Why Is Stargate So Popular?

Why Is Stargate So Popular?

Stargate SG1 succeeded in making space science fiction popular, where the only known series was Star Trek, which suffers from a bad reputation for kitsch in France and other countries. For a time, it aroused great enthusiasm among many fans. An enthusiasm that continues to this day. 

In this blog article, we will delve into the question: Why is Stargate so popular?

Synopsis: After the activation of an extraterrestrial device that opens passageways to other worlds, Earth discovers the threat of a hostile alien species. The SGC program is set up to find new technologies and forge alliances that will enable Earth to defend itself. The SG1 team is the most important, responsible for the most astonishing adventures and crucial discoveries. Beyond its military applications, the program also aims for a better understanding of the universe and exchanges with other cultures. Alliances are forged, but new threats emerge.

"Cross the gate"

Enabling the exploration of distant planets and encountering extraterrestrial races within our contemporary era, Stargate SG-1 instills a sense of credibility. This unique attribute allows viewers to relate to characters firmly rooted in our own time and civilization, forging a connection that transforms the series into a riveting blend of human and scientific adventure.

The remarkable longevity of this series initially unfolded on Showtime over five seasons before facing cancellation, only to be subsequently revived by Sci-Fi. Contemplating cancellation at various junctures, the creators continually deferred such decisions, leading to consequential alterations in the plans for spin-off series and substantial reshaping of the show's mythology. This narrative dance persisted until the conclusion of the saga in its tenth season, culminating with two TV movies that provided a fitting end to the captivating Stargate SG-1 journey.

Stargate SG1: A rich universe

Over the seasons, SG1 develops an entire universe, with its races, planets and technologies, and goes far beyond the "one episode=one world" scheme. While the episodes don't generally follow continuity, frequent references are made to past episodes, often even from several seasons earlier, making a basic knowledge essential to understand and enjoy the story (unlike the first Star Trek series). This format gives the series an appreciable coherence, where others get lost in their mythology.

Also, SG1 is always based on real scientific concepts or theories, which gives it real credibility, and an advantage over many other science-fiction series, even if the latter are more fun or offbeat, like Doctor Who or Farscape. You'd be tempted to think that all this is real, hidden away by the government!

The series explores all the themes dear to science fiction, including time travel, parallel realities, hidden dimensions, mind transfer, memory manipulation, enhanced humans, artificial intelligence and even higher stages of consciousness. But it also develops a number of thought-provoking themes: complicated communication between different life forms or races, the difficulties of maintaining peace, the problem of interfering with other peoples, the danger of technology misused and with bad intentions, reaction when faced with an unknown people, between hostility and diplomacy, and finally, to what point and up to what point can one abandon these principles to protect one's own. Indeed, many times SG1 finds itself in delicate situations where it faces difficult moral dilemmas. Finally, the team often encounters cultures where events similar to those in our own history occur, from racism to the Cold War, allowing for a certain critique of our society.

This varied universe is at the root of the diversity of the episodes, which manage to hold the viewer's interest even after several seasons, between missions to other planets with an unforeseen problem, an uncontrolled artifact that threatens the base, internal political problems, not to mention the battles against the Goa'uld, between occasional confrontations or crucial missions to eliminate a dangerous overlord. Primitive or evolved species, human or alien, hostile or peaceful, the variety of possible encounters enables us to conceive a whole range of stories. This diversity is reflected in the tone of the episodes, which can be action, adventure, thriller or completely offbeat.

Over the course of its missions and encounters, the series has built up a gallery of characters, some of whom make noteworthy appearances, such as Bra'tac, Selmac, Thor, Martouf and Maybourne, a corrupt and unsympathetic soldier who becomes an unexpected ally... in his own way. So many characters who enrich the universe.

In addition to these qualities, let's not forget the masterful direction, special effects that were quite successful for the time, episodes that manage to generate suspense thanks to their share of twists and turns, and an outstanding score by Joel Goldsmith.

Engaging heroes

The team is made up of people whose skills and temperaments are clear-cut at first, but become more nuanced with time. Each will have his or her own evolution and sufferings. Without, of course, reaching the complexity of Battlestar Galactica, the heroes remain very competent and always manage to get out of situations, but without being too big for that (unlike Atlantis...).

Jack O'Neill, a depressive and strict military man, ends up becoming more positive and letting go in the face of uncontrollable events, resulting in a profound derision that often verges on impertinence. While he can become merciless in the face of an enemy, he shows a touching sensitivity towards children, following his own tragedy. Daniel, a naïve ideologist, becomes more realistic, less obsessed with his wife's kidnapping, which is why he joined the program in the first place, and more focused on finding the mysterious Ancients. A spiritual journey that will lead him, for a time, to a higher consciousness. His wisdom and humanist convictions have repeatedly helped to defuse tense situations.

He and O'Neill are antagonists: faced with an enemy, Jack chooses defense while Daniel advocates diplomacy. They disagree frequently, but as time goes by, they learn to appreciate each other better and a true friendship develops between them, even influencing each other. It's a friendship born of pain, as both have seen loved ones taken by the Goa'uld.

And it's also in pain that Teal'c joins the team, just after betraying his own people. This warrior from another world is different, speaks little, and lives with the pain of being a traitor to his people, fighting an enemy with no real hope of victory. But with victory and battle, with time spent on Earth, with the spread of the freedom movement he initiated and of which he has become an icon, the big, burly, soft-spoken warrior eventually opens up, becoming a true orator. Since Teal'c asked him to join the team, he has come to regard O'Neill as a brother, and feels a deep affection for him.

Finally, Carter, part woman, part scientist, part soldier, brilliant, strong and beautiful, capable of both crying and becoming a warrior. At first aggressive in trying to find a place for herself as a woman in a man's world, she then gains in confidence and becomes more sympathetic.

Even if they can be criticized for being a little smooth, the four actors know how to go through a whole range of feelings. They become endearing, and there's a real team dynamic.

Last but not least, SG1 wouldn't be what it is without its skilful blend of action and well-placed humor, embodied mainly by Colonel O'Neill. Many of his lines are memorable and even cult favorites!

"What kind of language is that, Carter?

-It's math, sir!


"Is he a Jaffa?

-No, but he plays one in a TV series.

Stargate SG1, a story that renews itself

In the early seasons, the story focuses on the fight against the enemy, the Goa'uld, at first embodied exclusively by Apophis, then with many other false deities borrowing from various mythologies. These include the wise and measured Yu ("Yippee!"), the mysterious Anubis and the Machiavellian Baal ("That couldn't have been easy at school").

The SG1 team's mission is to find new allies and new technologies. Also, after a few seasons, Earth has developed real relations with other peoples, and is beginning to acquire a certain knowledge. While some Goa'uld overlords take over defeated armies, more fearsome creatures pose a threat to the galaxy. Season 5 marks a turning point (when Sci-Fi takes over). After several joint victories with the allies, the fight against the Goa'uld is conducted in parallel with research into the Ancients, creators of the stargate, whose advanced technologies are attracting a great deal of interest. Earth's new technologies, especially in spaceships, enable it to defend itself without the help of allies, allies who are showing flaws and whose relations are becoming more complicated.

At the same time, the SGC program is expanding and taking on an international dimension, with all the diplomatic problems this can entail. Clandestine organizations are set up to get their hands on alien technologies without having to worry about ethical issues, to defend themselves more effectively or for less justifiable financial reasons.

Seasons 9 and 10 saw major changes, including a renewed mythology with new enemies, the departure of O'Neill and the appearance of new characters. The new threat, the Ori, malevolent beings of pure energy, use every means at their disposal to convert the peoples of the Milky Way. When he asked to work with the famous members of the mythical team, Colonel Mitchel didn't expect to have to deal with such a serious threat. They are joined by Vala Mal Doran, an expert and irreverent alien thief and manipulator, who finds herself embroiled in the conflict against her will.

 In fact, such upheavals displease some fans, who speak of the series' decadence. Others, on the contrary, applaud this risk-taking and renewal, which endows the series with a more mature tone.

These latest seasons do indeed present an interesting post-Goa'uld world: new team dynamics, a more mature series with reflections on religion and freedom, an enemy once again far more powerful than Earth as in the series' early days, and more exploration. But a poor transition, with O'Neill's departure poorly explained, the enemy's power no longer truly realistic, and certain races virtually absent, reinforces the detractors' opinion.

On the subject of O'Neill's controversial departure, many feel that he was the main character and that without him, SG1 is no longer SG1. This impression stems mainly from the fact that he is the embodiment of humor, but on closer inspection he remains the least developed member of the team, the one who evolves the least, even if his interactions with the other team members are the most interesting. It could be argued that the real core of the series is the universe, and therefore his departure shouldn't mean that the series has nothing left to tell.

"Ark of Truth", the first TV movie, is a fitting conclusion to the Ori arc, albeit not without its faults. "Continuum" is far more captivating, with its more accomplished direction and good ideas, appealing to fans of all ages.

"Beyond the gate"

But seasons too many or not, we have to admit that there are a few flaws in the series as a whole, such as a lack of imagination about the people we meet, who look too much like us, a few easy solutions (everyone speaks English), and the Goa'uld, who are sometimes defeated too easily and whose technology is sometimes surprisingly primitive. All too often, Earthlings turn out to be better than the people we meet, and it's all too often they who offer their knowledge rather than the other way around, as if they had nothing to teach us. Many races are met only once and never seen again (Star Trek had the same flaw). Some plots end despite interesting potential. Although the "strongest Americans protect the world" aspect is not very pronounced, and sometimes even nuanced, certain choices could have been avoided, such as the Russians as a rival despite the end of the Cold War, or the weak presence of other nations.

Paradoxically, what has made it such a popular success is also what makes it criticized by some SF enthusiasts, who criticize its mainstream appeal. However, Stargate SG1 stands out from other SF series on several points, and it would be fair to say that it deserves its place, thanks to its coherence, the richness of its universe and its successful use of scientific concepts. Good storytelling, engaging characters and a varied universe explain why, for a time, the series was the object of irrational enthusiasm from people who swore by it.

While fans continue to swallow their disappointment at MGM's abandonment of the franchise (the cancellation of the two planned TV movies and the Stargate Universe), the studio has now given the green light to a new trilogy by Roland Emmerich, which would take up the original film version but completely disregard the series... A project that doesn't exactly appeal.

That's it for today! We hope you enjoyed our "Why is Stargate so popular?" article. If you like such articles, don't hesitate to check our Rick and Morty one. 

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