“I logged over 100 hours in enemy airspace during the Gulf War. Is that tough enough for you? Or are we going to have to arm wrestle?”
Samantha Carter is still an Air Force Captain when she’s introduced on Stargate SG-1. Until her appearance, the pilot episode, and prior Stargate movie, centered around Colonel Jack O’Neill, and Doctor Daniel Jackson. The first episode picks up where the movie left off: with Jack leading a team to extract Daniel from an alien planet. As this mission briefing commences, General Hammond declares to the table of men that he’s assigning Sam Carter to the mission. Jack gripes that he prefers to assemble his own team (one apparently comprised entirely of men). The General insists that Carter is the leading expert on the Stargate, so Jack asks “Where is he transferring from?” And the rest is gold:
Carter appears saying, “She is transferring from the Pentagon. I take it you’re Colonel O’Neill. Captain Samantha Carter reporting, sir.”
Here is the rest of that scene’s dialogue from “Children of the Gods:”
But of course you go by Sam.
You don’t have to worry, Major. I played
with dolls when I was a kid.
No. Major Matt Mason.
Major Matt Mason, astronaut doll. Did
you have that cool little backpack that
made him fly?
Let’s get started. Colonel?
Thank you. Those of you on your first
trip through the Stargate, (obviously referring to Sam) you should
be prepared for what to expect.
I’ve practically memorized your report
from the first mission. I’d like to
think I’ve been preparing for this all
I think what the Colonel is saying is,
have you ever pulled out of a simulated
bombing run in an F-16 at 8-plus Gs?
(pauses, stunned) Well, it’s way worse than that.
By the time you get to the other side,
you’re frozen stiff like you’ve just
been through a blizzard. Naked.
That’s a result of the compression your
molecules undergo during the millisecond
required for reconstitution.
Oh, here we go, another scientist. General,
It means she is smarter than you are,
Colonel. Especially in matters related
to the Stargate.
Kawalsky and Ferretti laugh.
Colonel, I was studying the Gate technology
for two years before Daniel Jackson
made it work and before you both went
through. I should have gone through
then. But sir, you and your men might
as well accept the fact that I am going
through this time.
Well, with all due respect, Doctor.
It is appropriate to refer to a person
by their rank, not their salutation.
Call me Captain, not Doctor.
Captain Carter’s assignment to this
unit is not an option, it’s an order.
I’m an Air Force officer just like you
are, Colonel. And just because my reproductive
organs are on the inside instead of
the outside, doesn’t mean I can’t handle
whatever you can handle.
Oh, this has nothing to do with you
being a woman. I like women. I’ve just
got a little problem with scientists.
Colonel, I logged over 100 hours in
enemy airspace during the Gulf War.
Is that tough enough for you? Or are
we going to have to arm wrestle?
Carter ends the discussion by confidently stating that she can handle anything the guys can. Like, why does this even need saying? She then attempts to alleviate the Colonel’s misgivings by saying “You really will like me when you get to know me.” To which he replies, “Oh, I adore you already, Captain.” And it’s certainly lucky he does, seeing as she ends up saving his life and the lives of her team members on countless occasions through her tenure in the Stargate program. Carter is as smart as Daniel, as tough as Teal’c, and as strong a leader as Jack.
In the show, after Sam corrects Jack for calling her Doctor, Jack jokes that Sam is “Captain Doctor” because she has so many rankings and degrees. She has no problem putting him in his place when he refers to her as doctor, saying it is appropriate for her superior officer to address her by rank. He won’t forget it. Captain Carter is so tough, smart, and capable, that over the course of the show, she is promoted to Major, and eventually Colonel, taking over leadership of the team in the final seasons.
While Carter is always strong, her physical abilities are showcased in three particular episodes that stand out. In “Emancipation,” she helps liberate a tribe of women who are thought of as property in their culture. The girls can be bought or sold by their fathers to other men to be used as brides, and for cooking, cleaning, and other menial duties. Girls are also forced to cover their faces in public, and if they disobey a man, they can be stoned to death. Does this planet sound like any place we might know right here on present day Earth? Hmm…. After a tribe leader makes the mistake of trying to buy Carter, she challenges him for authority, kicking his ass in hand-to-hand combat in front of a crowd, and demanding freedom for his daughter whom he’d planned to marry off. To show they will remember Carter’s influence, the women of the village remove their facial veils. View her fight below:
In “The Warrior,” SG-1 agrees to provide supplies and weapons to a group of Jaffa fighting for their freedom. The mostly male group of Jaffa appreciate the gesture but insist that their weapons are far superior to Earth ones. Jack tells Sam to demonstrate the P90’s effectiveness. The Jaffa leader scoffs at the idea of an Earth woman providing any kind of weapons demonstration. Jack, now fully aware of all Carter is capable of, adds something to the challenge: he wants her to hit a moving target. What I love about this scene is that Jack chooses Carter, his second in command, as his best shooter. he shows so much confidence in her abilities (because he knows full well by now) that all the while he’s smirking at the Jaffa’s dubiousness, just waiting for her to show them all up. View Carter’s demonstration below:
The third moment comes from “Death Knell” where Carter is stranded on a planet alone with an Anubis super-soldier drone hunting her. If you haven’t seen the show, these things are scary deadly and all but indestructible. Injured from an explosion, Carter hobbles around the woods, dripping blood, and somehow eluding the drone, though there are a few close calls. By the end of the episode, dehydrated, bleeding, wounded, exhausted Carter saves herself by finding a downed SGC drone and configuring it to fire a missile at her enemy. This buys her enough time for Jack to find her with the only weapon capable of stopping the super-solider. When they finally do, Jack asks Carter if she’s ready to go home, completely perplexed as to why she’s not on her feet, putting on a tough front. He stares at her, confused, as she says she needs to rest for a minute. And then you realize, Jack is thrown off because in seven years, he has never seen her this vulnerable. This moment shakes him so much, that he sits down beside her and puts an arm around her for comfort: a big military no-no. And she’s never needed comfort before. That she accepts it in no way diminishes her strength. It accentuates it.
Carter no longer has anything to prove to Jack, or any other member of her team, or any other man in the military. Jack knows. They all do.
Alright, so we’ve covered the toughness. What else? Samantha Carter is so smart…. “How smart is she?” She’s so smart that you can barely understand half of what she says. “Could the beam we saw be a means to access the gate’s subspace field in order to create some kind of time inversion outside of subspace?” An uncomprehending Jack stares back at her. She says, “I’m going to go run some simulations.”
Which leads me to another thing I love about Carter. When she isn’t out exploring strange, new worlds, kicking ass on every planet in the galaxy, she is in her science lab on base doing experiments, inventing world-saving technology, and writing books on Astrophysics and Wormhole Theory. Is she out at the bar trying to find a man? No. Is she worried about aging as a single woman? No. Is she worried about getting married and having kids? As if! She is married to her work. You mean, gasp, a woman can be completely happy and fulfilled by something other than romance and family life? Who wouldn’t be? She has the best job in the world! Who wouldn’t drop everything right now to travel through the Stargate? Why should men have all the fun?
One last thing, Sam is a problem solver who never gives up. Given enough time, her brain will devise the solution to any problem whether it’s saving a planet or an individual life. And if there’s a sun in her way?
Yes, one time, Samantha Carter actually blew up a sun! I should leave it there, because that one’s pretty difficult to top. But then there’s that time she punched Ba’al in the face because he was stupid enough to question her intelligence:
Simultaneously, she makes Teal’c smile: a rarity indeed. Alright. I’ll leave it there, or else I’ll go on all day. But the evidence speaks for itself. Colonel Samanta Carter is and always shall be a kick-ass woman of Scifi.