Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Children of the Gods (Parts 1 & 2)

Note: There is also a re-cut straight-to-DVD 'feature' version of this double episode but, to be consistent, I watched the original version, as included in my DVD box set.

In 1997, Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner created Stargate: SG-1, a TV spinoff of the 1994 film. Richard Dean Anderson (of MacGyver fame) was cast in the lead role as Colonel Jack O'Neill of the U.S. Air Force (played by Kurt Russell in the movie), and Michael Shanks, Christopher Judge and Amanda tapping were cast in supporting roles as the team SG-1. This would be the start of a 14-year television franchise, ending with 354 episodes and even some TV movies.

In this hour-and-a-half we are introduced to the central ideas of the show - that the stargate can travel to places other than Abydos, that Ra's race (the Goa'uld) are still a scourge on the galaxy, and that Earth is starting its own stargate programme, run in secret by the U.S. Air Force. After a small-scale goa'uld attack through the stargate, Col. O'Neill is called in by Major General Hammond (veteran actor and renaissance man Don S. Davis) to discuss his mission through the stargate and the new threat. This culminates in two more missions through the gate: to bring Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks, previously James Spader) back from Abydos; then, after another attack on Abydos, to the planet Chulak to rescue Skaara and Sha're (both Abydonian characters from the film).

Looking back, it's obvious that the show was still finding its feet and trying to make a name for itself at this stage. It is the only episode to feature nudity (full-frontal nudity, at that) and is very much military science fiction, lacking the humour and joviality it would gain later. Some elements of the show's mythology are also in contrast to later episodes, such as the Greco-Roman style of Chulak, the goa'uld ship that seems to be a cross between a tel'tak and death glider, and the sheer power of the jaffa - this episode sees bullets bouncing off their armour and staff weapons blasting holes through solid stone walls!

The characters are introduced/reintroduced quite well for the most part - O'Neill is first seen stargazing from his roof, perhaps searching for Abydos, and throughout the episode shows a lot of loyalty to those he likes and trusts. Michael Shanks essentially does his best impersonation of James Spader for the role, and is given his motivation by the kidnap and enslavement of his wife. Samantha Carter is given perhaps one of the worst lines ever to appear on television, but develops from the defensive, cold person she's initially presented as into a trustworthy member of the team, also showcasing her scientific curiosity and wonder. Teal'c is shown as a reluctant servant to the enemy who sees his opportunity to turn against them and grabs it, earning O'Neill's trust instantly. Also showcased is General Hammond, who starts off as a by-the-book tough general but is shown to soften up and truly care about those under his command. We even get to see Walter "Chevron seven locked" Harriman, here known only as one of several gate technicians.

The episode does a good job of setting up the workings for the show by inventing the idea that there is a huge stargate network, by setting up an entire species of villains with one prominent bad guy, and by providing the beginnings of both long- and short-term story arcs (the kidnapping and implantation of Sha're and Skaara and the implantation of Kawalsky, respectively). Because of this it gained ten seasons, two spin-off series (three if you count the short-lived awful cartoon Stargate Infinity), some straight-to-DVD movies and an enormous international fanbase, which itself led to this re-watch and this blog. Stay tuned for tomorrow's entry, on The Enemy Within!

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