Stargate SG-1 Episode 1.01: "Children of the Gods"
Here we go, readers - it's the first episode review of the Great Stargate Rewatch!
The Plot Thickens
One year after the events of the Stargate movie, an alien comes through the Stargate and kidnaps a USAF airman. Jack O'Neill is called out of retirement and forced to admit the truth: he did not destroy the Abydos Stargate, and Daniel Jackson is alive on the planet. A team is sent to Abydos to investigate, including Major Kawalsky and a new character, Captain Samantha Carter.
On Abydos, Daniel shares an earthshattering discovery: the Stargate goes more than one place! Meanwhile, the same alien attacks Abydos and kidnaps both Daniel's wife Sha're and her brother Skaara. The team follows the attackers through to Chulak and learns that their friends have been taken by the Goa'uld Apophis. Sha're is now Goa'uld. The team ends up imprisoned after Daniel overreacts, and finds Skaara. Skaara is then taken to be made a host.
Jack begs the Jaffa leader to help him save the other captives. The Jaffa, Teal'c, agrees, and together they break all the prisoners out and return to the Stargate. After catching a glimpse of Skaara with glowing eyes, the team returns to Stargate Command.
General Hammond announces that nine teams will be formed to explore the universe, and Jack will be commanding "SG-1." Kowalsky's eyes flash--just like a Goa'uld.
Themes and Thoughts
As pilots go, this one isn't bad. It's pretty effective at what it needs to do--namely, retconning everything about the Stargate movie that prevents the show from working. Ra is no longer the last of his race, but simply one of many Goa'ulds enslaving the galaxy. The Stargate now goes to more places than just Abydos, and Abydos is no longer on the other side of the galaxy, but fairly close to Earth on a galactic scale.
It also quickly establishes the core team we're going to see for the next several seasons: Jack, Sam, Daniel and Teal'c. Teal'c defection does seem to come out of the blue, though the show will explore that in later episodes.
There's some awkwardity in the writing and in the characters, which we'll see is par for the course in season one. The show's writers aren't really sure yet how to handle interactions between some of the cast, and some of the dialogue will make you cringe. But the beginnings of the show's trademark humor are on display as well.
The pilot sets up the two major character arcs that will propel the series forward. The first is Daniel's journey to save Sha're (and, relatedly, Jack's journey to save Skaara). Michael Shanks nails the character from the beginning, and this arc lends his character depth that Jack and Sam lack, at this point.
Teal'c's mission to save the Jaffa from Goa'uld slavery also has its roots in this pilot, with Teal'c's defection and admission that the Goa'uld have always been false gods. We don't have all the backstory there yet, and right now, Jaffa freedom seems like a crazy goal, but it's gratifying as a return viewer to know that Teal'c will eventually be successful.
Sam's journey, at least in early season one, seems to be proving that she can be a woman and also a soldier and also a scientist. It's...a bit frustrating, honestly, and the beginnings of it are in her introductory scene and Jack's jibes about calling her captain vs. calling her doctor. I wish the show could've done without this, but at least it gets it out of its system early.
And Jack is...Jack. There's not a ton of context given for him here, and he's basically acting under orders. He only gets one scene that really hints at his backstory, where Daniel asks about meeting his wife and Jack replies that she'd already left him by the time he returned from Abydos the first time. But you can see that he cares. He could've asked Teal'c just to save his team, but instead he asks Teal'c to save all the prisoners.
On the Earth side of things, we get to meet General Hammond! Hammond is like a big teddy bear: ferocious when his people are threatened, with a good heart at his core. His edges haven't quite been smoothed yet, but Major Samuels is a great foil for him.
He Said, She Said, It Said
Holy Bad Guys, Batman!
Ahhh, the Goa'uld. My all-time favorite Stargate villains. We actually learn a great deal about the Goa'uld in this episode. We knew they were impersonating gods and enslaving humans from Ra in the movie, but here we get to see what they actually look like. We learn how they take hosts. We see the structure they've built around themselves and learn of the Jaffa who serve them as incubators in exchange for long life and excellent health.
I love when shows give a clearly defined bad guy, and Stargate delivers on that up front. It's not just the Goa'uld, but specifically Apophis who is our BBEG for season one. We pissed him off royally and turned his First Prime traitor. The fact that he took Daniel's wife as his queen makes this feud personal. Jack theorizes early in the episode that the Goa'uld could come in ships, and we'll see this come into play later.
Okay, I added this section because I realized I needed a space to discuss technology! It's such a huge part of the show!
I've already mentioned the key point here: the Stargate can go to more worlds than Abydos. The map room on Abydos has to be adjusted for stellar drift, but once that's done, we'll have a bank of planets we can travel to.
A lot of the movie technology appears again here: the ribbon device, the teleportation rings, the Jaffa's staff weapons. There's a different version of the death glider here too.
The iris makes its first appearance when the team returns from Abydos. The iris is a thin cover installed directly over the event horizon. When closed, it prevents rematerialization on Earth's side of the Gate, the perfect defense for pursuit or dubious Gate activations. We'll see different versions of the iris over time.
New Eyes, New Viewpoint
My bestie thought that this was a decent start to the series. She had a hard time identifying with any of the characters right away, and she realized that this isn't a series she could easily binge, since the episodes aren't very interconnected to start. That said, she liked that it didn't start in a super dire way from the get-go. She enjoyed the scene where they made Sha're a host for the worldbuilding, and she liked that they got Teal'c as an "alien" character to balance the rest of the characters.
Coming soon - my review of "The Enemy Within"!