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Stargate and Farscape | The Scientific Case for a Shared Universe

From John Crichton to Cameron Mitchell and from Aeryn Sun to Vala Mal Doran, Ben Browder and Claudia Black, respectively, migrated from one hit science-fiction show to another thereby creating a direct link between the shows Stargate SG-1 and Farscape.

That being said, there are far greater connections between the two shows than just their shared casting of talent. Both shows aired during the late 1990s and early 2000s, were critical darlings that amassed legions of loyal fans, and both eventually were the properties of the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as Syfy). Those are all external connections, though, and say nothing of the internal narrative similarities that the shows had; specifically, both Stargate SG-1 and Farscape had stories centered around wormholes, alternate realities, and a species known as the Ancients. It is these connections that matter most as not only did these two shows share talent and airwaves, but they also may have shared a universe and acted as unrealized realities of one another.

Airing first on Showtime, Stargate SG-1 became a massive hit for the premium cable service and one of their all-time most successful original programs. Taking place after a movie singularly titled Stargate (1994), the series focuses on a group of military personnel who use an alien wormhole device known as a stargate to travel to other worlds. On one hand, theirs is a mission of diplomacy and negotiation as they introduce their world and humanity to new planets and species, attempting to create peaceful relationships and establish connections that could foster humanity’s existence amongst the stars. The other hand is altogether different, as the stargate team quickly finds hostility among certain planets and across certain species being wholly antagonistic and destructive towards humanity. Stargate SG-1 was instrumental in helping push science-fiction television into mainstream Western culture in a context outside of Star Trek.

[See also: Stargate | How Cameron Mitchell Pushed SG-1 Forward by Timothy Wier]

Ben Browder and Claudia Black getting the band back together. | MGM, 2006.

Meanwhile, Farscape was one of the first original series ever commissioned by the Sci-Fi Channel with one of the key creative forces behind the show being the Henson Company. The show started out as a desire to show that the former was capable of more than just airing science-fiction movies and syndicated re-runs and that the latter had serious talent beyond puppets and adorable fuzzy creatures for children. From that desire came a television show that redefined the genre and consistently pushed the boundaries for not only what these companies could do, but what could be made for television.

Centered around the human protagonist John Crichton, Farscape catalogues his adventures aboard a living ship with a crew of escaped prisoners, all of whom are alien to him. The show never shies away from the unusual or the uncomfortable, instead reveling in it. For the most part, the show is alien; from the set-pieces to the storylines, from the characters to the creatures, Farscape strove to feel like it actually existed in the so-called “Uncharted Territories” at the far end of the galaxy. The point of this was not merely to show off great technical ability, but to highlight how humanity can adapt and overcome horrors and unexplainable mysteries with hope and the indomitable human spirit. Admittedly, it was also to show off the high-quality practical effects work that could be consistently made and executed successfully for a television show. 

While these two shows may have overlapped in terms of era, fanbase, and general science-fiction content, the most important similarities in terms of a shared universe are, as mentioned above, the existence of wormholes and a species known as The Ancients.

“Flying through wormholes ain’t like dusting crops, farm boy. It takes a little finesse.”

John Crichton, Farscape – ‘Into the Lion’s Den: Part 2 – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’, S3, Ep21 

The Science in Science-Fiction

Before delving into the specifics of how the Ancients and wormholes, and other little curiosities, open the door for a shared universe between Farscape and Stargate:SG-1 it is important to establish a foundation of scientific information this was all built on. 

For one, shared universe in this context does not mean that the characters of both series exist in the same specific reality. As a result of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, the public notion of a shared universe has shifted slightly into being perceived as meaning everything in that shared universe occupies the same physical space in the same reality. For simplicity’s sake, the idea of a shared fictional universe between these two shows will be based on the Everett interpretation, or many-worlds interpretation, which is largely credited as being the first of its kind.

To give a vast and almost criminal oversimplification, the Everett interpretation suggests that for every decision, there is a divergence point on a quantum level that creates a reality for every possible outcome. Each new reality created by this divergence is real and occupies the same physical space and time, but only one such reality is apparent to the observer. A basic example would be a person flipping a coin: when the coin is flipped, there is a divergence on a quantum level that goes unnoticed in terms of practical observation; in one reality, the person sees the coin land head-side up and in the other, the person sees it land as tail-side up with neither experience having any discernible difference besides the outcome.

In the many-worlds interpretation, there are infinite realities being created by this divergence and happening constantly with each reality feeling natural and true within its own state. This is a highly controversial and hotly debated topic within physics, but it is the most appropriate theory to apply in this context as it is often, intentionally or otherwise, the foundational theory that justifies the appearance of parallel realities within fictional works. Both of these shows have explicitly shown the existence of parallel realities and done so in a fashion that best correlates to the many-worlds interpretation; additional similarities in the universes of each show suggest that they are separate worlds, separate realities, sharing the same universe following a quantum divergence.

[See also: Stargate | Inside the Star Wars Crossover Theory by Ben Falk]

One such similarity is the tangible presence and controlled application of wormholes. More formally known as Einstein-Rosen bridges, wormholes are a fascinating bit of theoretical physics. Originally proposed by Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen in 1935, these bridges or wormholes, as they came to be known, are a theoretical way to connect two distant points in space-time in such a manner that could allow for faster and more direct travel between them. While supported by the general theory of relativity, wormholes remain hypothetical and have never been observed in space. Even within a purely hypothetical state, wormholes pose a considerable number of challenges. For instance, there is the potential for extreme radiation within a wormhole, possible exposure to exotic or unknown matter, and there is a substantial risk for collapse. Those are the dangers of attempting to travel through a wormhole but there are obstacles to overcome in simply accessing one at all; wormholes are theorized to be minute on an extreme scale but even imagining that they had grown to a size large enough to sustain a human, they are traditionally conjectured to occur with at least one point of the wormhole being connected to a collapsing star.

According to physicist Kip Thorn, one of the world’s leading experts on wormholes, in an interview with, “[T]here are very strong indications that wormholes that a human could travel through are forbidden by the laws of physics.” Even though there are growing theories on how wormholes might be created on a scale to support designated point-to-point travel, stabilized with matter not currently known to man and exuding properties only seen in some quantum fluctuations, Stephen Hawking pointed out that the introduction of even so much as a particle would cause the wormhole to destabilize before functional use could be completed. 

On practically every level, wormholes are unstable, unpredictable, uncontrollable, and unmeasurably dangerous. The ability to manufacture a stable wormhole on a microscopic scale is beyond the foreseeable capabilities of human technology, thereby making the concept of establishing seamless wormhole travel and technology appear beyond possibility entirely. Yet, both Farscape and Stargate SG-1 specifically refute that impossibility within their universes by prominently featuring a group of beings known as The Ancients—who are largely defined by their apparent mastery of wormholes and their ability to use them as they see fit.

“You…don’t understand how dangerous this technology can be. A wormhole isn’t just a shortcut through space. It can be turned into a weapon of incredible destruction.”

‘Jack’ the Ancient, Farscape – ‘Infinite Possibilities: Part 1 – Daedalus Demands’, S3, Ep14

Wormholey Moley

Science-fiction has been a home for wormholes for decades now, but Farscape and Stargate SG-1 emphasized wormholes and related technology in ways that are not often the case. Rather than merely being a scientific deus ex machina or a hypothetical that proves itself to be real for the sake of short-term awe and/or chaos, wormholes are a consistent and vital plot element in both these works. While there are key differences in the implementation of wormholes in the shows, the implications are largely the same and reflect the universe that they share with the variations being a result of the two being diverted realities from one another. 

The whole foundation of the Stargate franchise is predicated on the controlled existence of wormholes and their applied technology. The titular device that allows humanity to journey across the stars is a network of point-to-point wormhole travel that can be turned on and given a designated location at will, providing near-instant transportation to the chosen destination. While wormholes and related technology are not exactly central to the show’s narrative conflict in a traditional sense, it is the framework that allows those conflicts to occur and for the narrative to continue indefinitely.

On the other hand, Farscape’s relationship with wormholes is more overt, a driving element of the plot, and central to various character arcs. While, similarly to SG-1, wormholes were responsible for making the plot of the show possible, Farscape does not build its conflicts and plot off the availability of wormhole technology but rather in the pursuit of it. In the Farscape reality, there are wars and conflicts on a galactic scale and both of the primary militant superpowers want wormhole technology to use as an advantage against their enemies while the protagonist, John Crichton, wants to understand wormholes as a means to return home. Following the same vein of permeating throughout the entirety of that reality’s existence, wormholes spread across the entirety of Farscape.

Stargate SG-1 and Farscape each canonized the existence of wormholes and parallel realities within their own specific reality. The latter also explicitly established the ability of wormholes to pierce through the pseudo quantum veil that separates all the parallel realities existing within that shared universe, as apparent in the many-worlds interpretation. Given the similarities in the existence and application of wormholes, the canonized presence of alternate realities in both these shows, and the ability of wormholes to bridge the divide between parallel realities, it is not only likely that the shows existed in the same universe but that something participated in both with full cognizance. That is precisely what could have been the case with the Ancients.

“Well, it stands to reason they weren’t always called the Ancients.”

Daniel Jackson, Stargate SG-1 – ‘Avalon, Part 2’, S9, Ep2

The Ancient Agenda

The Ancients of Stargate:SG-1 and Farscape may just be coincidence; perhaps, the species of beings in both shows happen to have the same name, similar intelligence and technology, mastery over wormholes, and a curiously supportive yet distant relationship with humanity. Although, when considering all the context on the Ancients within each show, it becomes viable to consider the Ancients of both series to be the same group of beings and that they crossed the divide separating the two realities within the shared universe. 

Stargate SG-1 debuted before Farscape and therefore provided the first hints at the existence of Ancients as well as insights into their culture—though, in terms of physically appearing on screen, the latter revealed an Ancient a little over seven months prior to their first literal appearance in the former. Still, in terms of raw influence Ancients had been present in Stargate SG-1 from the very beginning. With over a decade’s worth of content, there is a wealth of information regarding the Ancients in the Stargate SG-1 reality.

Lanteans, the Ancients of Atlantis, in Stargate Atlantis, ‘Before I Sleep’ – S1, Ep15. | MGM, 2005.

For one, their apparent original name is revealed: Alteran. The Alteran species existed in a separate galaxy from the Milky Way eons ago; at some point, a schism grew within their species along the science and religion dichotomy. As the division grew, resentment festered, and the more religious sect of the species began to wage war on the more scientific. Facing an extended war, and possible genocide, the relatively small group of Alterans who dedicated themselves to science fled their home galaxy and came to be known as the Ancients by the various forms of life populating the Milky Way galaxy. 

Within the Milky Way galaxy, the Ancients created the stargate system of wormholes as well as other exceptionally advanced pieces of technology. After many millennia they left for another galaxy once again due to a virulent plague. Following this, their second exodus, the Ancients ultimately evolved into what was known as an ascended form. Such a form meant existing in a state of pure, non-corporeal energy; living in an evolved form afforded the Ancients great power and influence, though one of their foundational laws was to avoid interfering in the evolutionary growth of mortals. When in their descended, corporeal forms, the Ancients look wholly indistinguishable from humanity in terms of mere physical aesthetic.

By their own admission, the Ancients are not to interfere in the affairs of the supposed lesser beings, especially not in ways that may unnaturally accelerate their evolution towards ascension. That being said, great power and an insatiable desire for the expansion of one’s own knowledge often leads to skirting, if not outright ignoring, social boundaries—the Ancients were no exception to this. While they may have tried to limit themselves to not interfering with free will or natural development, they did see the advancement of knowledge as vital and frequently pursued this through observation and experimentation. The Ancients of Farscape also had a purpose that was given similar parameters, but circumstances forced them to interact more directly.

Occupying the Farscape reality are a group of beings, barely observed outside of two individuals, also known as the Ancients. Little information is given about their history in the context of this reality; with that said, it is revealed that the realm in which the show’s events take place is not the home realm of the Ancients. Indeed, one of the Ancients admits that a select few of them underwent extensive genetic modification so that they might exist in the realm, then elaborated that their purpose was to observe, catalogue, and analyze the life they found. Unfortunately, the planet they had settled on had no longer become habitable to them and they needed to find a new place in that realm where they could be hosted and coincide peacefully with the lifeforms innate to that world. As part of that search, they fabricated a wormhole that served as a lure for John Crichton, pulling him into a full simulation of Earth; the simulation was designed as a test to see if the planet and humanity would welcome the Ancients and allow them to live alongside them. While the experiment showed Earth would not be a viable choice for the Ancients, it did reveal Crichton’s character and one of the Ancients gave him an unconscious guide to understanding wormhole knowledge as a result. 

‘Einstein’ the Ancient in Farscape, ‘Unrealized Reality’ – S4, Ep11. | The Jim Henson Company, 2002.

Down the line, Crichton was pulled through a wormhole once again, a legitimate one, and wound up in an apparent void space within the wormhole itself that was being sustained by an Ancient. This Ancient, who Crichton ironically named Einstein, was not one of those who had been altered to exist in that reality as the others had been, meaning that Einstein was far more humanoid in appearance whereas the others had a more bug-like physical form. Einstein stated that the Ancients had stopped hearing from the modified group and became concerned, then became especially concerned at the revelation of Crichton’s wormhole knowledge and felt the need to intervene to discern whether or not he was worthy. Einstein explained that wormholes do not simply travel point-to-point in space, but that they are equally capable of traveling through time and even to other realities. To make his point, Einstein took Crichton to a number of parallel realities, which he referred to as unrealized realities, and reinforced that all of them are real but each one is only the realized reality to those living inside it.

With a cursory glance, the Ancients of Farscape and Stargate SG-1 might seem wholly and irreconcilably different. For one thing, the Ancients in the former primarily look more akin to earthly Hymenoptera than they do the pinnacle of human evolution as shown in the latter. Even that can be viewed as evidence of the link between the two, however. The Ancients in Farscape were genetically modified by their own people to serve that specific purpose, and it was shown in Stargate SG-1 that the Ancients were not only masters of wormhole technology but also incredibly skilled in genetic engineering. Coupled with how the unmodified Ancient in Farscape looked much closer to the evolved humanity aesthetic of those in Stargate SG-1, it becomes logical to see how the Ancients genetically modified a group of themselves to look nothing like humanity, or practically any other known species, in order to fulfill their task within another reality. 

Supplementing that is how the motivation behind the Ancients’ appearance in the Farscape reality coincides with various points in the Ancients’ history in the other. Having admitted they were from another realm, they said their purpose primarily was meant to be one of observation, analysis, and experimentation. A goal like that both aligns with the general social restrictions the Ancients of the Stargate SG-1 reality imposed upon themselves and the various times in which the Ancients had to flee the galaxy they had called home in search for life somewhere else, far beyond. 

“Well, I suppose now is the time for me to say something profound. […] Nothing comes to mind.”

Jack O’Neill, Stargate SG-1 – ‘The Serpent’s Lair’, S2, Ep1

Fargate or Starscape?

To put it all together, the Ancients—originally known as the Alterans in their original home galaxy—were the most intelligent group of beings existing at that time, perhaps ever, and had total mastery over wormholes. Beyond that, they were brilliant in numerous other fields, including genetic engineering. Having been forced to flee from their home system due to the lingering presence of potential genocide, the Ancients’ first exodus led them to the Milky Way galaxy where they established themselves as the dominant intelligence in that region of space and built a series of technological devices, which humanity would come to regard as ‘stargates’, that acted as point-to-point wormholes that could be used on command.

A second exodus, taking them away from the Milky Way, resulted from a plague that nearly wiped out the Ancients entirely. At some point after, or during, their first exodus, the Ancients realized they would need someplace safe where they could settle and survive; their excellence with wormholes likely provided them with the insight that wormhole travel could not only take one through space but reality as well. As such, the Ancients may have decided to scout or spread themselves across the various splintered realities in the universe, attempting to find a home for their people, once and for all. With a high likelihood of prejudice or complications arising from appearing humanoid, the Ancients might have used their talent with genetic engineering to modify a group of their own people so that they might slip into a new reality and observe it with relative ease.

In an effort to ensure their own survival, and further their knowledge of the universe, the Ancients of the Stargate SG-1 reality may have modified a group of their own people so they might explore and examine a new reality. This scientific pilgrimage then took them to the Farscape reality where eventually complications arose, and they needed to ensure their own survival within that reality. The process of doing so led to an Ancient giving a lost human the answers to understanding wormholes and their technology, which then created such a series of escalating conflicts that an Ancient from their home reality, troubled by the absence of information from the modified group, had to intervene. 

That is the theory of, and explanation of how, Farscape and Stargate SG-1 not only share a universe but are parallel realities, each one unrealized to the other. What does this theory accomplish? In practical terms, nothing at all. Fan theories are at best clever, insightful examinations of beloved creative works, and at worst they are little more than deranged musings about fictional characters. This theory does, however, accomplish something more sentimental and amusing. The notion of Stargate SG-1 and Farscape sharing a universe opens the wormhole for a justified imagining of what could very well be the greatest crossover event in the history of science-fiction television. 

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Dylan Stolte is a law student and freelance writer. When not working, you can likely find him reading, binge-watching shows, or eagerly devouring an alarming amount of sushi.

You can follow his lack of adventures on Instagram @christmaseyes.

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