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The Badass Ladies of Stargate

Stargate is a sci-fi franchise that started out with a movie that wasn’t particularly great and eventually expanded into a television series with two spinoffs and a number of movie specials. For those of you who are not familiar with the series, the premise is that a race of Ancients created devices that our modern Earth humans call Stargates, which allow people to travel from planet to planet through wormholes hooked up to unique gate addresses, much like dialing up a phone number. Earth people travel through the gates, exploring the universe and fighting a string of increasingly more ridiculous bad guys in the process.

The original film spawned the ten-season hit series Stargate: SG1, from which the five-season show Stargate: Atlantis was spun off. The vastly inferior Stargate: Universe followed after the unjust cancellation of Atlantis.* Among the handsome men and crazy aliens in these series, there are a number of strong female characters. Since I’m not a SU watcher, I’ll leave that post for someone else to tackle. But today, I’d like to introduce Casa Persephone to the badass ladies of the SGC* and Atlantis.

Samantha Carter
Samantha Carter from the Stargate franchise

Captain, then Major, then Lt. Colonel, then Colonel Samantha Carter is a brilliant scientist with a PhD in astrophysics who was also a kick ass pilot during the Gulf War. She’s brought on to Stargate Command as the second in command and is often the one bailing her team out of trouble with her superior math, science, and computer skills. (In the series finale of SG1, she even figures out how to save all of their lives in dramatic fashion from an impending space laser beam by pulling them into a slow-moving time bubble.) Partway through Atlantis and after the conclusion of SG1, she was brought on to command the base, after saving everyone in the city from certain death. In short, I want to be Sam Carter when I grow up.

Elizabeth Weir
Elizabeth Weir from Stargate Atlantis

Dr. Elizabeth Weir is the original leader of the Atlantis expedition. Notably, she’s a civilian in command of a mixed military and scientific/cultural research team, and she manages to hold it all together when they’re isolated from Earth almost immediately after arrival. She has a diplomatic background and was brokering peace treaties in Africa or some such when she was tapped for the job. Elizabeth is not afraid to tackle tough ethical questions, and while she’s glad for advice and support from the military side of her team, the buck stops with her.

Teyla Emmagen
Teyla from Stargate Atlantis

Tayla is the leader of an alien group of humans called the Athosians that the Atlantis team encounters on an early expedition. She has the ability to mentally link with the Wraith, a particularly nasty enemy race, and can even control them on occasion. She is fiercely protective of her people and an amazing leader, but she becomes an integral part of the Atlantis team and ends up staying in the city. At one point in the series, Teyla becomes pregnant, which starts an interesting arc about being pregnant on active duty and struggling with her place on the team. She’s better at relating with the natives of the Pegasus Galaxy*** than pretty much anyone else in Atlantis, even Elizabeth the diplomat, but she can still kick the ass of enormous tough guy Ronan.

Vala Mal Doran
Vala from Stargate SG1

Vala was a late-season addition to the SG1 team. I hated her for a really long time, but she won me over by the end of the series. She has a rough background and, needing a favor, worms her way into SG1 through a pretty dirty trick. She’s impregnated by an alien race against her will, forced to marry a villager on an unindustrialized planet to disguise the pregnancy, and later gives birth to the new leader of that alien race. Initially, Vala is pretty much every stereotype of a sexy con artist lady. Over the course of two seasons, though, she grows more complex without losing her feistiness.

Jennifer Keller
Doctor Keller from Stargate Atlantis

Keller is another later addition, this time to the Atlantis team, that took me a while to warm up to. I’m still not entirely sold on her, to be honest, but she seems to be a fan favorite because everybody**** loves Firefly. Jennifer Keller joins the Atlantis team as Chief Medical Officer to replace a much beloved character who was unceremoniously killed off. She was a child genius, skipped a bunch of grades, graduated with her B.S. before she was 18, then went on to become a brilliant doctor. She’s actually very good at what she does and skillfully neutralizes some particularly nasty biological threats to the Atlantis base. At first, she’s kind of whiny and weak, but her character grows as she gets her footing and overcomes some of her insecurities. If we just pretend the stupid love triangle didn’t happen, Keller is pretty badass in her own, less in-your-face way than the other more overtly awesome ladies.

So, are there any Stargate Universe fans out there who want to help complete the list?

*Not that I’m biased or anything.
**Stargate Command, or the original flavor series.
***The galaxy where Atlantis is located.
****Not me. Although I do remember Jewel Staite fondly from her days on the Canadian kids show Flash Forward.

Images copyright MGM

7 replies on “The Badass Ladies of Stargate”

I absolutely adored Vala when she joined Stargate, at first mostly because of my deep love of Claudia Black, and all things Farscape. You should do a women of Farscape post, Aeryn is one of my favourite characters of all time. Teyla, from Atlantis, was pretty much the only character from any of the Stargate shows I hated. I found her to be extremely annoying.

I can’t believe you forgot Dr. Janet Fraiser from SG-1. She was one of my favourite characters from that series and I was absolutely crushed by the way her story ended.

It took my a long time to adjust to Vala and Teyla though. For the their first seasons on their respective shows they felt way too much like a stereotyped, 1D character. Their stories where eventually expanded but I’m still not quite as attached to Vala as I am to Carter. Perhaps if I was a Farscape watcher my opinion would be different.

I really like Stargate Universe though. I know thematically it feels like a different show and the humour aspect is lacking but personally I find the writing stronger than on Atlantis.

I loved Atlantis but there was way too much reliance on “alien girl falls in love with Sheppard/McKay messes up an alien device/ Zelenka gets no respect/etc.”

When my boyfriend and I got together we watched all of Sg-1 and Atlanis in the first two years of our relationship. So I have a vested interest in all things Stargate now.

You should offer up a companion piece on the Badass Ladies of Stargate Universe. It is on our queue, but we’re still working our way through Atlantis, and I’m not super enthused about it. Of course, I wasn’t enthused about Atlantis, either, and now I love it, so…

I will say about the “alien girl falls for Sheppard” thing that they played it hilariously, with Rodney making Kirk jokes about it all the time. Hee.

The Mister and his roommates were watching their way the original Stargate when we first started dating, and I got hooked then. He already owned Seasons 1 & 2 before getting the big boxed set when it came out, so he gave me those two spares so I could catch up and keep up with them when I was away at school. It was adorable. I, too, have a special place in my heart for Stargate. (I think this is why Atlantis didn’t measure up until I was a little further into the series. I get easily attached to tv characters. Don’t even get me started on when they wrote off Ford. I thought Ronan was the worst replacement, but now I’m a big fan.)

Carter is on the Stargate: SG1 series for the full run. She’s pretty much the only awesome lady for most of the series. Vala comes onto SG1 in the eighth or ninth season.

Teyla is on Stargate: Atlantis for pretty much the whole series. Weir is on Atlantis for the first few seasons, then she’s replaced by Carter. And Keller comes on a couple of seasons in. I was not a huge fan of Atlantis at the beginning (mostly because I really enjoyed SG1, and there are some differences), but it’s really grown on me. Also, not for nothing, the team leader on Atlantis is super handsome.

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