First of all, I am going to start by saying that I am a Trekky. This is not going to be an article bashing Alex Kurtzman or Nu-Trek in any way. Star Trek the Next Generation was my favourite TV show for years, I loved the characters and I was a total geek for it. I read everything I could get my hands on about StartTrek, I got the Enterprise D manual and tried to understand how the flagship of the Federation worked and imagine what it might be like to take a voyage aboard her to the final frontier.
But then in 1997 a new show aired. That guy from McGyver was in it, not my favourite show ever, I was probably a bit young for it, but I knew of it and I like the main guy in it. I had obviously seen the movie with James Spader and Kurt Russell and had loved it so I was 100% giving this new show based on the movie a go. It was a soft reboot with the same characters but different actors in their roles but this was before the days of the angry internet so one was shouting how rubbish and woke this new version was going to be months before it had even aired.
Now I won’t lie, it was not exactly love at first sight. The first few episodes were good but it was no Star Trek. Voyager was just started to get good as it flew into its third season and we got the massive series finale of Deep Space 9 in the same year. Both shows were dripping with action and special effects and this new Stargate show just didn’t look as good on the screen. Star Trek was spending millions of dollars an episode and this little show filmed in Canada on less than a million dollars an episode couldn’t compete… right? I mean they even had to steal special effects shots of Goa’uld Death Gliders from the movie to save money. There was simply no comparison.
But this little show had something I couldn’t quite put my finger on so I kept watching… I liked it enough from the beginning but before I knew it I didn’t just like these characters.. I loved them. Honestly, it didn’t really take very long either and by two-thirds the way through the first season I was hooked. I was no longer identifying primarily as a Trekky anymore… I was a Gater too!
But why? What had stolen me away from my beloved Star Trek. Now I am going to talk about the characters and my affection for all of them in a minute but first of all, there is a simple fact that Amazon, in all its wisdom, MUST remember. Stargate could have been real… Just let that sink in… Star Trek was always imaginary, in the distant future aboard starships doing billions of miles an hour across the cosmos but Stargate, well that could be happening right now under Cheyenne Mountain and none of us would ever know. That was always really core to the show. It was anchored in reality. They played with that concept so many times in the series with episodes where politicians, news reporters, or barbers threatened to expose the secrets of the mission. Keeping Stargate command a secret was a top priority and that, for me, helped me get lost in the fantasy even more. Now any reboot that Amazon plan must remember this because I think the anchor in reality is as important as Egyptian mythology or the characters in what made Stargate the incredible franchise it became. You could argue its one reason one Stargate Atlantis and Universe failed to quite garner the success of SG1.
Any great show though does need great characters. It’s the characters that made Firefly the cult phenomenon it still is today, I argue it is why Star Trek Strange New Worlds is so much better than anything else Kurtzman has created in the new era of Trek. When they get the casting right and you have the right actors and the creative writers that come together to form characters we care about then magic can happen… even if the show is not actually that good we can still fall in love. In the case of Stargate, we DID have characters that we could and did fall in love with. By the end of season 1 Richard Dean Anderson had forged a new version of Jack O’Neill (2 L’s) and made the character his own, Michael Shanks did a James Spader impression for a few seasons but in such an endearing way that it was almost a shame when he stopped doing it as often. Characters like Teal’c perhaps took longer to really form and grow but it was the fact that they didn’t rush it that again made the character believable and even though a big part of his storyline throughout was him tacking the guilt of his actions over years as Prime to Apophis, he still slowly grew as a character while staying the Teal’c we adored… indeed he did. Samantha Carter was well established by the end of season 1 but her relationship with Daniel, Jack, and Teal’c was a joy to watch, as it was for the entire cast. Even when new characters came and went and villains like Ba’al and Lord Yu came in you could just tell that they were as close to family as you can get in a work environment. They clearly got on behind the scenes and it really shone through. The closest example of this I can think of is again the Firefly series where the cast became great friends after the show ended and so it was for Stargate, in particular SG1 and Atlantis.
Beyond the characters, though SG1 knew it had to evolve over 10 seasons… and it did in very clever ways. They were always pushing the boundaries without moving too quickly to make it unbelievable. The best example of that is the use of the alien technology they discovered and eventually used to build the Prometheus and F-302s. The show creators had to make the SGC and the Tauri stronger as the threats and the stakes grew, going in the machine guns and saving the day wouldn’t cut it as the show evolved. But they knew to do this evolution slowly enough to make it still believable. The evolution was taken one step at a time and even as the technology grew more fantastic the SGC was still always the scrappy underdog fighting against a superior enemy.
Finally, the thing that made me truly say I am Gater first and Trekky second was that the show was simply… BETTER!.
It was funny an appropriate amount, it was clever, and did a great job keeping to canon. It developed characters in a natural way and as it grew out of one villain it brought new ones in, overlapping them much of the time so it still felt like the show we loved. Star Trek was never really funny and when it tried to be it tended to miss the target quite badly. Star Trek was very clever but canon is just something to play with much of the time.
Star Trek was my first love and I will always be a Trekky… But Stargate is my soulmate and will always have my heart. I may be a Trekky but I AM a Gater and nothing will ever change that.