In SG-1 we met the Tollan. They never went through a 'Dark Age' after being transplanted from Earth, and are thus at least 200 years ahead of us, technologically.

In their first appearance they demonstrate technology which allows them to pass through solid objects, a palm-sized device which can communicate with people light-years distant, and are accepted by the Nox as apparent equals (one of the Nox travels to earth, unburying their stargate, just to retrieve them).

In their second appearance, they demonstrate the ability to disable all weapons (energy and projectile, though presumably not melee) carried by the Goa'uld and Tau'Ri. They demonstrate that they can suppress the symbiote (allowing the human to speak freely), remove it completely (while keeping both host and symbiote alive), etc. They also demonstrate that they have "Big, honking space guns that shoot down motherships," as Jack O'Neill puts it.

In their third appearance, they get wiped out. By the Goa'uld. The motherships had developed 'new shields' which rendered their Ion Cannons (previously able to destroy these ships in a single shot) completely useless. Over two months later, when SG-1 stopped them from giving in the the Goa'uld demands for phase-shifting bombs (capable of penetrating the iris), they were wiped from the face of Tollana, never to be seen again (in the main series, at least, they may have appeared again in the spin-offs or novels).

Is it ever explained how they managed to get wiped out? Their technology was so advanced that they were completely dismissive of the Goa'uld ("We're aware of them. We don't interact.") and they had obviously not lost all military development capability (the Ion Cannons are evidence enough of that). So it seems completely puzzling to me that they could lose, especially since they seem to have lost to the point of annihilation in the course of less than 24 hours.

  • 2
    The only half-sensible explanation I can come up with is that the Goa'uld pretty much entirely controlled their defensive infrastructure by that point and they didn't HAVE the ability to fight back or escape. Why they let themselves into that situation anyway given that they surely had more than just a few ion cannons I do not know. They were making earth look bad, perhaps?
    – Phoshi
    May 25, 2011 at 17:35

6 Answers 6


The Tollan were wiped out when Anubis, half-ascended and still bearing incredible knowledge of Ancient technology, arrived with ships that had been upgraded with said Ancient technology, rendering them impervious to the Tollans' ion cannons -- the only defense they had against attacks from orbit.

After SG-1 destroyed the phasing bombs they were building for Anubis to use against the SGC, Anubis retaliated by bombarding the planet from orbit, obliterating their entire civilization. Their ion cannons were useless against Anubis' ships.

More info on the Tollan and their ultimate destruction can be found on the Stargate Wiki.

  • 14
    There's also the superiority complex they were sporting which led them to disregard 'backup plans', alternate means of defening, or even evacuation plans. IIRC O'Neill and Teal'c tried to change their minds at one point by asking what would happen if all the Ion Cannons were rendered inoperable. The answer they got was "Won't happen, even one would be adequate to defend us"
    – Robotnik
    Aug 10, 2014 at 15:02
  • But I mean, they must have SOME ship to evacuate... Completely annihilate space-faring civilization is way harder that most people think. Space is kinda big.
    – graywolf
    Mar 28, 2017 at 12:05
  • 1
    @Paladin If any did escape, they're scattered and on the run. We never see or hear from them again. It's very plausible that any such survivors merely traded a quick death at Anubis' hands for a long slow death in the cold dark of space. It's even possible they didn't have any ships anymore, e.g. having cannibalized them to establish themselves on their new planet. In any case, for all practical purposes, from Earth's point of view they are gone.
    – Kromey
    Mar 28, 2017 at 19:58

IIRC they were wiped out by Anubis, who had ascended and come back, like Daniel Jackson did.

Anubis, as you may recall, brought back Ancient knowledge and technology, which is one of the reasons the other Goa'uld found him unstoppable.

Advanced as the Tollan were, they were no match for Ancient technology.

  • 5
    not exactly like Daniel Jackson. JAckson's all memories were wiped when he was sent back. On the other hand Anubis had retained the knowledge of the Ancients
    – Sinan
    May 26, 2011 at 22:58
  • 1
    @Sinan That's because Anubis wasn't completely sent back -- he was still half-ascended, which meant that in addition to retaining all the knowledge of the Ancients he had some pretty interesting powers himself.
    – Kromey
    May 27, 2011 at 17:36
  • 2
    @Sinan re: Daniel Jackson, I remember Oma saying Daniel requested his memory be wiped.
    – Alan7317
    Sep 4, 2011 at 20:54
  • 3
    @Alan7317 - I'd say the same if I wiped your memories and didn't want the blame
    – Robotnik
    Sep 20, 2013 at 6:00

The Tollan people where very depended on their specific technology to defend themselves against anything. And their technology was great, mind you. But just like the Irish depended wholly on the potato, if something bad happens when you are depended on a single technology, they you are screwed. And it's unknown when the Ion canon was developed, it could have easily been long ago, with new ones still being made to the old plans. They just don't seem to have the technology to defend themselves.

So, when Anubis gained Ancient technology, and could defeat the Tollan technology, then the Tollans lost completely and totally.

Earth was not destroyed because they were constantly trying new things, looking outside of their shield, and they prevented destruction by preemptively stopping it.

  • 2
    Saying that the Irish depended wholly on the potato, in this context, would indicate that this was by choice. Ireland was a net exporter of food, in the 1840's, with all grain and livestock going to feed to empire.
    – user001
    Apr 24, 2017 at 14:42

There is no sensible reason.

If the Tollans were making phasing bombs for Anuvbis, they have used them against him (or a variation of). They already had and knew phasing technology, so it is not a stretch to imagine they could quickly make a missile similar to the Ancient drones later used to destroy Anubis and his fancy-pants shields.

Also, the NOX were just as advanced as the Ancients, and they considered the Tollan friends. If threatened by Anubis, they could have asked the Nox for help.

Remember, these guys built their own Stargate...

  • The Nox might not have ships and at least by the time shooting started the Stargate was taken out first. It's not clear if the Tollan could contact the Nox without Anubis finding out so it's plausible that the Nox wouldn't get the opportunity evacuate them. It's clear the Nox are strict pacafists but it's not clear that their bag of tricks would be any more effective against Anubis than the Tollan's had been once the shooting starts. The Tollan should have taken the steps you suggested but we see later that half ascended Anubis would certainly know to take precautions to prevent the attempt.
    – John LA
    Oct 5, 2019 at 22:21
  • Who built their own stargate?
    – T.J.L.
    Oct 7, 2019 at 19:35

The obvious answer is that they got annihilated because their Ion Cannons were no longer effective, but that is not the biggest problem:

The Tollans were far too confident for their own good. They were so convinced that their Ion Cannons would keep them safe that they completely neglect to pay any attention to their own well-being. Remember that when we are first introduced to the Ion Cannons, the Goa'uld manage to destroy all-but-one of them simply by pre-emptive striking. Had it not been for Nox/Teal'c help, that would have been end of story for them right there.

That no doubt only made them that much more confident about being able to take out the Goa'uld, after all, a single surviving Ion Cannon took down the mothership. Yet what happens when Apophis shows up with a ship that is immune to the Ion Cannons? They have no other technology whatsoever to defend themselves, and they are forced to work for him. Once that fails, they are wiped out, perhaps even by only a single mothership, simply because they had no other defensive structures because they relied too much on the Ion Cannons.

And, perhaps, they may simply have been overthinking things. "If our Ion Turret can't damage that ship, we have no chance! We have to do as they say or we die."

As Thor puts it, the "primitive nature" of Earth technology is something they would never have considered. They had never considered simply firing bullets at the Replicators because their own weapons are so much more awesome. So it is quite possible that the Tollan never realized that they could have developed a new weapon to defend themselves with.


As others have said Anubis had rendered their Ion Cannons useless. If they had tried to set up another defensive system Anubis would have noticed from orbit and destroyed them and it before they could do anything about it.

Anubis also had a huge fleet. He would have been able to provide more ships than the Tollan's had guns.

I also wonder if the Tollan's destroyed their own technology. In the face of inevitable defeat, they might have decided it best to wipe their computers, detonate all the bombs they had built and turned their guns on themselves to stop Anubis walking in afterwards and reading the textbook on Phase Shifting or Gate Building. This would, of course, made Anubis very angry.

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