Stargate SG-1 first resonated with me in the early 2000s during a period of tremendous teenage angst. The notion of four different people united in their quest for insight and adventure – and ultimately to protect the galaxy – attracted me in a way no show really had before. I didn’t grow up on Star Trek, and my parents didn’t bow at the altar of George Lucas’ Star Wars, so neither franchise was really on my radar.
Somehow Stargate SG-1 became the source of all my innately geeky happiness. I loved it. Perhaps a bit too much. By my senior year of high school, after the Sci-Fi Channel rescued the show from cancellation at Showtime, I had seen all of the series’ nearly 100 episodes. The show would then go on to hit the coveted 200-episode milestone during the rest of its run on basic cable, before taking a final bow in 2007.
The Stargate franchise on Sci-Fi/Syfy
I’ve argued – and I’m likely not the first – that Stargate SG-1 deserves most of the credit for allowing the Sci-Fi Channel to truly dive into the realm of not just original programming, but also one-hour, scripted programming.
Stargate SG-1’s success gave them the opportunity to shift from solely syndicating series and science fiction films to actually throwing their content development hat into the ring. (This would eventually lead to Sci-Fi’s groundbreaking and much-buzzed-about original series, a 2003 re-tooling of the short-lived 1970s series, Battlestar Galactica.) With NBCUniversal’s known change-maker Bonnie Hammer at the helm, Sci-Fi was among the first niche cable networks to jump on the original, scripted programming bandwagon — a trend that has skyrocketed in popularity among cable networks over the past few years.
Shortly after establishing Stargate SG-1 as the network’s flagship show in 2002, Sci-Fi (later, Syfy) developed enough fare that meant they could offer a slate with multiple nights of scripted series. In addition to the aforementioned Battlestar Galactica and the successful, family-friendly Eureka (2006-2012), Sci-Fi launched two Stargate spin-offs, Stargate Atlantis (2004-2009) and Stargate Universe (2009-2011).
Stargate Universe attracted an all-star cast, but by 2009 the franchise’s candle appeared to be waning, and the second spin-off was unable to live on beyond two seasons. The franchise’s long-time studio MGM was also financially less stable than it had been years prior, and ultimately, even after two moderately successful direct-to-DVD SG-1 films, the time had come to close up shop.
It should also be noted that Universe premiered during a time when the industry first started bearing the brunt of intense audience fragmentation. No one quite knew what to do with vexing, time-shifted viewing behavior. (Are things really much better now?) Networks across the board simply couldn’t reconcile the ratings shows were getting with long-term programming goals, and many series got the axe perhaps before their time.
In 2011, when fans were in an uproar over Stargate Universe’s cancellation, Syfy Senior Executive Craig Engler personally explained the business reasons involved in the decision in an open letter to fans on the popular fan website, GateWorld.net.
GateWorld: The Stargate fandom’s hub
Despite the franchise’s disappointing limp toward the finish line in 2011, the original series attracted millions of viewers and hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans from nations all over the world during its initial run. It united viewers, as most TV series have done for decades, and I found a good portion of my teen and college years spent conversing with fellow fans on GateWorld.
When fellow Educating [Geeks] host Megan and I met at work in 2009, we discovered that we’d spent at least a couple years co-existing on the website’s popular forum, without ever having interacted. The fandom truly was that vast, and GateWorld was the Mecca for Stargate fans around the globe.
Darren Sumner started Gateworld back in 1999, shortly after marrying “the most patient woman.”
“Thank God she is also a sci-fi fan,” Sumner recalls.
He was so inspired by the show’s mythology — specifically citing the end of Stargate SG-1‘s Season Three episode, “Jolinar’s Memories” — that he decided to “track those connections” from story arcs back in Season One.
“GateWorld was born that night on a little corner of the Interwebs,” he says.
Originally a big fan of the original series and of GateWorld, David Read joined Sumner in developing specific content sections. Read worked in radio at that point, and helped out with the site in his free time. A few years later, Sumner promoted Read to co-editor, and the two became (at least from this former user’s recollection) a dynamic duo for covering all things Stargate.
Sumner appreciates the partnership with Read for how it helped shift the dynamics of the website. “Things changed dramatically when David came on board circa 2003, and started interviewing Stargate’s cast and crew,” Sumner says.
Later, and with what Sumner calls a “glorious” and “time-consuming routine,” they noticed that the website was really beginning to gain traction.
“It really clicked for me that [GateWorld] had become a hit when people I would meet on the street had been to the site,” Read recalls in an email. “That was a real turning point for me.”
It was around 2004, Read says, when he was still in college that things shifted. GateWorld was already an established hub for fans, but it had also earned the attention of those involved with the show. Creation Entertainment, a well-established convention company, invited Read and Sumner to host panels at Creation conventions in Chicago and Vancouver.
However, Stargate producers also granted Read and Sumner permission to visit the sets at Bridge Studios in British Columbia as part of GateWorld’s Stargate coverage.
The transformation for Sumner was impressive. “I went from a geek with a website to watching the show film, having dinner with various actors and crew members,” he says. “It’s been an incredible opportunity and I’ve never taken a second of it for granted.”
By that same token, Read believes the relationship with GateWorld and the Stargate team was mutually beneficial and a two-way street.
“It wasn’t so much a matter of clout that got us access to the cast and crew,” Read says, “as much as it was a shared appreciation – us for the quality of the shows, them for the quality of our site.”
After a while, it became pretty common to expect GateWorld’s coverage of conventions where Stargate cast and crew were scheduled to appear. It was a great way for fans worldwide to experience these events, even if they couldn’t attend in-person.
Personally, I discovered sci-fi conventions for the first time through my love of Stargate. (I dragged my very patient father to an impromptu X-Files fan gathering in Scottsdale before I was old enough to drive, but that doesn’t count.)
Over the course of four years, I had the awesome opportunity to meet, in-person, fellow SG-1 fans from around the world with whom I’d discussed, argued and commiserated about the show online.
Many of us became friends “in real life,” and I’m still in touch with a couple of them to this day. Though we’ve moved on from Stargate and we’ve gone our separate ways to our corners of the world, it was a period I don’t think any of us will ever forget.
But, again, the fandom was huge.
At the franchise’s peak, particularly when Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis were both airing on Friday nights, GateWorld averaged more than a million monthly visits, according to Sumner.
“Our forum recently celebrated two milestones: 50,000 members and 10 million posts,” Sumner says. “As proud as I am of all the hard work that we’ve done over the years, I’m also humbled and incredibly grateful that so many fellow Stargate fans found the site and chose to make it their home.”
Why SG-1 is worth watching
Beyond the storytelling and the special effects, I believe the ultimate success of SG-1 should be credited to its cast. And this isn’t some earth-shattering observation, either. Every ensemble show lives and dies, survives and thrives by the chemistry of its actors.
Simply put, and with all due respect to the many other hard-working, creative people involved, Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping and Christopher Judge made that show what it was.
The characters weren’t perfect, and neither were the storylines. But there was something inexplicably engaging about these four actors, along with the secondary cast members who became fan-favorites as well. These people really seemed to love their jobs and each other, and that translated onscreen.
Supreme chemistry among actors, by the way, is the quickest way to attract hardcore fans. Pick a popular and/or long-lasting show, and try to argue that those actors don’t sell it as a cohesive unit (even if they hate each other). The writing can be amazing, the cinematography can be outstanding, but if the actors don’t gel when the cameras are rolling, just forget about it.
A strong female character in “Captain/Doctor” Samantha Carter
As great as the characters were as a team, they were each very solid characters on their own. And as fellow Geekhosts Megan, Alice and I discussed in the Stargate Season One podcast, Tapping’s Sam Carter was established as a great character early on – despite some infamous hiccups in her introduction.
All of E[G]’s hosts love strong characters regardless of gender, but if we find that a female character is weak, expect us to point it out without hesitation. In this case, first-time SG-1 viewer, Alice, really enjoyed Carter. (And Alice is a tough critic!)
The fact that Carter was such a great character hooked me when I first started watching in high school. I’d come from the Dana Scully School for Skeptics, and Sam Carter was a nice complement to that – emotionally open, a bit lighter and more outgoing. Unlike Megan, who wanted to study theoretical astrophysics after watching Stargate, I had absolutely no shot at following in Carter’s footsteps. I just really wasn’t that great at science or math. But I definitely thought Carter was an awesome character.
More than being beautiful, smart and strong, Carter was also earnest, compassionate and a loyal friend. She was a well-rounded female character who probably could’ve used more flaws or two in retrospect. But she was really a fun and insightful character who filled a role well beyond simply being “The Girl” — due in no small part to Tapping’s portrayal.
Which leads us to the embedded Castle clip below. For those unfamiliar with the ABC crime/romance comedy/drama (I know, just go with it next time it’s on. You’ll be glad you did.), Castle touches on all facets of pop culture, from comic books and soap operas to classic films and celebrities. In fact, I think it’s rare for an episode NOT to have a pop culture reference of some kind.
In the fifth season episode, “The Final Frontier,” written by Kate Sargeant, the main characters investigate a murder at a local sci-fi convention. Here, Beckett (Stana Katic) explains to Castle (Nathan Fillion) why she was so in love with “Nebula 9,” the campy space series whose washed-up stars are at the center of the investigation. I think most women who have fallen headfirst into a genre fandom — particularly one with a strong female character — can relate to this moment:
So, yes. Without a doubt. Indeed. I was a Stargate fangirl. In fact, I’ve been a fangirl of a few franchises over the years. I’m a passionate person by nature, so when I commit to something, it’s usually with fervor. It’s only with maturity, separation and a heaping dose of perspective that I’ve been able to step back from the things I once loved most, and look on those times with both fondness and self-awareness.
In searching for my identity through the Stargate fandom from the ages of 15-21, I learned so much about myself and the world. I don’t regret any of it. (Alright, there may be some things I regret.)
But now I recognize that it was all part of “the process,” the seasons in life that get us from Point A to Point B, regardless of age.
It’s been over six years since Stargate SG-1 concluded, and I’m still a fangirl. Now, I guess you could say I’m more a fangirl of life. Still passionate, still searching, still digging. And I thank the folks behind Stargate, and everyone I met along the way, for contributing to that journey.