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A binge-watching guide to Stargate: SG-1's Samantha Carter

Contributed by
May 5, 2018

It’s been more than 20 years since Stargate: SG-1 debuted on our television screens, and more than 10 years since it left. We have a lot of reasons to be grateful that this show existed for its decade on the air, but perhaps the greatest thing it gave us was Captain/Major/Lieutenant Colonel/Colonel Samantha Carter. 

Sam was a core element of the show, even though she generally suffered from being the only female character in a series full of men (yes, Janet was great, but she wasn’t there all the time). Despite that, the writers were frequently able to do some genuinely wonderful things with her, offering her dozens of opportunities to shine for her bravery, her ingenuity, and her absolute badassery. 

It’s hard to be the only main female character on a show. You have to be all things to all people, and that’s a tall order for anyone. Regardless, Sam was a warrior, a scientist, and a leader, and hands down one of our biggest pop culture role models.

So, if you’re looking to revisit the story of Samantha Carter, then keep reading, 'cause we’re about to take you on a very specific journey through 10 years of Stargate adventures.

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“Emancipation” (S1, E4)

While Sam technically shows up in the first episode of the series, it’s not until the fourth that they really let her badass out. In this episode, SG-1 happens upon a race of people who view women as objects. When Sam is traded to a neighboring chief, she challenges her own captivity both with her smart mouth and her combat training, proving right off the bat that she is not one to be messed with.

“The First Commandment” (S1, E5)

But Sam isn’t without a past, and, of course, that past has to do with a guy. Thankfully, in "The First Commandment" we discover that Sam’s ex became that way when she found out he’s a controlling jackass with a power issue. When his personality flaws turn into a literal god complex, Sam takes it upon herself to fix it.

“Hathor” (S1, E13)

People give this episode a lot of crap and I don’t understand why. Sure, it does some weird stuff with the mythology, but who doesn’t love an episode all about girl power? When Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of “sex, drugs and rock and roll” shows up at the SGC, she immediately has all the men in her thrall. Thankfully, Sam and the half a dozen or so other women on the base are unaffected and have the wherewithal to use their lady parts — and the base’s armory — to save the day.

“Singularity” (S1, E14)

Sam is never really one for a maternal role, but in "Singularity" she accidentally bonds with a 12-year-old girl named Cassandra who is the only survivor of her village. That relationship very quickly turns dramatic as Cassandra ends up a literal bomb and it’s up to Sam and Janet to figure out how to save her, or how to save themselves. The Sam/Cassandra relationship is rarely used on the show, but it is easily her most profound (outside her romantic one with Jack). Plus, it’s nice to see this side of Sam, as awkward as it is.

“Solitudes” (S1, E17)

Shippers, start your engines. This might not be the episode that started the Sam/Jack ship, but it is definitely the one that kicked things up a notch. Sam and Jack get thrown out of the Stargate onto what they think is an ice planet. With Jack injured, it’s up to Sam to keep them both alive and try to find a way to fix the gate, all while their friends at the SGC race against the clock to find them in a universe of Stargates.

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“In the Line of Duty” (S2, E2)

The worst fear of anyone working in Stargate Command is that they will one day be taken over by a Goa’uld, and it’s Sam’s turn in this episode. Sam later gets taken over by stuff a lot, but this is the first time, and it’s a doozy. Not only is she harboring a symbiote, but she’s being hunted by an assassin intent on killing her new friend. Luckily for Sam, Jolinar isn’t a normal Goa’uld — she’s a Tok’ra, a rebel, and she sacrifices herself for Sam. This kicks off a whole slew of fun developments for the characters, starting with …

“The Tok’ra” Parts 1/2 (S2, E11/12)

… actually meeting the Tok’ra. They are not pleasant. But what do you expect from a race of people who have been fighting the Goa’uld in secret only to be barged in on by a bunch of humans? Sam plays a huge role in this two-parter as she utilizes Jolinar’s memories to find her way to the secret base, learns about Jolinar’s romantic relationship with fellow Tok’ra Martouf, and offers up her dying father Jacob as a host for one of their oldest members, sparking a brand-new chapter in their complicated relationship.

“Point of View” (S3, E6)

Remember how great "Solitudes" was for Sam/Jack shippers? Well, in this one they’re married! Sorta. OK, not really. An alternate version of Sam shows up in our reality having just lost her husband, an alternate Jack O’Neill. It’s a wild ride for both Sam and Jack, forcing them to confront, however abstractly, their feelings for one another. Plus, Sam is forced to confront an alternate version of her own life and deal with the awkwardness of watching that alternate self have feelings all over Jack.

“Jolinar’s Memories”/“The Devil You Know” (S3, E12/13)

Another two-parter that’s all about Sam, more or less. In this one, Martouf arrives at the SGC to inform her that her father has literally been sent to hell and it’s up to them to find a way to get him back. Sam has to actively probe the memories Jolinar left behind, offering Sam the opportunity to learn more about her former symbiote and further develop her relationship with both her father and Martouf. Meanwhile, we get to learn a little more about Sam’s past, including what happened to her mother.

“Foothold” (S3, E14)

Turns out Jolinar is useful for much more than her memories. The Naquadah left in Sam’s blood after Jolinar’s death keeps her safe in a whole bunch of ways, like when the entire SGC is taken over by weird-looking aliens and she and Teal’c are the only ones who escape unharmed. Now, if she could just get literally anyone to believe her. BONUS: Sam in street clothes!

“Divide and Conquer” (S4, E5)

Surprisingly, most of the shippiest episodes aren’t on this list, but that doesn’t mean we’re excluding all of them. Like this one, the first time that Sam and Jack had to acknowledge their feelings out loud, to each other, in order to keep from being lobotomized or drugged out of their brains. They never actually say anything, but they don’t say it LOUDLY.

“2010” (S4, E16)

Remember when 2010 was the just-distant-enough future and not the almost-as-far-in-the-past-as-it-was-in-the-future? Well, then journey back to 2010, a time 10 years in the future of our characters, to find Samantha Carter, no longer in the military, currently married to a guy we have never met before and very sad that she can’t have children. It’s interesting that they chose to center this entire episode about the fallout from a deal with an advanced alien people on Sam and her relationships, but it does work. Maybe because Sam is the only character equally linked to everyone else? This is also one of the many episodes in which a bunch of dudes argue about Sam, only for Sam to just say “screw you” and do what she wants 'cause she’s a badass.

“Prodigy” (S4, E19)

Speaking of badass, when Sam travels to the Air Force Academy to give a lecture, she meets a young woman who reminds her of all her best qualities, and her worst. So, as with all great mentors, Sam brings the cadet along on a mission. There’s a lot of yelling, and a lot of weird genius posturing, but it’s always fun to see characters you respect trying to be people worthy of respect, and even more fun to find out how they view themselves.

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“Entity” (S4, E20)

Fine, this one is less about Sam and more about the way everyone else feels about her, but let me have this! Another one where Sam gets taken over by an alien so that everyone can be worried, this one allows for some of the patented "Sam and Daniel want to be nice to aliens while Jack and Teal’c want to kill it" dynamic. Meanwhile, Sam’s consciousness manages to communicate through a computer interface, which is pretty cool.

“Exodus” (S4, E22)

Remember that time Sam blew up a Sun to escape from Apophis and also maybe get rid of him for good? This is that episode. It comes up a lot.

“Ascension” (S5, E3)

For a show that is not at all about the romantic relationships of its characters (except for Sam and Jack who are IN LOVE), Sam has a surprising number of suitors. Orlin is probably the most interesting since he falls in love with Sam while an incorporeal Ascended being. He cute, he’s all knowing, he talks funny, he builds a Stargate in her basement using parts of an old toaster. What more could a girl want?

“2001” (S5, E10)

Hey, remember that guy from 2010 who came out of nowhere? Welcome to nowhere! This is the moment they meet the Ashen and almost make a deal that dooms them all. And just like last time, it comes down to Sam to save us all.

“Desperate Measures” (S5, E11)

Over the course of 10 seasons, a lot of people take a creepy, specific interest in Sam. Like in this episode, where her experiences with Jolinar make her the target of a kidnapping. But Sam can hold her own, even if she does need a tiny bit of rescuing.

“Nightwalkers” (S6, E5)

Sam doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to lead, even in the season where she is the uncontested commander of SG-1, but every once in a while she gets the chance to break out on her own and make some big decisions. Like, for instance, in this Season 6 episode where she, Jonas, and Teal’c end up in an eerie town full of sleepwalking citizens. Not only does Sam take charge of the team, but she works with the FBI and even launches her own little bit of subterfuge. It’s a weird episode, but there’s some great Sam stuff, so it’s worth a watch.

“Unnatural Selection” (S6, E12)

This is technically the second part of a two-part episode, but since the stories are mostly separate, this is the only one that really has anything interesting to do with Sam. That’s because this is the episode where we first meet Fifth, a humanoid Replicator, the fifth creation, of course, and he has a thing for Sam (also of course). Fifth is an interesting character, especially because of the moral issues he causes for Sam. The two of them bond a little because Fifth finds Sam interesting, and his naïveté allows her to manipulate him into helping the humans escape at his own expense.

“Space Race” (S7, E8)

Every once in a great while we get to see the fun side of Sam. Sure, she’s brilliant, and a badass, but she’s also a bit of an adrenaline junkie. So when an old ally arrives at Stargate Command to ask for her help winning a space race, you can bet Sam is there in a flash, even when that race will likely kill her.

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“Avenger 2.0” (S7, E9)

Perhaps because she’s just that awesome, more likely because she’s one of the only women on the show, men get obsessed with Sam a LOT. Usually really emotionally unstable men (like Sixth), or immortal ancient beings (like Orlin), or really doofy, socially awkward guys who can’t catch a break. That last one is this one, as Sam has to team up with Dr. Felger to fix the Stargate system when he accidentally breaks the entire thing with a virus.

“Grace” (S7, E13)

Probably one of the best Sam-centric episodes of the entire series, "Grace" follows Sam as she finds herself stranded on board the Prometheus, floating dead in space. She’s the only one left on board, and with no clue how to fix the ship and save the crew, she’s got a lot on her plate. Add to that a serious head injury that forces her to stay awake (lest she possibly die) and causes ongoing, and sometimes very annoying, hallucinations of her friends and you get an episode all about Sam’s ingenuity and strength that probes all the questions both she and the audience have been considering for a long time.

“Chimera” (S7, E15)

So, technically, this is a Daniel episode, since it focuses primarily on his attempts to save his ex-girlfriend, Sarah, from the Goa’uld that’s held her body for the last three years. But it’s also the episode where Sam finally gets a personal life and a boyfriend. His name is Pete. He’s a cop. He’s also not Jack and if you’re a fan of the character you’re probably very conflicted about this.

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“Death Knell” (S7, E16)

Man, they put Sam through the ringer this season, but so help me it made for good TV. "Death Knell" is right up there with "Grace" as a great episode for the character, but for very different reasons. Instead of showing her ability to problem solve with a head injury, or taking the character on a journey of self-discovery, this episode is all about survival. Sam is on the run from a Goa’uld super soldier. She’s injured, tired, and virtually unable to stop her pursuer, so all she can do is stay alive long enough for help to arrive. If you didn’t know she was a badass before, you definitely know it now.

“New Order Pt. 1/2” (S8, E1/2)

Remember Fifth? He is back with a vengeance. I mean a literal vengeance. He’s very very mad at Sam for what she did to him back on his planet and he’s gonna teach her a lesson. Fifth kidnaps Sam and locks her in a weird mind prison, first trying to lie to her in order to create a perfect life for them both, then torturing her. It’s pretty terrible, but perhaps the worst part is that Sam knows it’s a little bit her own fault. She taught him about betrayal and about pain, and now he’s turning it back on her.

“Covenant” (S8, E8)

Sam’s personal life takes center stage again in this episode, but it’s not her dating life this time—it’s her friendly acquaintances. Thrilling, I know, but when a fellow scientist starts attempting to make elements of the Stargate program public knowledge, Sam has to work to discredit someone she admires and ends up standing up to her superiors because of it. Oh, and she talks a guy off a ledge, which is pretty great.

“Gemini” (S8, E11)

Fifth is back, sorta. Actually, it’s one of Fifth’s creations, a humanoid Replicator version of Sam herself who has arrived in our galaxy seeking the SGC’s help to destroy both herself and Fifth. RepliCarter claims that she not only possesses Sam’s appearance, but also her hatred of Fifth, and our Sam is inclined to believe her, if only because she feels guilty about everything she’s done to create Fifth and, by extension, this version of herself. Of course, RepliCarter turns out to be a little too much like Sam in one very specific regard, and while Fifth is no longer an issue, now there’s a brand new villain threatening Earth.

“Threads” (S8, E18)

"Threads" is a really interesting episode in the grand scheme of the series, both because it is technically a super-sized episode, and because it is a breath of calm between the destruction of the Goa’uld and the end of the season. While Daniel navigates his weird ascended limbo existence in an otherworldly diner, Sam and Jack navigate their feelings for each other, and questions about what happens next, especially as Sam’s dad hangs on death’s door.

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“Moebius Pt. 1/2” (S8, E20)

The Season 8 finale is another weird one since technically it’s an alternate reality, but whatever, it’s great. We get some “what if” situations wherein the Stargate is never discovered and Sam and Daniel end up super nerds with weird hair and/or glasses. It’s a fun look at a very different side of Sam that still maintains her trademark sass and bravery if tempered by social anxiety. Still brilliant, though.

“The Fourth Horseman Pt. 1/2” (S9, E10/11)

Orlin is back to help them take on their newest foe, only this time he’s a pre-teen who maintains his feelings for Sam. Yes, it’s as awkward as it sounds. 

“Arthur’s Mantle” (S9, E18)

OK, let’s just be honest here. After Season 8, they had absolutely no clue what to do with Sam. They finished her story and then got renewed for two more years, so while the last two seasons are still good TV, Sam doesn’t really get many chances to shine. "Arthur’s Mantle" is still good though, as Sam and newbie, Cameron Mitchell, get trapped out of phase and have to figure out how to get back.

“Line in the Sand” (S10, E12)

Alright, here’s where they start to focus a little more on Sam, however briefly. "Line in the Sand" is sort of a companion piece to "Arthur’s Mantle," as SG-1 attempts to use Merlin’s device from that episode to save an entire village. It does not work, but it does help Sam and Mitchell phase out long enough to fix the device. Oh, and Sam gets shot and nearly dies, and there’s nothing like near-death experiences to make you say things (or give up highly suggestive passwords).

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“The Road Not Taken” (S10, E13)

This Merlin device is just the gift that keeps on giving, really. Like in this one, where Sam’s attempts to better understand the phasing technology only to accidentally end up in another reality with no way home. She helps save this Earth from the Ori only to end up a victim of the paranoia that has gripped this version of the US and Stargate Command. It’s one of those episodes which forces the morality of one of our characters to grate against a whole different kind of worldview and it’s actually super interesting. 

“Unending” (S10, E20)

It’s the series finale, so it’s also the culmination of pretty much everything that came before it. There’s not a ton of Sam since the episode attempts to spend equal time with all the characters, but there are some specific moments which speak to the core of the character. Like the fact that she spends literal decades working on the same problem in an attempt to save them all. There’s no way anyone else in the universe has that kind of perseverance.