It didn’t seem likely at the time, but the 1997 pilot for Stargate SG-1 kicked off more than a decade’s worth of sci-fi and three different shows in one of the biggest genre franchises ever conceived. But had a few rewrites not made it in, things could’ve looked pretty different.
The folks at Gateworld managed to get their hands on a copy of the pilot episode’s original script, dated October 18, 1996 (which puts it in the rewrite phase, about four months before the pilot episode went in front of a camera). They took a deep dive into what changed from page to screen, and the highlights are a geeky rabbit hole into some ideas that never made it off the cutting room floor.
First up, the character changes: The show’s first Big Bad, Apophis (Peter Williams), was originally the Egyptian god Apep. Amanda Tapping’s Samantha Carter also had a different name, going by the moniker Samantha Clayman. Clayman also carried a disdain for the military — despite being a member of the Air Force — a character trait that never really made it to the screen in the final version of Carter. Another change: General Hammond, played by Don. S Davis, was originally conceived as a “tough as nails” African-American military man akin to Colin Powell.
The end of the original pilot also includes an important tweak, as the side character of Lt. Kawalsky finishes the original draft of the pilot perfectly fine. In the aired version, it’s revealed he’s been taken over by a Goa'uld symbiote, and he’s killed in the next episode after being taken over and trying to escape through the Stargate. Of course, that plot point could’ve been planned regardless, but it wasn’t present in the original cut of the pilot. Interestingly, the episode-ending Kawalsky reveal was actually cut from the 2009 Final Cut of the pilot (a re-edited version put together by the creators as a film-style spin on the pilot).
Other weird tweaks: A big fight scene was cut when the team was captured on the alien planet Chulak, and Chulak was originally written as a snowy planet (the final version was more temperate). Stargate Command itself also underwent a protocol change — in the original script, the gate had both a metal iris and concrete doors that would close in front of the gate if needed. The final version only featured the iris.
If you’re a fan of Stargate, the full breakdown is well worth digging into. The full run of SG-1 is streaming now on Hulu.