The world's greatest team of Gate-crashing explorers has a new leader in the eighth season on Stargate SG-1.
The show's leading lady, Amanda Tapping, talks to Sharon Gosling about Sam Carter's promotion...
Amanda Tapping is truly going to be a commanding presence in the latest year of Stargate SG1. Season eight sees Tapping's Stargate alter ego, Samantha Carter, assuming the leadership of the legendary SG-1 team, following the appointment of Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) as the head of Stargate Command. And Tapping is thrilled with her character's new role in the series.
"Carter gets promoted to Lieutenant Colonel," explains the ever-bubbly actress. "She gets to go out and lead missions. I think it's played right," she notes. "I wanted to see Carter take a leadership role where she didn't mess up, but where she handled the responsibility well and it wasn't about her being a woman. It was just about Carter being ready for this role."
Carter and O'Neill's new functions represent a radical change for Stargate SG-1, and were prompted by Richard Dean Anderson's reduced involvement in the long-running sci-fi series. After deciding to place Anderson's character, Jack O'Neill, in charge of the SGC as a way of dealing with his reduced availability, the show's producers elected to appoint his former right-hand woman, Sam Carter, as the leader of SG-1, which becomes a three-person team in O'Neill's absence. Although from a technical perspective neither Dr Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) and Teal'c (Christopher Judge) are actually members of Earth's military, Tapping reports that Carter does still get to exercise the power of her new role, both with SG-1 and other SG teams.
"The way I'm choosing to play it is that Carter may be in charge of SG-1 and of the other units that come out with them, but she still very much defers to the expertise of the people around her," explains Tapping. "She's still very much aware that Daniel's got this expertise and Teal'c's got that expertise, so she's not bossing the guys around!
"We never go out alone, we always take another SG unit with us, so she does get to do the Lieutenant Colonel bit. But she's just planning the missions and saying, 'OK, you guys go here, you guys go there and the three of us are off here.'"
The idea of SG-1 without Jack O'Neill in command might worry some viewers, but Tapping feels that it opens up some exciting new possibilities for the show. She's also keen to point out that the character remains an integral part of the series and hasn't disappeared from all off-world duties - after all, there's a spare place on SG-1 for the occasions when General O'Neill wants to accompany his old team through the 'gate.
"Logistically, it made more sense to have Rick become General O'Neill," she notes. "I think in terms of ease of filming around Rick's schedule, it works better. O'Neill is still capable of coming out on missions with us if he so chooses, so he's still very much a part of the show. When the four of us are together it feels exactly the same.
"It just means that Chris, Michael and I are getting a bit more screen time, and that we're going out on missions without O'Neill. Fans got very freaked out that perhaps O'Neill wasn't going to be as big a part of the show, but O'Neill is still very much a part of Stargate SG-1."
The new team dynamic of SG-1 isn't the only aspect of season eight that Tapping is excited about. She's also been thrilled by the renewed involvement of an old foe.
"There's a really interesting development with the Replicators," she says. "They come back in a big way, and I'm not entirely sure what's going on there, but I know that there's a script coming up that addresses that. The way we ended one of the episodes was very much like, 'Oooh! My goodness, what will happen here?'"
Tapping also reveals that season eight will see the return of Pete Shanahan (David DeLuise), Carter's first ongoing love interest since the series' beginning. "There are some interesting developments in terms of Pete," she notes. "To be honest, at first I balked at them. I said, 'Oh, I don't know about this...', because I just didn't think that Carter would go that way. There were some decisions to be made that I just thought she wouldn't do."
When asked if the new season will see Carter becoming engaged to Pete, Tapping becomes coy. "You'll see," she replies. "It's not all set in stone.
"I love Pete, and I love the fact that Pete has brought out this side of Carter that has been basically dormant for seven years, or has only been hinted at with an obvious attraction to O'Neill," she continues. "You now get to see Carter explore the ability to love, which I think has opened up her character in a great way."
While discussing the men in Carter's life, Tapping is reminded of her early discussions with the show's producers about how season eight would pan out. "When they asked me, 'What do you want to see?' I said, 'If this really is the last season, let's have her go fishing with O'Neill at the end. It can be totally ambiguous! It doesn't have to mean anything - it could mean everything, who knows, but, Goddamnit, can she just go fishing with the guy?' I said that half-jokingly, but a part of me really would like to see her go fishing with O'Neill, because I think that still needs to be tied up.
"In [the season seven episode] Grace, Carter realised that in order to fulfil the potential of her life outside the SGC, she had to move on. So she's made that decision - but never addressed where O'Neill really stood."
Tapping's other ambitions for season eight include a return behind the camera, following her acclaimed directorial debut with the seventh season episode Resurrection. "I don't know if I am going to direct this season, but there's still a spot open on the schedule which I'm pushing for. The hard part is that we're shooting two or three episodes at a time, so it's difficult to schedule prep, which is one of the most important aspects of directing an episode."
Reflecting on her first Stargate directorial assignment, Tapping considers it to be one of the highlights of her time on the show, and was delighted with how her episode turned out. "It went great," she states. "There wasn't a lot of prep and that was difficult, but having said that it was still a phenomenal experience. I wouldn't trade if or anything, and in fact maybe not having so much prep was great. I did a lot of work on weekends, so I was fully prepared. Sure it was stressful, but what an experience!
"I was thrilled, and when the show wrapped and we'd edited it, I felt stronger and more vibrant that I'd ever felt. I thought I'd just want to collapse, but I didn't. Well I did, but I felt great!" she chuckles. "Directing is something that's a career path - it's obviously not something that's just on this show."
Stargate SG-1's eighth season is currently in production in Vancouver, Canada, alongside its first live-action spin-off, Stargate Atlantis. Tapping reports that the show's cast are working side by side in perfect harmony, apart from the odd moment of confusion caused by the close quarters that the two shows film in.
"It hasn't affected production at all, aside from the fact that they've taken over one of our stages, and when you're standing outside the studio doors and the light's flashing, you're not sure which show is rolling!," she notes. "That took a bit of getting used to. But the casts of both shows get along really well, so it's nice to see them around."
Following cameo appearances by Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks in Atlantis' opening adventure, Rising, the new show has recently played host to another popular actor from its parent show - namely Don S. Davis, who commanded the SGC as General Hammond during Stargate SG-1's opening seven years. Tapping makes no secret of the fact that she misses working with Davis on a daily basis.
"I have to be honest with you, it's very sad. I'm a good friend of Don and his wife. We hang out together all the time, but to see him walk on set and to be on the lot and know he's not here as much as we'd like is sad. He's so loved on this show.
"But he is apparently going to be doing an episode or two of SG-1," she reveals. "That's fantastic."
Although it's been widely speculated that Stargate Atlantis will become the only Stargate show in production next year, Tapping admits that Stargate SG-1's conclusion at the end of season eight is by no means certain. After all, ever since season five the series has looked to be on the brink of concluding, only to be continued by popular demand.
"Every single year there have been rumours about the show going on, and we've said, 'No, no, no!'" notes Tapping. "And every single year we've looked like idiots because it's not been the end! So we've learned to just say, 'We don't know', which is absolutely true.
"Who knows? If it is the end, then what a great ride! But if it's not then that's great too!"
If the end truly is night for Stargate this time, Amanda Tapping is bracing herself for the process of seeking new job assignments. But, she admits, that will be straightforward compared to the prospect of saying goodbye to SG-1 after her lengthy tour of the cosmos.
"It's very daunting," she states. "Once I'm able to say goodbye to these people and this place and this family, then it's the logistics of getting back out there, pounding the pavement and auditioning. But the thing that's going to be harder for me than doing that is saying goodbye to Stargate.
"Although I keep getting told that this isn't necessarily goodbye," she reveals. "There are possibilities for move-of-the-week and crossovers onto Stargate Atlantis - you know, the occasional time when they mess up and Carter has to fix it, as she does! So there are doors open all over the place. It won't necessarily be a definitive goodbye."
Dreamwatch Issue 120
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