Stargate SG-1

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Tom Neven

TV Series Review

Imagine that the galaxy is salted with human civilizations, all of which originated on Earth millennia ago. Imagine that they were transported to these various planets by a race of parasitic aliens called the Goa’uld to be used as slave labor. Imagine then that the Goa’uld maintain their grip on these civilizations by posing as various gods of ancient earthly cultures. The Middle-Eastern god Baal. Egypt’s serpent god Apophis. The Hindu goddess Nerrti. Finally, imagine that modern-day explorers discover a gate that lets them travel to these distant planets as simply as walking into the next room.

Someone has already done such imagining. This is the basic story line of Stargate SG-1, a sci-fi smash which has spun off a new series, Stargate Atlantis. Based on the 1994 Kurt Russell movie Stargate, Stargate SG-1 was produced by Showtime for pay cable its first few seasons. Now it’s created by the Sci Fi Channel.

The story follows the adventures of Air Force commander Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) and his second-in-command, Lt. Col. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), a brilliant physicist who figured out how to make the stargates work. With them are an expert in ancient cultures and languages, and a Jaffa warrior who renounced his loyalty to the false gods of the Goa’uld to help Earth fight the deadly enemy that has sworn to wipe out our planet.

Adventures take them to distant planets where they encounter civilizations that in some way mirror earthly ones. Overhanging the entire series is the battle with the Goa’uld, as well as the search for a race called the Ancients (builders of the stargates) whose lost city holds the key to defeating the Goa’uld once and for all. It turns out the lost city sought for seven TVseasons is none other than Atlantis, discovered on a planet in another galaxy —hence the new series, Stargate Atlantis, and scary new villains, the Wraiths.

The Stargate franchise clearly defines good vs. evil and is chock-full of great moral lessons for parents and teens. Courage. Self-sacrifice. Truth. One of the team’s primary goals is to convince the various interplanetary civilizations that the Goa’uld are false gods. (The show doesn’t actively promote the one true God, but dialogue in several episodes indicates a foundational acceptance of monotheism.)

Frequent shoot-’em-ups feature alien and man-made weapons, but the violence is relatively bloodless. More problematic are a few story themes. For example, a race of powerful aliens who have become Earth’s allies manipulated ancient people into believing they were the various Norse gods. It was to avoid frightening humans by their appearance, but that subtlety warrants discussion.

The most important warning, however, applies to families deciding to catch up on the series by buying or renting box sets of past seasons on DVD. The first episode of season one (made for Showtime) features a brief scene of full frontal female nudity. Other than that caveat, the series is good fun and provides great opportunities to talk about true faith vs. the worship of false gods, as well as the virtues of courage and selflessness.

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Tom Neven

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