Play it Again, Sam

From Dreamwatch magazine, issue 106.

Back on duty for a seventh season, STARGATE SG-1 star AMANDA TAPPING - alias Samantha Carter - is stepping behind the camera. Words: Ian Spelling.

Stargate SG-1 just won't die. When the US Sci Fi Channel picked up the veteran SF show after five seasons on the cable network Showtime, everyone expected that it was merely a one-year reprieve. Yet Stargate confounded all expectations, garnering stellar ratings and earning itself a seventh year and a second on Sci Fi, which had just taken an extremely controversial axe to its signature show, Farscape.

Amanda Tapping, Richard Dean Anderson and Christopher Judge have been with the show since the get-go in 1997, and Tapping acknowledges that Stargate's renewal is a "weird double-edged sword" for her and probably everyone else involved with the series. "We all really love doing the show," says the actress, who plays Dr. Samantha Carter. "So there's this part of me that's thinking, 'Well, if we're having so much fun, and the writing is so good and people are liking the work, why leave?' But then the actor in you goes, 'I have to do something different. I need to wear something other than Army boots.' But it's just too good a gig to leave. I'm still enjoying myself. And once they agreed to let me direct an episode I was like,'Woo-hoo! I'm back!'"

Back at the Front

When new episodes of Stargate begin airing in the US this summer, they'll feature Michael Shanks back in his role as Daniel Jackson. The beloved character exited during season five, ascending to a higher state of being, but he turned up a few times in season six. Now he'll rejoin the SG-1 team on a full-time basis, leaving the status of his replacement, Jonas Quinn (Corin Nemec), in flux. It's a somewhat bizarre situation, as Shanks departed very publicly, having stated he felt under-utilised and under-appreciated.

"I understand why he left," Tapping responds. "It was a very personal decision for him. It wasn't really my place or anyone else's to question it. We sort of said, 'OK, if that's where your head is at, then that's where you have got to be.' We had to respect his decision. That's all I really can say about it. He made a very strong stand and made a decision, and we had to respect it.

"I was pleased with the way he was written out of the show because it left the door open for him to come back. And now he is back, so that worked out well. I don't know yet how we're going to explain his return. We've been joking about it on the set. We keep saying to Michael, 'Have you unascended? Have you descended? What have you done? What's happened to you?'"

Shanks exited for a while. Judge has acknowledged that he also nearly left at various points over the years. Anderson needed to be convinced to sign up for a seventh year. Tapping already explained why she chose to re-enlist for season seven, but one has to wonder if she ever felt compelled to retire her fatigues anywhere along the way.

"I think there's always a question," she admits. "You always ask the questions, 'What else is out there? What else should I be doing? What am I missing out on?' There's a great old quote: 'How do you get an actor to complain? Give him a job.' That's kind of crazy, but it's true. Whenever you start working, you think, 'Oh my God, I wish I wasn't doing that I could be doing that.' But with Stargate, I just have to reiterate that it's such a fantastic gig to work on and so much fun that even if there have been those moments as an actor when I thought, 'OK, I've got to do something different. I've got to move on. I've got to creatively challenge myself.' Those moments didn't last a long time. Just as I'd start to think like that the writers would come up with something great for Carter or I'd walk on set and there would be the Stargate family and I'd think, 'No, this is exactly where I should be right now.'"

Seven Up

Right now, production on season seven has just begun. Year six had been unusually light for Carter, who helped move stories forward but was rarely the centre of attention. Much of the season was given over to weaving Jonas into the action.

"I think that bringing in this new character was the right thing to do and I think it really worked for us, for the show," says Tapping. "In a lot of ways, introducing this new character after Daniel left shone a mirror on the relationships between the rest of the characters on SG-1 and also the characters on the base. It forced everyone to take a good, hard look at each other and the relationships and to realise that we can't take them for granted. The presence of Jonas did change the dynamic of the team but in a good way because it actually made the characters closer. And Corin is a classy guy. I think he handled it really well. I would hate to have been in his position, having to come in and fill those shoes."

The season finale Full Circle brought the show, erm... full circle. "The final episode was huge," she enthuses. "It had a lot of big effects and a lot of big explosives and a lot of gunplay- [it was] very exciting. There was also that very exciting story twist at the end of it that I think will carry through for all of season seven. It'll become SG-1's quest.

"Full Circle was shot before we knew we were coming back. So that's the episode that could have been the bridge to the [proposed] Stargate film, but it really wasn't the episode that was [to be] the bridge to the film, so that's why we all thought, 'We have to come back because we haven't really finished here yet.' It's a great episode. When we finished it and we were walking away towards the Stargate at the very end of the episode, we thought, 'Oh, wow, guys, this could be it. This could be our last walk to the Stargate.' As you watch it, the camera is on our backs and it's a big, wide shot of us walking away. Rick [Anderson, O'Neill] made some comment about, 'Should we be singing or skipping?'"

The Fantastic SG-Four

Tapping is both revealing and secretive when it comes to season seven developments. The season will kick off with a two-part story, Fallen and Homecoming, which heralds the return of Jackson and pits Jonas against alien forces that threaten Kelowna. Beyond that, the show's producers have hinted that subsequent hours might include a visit from Carter's father, General Jacob Carter (Carmen Argenziano), and explore Carter's so-called 'Black Widow' Syndrome, addressing why so many of her would-be romantic interests die.

"Bringing Daniel back and returning to that old team dynamic should be very exciting to watch," says the actress, who is pleased to be directing an upcoming Stargate, probably episode 14. "What I think season seven will do is bring us back to where we started in a lot ways. I hope there will be a lot more group episodes where we'll focus on the entire team and what's happening to this unit. I think that's where Stargate excels, in the relationships these people have and how they play out. I think that's what the fans enjoy about the show."

Eventually, Stargate will close up shop. What the future will hold then, Tapping doesn't know, but she's clearly given it some serious thought. "I do want to do more directing," she says. "That's something I wanted to do for a very long time, even before Stargate. So I'll keep pursuing that. I think I'll definitely keep a place down in L.A. and work with my managers there and try to get work in the States.

"As an actor you don't have a huge control over what happens in your career. If a job comes along and it's really good, you take it. That's what happened to me with Stargate. Who knew I'd spend seven years on a SF show? When I left theatre school, if someone had said to me, 'You're going to spend seven years on a SF show,' I would have laughed them off the playground. But here I am nearly seven years later saying, 'Wow, I never expected that to happen.' So I can't say now what I think will happen because I just don't know. I could end up on another series for seven years, and that would be fine, too, if it's as good an experience as Stargate has been.

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