During yesterday’s Dark Matter Monday panel (check it out here) Meteorologist Katie mentioned she’d been meaning to check out Stargate, but wasn’t sure where to start.  Of course, the prospect of watching 350+ episodes of sci-fi television can be foreboding for the non-gating neophyte.  While it would be logical to start at the beginning with Children of the Gods, I’d argue that SG-1’s first season is drastically different from its last both in terms of narrative and tone.  Atlantis is more updated but still steeped in the mythology established by SG-1.  Universe is newer still yet, clearly, a tonal shift from the preceding two shows.  Ultimately, each series offers something different and liking or disliking one does not necessarily mean you will like or dislike the others.

So where to start if you’re new to the franchise and uncertain about wading through all 17 seasons of television?  Well, after giving it some thought, I’ve put together this handy list of The Top 10 Stargate Episodes for first-time Gater.  Ten episodes not overly encumbered by past storylines or show mythology that work well as stand-alone examples of the very best this franchise had to offer over its fifteen year run.

Presented in the order in which they aired.  Two-parters counted as two episodes.


#10. The Fifth Race (Stargate: SG-1, Season 2 Episode 16)

Colonel Jack O’Neil encounters a mysterious device that downloads a repository of alien data into his brain.  As Jack starts to lose himself, his teammates scramble to recover the vast storehouse of information he holds – and save his life.


#9. Window of Opportunity

Jack O’Neil and Teal’c find themselves trapped in a time loop following a visit to an alien world.


#8-#7. Heroes I and II

An off-world excursion results in a tragic loss, and a powerful reminder of the risks and sacrifices inherent in every away mission.


#6-#5. The Storm/The Eye

Atlantis is infiltrated by an enemy strike force during a massive storm.


#4. Michael

What secret lies behind Lt. Michael Kenmore?  Why can’t he remember his past, and why are some of his fellow Atlantis denizens so openly hostile to him?  The answer proves as shocking as it does horrific.


#3. The Shrine

Dr. Rodney McKay falls victim to a disease that slowly erodes his mental capacities, gradually rendering him to a childlike state.  His only hope lies in a purported cure located within a heavily-guarded alien outpost.


#2. Time

While exploring an alien world, the crew discovers a recording of their first visit to the planet – one they don’t remember making.


#1. Twin Destinies

Eli’s plan to use the power of a star to dial Earth is opposed by a time-hopping Dr. Rush.

Honorable Mentions.  These are fun, stand-alone episodes – perfect for the first-time viewer:

SG-1: Upgrades, Point of No Return, The Curse, Wormhole X-Treme, Revisions, The Ties That Bind, Collateral Damage, Family Ties

Atlantis: Harmony, The Last Man, Remnants

Universe: Malice

So, which episodes would you recommend to a Stargate newbie?

8 thoughts on “Top 10 Stargate Episodes for the Neophyte Gater!

  1. Twin Destinies is a great episode, but I’m not buying the whole ‘Freak of Physics” thing. Like Gibbs likes to say…”Rule 39: There is no such thing as coincidence.” My brain keeps saying….”Somebody used the Hand of Omega on that star.” I also wouldn’t be surprised if that is what really happened to the Hobus Star/Romulus. At least in my head canon.

  2. Your list is good if you can only choose ten shows out of fifteen years of work and several hundred episodes.

    I would add:

    Torment of Tantalus is a good starting point on mythology. Solitudes belongs in there somewhere. It is a great intro to various forms of team characters, angst, and subplots that carry through at least the SG-1 and SGA years. It is also my personal favorite.

    Paradise Lost and 100 Days are good stand alone episodes. Brief Candle is interesting and entertaining on a number of levels.

    As for SGA, Duet is pure comic genius on how badly things can go wrong. It is a “must see” for newbies because you don’t have to know much about the show to enjoy it.

    While Ripple Effect is my second favorite episode of all time, it still confuses me. But, oh, how I love it! It definitely should make the top 20 for newbies who have caught on a bit.

  3. It’s such a hard thing to do! I have such a bad memory for individual stories that I struggle to name specific episodes.

    The goal is to get someone interested enough in the show that they will be willing to go back and start from the beginning. Given that criteria, I would have stuck with just SG1 episodes as the later shows are kind of irrelevant. If they like SG1 there’s a fair chance they’ll like Atlantis and maybe even Universe but I don’t think there’s anything in the later shows that will convince them if SG1 can’t; and including them in the list might just lead to confusion. I also have reservations about including Heroes. While it’s a great story I think the death of a beloved character will have less impact if you don’t love that character yet.

    I’d be curious to know what Katie’s thoughts are if she does watch your suggestions!

  4. Come on now. Just start at the beginning. Watch at least 2 or 3 episodes daily and you should be finished… what, in a year or two, that’s if you have something else to do on some days. But what else would you have to do??

  5. Okay, so I am very SG-1 biased, as I have stated many times, so based on that, here is my list (no particular order until we get to 1 and 2):

    “There But for the Grace…”: I love the quantum mirror and the AU aspect here and how it actually affects our universe

    “Crystal Skull”: Intriguing standalone

    “Tangent”: Humor, sci-fi and high-stakes

    “Failsafe”: Yeah, “Armageddon”-reminiscent, but that’s how you hook people

    “The Other Side” sci-fi and morality, the perfect combo

    “The Fifth Race”: humor along with the show’s mythology and high stakes… perfect

    “A Matter of Time”: a black hole threatening to swallow the SGC and then Earth, oh yeah

    “Torment of Tantalus”: I adore this episode for the history that it establishes. And for Pauly McGillion

    “Solitudes”: Some early Carter and O’Neill shippiness and a mystery ice planet, yes, please

    “Point of View”: this was the first ep of SG1 that I ever saw (thanks to my bf; he recorded it from showtime) and I had a million questions and i was hooked for life
    “Window of Opportunity”: Not trying to be a suck up, but this is my #1 choice for a new SG fan and the one I have planned to use to hook my sister. It’s what SG1 does best: humor, heart, and sci-fi. You can’t ask for more.

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