HD widescreen format and better lighting/production.
But this season is actually really good. Redemption features Dr Rodney McKay, and you start to see him and Samantha become better frenemies. Nightwalkers is a fantastic piece of storytelling and a strong Jonas episode, and Abyss features a masterful performance by Richard Dean Anderson while introducing a great new villain: Ba’al.
Find Season 6 on Amazon Video.
Daniel Jackson returns in Fallen following the events of Full Circle, the previous season’s finale. There’s a lot we have to skip over here, but Grace and Heroes are two of the best episodes of the whole show. At the end of the season, Jack gets promoted to General and returns in season eight as the SGC commanding officer.
Find Season 7 on Amazon Video.
Season eight is a bit weird, since Jack isn’t on the SG-1 team anymore, which fundamentally changes his relationship with the other characters. They portray this shift really well, and have a lot of fun with it, but Richard Dean Anderson does leave the show after this season.
However! This is still a great season. Threads ties up a lot of loose ends and Moebius would have been a fantastic series finale.
Find Season 8 on Amazon Video.
Season nine introduces a brand new main character and a brand new enemy. The galaxy has an enormous power vacuum left by the Goa’uld, and it gets filled with Jaffa politics and the Ori. The Ori are an interesting villain, because unlike the previous Goa’uld, they arguably are the gods they claim to be. It’s a great take on the show’s origin.
Introduced in Avalon, the Ori storyline sets up the rest of the season and introduces Valla as a recurring character.
Find Season 9 on Amazon Video.
The final season of the show is actually pretty good. The show hit its new groove and the characters show meaningful, believable friendships. The Pegasus Project is a crossover with SG-1’s spinoff, Stargate Atlantis, which deserves its own blog post.
This is probably the funniest season of SG-1. 200 is the two hundredth episode of the show, and calls back to Wormhole X-treme!, while The Road Not Taken and Bad Guys both take an existing concept from the franchise and turn the idea on its head. Unending is an… Interesting way to end a show. But they get away with it because there are two SG-1 straight-to-television movies.
Find Season 10 on Amazon Video.
Ark of Truth and Continuum are the two made-for-TV movies from the SciFi channel. They’re pretty great, I enjoyed them each. Ark of Truth wraps up the Ori storyline with a visit to the Ori galaxy through the supergate. Contiuum is a masterpiece of time-travel storytelling, featuring Ba’al, the series’ best villain. The film wraps up his I-have-a-hundred-clones storyline by killing the last of them. It’s a romp.
As I mentioned before, SG-1 has a spinoff. Actually, it has two! Actually there’s also a terrible cartoon, but don’t watch it. Seriously don’t watch it. But do go ahead and watch Stargate Atlantis. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s just something about an international team of scrappy humans barely surviving in another galaxy that works for me.
However, a scrappy bunch of barely surviving people is not sufficient to drive a plot. And unfortunately, the writers thought they could replace actual character development with sex appeal, and we got Stargate 90210. Er, Stargate Universe. Don’t watch it.
If you like what you watched in this guide, it’s worth going back to watch some of the episodes you skipped. I had a really hard time trimming this down to only 50 hours of television and had to leave out some great episodes.