I write this review just one day after the news that the Sci-Fi Channel has declined to renew STARGATE SG-1 for an eleventh season. It would normally be hard to feel too bad about a show that has had ten full seasons, but it seems a shame to cancel a show that has not only demonstrated a remarkable consistency for the past ten years, but an ability to recreate itself. The show's executive producers insist that they are not giving up yet on the series and harbor hopes of transferring it to another network. I personally hope they succeed. While we've had ten great years of stories about the SG-1 team, I'd welcome two or three more seasons, especially with the new team and the new threat to the galaxy introduced in Season Nine.
For most STARGATE SG-1 fans, Season Eight was something of a disappointment. It was no secret that Richard Dean Anderson was burnt out and wanted to leave the show. When SG-1 went into the field it was as a trio and not as a quartet, and Anderson's anarchic sense of humor was severely missed. The show clearly needed to change if it was going to continue to be worth watching. When Anderson left the show at the end of Season Eight, some fans lost all interest in the show. But Ben Browder in replacing Anderson brought some fan interest of his own, having starred in the critically acclaimed, fan favorite, and tragically cancelled FARSCAPE. Although for many fans Browder could not fully replace Anderson, he definitely brought a great deal to the show. And most important, he helped restore some balance to the cast by injecting some of the same irreverence that Anderson had.
Season 9 was unfortunately interrupted by real life concerns. Both Amanda Tapping and newcomer Claudia Black had their participation in the show interfered with by pregnancy. Tapping missed the first part of the season having her baby, while Black, who was to be an ongoing part time character, had her participation limited to several episodes at the beginning and a couple at the very end. As delighted as I am that Black was able to have a child, from the standpoint of the show her unavailability was unfortunate, since she instantly brought an energy and sense of outrageousness that the show had always lacked. Of course, we didn't know this until she appeared, but it became obvious from her guest appearance in Season 8. Black and Ben Browder had, of course, played the star-crossed lovers Aeryn Sun and John Crichton on FARSCAPE, and I was somewhat uncomfortable at the prospect of their appearing together on STARGATE. They had, of course, been involved in the greatest Sci-Fi romance story in the history of TV Sci-Fi. I was afraid that there would be attempt to throw them together on the new show. Luckily, the writers decided to loosely pair Claudia Black's Vala with Michael Shanks's Daniel Jackson instead of Ben Browder's Cameron Mitchell. Nonetheless, the presence of Black and Browder on the show caused many fans to refer to it as FARGATE.
Season Eight of the show had seen the almost complete demise of the Goa'uld, so there was the need for a new enemy. The one chosen was one particularly relevant to the times: the Ori. These religious fanatics go about the universe forcibly making people conform to their religious faith or killing them. In a time when fundamentalists are rampant both in North America and the Middle East, this particular enemy has a particular topical relevance. (There are a number of vague political references throughout SG-1. The new president in Season 8 is said by O'Neill to be a "shrub," a term that has often been used to deride George W. Bush, though all in all the show leaves its politics vague, usually refusing to explore the political ramifications of the show, largely for narrative reasons.)
All in all, I thought Season Nine was a wonderful recovery after the rather listless Season Eight. Ben Browder brought back a lot of the energy that was missing in Anderson's lessened participation in the show while Claudia Black brought a delightful outrageousness in her episodes, something that she has continued after becoming a full time character in Season Ten. In other words, the show needed to redefine itself after Season Eight, and it did so successfully. Fans of the show how will have to hold their breath while we see if Season Ten will be the show's last.