SG-1: Early Days

Stargate SG-1 cast minus Jonas QuinnThe premise, in case you’ve forgotten your mid-1990s Showtime programming, is that a team of United States Air Force personnel, plus someone who’s probably a civilian, plus someone who’s an extraterrestrial human with a bit of alien in the belly… Wait…

The Good Guys have a Stargate in the basement of a military complex in a mountain which they use to visit planets-of-the-week and fight the Bad Guys. A Stargate is like a rotary-dial phone you can walk though the rotary part of and end up on a different planet where the bad guys have seeded humans from around the world and throughout time, and where those cultural oddments have totally failed to change in the hundreds or thousands of years they’ve been isolated from their culture of origin.

Huh.

We’ve seen ten episodes so far, and–to be honest, because why not be honest?–I’m surprised we made it this far. We watched the theatrical movie, and liked it pretty well (despite the final 5-10 minutes having been somehow erased from the public library VHS we were watching). Then we watched the two-hour pilot episode.

This was, largely, a standard-issue sci-fi adventure on another planet movie for the first somewhat more than half. Then there was an extended sequence dominated by naked women being infested by slimy worm puppets. This came (on the scale of shocks one can get from scripted TV) as fairly significant shock to the seven-year-old. We talked about puppetry, he and I, for a few days after that. Things are fine now.

And that’s why SG-1 is the second hour’s show on Geek Night these days.

Where was I?

The subsequent episodes dialed back the grossness rapidly, and dropped the nakedness immediately, so that the next seven episodes were little more than travel brochures for places which were sort-of-but-not-really Petri dishes of old-timey cultures from ’round the world. It’s a “Small World After All” sorts of things, but not as cheerful.

But about as interesting. The character elements felt, if not forced exactly, then… expected. Like kissing your date goodnight because all your friends think you’re such a good fit and all. We started talking about dropping the show, picking something else. A few ideas have floated by: Doctor Who has had a really good run in recent years, and Game of Thrones is now an option.

But the ninth and tenth episodes have been better than that. Maybe SG-1 has hit its stride. There was “Thor’s Hammer” which added some dimension to the back story about the bad guys, the good guys, introduced the possibility of allies for the good guys, and had the Voice of James Earl Jones, which is always like hot fudge topping in that, even if you don’t care for what it’s topping, you can always get at least a little bit of it on your spoon uncontaminated by the rest of it and really enjoy that.

And the tenth one, “The Torment of Tantalus,” was largely a character study of a minor character, but it did pretty well with it. The story of a previously unknown traveler through the Stargate, and what he’s been up to for the last fifty years was nicely done (wandering around naked, and learning to read space alien languages from holographic projections, and eating purple apples). So, next time we have “Bloodlines” on the menu (though the actual menu will be Mexican food). This will be an episode focused on the extraterrestrial human with a bad guy in his belly going home to find his son. We’ll see what happens; after that one, there are something like 203 more episodes, which sounds like a lot.