Macgyver has a spacetime portal and he’s not afraid to use it! In 1997, three years after the film hit theaters, a TV spinoff series quietly supplanted the original movie it was based on. In the process, science fiction fans received one of the best, most underrated shows in sci-fi history, and it’s leaving Netflix at the end of this month.
Starring Richard Dean Anderson of Macgyver fame, the series Stargate: SG-1 went on to become one of the longest-running sci-fi shows of all time, clocking in at 10 seasons and multiple spinoffs. Here’s why this underdog sci-fi show from the late nineties and early aughts is worth another look while there’s still time.
What was Stargate: SG-1?
If you’re someone who wishes Ancient Aliens was the premise of a gonzo science fiction series, you’re in luck. Stargate: SG-1 takes nearly every silly theory about historical civilizations— from Eygpt to Greece to Norse myths and even King Arthur — and says, hell yes, maybe some time travel and aliens were involved.
Initially, the show presents a team of US Air Force commandos led by Jack O’Neil (Anderson) who are specifically tasked with trying to figure out the whole deal with these interdimensional gates. But as the show went on, it reinvented itself more than once.
By the final two seasons, star Richard Dean Anderson stepped back to being a guest player. This makes Stargate a bit like The X-Files insofar as its heyday is arguably in the middle of its run, and by the end, it’s a bit muddled.
Which seasons of Stargate: SG-1 are the best?
Most fans agree that Seasons 3, 4, and 5 are your best bets if you’re looking for only the most satisfying arcs and character work. Like a lot of late-nineties sci-fi shows (Star Trek: Voyager, Babylon 5) Stargate: SG-1 didn’t really hit its stride until after its second season. Although the show consists of roughly three big arcs told over 10 seasons, the show still began in an era where big serial arcs were still not the norm.
Beginning on Showtime and ending up on the Sci-Fi Channel also makes Stargate kind of like The Expanse of its time. But even stranger, although it was a cable show, Stargate’s early seasons were also syndicated by Fox after first airing on Showtime. This would be like if Game of Thrones struggled in 2011 and HBO to syndicate the show on the CW to boost viewership.
The point is, like Babylon 5, or later-era Deep Space Nine, Stargate SG-1 still relied on a hybrid model when it came to doing episodic sci-fi stories combined with bigger series-long arcs. This means if you watched Stargate in syndication on network TV you always felt like you were behind.
It’s for this reason that a contemporary binge should start with Season 3 and end with Season 5. After that, the show was bumped over to the Sci-Fi Channel in 2002. This is pre-Battlestar Galactica Sci-Fi Channel — and pre-SyFy, of course — so the production values take a big hit from Season 6 to Season 10.
What about the Stargate spin-offs?
Stargate: SG-1 was such a sprawling sci-fi franchise that it actually spawned three spin-off series: Stargate: Atlantis (three guesses which ancient civilization that was about ), Stargate Universe, and later, Stargate: Origins.
Of these, Atlantis is easily the best and features a great cast including Robert Picardo of Star Trek: Voyager fame, Jewel Staite from Firefly, and — wait for it — Jason Momoa as the interstellar badass Ronon Dex. Yes, if it weren’t for the success of Stargate SG-1, there’s a very real chance the sci-fi/fantasy career of Jason Momoa would never have gotten started.
Where is Stargate SG-1 streaming?
All 10 seasons of Stargate SG-1 leave Netflix on November 30. You (probably?) can’t watch the whole show by then, but if you start with Season 3, you might binge enough of the show to get why it rocks.