So here we are with the first of my rewatching of the entire Stargate: SG-1 story. Buckle up, it’s going to be a long ride.
Tonight’s tale is the season opening two-parter Children of the Gods.
We open with a squad of Airmen playing cards in a dusty basement of an unknown facility. One of them, a blonde nervous woman who is weary of what command would think of them, suddenly notices the tarp covering an object is moving. Suddenly the tarp blows away to reveal the Stargate, clearly kept in storage since the events of the film. As she gets closer to the water like surface a group of unknown people in chainmail armour and serpent helmets appear from the circle, taking the airwoman hostage. This leads to a short firefight in which the other airman are swiftly killed by the staff weapons, pikes that shoot laser bolts from the top, held by the enemy. The base is alerted and the hostiles retreat back through the Stargate with their captive, but not before the leader of the facility has a confrontation with the leader of the party whose eyes glow, signifying his alien origins.
Next we find an officer driving to the home of retired Colonel Jack O’Neill (with two l’s) to inform him of the situation regarding the Stargate and has been requested by General Hammond, the leader of Stargate Command (the SGC) based in the Cheyenne Mountain facility, to help with his expertise following the events of the film. Hammond reveals that the leader of the attack shares many features to that of Ra, the being killed on Abydos, and therefore might be the same man, a belief O’Neill denies. Despite this Hammond and the Air Force believe that they must have reopened the Abydos gate and come through it and therefore a nuclear weapon will be sent through to blow it up, at which point O’Neill reveals that the previously thought dead Daniel Jackson and other humans on Abydos are still alive.
After a back and forth between Hammond and O’Neill they agree to send a probe through to see who is actually on the other side, this probe being a box of tissues as Jackson would understand who it came. After a friendly message back Hammond agrees to authorise a mission back to Abydos to rescue Jackson composing of O’Neill’s old team and Captain Samantha Carter, an expert in astrophysics and the Stargate. After an initial argument due to her inexperience and nature as a scientist (whom O’Neill detests) her willingness to stand up to the questioning convinces them to bring her along, despite their obvious annoyance at her fascination with the Stargate.
Arriving on the other side they’re confronted by a guard party armed with M16s and MP5s who reveal Jackson, along with wife Sha’re and O’Neill’s fan Skaara, who had been awaiting their arrival. After an evening feast with the Abydonians Jackson shows them a vast complex that contains a mass collection of Stargate addresses that can be used to open up a vast array of other worlds, where previously those of the SGC thought it only linked to Abydos after trying hundreds of different combinations without success.
While this is going on however the new enemy attacks the rest of the team and other Abydonians still guarding the Gate. Much like in their attack on Earth they quickly dispatch the unprepared defenders and take both Sha’re and Skaara hostage, also commenting that Sha’re may be ‘the one’ for some nefarious plan. While they believe to have gotten away clear one of those meddling airman notices the combination of symbols they entered into the Gate’s ‘Dial Home Device’ (a pedestal with all the symbols on to enter different combinations of addresses). Jackson agrees to come back but tells the Abydonians to seal off the Gate for a year so that they don’t get attacked in the meantime. Upon return the SGC reveal their new defensive measure of the ‘Iris’, a metal barrier that closes over the Stargate to prevent anything passing through but still allows a wormhole to be established behind it.
We quickly cut to the enemy planet where we see a large group of prisoners that includes those taken from Abydos and Sha’re is taken away for unknown reasons and the previously abducted airwoman, who has been forced into a court harem, is taken before the enemy leader to judge her suitability as his ‘new queen’ and is promptly killed when judged not to be by a stomach worm while a previously shown guard, Teal’c, stares on clearly troubled.
After reminiscing about old times O’Neill and Jackson head back to the SGC where they conclude that the new enemy must be related to Ra and that the President has decided to reactivate the Stargate Program, creating several “SG Teams” of which O’Neill’s will be SG-1 (made up of himself, Carter, and Jackson), and authorises a mission to the enemy’s homeworld and eliminate the threat.
We cut back to the palace where Sha’re has been chosen to next be tested and is brought before the leader to be evaluated, where we get Stargate’s only ever use of full frontal nudity, and this time the worm finds her suitable, burrowing itself into the back of her neck. As this occurs both SG-1 and SG-2 have arrived on the planet with SG-2 guarding the Gate while SG-1 go and explore this strange new world (that looks oddly like British Columbia) encountering a group of monk-like figures who lead them to the city of Chulak where they are greeted as Gods and given yet another feast. Here Sha’re is introduced by the leader as the ‘new Queen’, causing Daniel to break cover and for the team to be captured.
Several hours pass with both the SGC getting panicky over the lack of communication and SG-1 being revealed to now be in the same detention cell shown earlier on. The guard Teal’c takes an interest in their technology, and the fact it is not of “Goa’uld” design, reacting strangely when they reveal their Earth origins. Jackson tells the others that the mysterious enemy leader is Apophis, who in Egyptian mythology is Ra’s brother. Teal’c returns to choose yet another prisoner to become ‘Children of the Gods’ with Jackon volunteering out of desperation to be near Sha’re, despite being told that ‘nothing of the host survives’. Despite this the Goa’uld choose Skaara instead and tell Teal’c and the other guards, revealed to be called Jaffa, to execute the others. O’Neill tries to implore Teal’c to help him save them who, seeing their strength, does so and they make quick work of the other Jaffa before blowing a hole in the wall and allowing the others to escape, with O’Neill saying Teal’c can come with them.
On the way back to the Stargate Teal’c reveals the Goa’ulds true nature and that he carries an infant one within him that gives him his superior health and strength. Hearing approaching aircraft they pick up the pace but they are beaten to the gate by Apophis, Sha’re, and Skaara’s transport ship which, after depositing them at the Gate, quickly returns and begins strafing the team and other prisoners who are quickly pinned down. After a short fight however SG-2 arrive with a Stinger and shoot down the ship.
With time running out before the SGC lock the Stargate for good they head for the Gate where it is revealed Skaara has already been implanted with a Goa’uld symbiote and that they don’t know where they went. With little time left and enemy reinforcements approaching SG-1 quickly dial the gate while SG-2, O’Neill, and Teal’c (plus one caveman) hold the enemy off. While helping one of SG-2 retreat however Kowalski, one of the original Abydos expedition, is attacked by a symbiote from a dead Jaffa but makes it through the gate with seemingly no ill-effects.
After a small celebration Hammond asks them in for a debrief on the mission and Teal’c place at the SGC. Jackson and O’Neill however both agree no matter what they’ll find Sha’re and Skaara. Unseen to all Kowalski follows them down the ramp and his eyes briefly glow.
So that was Stargate SG-1’s opening Children of the Gods and I have to say to this day it still remains one of the strongest opening episodes of a show I have ever seen. Not only does it build a strong 90 minute flick but establishes the universe in quite good detail, sets up the story arc for the season ahead, but also ominously ends on a pretty good cliffhanger.
Storywise it does seem in many ways to be fairly cliché in the setup, especially in the science fiction genre, with a sudden threat to Earth emerging but it does it in quite a nice way that doesn’t feel that over the top, with only the big bad and a few troops shown and one small fighter/transport and a couple of limited engagements between the two sides rather than big setpieces that could make the following episodes seem boring by comparison. It also quickly set itself apart from the film, giving believable reasons for why certain things happened, while also recognising that legacy.
In terms of characters it does a good job of introducing them with enough depth to know who they’re; with O’Neill being a cocky leader with no time for politics or complex science but with a heart that is in the right place, Jackson as an explorer who wants to find out about new cultures and ideas but is headstrong and sometimes unwilling to reason, Carter as a devout scientist who has a complex understanding of how the Stargate works but is also defensive due to a history of being questioned due to her gender (more on that later), and Teal’c as the mysterious warrior who has had enough of the brutality of his masters. The only other character of not so far is General Hammond who in this episode comes off quite harsh compared to what we’ll see as the season goes on, with him openly questioning O’Neill’s actions and almost a by-the-book officer in this situation but is still determined to bend the rules to make sure those under his command come back alive.
One of the longstanding hallmarks of Sci-Fi has been the quality of the visual effects and even today those on the show still hold up remarkably well bar a couple of distance shots. Also the variety of environments depicted in just this one episode in terms of VFX, costuming, and set design is quite remarkable with not only brutalistic military utilitarianism but also that synonymous with Ancient Egyptian architecture and in the final third Greco-Roman design. When so many shows go with just one look the fact this went with three really keeps you interested and never bored of it.
Now my last piece of more in-depth stuff today is regarding the Carter gender lines and the argument around them. This is a show that frequently talks about a number of issues including gender inequality in both civilian and military society and Carter’s introduction has been seen as an example of women being treated unfairly because of their gender. However my view is that the argument in question is solely based around the fact she is a rank outsider to those in the room as she is the young fresh-faced Captain in a room full veteran officers but is also seen as more of a scientist than frontline soldier. It is only when she defends herself and quickly proves her skills as both an officer and scientist do they accept her into the team as an equal. However the topic of Carter representing ‘the women’ on the show is one I will be coming back to on Saturday in the analysis of episode 4 ‘Emancipation’.
· I really like how many of the terms on the show were introduced initially via action rather than exposition, such as Jaffa being shown to mean the Guards when ordered to execute the prisoners before later being explained more in-depth by Teal’c.
· The fact that the SGC is still quite ramshackle by the end of the episode, with them not fully prepared defensively, is also a nice little touch to the fact this is an operation just beginning. Other shows probably would’ve had them be 100% efficient already.
· I always keep forgetting just how unintentionally campy some of the show was when it first started and how stupid it looked before they actually embraced camp and did it on purpose.