In the movie Stargate, they have been trying to activate the Stargate for the last 2 years but could never get the right sequence. After Dr. Daniel Jackson figures out the seventh symbol, they try to activate it. When they get past the sixth symbol, Catherine Langford says to him

this is as far as we have ever been able to get

There are only like 30 symbols on there. How come after two years someone didn't say "hey guys, we already know the first six symbols, why not just loop through all 30 symbols until we find the seventh symbol"?

  • The gate requires a large amount of power, so brute-forcing each and every possible combination would have drained a lot of unnecessary power. (Though I suppose it would not use as much if it did not actually open.)
    – Synetech
    Dec 24, 2011 at 16:23

5 Answers 5


This question has been asked previously on the Stargate wiki site. The answer given was that there are actually 9 chevrons, so they may not have known 7 was the home symbol. So, given that there were 39 symbols, this would have made 40,000 dialling attempts...possible, but not so likely.

However, this argument is flawed. The eighth and ninth symbols were not introduced until much later in the SG1 series to overcome limitations of the 7 address system. The dialing computer itself only had 7 areas for the symbols, so clearly only working with the 7 address system. So I can only conclude that it was overlooked in the original film.

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    I agree. It makes no sense that the were unable to "get further" than the sixth chevron. If they only knew the first three or four symbols then they could spend an infeasible amount of time trying to brute force the rest of the address, but the gate would still at least have let them try. Feb 15, 2013 at 12:57
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    The Stargate in the film did have 9 chevrons, but you're right that the dialing computer only had spaces for 7. Then again, in the show the episode where O'Neill had the knowledge of the ancients in his head had him dial in an 8 symbol address using the existing software. Nov 6, 2016 at 19:49
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    When O'Neill dials the Asgard, he had already entered a new set of gate addresses into the dialing computer (the method appearing to be manipulating byte code, none the less). It is possible that he also reprogrammed the computer in this time. Nov 6, 2016 at 23:35
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    With 38 symbols, the Stargate Network in the Milky Way has (theoretically)1,987,690,320 (38×37×36×35×34×33) possible 7-symbol addresses. However, since only a small fraction of these make up valid destinations, randomly dialing the Stargate is largely futile.
    – cde
    Mar 20, 2017 at 17:15
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    @cde Except they already had the first 6 symbols, reducing it to only 38 possible choices. And that discounts the likelihood of someone looking at the cartouche, and saying "Hey, the image immediately below the 6 symbols looks an awful lot like one of the other symbols on the rim. Should we try that one?" Sep 21, 2020 at 16:35

Have a look at the dialling sequence:

At chevron five (around 1:20 in the video linked) the Stargate causes the ground to ominously tremble, at six it's basically an earthquake. Inside a big mountain. It stands to reason everyone agreed that 30-ish attempts at finding the next symbol (and were they sure only seven were necessary?) might cause the mountain to collapse instead. Or, judging from the previous increase of trembling, maybe a seventh chevron, especially a wrong one, might endanger not only the facility but the whole continent.

Attempting brute force at a unique piece of ancient alien technology also sounds like a foolproof way of rendering it very unusable and is probably the last thing you should indulge in only after you tried everything else. Like asking an Egyptologist for assistance.


This is not a "canon" answer, but there are often consequences to entering the wrong password too many times. Websites often disable your account. More severely, some encryption systems make the data permanently unreadable.

Who knows how severe the consequences would be for a device like the Stargate?

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    Stargates are wont to explode.
    – Nick T
    Dec 26, 2011 at 1:24
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    While it is plausible, I'm downvoting because there is no evidence of it. Nov 6, 2016 at 19:50
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    I'm downvoting because there is direct evidence that this doesn't happen. SG-1 has them autodialing every combination after they run out of Abydos Cartouche addresses. Dialing multiple wrong addresses does nothing to them.
    – cde
    Mar 20, 2017 at 17:04
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    @cde, while it's certainly true that we've seen the stargate input being brute-forced without consequence, they would have had no way to know if that was true at the time, early in the experimentation.
    – Patronics
    Mar 8, 2021 at 8:10

Let's think about it this way - they had a device for 2 years that they had to spend some time figuring out how to get it to work at all, and then spending time trying to figure out the right combination. For all they knew, it would have taken just 5 symbols to get the thing working. By the time Jackson got around to them, they may have only recently stumbled on the correct 6th symbol, and then would have to spend time analyzing their data.

  • Don't they mention trying combinations in the movie? As far as I remember they do.
    – Tom
    Feb 24, 2017 at 17:59
  • @Tom They do in the series, and in fact, succeed - however, they lose contact with their astronaut, and have no way of knowing the transfer was actually successful - for all they know, the guy is dead.
    – Luaan
    Mar 20, 2017 at 8:57

It would appear that it simply didn't occur to them to try a seventh symbol. It wasn't on the 6 symbol cartouche found with the gate and while the dialling program system appears to be working after a sixth symbol, nothing then happens.

Jackson wasn't brought in specifically to find the seventh symbol, he was brought in to decipher the capstone and, hopefully, work out what was wrong with what they were doing.

CATHERINE: While we didn't realize the symbols were star constellations, it was obvious to us that they match symbols written on the star gate. Problem was, we never knew about the seventh symbol
Stargate: Draft Script

When it comes to it, the gate developers need to add a custom space for the extra symbol, something that they didn't realise they needed because they didn't realise that the symbols represented anything more than a (6 digit) code to be entered.

Gate Engineer: Programming seventh symbol into the computer

In the TV series, we learn that the dialling program is actually far more sophisticated than a device that simply turns the wheel and gives the gate power. There are a very considerable number of inputs and outputs, some of which they understand and some of which are baffling. I think we can assume that Col. West thought that Jackson would offer some insight into why their program was failing, not that the dialling symbols themselves were incorrect.

That all being said, the writers of the show were happy to acknowledge that this wasn't especially clear and wasn't a particularly well written aspect of the film.

Stargate SG1: 200.

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