After years of waiting for fresh content, the Stargate fandom has finally been able to watch MGM’s new 10-episode prequel web series, Stargate Origins, in its entirety on its streaming platform. The show, clocking in at just around two hours, was definitely cute, and that it both starred and was directed by women was noteworthy and laudable. But my favourite thing about Origins, really, was the chance to return to the Stargate universe and its long and rich canon.
A scene from Stargate: Origins. Image: All images (MGM)
Origins has a lot of obvious throwbacks to SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe – even casual fans will probably recognise things such as the Goa’uld staff weapons and hand devices, ring transports, pyramid spaceships, and Dial Home Devices (DHD). But there were a few quieter references in the web series that had me “Kree!”ing to myself while I watched. Let’s hop through the event horizon together to check them out!
Connor Trineer as Michael the Wraith on Atlantis (left) and Connor Trineer as Prof. Landford the Not-Wraith on Origins (right).
1) Recycle, Reuse
The Stargate franchise has always been infamous for recycling actors into new roles (listen, there were only so many working actors in the Vancouver area in the early 2000s, OK?), and Origins carried that tradition on well.
Played by Erik Holland in the 1994 film and Duncan Fraser in Stargate SG-1, Catherine’s father, Professor Langford, is played by Connor Trinneer in the Stargate prequel. But he previously appeared for 10 episodes as the sorta-sympathetic, half-human half-evil-Wraith called Michael in Stargate Atlantis. (Fans of other, arguably-inferior Star shows will also recognise Trinneer as Star Trek: Enterprise‘s Trip).
Kelly Vint Castro as Catharine in the original Stargate movie (left), and Castro as she looks in Origins (right)
Less obvious – even to die-hard fans – is the re-appearance of Kelly Vint Castro, who played the original Catherine in Stargate (1994) when she was just 12 years old.
Though she goes unnamed (she’s credited as “American Agent”), Castro has a brief moment with the new Catherine, Ellie Gall, in the final moments of the Origins web series, bringing a nice sort of symmetry to a character who has appeared in no fewer than six different iterations over the entirety of the Stargate franchise.
2) Nice Ice
Though Gall is the latest to play Catherine, the character is a mainstay of the franchise.
Castro depicted her in flashback but Viveca Lindfors played her older version in the 1994 film. Another two actresses took on the role in the Stargate SG-1 season one episode “The Torment of Tantalus”, with Nancy Hillis as a young woman in a flashback and Elizabeth Hoffman as an older woman (also appearing in “There But for the Grace of God”). Then in the season two episode “1969”, Catherine was played by Glynis Davies when the team time travelled.
Though she doesn’t physically appear in the series after that, she is often mentioned as the founder of the program and as kind of a legend in the Stargate universe.
The Eye of Ra necklace that Catherine originally finds at the Stargate excavation site in 1928 is her main identifying feature – each actress to take on the role has worn it, and Origins‘ Gall is no different.
But the best call-back in the web series has to be the moment in the finale where Castro’s American agent compliments Gall on her jewellery. Not only is OG Catherine complimenting New Catherine on her own necklace, they even gave Castro the same gloves she wore as a kid to shoot the cutaway shot where she admires it.
3) Old School
The gate travel in Origins features a few cute nods to the canon for fans with good memories (or well-worn DVD sets).
You might remember that in Stargate (1994) and the early days of SG-1, whenever someone would arrive on a new planet they’d pop out of the gate shivering, covered with ice – a consequence of quick reassembly on the molecular level.
While this side-effect of gate travel quickly disappeared from the show; Sam Carter later justified the discrepancy in season five’s “Red Sky” by explaining that they’d made calibrations to Earth’s dialling computer that made gate travel smoother. (That said, it may just as well have been a make-up and production complication that the crew was eager to do away with given the amount of gate travel in any single episode.)
But Origins takes place long before Carter would arrive with her brilliance, and so the Origins gate still Popsicle-ises people on the flip side.
There are a couple of other pre-DHD moments in Origins, too. In episodes two and three, Wasif and James have to turn the gate manually in order to activate it, and both they and the Nazis use a car battery to supply power to the giant wormhole-maker. We saw this a few times over Stargate‘s lifetime, but probably most notably when the SG-1 team accidentally found themselves back on Earth in 1969, when Carter used a military Jeep to rev their way back to the future.
(Coincidentally, “1969” happens to be that episode where the team runs into yet another, very groovy version of Catherine).
4) Home Away
Origins never explicitly tells the viewer where the Stargate takes the Langfords, but long-time viewers know that one of the only places the Earth gate can dial (without a DHD or complex computer system to account for planetary drift over time) is the relatively-proximal Ancient Egyptian-esque planet Abydos.
So we can be sure that Catherine and her crew end up on the very same planet James Spader’s Dr Daniel Jackson would grace (in all his floppy-haired glory) some 60 years later by that shot which shows the planet’s notable triple moons.
5) Copy + Paste
Catherine’s first trip through the gate is probably my favourite homage in Origins. If you’ve seen Stargate (1994), you’ll probably think this sequence looks familiar – and it should. Watching the show and the movie side-by-side reveals that Catherine’s inaugural voyage is almost a shot-for-shot remake of Daniel Jackson’s first gate trip in the very first film. Pretty rad.
6) A Mystery Solved
In the Stargate universe, every planet has its own unique six-symbol “address” which you dial on a gate to establish a connection between your gate and theirs. Address codes are completed by dialling a seventh symbol, the “point of origin” unique to the planet you’re currently standing on (Earth’s is the little “A” with a circular hat on it that you see in all the Stargate logos).
In the movie, Daniel gets stuck on Abydos in 1994 because he doesn’t know Earth’s address; he finds the first six symbols to get him home in a cave with very fancy wall art, but the seventh symbol – the one unique to Abydos – has been chipped off.
In Origins episode nine, it’s revealed that Catherine herself is the one to have removed the final symbol, back in 1939, to stop an evil Nazi who travelled there from getting back to Earth. As you do.
7) Ahoy, Matey
Now, listen; you’ve got to make a pretty deep cut to bamboozle a die-hard Stargate fan such as myself, but this one even I missed on first viewing.
First, you need some background: When Richard Dean Anderson (mostly) retired from Stargate in season eight, genre favourite Ben Browder (Farscape) was brought in as Cameron Mitchell, the new leader of SG-1.
In the final Stargate DVD movie, 2008’s Continuum, we learn that Mitchell’s grandfather was the captain of the freighter that transported the Stargate from Egypt to America in 1939.
If you look really close at the background of one of Origins‘ final scenes, you can see a ship’s crew getting the gate packed up and ready to go, and one of them looks suspiciously like Captain Mitchell himself. Now that’s a call-back.