TV Reviews: Stargate SG-1

When looking for a family-friendly TV series that encourages critical thinking about both science and religion, you can't go wrong with Stargate SG-1. Inspired by the original Stargate movie, this TV series follows the lead team of explorers from the Stargate Command (SGC) as they travel throughout the universe through a device known as the "stargate."

Stargate SG-1 ran for 10 seasons, from 1997 through 2007, and was followed by two TV movies. It also had two spin-off series: Stargate Atlantis, which was an excellent series which ran from 2004 through 2009 with many crossover episodes/characters; and Stargate Universe, which began in 2010 as an attempt to redesign the show in a very different style* and was canceled during its second season.

This review will focus on the original series, Stargate SG-1. There may be some mild spoilers, but the plot is only discussed in very general terms.

While Stargate SG-1 picks up a year after the original Stargate movie, you do not have to see the movie before you start watching the TV series. During its first episodes, the series sums up important events from the movie and quickly takes the story in a new direction.

The basic premise of the show is that the military is in control of a device called the stargate: a giant metal ring which has symbols around its surface. In the movie, Stargate Command (SGC) brings in an archeologist, Daniel Jackson, who discovers that the stargate can be "dialed" by inputting a seven-symbol address. The team is only able to find one working gate address. When it connects, the stargate creates a stable wormhole to another planet.

The TV series brings us back to the SGC a year after the first team of explorers ventured to another planet (in the movie). Through a series of events, the SGC discovers how to access additional worlds and a new Stargate Program is launched.

The SGC's primary mission is to find advanced technology which will help protect planet Earth from the threat of an alien race which controls much of the galaxy. This alien race, the Goa'uld, consists of snake-like parasitic creatures which invade and take control of human hosts. In their human forms, the Goa'uld use advanced technology to pose as gods and enslave the population of most planets. Their godly personae include various mythological characters such as Apophis, Hathor, Ba'al, Nirrti, Cronus and Qetesh.

As they travel through the galaxy, SG-1 (and other SG units) look for ways to protect Earth from the Goa'uld and free the enslaved from these false gods. Various missions bring up a wide range of ethical dilemmas, as well as interesting situations which spark thought-provoking debate.

Though Stargate SG-1 often plays with concepts from theoretical physics, like wormholes and parallel universes, the ideas are described in an accessible, sci-fi manner that is easy for older kids to follow. Young viewers might not actually learn theoretical physics from watching the show, but they may be encouraged to read more about the science behind the fiction.

When it comes to SG-1, each member brings an important role. Jack O'Neill leads with a cavalier humor bordering on insolence, though he is smarter than he lets on. Samantha Carter, an Air Force astrophysicist and SG-1's second-in-command, provides an excellent role model as a brilliant female scientist who can take care of herself. Daniel Jackson, who is also at the top of his field, often shows that brains (and empathy) can win out over brawn. And Teal'c, an alien who has denounced the false god he once served, provides a unique perspective on our society and a better understanding of other worlds.

With the Goa'uld posing as false gods, it's easy to see how religious themes may play into Stargate SG-1 storylines. There are times when the religious aspect comes closer to home, such as when they find a medieval Christian world where people are kept enslaved by a Goa'uld posing as Satan.

As the series progresses, questions of science, philosophy and religion become even more prominent. The introduction of the Ancients, and later the Ori, look even further into what makes an entity into a "god." And, if there are gods, where is the line between gods and their followers (priests, church leaders, etc.).

There are some viewers who think Stargate SG-1 has an atheistic twist and others who see the various storylines as simply separating false gods from the "real God." Regardless of the creators' intent, the series provides many thought-provoking episodes that can spark some fascinating discussions for adults or families with pre-teen or teenage kids.

* read "very different style" to mean: Fail. Seriously. It's not the same series, don't waste your time. 


  1. "Young viewers might not actually learn theoretical physics from watching the show, but they may be encouraged to read more about the science behind the fiction."

    I agree. My 14-year-old, whose interest in physics seems to have been piqued by the show, had me buy a related physics book for him (The Physics of Stargates, by Enrico Rodrigo).

  2. Thanks for the book tip! I haven't read that one, but it looks good and I think my boys would like it, too. :-)

  3. I love SG-1, and that is a good deal on the DVD set, but you can also see 214 full episodes on DISH online. Working at DISH Network I hadn't even checked the site out, I figured I know what was there, and boy even I was wrong. Not the biggest collection, not the smallest, but most of it is free. Watch SG-1 here!

  4. Religions as parasitic entities that rob you of your capacity for self determination? I think the symbolism clearly favors atheism. :-)