Tag Archives: Star Gate

Stargate SG-1, the TV Series

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All right, if there are any fans of the series Ancient Aliens who are following this blog, raise your hand.

I cannot see you, but I know you have probably just perked up right now and are paying attention. Personally, I cannot stand Ancient Aliens. I have been around when it is on the television, and sooner or later, I end up snarling at the screen because someone said something with which I disagree. And every time someone on Ancient Aliens or another show like it brings up Ancient Egypt, I immediately moan and groan, “Not them again!

You might think this means that I hate Ancient Egypt. I admit to having my fill of it – especially from people who do not know what they are talking about, but who act like they do. That drives me crazy anyway, but in relation to the Ancient World, it is a good way to get me mad. I like history, so I know a lot about it. For example, I happen to know that the Ancient Greeks wore thick bronze and linen armor when they went into battle, not fancy leather suspenders like you see in 300. Catching five minutes of that movie had me raving for two to three whole days with fury.

So I know my history. I am no Egyptologist, but I know my history. So why do I moan and wail whenever someone on the History Channel or Ancient Aliens turns to the subject of Ancient Egypt? I wondered about that and, with the help of El Rey just a little while ago, I finally figured out the problem: I have heard practically all of these people’s theories before. Specifically, I heard them when I was a child watching and enjoying Stargate SG-1.

Yes, I was a child when the show first came out. And I watched the show until its final season’s finale. I even watched two or three of the made-for-TV movies that came out with it. I watched the sequel series Stargate Atlantis to its conclusion, but I managed to miss Stargate Universe and Stargate Infinity. From the sounds of things, I dodged a couple of bullets when I missed those related shows.

After Star Trek, Star Wars, and probably the Marvel media I was exposed to, Stargate SG-1 was my go-to sci-fi fix. I already knew Richard Dean Anderson from the reruns of MacGyver, but I found I liked him a whole lot more as Colonel Jack O’Neill (with two L’s) in Stargate SG-1. I had never heard of Michael Shanks or Amanda Tapping before, but I found I liked them as well. I also think, rewatching the television series now, that Tapping’s character, Samantha Carter, grew as the seasons progressed. Some of her first appearances were waaay too stiff and full of “girl power” motifs, and the writers wisely stopped being so heavy-handed with this stuff as the series ran its course.

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Finally, we had Teal’c. Christopher Judge was the best possible choice for the character. It turns out that I heard him in X-Men: Evolution as the voice of Magneto without ever knowing who he was until years later, when I realized his voice was oddly familiar. Teal’c was the fish out of water before Thor, and Judge did a perfect job pulling off the confusion, shock, and outright clumsiness an alien in modern times would experience. It took the reruns on El Rey to remind me how much I liked him and the rest of the crew – and how much I missed them.

Of course, I cannot leave out the star attraction of the series. This was the alien Stargate for which the series, and the movie that spawned it, is named. But this Stargate is nothing like the Star Gate in Andre Norton’s novel of the same name. (You can find a post on that book here, too, readers.) This Stargate generates an artificial wormhole that connects two points in space together for up to thirty-eight minutes, less if you know how to shut the device down on your own.

To make the device work, you have to “dial out” by inputing some of the symbols inside the ring through a DHD or “dial home device” connected to the Stargate. Like an old dialing telephone, these symbols will rotate through the circular Stargate and stop beneath one of the red “Chevrons,” which will open and glow to lock in the coordinates as the gate “dials out.”

When the necessary seven “chevrons” are “locked,” you had better not be standing directly in front of the Gate. That watery substance may look pretty as it “flushes” out at you, but anything organic and most metals that touch that initial “flush” of liquid-like material will be incinerated by it. The same sort of thing will happen if your hand, arm, leg, or head is in the portal when the Gate is shut down; part of you stays on one planet while the other part comes back to Earth.

If you are thinking this was awfully gross for a kid to watch, no worries, my parents made sure I never saw the really disgusting stuff. This meant that I did not get to see much of the main alien antagonists for the series, either. These aliens were the snake like parasitic/symbiotic Gou’aould. They were intelligent and could not survive in their regular forms outside of water or some liquid like it. So to get aruond, they would highjack human bodies.

They did this often enough that they set themselves up as deities in Ancient Egypt – the deities all those Egyptologists and Ancient Aliens people like to rave about. According to the story, the Ancient Egyptians eventually rebelled against their Gou’aould controlled oppressors, who went off into the galaxy in search of greener pastures, continuing to play gods as they did.

Now, readers, we must fastforward to the time of the movie. In the film Kurt Russell plays Colonel Jack O’Neill and James Spader plays Daniel Jackson; these are the roles which Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks eventually took up. (And boy, in the early days, was Michael Shanks a ringer for young Spader!) I have never seen the film, but through the TV series I gather that Jack and Daniel, along with other Air Force soldiers, passed through Earth’s Stargate to a world called Abydos. On Abydos they found a civilization that was like a page out of an Egyptologist’s dream book – which is to say that Daniel loved it, because he was an Egyptologist.

While they were there, one of the Gou’aould, using a new host but the old name of Ra, dropped by to collect tribute from the Abydosians. Long story short, the SG team killed him, came back home minus a few members, and pretended that they had blown up Abydos and the gate before they came back. Daniel was supposed to have died in the conflagration with Ra, too, but this was a lie; he actually married one of the Abydosian girls and did not want to leave the planet, so the SG team left him behind to live happily ever after.

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Enter the TV series. In the first episode, a new Gou’aould, Apophis, visits Earth through the Stargate to see what can be seen. He picks up an Air Force officerette who was stupid enough to approach the device the Gou’aould threw through the Gate to see if Earth could support life. She did not last long, in case you were wondering, in Gou’aould land.

Well, Apophis’ arrival blows a big hole in the story Jack and his team told command about Abydos. So a new SG team, headed by Jack and including Samantha Carter, goes back to Abydos to ask Daniel’s help in figuring out Apophis’ identity – because who in the Air Force can tell one Ancient Egyptian inscription from another?

Well, Daniel’s been living happily with his wife, Sha’re, and the Abydosians for two years, but he has not been idle. He has deciphered a series of inscriptions in a place near the main Abydosian settlement, and he thinks there are a whole lot more Stargates out there. A whole galaxy full, to be exact.

But while Jack, Daniel, and Sam are out at this location, Apophis pops in to the main Abydosian camp and kidnaps several of the people there. This includes Sha’re and her younger brother Skaara, who is close to Jack. Our team Gates back to Earth, gets permission to go on a rescue mission, but arrives too late to save Sha’re from being made host to Apophis’ wife.

Daniel does not take this well, as you might imagine, and Jack does not take Skaara’s being turned into one of the “children of the gods” any better. But it looks like they may not have a choice about any of this when Apophis orders his guards, led by Teal’c, to do away with SG-1 and the other captives.

Only Teal’c has other ideas. Forced to serve the Gou’aould with all the other Jaffa, Teal’c is one of the few who knows the Gou’aould are false deities. But he and the others who know this are not in a prime position to do anything overt about it because the rest of their people are firmly under the Gou’aould’s thumbs. And since most of the other peoples in the galaxy that Teal’c has met are technologically inferior to the Guo’aould, he has not been able to defect to a stronger side to stop the false gods from doing what they are doing.

That is, he had not met anyone to whom he could defect until Jack, Daniel, and Sam showed up. Recognizing their technology to be superior to the other races’ – though not the Gou’aould’s – Teal’c decides the time is right to strike back at the slave masters who control his race. He frees SG-1 and the others in the room with them, but has nowhere to go after this until Jack tells him, “For this, you can stay at my place. Let’s go!”

Thus begin the epic adventures of Stargate One, SG-1 for short. This “army of four” manages to often single-handedly defeat the Gou’aould at every turn during the series, and it is a thrilling ride to run with them. They kind of lost me after Richard Dean Anderson left the show.   Seasons eight, nine, and ten also went a little weird…but it was still Stargate, and I could not find anything better that I liked at the time. I had to see the show through to the end, and I did, though I liked everything up to season seven or eight better than what I saw in season nine to ten.

One of the really appealing things about the series for me, early on, I think, was the fact that SG-1 was going up against false gods. Now, even at a young age, I loved history. I learned about Cortez and his march through Mexico, how he stopped the Aztecs’ bloody worship of stone idols and tore those stone statues down. I have since learned more details about the Aztecs’ sacrifices, and I can say with all certainty that the Spanish did us a favor by putting a stop to their murderous mayhem.

SG-1 reminded me of that a lot as a little child. Everyone around them believed that the Gou’aould were actual deities and, time after time, SG-1 would have to prove that the Gou’aould were anything but gods. It was a fun series with plenty of great sci-fi and character exploration, but one of the things I will never forget about the show is that it presented a group of modern “Conquistadors” who were not afraid to knock down idols others treated as divine and show them who the man behind the curtain really was.

If you are wondering if this is why I end up screaming at the History Channel and Ancient Aliens, you come close to the right answer. The fact is, all those theories the people on those shows have about Ancient Egypt have been thought of before – and I should know, because I saw them played out in Stargate SG-1. I do not need them repeated to me, and so when I hear someone waxing eloquent about these things, I cannot help getting a little…testy. That is why I usually avoid those shows. 😉

Well, readers, that is all I have for now. Other than to shamelessly plug the fact that El Rey is rerunning one of my favorite series, that is. If you have never seen Stargate SG-1, then this is your best chance to catch it on television. So what are you waiting for?! Dial up that Gate and go have an adventure!

Jaffa, kree!

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Book Review: Star Guard by Andre Norton

Andre Norton had many titles conferred on her in life. The one that is best known and oft repeated is “the Grand Dame of Science Fiction.” You regular readers of this blog have perhaps seen posts I have done about some of her other books – three Witch World novels and Star Gate (no relation to the TV series). I have not found many Andre Norton books which I dislike. This novel, Star Guard, is no exception.

The year is 3956 A.D. Man pushed into the stars only to meet with a galactic government – Central Control – which saw something dangerous in them. Deeming the Terrans too bloodthirsty and primitive to be allowed offworld of their own accord, Central Control told them they would only be permitted to leave their planet in a capacity the government assigned to them. Since Central Control had far more power than the Terrans, humanity had no choice but to accept these terms.

Labeling humans “barbarians,” Central Control put all of Terra on a leash. Now the only way offworld is to become a mercenary. Humans can only travel the stars as contract soldiers divided into units called hordes or Mechs. The hordes fight the old-fashioned way, with swords, spears, knives, bows, and other weapons. The Mechs get to use the latest technology in their fighting work.

Kana Karr, Arch Swordsman, Third Class, is a rookie who has just arrived at Prime, the capital city of Terra. An eighteen year old Australian-Malay-Hawaiian “greenie,” Kana overhears startling news on his first day in the city. The modern, up-to-date Mechs have recently lost two Legions – two more to add to the twenty Legions they have already lost over five years!!!! For these units – dispatched to “civilized” worlds – to lose so many contingents signals danger of some kind. And if they have been so badly decimated, then what of the hordes – those corps of human mercenaries sent to “barbarian” worlds? How bad have their losses been?

He finds out just how bad things are for the hordes when his is dispatched to serve on the planet Fronn. Kana soon discovers that someone in Central Control has it in for humanity. Perhaps more than one – the whole government is determined to wipe out the upstart Terrans. The C.C. has been denying Terrans equal citizenship with its other political members since it accepted the humans’ presence in the universe. This is well known.

Central Control claimed that, if humanity were allowed full citizenship in the government at once, their primitive will to fight would drag world after world into an age long war – or series of wars. The only way for humanity to enter the galaxy, they insisted, was as mercenaries. Then, when they had become more civilized, they could become full citizens.

On Fronn, though, Kana and his horde face enemies who have tech that is superior even to that of the Mech units. Fronn, a medieval world, should not have this kind of tech. The only reason this machinery would be on this planet, facing Kana and his unit, is if someone wanted the horde dead.

Through his adventure Kana learns this is just what Central Control is after. They either believe humans will always be barbarians, or they fear them for their growing sophistication. Whatever the specific dread, the alien government has absolutely no intention of allowing humans to enter the galaxy as full citizens. Ever.

Now, trapped on an alien world with the remnants of his horde, Kana Karr must do more than survive this treachery. He has to return to Earth and tell his superiors what is going on. This betrayal cannot be swept under the rug. Humanity has to know what is happening, and soon, before they are once again denied their desire for the stars. Kana is determined that neither he nor the rest of his species will be forced to stay on Terra as slaves. This time, he intends to see that the stars are ours!

Star Guard is a great story. Though Miss Norton is vague on the tech and how it works, the thing is that she never really took a shine to computers and machinery. However, her characterization of Kana, his friends, and his enemies is spectacular. And as always, her description of the aliens and their world is fantastic! I definitely recommend Star Guard to you, readers. This post is skimpy on detail, but that is to whet your appetite. If you want to know what else happened in the book, you will have to read it to find out! 😉

To the stars!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: A Gate…

Star Gate

Everyone has a favorite author.  Some people even have lists of favorite authors.  In this case, I read a book some time back written by one of my favorite authors:  Andre Norton, the Grande Dame of science fiction.

I read this book for two reasons:  1) it was written by Andre Norton – that almost guarantees a good story; 2) the title of the book is Star Gate.

Stargate, the movie and the television series, refers to a circular portal that creates an artificial wormhole between planets.  According to the film and TV series, the Stargates were built by a vanished race of aliens – called the Ancients – who lived on Earth long before humans did and who populated the galaxy.  Through one event after another, however, these Ancients dwindled and died off, leaving room for humanity to move in.

I have not seen the Stargate film straight through.  However, I am a big fan of the spin-off series Stargate SG-1 (SG stands for ‘Stargate’ 1, or Stargate team 1).  Stargate SG-1 was in the top tier of my favorite TV shows when it was running; since the series finished its run, TV has gotten somewhat boring.  Nothing but crime shows everywhere one looks.

*Sigh* They just don’t make sci-fi shows like they used to.

Anyway, back to Andre Norton’s Star Gate.  I am very lucky that the book had a description inside the cover; otherwise Norton’s story might have shocked me.  Andre Norton’s Star Gate is nothing like the movie or the TV series.  I highly doubt the creators for either the movie or the series even know about the book that bore the name of their movie/series before they even had the idea for their stories.

Andre Norton’s Star Gate takes place on the planet of Gorth.  Gorth is an inhabited planet whose inhabitants are called Gorthians.  For a long time these Gorthians were a primitive people.  I am under the impression they lived like loose tribes of people who fought as much as they worked together – if they even worked together.  Norton implies that this time in Gorthian history was not worth writing home about, mostly because it’s a time the Gorthians prefer not to remember.  They seem to consider it embarrassing.  Anyway, this Gorthian ‘Dark Age’ was brought to an end by the arrival of strange beings from the stars.  These beings the Gorthians dubbed ‘Star Lords.’

Yep, you guessed it.  The Star Lords are human travelers from outer space.

The Star Lords met and tamed the native Gorthians.  By ‘tamed’ I mean they taught them metal working, farming, etc. They essentially gave the Gorthians all the marks of civilization.  By the time of Star Gate, the Gorthians are experiencing their own High to Late Middle Ages.  The Star Lords have remained with them up to this point, never imposing their will on the Gorthians.   The two races have been friends almost since the Star Lords’ arrival.

In fact, they are on such good terms that intermarriage between the long-lived Star Lords and Gorthians is not unheard of.  It’s not exactly common, since there are few Star Lords and they live a long time, but it’s not forbidden either.

The book starts out with the Gorthian protagonist, Kincar S’Rud (I think S’Rud means ‘Son of Rud’), thinking over his planet’s history and his own future.  From him we learn that native Gorthians have very pale skin – I believe their skin is almost albino white – blue/green hair, and six fingers on each hand.

This is in sharp contrast to the Star Lords, who are described as having darker skin and – of course – ten fingers between their two hands.  They are also much, much taller than the average Gorthian and live apart, in a city built around their starships.

Kincar is the son of the daughter of the ruler of his keep.  His mother has been dead for most of his life, and his grandfather appears to be dying.  But this is the least of Kincar’s worries at the moment.  His cousin and rival for mastery of the hold has come to the keep, bringing strange rumors with him: the Star Lords are planning to leave Gorth!

For some reason, this cousin of Kincar’s does not like the Star Lords.  He is not the only one, to be sure, but these haters are largely outnumbered by the average Gorthians, who appreciate the learning and peace the Star Lords have brought to them.  Kincar is among the latter group and – more to the point – he does not like this cousin a whit.  The guy apparently has a nasty attitude that could breed more nastiness if given the chance.  And what better chance would this cousin have to let loose with his bad attitude than to be named holdruler of the keep?

Technically, mastery of the hold should pass to Kincar when his grandfather dies.  But Kincar soon learns that there is a snag.  His mother was Gorthian – but his father was a Star Lord!

A half-blood could rule a Gorthian keep no problem – except that Kincar’s troublesome cousin could make it a very BIG problem.  With Kincar’s half-blood status, he could challenge Kincar’s legal right to take mastery of the hold.  A good number of the hold residents would probably support Kincar taking power, but his cousin and his supporters could take up arms against Kincar’s supporters which would lead to outright battle for the position of holdruler.  Kincar therefore has two choices before him: stay and fight his cousin, causing bloodshed and possibly kin strife within the hold, or leave and find the Star Lords with whom he will be safe from his cousin.

It’s a hard decision for him.  The hold is his home, his security; Kincar knows of the Star Lords but he has never met one.  Still, he decides that the price of remaining in his beloved hold would cause too much strife.  So he leaves.

He’s not gone long when a horn sounds, proclaiming the death of his grandfather.  He has to pick up his pace now.   As long as he lives, he is a rival for mastery of the hold.  And bad guys really hate rivals, especially when those rivals are so much better than they are themselves.

After a few days travel, Kincar meets a handful of half-bloods traveling to an undisclosed location.  The group is attacked and two Star Lords burst into the fight, rescuing their kin from danger.

Kincar is practically thunderstruck by the mere sight of the Star Lords.  After all, he’s heard about them but he’s never seen them.  A legend is much more intimidating when one is looking it straight in the face.  After beating off a second attack, the group reaches a larger gathering of Star Lords and half-bloods.  This gathering includes women and children.

During the ride, Kincar learns that the rumors about the Star Lords leaving Gorth are true.  The Star Lords have experienced a severe division of policy:  a handful of the Star Lords think that the Gorthians should become their slaves.  The rest find this idea abhorrent and are leaving to avoid the temptation to enslave the people they have helped to civilize.

This particular conclave of half-bloods, Gorthians, and Star Lords – most of them related by marriage or blood – has decided to remain on Gorth.  To them it is home.  No other planet in the galaxy could compare.  Those who are attacking them are the Star Lords who are determined to take Gorth and make slaves of the Gorthians.

Kincar finds himself ill at ease with these Star Lords and half-bloods.  Most of the people in this group know each other; most of them are related.  He does not know if any of the Star Lords are related to him by his father; they are all strangers to him.  They are strangers to be respected and obeyed, yes, but still strangers.

And Kincar doesn’t get to know any of them very well in the few minutes he is in the camp.  The Star Lords’ enemies attack almost as soon as Kincar’s group enters the camp, forcing the Star Lords to activate their escape plan before they are prepared.

What is their escape plan?  It involves two pillars tied together by a web of rainbow light.  Passing through this web, this Star Gate, the Star Lords are forced to destroy the gate to destroy their enemies and prevent them from following the escapees through to the other side – an alternate Gorth.

Aha, now you get it!  Andre Norton’s Star Gate does not make a bridge between planets.  It makes a portal through time.  But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill portal through time, the one that puts you in the far past or in the far future.  Instead this gate takes the Star Lords to a Gorth in an alternate timeline; it is the same Gorth, but someone or something in its history took a different course of action.  Thus the Gorth that Kincar and his companions have just entered is the same as the Gorth they left, but its history is not their history.  The entire thing works more like a…. Sidestep through time than a jump forward or backward in time.  It’s a little like the reality-hopping adventures which the characters in the TV series Sliders experienced.  It’s the same planet, but everything and everyone on it is different from what they knew on ‘their’ planet.

The Star Lords had hoped to land in an alternate timeline where Gorth had no people on it.  Problem is, before they could find this alternate Gorth they were attacked.  It was go through the portal or get killed.  With the gate destroyed, they may be stuck on this Gorth instead of the one they wanted.

A little recon soon shows them that not only did they find a Gorth with people on it, they have found a Gorth where the Star Lords are a lazy, cruel people.  These Star Lords have enslaved the native Gorthians, who were already civilized by this time (something like 20th century civilization was my impression).  They have walked into the very horror they were running from in their own Gorth.

Now the group has a choice: find a way to the Gorth they want and leave this Gorth as is; or defeat these evil Star Lords and free the native Gorthians.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story here.  Doubtless I have already mixed up some of the details; it has been some time since I read the book.  Suffice it to say that Star Gate is as engaging as any of Norton’s other stories; not least because the protagonist continually refers to the Star Lords as ‘aliens.’

Of course, to Kincar humans are aliens.  But when most science fiction focuses on humanity’s interaction with different races from different worlds, it is a bit of a jolt to read every few lines that having ten fingers is an ‘alien’ quality!  Norton was good for stuff like that.

Though the book does not resemble either the movie or the TV series with which it has shared a similar name, it is quite as entertaining as its ‘younger siblings.’  An enjoyable read that will keep one turning the pages, Star Gate is one of Norton’s home run stories.  I definitely recommend it for light reading.

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian