ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 11/11/09
So you wake up one morning, and everyone is talking about the new “Stargate; Universe” show. For whatever reason, you’ve never watched a Stargate show before. Why? How should I know? Maybe you’re a recovering Trekie who feared excommunication for looking over the fence at what the other shows were doing. Maybe you’re a liberal demmekrat or a women’s studies professor who inherently fears any show that portrays the United States Armed Forces in a positive light. Maybe you were living in a Unibomber-style shack in the middle of nowhere and didn’t get cable. Maybe you’re Jane Goodall. Maybe you’re a perfectly normal non-geek person who didn’t really watch SF at all until Galactica became trendy, and now you’ve got an itch that can only be scratched by a dingy space ship that’s poorly lit and falling apart.
Whatever the reason, however, you’ve managed to miss the thirteen or fourteen years.
A working knowledge of SGU has not, thus far, been crucial to enjoying the show. Indeed, I think they’re doing a really solid job of riding that line between ‘accessible’ and ‘continuity porn’ that so many series with “Star” in their names fall prey to. Even so, it’s possible that you’ve discerned that there’s a lot of backstory here, and you want to know more about the Stargate universe - who’s this “O’Neil” guy that everyone seems in awe of? Who was that surprisingly hot middle-aged chick who was commanding a starship in the first episode? What’s all this talk about “Homeworld Security?” Who are the Ancients and what’s all this new-agey twaddle about “Ascension?” For whatever reason that brought you here, you want to know more about the playing field that your new favorite show is sitting in the middle of.
At the same time, Stargate is freakin’ daunting as hell: One movie, two straight-to-DVD movies (And counting), four series (And counting), and three HUNDRED and thirty-three total hours worth of episodes (And counting) - it’s a hell of a lot to take in all in one sitting, even for the most OCD of compulsive Trekies or mouthbreathing of Marvel fans. And if THEY can’t do it, then what chance do you have? It’s enough to make you just throw your hands up in frustration and go back to whatever the hell it was that you were doing which caused you to miss 14 years worth of TV in the first place.
But, fear not, stout yeoman, I can help!
Before we begin, you can completely ignore “Stargate: Infinity” - that saves you 13 hours right there. It’s a cartoon show, poorly animated, and completely out of continuity with all the other shows. Ignore it, speak no more of it, and pretend it never happened.
Now then, to actually start, you need to watch the actual theatrical “Stargate” movie.
For the record, I hated this movie when I first saw it in 1994, and I still don’t like it much. I can certainly sympathize with your misguided efforts to go out and enjoy life and do real-world things rather than waste your time with Stargate if that’s all you’ve got to go on, because I myself did exactly that. I not only didn’t watch the show, I avoided the hell out of it until some time in the 7th season, when it suddenly grabbed me that I was being a fool, and this was a damn fine little show I’d been missing.
Anyway, once that cinematic unpleasantness is out of the way, just netflix or purchast Stargate: SG1 Seasons 1-7, just watch 'em straight out of the box in the order they come out in, and you're fine. No real problems there. Things don’t get potentially confusing until after that.
Season 8 of SG1 and Season 1 of Stargate: Atlantis (Hereafter “SGA”) ran concurrently on the old Sci-Fi channel, and they ran back-to-back on the same night of the week (Friday, if you care). The writers knew this would be the case going in to the season, and wrote accordingly, so the 'recommended viewing order' is pretty easy to keep straight, far easier than I‘d anticipated when I sat down to write this:
Start the season with SG1's two parter ("New Order") and then watch SGA's 2-parter premier, ("Rising"), then watch SG1's 3rd episode, SGA's 3rd episode, SG1's 4th episode, SGA's 4th episode, SG1's 5th episode, SGA's 5th, and so on, but make sure to watch both parts of the SG1 season finale, "Mobieus," before you watch the SGA finale, "The Siege."
That's a little frustrating, I know, a little more effort than you probably want to put in to it, I totally understand if you don't wanna', I'm just putting it out there if you're still in to the whole “Stargate” thing by that point. I mean, there’s 320 hours of Stargate (If we ignore “Infinity”), there’s every chance that you’ll loose interest, or get a girlfriend, or that SGU will simply crap out, crash and burn by then, and it won’t be worth your time to fill in all the backstory in your mental map. But if you want to do this thing right, that’s the way to go about it. And there's more overlap between SG1 and SGA in that year (SG1 10/SGA 1) than any other season, though, so if you wanna' watch them in their 'intended' order, there's more reward for doing it in this season than in any other (Though precious little real reward, as it's just a TV show, after all.)
(Incidentally, "Mobius" is, on some levels, a finale for the entire SG1 series, though the show didn't end for another 2 years. It is, however, kind of a bittersweet farewell to the 'classic' show, which they knew was getting a major retread in the next year, and they wanted to reward fans with a clever look at what was before forcing a new reality down their throats. Some people hated the next few years of SG1, personally I loved it, and thought it was a lot of fun. Your mileage may vary.)
Season 9 of SG1 and Season 2 of SGA again run concurrently, though there's less overlap between them, so it's less important to watch 'em in the intended order like it was in Season 1 of SGA. If you DO want to watch them in Chronological order like this, though, I'd suggest starting the season off with the SGA year 2 premier, which is the conclusion of the season finale cliffhanger. Mobius, the SG1 finale for the previous season, wasn't a cliffhanger. In any event, watch episode 1 of SGA, then 1 of SG1, then episode 2 of SGA, then episode 2 of SG1, and so on.
Season 10 of SG1 and Season 3 of SGA run concurrently, but with very little direct contact between them, aside from some dialog here and there. If you wanna' watch 'em in order, though, it's your same basic SG1-1, SGA-1,SG1-2,SGA-2, and so on. If there's two-parters involved, watch the parts together, of course. SG1 concludes pretty abruptly and unsatisfyingly at the end of this year, with a lot of balls in the air. (I’ll probably never forgive Sci-Fi/Syfy for that)
Once Season 10 of SG1 and Season 3 of SGA are out of the way, you need to watch a straight-to-DVD movie called "Stargate: The Ark of Truth" which resolves most of the lingering plot threads from the previous 2 years of SG1. After THAT's out of the way, start the 4th season of SGA. You really need to have all that other crap out of the way before starting the 4th season, or else there's a big "huh?" in the casting that'll confuse you.
Once you're through Season 4, start Season 5, but only watch the first episode. That'll resolve the cliffhanger ending from season 4, and set up the next straight-to-DVD movie, "Stargate: Continuum," This is a really good DVD movie, no end of fun,though it does kind of wander over the same ground as “Mobius” thematically. After that's out of the way, go watch the rest of Season 5 which (As is traditional for Stargate shows) ends rather abruptly and unsatisfyingly far earlier than the producers had intended.
Don't worry about that unduly, however: there's an Atlantis Straight-to-DVD movie in the works that should wrap shooting by the time you've worked your way up to it. There should be another SG1 movie by then, too.
Anyway, once you've got season 5 of "SGA" out of the way, it's time for SGU, baby, and you're au courant!
I’d like to thank Darren Sumner of Gateworld for helping me out immeasurably (And promptly!) with some information I needed for the writing of this article. Gateworld is pretty much the one-stop-shopping-spot for all things SG-related, and you should really check it out here http://www.gateworld.net/ and you can find out more information about the episode order on that site here http://www.gateworld.net/news/2009/05/stargate-recommended-viewing-order/