Stargate Origins – REVIEW

Stargate Origins – REVIEW

0 comments 📅20 June 2018, 14:00

Stargate Origins is available on MGM’s own streaming service, Stargate Command and takes the form of a digital series. An ‘All-Access’ pass will need to be purchased in order to watch the series.

Written by: Mark Ilvedson and Justin Michael Terry
Director: Mercedes Bryce Morgan

Naquadah-enhanced spoilers ahead

Excitement had been steadily growing for the new Stargate Origins web series ever since it’s first announcement back in July last year. However, fans began to worry when the last trailer before the show began showed the stargate being activated, which as faithful followers of the franchise will happily tell you, didn’t happen until the brilliant SG1 story “The Torment of Tantalus” (season 1, episode 11) when Ernest Littlefield – Catherine Langford’s fiancé – went through the gate in 1945 and was subsequently stranded and unable to return home. If the gate was activated before this, MGM ran the risk of upsetting established canon.

Alternatively, it’s possible this web series is a straight-up reboot. MGM was ready to throw out the whole SG1/Atlantis/Universe continuity to let Roland Emmerich reboot the franchise just a few years ago.

The first episode starts with footage of young Catherine Langford (played by Kelly Vint Castro) taken from the 1994 movie when she picks out her Ra, ancient Egyptian sun god, necklace as the stargate is discovered under the cover stones and hoisted upright at the Giza Plateau in Egypt in 1928. At the 60 second mark, it nicely cuts to the gate in storage with a caption at the bottom of the screen saying “10 years later”.

Straight away we’re introduced to slightly older Catherine Langford (Ellie Gall), her boyfriend James Beal (Philip Alexander) and her father, Professor Paul Langford (Connor Trinneer). Set against the background story of dwindling funds for research and the possibility of Catherine leaving the project, all causing friction between her and her father, a trio of Nazis suddenly show up at the hanger/warehouse where the gate is being studied and stored. Led by Dr Wilhelm Brücke (Aylam Orian) the rude folk from the third reich seem to have already figured out that the stargate could in fact be a…er, stargate. So ends episode one. Hey, they’re only 10 minutes each.

Episode two picks up straight away from the where the first one left off as the nincompoop Nazis try to power up the gate with an address Herr Doktor has in a notebook and the battery from his car.

So far, it’s all been very small scale, which is to be expected. There’s a little attempt at O’Neill-esque humour and it’s not really nailed. The acting also isn’t going to win any Academy Awards, but it’s early days, so we’re left believing this should still be given the benefit of the doubt.

The labour-intensive task of manually dialing the gate seems to be glossed over here and an outgoing connection is made. Where yet, we don’t know. How Catherine doesn’t remember this, we don’t know, although it hasn’t been revealed yet that the symbols represent constellations. Then, to test zis strange devize, the cowardly krauts push the poor Prof through the event horizon. Bonkers Brücke isn’t far behind as he and a few troops walk through the gate, his plan is that if he hasn’t returned within an allotted time, the gate is to be dialed again using the instructions in his notebook, which he has entrusted to a subordinate. A plan so simple, yet no one thought to do it when Ernest Littlefield stepped through.

There’s a camera angle from inside the event horizon, looking out, which is nice. Catherine is left, hands tied, with said subordinate, who she manages to knock unconscious with ridiculous ease, half-inches the all-important notebook and somehow drives to where her already-annoying bumbling Brit boyfriend is camped out, not far away, in what we know is a stick shift ’cause we’ve seen the clutch pedal… hands still tied together.

Hmmmm. Next installment.

As everyone emerges on the other side, we see that the “frosting effect” has returned. In the pilot episode of Stargate: SG1 “Children of the Gods” Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) explains that when travelling long distances without correction for stellar drift the freezing is due to the momentary compression of your atoms needed during your reconstruction on the other side.

“With this map as a base, that should be easy. All we have to do is correct for Doppler shift. Then I should be able to arrive at a computer model that will predict the adjustments necessary,” she says.

Once new gate addresses had been discovered on Abydos, it no longer resulted in a frozen face. In “The Torment of Tantalus” Carter explains how a team was able to activate the gate in 1947 and sent a traveller to an address in a similar alignment to Abydos, where the drift has been minor in relation to Earth. Thereby skirting the problem of stellar drift.

So, although never directly explained in the show, there are references to shoddy connections and freezing upon re-materialization.

This is a super-specific detail that has been included and you can’t help but wonder whether it was incorporated because stellar drift could not be compensated with this wormhole connection – therefore indicating the planet they’ve gone to is some distance away from Earth, certainly further than Abydos or P3X-972 – or because the director liked it.

In what appears to be a very ancient Egyptian-looking room is a DHD (dial home device) that barmy Brücke instantly recognizes saying, “Ah yes, just like za one vee have in Berlin. Diz must be how zay open it, wiz-out all dat electrikal nonsense.”

Another attempt at humour here takes the unexpected form of something right out of a Mel Brooks movie as Catherine, James and his Fez-wearing friend Wasif (Shvan Aladdin) re-enter the hanger to discover said subordinate Heinrich (Derek Chariton) having regained consciousness emerging from the restroom…wearing Catherine’s panties. Oh yes. Interesting choice to go down this road…just possibly jarring with the genre slightly.

Meanwhile, the gate team have come face to face for the first time with a Goa’uld…and more than likely a system lord.

Catherine, bumbling Brit boyfriend James and Wasif are now trying to dial the gate. Catherine’s instructions really are terrible and would totally fail to get the chevrons locked on the symbols. It’s impossible at this point to not want her to fail to shout “duck!” when the gate suddenly activates. They all make it through though… sadly without any more… er, humour, perhaps a particularly gruesome decapitation..?

The old problem of the unknown seventh symbol greets them on the other side as they struggle to work things out. Along the way they discover the body of one of Brücke’s men, who took a nasty, full-body blast from a Goa’uld Kara kesh “glove weapon”.

They get into some hand-to-hand combat with a female Goa’uld soldier, although the fight scenes look like they were choreographed from a Carry On film. You could have this playing at the same time you’re watching them try to fight each other.

The others don’t even make an appearance…and in fact that’s just about all that happens. So far, it’s definitely letting the Stargate side down and the fan reaction to Origins has been brutal, to say the least, but we’ll get to that later.

Now we see our hapless hopeless heroes wandering through the desert on the Planet of the Goa’uld Women. Interestingly, it seems the Queen, Aset (Salome Azizi) is not a system lord, as during a conversation with her first prime equivalent – Serqet (Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez) – Ra is mentioned as a dominant Goa’uld…as is a harsesis and even revolution.

According to Jaffa legend, when the hosts of two Goa’uld mate and conceive a child, the offspring will be born with the genetic knowledge of the Goa’uld – a harsesis. This is strictly forbidden under Goa’uld law and any such child lives under an immediate sentence of death.

Led by local non-Goa’uld Kasuf (Daniel Rashid) through the open desert, Catherine attempts to establish basic communication and does a pretty poor job. Even Dr Daniel Jackson (James Spader) and his chicken impression seemed to have more success. Where they’re going – or even why – no one seems to know, not the audience or the characters. However, like Dr Jackson in the 1994 movie, our tragic trio are eventually led to an encampment of local, bedouin-style dwellers.

Cut to the Bad Guys, who are languishing in some sort of prison cell…but enough about them and we cut back to the encampment where a struggle with a native has left poor Wasif speared in the stomach. In probably the most realistic scene so far, there is panic and pandemonium as everyone shouts over the top of everyone else…and the locals produce some sort of magic wand and heal Wasif’s wound. Phew.

And we’re past halfway.

Those brainy Boche have hooked up a projector that was in their gear and, powered by a hand-turned generator, are attempting to use the allure of amateur cinematography to persuade their captors that their cause is a worthy one. Professor Langford loosely translates on behalf of Brücke and evidently Aset is impressed. Quite why the Professor doesn’t lie and tell her whatever he needs to since Brücke doesn’t understand ancient Egyptian/Goa’uld is not clear at this point.

While trying to communicate with Kasuf’s tribe, they spot Catherine’s necklace with the seal of Ra on it and a familiar series of events follows. Wasif it turns out is actually Egyptian (makes sense) so he understands the occasional word being spoken.

This episode almost feels like it was directed by someone else, as there are some clever cuts between scenes that we haven’t seen before and more development with secondary characters, which is long overdue.

The last episode ends with a nice twist as the foolish Germans are looking for an ally and don’t realize the Goa’uld will conquer them too.

However, as episode seven begins, we see some sort of arrangement has been reached as Queen Aset offers them Naquadah (the most prized mineral in the galaxy) in exchange. Brücke soon begins to foam at the mouth with his delusions of grandeur.

A banquet is in progress at the desert encampment and spouting some sort of linguist-babble Catherine casually glosses over how she can now understand what everyone is saying. She also gets stoned.

Through the power of charades, we learn that Aset fell from Ra’s favour… and then resurrected her and gave her this planet and its population to rule over. Wasif becomes stoner bros with the local who accidentally stabbed him, Motawk (Tonatiuh Elizarraraz), which is kinda nice. We also learn that the power to heal, with the Wand of Horus, was a gift to the people from Aset… and so the people pay thanks to their Queen with their loyalty.

Totally hogging the peace pipe, Catherine has an epiphany while she’s mashed and realises the scribbles in Brücke’s notepad depict the history that unfolded on this world, the Planet of the Goa’uld Women and if the technology gets into the hands of the Nazis…etc etc. She wants to run off right there and then, silly girl, but thankfully listens to her bumbling Brit boyfriend instead.

Past the halfway point there’s a noticeable improvement in the series. the dialogue is better, the shots more interesting and overall, a much less painful experience. The out-of-place attempts at humour have thankfully disappeared and been replaced with something more in line with earlier incarnations of the franchise.

Catherine and her bumbling Brit boyfriend are finally going to get it on and he seems to like the idea of using food from the banquet in their sexual coupling.

After what must have been a full-on night of hanky panky and getting high, our adolescent adventurers get a rude awakening when Aset visits the encampment, showing off her loyal slaves to Brücke. Catherine spots her father but thankfully has the intelligence to remain hidden in the shadows.

Brücke insists on a fight to the death between one of the tribesman and one of his men, Gunter (Justin Michael Terry) who basically gets his arse handed to him. As the enormous Nubai (Esteban Cueto) is about to finish poor Gunter, Brücke shoots him…and then shoots Gunter ’cause his leg is broken. Harsh. Someone runs off to find the Wand of Horus and they offer it to Aset to use on Nubai… and in a power struggle-of sorts to show just who can be the most evil mofo, she snaps it, thus preventing anyone else from able to use it.

The tribespeople realise Brücke has poisoned Aset against the people and ask that Catherine, Beal and Wasif help them destroy him. Bit of unnecessary lens flare at the end as everyone poses for a team photo.

Penultimate episode. Aside from the addition of Nazis, this seems to be a similar series of events to the original 1994 movie as an attack on the Queen’s temple is planned.

Aset subtly hands the Professor Catherine’s hairpin, which was dropped after her catfight with Serqet in episode four and Aset has held onto since. The Queen asks him, “Should those who followed you here be killed… or toil in the mines?”

For the first time the Prof grows a pair and tells Aset that killing them won’t be necessary as they prefer to fight their own battles and she seems none too bothered.

Everyone sets off on their respective parts of the final mission, with emotional goodbyes rahrahrah. Along the way, Kasuf explains to Catherine that the Planet of the Goa’uld Women is rich with naquadah, that they mine for Aset. The indigenous population use the mineral to make strong tools, however, the goa’uld refine it and use it to make energy weapons, spacecraft and so on. Kasuf explains that he believes he is free and not a slave and for once the dialogue feels genuine and not contrived.

Back in the encampment, Beal and Wasif go over the plan with Motawk, who has taken a fancy to Wasif, in a nicely executed comedy moment. Not sure what the LGBT movement was like in 1928, probably not as free as it is now, but it’s fun to see.

Setting up future events, Catherine finds the stone inscription needed to navigate the way home in the caves under the city of Nagada and the bottom symbol has a massive crack above it. She deduces that since this address for the way home – and the symbol for the Planet of the Goa’uld Women – isn’t in Brücke’s notebook, he would himself have to venture into the catacombs to find it. So, she smashes the seventh symbol into tiny pieces of rock. This of course, is the seventh symbol that Dr Jackson can’t find 66 years later, confirming that the Planet of the Goa’uld Women is in fact Abydos. It has to be when you think about it, the gate address for Abydos was written in the cartouche on the stones covering the gate when it was buried on Earth, so the Nazis managed to somehow get that.

Finally, the Professor finds his spine and tells Aset that Brücke is treacherous and a fight between the two men begins… but just as Brücke pull his Luger, the room is suddenly drowned in darkness as Ra’s Cheops-Class carrier descends on the city. A nice penultimate episode cliffhanger. (Ra was played with relish by Jaye Davidson in the 1994 movie.)

It’s obvious that Wasif is going to stay behind, but how – if at all – are they going to get around the fact that so much has been learnt about the stargate even before Ernest Littlefield and the US military began experimenting in 1945..?

In a nice, Saturday morning serial-style, like Rocketman or Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers, the final episode starts a minute or so before the last one ended (that might have been an effective theme to adopt throughout this mini-series) and we see that Catherine overheard the confrontation between Brücke and her father…and she storms into the room as Ra’s mothership casts a shadow over the whole city. In a refreshing display of Doing The Right Thing, Catherine shoots Brücke in the shoulder, then again in the hand and as she steps forward to finally execute this piece of pure evil… her father steps in and whispers to her that it’s not worth it.

Yes. It. Is.

Dear God, blowing him away now is going to save you so much grief in about five minutes time. When will these people learn.

Then, like something straight out of Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and…er, all those movies with the climatic-conscientious-killing cliché, Brücke pulls a concealed gun out of his boot and his faithful assistant Eva Reinhardt (Sarah Navratil) is the one who puts us out of our misery. Then just as unexpectedly, and certainly without as much reason, Serqet takes out Reinhardt and all hell breaks loose.

The Prof begs Aset to pardon Catherine at the very least, as Beal tries to use the DHD to dial home using Catherine’s new notes made while she was in the caves under the city. And then the canon restoration seems to begin as Aset uses her Kara kesh on the good Professor proclaiming, “You are unlike the others. But you still pose a threat. You will remember nothing about of this. You will forget the language of the gods.”

Oh yes, and Catherine too. “Your time here will remain a fog,” Aset commands as Catherine comes under the power of the Queen’s goa’uld glove. “Go back to Earth and assemble a team to one day return through the stargate with a power great enough to destroy Ra.”

All that leaves is Beal and the cross-dressing Heinrich with memory of the stargate. Beal manages to dial Earth and runs back to gather the rest of the team to find them all rather disorientated. Aset meanwhile is confronted by Ra. Clutching her precious baby, the supreme system lord tells the Queen she was in error to hide the uprising and that Serqet was right to warn him. Backstabber.

Ra insists the harsesis be handed over and the puny earthlings be prevented from returning through the gate. A firefight breaks out between Serqet the snitch and found-my-balls Beal. On the other side of the open wormhole, Heinrich expects his triumphant leader to return and instead gets hit with a volley of fire from Serqet’s staff weapon. Auf wiedersehen Heinrich.

Poor Wasif and his new beau Motawk are mind-wiped by Ra’s Kara kesh and become slave guards, complete with those giant, utterly-impractical, pharaoh-looking helmets. Beal pushes Catherine and the Professor through the gate and sacrifices himself to Serqet’s staff weapon, wrapping up all the loose ends. Ra commands that the stargate must now be moved and he destroys Aset’s temple, with her inside (plus Wasif and Motawk)…and the encampment. However, the city of Nagada remains.

The stargate is boxed up and that just leaves Ellie Gall to pursue a modeling career as a young Miranda Kerr, ’cause if you haven’t noticed already, she’s the spitting image and there’s certainly no shortage of close-ups she can use in her portfolio.

An interesting ending, to say the least. It seems that MGM does care about canon, which is always nice to hear, as – albeit in a slightly haphazard way – the normal flow of events has been restored. Fans, however, aren’t impressed and the series has just a 4/10 score on IMDb, which is pretty shocking. Reactions include…

“Who ever came up with the idea for this series should be put in front of a firing squad.” benjamin-82518
“Please don’t judge the Stargage Franchise based on this” duckmcmann
“Are you a true Stargate fan? DO not go further, stahp!” badmark
“Awfull!” candogancan
“Disappointing in all aspects” sd ric
“There is a missing feature on IMDb. For this tv series i would like to rate in negative numbers.” cortexsk

And so it goes on.

There are some amazing fan films out there…and truth be told, quite a few of them are better than this. We look at just a couple of them here, but there are many on YouTube. There was, without a doubt, some nice ideas here and the second half was an 100 percent improvement on the first five episodes…but it still lacked, especially when you hold it next to the amazing SG1, the phenomenal Atlantis and the vastly under-rated Universe.It might never have been perfect, but it could have been better.

But there were always going to be problems if the studio took on a story so well established in Stargate history. If you’re going to write a story about the adventures of a young, go-getting Catherine Langford, then there has to be a memory loss plot device if you’re going to retain the historical order of events.

Had MGM re-written the Stargate history with this, then there would have been a lynching, so let’s be thankful for that.

We’ve given it a 2½ star rating…and maybe that’s a bit harsh. Sadly, we don’t have a 2¾ star symbol, ’cause it maybe deserves a tiny bit more…but not as much as a 3 star rating.

Atanik armband-fueled fun ✓
• There’s a few resourceful ideas, like the camera angle from inside the event horizon, looking out
Plus a few nice, clever cuts in episode six
The bonding between Motawk and Wasif is nice
There’s a noticeable improvement in the series past the half-way point
Catherine smashing the seventh symbol is a nice touch

Kara kesh-induced headache ✗
The dialogue and banter is lame to begin with
 As attractive as Ellie Gall is, there are an awful lot of full facial close-ups of her
The early hand-to-hand fight scenes choreography looks like it belongs in a Carry On film
Not one male goa’uld, which begs the question, where did the harsesis come from?
Won’t Kasuf still have memories of these events?

Stargate Origins is available on MGM’s own streaming service, Stargate Command. An ‘All-Access’ pass will need to be purchased in order to watch the series. For $20, you get to…
Stream Stargate Origins before anyone else
 Ability to stream the ultimate Stargate library including SG-1AtlantisUniverse and all three movies
 Get behind-the-scenes access to Stargate Origins from the writers’ room to the production to the premiere
 Receive an authenticated, members-only digital edition of the Stargate Origins pilot script

Scott Snowden is MyM’s US Editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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