The 1994 movie Stargate
was originally intended as the start of a franchise, but creators Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin were distracted with Independence Day
. Episodic TV treatment was the natural next step. Replacing the roles of Colonel Jack O'Neill (Kurt Russell) and Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) are, respectively, Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks. They're joined by Captain Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) and former alien baddie Teal'c (Christopher Judge) to form the primary unit SG-1. With a seemingly endless network of Stargates found to exist on planets all across the known universe, their mission is to make first contact with as many friendly races as possible. Chasing their heels at almost every turn are the "overlord" pharaonic Goa'uld--the ancient Egyptian gods from the original film. The welcome notion of a continued plot thread sees offshoots that follow the reincarnation of Daniel's wife, Sam's father literally joining a renegade faction of the Goa'uld, and Jack in an unending quest to out-sarcasm everyone. Amid a plethora of derivative look-alikes, Stargate SG-1
has held its own with stories that put the science fiction back into TV sci-fi.
Among the second season's 22 episodes, "The Serpent's Lair" concludes the cliffhanger from the end of the first season in a rollercoaster of wit, plot twists, and cutting-edge special effects as the SG-1 team resign themselves to a suicide mission. In the two-parter "The Tok'ra," Sam's estranged father is dying of cancer, but her obligations sway her toward saving a member of the Goa'uld renegade Tok'ra who is also dying. In "Show and Tell," the central story arc takes a dramatic turn when a child arrives to warn that some survivors of a Goa'uld attack are determined to eliminate anyone who might host their enemy--which means Earth as a whole. There's great fun to be had in "1969," with a time-travel plot that loops many aspects of the show's story lines together, and the cliffhanger finale, "Out of Mind," has Jack experience an Aliens-style awakening 79 years into his future. --Paul Tonks