Review: “Stargate SG-1” By Ashley McConnell (Novel)

Well, thanks to the hot weather at the time of preparing this review and being slightly busy, I’m still in the mood for some relaxing easy reading. So, I thought that I’d take the opportunity to check out Ashley McConnell’s 1998 novelisation of the pilot episode of “Stargate SG-1”.

This was a second-hand novel that I bought, along with a couple of other old “Stargate SG-1” novels, a month or two earlier – mostly since I was feeling nostalgic about binge-watching this show on DVD a few years earlier.

However, I only got round to reading one of these novels at the time and, since that novel didn’t impress me much, I ended up abandoning the other two. Still, since I needed some easy reading, I thought that I’d give another one a try.

So, let’s take a look at “Stargate SG-1”. Needless to say, this review may contain SPOILERS.

This is the 1999 Channel 4 Books (UK) paperback edition of “Stargate SG-1” that I read.

The story begins with a few American troops who are on guard duty in a military bunker. They’re guarding a room that contains nothing but a mysterious object covered in a tarpaulin. Due to the sheer boredom of the job, they’re passing the time by playing poker. However, in the middle of their game, the ground begins to rumble and the tarpaulin falls off of the object – revealing a giant, rippling portal.

Mysterious metallic serpent-headed figures emerge from the portal and begin to fire energy weapons at the troops. Although the troops prevent the intruders from advancing further into the base, one of them is kidnapped before the attackers retreat back into the portal.

A short time later, a US Air Force officer visits the house of a retired colonel called Jack O’Neill with orders to bring him to the base. Before his retirement, O’Neill had led a mission through the portal (or “Stargate”) in order to protect Earth from an alien invasion. So, it looks like his expertise will be needed once again…..

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it’s a really good memory jog if it’s been a while since you last watched the pilot episode of “Stargate SG-1”, since it is a fairly accurate adaptation of the episode. However, when seen on it’s own merits as a sci-fi novel (rather than a TV show adaptation), it’s a somewhat pulpy old-school sci-fi adventure/thriller novel.

However, if you’re expecting loads of extra stuff that wasn’t in the episode, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Still, given the time that it was written, this is fairly understandable. After all, the series was still fairly new when the novel was published. Although, if you’re a fan of the show, then all of the recaps (about the original “Stargate” film) and the story’s “mysterious” moments may seem mildly redundant. However, it’s still a fascinating glimpse into the days when this show was new.

One interesting aspect of this is that the novel’s initial description of O’Neill seems to possibly be based on Kurt Russell’s character (who has blond hair, if I remember rightly) in the original “Stargate” film, rather than Richard Dean Anderson’s interpretation of the character in “SG-1” (even so, the novel contains a reference to “MacGyver” – so, maybe not). Plus, the novel includes some earlier elements of the show that seemed to disappear in later episodes, such the temperature of anything or anyone travelling through a stargate being reduced due to molecular compression.

Even so, you probably won’t get too much more out of this novel than you would get from watching the episode it is based on. There are a few small extra background details and stuff like that but, for the most part, this is just a pretty standard/ordinary adaptation of the source material.

However, whilst the episode itself is fairly dramatic, the story can sometimes come across as cheesy or pulpy when converted to the written word (the novelisation’s brief reference to more sophisticated works of science fiction by Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov etc.. doesn’t exactly help the comparison either).

In terms of the writing, it’s reasonably ok. This novel’s third-person narration is written in a reasonably fast-paced, but descriptive, way that is fairly reminiscent of older thriller novels from the 1970s-80s. The narration is informal enough to be quickly-readable, whilst still being slightly more formal than the average modern action-thriller novel. Still, some elements of the writing do seem a little bit clunky, such as the fact that Teal’c is described almost every time that he appears or the fact that “Jaffa” is misspelled as “Jaafa” during an early part of the novel.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is excellent 🙂 Not only is it an efficient 202 pages in length but, thanks to the reasonably fast pacing, it probably won’t take you too much longer to read than it takes to watch the pilot episode of the show.

As for how this twenty-one year old novel has aged, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Thanks to the writing style, it can come across as being a little bit like an old pulp sci-fi novel (but, saying this, the nude scenes in the original version of the episode seem more understated in the novel – although this somehow makes the story seem even pulpier) or possibly a thriller novel from the 1970s-80s at times.

Plus, since the novel is fairly close to the source material, it mostly just comes across as being as old as the episode in question. Even so, it’s still reasonably gripping and is a good nostalgia piece for fans of the show.

All in all, this is a competent adaptation of the first episode of “Stargate SG-1”. It’s a great reminder of the episode and it doesn’t take too much longer to read than it takes to watch the episode. Yes, when transferred to a novel format, the story seems a bit more pulpy than it does on TV – but this is still a competent adaptation. However, if you’re looking for extra depth (like in the best film/TV/game novelisations) or stuff that you wouldn’t find in the episode, then you’re probably going to be slightly disappointed.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three and three-quarters.