Stargate is a charming set of shows, but I will not be reviewing the franchise like I have for other science fiction shows because as much fun as Stargate is to watch, the premise is completely implausible because unlike every other science fiction show out there, in Stargate there is no coherent explanation in the plot for why all humans and aliens in several galaxies all inexplicably speak English. This piece of faulty plot logic is baked into the premise of every episode, starting with the first episode of SG1. There's no reason why Teal'c should have been able to speak fluent American English in the SG1 pilot and this technical gaffe reaches far and wide into the rest of the series like a cancer of unresolvable plot holes.
Wait, what? Really?
Yep. It's true. A lot of Stargate fans are surprised when I mention this. Many are convinced that there is an explanation in the show somewhere, but trust me. There isn't. I've looked long and hard to find a way to rationalize this problem, because I really enjoyed the show too. But I've never been able to resolve the problem. Here are some common rationalizations and why they all fail:
Rationalization #1: They don't speak English. The show translates for us rather than showing subtitles.
This rationalization fails to account for how non-Tau'ri humans and aliens are able to speak plain, American English when speaking directly to main characters such as O'Neill or Carter without the presence of a translator or interpreter. The show may be able to translate for the audience, but it cannot translate for the characters without some kind of in-plot translating device. That brings us to rationalization #2:
Rationalization #2: The Stargate embeds some sort of universal translator device in its travelers, like on Star Trek.
This rationalization fails to account for why O'Neill can't understand Russian, Goa'uld, Asgard, etc, as the Ancients would not have designed such a faulty and arbitrary universal translator. Moreover, it's hard to accept the idea that if a universal translator existed, especially one so faulty, that no one would make mention of it.
Rationalization #3: A mechanism in the gate teaches travelers a common language, Gatelang. The characters speak Gatelang and the show translates for us.
This rationalization fails to account for why there are no scenes depicting our characters consciously switching from the universal gate language back to English to confer privately in the way that we have observed the Goa'uld and Jaffa switch arbitrarily between their language and English. Since these language switches are not consistently portrayed, we cannot accept a universal language explanation as sufficient.
Moreover, the very idea of every character suddenly acquiring a universal language the moment they step through the gate is such an incredible concept that the show should be required to establish such a thing as exposition; the audience should not be expected to just assume it.
Rationalization #4: The Stargate team inadvertently seeded English to the Milky Way by traveling back in time to ancient Egypt and teaching the locals English in the episode Moebius.
This is a stretch of a rationalization to begin with, but even if we buy it for the Milky Way, there's still no way it could account for the humans speaking English the Pegasus galaxy on Stargate Atlantis, since the Ancients seeded those humans long before the events of Moebius.
Rationalization #5: Stargate Universe doesn't have this problem! Just review that show by itself!
That's true. The new aliens on Stargate Universe lack this problem. However the entire plot of SGU is based on SG1's and SGA's backstories, so it's not really valid to focus on SGU to the exclusion of SG1 and SGA. For instance, SGU features characters from the Lucian Alliance, who should never have learned English. In general though, the Stargate franchise should be regarded as a single overarching story existing within a single fictional universe. As such, all its shows must be embraced together or rejected together. None can exist apart from the others.
Rationalization #6: It's just a TV show, and they lack the time to have characters like Daniel Jackson translate each new alien language during each episode.
That doesn't even really count as a rationalization because it's just an excuse for ignoring the problem. Sadly, it's the excuse the producers have used. According to them, "it's a sacrifice we make in order to tell a new story on a new planet every week, and actually have alien characters who someone can understand."
But it's a poor excuse because it's a false dichotomy. Other science fiction shows like Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, etc have all been of telling new and compelling stories each week without resorting to faulty plot logic baked into the very premise of the story. As a consequence of Stargate's lazy writing, I cannot responsibly review the Stargate franchise. I would have to ignore the fundamental implausibility of the premise to review the story, which is a level of cognitive dissonance I won't engage in as a reviewer. Were I to do so, I would lack editorial integrity.
Given that, as you might imagine, I celebrated when Stargate SG1, Atlantis, and Universe were canceled. Each show had wonderfully charming qualities, but those charming qualities deserved a more thoughtful premise. I'd rather the franchise be off the air than have such a poorly conceived premise.