Stargate SG-1 started with a strong first season. By nature episodic with the hint of a developing plot, Stargate SG-1 captured my heart with witty remarks and team bonding episodes. Season 2 continues the plot to overthrow the Goa’uld empire but does so without the team bonding or the jokes. In this wrap up, I’ll talk about the themes that stuck out from Season 1 and how they changed in Season 2.
SG-1 Against The World and Changing Team Dynamics
Shortly after the destruction of Apophos and the reinstating of the stargate program, SG-1 no longer goes into missions entirely on their own. Even in “Prisoners” where the team is taken to a prison planet, Major General Hammond and the leader of another stargate team negotiate their return with the authorities that sent SG-1 to prison. Now that SG-1 is no longer concerned with proving the worth of the stargate program to the rest of the United States government, they’re free to operate without much pushback.
What does this mean for the show? It means the production team probably has a bigger budget to tackle the bigger stories. Episodes like “Thor’s Chariot” and “Message in a Bottle” required more computer animated special effects while “Touchstone” and “1969” took the team out of a studio set to shoot on location.
I felt the show was stronger when it had the pushback from authorities. I don’t think the show will ever get that back unless Stargate Command completely messes up a mission somewhere.
That lack is made up for in the team bonding episodes. We see Jackson and O’Neill share small moments throughout the series: in “Need” where O’Neill comforts Jackson during his withdrawal from sarcophagus addiction and in “The Fifth Race” where Jackson helps translate O’Neill when he loses the ability to speak English. O’Neill and Teal’c continue to be the best buds in the whole world. Teal’c doesn’t leave O’Neill’s side in “Message in a Bottle” when O’Neill is impaled. In “Holiday” Teal’c and O’Neill switch bodies and are seen hanging around each other more so than usual.
Which leaves Carter to . . . not really bond with anyone else? The major event that happens to her is hosting the Tok’ra Jolinar of Mulkshur. She does not develop a stronger bond with anyone amongst her team as a result of that event. Instead, she becomes a bit of a plot device with newfound knowledge and abilities that show themselves whenever convenient. She does become the cornerstone of an alliance with the Tok’ra, goa’uld who believe in a symbiotic relationship with their host and work to overthrow the Goa’uld System Lords. In addition to finding them and establishing contact, she suggests using her sick father as a host for the Tok’ra since hosting would mean curing her father’s cancer. Other than the alliance with the people from The Land of Light from the Season 1 episode “The Boca Divide,” this is the first interplanetary alliance that is commented on repeatedly in the series.
So while the boys are bonding with each other, Carter is working towards bonding with other rebel groups in the stargate system. Doesn’t sound fair to me. Why can’t Carter have a scientific relationship with Jackson? Or learn to fight like a Jaffa from Teal’c?
Carter also receives several leadership accolades in this series. I argue that this started with “Message in a Bottle” where she was a leading authority on figuring out the mystery of the orb. Her first official command is in the episode “Spirits” where she leads SG-1 minus O’Neill on an off-world mission and brings back the ambassador Tunane. She leads another mission in the episode “The Fifth Race” and takes the lead on problems featured in “A Matter of Time” and “Holiday.” I enjoy seeing her take the reigns in all of these scenarios, and I hope it will mean her eventually getting her own team. Fingers crossed, everyone!
One last point before I move to the next topic: Colonel O’Neill as the series’ actual main character. In Season 1, O’Neill had a couple episodes that presented him in a different light than his teammates: “The Boca Divide” and “Cold Lazarus” and “Tin Man” are the ones that stick out the most. However, these episodes were evened out by other episodes that focused on the rest of the team. Carter had “Emancipation” and “Hathor.” Jackson had “There But for the Grace of God” and “The Torment of Tantalus.” Teal’c had “Cor-ai” and “Bloodlines.” Episodes that focused on a single member of the SG-1 team continued in Season 2 for the first half of the season. After the mid-season finale, the narrative takes a step back to focus on either the team as a whole or Colonel O’Neill specifically. In the coming seasons, I hope his teammates will have just as many episodes that feature them as O’Neill does in Season 3.
Intergalactic Politics and the Effects on Stargate Command
There was a turning point approximately halfway through Season 2 where the modus operendi of SG-1 stopped being “let’s overthrow this society” and started turning into “we have a major problem on our hands and we gotta fix it.” While I appreciate the writers finding episode plots that don’t involve subtle American imperialism, I also saw the episodes where SG-1 changes a society as a metaphor for SG-1’s effect on Apophos’s rule, or in the case of Season 2, on the Goa’uld System Lord empire as a whole.
I can’t help but make a comparison between the Stargate SG-1 episodes where SG-1 has to solve a problem to episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (at the moment, the only Star Trek series I can speak on with any authority). In Star Trek: The Next Generation, each episode tackles a different problem and uses a combination of teamwork and science to solve the problem and occasionally save the day. Whereas in Stargate SG-1, the problems are solved with theoretical real-world science, helped along by the fact that Stargate SG-1 actually happens within the timelines of the audience. This is where the comparison ends though. Star Trek: The Next Generation takes pains to not affect worlds that have not yet started living in space. Meanwhile, Stargate SG-1 doesn’t care if you’re using rocks for hammers or developed virtual reality suspended animation–they’re going to say hello. And maybe overthrow your system of government. Depends on if they agree with you or not.
The change in SG-1’s relationships with interplanetary societies probably represents a change in Stargate Command’s place in the galaxy. Season 2 opens with the defeat of Apophos, one of the more powerful System Lords in the Goa’uld Empire. This is accompanied by the introduction of the Tok’ra, a rebel force of goa’uld working to overthrow the System Lords. The Tok’ra are friends with the Tollans from Season 1’s “Enigma” which further expands the might of the forces opposing the System Lords. We don’t know the inner workings of the Tok’ra resistance, or which resistance force is more powerful individually. But we do know that humanity has connections to races other than the Goa’uld resistance force.
The Asgardians return in Season 2 in the episodes “Thor’s Chariot” and “The Fifth Race.” It is through them that we learn the species involved in the Alliance of the Four Races introduced in the Season 1 episode “The Torment of Tantalus”: the Asgardians, the Nox, the Furlings, and the Ancients.
Both the Asgardians and the Nox were introduced in Season 1, but it wasn’t until Season 2 that we caught our first glimpse of an Asgardian, specifically Thor. We see Asgardians again in “The Fifth Race” because O’Neill gates himself there after getting a database from the Ancients downloaded into his head. What the purpose of the Alliance of the Four Races was is still unknown. It’s possible the Alliance no longer exists in a formal capacity. The meeting place found in “The Torment of Tantalus” was abandoned when Ernest gated there in 1945. The Asgardians that meet O’Neill on the Asgardian homeworld spoke in the past tense as if the Alliance was disbanded. After all, the Ancients have since moved on to another galaxy. To explore? To invade? To colonize? Also unknown.
So the humans of Earth find themselves straddling two different intergalactic realms. Locally, they’re dealing with the Goa’uld System Lords. When placed alongside the big picture, we are once again reminded that the Milky Way is only one galaxy in a really big universe.
Yet the Asgardians have the technology to overwhelm and defeat the Goa’uld as seen in the episode “Thor’s Chariot.” That was a single Asgardian ship against a Goa’uld colonization fleet of three ships. If the Asgardians are that powerful and care so much about humanity, why is the System Lord government still in place? The same episode mentions that the System Lords are at war with the Asgardians, so perhaps the System Lords are able to stay their ground (er, space?) with the Asgardians in the same way Stargate Command can stay their ground against the Goa’uld forces encountered thus far.
The Nox inhabit the same galaxy as the humans and the System Lords. They have already proven themselves to be nonviolent to the point where they don’t even fight for self-defense. Which means they don’t look too kindly on those that actively seek war and violence like the System Lords. But their philosophy prevents them from doing anything about it. All their technology is in defense: invisibility and reviving the dead and floating cities. Despite their personal philosophy, do they not have a moral code that suggests what to do with people who need help? Will we ever see a violent Nox? They are a race I would like explored in later seasons.
We have yet to formally meet the Ancients and the Furlings. Though the Ancients built the stargate system, which means their legacy is interacted with every episode, we have yet to hear anything about the Furlings other than their name. I hope they are introduced soon though.
Overall Impression of Season 2 and Hopes for Future Seasons
Compared to Season 1, Season 2 felt weaker. Contributions to this feeling include the missing “SG-1 vs. The World” feeling and the rise of Colonel O’Neill as a main character at the expense of the rest of SG-1. However, the season makes up for this lack by introducing the humans into the wider happenings of the galaxy and giving the viewers hope of further exploration of the Meaning of Life Stuff first introduced in Season 1.
There are a myriad of things I want to see in future seasons. Can of worms opened in previous episodes closed in future episodes. Tighter storytelling. More queer characters. But I also want to see more bonding time between members of SG-1 and more moments of Teal’c interacting with people on Earth. Will the show deliver? I’ll have to keep watching to find out.