Here's an example of the wormhole effects used in the Stargate franchise, from the original movie, Stargate SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe.

Are the wormhole effects diegetic? That is - is travelling through the wormhole experienced by characters in-universe, as we see it, or is it a visual effect for the benefit of the audience?

The characters originally being "thrown" out of the wormhole (and describing it like a rollercoaster) on the other end seems to imply they do experience it.

But later, they are seen as being able to simply walk out of the event horizon, without being thrown. I think that's explained by some hand waving "better interface" with the gate - of course, the actors probably didn't want to do stunt work every week.

It also makes sense that the gate, in the process of dematerializing you, might block your senses (or consciousness) as you traverse through the wormhole.

I thought about the FTL ships - as travelling on them is clearly diegetic. But in universe, that's hyperspace travel, not wormhole travel.

So do the characters experience wormhole travel as seen by the audience in Stargate?


1 Answer 1


According to Season 9 episode "Ripple Effect":

Though it feels instantaneous, a trip through the Stargate takes an average of 0.3 seconds – for matter to travel from one wormhole to another within our galaxy. The black SG-1's trip was measured at 3.4 seconds from their universe.

So it seems that they do not experience a prolonged trip when passing through the wormhole. That said, apparently people in the show do describe the trip, and there is some speculation on whether this is a side effect of the brain booting back up (much the way that the "tunnel of light" in Out of Body Experiences is believed to be how our brain justifies coming back after partial cessation of brain activity) or might even be special effects added by the Ancients to make the travel comprehensible and not make you imagine that you're experiencing the "Transporter Problem" where the person who arrives on the other side of the gate is a new construct while the old one was killed on the other side.

This lines up with everything we see on the show, but there's something interesting we see on screen - gate travellers remain conscious whilst in transit. This is referenced numerous times, and is incredibly confusing given this (correct) interpretation of gate mechanics.

Obviously it's an artistic choice, but from an in-universe perspective, why do people remain conscious whilst dematerialised?

One explanation is that the ancients were just that good - they were able to cause the data-streams to maintain consciousness whilst travelling. The other explanation is a little more head-fucky.

What if the stargates don't cause the traveller to remain conscious, and instead the destination gates patches in memories of travelling on arrival? The only purpose this would serve is to alleviate the fears of those going in that "it's not me coming out the other side". I could totally see the ancients doing that, to create the illusion of persistent consciousness. After all, they planned for "lesser" species to use the gates, it makes sense they'd encourage that practice in every way they could.

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    I do not believe the "remain conscious while dematerialized" portion is accurate at all. In the episode "48 Hours", Teal'c is trapped, dematerialized, in the Stargate Command stargate. Upon rescue, he'd been trapped in it for at least two days, and it's clear that no time has passed for him when he emerges. Commented Feb 1 at 14:32
  • Which would match up for the proposed "the experience of travel is an artificial construct" whether it's internally or externally imposed.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Feb 1 at 14:34
  • I might be missing something but how does this answer the question? Commented Feb 1 at 15:07
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    @Parrotmaster: Indicating that they do apparently experience something in transit, that it feels "instantaneous" at odds with the actual time in transit? Admittedly, it does not answer whether they experience it as the specific visual effects that we see as viewers.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Feb 1 at 15:10
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    It is a partial answer. The wormhole effects shown take anywhere from 5 seconds to 20 seconds. So if the show references travel being instantaneous to the observer, they are clearly not diegetic. The tricky bit is it doesn't appear to be consistent. Some people experience "something" (possibly the wormhole effects) while others do not appear too. Even if it's 0.3 seconds real time, that doesn't discount that multiple seconds of memory could be patched in.
    – Tronman
    Commented Feb 2 at 14:59

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