If you thought Stargate SG-1 was getting on a bit, wait until you hear what's in store for the ninth season!
Executive producer Robert C Cooper introduces the new cast and a new direction for the series.
And now, to borrow a phrase, for something completely different. Explaining why Stargate SG-1 is regenerating for its staggering ninth year, showrunner, executive producer and truly fab writer Robert C Cooper quips, "They're paying me lots of money." It's a fair enough reason, but having witnessed a renewed sense of jollity, purpose and light around the Stargate set and offices, Cult Times just had to ask what the man was doing to earn his extra dosh.
"Well, I'm having to put up with Ben Browder and Claudia Black and Beau Bridges and Lou Gossett Jr and Michael Shanks and Christopher Judge and Amanda Tapping - it's hard! You've no idea." We have no sympathy, more like. They're a terrific bunch and, judging by what we saw during our visit, clearly get on like a house on fire, which all bodes well for Stargate's rip-roaring future.
"You want to know what really drew me back?" asks Cooper. "I got excited about the story. I got excited about reinventing the show and creating new bad guys. We've been talking about the Ancients for a long time and where they went to, but then we thought, 'What if they didn't come from here [Earth]'? What if they came from somewhere else and we find a way to go and communicate with them or the people they left behind in the galaxy far, far away and they're not quite the people we had hoped they were? What if they have a whole different philosophy and a whole different religion and they worship some Ascended Beings that are not quite as benevolent as our lovely Ancients?"
That's the premise of Stargate's on going journey and it's an idea that has sparked the imagination of the writers, designers and actors and continued through to every aspect of the production. Everyone we spoke with seemed to be throwing themselves into this latest season with renewed vigour. Naturally not everything is going to be brand spanking new, but Cooper is relishing the opportunity to bring a totally different perspective to the team's adventures. "I mean, the Goa'uld are sort of defeated, and they are going to be a thorn in our side from time to time, but we [the writers] felt like we had done all that story arc to death and it was time to really start afresh. Also, we were invigorated by Atlantis. We found that it was fun to write Atlantis and actually go forward instead of back. See, we'd been ending SG-1 for so long. We've been ending that show for three years and we were tired of writing endings. We were tired of writing 'The End' and wanted to write 'The Beginning'. So we started to write beginnings for the next stage of our journey and we are having a hoot."
Though the adventures are inspiring in themselves, the new cast members are adding to the magic. "Claudia Black has been a real injection of energy in the show and Ben Browder is just fantastic," enthuses the executive producer. "And quite frankly, the whole storyline revolves around Daniel Jackson, and Michael Shanks truly has never been better. He has risen to the occasion. We've challenged him and he's come through with flying colours." Mindful that he is the boss and has some decorum to maintain, Cooper begs, "Don't tell him that I said he was that good... He won't fit through the stargate." But we're putting it in print anyway because we like Mr Shanks.
Not that he needs much of a boost. He's got his own support system right there on set. His wife, Lexa Doig, has joined the personnel at the SGC, so it's good news all round. "Lexa actually auditioned. Can you believe it?" gasps Cooper. "I would have cast her if I had known she was interested but she came in and read and was head and shoulders above the rest. Now, in the show she is fantastic. She really is. She plays Dr Lam, a role where she gets to show a side of herself that she never really had the opportunity to show before, and," he adds, referring to the fact that the actress had to wear figure-hugging lycra for her roles in Andromeda, "is absolutely thrilled to be wearing cotton."
At the time of our visit, the gang is mid-way through the season opener, but asked which episodes we should be anticipating most, Cooper exclaims, "All of them! They're that good." Pushed for a little more detail, the man relents, "I wrote the opening three-parter. As usual I didn't set out to write a three-parter, I set out to write a two-parter and I am so darned long-winded that I got a third of the way through the first script and went, 'I got a three-parter here'. So I ended up writing the first three episodes that kind of set everything up. Then Joe Mallozzi and Paul Mullie [promoted to executive producers themselves this year] wrote a wonderful romp - an amusing trip through Vala's backstory - for the fourth episode. The fifth episode was written by Martin Gero, one of our writers on Atlantis, called The Powers That Be. It's very funny and ultimately very poignant and furthers the introduction of our new baddies, one of whom is played by Julian Sands. He's a wonderful, wonderful, creepy bad guy and he plays it beautifully. Then Brad Wright wrote Beach Head, which is a big Space Opera battle thing with some Goa'uld thrown in there for good measure. So it's very cool."
Teased that this year the production seems to have gone for a whole load of unknown actors - you know, the sort no one has heard of, Cooper responds with, "Yeah, well, they just kind of walked in and said, 'Can we be in your show?' and what can you do? You know what? It's been a treat. We sit there and kinda giggle and go, 'Hey look, there's Beau Bridges on our show,' and 'There's Lou Gossett Jr on our show'. How good can it get?"
Having beautiful Amanda Tapping back, we suggest. "Yep! We do!" he grins. "She's back with her beautiful baby in tow. Amanda looks amazing and everything is going well so far. We are delighted."
When we last saw all of the illustrious members of SG-1 they were quietly fishing at Jack O'Neill's cabin in Minnesota. Mr Cooper has refrained from spoiling how and when the various members of the team come back together, but with Carter he reveals, "She walks through the door. I mean that quite literally. She doesn't come through a stargate or anything dramatic like that. She just walks in the door." Surely she hasn't been off fishing the whole time?
"No!" scoffs Cooper, "She's been looking after Area 51 and she's been looking after a little personal commitment." Aha! 'Personal commitment!' Nudge nudge, wink wink. "I have to say," announces Mr Cooper, "that the segment of the fan base known as the 'shippers' may be a little disappointed with Season Nine because there isn't as much of that kind of thing going on. It's more like Seasons One and Two, with big adventures and a lot more story-based stuff. We do learn about our characters' personal lives but there's not a lot of romance going on between these characters. It's more serious business going on here. The galaxy is about to become a very dangerous place again and there's no time for all that romping around."
As if! Doesn't this man know that fans will see what they want and fanfic writers will fuel any fires? Let's face it, you can't have people like Ben Browder's character cavorting about in leather and Beau Bridges's character smouldering in the briefing room and not expect a bit of romance. "Well, there'll be some flirtation," laughs Cooper. "Hopefully not between Ben and Beau, but there will be some flirtation. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I don't want to be labelled as dissing any kind of lifestyle, but there will be some flirtation between some of the other characters."
Speaking of which, do we get to see General O'Neill again? "Of course we do," confirms Cooper, "Rick sticks his pretty mug in there for a couple of episodes." Told that under no circumstances am I using the phrase 'pretty mug' to describe Richard Dean Anderson, the executive producer suggests, "All right, put 'his handsome visage'." Continuing with his explanation, Cooper says, "Rick ventured up here for a couple of days to shoot some scenes for two episodes, although I'm not going to tell you whether he appears at the beginning, middle or end of the season. You're just going to have to wait and see. I can't tell you when because we want people to tune in."
Not that Cooper has any doubts that people will need the extra incentive to switch on and enjoy. "I think that Stargate Season Nine is more like a Season One of a new show and we're hoping that this ends talk of 'Will there be another season?' Judging from what we've been doing so far, I think this rejuvenated show could go on for another five years."
Speaking as a Stargate fan from the word go, this journalist would love to see another five years of the new Stargate. Having absorbed some of the energy of the last few weeks, it's my considered opinion there's every possibility of it becoming Stargate: The Regeneration. Woo hoo!
Cult Times Issue #117
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