One very enjoyable thing I’ve been doing for the last couple of months is watching All The Stargates. I’m currently on Stargate Atlantis season 5, but all the SG-1 things have been watched! I’d seen most before, but less and less after season 7. (I was, at the time, one of those people who thought the show was Wrong without Jack O’Neill. I was incorrect.) So, having enjoyed an impressive Ten Years of a smashing SF show, here is a cheering list of my Top Fifteen stories (in chronological-ish order):
There But For the Grace of God
Daniel Jackson is flung into another universe, where things are slightly different at Stargate Command, and the the Goa’uld are invading Earth. Easily my fave season one story. I’m weak for the AU stuff, and this is excellent AU. I got a real sense of doom the first time I watched, and the echo of that is still there now. Our alternate heroes can’t win, but they’re doing their best anyway, and it’s compelling stuff. It’s got some gorgeous moments, but the best one of all is a parallel of the scene in Children of the Gods, where O’Neill convincing Teal’c to switch sides. It does not end well.
A Matter of Time
Black holes! Time dilation! Science-y science! This might be the hardest sci-fi that Stargate ever does, and it has a glorious horror-like feel as the enemy they has no face, no agenda, no character flaws to exploit. It’s a whacking great black hole that’s been connected to Earth through the Stargate, and the massive gravitational forces are not only pulling the planet in, but warping time. It’s a particular flavour of danger unique to this episode of SG1. Most devastating of all, and an image that is indelibly burned into my brain (though perhaps made *slightly* too much of in the episode) is of the Stargate team on the far side of the wormhole. They are doomed, they cannot be rescued, but they are alive, caught in the pull of the black hole, their perception of time slowed to almost nothing. It’s a horrific fate, and frightens me on a primal level.
The Other Side
Nazis in Space. How many times has this been done? And yet there’s something I find utterly compelling about Stargate’s episode on this well-trodden theme. I think it’s to do with how nice our Nazis here are. They’re polite and welcoming. They share drinks and dinner with Our Heroes. They are genuinely willing to give Earth all their advanced technology in exchange for a resource we have in abundance. They are *civilised*. We can do business with these people. And they are also racial purists who poisoned the atmosphere their own planet to wipe out most of the population. Rene Auberjonois is definitely a big part of why this works so well, and there are two top notch moments of characterisation for Our Heroes: one, during the superb dinner scene, where Daniel and Jack have this smashing argument that’s just them saying their names to one another, as they totally understand what the other one is saying, and the second when O’Neill’s face just completely closes up when he realises what kind of people they’re dealing with.
Window of Opportunity
A massive fan favourite, and for good reason. It’s an incredibly fun episode that’s resolved with a solid emotional punch. After the first couple of seasons, Stargate settles down into having a heck of a lot of good humour; the sort of humour that is not just funny then, but twenty-five or so years later, still stands up. (I love Star Trek of the nineties, but the writers’ grasp of “what is funny” was…interesting.) And here we have tons of fun whizzing round time-loops (my fav lol is the golfing), before there’s a resolution that, beautifully, allows Richard Dean Anderson one of those awesome scenes of “oh God, he can *act*” for a perfect resolution.
The title’s not even a pun! It’s just the same word…but used in a different way…what’s that called? There’s a word for that right? Maybe? ANYWAY, this is one of my most rewatched episodes. It’s full of so many things I love: smart women doing science! A strange new world! Actual submarine adventure! Very alien alien lifeforms! A great role for Marina Sirtis! Unexpected Harry Maybourne! Jack and Harry lols! Low key horror vibes! And it’s beautifully mixed together into a delicious episode that feels like they made it just for me.
I assume if I Google it, I can find out how many times the various members of SG-1 die during the series? Cause they do die quite a lot, even for a sci-fi show. But I think this is the time it gets to me the most. I really *feel* it here. There’s an air of desperation that gives a real edge to the Heroics. More importantly though, this is some truly top notch SF. We’re offered a future with a veneer of optimism covering an almost unsettling disappointment as Our Heroes are now surplus to requirements. A nice, slow paranoia creeps over things for a reveal of the politest of invasions that’s all the more frightening due to its insidiousness.
It was all a dream! Sort of. It literally says it was teaching a lesson. A moral lesson about POWER and CORRUPTION. It’s got all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and yet…I utterly adore it. I think it does marvellous character work, with a slow enough corruption of Daniel that I can believe it, and it goes dark enough for a real punch. Both RDA and Shanks are magnificent, and who’d have thought it’d be such fun to watch the disintegration of one of my fav relationships in the show? But there you go. My one sadness is that real O’Neill isn’t actually a part of the dream.
Gah! What a dark, dark episode! Possibly the darkest of SG-1. O’Neil is tortured by Ba’al, and killed and brought back to life over and over again. And he end sup wanting to die for good. He genuinely properly wants Daniel (with his awesome space powers) to kill him. Really it’s worth it for that scene alone, it’s so messed up, awesomely.
The Other Guys
I think this is the only pre-s7 episode I’d never seen before I started this watchthrough. Of all the Little Guys eps I’ve seen in SF, this is the best. The performances, the jokes, the nerdery, the self-awareness, all combine into a delicious experience of lols. The very best moment, the moment I rewound three times, was RDA’s delivery of “Why look, everybody, he’s got Coombs with him.” …it’s hilarious in context, okay?
Much as I’m in this show for the space adventures, the one Earth type politics stuff I consider acceptable is any episode where O’Neill and Maybourne must reluctantly team up for Reasons. This is the penultimate episode of their frenemies journey, and it would be have been a perfectly wonderful send off. (It’s Good to Be King is fiiine, but really suffers from lack of Maybourne and O’Neill snarks.) And this time they’re stuck on a whole planet together slowly losing their minds. Fun times. Again, one of RDA’s deliveries kills me: “You know, Harry, it’s not that I can’t believe you lied to me again, it’s that you lied to me again!”
I am so-so on the Jaffa stuff mostly cause it reminds me too much of Klingons, and I do not have positive feelings about Klingons. But it turns out when Christopher Judge writes it and Jolene Blalock is guesting, it’s pretty darn great. I love we get a bit of world-building around female Jaffa, I love the vibe between Teal’c and Ishta, and I love Jolene Blalock for making everything she’s in just that little bit more awesome.
I really like s7. I feel like this isn’t a popular opinion but I much prefer it to s6. There, RDA’s limited role often feels awkward, here it makes sense. And it means I get to enjoy this smashing character piece of O’Neill dealing with the responsibilities, both serious and lolsome, of his new position. After six years, it can be hard to find new ground for characters, and this is very new and shiny. And for added goodness (and more fresh character dynamics), there’s some top notch stuff from Tapping, as Carter has to deal with her frustration at what she sees as O’Neill not having faith in her to lead her team.
Oh, the band are properly back together for a final adventure! More or less. O’Neill does get out of most of it, but still, there’s enough there to feel like it’s rather a lovely farewell to eight years of the original Stargate-ing team. There’s a bootstrap paradox (love those) and an alternate timeline, and Shanks and Tapping are so much fun in their alternate timeline selves. Most importantly, the final scene, the beautiful final scene…it rivals TNG’s for perfection in how to end a series. (Even if there are two more seasons to go.)
The Ties that Bind
One of the most extraordinary things about SG-1 is that after RDA left, really really (well, almost) left, the show decided “hey, let’s do two more seasons, and let’s make them two of our best.” It’s like Doctor Who in 1987! But very different. Anyway, in the stupendously good opening arc of s9, this is my fav ep. Because Vala. Probably my fav Stargate character. She funny, and sneaky, and theft-y, and clever, and played by Claudia Black. And here she gets to have probably the most fun of all her episodes, helped immensely by spending an exceptional amount of the ep bantering with Daniel.
You can tell a lot about a show and what it thinks of its viewers by how it celebrates its big milestones. Stargate loves its fans, and wants them to be full of joy. There aren’t any of the skits I didn’t adore madly, that didn’t make me feel better about the universe and all the shiny and good things in it, but extra-props must go to the Farscape one. DEAR GOD, the meta-tastic lolness and *commitment* to Doing It Right. I knew a bit about this ep before watching, I knew there was a Farscape bit in it, but I didn’t realise how great the whole thing was or how warm and fuzzy I’d feel after watching.