Analyses of physical processes which initiate electrical breakdown and spatial stabilization of current and control it with a photosensitive cathode in a semiconductor gas discharge system (SGDS) are carried out in a wide pressure range up to atmospheric pressure p, interelectrode distance d and diameter D of the electrode areas of the semiconductor cathode. The study compares the breakdown and stability curves of the gas discharge in the planar SGDS where the discharge gap is filled with hydrogen and air in two cases. The impact of the ionizing component of the discharge plasma on the control of the stable operation of the planar SGDS is also investigated at atmospheric pressure. The loss of stability is primarily due to modification of the semiconductor-cathode properties on the interaction with low-energy hydrogen ions and the formation of a space charge of positive ions in the discharge gap which changes the discharge from Townsend to glow type. The experimental results show that the discharge current in H(2) is more stable than in air. The breakdown voltages are measured for H2 and air with parallel-plane electrodes, for pressures between 28 and 760 Torr. The effective secondary electron emission (SEE) coefficient is then determined from the breakdown voltage results and compared with the experimental results. The influence of the SEE coefficient is stated in terms of the differences between the experimental breakdown law.