STARGATE SG-1: Looking Back at Season Three (Mania.com)
Date: Monday, July 10, 2000
With Showtime's recent broadcast of 'Nemesis,' Stargate SG-1's third season finale, we can now look back and evaluate one of the cable network's most successful, original science fiction television series, joining a club that includes The Outer Limits and Poltergeist: The Legacy. As you read these words, Stargate's fourth season is currently in production, and on April 24, 2000 Showtime and MGM announced they're renewing the series for a 5th season. All SG-1 fans everywhere can now cheer with excitement with the assurance that more adventures are yet to come.
Developed for television by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner, MGM's Stargate SG-1 is a continuation of the 1994 feature StarGate by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich. The series features a galactic landscape and has successfully assembled a diverse cast with strong characterizations and chemistry. The cast includes: Richard Dean Anderson as Col. Jack O'Neill, Michael Shanks as archaeologist Daniel Jackson, Amanda Tapping as Major Samantha Carter, Christopher Judge as the former Jaffa guard Teal'c, Don S. Davis as General Hammond (who's in charge of Stargate Command), and Teryl Rothery as Doctor Fraiser.
What else is the mark of success? How about worldwide distribution and, thus, an international audience? And how do those foreign states view these galactic adventures. Do they 'get it' when SG-1 steps through the Stargate and into new, often complex sci-fi adventures? Yes, since fan mail has rolled in from the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and France, not to mention the fact that Stargate SG-1 is presently seen in 65 countries or regions of the world including exotic spots like Argentina, Austria, Congo, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ivory Coast, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and even...the Vatican City. That's right. Bishops and possibly the Pope himself watches Stargate!
Wright, series co-developer, executive producer and writer, took some time out from production and sat down with Fandom to provide his thoughts on the series' progress during the past season. 'We tried to produce an entertaining season, and for the most part, we achieved that,' says Wright. What helps drive the series forward, he says, is a combination of two essential elements: action and characterization. As with any action-adventure series, these two elements must be carefully weighed and balanced to maintain budgets and viewer attention span. 'Big actions shows are costly, character driven shows are less so,' explains Wright. 'But I think both are necessary for the audience to become invested in our characters and series. Shoot 'em up episodes alone wouldn't keep an audience for very long.'
Building on plots and characters from the second season, this year's Stargate was opened wider for greater adventures. 'We created a series of new threads that we'll follow in seasons to come,' says Wright. 'The Tok'ra and the Asgard alien races are major players in our universe. Season three was a season of tying up loose ends: Skaara and Sha're in particular.'
Skaara, of course, was a young boy, a friend of Col. O'Neill's from his original visit to the Abydos planet (as seen in the feature and premiere episode 'Children of the Gods') where he had the fateful encounter with the sun god Ra. Skaara had been captured by Ra's rival, Apophis, and became possessed by Klorel, a Goa'uld. In the episode 'Pretense,' his final fate was resolved in a unique trial on the planet Tollana.
Sha're was Daniel's Abydonian wife, who was also kidnapped by Apophis and became possessed by a Goa'uld. But she was killed by Teal'c in 'Forever in a Day' just as she was about to murder Daniel. These plots not only resolved the fates of each character, but also progressed the overall series arc.
In the third season's 20th episode, 'Maternal Instinct,' the SG-1 team pursued a child that was born out of a relationship between Apophis and Sha're. This forbidden bastard child, who gains all the knowledge contained by its parent hosts, is called a Harsesis in Goa'uld society. As a result, a new Hitchcockian 'MacGuffin' has been thrown into the Stargate tapestry to be explored in future seasons.
During the second season episode 'Serpent's Song,' the team's most formidable enemy, Apophis, (actor Peter Williams) actually died in SGC's Infirmary. But Martouf had warned the SG team, 'Sokar has a sarcophagus. With it, he can revive Apophis and torture him forever.'
These events segued into two important mid-season episodes: 'Jolinar's Memories' and 'The Devil You Know.' These two epic stories pushed the SG-1 team into a hellish world to recover Major Carter's father, Jacob, (now co-habiting with Selmak, a Tok'ra Goa'uld) who had been kidnapped and brought there. Thanks to the Tok'ra, a resistance Goa'uld group, SG-1 traveled to the planet, armed with Jolinar's memories, (the only Goa'uld to escape from the planet) held inside Major Carter's mind. It was during this adventure when Apophis was reintroduced as an enemy not only to the SG team, but to his rival, Goa'uld Sokar.
Wright says that killing Apophis last season served as an opportunity 'to knock him down a few notches, so that he can rise up again as an even more deadly foe.' Wright feels these two episodes 'were extremely successful, especially when you consider the budget they were produced for. [Producer] Robert Cooper supervised and basically wrote both parts (having extensively re-written 'Jolinar's Memories') and did himself proud.'
Another episode that Wright was fond of was a light-hearted episode, 'Urgo,' in which actor/comedian Dom DeLuise, the father of actor/director Peter DeLuise, had a chance to play an alien who invaded the minds of the SG-1 team and tormented them to near-insanity by just being himself--hopelessly annoying.
'Urgo was something of a departure for our series, and was a joy to work on,' says Wright. 'Several of us polished and re-polished the draft, then Dom DeLuise put his own comic mark on it. It's fun.'
When it comes to actually filming the series, which is done at The Bridge Studios in a suburb of Vancouver, Canada, Wright acknowledges that all the actors are encouraged to contribute to their characters. 'Every one of our cast members knows my door is open,' says Wright. 'They don't hesitate to come in and speak their mind. After all, they have played an equally important role in the creation of their characters. We have read-thrus for every episode.'
In addition to being the star of the show, Anderson is also executive producer, and he contributes significantly to O'Neill's characterization and the series' progress. 'Richard continually reminds us to remain as credible as possible,' says Wright. 'It's his face up there on the screen, after all, not ours. Richard makes extensive script and editing notes as well. To be honest, I rarely have reason to argue with him. He's usually right.'
The creative process among the producers and story editors, according to Wright, is inherently a collaborative one, moreso than most fans may realize. 'Often, my best work comes from having to have something to shoot by the end of the week. I lock the door and type. Robert [Cooper, Executive Producer] or Jonathan [Glassner] or Michael Greenburg might have an idea that we spin as a group into a story and one of us writes it. Then either myself, Jonathan or Robert re-write it. The name on the screen is not always indicative of who did the lionshare of the writing for that episode.'
To catch quick glimpses of Wright's views over this past season, we asked him for his favorite elements or moments from various episodes.
Favorite Story: 'I liked the simplicity and intelligence of 'Learning Curve.''
Favorite Scene: 'I enjoyed writing the love scene between the alternate Carter and O'Neill in 'Point of View.' Amanda and Richard played it brilliantly.'
Favorite Line of Dialogue: 'From 'Urgo' when [actor Dom DeLuise playing Urgo] sees Togar: 'As handsome as he is evil!'
Favorite Action Sequence: 'I loved the night battle scene from 'Into the Fire,' but ultimately, the end of 'The Devil You Know' is dramatically superior.'
Loyal fans have been keeping up with Stargate on Showtime, but now that second season re-runs are in full swing in syndication, even more fans have the ability to follow the galactic adventures of the Stargate team. And in turn, the series producers are keeping track of online fans' chatter about the series.
'We lurk on the net in Dejanews and see how the audience reacts to certain episodes,' says Wright. 'In a way, it's made me feel less vulnerable to criticism. I've been called both a creative genius and pathetic hack for the same piece work on many occasions.' Wright says that what the audience seems to be responding to, and rightly so, are the characters. 'We have great characters, and the audience enjoys going on adventures with them.'
However, in spite of the enormous ability of the Internet to give fans a device to communicate with each other with tremendous ease--and allowing for celebrity and producer access via 'Chats'--actual dialogue is still a one-way street. Fans can't really influence or ask for elements to be included in a show. 'Since we've usually written more than half of the season before the first episode even airs, fans rarely influence where we're going,' says Wright. 'But we listen, and keep their comments in mind. Fans have successfully predicted where we're going, though.'
Looking ahead to the series' fourth season, currently in production, Wright holds his cards very close to his chest, not wanting to spoil things for the viewers, But he does say, 'We have half of the stories already written or in the process of being written. It's shaping up to be a great season. We have larger series 'plans,' but for the most part the series is driven by the stories we can come up with. Dangling threads do lead to other stories, though. We acknowledge what has come before.'
However, for those fans who can't wait until next season for any info, there is one piece of news available: Look for the series to introduce and develop a new recurring female character into the mythos, who'll be a Tok'ra named Anise. She'll be played by actress Vanessa Angel, who's most famous as Lisa in the Weird Science TV series.