The Stargate is a device created by the Ancients that permits nearly instantaneous travel between two planets, thus linking them together into a far-flung system. The Ancients, about whom little is known, apparently abandoned the galaxy, but the system of Stargates they created remains. They are in use by people in a variety of cultures on a variety of worlds, many of them peopled by descendents of Earth humans who were removed by the Goa'uld to other worlds to labor. The Goa'uld System Lords freely use the Stargates in conjunction with starships to maintain their far-flung empires, and for a long time, it was thought that the Goa'uld created the Stargate system. Different cultures on different planets have different terms for their Stargates, the most common being chappa'ai.
To render a Stargate inoperable, it is buried.
How the Stargate Works
The Stargate, made of naquadah (a quartzite metal that's not found on Earth) and weighing about 64,000 pounds, is shaped like a monumental standing ring. Two spinning concentric rings work together to set coordinates that permit interstellar travel. The outer ring contains nine chevrons that lock on a symbol. Seven are used to set a destination within Earth's galaxy, and eight are used to set a destination in another galaxy, as Jack O'Neill does in 2.16 "The Fifth Race," when he visits the galaxy of the Asgard, although such intergalactic travel requires a tremendous amount of energy. It is not known what the ninth chevron is for. The inside ring has thirty-nine symbols, called glyphs, that refer to constellations. (These symbols may also be pronounced [7.22 "Lost City Part 2"].) The first six symbols set a coordinate in a volume of space, and the seventh refers to the point of origin.
When activated, the Stargate creates a wormhole between two Stargates that permits near-instantaneous travel from one to the other. When the Stargate activates, a blue whoosh of energy emanates out from the Gate, destroying anything in its path. After this initial burst of energy, an event horizon, a two-dimensional energy field that permits entry to the wormhole and that looks like rippling blue water, is created within the ring of the Gate itself, and the traveler simply steps through. Anything that goes through the Gate will arrive on the other side at the same velocity at which it entered, so arrows, bullets, and energy blasts can be transported through the Stargate just as well as a person, or things can be thrown through the Gate.
Although travel can only be in one direction, the Gate permits several forms of two-way communication, such as radio waves and TV signals, which allow people to stay in contact—and which allow Stargate Command (SGC) to send through probes, such as a Mobile Analytic Laboratory Probe (MALP) or an Unmanned Airborne Vehicle (UAV), before they commit to sending a human team.
Although the Stargate can be dialed manually by providing a power source and physically moving the rings around (a technique used in emergencies), usually a Dial Home Device (DHD) is used. These waist-high freestanding structures are generally located next to the Gate itself. The user dials coordinates by pressing large buttons keyed to the symbols on the Gate, then pushing a big red button in the center to activate the Gate. The Stargate in the SGC has no associated DHD, so the SGC has created a computer system that tracks and dials addresses instead. The Stargate system has a built-in system of checks and balances: if, as one attempts to specify an address, the Stargate detects something that would result in unsafe travel to that destination, it will not permit the address to be dialed. Because the SGC doesn't use a DHD, however, they are able to override some of these checks and force a lock (5.05 "Red Sky"). The DHDs also keep track of the movement of suns and planets by continually recalculating and updating coordinates (7.09 "Avenger 2.0")
Although most Stargates that the SGC encounters are fixed in place on land or inside structures, they may also be located on starships, underwater, or in orbit. They may also be located on worlds that don't permit human life to exist. In addition, although Stargates are usually set up so that they are standing circles, it's also possible to activate them while they are lying on their sides.
The Gate addresses that the SGC have come primarily from two places: from the cartouche on Abydos (1.01 "Children of the Gods Part 1"), and from the coordinates that Jack O'Neill entered into the computer when his mind was hijacked with the knowledge of the Ancients (2.16 "The Fifth Race").
When someone offworld activates the Gate, the recipient of the wormhole can't turn the Gate off. Only the activator of the Gate can terminate the link, although the wormhole will automatically disengage after about half an hour. One strategy of harassment is to continually dial someone's Gate so they can't get out.
The History of the SGC's Stargate
Earth has several Stargates. For centuries, they lay buried, rendering them inoperative. The primary Gate, housed for many years in the SGC, was found by archaeologist Professor Langford on a dig in Giza, Egypt, in 1928 (Stargate: The Movie). Another, in Antarctica, was inadvertently discovered by Samantha Carter and Jack O'Neill in 1.18 "Solitudes." Another was found underwater by the Russians when they salvaged the remains of a crashed Asgard ship (4.07 "Watergate"). The SGC transported their Gate to Thor's ship in 3.22 "Nemesis Part 1," and it may be the same Gate as the one the Russians found. The SGC set up the salvaged Antarctic Gate in place of the one they gave to Thor. In 6.02 "Redemption Part 2," the SGC was forced to blow up the Stargate. They then leased the Russians' Stargate.
The SGC's Gate was the subject of many years of fruitless study. Despite years of research, nobody was able to figure out how to work it, although the Gate was dialed once in 1945 and a young researcher sent through. However, the technicians could not repeat this experiment, thus stranding the researcher, Ernest Littlefield, on the other side of the Gate (1.11 "The Torment of Tantalus").
Professor Langford's daughter, Catherine Langford, an expert in Egyptology herself and for many years the leader of the research team studying the Stargate, contacted Dr. Daniel Jackson and offered him a job translating artifacts related to the Stargate. In Stargate: The Movie, Daniel made several leaps crucial to making the Gate work: before he even knew about the existence of the Stargate itself, he figured out that the coverstones associated with the 1928 Giza dig site referred to constellations. After he saw the Stargate, he deduced that the seven symbols that comprise a Gate address refer to six coordinates that fix a point within a volume of space (as in the six sides of a cube), plus the point of origin. With all seven symbols in hand, it's possible to dial the Gate.
When the Gate was dialed in Stargate: The Movie, it was assumed that the Gate permitted travel only between Earth and Abydos. However, in 1.01 "Children of the Gods Part 1," Capt. Samantha Carter, an astrophysicist, realized that the presence of the cartouches on Abydos meant that the Stargate could go to millions of other worlds. Because Earth and Abydos are close to each other, the Stargate system could lock. But the system needed to be updated with centuries' worth of drift, so Earth's Gate hadn't been able to lock on worlds farther away, thus partially explaining previous researchers' inability to dial out.
- Stargate: The Movie
- 1.01 "Children of the Gods Part 1"
- 1.11 "The Torment of Tantalus"
- 1.18 "Solitudes"
- 2.16 "The Fifth Race"
- 3.22 "Nemesis Part 1"
- 5.05 "Red Sky"
- 4.07 "Watergate"
- 7.09 "Avenger 2.0"
- 7.22 "Lost City Part 2"
- Abydos and the Abydonian People
- Catherine Langford
- Daniel Jackson
- Dial Home Device (DHD)
- Ernest Littlefield
- Jack O'Neill
- Mobile Analytic Laboratory Probe (MALP)
- Professor Langford
- Samantha Carter
- Stargate Command (SGC)
- Stargate Glyphs
- System Lord
- Unmanned Airborne Vehicle (UAV)