Enduring Legacy: The History of 'Stargate'
The 'Stargate: SG-1' team as the show concluded its 10-year run in June 2007. The show's decade-long run made it the longest running U.S. science fiction show in history.
Credit: MGM.

Last December, the TV series ?Stargate SG-1? made a little bit of history. After ten years of struggle, cast changes and network shuffles, it became the longest running American science fiction TV series, ever.

Let?s repeat that. Ever.

Longer than any of the incarnations of ?Star Trek.? Same for ?Babylon 5? or ?Battlestar Galactica.? Ditto for ?X-Files,? ?Twilight Zone,? ?Outer Limits,? or any other U.S. domestic series tripping the TV rift.

Of course, anyone from the other side of the Atlantic can look at the incredible number of years that ?Doctor Who? has been televised and, maybe even righteously, up their nose at ?SG-1?s? decade of existence. But even the seemingly unkillable Doctor spent quite a bit of time travelling anywhere in dimensions and space but on Earth?s airwaves, too. Still, when you consider the number of non-news/talk shows that have lasted longer than ten years anyway, the list is surprisingly small, especially here in the U.S.

Considering the history of the franchise, that?s truly saying something. Especially when the original movie came out in 1994. No one, not a single person of even the slightest media importance, probably would ever have figured ?Stargate? would still be coming out with new material to this day.

When the original movie was introduced in 1994, it didn?t do bad box office for the day at $71 million (all figures from www.boxofficemojo.com) domestically. That placed it as the 17th most attended film of the year. Not too shabby when you look at the several hundred commercial releases of the year.

Still, it was the international box office that probably got the producers thinking. Over the rest of the world the film raked in over $125 million, ranking it 13th. Directed by Roland Emmerich ( ?Independence Day?) with a script co-written by longtime partner-in-crime Dean Devlin, the film was initially considered a sci-fi vehicle for the then pretty big star Kurt Russell as Colonel Jonathan ?Jack? O?Neil (but he?ll always be Snake Plisskin). It also starred the incredibly talented James Spader (now making waves on ?Boston Legal?) as Dr. Daniel Jackson.

Most importantly, the movie introduced the main plotline of the series, that there are a series of alien and incredibly sophisticated devices eventually called ?stargates? planted throughout the universe by a race called the Ancients. These Ancients originally hailed from Earth but, as we would learn over time, eventually ?ascend,? leaving the universe to other aliens. Among them are the Goa?uld, who once enslaved humanity and used them to seed a number of other worlds throughout the galaxy.

The movie covers the discovery of Earth?s own Stargate in Giza, Egypt, in 1928 and the present-day formation of a team of explorers, led by O?Neill and Jackson to see what they can see. In the process, they bring down the Goa?uld on themselves, and barely manage to get out of it alive (of course).

The first incarnation of the TV series, which started on Showtime in 1997, picks up the storyline a year after the movie. For this series, Russell has been replaced by Richard Dean Anderson (best remembered previously for his work on ?MacGuyver?). Spader has been replaced by Michael Shanks. Rounding out the TV team are Amanda Tapping as Captain Samantha Carter and Christopher Judge as the alien Teal?c, who is part of a race called the Jaffa.

Seasons One through Four are generally referred to as the Goa?uld Arc, and concerns the aftermath from the original movie. During this time, O?Neill and company, generally referred to as SG-1, become the elite team in charge of keeping the parasitic invaders from reclaiming our planet as their own.

This series is important for introducing a number of other major elements to the series. Among the other races introduced over this arc would be the Asgard, Furlings and Nox, who were three of the four races who once dominated the galaxy after the departure of the Ancients (the last being the Goa?uld). Each would have their play in the arc.

Season Three is also important for introducing the Replicators, who still plague the Stargate universe today. These mechanical beings like doing two things: ?eat? all the metal and other matter they can get their little claws on and, two, then use their findings to make more Replicators. If left unchecked, they will cannibalize a world faster than a pack of mechanical cockroaches, and are just as persistent and voracious. They will be a constant threat to Earth and everyone else even into the new DVDs.

This arc ends when SG-1 finally manage to muster enough support to defeat the Goa?uld System Lord, Apophis.

Seasons Five through Eight are considered the second major story arc, the Anubis arc. Anubis is a Goa?uld who attempts to reclaim the power once held by Apophis. More importantly, the concept of ?ascension? is given a thorough examination replete with Jackson eventually becoming ascended himself. This would mean that Michael Shanks would not be seen much for the bulk of season Six. His replacement on the team would be the character of Jonas Quinn (Corin Nemec).

Among the other interesting developments in this arc is the discovery of the lost city of Atlantis, which would create the show?s first spin-off. Another major character, the Goa?uld Baal, is also introduced. More important, by the end of this arc it looks like all SG-1?s problems are resolved, but the network that is now airing the series, the Sci-Fi Channel, has other intentions.

The last two seasons of the series introduce a new villain, another ascended race called The Ori. There are other major changes in the show, primarily in the cast. O'Neill is promoted to the rank of Major General, and is eventually reduced to guest appearances by Anderson. Another stalwart of the team, the Stargate general who?s overseen everything for ages, General Hammond (Don Davis) is also ?promoted? and replaced by Major General Hank Laury (Beau Bridges). The replacement for O'Neill is Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell (Ben Browder). Also joining the team is an alien thief introduced seasons back named Vala Mal Doran (Claudia Black). She made her first appearance in Season Eight, but would become a regular from this point on. As it stands, the addition of Browder and Black brought some new life to the team.

The best way to describe the Ori is a science fiction nightmare built around religious fanaticism. They recruit various humans to become their proselytizers, spreading their concept of Origin. In return, the new recruits become Priors, and are given a number of powers to back themselves up, among them the power to destroy a ?non-believer? on the spot.

Actually from another galaxy, the Ori, as any good race of bad guys, see the Milky Way as prime territory to spread their beliefs. As can also be expected, SG-1 stands in their way. As far as the TV show is concerned, this arc would not be resolved on the small screen because of Sci-Fi Channel?s sudden decision to pull the plug on the series. As fans now know, it?s now being handled in the first of the new direct-to-DVD releases, ?Ark of Truth.?

That doesn?t mean every plot thread has been answered though. As it stands, ?Stargate SG-1? is still an ongoing project. Another DVD movie, currently titled ?Continuum? is apparently slated for release this July. Another spin-off series, ?Universe? is also in the works and just might have characters from the original SG-1 series in it.

All one can say is time will tell. After all, it?s a darn big universe out there.