In one of the longest running and most iconic military science fiction TV shows of all time, one of the primary weapons of the key alien race is a direct energy weapon based on a staff melee weapon. This is the weapon of the slave-warriors of the Jaffa in service to their serpent masters, the Goa’uld. First seen in the original 1994 feature film, Stargate, the DE staff weapon has been featured in all of the entries into the massive Stargate Franchise. These Jaffa staff weapons have become one of the most iconic sci-fi weapons and it is high time we discussed the Ma’Tok Staff of the Jaffa warriors.
What is the Ma’Tok Staff Weapon?
In the vast Goa’uld Empire that was run by the System Lords, the muscle of the empire was the enslave Jaffa warriors that had been genetical modified from ancient Terran stock. In the hands of the Jaffa was the Ma’Tok plasma directed energy staff weapon and the pistol-like Zat’nik’tel. The Ma’Tok fired a powerful slow-rate-of-fire plasma bolt. Given the Goa’ulds need for style and ceremony, the Ma’Tok was lavishly appointed and designed for a weapon. However, the Ma’Tok was a weapon designed more to be a weapon of imposed order via fear and terror and a symbol of the snake gods. In addition to the portable plasma cannon on the emitter tip of the seven-foot long staff weapon, the staff could be used as a melee weapon and even as a flashlight. The power for the weapon came from a small liquid naquadah power pack that according to some, could power the weapon for its entire service life.
It is unknown how long the Goa’uld enslaved military forces used the Ma’Tok, but it was used after the fall of the System Lords and even by the Jaffa after their revolt against their snake overlords. Some of them where even taken by the SG team on their expeditions throughout the gate network. During the run of the show, there were variants to the Ma’Tok, both by Jaffa Warriors and rebellious elements.
What Do Those Ma’Tok Staffs Fire?
One of the larger benefits and its greatest issues of the Jaffa directed energy two-meter long weapon is its power output The standard issue Ma’Tok seen by Terran personnel is basically a handheld plasma cannon that has all of the power, ability, and disability of that weapon philosophy. Being that the Jaffa were the enforcers of their Goa’uld overlords, their primary weapon was used to quell rebellion and put populations into their proper place. As Colonel Jack O’Neil observed, the Ma’Tok was a weapon of terror. Given all of the facts above, we can imagine the power of the staff weapon.
In combat, the Ma’Tok can blow a hole through an average Terran soldier or even other Jaffa…this with or without body armor at the highest setting. The highest setting has been seen to damage trees, blowing holes in reinforced doors, and even cause secondary effects via burns. This means that groups attempting go against the will of the Goa’uld would be met with directed energy weapons that could kill and wound several people in one volley at close range. This would make most scared to counter the will of the Jaffa and their gods. However, this power comes at a price.
The Ma’Tok is large, heavy, unwieldly, has a slow rate of fire, especially when compared to the Terran kinetic weaponry, it eats power, and it is inaccurate. Then, there is the effective range of the Ma’Tok: abut 60 meters. This places the primary weapon of the Jaffa warriors in the effective range of a Terran pistol! Power comes at a price and Ma’Tok is a symbol of that. Speaking to that, to power this weapon, the power source is a liquid naquadah power source. Like many weapons of science fiction, the Ma’Tok is a plasma-firing directing energy weaponry that exists in a soft-serve science fiction universe. While this form of lethal energy is shared among hundreds of sci-fi weapons, the Ma’Tok is unique in design and power output compare to the normal plasma DE weaponry
The Use of the Ma’Tok Staff by Tau’ri
When the first SG-1 team was sent out through the Stargate to the world of Abydos in the 1996, this small US Air Force off-world team made contact with the royal guard using the Ma’Tok…it was a tough introduction for the Tau’ri. Given the abilities of the Tau’ri weaponry and the advanced nature of the alien weaponry technology, the US government was interested in acquiring the directed energy weaponry that is well beyond the current Terran technological understanding. When Apophis made his presence known to the Tau’ri in 1997, the US government was able to get some examples of Ma’Tok and present them to retried Jack O’Neil. Once the SG-1 team was formed, the Tau’ri would use Jaffa weaponry from time-to-time. The Jaffa snake pistol was used more, due to it stun abilities, than the Ma’Tok, due to its size.
What Does the Ma’Tok say about the Jaffa & the Goa’uld?
Every weapon tells a story about the society that produced it and along with when it was produced…and the Jaffa directed energy Ma’Tok staff weapon is no different. At times, style overtakes tactical considerations in weapons designs and a weapon purposefully designed to be more ritualistic in nature than effective on the battlefields that the Jaffa are deployed to across the Milky Way galaxy. Due to the Goa’uld sense of design and theater, their staff weapon was fashioned like a snake with technology culled from the Ancients, and the weapon design itself was a representation of their imperial religious nature. Members of the Tau’ri would associated the design of the staff to the ancient Egyptian culture. With all of this symbolism attached to the weapon, it would make sense that the Ma’Tok is symbolistic in its performance as a weapon. jack O’Neil stated famously the best summation of the Ma’Tok: “This is a weapon of terror. It’s made to intimidate the enemy.” The intimidation factor was applied to the fearsome abilities of the Jaffa staff weapon, the warriors themselves, and even the power of the Ma’Tok. However, when faced with the soldiers of the SG Teams armed with modern Terran weaponry, the limitations of the Jaffa staff directed-energy weapon were painfully shown. Despite this, the rebel and loyal Jaffa continued to use the Ma’Tok. When examining the Ma’Tok as a whole, the overall design and function demonstrates what the goal of the snake gods was and how they wanted to maintain their empire: through fear. That could be also extended to the incorporating of a melee function to the Ma’Tok. Smacking around the unwashed masses that offended the state imperial religion of the Goa’uld is another way of importing terror and submission…along with the cool armor worn by some of the Jaffa warriors
The Ma’Tok Variants
This is shorter variant of the Jaffa Ma’Tok comes from the religious heretics of the Jaffa Sodan and comes in at 52.5 inches long verse the standard seven feet length of the Jaffa Ma’Tok.
This Jaffa warrior woman is found in the web-series Stargate Origins and she customized her Ma’Tok that added a blade on it for use when she was acting as the right hand of Aset. Cool series.
This wooden Ma’Tok was used to train Jaffa warriors in the melee combat skills and carrying an Ma’Tok into battle. This would make the Bashaak a fancy quarterstaff.
–The Staff Cannon BFG
This crew-served directed energy weapon system that is a bridge between light artillery cannon and heavy machine gun. When used as field artilerry pieces, the staff cannon is mounted to a wheeled platform or a stand. These are also mounted on Goa’uld warships and even their Glider fighters. It “can” be a handheld weapon if you are Teal’c. These were first seen in the 1994 Stargate film on the Glider fighters.
The Ma’Tok Prop from the Film and the Series and the Ma’Tok in Toy Form
Stargate is longest running sci-fi television series in North America and the staff weapon has been there since the 1994 film. There are some differences between the film Ma’Tok and the TV Ma’Tok…however, there seems to be some confusion and misinformation out there. According to a few collectors, there were four “working” staff prop weapons on the set of the 1994 film and were run using compressed air to open the clamshell emitter head on the weapon. There more stunt and background staff weapons in the film. When the props arrived at the shoot location, one was broken, one did not function, leaving two that worked. Only one of the working prop staff weapons is known to exist and is in the hands of a collector. This idea that there was only one staff prop that opened, by either design or accident, is mentioned on many sites I found. So, the question begs itself…is there a difference between the Ma’Tok staffs from the TV series and the 1994 film? One being the size is an issue (that’s what she said) due to it being not standard across the various props. One of the props from the TV show is listed at the dimensions of 84.25″ × 7.09″ × 3.54. Another prop from the show was listed as 76 inches in length. One of the few hero props from the 1994 film is 7ft and 7 inches. These are all close in size, but not the same. Very interesting. During a search of Ma’Tok props, I came across a unfinished staff prop from the 1994 film and it appears close to some items seen in the excellent Patrick Tatopoulus concept art for the Horus guard.
It appears that this 1994 prop was a pre-production study staff before the final design. The description for the sale says that it is likely that the prop was never finished being “weaponized” by the production staff or the staff was going to be more magical than blaster like. For the 1994 film and the TV series, there was toys made by Hasbro and FWS will cover those in more depth in their own article because the 1994 toyline needs because it is very odd and very 90’s. Both the “Horus” and “Anubis” guard figures came with a form of the Ma’Tok. Later on, there were much better figures with the staff made for the Stargate: SG-1 TV series.
Staff Weapons in Science Fiction
Human fashioned weaponry from natural sources likely has an origin point well before the Homo line. One of the earliest non-rock weapons every used by people throughout the Homo line and before was likely long branch or piece of wood. This would evolve into the spear and this weapon could be used as a stabbing weapon or a melee weapon depending on the target. Given the easy of crafting of a staff-like weapon and it’s many uses in day-to-day activities, the staff became a common weapon of the people. Even today, old brooms, PVC pipe, and metal rods are used like staffs for playtime and urban street brawls. It makes sense that staff weapons of all times and designs would be added even if a blaster or laser sword is more sexy. To me, the addition of staff weapons in a science fiction setting is about the capitalization of the martial arts staff to a warrior character for the coolness factor. For Stargate, it was due to the Egyptian roots of the Goa’uld and others, like B5, did to up the coolness factor of a badass warrior-monk character.
Other Staff-Based Weapons in Sci-Fi
The Imperial Royal Guard SoroSuub Controller Force Pike from Star Wars
In 1983, the infamous royal guard of the Emperor was seen walking along side him and guarding his throne room. Unlike the blacks, greys, and whites of most imperial uniforms and armor, the red of the royal guard popped and I took notice. I owned several of the original action figures and I’ve always loved the look and mystical nature of the royal guard. Over the years, we’ve gotten more information on them and their secret society to the point of ruining the mystery behind them. One of the elements that has been mocked by fans over the years as been the royal guard staff weapon, often called a pike. The melee weapons of the original royal guard were enhanced for the elite Pretorian guard for the war-crime-level The Last Jedi. The reason for the pike in ROTJ was to have the royal guard look ceremonial and separate them from the Stormtrooper corps along with connecting them to the Jedi/Sith weapon choices…they were of two worlds and they walked in the shadows of the Dark Side of the Force.
While they do nearly nothing during the film besides stand and walk around, they did do something. In a deleted scene from the 3rd film, Moff Jerjerrod confronts Lord Vader and the Sith Lord Vader does take too kindly to be threated by a normal human and Force chokes the bitch. When this happens the Royal Guardmen rise their pikes to reveal that these pikes have an emitter on the tip of them. I decided to consult my copy of West End Games Star Wars Imperial Sourcebook from 1989. These were the SoroSuub Controller Force Pike 2 meters long and the Force Pike was used by stormtroopers, planetary patrols, bodyguards. These ranged in quality and ability due to the construction and wielder of the Force Pike, and naturally, the Royal Guardsmen were the expert users of the Force Pike.
The vibro-edged head of the Force Pike could be used to stun or even kill in conjunction with being used as a melee weapon. In the hands of the Royal Guard, the Force Pike was a deadly weapon and few that the training of the Mandalorian, the Jedi, or the Sith could stand toe-to-toe with them. Given that the Royal Guard appear in a Star Wars production, we know that there were toys of them…lots of them. I owned the original figure in 1983 and had it for years. The majority of Force Pikes in the package with the original ROTJ figure were bent and the pike had a handgrip for the figure. It wasn’t until better molding technology that we got better representations of the Force Pike seen in the film into plastic, like the 2016 Black Series 6inch figure (which is fucking awesome!).
The Anla’Shok Fighting Pike Denn’bok from Babylon 5
During the peak years for Babylon 5, we get the “cool character” in Ranger Marcus Cole in the episode “Matter of Honor”. He was British, was a warrior-monk that laid down some knowledge and beat-downs via his alien stick and had a death that made the teenager me cry. At times, B5 would overplay a theme, character, or event and the Anla’Shok were one of those elements. To capitalize on the cool element of the Rangers, they were heavily blended with the Jedi and a martial artist and that meant that these space rangers were given them a staff weapon. The weapon is a traditional Minbari weapon that goes back to the days of Valen and is called the “Denn’bok”. This weapon came from the non-Minbari weapon called “Barrken” from the insect Tak’cha race. When Valen had training with members of the Tak’cha race, the staff combat was folded into Minbari culture. With modern Minbari technology, the Denn’bok could be retraced into the palm of a hand and expended for combat up to 5 five long in a flash. Some of these pikes were very old and passed down in the Ranger community after a Ranger retired or died. Fans have reproduced the collapsed and extended staff weapon.
The Vulcan Lipra from Star Trek
One of the first melee weapons seen in the OG ST was the Vulcan Lipra from the critical 2nd season episode “Amok Time”. According the background of the franchise, the Lipra is a traditional Vulcan weapon that holds a special place in the Vulcan ancient history. Featuring a moon-shaped blade, a club, and a staff, the weapon became a part of ritual and tradition. It was actually used for combat as we witness in the last season of ST: ENT due to the conditions of The Forge. Due to the iconic scenes of Kirk and Spock fighting in “Amok Time”, the Lipra has gained a nearly legendary status in Trek franchise history despite it looking like a gardening tool. With it being a legendary weapon, it does pop up in other Star Trek works like Lower Decks.
The High Guard Force-Lance from Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda
During the time of the first Systems Commonwealth, the High Guard military force used an unusual weapon as their primary sidearm for all High Guard forces: the Force Lance (AKA F-Lance). Built a s an omni-weapon for many different tactical situations and environments, the Force Lance was marvel of the Systems Commonwealth. Designed to fire plasma-based directed energy charges or smart bullets known as “effectors”, the Force-Lance could engage targets in both lethal and non-lethal means. The Force Lance was a little over 11 inches in its most compact form (Mark 5 and Mark 6 units) and could extend up to 2 meters to act as a melee weapon with the directed-energy feature being still usable in the extended melee mode. Behind the scenes, the Force-Lance props were mocked by the actors and a number of penis/dildo jokes were exchanged about the Force-Lance design with star Kevin Sorbo saying repeatedly, “have seen my Force-Lance?”. I firmly believe that the Force Lance drew influence from the Ranger staff weapon from Babylon 5.
The DE Staff Weapon of the Linnarean Guard from ST:SNW “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach“
In the SNW episode “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach”, we are introduced to the Majalan system and the unique society that lives there and the role of one young boy in holding together the society: the First Servant. Protecting the First Servant is the Linnarean Guard. During an inspection of the Guard to uncover if there is a traitor among them, there is a fight by the traitor and we see their weapon in action. A beautiful staff weapon with a devastating directed energy blast that seems about to be wielded easily by the guard more so than other staff weapons on this list. Like most of ST:SNW, it was a very good episode.
The Staff of the MCP Guards from TRON
One of the standout films of the 1980s was 1982’s TRON from Disney due to its arresting use of computer technology and a story set with the digital realm. While a flop, it has become one of the symbols of a cult classic. In the film, the Master Control Program developed by Ed Dillinger is running one of the largest technology companies in the world: ENCOM. In the digital realm, the MCP is the overlord of the digital world and the programs serve him and his empire as it expands into other systems. One of the henchmen of the MCP is Sark and he commands an army of red-glowing security programs in cyberspace. These guards of the MCP digital empire are these heavily hooded and clothed in some sort of armor that glows red and their faces are rarely seen. In their heavily gloved hands is a pike or staff that glows and produces a shock to move programs from one area of the gaming grid to the other. These guards, the lowest in the MCP army, rely on terror and intimation rather than martial abelites as seen in their fights with Tron. These guard figures (called ‘warrior” for the toyline) from TRON were produced for the 1982 TOMY toyline, which I had all of them, and these “warriors” came with a staff. This was a glow-in-the-dark thin piece of yellowish plastic and it was mostly bent in the package. Odd toys.
Diana’s Staff Weapon from the Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon
From 1983-1985 CBS, Marvel, and Toei Animation made a bold experiment that is fondly remembered by us that watched back in the day: the D&D Animated TV series. One of the party members was a 14 year old African-American girl that was instructed in acrobatics and with the DM assigned her a weapon and skill set, she was given the glowing staff weapon that used magic to be expanded from a few inches when carried and could expand up to six feet. Throughout the show, Diana would use the staff in a variety of ways including as a melee weapon, throwing weapon, pole vaulting. It was one of the best weapons in the hands of the adventurers. While this example is outside of the military science fiction genre, I fondly remember this show and I wanted to include it.
Chirrut Imwe Staff Weapon from Star Wars: Rogue One
Among the cast of interesting characters in Rogue One was the Guardian of the Whills, Chirrut Imwe. One of the highly trained Guardians of the Whills on the moon of Jedha in the martial art of Zama-Shiwo. Unlike the similar Jedi, this warrior-monk possessed a flame-hardened uneti-wood staff that was just as deadly and allowed him to disarm a number of hapless stormtroopers. One of the cool elements of the staff was that there was a Kyber Crystal in the handle of the staff to allow for a light source and some harmonic abilities…this also tied him to his order and the Jedi. Given the film’s desire to have a warrior-monk that wasn’t a Jedi, the inclusion of a traditional weapon of Asian monks seemed the likely path and the character of Chirrut Imwe was gifted the staff.
The Staff Weapon of Jaylah from Star Trek Beyond
As many of you know, I am not a fan of the J.J. Abrams Nu-Trek series of films and their place in the wide world of Trek. I think that they are a waste of time and money for which we could have gotten canon-Trek works. In the mercifully last of the Nu-Trek films, Beyond, we get the alien female character of Jaylah and she carried a staff-energy rifle weapon throughout most of the film. The staff weapon was constructed while her family was marooned on Altamid. She was trained to use the weapon by her older sister Keelah and by a holodisk her sister made. This training came in handy when was alone and faced off the many salvagers and enemies on Altamid.
Rey’s Quarterstaff from the Star Wars Sequel trilogy
As I said above, I am not a fan of some of the new trilogies based on franchises from my 80’s childhood. The Sequel Trilogy was much like the Nu-Trek series of films was a waste of time, money, and effort by people who did not know what they were doing and what they were playing with. At the beginning of the new Star Wars films, we all had hope with The Force Awakens and then the idea fell badly apart. For much of Ray’s time onscreen, she has this odd looking staff and it is used to defend herself in the harsh environment of Jakku. It is likely that this staff is constructed from parts of the starship wreckage on Jakku and later the staff pieces and parts were used to construct the shell of Rey’s Lightsaber at the merciful conclusion of the shitty sequel trilogy. I was always impressed with the look and construction of the prop. It has been remade many times for the cosplay community from items found at a local hardware store. I always wondered if Daisy Ridley has one of the hero props in her possession.
Next Time on FWS…
In the inventories of all navies are the workhorses that deliver the mail, the ammunition, the fuel, the food, and the parts to the combat ships and the battlefields…they are the transport vessels. These are the lesser to the sexy battleships, dreadnoughts, cruisers, and frigates of the combat naval classifications, but they are just (if not more so) important to the war effort as those warships. In the realm of sci-fi, the transport vessel is one of the most used and famous. In the one of the last of the Ships of the Line series, we shall be exploring and explaining the assault ships, troop transports, and transports of science fiction . And yes, I will attempt to justify the inclusion of the Pillar of Autumn from HALO.