Once upon a time, my sweetie moved in with me and she brought ten unsightly cardboard boxes full of Stargate episodes that I tried my best to ignore until one dark day when she suggested we rotate them in with the other old shows I was watching with my older kids.
I knew I’d dislike the show because I am actively repelled by our country’s military-industrial complex. I support our troops getting far better medical assistance and resources in civilian life than they receive in reality, and I support the executives of Lockheed and Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics being defenestrated from the highest building, and that’s about it. Even in Stargate‘s better, later seasons, there’s still a sickening “US military might makes right” undercurrent to this program that makes my skin crawl.
Besides, it’s just common sense. No matter how unappealing some of its producers’ decisions may have been, I will always love The X Files, which at its core is a search for the truth in opposition to what our government and military want to conceal. Stargate glamorizes and fetishizes that concealment, telling us to shut up and trust government secrecy. They know what’s good for us.
Making things even worse, the first two seasons of this show are frankly as wretched as American sci-fi gets. Barely saved each week by its likeable lead actors, it’s a continuity-dense dirge without a surprise anywhere and the most boring and least appealing villains in any similar program. The first two seasons managed one hour that I liked. Still, to make sense of the later years, and give our son a fair chance to form his own opinions, we’re going to watch about two-thirds of year one, and about half of year two.
It gets better. Seasons three, four, and five are largely watchable. I feel like the producers were looking for more opportunities to breathe and have fun, resulting in some amusing and clever situations along with a few misfires. Entertaining but uneven, these seasons contain one completely brilliant episode that’s almost my favorite, but also a scrub-eyeballs-with-bleach hour with Sean Patrick Flanery, an actor I otherwise really enjoy, that had me throwing the remote at the TV. I’m not watching that thing again.
By year six, the show’s in a stride and consistently good, honestly better than it has any right to be, especially since the Replicators, the villains that had breathed new life in the show, get overused and evolve in an unappealing way. On the other hand, the new lead villains, Anubis and Ba’al, are twisted and fun in a way that Apophis never was. The Goa’uld storyline comes to an incredibly satisying conclusion, and Vala Mal Doran, the character I enjoyed most, is introduced.
Seasons nine and ten aren’t quite as good and often get a little ponderous, because the latest and final band of bad guys grow to become depressingly overpowered, but while Vala gets stuck with one of sci-fi TV’s most godawful ongoing storylines – I still cringe if I overhear anybody, anywhere, say “Hello, mother” – watching Vala and Daniel bring out the best/worst in each other is splendidly entertaining, and the series ends triumphantly with a wholly perfect final hour.
As for the political edge that bothers me so much about the show’s concept, that never really goes away. It’s a problem that infects the show from its inception, but in the same way that I can squint at the Marvel movies and pretend that I’m okay with our tax dollars funding Helicarriers and Nick Fury’s world of surveillance, the show finds a sense of fun and levity that balances the camouflage. It just takes a while to get there. I’m not going to linger on the show’s many aggravations in the first two years and after this will compose much shorter posts. I’m just going to buckle up, appreciate the good acting where I can, and shake my head and say that a couple more years of seeing Richard Dean Anderson play Ernest Pratt and Nicodemus Legend would have been better than this.
As for this episode, our kid wasn’t really taken. O’Neill’s pal Kawalsky gets taken over by a Goa’uld and has to be killed. Our son was briefly curious about the nightmares the base janitor was going to have cleaning up the mess. I told him that the producers had to balance the more expensive location episodes with smaller episodes set inside the base, but it is kind of odd that they’d do one of the cheapies just one week after the premiere.