Stargate: An Evolution

Today I woke up to news reports that Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the team behind the original 1994 Stargate movie, have been given the green light to reboot and produce a new trilogy of movies. Stargate is returning to the big screen – kinda. You’d think I’d be excited but I’m actually cautious, more wait and see than jumping up and down.

I mentioned Stargate in a mixed post I made in March. On February 26th I started watching it from the third episode of season one, as I’d seen the first two and the movie a year or so earlier. It’s now the 30th of May, so effectively three months later and I’m now on episode 15 of season 8 of SG1 and episode 16 of season 1 of Atlantis. I still have 170 episodes from the combined shows to watch, plus the two TV movies. I’m hooked, it’s as simple as that. I might be a new fan but I am a fan.

The news that the franchise is being revived should be good news right? Well it rather depends on your point of view.

Movie canon vs TV canon
The people that produced SG1, which Atlantis/Universe/TV movies all came from, were not the same people behind the 1994 film. The TV show followed on from the film, it changed a couple of details but the events depicted in the film happened in the TV show history.

The problem is the people behind the 94 movie, had their own vision of what Stargate was, a vision that didn’t match the direction the TV show took it in. They are the people behind this new trilogy reboot and they are on record as saying they dislike the show. They are going to ignore all canon, all continuity, everything from the TV shows and take Stargate back to where they left it, in 1994.

Now the last Stargate TV movie was released six years ago, in 2008. There were two more films planned, Revolution (an SG1 movie) and Extinction (an Atlantis movie) and both were scrapped, put in production hell, whatever you call it when the project is going nowhere. In some ways it’s a miracle at all that Stargate is being continued in any form, as it was always extremely unlikely that anything else was going to get made following on from the TV shows. With a reboot from the 94 film, extremely unlikely is now sub zero. If the reboot does well then they will discontinue the TV continuity, if it doesn’t do well then it kills the entire Stargate franchise.

Given the age of the actors involved, and where they are in their careers, it would have been difficult to have continued with the TV show continuity even if the powers that be had wanted to. In many respects a reboot is the only way forward. However, taking it back to the 94 movie, ignoring 17 seasons and 2 movies worth of canon, is that the right thing to do? Whatever the answer, that is what’s happening and whatever I write here, or whatever I think, isn’t going to change it. That doesn’t stop me wondering though, of what could have been.

I have no idea how the reboot trilogy will turn out. The deal has only just been struck, the film isn’t even in development yet and the earliest it’s likely to hit screens is 2017. It could be fantastic, I will certainly follow it’s development and eventually go and see for myself, even if they do ignore all of the SG1 canon that made me a Stargate fan.

For a moment let’s pretend
I know I haven’t even reached the end of watching all of the produced Stargate yet. However, that didn’t stop me thinking about how the franchise could have been continued, especially given we’re now in 2014, approaching 20 years since SG1 first hit screens. I couldn’t sleep one night a few weeks ago, not an uncommon occurrence, and so I started to give it some thought. If I was a writer, given the green light to do something with the Stargate franchise, what would I do?

Well I rapidly came to the conclusion that a reboot was the only option. However, I couldn’t even contemplate a Star Trek style reboot, with different actors playing the characters I’d grown to love. Nope, sorry not happening. In my opinion it’s too close in time to the original to do something like that. There was what 40 years in between Star Trek: The Original Series and the rebooted JJ Abrams movies? That kind of time distance is essential, or it’s just too weird.

What are the options then? Well option one isn’t to reboot, it’s just to continue and essentially pick up where the show’s ended. Have the original actors do a guest spot or two in the beginning, to help ground and establish the show. However, it’s an all new team, dealing with whatever is out there right now. The problem with this option is where do you go with the story? As I said I’m only on season one of Atlantis, so this post is kinda silly in many respects as I don’t have the concrete information to really do it justice. I understand that the planned Atlantis movie was going to pick up where the show left off, so there were presumably some unanswered questions. However, the planned SG1 movie was reportedly going to deal with revealing the existence of the Stargate program to the world. In my mind that’s the final story, the one that wraps everything up, the last unanswered question.

Now, obviously there’s a ton of threats out there in the Galaxy. How the world would react to the knowledge of the Stargate, and of everything that happened, all those times SG1 saved the world, that might be the last big question. However, they are still plots that could be further developed. I suppose the real problem with the option of just continuing, isn’t where do you go with the story, it’s how do you draw new fans into something that is already so developed? If they get hooked onto the new series/new movie, then they might go back and watch all of the previous 17 seasons, but they have to like the new show/film first. A reboot solves these problems but obviously creates others.

Anyway, I was thinking about all this and also about a few eternal questions which were just ignored by the show. Like how on earth it was kept secret for so long given how many people must have known about it? Just the sheer number of people that worked at the SGC alone, the mind boggles. Then there are the time travel/alternate reality episodes which I always enjoyed, I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. Though of course Star Trek did the whole alternate reality reboot. Doing the same would lead to accusations of copying, it probably wouldn’t be a good thing, though of course it depends on how it was done.

Imagine if you will
The year is 2014, or 2015 or whenever this would get produced, let’s call it 2014 because that’s where we are right now. The show’s internal timeline matched it’s production year pretty much, though they said it had been a year rather than three since the events of the film. What if the Stargate was never opened? What if that first mission to Abydos never happened? We’re talking nearly twenty years passing in the Galaxy without the intervention, or the actions, of the people of the Tau’ri.

At the start of the 94 film Dr Daniel Jackson was suffering humiliation, and the destruction of his career, due to his theories on aliens in Egypt. If he was never approached by Catherine Langford, never told that his theories were correct, had never joined the SGC what would have become of him? Jack O’Neill was suicidal after the loss of his son, he took the mission to Abydos because he thought it would kill him. It didn’t and he got a purpose back to his life. Without that mission, without the SGC, what would have become of him? What would have happened to Teal’c if he’d never met SG1, never met someone who he believed “could save these people”? Would he still be first prime to Apophis? What would have become of Samantha Carter?

That’s just the team, what would have happened to the galaxy at large? Would Anubis have still returned? What would have happened to the Asgard and their war against the replicators? Now obviously there’s no story if the Stargate stayed buried in Egypt. I’m just saying what would have happened if it was never activated? Would Apophis have still come through searching for hosts? Would perhaps the System Lords have returned to Earth, upon finding that the gate was accessible once more, to re-claim their former dominion?

In the episode 1969 the gate wasn’t at Cheyenne Mountain, it was boxed up in a warehouse, where it had been since the ill fated program in the 1940’s. If the program was never started then presumably it would still be there. Now exactly how the Stargates functioned in terms of able to dial in and out, their interaction with the DHD’s etc. the canon wasn’t exactly consistent, or I suppose more accurately got retconned when they changed their minds, it’s confusing. Anyway, I believe the last word was if it was disconnected from the DHD/power source then the gate was dormant. After Anubis blew up the original gate, the Russian’s had the second gate but it was disconnected from the DHD, and they couldn’t connect it and restart the SGC until they discovered that Anubis couldn’t repeat the attack. They didn’t have to bury the gate just disconnect it. Therefore, the boxed up gate wouldn’t be able to be dialed into.

The only problem with this is what then kick starts the program in 2014? In 1969 it was suggested that perhaps SG1’s visit to Catherine Langford rekindled her interest in the project, she campaigned for it to be restarted and the rest is history. However, she’s likely dead in 2014, the actress according to IMDB isn’t but she’s 87, either way she’s not going to be pushing for the Stargate program. The Goa’uld have ignored Earth for thousands of years. Assuming Apophis just randomly/accidentally gated here because the gate was accessible, well he’s not going to be doing that if the gate is unable to be dialed. As they’ve ignored Earth for so long then they aren’t going to come here in ships, or are they?

A possible scenario
I said that twenty years and the Galaxy will have moved on and could be very different without the influence of the Tau’ri. Say Anubis did return, in the episode ‘It’s good to be King’ it said that the System Lords were on the run, that they were returning to worlds they’d long abandoned as Ba’al’s (or Anubis) Kull warriors easily dominated the armies of Jaffa the other System Lords commanded. They were looking for Sanctuary, somewhere to hide and regroup.

Ra was a powerful Goa’uld but who’s to say he would have fared any better against Anubis than the other System Lords. Lord Yu was more successful in fighting him than anyone expected, after the other System Lords all capitulated to him, but that was before Anubis had the Kull warriors, before Anubis had the super weapon of the Eye’s of the Goa’uld. He managed to get all of them last time, though he didn’t have this weapon for long before SG1 managed to destroy it, which obviously wouldn’t happen if SG1 didn’t exist.

Right so Ra could return to Earth in his ships, that could be a starting point. It’s not a starting point I necessarily like, but I’m just pointing out it’s possible.¬†Imagine ships as large as the great pyramids descending from space, a great booming voice like from the episode ‘The Sentinel’ telling people not to resist and to worship their god – Ra. There would be mass panic, the army would be mobilized but would it be successful? The Ha’tak’s¬†could shoot mass fireballs from space. When Anubis attacked Earth he easily wiped out a whole fleet of Warships. In the episode ‘Point of View’ where SG1 visit an alternate reality where Apophis succeeded in attacking, Earth was losing and was only saved by contacting the Asgard.

I can imagine a Colonel Carter, or I suppose she might be General by then, searching the databases for something that could help. Perhaps discovering journal articles written by Dr Daniel Jackson twenty years earlier but more importantly discovering the Stargate. Now without a proper DHD to compensate for gravitational drift the only planet that could be accessed initially was Abydos. It was very much trial and error, which is time they wouldn’t have. However, Carter was the one that designed the Macgyver’d dialling computer. Say she did figure it out, or enough to activate the Stargate. A renegade team, the heroes of this new show/movie, would be sent through. It would be like when the team was sent to Atlantis, they knew it might be a one way trip but they went to find out what they could.

Think Agents of Shield after Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out. Everything was torn down, Shield was gone, they were fugitives as everyone was a suspect due to Hydra infiltration. They were very much on the outside, they didn’t have any support, there was no home base to return to but they still had a job to do. It would be the same with this team, they are sent through the gate to find technology, allies, information. Earth would be enslaved under Ra’s control, there would be no SGC in this scenario, just the team struggling to survive themselves and to find a way to free their planet – “We serve when everything else fails.”

This would make a good movie and you wouldn’t necessarily need to know all the backstory canon. Earth is invaded by aliens, an alien device is discovered that acts as an interstellar transport system, a team is sent out to find a way to defeat the aliens. If it was a movie, or even a trilogy, the ending in my opinion would have to be them freeing Earth from Ra and then some form of the SGC being set up. Obviously given that the world would be aware of the Stargate it would have to be an international program. This movie then could be continued in a TV show, much like SG1, where you follow a team through the gate. Their adventures would obviously be different, they could encounter some of the same alien races but it’s a big galaxy out there, they could travel to many different worlds.

Another possible scenario
No alien invasion to kick start the program. Nope, they just pull it out of mothballs. We have the drone that’s going to Mars, we are interested in outer space exploration. So the gate is rediscovered, it’s secrets are worked out, the SGC is formed and it’s very much like a reboot of SG1, only it uses different characters as like I said I can’t bear to imagine different actors playing those roles. This would pretty much only work as a TV show as it doesn’t have the dramatics that a movie would require, rather a slow build up instead.

The problem with this scenario is it’s basically like SG1 with different characters. Which could be fun and it would exist in the same world, just twenty years later and the galaxy would obviously be different to reflect that. I mean SG1 killed how many System Lords? Then there was obviously the Replicators, SG1/the SGC had a big influence on history. The show’s format would be the same, but as I said about the adventures would be different. SG1 was very successful, it lasted ten seasons, it obviously did something very right. Essentially copying it and bringing it up to date technology wise, so it’s nice and shiny, could work. It would be a little like the Hawaii 5-0 reboot which has been picked up for a fifth season, so it’s doing well. It could be argued there’s a market for that kind of angle.

Something different
Now with both of those above scenarios they are essentially alternate universes. I side-stepped the whole ‘copying Star Trek’ thing by not having an explanation as to why it was an alternate universe. Nobody came back in time to change things, it was just following one of the infinite possibilities that might have been. Much like how we saw the different realities through the mirror in SG1, they weren’t different because somebody changed things, they just were different.

Another possibility is time travel. The plot for the planned, and dropped, SG1 movie was supposedly going to reveal the existence of the Stargate to the world. What if that happened and the world reacted badly, sort of the worst possible reaction? The show went over this a few times when the Stargate was revealed on other worlds. Sometimes the population reacted well, other times it went very badly. There was a season 8 episode ‘Icon’ where the revelation sparked a world war which wiped out most of the planet.

Imagine waking up to the news that we aren’t alone in the universe. That for the past 15 years teams have been sent to explore other planets. That we have a space ships, that the earth has been in danger countless times while we remained blissfully ignorant. That the US government has been acting for all nations, sort of like a ‘world police’, that other governments were read into the program eventually but only a handful, most of them still remained unaware. That the US, and Russia and perhaps other countries, have benefited from advanced alien technology using a resource – the Stargate – which really belonged to all nations. World wars have been started over less.

In Star Trek neither Nero or Spock intended to go back in time, essentially causing a split in the time stream and a new reality to be created. It was an accident with the singularity, one that Nero took advantage of in order to get revenge. In the episode ‘2010’ the Earth has been destroyed, the people just don’t know it yet. It’s a slow death, sterilization, the Aschen have won a war, taken over a planet, without firing a single shot. Carter says that they can change it, that they can send a note back in time, stop the alliance with the Aschen and that if they are successful then this timeline, this version of the future will never come to be. Now, this goes against the theories of time travel that I agree with. In my opinion what happened is that sending the note back created an alternate reality, the future of that reality was changed, but the future of the one those versions of SG1 inhabited remained the same. The people of Earth would have died out, the Aschen would have had the planet etc. but the team didn’t have to live to see it as they all died getting the note through the gate.

However, if the world was embroiled in a deadly war, we were destroying ourselves and soon nothing would be left. The hope of it being different, the hope that somewhere in the multiverse Earth could live on, even if it wasn’t our Earth, even if we wouldn’t make it, well that hope would be all they had left. There would be nothing they could do to stop the annihilation, nothing they could do to save themselves, but they could save another copy of Earth. Somewhere, somehow, the future could be better, they could change it, just not for themselves.

Intentional time travel, intentional creation of another reality, that’s different from the Star Trek reboot which was accidental. They would have to use a time travelling puddle jumper, rather than use a solar flare through the Stargate as Earth’s technology is unlikely to have advanced enough to predict those. There’s a couple of problems with this. I’ve not seen the episode ‘Moebius’ where they use the time travelling Puddle Jumper. I don’t know what happens to it or if it’s even available to be used, as I’ve not got that far in the show. So, the whole possibility may not be possible. Even if it isn’t possible it’s a show and not real, they can’t go back in time to their younger selves as the actors can’t de-age themselves.

The whole question about when they went back to, what they would change, is all very open. I mean the secret of the Stargate program can’t be kept forever, so it would be no use going back just a year or so to try and prevent the reveal. Given all that they know, there’s no way they would want to stop the Stargate program from being started in the first place. What could they even change? What difference could they make?

In Marvel, according to the films anyway as I don’t know much about the comics, Shield answered to the World Security Council. Shield wasn’t an American organisation, so far as I can tell, it was the line between the world and a much weirder world. It was founded on the principle of protection, from protection of a single person to the entire planet. It’s jurisdiction was everywhere when there was something strange, like an 0-8-4. I said in the first possible scenario that if they formed an SGC type organisation, after the alien invasion had been beaten back, it would have to be an international effort. What if they went back and formed an international SGC? Though keeping such a secret with so many governments involved seems impossible or implausible. I’m not at all sure how it work, I mean would they have to come clean about the time travel? Why would they be believed?

A possibility but the idea seems unworkable.

A different angle?
What if we entered the Stargate universe not from the people of Earth? What if instead we went back to the time of the Ancients? What if the focus was on another planet like Tollan? How different would the universe look with the main characters as Tok’ra or Asgard?

I’m only mentioning this as a possibility because of some news articles. It’s rumored that Sony are planning a movie based on the Sinister Six, with the villains being the focus rather than the hero – Spiderman. I read today that Fox are in talks to perhaps give Mystique her own solo movie, as something different from the X-Men ensemble.

Personally I think it would be unworkable. I believe part of the appeal of SG1 was that it was our earth, it could be happening right now. It wasn’t set in the future like Star Trek, in other galaxy like Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars. It was our world, our time, our technology, it was easy to relate to. Now obviously, other sci-fi franchises have been very successful without using the people of Earth, with Earth not existing or being very different than the Earth we know. Would that work for Stargate? I don’t know.

In conclusion
I think I’m rambled on long enough, this blog post is nearly 4000 words and my hands starting to cramp. Basically I watch with interest any news on the rebooted movie trilogy. However, I wish that a different project had been green lit, one that made use of all the canon that the TV shows devised, rather than just ignoring it completely. The movie was a success but it’s SG1 which made the franchise famous.

Stargate is making a comeback. Whether it’ll be the Stargate I love remains to be seen. I’ll just have to wait and see. Just as a random aside to end this post, maybe if the franchise does get revived they might finally make a video game. Who wouldn’t want to click ‘enter world’ and go through the gate? Chevron is locked.