'Stargate' Profile: Goa'uld

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We have no right to play God, but neither do the Goa'uld. Now I know none of this seems real to you on paper, but trust me, they're pure evil.Daniel Jackson

The Goa'uld (pronounced "Go-ah-oold" or sometimes "Goold") are a race of sentient parasitic beings that take over hosts. Several species can serve as hosts, including humans and Unas. They originated on the planet designated P3X-888. They are also extremely egomaniacal due to their genetic memory and the adverse mental effects of the Sarcophagus technology. Goa'uld means "god" in the Goa'uld language. Races which will not serve them are completely destroyed without compromise or mercy whatsoever. (SG1: "Children of the Gods", "Thor's Hammer", "The First Ones")

Although the majority of them are one-dimensionally genocidal, megalomaniacal, and in some cases (such as Cronus, and, to a lesser extent, Ra) apparently barely self-aware (living out the patterns of their behavior as they existed thousands of years ago), there were a few exceptions. Apophis at times showed an unusual amount of insight, lucidity, and tenacity for a Goa'uld, showing great resourcefulness in escaping from Sokar's imprisonment, which in turn allowed him to gain control over Sokar's forces and become a greater threat than before. Heru'ur was seen on the battlefield with his Jaffa as an active general, risking his own life alongside them rather than hiding behind them (as Ra in particular had done). Ba'al was also able to survive the demise of the rest of the System Lords through being infinitely more flexible and adaptable than any of the others had been, even at times allying with SG-1 when he felt the situation warranted it. For a Goa'uld, gender appears to be a matter of choice, or persona, and is not always defined by the host; one example is Osiris occupying a female body. Goa'uld appear to a certain extent to be able to express and feel love for their mate, or to a lesser extent their children. However, the mating of two Goa'uld host creates a harcesis, an individual who, through Goa'uld genetic memory, possesses all the knowledge of the Goa'uld. With all the knowledge, a harcesis could easily jeopardize the Goa'uld power structure by simply sharing the fact that they are not gods and how their technology worked. For this reason, producing a harcesis was an unspoken taboo among Goa'uld, and if known to exist were hunted down and killed with impunity.

History

Early Beginnings

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An immature Symbiote
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Jaffa's Primta and pouch.
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An infant Goa'uld symbiote emerging from the dead body of a Jaffa Serpent Guard. From the Stargate SG-1 Season 1 premiere episode, "Children of the Gods Part 2".
The Goa'uld first arose in the waters of P3X-888, originally as predators. Eventually, they began taking the native Unas as hosts, becoming more adaptive. They eventually learned how to operate the Stargate the Ancients placed on P3X-888 and left, taking Unas slave armies with them. (SG1: "The First Ones")

Under the leadership of Atok, the Goa'uld developed the first of their society as conquerors, stealing Ancient technology and adapting it to their purposes. In 22,000 BC, Atok was killed by his son Apep, and he reordered the leadership of the Goa'uld. Apep shared power among his underlings, Ra, Nut, and Thoth. However, around 17,800 BC, another Goa'uld began to rise in power: Anubis. Apep's powers began to decline in this time, and Anubis gained more power. Anubis then killed Apep, devouring the symbiote before the eyes of the Goa'uld. However, Ra managed to rally the others in Apep's name. After three centuries of civil war, Anubis was defeated and exiled. Ra organized a new leadership called the High Council of the System Lords. Ra installed himself as the Supreme System Lord of the Goa'uld Empire, and took the Goa'uld Queens Hathor and Egeria as mates. (RPG: "Living Gods: Stargate System Lords")

The Reign of Ra

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Ra with attendants and Horus Guards in Ancient Egypt
Around 10,500 BC, Ra discovered a healthy world with a primate race: Humans reseeded by the Ancients before they left Earth. Ra took a young native as a host. Revitalized, Ra began allowing the other System Lords access to the Tau'ri. Some were used as worshipers and slaves in Naquadah mines, others were taken to Dakara, and turned into a genetically altered slave-soldier called the Jaffa, to serve as warriors and incubators for larval Goa'uld. A rebellion in 2,995 BC ended Goa'uld dominion on Earth, but Humans had already been seeded throughout the Goa'uld Empire, so Ra felt no need to reconquer the planet. (Stargate) (SG1: "Children of the Gods", "Moebius, Part 1", "Moebius, Part 2")

However, according to Kali, after Ra solidified his rule in Ancient Egypt, he sent out invitation to other System Lords that they were allowed to lay claim a domain on Earth, subservient to Ra. At this time, the Goa'uld (Ra included) still used Unas as hosts until Ra took his lo'taur as a host, the young native boy who did not flee at Ra's ha'tak landing. He immediately decreed that all Goa'uld would each take a human as their new host. Within a year, many heeded Ra's decree - some like Hathor even begin experimenting and creating the first Jaffa soldiers; others like Cronus and Shiva secretly rejected the idea of taking a lesser host, making excuses when questioned by Ra. (SG1: "Kali's Wrath")

Soon, however, Egeria began to have doubts about the future of the Goa'uld, and their cruel, destructive ways. Siring a legion of prim'ta, she in turn named them the Tok'ra, the "resistance against Ra". The Supreme System Lord discovered Egeria's treachery, dispatched a force, and captured her, removing her from her host and placing her in a Stasis jar on Pangar. (SG1: "The Tok'ra, Part 1", "The Tok'ra, Part 2", "Crossroads", "Cure")

In 1996, the Tau'ri reopened the Stargate, and sent a team through to Abydos. Ra captured some of them, and found a Nuclear warhead that Colonel Jack O'Neill had been given in case he found any threats. Ra enriched the device with Naquadah, and prepared to send it through to Earth, but Dr. Daniel Jackson had told the Abydonians the truth about Ra. The Abydonians rebelled, and Ra was forced to flee the planet. However, O'Neill and Jackson killed Ra by ringing the primed bomb aboard Ra's vessel as it was taking off, thus evading the orders to destroy the Abydonian Stargate and its surrounding population. (Stargate)

The Reign of Apophis

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Apophis the Serpent Lord.
After the death of Ra, the System Lords warred among themselves to replace him. Eventually, Cronus, Heru'ur, and Ba'al came out stronger than before, but the dominant System Lord was Apophis.

During a mission to find new hosts, the newly created SG-1 met Teal'c of Chulak, Apophis' First Prime who later joined the Tauri and eventually SG-1, Teal'c having long since grown disillusioned with Apophis while still eager to free his people, the Jaffa, from slavery at the hands of the Goa'uld.

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Major Charles Kawalsky as a host
In the aftermath of a rescue mission, Major Charles Kawalsky became infested with a Goa'uld symbiote. Attempts to remove it proved unsuccessful with the Goa'uld eventually taking control of Kawalsky's body up until it died after the back of Kawalsky's head was severed while held partially inside the deactivating Stargate. (SG1: "The Enemy Within")

After SG-1 caused various setbacks for him, Apophis in turn launched an attack on Earth. However, SG-1 was able to get aboard Klorel's Ha'tak, and sabotage both it and Apophis' Ha'tak. Apophis and Klorel survived, but Apophis' position amongst the Goa'uld was severely weakened. Under assault from Heru'ur and Sokar, Apophis was eventually captured by Sokar and sent to Netu. (SG1: "Children of the Gods", "Within the Serpent's Grasp", "The Serpent's Lair", "Serpent's Song")

When SG-1 arrived to rescue Jacob Carter, Apophis launched a rebellion, and escaped Netu just before the Tok'ra destroyed it. Apophis soon took control of Sokar's forces, and then Heru'ur's, after an abortive alliance. After the death of Cronus, Apophis took his fleet to destroy the Tok'ra on Vorash. Major Samantha Carter came up with the plan to destroy Apophis' fleet by causing Vorash's sun to explode. The plan worked, but caused SG-1's Ha'tak to be sent to another galaxy, along with Apophis' mothership. (SG1: "Jolinar's Memories", "The Devil You Know", "The Serpent's Venom", "Exodus")

The Replicators soon infested Apophis' mothership, and Apophis took over SG-1's mothership, but it too became infested with Replicators. SG-1 sabotaged the vessel, causing it to crash into Delmak. Apophis was aboard the Ha'tak at the time, and was killed in the crash. His body was presumably destroyed beyond repair in the crash. (SG1: "Enemies")

The Return and reign of Anubis

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Anubis, returned from the dead.
With the three dominant System Lords dead, fierce infighting began amongst the remaining System Lords. However, they also began to experience a new threat among themselves, as one enemy attacked using only ships, never with Jaffa. The System Lords eventually called the High Council to deal with the issue. The recently returned Osiris also arrived, revealing the identity of their enemy—Anubis. Osiris gave the others two options: restore Anubis to the state of System Lord, or place themselves at the "mercy" of Anubis. Despite the objections of Lord Yu, Anubis was restored to his former status. What they didn't know was that Anubis had achieved Ascension, only to be cast down by the Others. This left him unable to use significant powers, but he still had a great deal of knowledge of Ancient technology, and was, for all intents and purposes, immortal. However, Anubis was unable to use any knowledge previously unavailable to him as a Goa'uld. (SG1: "Summit", "Last Stand", "Revelations", "Full Circle")

Within a matter of months, Anubis began a series of attacks against the Tau'ri, the Tok'ra, and the Asgard. Using his knowledge gained from Ascension, he was able to capture the Asgard, Thor, and extract some knowledge of Asgard technology, which included holographic technology, and beaming, which would become available to other Goa'uld. He also developed a new mothership, capable of destroying a planet. Lord Yu at first waged a one-man war against Anubis, but eventually managed to rally the other System Lords into a United Alliance of System Lords. However, Yu's powers and mental stability, because of his old age, began to decline, and Ba'al took over the leadership of the System Lords. (SG1: "Redemption, Part 1", "Redemption, Part 2", "Full Circle", "Fallen", "Homecoming")

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Zat blasts being neutralized by the Kull armor.
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Kull warrior passing through the Tartarus iris forcefield.
Sensing the growing dissent among the Jaffa due to the actions of Teal'c and Bra'tac, Anubis created a new foot soldier called the Kull. They had energy absorbing armor, increased strength, and were utterly loyal to Anubis. The Tau'ri and the Tok'ra were able to make a weapon that could kill a Kull with the Ancient healing device, but Anubis now dominated the System Lords. (SG1: "Evolution, Part 1", "Death Knell")

Fearing that the Tau'ri may have gained Ancient weaponry, Anubis launched a full scale invasion of Earth, using over thirty Ha'taks and his super mothership. However, SG-1 discovered the Antarctic outpost left behind when Atlantis set off for the Pegasus Galaxy. Using the Drone weapons, they destroyed Anubis' ship and his fleet, presumably killing Anubis as well. He survived due to his non-corporeal state, but the aftermath of the battle was devastating for Anubis. (SG1: "Lost City, Part 2", "Lockdown")

The Reign of Ba'al

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The System Lord Ba'al.
The defeat of Anubis caused a massive power vacuum among the System Lords. In order to avoid open war, they agreed to divide his territories among themselves evenly. However, Ba'al managed to discover Tartarus and imprint his will upon the Kull. Using them and the ships Anubis left behind, Ba'al began conquering the System Lords and absorbing their territories: Bastet and Olokun were killed, Morrigan surrendered, Ares fled but was killed by Brigadier General Jack O'Neill, and Moloc was killed by the Tau'ri with two missiles. Camulus sought asylum among the Tau'ri, but was ultimately sent to Ba'al and presumably killed. Yu and Amaterasu prepared an offensive, but were defeated. What no one knew was that Anubis had returned, and was using Ba'al as an unwilling puppet. (SG1: "New Order, Part 1", "New Order, Part 2", "Sacrifices", "It's Good to Be King")

Eventually, the Replicators began a full-scale invasion of the Milky Way, coming into conflict with the Goa'uld Empire. Most of the System Lords such as Yu were killed, with Ba'al being the only apparent survivor. Many among the Rebel Jaffa returned to Ba'al, believing the Replicators to be a "divine punishment". Teal'c and the remaining rebels launched an attack on Dakara, and Jacob Carter discovered that the Dakara superweapon could be used to destroy the Replicators. Jacob, Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter, and Ba'al agreed to reprogram the device, and use it to destroy the Replicators. The plan worked, but the Rebel Jaffa were able to take Ba'al's Ha'tak, forcing him to flee. The remaining Jaffa rebelled en masse. Anubis attempted to retake Dakara, to use the weapon to destroy all life in the Milky Way. However, Oma Desala, who had helped Anubis ascend, chose to battle with him for all eternity, preventing Oma from helping others to ascend, but also ceasing Anubis' interference on the lower planes. (SG1: "Reckoning, Part 1", "Reckoning, Part 2", "Threads")

Bereft of power, and a fugitive of the Free Jaffa Nation, Ba'al fled to Earth, and took control of the Trust. To throw off the Free Jaffa, Ba'al created a series of clones and allowed one of them to be captured and killed by Gerak. Ba'al also attempted a new plan of conquest: by stealing Stargates and cutting them off from the rest of the network. He intended to activate the Dakara superweapon, destroying all life in the galaxy and causing the Ori, who had recently learned of human life in the Milky Way, to subsequently lose interest in the galaxy. SG-1 sabotaged his efforts. (SG1: "Ex Deus Machina", "Stronghold", "Off the Grid")

Eventually, Ba'al learned of the Sangraal. Desiring a weapon that could neutralize the Ancients and the Ori, Ba'al began searching for the Sangraal. He was forced to work with SG-1 and Adria, the leader of the Ori Army. However, the Ori found the planet they were on and took the Sangraal. SG-1 later sent it through to the Alteran Home Galaxy. (SG1: "The Quest, Part 1", "The Quest, Part 2", "The Shroud")

Hoping to end the Ori invasion, Ba'al captured Adria and took her as a host. He also killed his clones, hoping to cover his tracks. Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell killed Ba'al during the capture of Adria, and the symbiote placed in her was soon removed. However, Mitchell expressed doubt over whether Ba'al was finally dead, fearing that one or more of Ba'al's clones may have survived. (SG1: "Dominion")

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The System Lords under command of Ba'al in the Alternate timeline
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Death of the last clone of Ba'al.
Ultimately, the last of Ba'al's clones was captured and extracted, only for the clone to claim prior to his extraction that the original Ba'al had a contingency plan. Just then, the 'real' one uses a solar flare in conjunction with a Stargate to travel back in time to prevent the Earth Stargate from getting to America by sinking the ship that was taking it to America in 1938, thereby changing the present. Using his foreknowledge, Ba'al then rose to the highest level in the renewed Goa'uld Empire, bringing a massive fleet to conquer Earth with Qetesh as his queen and Teal'c as his First Prime. Though all of the Systems Lords wished to obliterate Earth from the face of the universe, Ba'al decided to treat them leniently. This got Qetesh suspicious and forced Ba'al to reveal the location of his monitoring base before she killed him. Fortunately, the remaining members of SG-1 - who had escaped the alterations to history thanks to them travelling through the Stargate at the moment that history finished changing in the aftermath of Ba'al's modifications - allied with Teal'c and traveled to Ba'al's monitoring base, using the Stargate and a convenient solar flare to send Colonel Cameron Mitchell back in time to 1929, allowing him to get into position to be on board the transport ship and kill Ba'al before he destroyed history. With the real Ba'al dead, the extraction went uninterrupted. The Ba'al symbiote died from the extraction while his host survived. With the death of the real Ba'al and his last remaining clone, the last remaining Goa'uld System Lord was dead and the Empire had fallen. (SG1: "Continuum")

Overview

Symbiote

It's a slimy, snake-like alien creature -- burrows into people's heads and takes control of their bodies.John Sheppard

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A computer scan showing the red colored symbiote within the host body.

The Goa'uld themselves are small snake-like Symbiotes that have evolved to require a host body. Once they burrow into the body (which can be accomplished by piercing the skin in the neck), the parasite begins to wrap itself around the Human spine. The symbiote then weaves itself around the nervous system where thin filaments are extended that go up into the brain itself. (SG1: "Children of the Gods", "The Enemy Within")

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The skeleton of a Goa'uld.
Once the Goa'uld has taken control of and has become one with the host body, it possesses the capacity to exert a remarkable level of control over it, including the capacity to kill the host at will if necessary. Even advanced Humans can be susceptible to this as the symbiote can release a deadly poison that can kill the host upon removal. Standard surgical techniques were proven to be ineffective in removing the symbiote. It is unknown how the Goa'uld which infested Major Charles Kawalsky survived, though it appears there was a piece that had not been removed from him, for reasons unknown, which dropped out of his head after he was killed by the Stargate. However, sufficiently advanced techniques and technology such as that utilized by the Tok'ra, the Asgard, and Ma'chello can safely remove a symbiote without causing any permanent physical damage to the host. However, it is never certain that the symbiote will not release a poison if they try to remove it. This was the case with Adria. (SG1: "The Enemy Within", "Thor's Hammer", "Legacy", "Dominion")

Infant Goa'uld that have not reached maturity are not capable of fully taking over a host and only retain control of them for short periods of time which are experienced as blackouts by the host. This results in a struggle being fought over the host body between the symbiote and the host itself. In its young state, a symbiote is capable of shedding a dead husk of skin that resembles its body which has fooled many in believing that the Goa'uld has been removed. (SG1: "The Enemy Within")

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The natural form of the Tok'ra queen, Egeria
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Tanith, a mature Goa'uld rearing out of Jaffa's symbiote pouch.
A special class of Goa'uld are the Queens which are responsible for producing new larval Goa'uld for implantation into Jaffa. When encountering a new tribe of Humans or a different race, the Queen needs to first sample the DNA, or "code of life" as the Goa'uld refer to it, from the species intended to be a host. This is to ensure that there is no rejection during the process between host and larva. (SG1: "Hathor")

One of the unique factors of the Goa'uld race includes their genetic memory which provides each newborn symbiote the collective knowledge of all the Goa'uld that came before it. Another element included within their bodies was Naquadah which served as a key to activating their technology and even allowed them to sense the Naquadah present within a Stargate. Goa'uld can also sense the presence of each other within a distance of about 50 feet, due to the Naquadah in their blood. Naquadah does not appear to be a natural aspect of their biology, however, as the early Goa'uld lacked this element within their blood chemistry. Cloned Goa'uld created through human stem cell technology also lack Naquadah in their blood, despite retaining all other elements of Goa'uld culture through their genetic memory. (SG1: "The Enemy Within", "Hathor", "Seth", "The First Ones", "Nightwalkers")

The wild Goa'uld on their homeworld have been shown to cannibalize fellow symbiotes, and also lack Naquadah in their blood. The symbiote is also capable of making its eyes glow in the same way it can with a host. (SG1: "Children of the Gods", "The First Ones") Modern Goa'uld of the Goa'uld Empire have retained the cannibalistic tendencies as part of their society, only now through the bodies of their hosts. (RPG: "Living Gods: Stargate System Lords"), (SG1: "Last Stand")

The host

Nothing of the host survives.Klorel

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Ra's host body and its glowing eyes.

Within nearly all hosts, a Goa'uld parasite has complete control, and the degree of control to exert at any given moment is also up to the parasite. Typically entering through the neck and more seldom through the throat, the Goa'uld will attach itself to the spinal cord which allows access to the brain, leaving an entry mark. When within a host, the Goa'uld gives perfect health, increased strength, and increased intelligence. When in control of the body, the symbiote is capable of making the host's eyes glow, and also speak in a deep, booming voice. The voice, however, is an unnecessary affectation that may be used to differentiate between parasite and host, as the Tok'ra do, or simply to intimidate slaves and opponents. (SG1: "Children of the Gods")

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Ruax, a Goa'uld possessed Unas.
Being taken as a host by a Goa'uld is often considered a terrible fate for the host, as they are suppressed and forced to witness countless horrors. The Goa'uld maintain that the host essentially dies when the Goa'uld takes control, but this has been proven false on numerous occasions. However, a System Lord's lo'taur often considers being taken as a host a "great honor" (they are around just in case something happens to the present host), and indeed even non-Tok'ra Goa'uld and their hosts sometimes coexist willingly (for example Kianna Cyr and possibly Hathor). Certain strong-willed hosts are capable of fighting the control of younger symbiotes that have infested them, although only to a marginal extent, such as suppressing a hand movement for a few seconds or subtly influencing a Goa'uld's subconscious thoughts (SG1: "Children of the Gods", "Thor's Hammer", "The Serpent's Lair", "Within the Serpent's Grasp", "Pretense", "Summit", "Last Stand").

The Goa'uld are capable of infesting a wide variety of hosts, from Humans to Unas (which were the Goa'uld's first hosts, because they shared their homeworld with them). Even some non-humanoid creatures, such as the carnivorous creature used as a host by Marduk, can be taken over. They can also take Asgard bodies as hosts for a short period of time, though the Asgard's genetic makeup eventually rejects the symbiote and causes the host's body to wither and die. Jaffa cannot serve as hosts due to already carrying an immature symbiote in their pouch. The Ilempiri are likewise immune to being used as hosts due to their unique biology. (Stargate) (SG1: "Deadman Switch", "The Tomb", "The First Ones")

A child of two Goa'uld hosts is called Harcesis and has all the genetic memory of the Goa'uld. A few hosts were freed from their Goa'uld, including Skaara, Vala Mal Doran, Kendra, Sarah Gardner and an Aziru clone. (SG1: "Secrets", "Thor's Hammer", "Pretense", "Chimera", "Prometheus Unbound", "Continuum")

Society

One of the most likely threats a Goa'uld lord can face is being challenged by their children. (SG1: "The Serpent's Lair")

The final wish a Goa'uld can give their First Prime was the task of avenging their death if they were betrayed or killed by a rival. (SG1: "Continuum")

Minor Goa'uld are often forced to serve the more powerful as Underlords and can consist of former warlords that were defeated. While they can serve as lieutenants and commanders for the lord in question, there was the danger of the Underlord plotting to overthrow their master. This threat is even greater when one considers that the usurper would gain all the holdings of their master if successful. (SG1: "Prophecy")

The highest authority among the Goa'uld race included the ranks of the System Lords who fielded vast armies under their command as well as warred with one another for dominance. Whenever a System Lord or Minor Goa'uld was vanquished, it was common practice that their domain was absorbed into the victor's ranks. This usually was more than enough incentive for a Goa'uld to go to war with his neighbor and win at all cost.

They make use of personal servants who are normal humans known as Lo'taur that served their every need. On some occasions, the Lo'taur was used to serve as a spy and gain vital information from the other Lo'taur. An additional benefit of having a Lo'taur is that the Lo'taur can be used as an emergency host. Some Lo'taurs even feel honored by this possibility. (SG1: "Summit")

The Goa'uld are known to speak both Goa'uld dialects and simple English.

The Goa'uld have no qualms about using children as weapons in order to destroy an enemy. This is be highlighted by Cassandra and Rya'c. Rya'c had two teeth implanted with two viruses that, when combined, would generate a highly infectious disease which would have spread across the planet in less than a week. Cassandra had a bomb placed within her chest that, when in close proximity to the Stargate, would explode with the force of a massive nuclear explosion.

Military

Ground Forces

Ships

Different aspects of the Goa'uld

Alternate timelines

Notes

Stargate Wiki has a collection of images related to Goa'uld.
  • From Season 8 and onward, the Goa'uld hosts' eyes glow yellow, as opposed to the earlier seasons' white.
  • Although they were the main antagonist of Stargate SG-1 for its first eight seasons, they only made one appearance in Stargate: Atlantis, specifically in the Season 2 episode "Critical Mass".

References

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