Someone states that chevron seven is locked and with a noise, a blue shimmering portal appears. A team steps through it, traveling via wormhole to a whole new world and a whole new adventure. That's the very basic premise of Stargate SG-1, a TV show that was inspired by the 1994 film Stargate but took on a life all its own. SG-1 inspired a franchise more lasting and impactful than the movie it was based on and was one of the defining TV shows for me growing up.
This year the show celebrates a big 20th anniversary. It premiered on July 27, 1997, when I was just 10 years old and I had already been watching a lot of sci-fi, from Star Trek to Star Wars. I didn't think much when my dad suggested we try watching this new Stargate show. I can't even remember if I watched the movie before SG-1's premiere, but after a few episodes I was hooked! Each week the team explored a new planet and made new discoveries and were relatable in a way characters on other shows weren't.
While Star Trek was about discovery as well, they were from a future where advanced technology and aliens weren't an entirely new idea. The SG-1 team, however, was from a present-day-like Earth, and their reactions mirrored what I thought I might feel if I suddenly raced through the wormhole and saw what they saw.
I didn't just feel connected to the characters because of this, though. Stargate SG-1 excelled at creating interesting and relatable characters. The chemistry between the core SG-1 team of Jack O'Neill, Samantha Carter, Teal'c, and Daniel Jackson, as well as between unforgettable characters like General George Hammond, Dr. Janet Fraiser, Thor, Jonas Quinn, Bra'tac, and even gate technician Walter Harriman made you feel invested in everyone on the show.
Of course, it was that four-person team that had to hold your attention and really make you feel invested, and they more than succeeded. Each person brought a different skill to the team but wasn't solely defined by it. They had complex personalities and backstories, and it wasn't always easy for them to get along. The team became close, however, and you grew to really care for them too.
While I love all of SG-1 for different reasons, Carter was a particularly important character to me growing up. She was a smart, capable, caring, multidimensional woman character who didn't fit into one box like so many other women characters I'd seen before. She remained central for all 10 seasons of the show and appeared in the franchise beyond that, evolving along the way. She was a huge influence on me for more than a decade, and I'm glad she was around to serve as a role model at that time.
Carter and the other characters were a big part of why the drama and humor on the show worked. SG-1 followed an episodic format for the most part, but from the start had a larger, underlying story that was always there driving the characters and helping them grow as they faced new challenges. The show may have had to find its footing in the beginning, and I can't say it didn't have its faults. When you look at some episodes now, like many shows, you might wonder how they ended up on TV.
Still, most of the stories were fascinating, and they even made commonly used sci-fi story elements like time travel work in new ways. Just look at "Window of Opportunity" as an example! They had a perfect balance of tackling some serious subjects while also not taking themselves too seriously and giving us memorable episodes like “Wormhole X-Treme!” These stories built a wonderful, complex world that differed from other shows that did this in how it used history and mythology. I was bitten by an ancient history bug young and ever since have had a love for mythology. Suddenly with SG-1, sci-fi was colliding with this other interest in a way I'd never seen before.
Which leads me to the major impact this show had on my life, in addition to increasing my love of sci-fi, world-building, well-developed characters and shows that mix humor and drama. I've already mentioned how seeing a strong woman character like Carter mattered to me, but the show also influenced my academic interests. I can't deny that watching Stargate SG-1 made me want to learn a lot more about archaeology. I think I partly have the show to thank for making me see that as a way to explore the ancient history and mythology I was already interested in. The characters themselves were always striving for knowledge, and it was inspiring. I majored in archaeology in college, and it's remained an interest through the years. If I ever pursue the area further one day, I may be keeping my eyes open for a Stargate Program!
There are smaller ways the show in which impacted me, too. It encouraged my love of soundtracks with its stellar music, becoming the first TV soundtrack I ever asked for ... and I still have that old first-season CD! I'll even admit that the word "indeed" may have entered my vocabulary a lot more thanks to Teal'c. How could it not?
I've loved a lot of shows since Stargate SG-1, but there has yet to be a show that's come close to its level. For me, Stargate will always be SG-1 and the vast world it created, spin-offs and all. In the midst of discussions of new Stargate releases, I can't help but still yearn for more of SG-1 and just one more visit with these characters. Until that happens, I'll just be sitting here re-watching my favorite episodes on my DVD box sets, joining the team on one more adventure.