Ancient aliens are a little annoying. To claim that everything interesting in history was actually the result of alien interference is not only fodder for weird conspiracy theories, but also a played science fiction trope – to put it mildly. not to say offensive!
The 1994 movie stargate is the poster child for why anyone might roll their eyes at ancient aliens. It’s not a great movie. And yet the existence of stargate paved the way for the television series Stargate: SG-1, who proved 25 years ago that a reboot of a mediocre sci-fi movie can not only work – it can be awesome.
Call Stargate: SG-1 a reboot is technically incorrect. Even though three years have passed since the movie, SG-1 is set in the same canon as the ill-conceived adventures of Kurt Russell and James Spader. The Stargates’ ancient alien technology has therefore already been discovered, allowing the TV show to dive straight into its weekly adventures.
And while the first stargate did decently at the box office in 1994, it was a critical failure. Turning it into a TV show – let alone a good one – was unusual. imagine if The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior wasn’t a straight-to-DVD movie, but something of a successful TV show. Or if the very bad directly on video Starship Troopers the sequels were more of a weekly adventure. A TV sequel emerging several years after a movie, let alone a TV sequel good, was not common.
To climb even higher, the fact that SG-1 putting Richard Dean Anderson in the lead role of Jack O’Neil is bananas. Not because he’s not a good actor, but because in 1997 it was hard for most viewers not to associate him with his most famous role of all time, MacGyver. Several years later, Company would try to pull the same trick by throwing Scott Bakula fresh out of his time on quantum leap, but star gate the casting worked in a way that putting Bakula in a Trek prequel arguably didn’t.
Today, Anderson is probably just as famous for stargate as it is for MacGyver. And, though it lives in the shadow of other sci-fi franchises, the stargate the universe turned out to be a star maker. The spin-off series Stargate: Atlantis launched the science fiction and fantasy career of Jason Momoa, i.e. DC, game of thrones, and Dunes all must stargate a debt of gratitude. (Be careful, though. If you connect the dots from 1994 stargate movie to Aquaman’s current career, madness may ensue.)
So it’s amazing that Stargate: SG-1 exist. But 25 years later, why should you watch it? Aren’t the ancient alien arcs still a bit silly? Well, yes, but apart Babylon 5 and the last seasons of Deep Space Nine, no show made ambitious serialized sci-fi TV quite like this. The late 1990s are often credited with the invention of modern television, as stand-alone stories in big shows were slowly replaced by interconnected epics, like The Sopranos. It would be a mistake to call Stargate: SG-1 the Soprano 90s sci-fi, but that wouldn’t be far off either.
It’s a show that took big risks with complex storylines that span the season. It’s a show that has created its own internal continuity, which has led to a popular shared universe. And best of all, it’s a “star” franchise that has nothing to do with Star Trek or Star Wars. Today, aspects of Stargate: SG-1 may seem quaint, but there’s no way modern sci-fi TV would get to where it is now if the genre hadn’t first passed through the Stargate.
Stargate: SG-1 is streaming on Netflix.