After leading SG-1's exploration of the galaxy for seven years, Jack O'Neill is returning to Earth to take charge of the entire Stargate programme in season eight of Stargate SG-1. As the new season receives its UK TV debut on Sky One, Richard Dean Anderson tells Ian Spelling what his character's new assignment means for the series...
This time last year, few people would have expected, hoped or even dared to dream that it would happen. But an eighth season of Stargate SG-1 is currently deep in production in Vancouver, Canada - with Richard Dean Anderson in his regular role as Jack O'Neill.
"This is a season that wasn't necessarily supposed to happen," admits Anderson, who has gradually reduced his on-screen involvement in the show since the start of its sixth season, to spend more time with his six-year-old daughter, Wylie, back home in California. "But in talking with [series co-creator/executive producer] Brad Wright after the end of the seventh season, things changed. We had shot a last episode that could have served as an ending, anti-climatic as it may have been. I had to decide what to do and I had a domestic situation at home that I had to make sure was in order before I could agree to do an eighth season.
"I got everything in order and talked to Brad and said, 'You know, we should do this right. I don't think we did justice to the seven years. How do you feel about taking a running shot at a proper departure?' Hence, year eight!"
Season eight of Stargate SG-1 picks up where season seven left off, with O'Neill in cryogenic stasis following SG-1's battle against Anubis in the two-parter, Lost City. The new season begins with New Order, a two-parter which sees O'Neill taking command of the SGC as a Brigadier General, while his colleagues Lieutenant Colonel Sam Carter (Amanda Tapping), Dr Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) and Teal'c (Christopher Judge) continue to form SG-1. O'Neill's promotion represents a major format change, and was prompted by Anderson's reduced involvement in the series as an actor.
"O'Neill is a fish out of water in his new position," notes Anderson. "On paper, he really doesn't belong in a position of General. O'Neill would rather be a man of action than a man of great thought or great organisation. But he's embracing his new position as much as he can. I think it's worked for the show. The writers and I have found a way of keeping the character's quirks while he's become used to his new position."
One of the first episodes to explore the creative possibilities of O'Neill's new position as head of the SGC is Zero Hour. "I had fun shooting that," agrees Anderson. "This mole comes in and becomes O'Neill's executive assistant for a while, and during that time a lot of things happen, including a plant taking over the SGC and turning it into a jungle. It's a big test for O'Neill, but he passes with flying colours."
Before starting work on season eight of Stargate SG-1, Anderson and his co-star Michael Shanks reprised their roles as Jack O'Neill and Dr Daniel Jackson respectively in the opening episode of Stargate's spin-off series, Atlantis. Entitled Rising, the episode sees O'Neill sending Dr Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson), Commander John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) and the rest of the Atlantis team on their epic mission to the Pegasus galaxy.
"I had a ball doing Atlantis," recalls Anderson. "I had more fun than anybody on that. I got to ride around in a helicopter for 10 hours. We shot the episode's opening sequence up on a glacier. We're being chased by some alien drone thing through the air.
"Flying in a helicopter is one of the perks of the job, and the environmentalist in me loved to see the glaciers. It really was great."
Closing the Gate
From the start of shooting Stargate SG-1's latest year, Anderson has felt that season eight would conclude Jack O'Neill's weekly TV adventures. And he confirms that he's been asked by the series' head writer/executive producer, Robert C. Cooper, if he had any thoughts on how he would like O'Neill's adventures to end.
"The one thing he really did want me to give some thought to was how we're going to resolve the O'Neill-Carter relationship," he reveals. "What on Earth do we do - or rather, what not on Earth do we do? I said, 'I can't quite answer that.' As I understand is she's got a guy right now. She's got Pete [Shanahan, Sam's new recurring love interest played by David DeLuise]. But Robert asked me to give it some thought.
"Personally, I'm open to suggestions. I don't know what Robert has in mind for the end, but I'm happy to listen to what the writers want for the O'Neill-Carter relationship and even O'Neill."
While Richard Dean Anderson has been approaching season eight as the final year of Stargate SG-1, he readily admits that he thought season seven would be the end. And he also acknowledges that there's more than a distinct possibility that the show will continue into a ninth season. But if Stargate SG-1 does return for another year of adventures, he has yet to decide if he will be back as Jack O'Neill.
"I don't know what the scenario would need to be in order for me to stay connected to the franchise," he states. "I'm going to sound like David Duchovny, but I feel I'll have to stay in California to lovingly accommodate the needs of my daughter, her development, growing up and her school. I need to be here and accessible. But I won't rule anything out.
"I'm not sure there's going to be a ninth season anyway, although it's been made pretty clear that Stargate is one of those series that could go on forever. It's performing phenomenally for the Sci Fi Channel here in the States. They're ecstatic with the performance of the show and I do think that it could go on virtually forever. We've got some pretty dynamic minds who are putting the show together. I just don't know how much longer I'll be on the show. I like relaxing right now and I'm easing myself into a state of mind that has me not working next season. But we'll see what happens."
Dreamwatch Issue 22
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