An oral history of Stargate SG-1: The show that surpassed its inspiration to spark an unforgettable franchise

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Feb 23, 2018

In the summer of 1997, a new science fiction series aired on Showtime called Stargate SG-1. It was based on a movie from three years earlier but greatly expanded on the ideas that film introduced. Stargate SG-1 followed a group of people who, as part of a program with the U.S. Air Force, traveled through the Stargate device to visit other planets, encounter aliens, and find ways to defend Earth against the evil Goa'uld.

The concept of the Stargate opened up endless possibilities for where the show could go and, thanks to a combination of fascinating stories and an amazing cast, it became a great success. Stargate SG-1 lasted for 10 seasons and for a while held the title of longest running science fiction series in North America. It inspired the creation of two spinoff shows, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe, and was continued in two straight-to-DVD movies, Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum. When Universe ended in 2011, things went quiet on the Stargate front. That is, until the new streaming platform Stargate Command launched Stargate Origins in February 2018.

With the debut of Origins and SG-1 having recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its premiere, SYFY WIRE decided to revisit the TV series that inspired a vast sci-fi universe. Through separate phone interviews with cast and crew, we go back through the gate to take a look at SG-1.

From Movie to TV Show

The film Stargate, created by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, premiered in 1994.

Brad Wright (co-creator and executive producer): I was working for MGM on a show called The Outer Limits. I was in Season 2 of that and enjoying the gig and having a good relationship with MGM. When the feature film came out I watched it like many others and thought to myself "this would make a far better television series than it did even as a movie because of the possibilities."

Jon Glassner, who was a co-executive producer with me on The Outer Limits had the same idea and we got along really well especially when I wrote and he directed an episode. MGM said, "how do you guys feel about being partners?" which was a fabulous opportunity. The only downside was they wanted us also to continue to do The Outer Limits, so we did. Jon and I — out of one large studio in Canada, Bridge Studios — went back and forth between two shows for the first two seasons and, somehow, we got it done.

Jonathan Glassner (co-creator, executive producer Seasons 1 to 3): I was doing The Outer Limits for MGM at the time and I kept wanting to leave and go home because I'm from L.A. and we were shooting in Vancouver. They finally said to me, "what would it take to get you to stay?" I, thinking that this was a long shot and never going to happen, said "you have this movie... [that] lent itself better to being a series than it did a movie…if you let me do Stargate as a series I'd be willing to stay."

The president of MGM said, "I don't think that can happen, but let me look into it" and then he came back two weeks later and said sure. Brad had apparently asked about the same thing so they said, "do mind doing it together?" and we said, "no, not at all." The rest is history, as they say...

Brad and I spent three months literally studying the movie and saying well, there are all these symbols. Why does it only lead to one place? It's got to lead to other places. How do we solve that? What was Ra? How does the gate work? How do people get home from places where the gate is? We had to figure out all the mechanics of it.

Wright: In the movie, the Stargate went to Abydos, where Daniel stayed. My pitch to Showtime and MGM was that it should have a sense of the early NASA program. These teams going through the gate are explorers. They're like the early astronaut program and were completely outgunned and outmatched by these bad guys, who we expanded so Ra became one of these aliens that we called the Goa'uld.

Glassner: One of the things we were very cognizant of was we didn't want to be doing Star Trek. We were cognizant of the idea that the show was set today, not in the future. We have limited technology and knowledge and so we're discovering all this stuff with the audience instead of having scanners that tell us everything. That was our big thing that helped because it gave us a lot of the humor and the danger and the fun.

The show needed a talented team behind the camera and in front of it. Its connection to the movie added another layer to casting since some characters would be returning, but with new faces.

Robert C. Cooper (writer, co-executive producer Season 4, executive producer Seasons 5 to 10): Prior to the pilot, my agent approached me. I knew Jonathan and Brad were looking for writers for their staff. I flew out to Vancouver to meet with them and pitch them ideas. In fact, I think I struck out on almost everything I pitched them except for one last throwaway idea I had that was kind of a one-liner. I think I remember Jonathan writing in his notebook finally after having watched him sort of sit there and not respond for the better part of the pitch. They later told me they were very impressed with the fact that I had flown out from Toronto to meet with them in person…They ended up buying that idea and asked me to write a script. I started with an outline and based on the outline they decided to bring me on in a very sort of incrementally temporary basis — like an audition basically to be in the room. This was all prior to shooting the pilot.

Glassner: We knew we wanted Daniel and Jack to come back on the show. We knew we needed more characters beyond that so we created Teal'c as a way to explain the Goa'uld and the Jaffa and I was adamant we have a strong female character, which is why Carter was created.

Paul Weber (casting director): I was lucky enough to be working at MGM since 1995 when I started over there... I was basically attached to the casting team of this from the inception and I think I was just lucky.

Wright: John Symes, who was president of MGM television at the time, had a relationship with Rick from the Macgyver days when he was at Paramount. He basically just said, "you know when you have a strong star at the center of your show it's going to really help bring viewers, especially for the first time to your series." He mentioned Rick and in a way that we were talking about the character, it was such a natural yes. I remember very vividly looking at each other and went he'd be great!

Michael Greenburg (executive producer Seasons 1 to 8): Rick and I did MacGyver together at Paramount. After MacGyver wrapped, we did some TV movies and a series called Legend. Richard Dean Anderson and I are production partners with Gekko Film and we've done everything together. We kept moving from project to project.

After Legend was canceled, we're in L.A. thinking about what we're going to do next and I think we just finished a television movie. John Symes, who was our vice president at Paramount when doing MacGyver, called me and asked if I was familiar with the movie Stargate, which I was. He said because we own it and we want to make it into a television series. Would Rick and I be interested? Mainly Rick, of course, to play the Kurt Russell role.

I said I can ask him, but the Kurt Russell portrayal of O'Neill was a strict military guy with a crewcut and all that and I said, "don't hold your breath or hold out hope, but I'll run it by him." I think we were in the office together and I said, "Symes called and wanted to know if we're interested in doing Stargate as a series." Rick said, "I haven't seen it," so he watched it and called me from home and said, "forget it, no way. I can't play that character…"

Michael Greenburg and Richard Dean Anderson on the Stargate SG-1 set. Photo from Michael Greenburg.

Rick just didn't think he could do that character justice for a long run, basically. I called Symes back and told him Rick wasn't interested because of his concern about playing that kind of character. Symes said, "tell Rick he can do whatever he wants with the character and also I have a 44-episode commitment from Showtime." So I called Rick back and said, "okay, well, I told him you weren't interested and he said you could do anything you want with the character and it's a 44 episode guarantee from Showtime," and Rick said he'd do it. That started our creative process on Stargate. They married us to Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner who were writing the pilot episode. Our company Gekko Film Corp. and their company Double Secret, they joined us at the hip to make the series.

Wright: We set up a meeting and we met with Richard Dean Anderson and we had a script in hand at that point and he liked the funny parts. I wrote a line in the pilot that he pointed to as what he saw as the character. When he says to Teal'c at the end "come on" because Teal'c helps free them. Teal'c says, "I have nowhere to go" and O'Neill says, "for this, you can stay at my place!" Which was exactly the sweet spot for Richard Dean Anderson. Yes, he's doing an action scene. Yes, it's dramatic and fun, but there's still humor in there and that's why we got along so well for so many years. We shared that sensibility that the show should be as fun as it is dramatic.

 

Greenburg: I was the executive producer who was on the set 24/7… I had a limited role in the actual writing, but I gave notes on every story treatment and every draft of every script. Rick and I would give our notes, but as far as the layout of the matrix of stories and arcs that would be Brad and Jonathan's arena and the writing staff. Rick and I were more quality control on the set and making sure all the visions got realized in the best possible way.

Weber: We were shooting in Canada so we needed to cast a number of the leads out of Canada. It was just a requirement of the show. For us, it was really about finding actors who were a bit reminiscent in terms of original casting from the movie and yet original at the same time. An example of that is the actor Michael Shanks, who reminded the producers of James Spader. There was kind of an appetite to bring a show that felt like it was almost the next generation of the movie and create something that was familiar and yet original. I think our casting was colored by that, as well. Then, of course, there were new and original characters that we were given a wide berth to just look for the best actors.

The challenge of a show like this is, this was an era in television when series were greenlit into 20 or 22 episodes a season. This particular series did not have a pilot and then had to be decided on by a network or studio as to whether it was going to get a pickup or not. We had a pick up for episodes so we had to get it right at the beginning in terms of the casting. We didn't have the luxury of recasting a pilot so we needed to try to find actors that could grow into characters that could potentially go seven to 10 seasons, which is what Stargate did. There were some cast changes along the way and additions, but it had to start with that core chemistry and as part of that team I feel that we got that right.

Cooper: I remember being at the read-through of the pilot, which was pretty thrilling. Then shortly after I delivered my first script, they picked up my deal and I was brought on for the rest of the season. I think my credit for Season 1 was executive story editor. I didn't have a whole lot of experience in television before. I'd only worked on one other show on staff, but from there I worked my way up. I think I ended up getting a co-producer credit within the first season.

The Actors

The SG-1 team would become Richard Dean Anderson as Jack O'Neill, Amanda Tapping as Samantha Carter, Christopher Judge as Teal'c, and Michael Shanks as Daniel Jackson. They would be surrounded by a large number of actors in key recurring and guest roles.

Christopher Judge (Teal'c): I was at my best friend's house and his roommate was going over a line. I heard him go over it and this was at a point where I was auditioning for guy number two and things like that. I started perusing through the script and it was a Stargate audition piece. I called my agent right then and said, "get me in on this or I'm leaving." So they did and two days later I had an audition… I was a big fan of the movie.

It was strange. When we were there for the screen test, Michael, Amanda, and I just kind of gravitated towards each other and we started talking and really hit it off… When we got there and we saw we had all gotten the role, it was kind of like we had a running start. It was very easy. It was weird. It wasn't forced. We just started hanging out and it was the most natural thing in the world. We just had an instant chemistry.

Gary Jones (Chief Master Sergeant Walter Harriman): I was told by my agent to audition and she said there's a possibility that this part, the technician, might recur... she said, "watch the movie and look for this guy who is like a computer genius in a Hawaiian shirt who was hired by the Air Force but not really working for the military." They said that's sort of the character you'll be playing… With Stargate SG-1 they hadn't shot anything yet, this was auditioning for the pilot, so I didn't know what the tone was going to be or who was going to be in it. They just said watch the movie to get an idea of what this thing's about. Then I got some sides and all it was, was me saying chevron one encoded, chevron two encoded, all the way up to then chevron seven locked. I had no idea what a chevron was. I was going to audition for this show and I didn't really know what I was saying, but I tried to make sense of it.

It was like reading a grocery list, but any actor will tell you when you go into an audition you have to bring something, go in with something.

I thought, well I'm a comedian, that's what I'm known for, so I'll make it funny. I didn't know how that would go. That's the only thing I could think of. I've got to make something of this otherwise I'm just listing off these chevrons.

So I go in and it turns out that the director of the pilot was a guy who had just directed me about a month prior. His name was Mario Azzopardi and when I went in there he looked at me and went, "you'd be perfect for this." I was like, "this is going well. The director already knows me, that's a good sign."

I read the part and I'm just sounding sarcastic and by the time I get to chevron seven I sound like Jerry Lewis. I tell other actors about this and they can't believe that I made that choice, but I didn't know what else to do. I look over and Brad Wright and the other producers are killing themselves laughing because I was like an idiot and I didn't really know if I'd done the right thing but then I got a callback and they said it's only you so I was like okay. I did the callback and then waited and waited and then I got cast.

Air Force Involvement

The original film set up the inclusion of the military in the story of the Stargate and that continued in SG-1. The real U.S. military was involved with the series as a result and became a valuable collaborator for the franchise.

Wright: Whenever you do a show about the U.S. military and you ask permission, they say, well, okay, you can represent us, but we want you to do it correctly. We want officers that were being represented to be properly represented. For example, we did a bunch of things wrong early on like wearing hats indoors and dress uniforms for no reason and a whole bunch of stuff that wardrobe comes in and you go, "yeah, that's cool," but they had very strict protocols and they do things a certain way. In order to get access to things that they're offering you they basically say, "okay you can shoot Cheyenne Mountain as an Air Force facility as your secret location for the Stargate program, but we want to read every script and train the actors to behave the way Air Force officers do."

We said we want to do it right and they flew up people to show us how to salute, how to wear hats, hold a gun in certain situations, how to behave as an Air Force officer and all through the show we had different liaisons and they were all great people.

Glassner: The U.S. Air Force let us shoot at NORAD in the mountain and the outside of the mountain. They provided us weapons and uniforms, but they had script approval to make sure we weren't doing anything that made them look bad. We had a few interesting arguments, but overall, they were a great help.

Cooper: For the most part they were hugely supportive. They were thrilled to be a part of the show and kind of almost use the show as a bit of a recruitment tool, like look how cool we are. We often heard from the other military branches that they were maybe a bit jealous.

I know the Air Force took a lot of pride in it and there were some amazing stories like we used to go down and shoot exteriors at the real Cheyenne Mountain base. They took us around on a tour [and] there's a door in the back that says "Top Secret Stargate." They really embraced it.

 

Wright: The relationship grew to the point where they were offering stuff up like, "we're doing this flight at Sheppard Air Force Base. Would any of your directors or performers like to come and meet some of our people and fly in a jet?" I signed up for that... They provided us with a C-130 Hercules to shoot in when we needed an Air Force plane and it went on and on. [In] my Stargate Continuum movie that I made, the Air Force flew up some F15s and allowed us to shoot scenes in the cockpit. It was a great collaboration and the Air Force appreciated it too.

Not one but two Air Force Chiefs of Staff played the role of Air Force Chief of Staff in scenes in SG-1, which I thought was hilarious. These are very powerful men, but they knew that the show made the Air Force and the people who worked in it look good because they're saving the galaxy as well as serving as members of the forces, so we took advantage of a great relationship and they appreciated it.

Cooper: When General Jumper took over from [General Ryan], his aide said, at one point, one of the first things [Jumper] said when he took office was, "when do I get to be on Stargate?"

They actually sent us the speeches that he had given as kind of an audition tape. Right from the get-go because they were vetting scripts, they occasionally would have notes and it really applied more to things like protocol or proper representation of the military hierarchy. Where the conflict came in would be because we were doing a science fiction show and there's a point at which we had to remind them it's not reality. Is this really what you would do if there was an alien invasion? Where's the book on that?

One of the big things we had going was in Season 1, I rewrote an episode called "There But for the Grace of God," and in it we had an alternate reality version of the Stargate program and in order to create differences and have a little bit of fun we had O'Neill having a relationship with Carter. The military was objecting that there's no way a colonel would be having a relationship with a captain. It was inappropriate. They were very adamant that it wouldn't fly. We were like but "it's an alternate reality. They're not Earth and maybe in the alternate reality that's permitted in that Air Force." Anyway, they were pretty stuck on it and we ended up getting around it by having Carter be a civilian in the other reality.

We thought the relationship was more important than the military designation and figured let's just not have Carter be a captain in that version. Those are the types of things where occasionally we would have to make some creative changes in order to accommodate the notes, but for the most part, having the affiliation and having their expertise and support in making our show look and feel more authentic was well worth it.

Glassner: The funniest one was there's this sequence where the team goes to Area 51 and it's Teal'c and O'Neill and O'Neill says, "is this where you keep the little green men?"

The Air Force called us and said, "there are no aliens at Area 51." We said, "we're not saying there are. Jack is just asking a question."

They said, "there are no aliens at Area 51, period." We said okay, it was a joke so I went back to them the next day and said, "how about if Jack says present company excluded, talking about Teal'c, and accepts that there are no little green men there?" and they said that's fine.

Network Homes

For the first five years, Stargate SG-1 aired on Showtime. It then made the switch to the Sci Fi Channel [now SYFY], which would become home to the show's final five seasons and its two spinoff series.

Wright: Because we were on Showtime, MGM and Showtime said, "you can have nudity. You can have swearing. You can do that," but it wasn't the show we were writing. It wasn't the show that we were making for the syndication market because, after Showtime, we were in syndication all around the world. I remember arguing quite vocally that there should be no nudity and no swearing and, in fact, that's why it's only in the pilot episode. Those scenes happened only once and from that point on, I finally won my argument and we didn't do it again. I felt so strongly about it I actually remade the pilot.

The transition from Showtime to Sci Fi, was slightly different because on Showtime it was an uninterrupted hour. There were no commercials, but we were used to creating commercial breaks for the syndicated version of the show. It just meant we were only making one version instead of two. That wasn't that difficult. We had a relationship with the network from other shows that we had done. What we didn't expect was for it to go an additional five years. Five years for any show is great. We thought, okay, we'll maybe make it to six or seven.

Greenburg: [Switching networks] didn't matter. Kind of like today, I think we were sort of on the cutting edge of the changing times of broadcast and how shows get seen but it had no effect on us. We could have been doing the show for people on iPhones. We were just going to shoot and take advantage of every hour of every day to make the show as great as possible. After the 44-episode commitment, they gave us another 44 so we had an 88 episode commitment from Showtime. They use it as an exclusivity factor to help them garner a subscriber base. Then when they feel they've maxed that out they go on to something else and that's when Sci Fi, Bonnie Hammer, picked us up.

Cooper: Initially it was a two-season, 44-episode order from Showtime. That gave us a great deal of confidence that we were going to get to tell this story over a broad landscape and I'm pretty sure within the first half of the first season they ordered another 44 episodes. It opens up all kinds of things… Showtime was always really happy with how [Stargate SG-1] did and very creatively supportive of the show, but then I think at that point, at the end of the 88, it didn't make sense for them anymore and we ended up moving to Sci Fi, who was very happy to have us. I think we were right out of the gate pretty successful for them and at that point had really established what the show was. Obviously, they had some ideas, but for the most part, it was like, "let's not mess this thing up. These guys have demonstrated they know what they're doing."

It wasn't a question of having failed on Showtime and having Sci Fi come in to save the day. It was just an economic decision and it continued to do well.

A Decade of Evolution

Over the course of 10 seasons, Stargate SG-1 evolved in numerous ways. It would see changes to its main cast, a new overarching villain, character development, and much more.

Judge: I was very fortunate in that we knew we had 44 episodes at least going in so the one thing I wanted to do was I wanted to make sure that Teal'c was like a fish out of water. I wanted to make sure that he didn't become Earth-like within an episode. The producers agreed and we knew we had a long time to bring his story forward so they really did allow me to progress Teal'c kind of at the rate that I thought that it should be. I really wasn't in any hurry to make him more Earth-like for a very long time and that's kind of one of the advantages of knowing you're going to be on the air a certain amount of time. That you can take your time with a character arc to not rush it. To not force it.

Jones: [My name] was a huge joke amongst everybody because I started out as just "technician." When you're just "technician," you can be replaced with any technician. I had to make sure I was the best technician they'd hired. Eventually, I started to get more episodes and then I think [in] Season 2 I got more episodes, but I was still "technician."

Then I was like "sergeant" and they changed it in the script and they started to ID me. I had a nametag that I wore in the show, it was Davis, so I was Sergeant Davis. Then once they switched it in the script I had a character and that makes a huge difference because it's hard then to get rid of a character because you named him. I knew then it probably meant they would have to kill me off so they'd have to make something of it.

Then I became Master Sergeant. They kept promoting my character and I didn't know why. I was like, "why am I promoted?" They went, "you just are." Then I come back and suddenly I was Chief Master Sergeant and then at one point Richard Dean Anderson called me Walter. I was supposed to be Norman Davis but he called me Walter in I think the episode "2010" and they said, "his name's not Walter" and Anderson said, "well it is now."

So then I was Norman Walter Davis.

Then, at one point, Don Davis, who was General Hammond, because he was from Missouri he had a real southern accent and at one point because I was an Air Force guy, one of his commands was to open the iris airman but he pronounced it in such a way that it didn't sound like airman, it sounded more like Harriman so they changed my name to Harriman so then I went from Norman Walter Davis to Walter Harriman.

Wright: Part of the evolution of the show comes with the changing of the creators. Jon left and he and I had created a sort of mission of the week. After three years of that, we needed to evolve a bit more.

We brought in new writers and those writers ended up being a huge part of Stargate. Rob Cooper, who began early on as a story editor, was co-executive producer by Season 4 and I was relying on him heavily to take a lot of the load of the show. Paul Mullie and Joe Mallozzi came on as a writing team in Season 4 and their voices became a huge part of the show as well. With that team expanding, the recognition that a show has to grow and evolve naturally happened.

Richard Dean Anderson was never expected to be the lead for 10 years, but what I said to Rick was, "listen, how about we promote you to general and you can still be in the show frequently but not by any means every episode?" and he loved that notion because he still got to come and hang with the Stargate family without carrying the burden of being the lead. When you make these kinds of changes, it's naturally going to have an evolutionary impact on the show.

Cooper: I know fans were often quite frustrated by [changing up Anderon's role], but we did the best we could in terms of making him happy and keeping the show happy.

One of the reasons the show had the longevity that it did was because we weren't afraid to reinvent it and that happened not just with the villains, but with our lead characters, with the ongoing stories. At one point Daniel Jackson left and then came back. It kept the show fresh.

Every time you introduced a new dynamic it reinvigorated the show for us, as well, as writers. It gave us new things to do and new things to explore. We often said that we decided to end the show several times. Originally in our first incarnation the thinking was we were going to end SG-1 in Season 7 and then create a springboard feature film and have that basically springboard into Atlantis. Then do maybe a series of SG-1 films after that, but Sci Fi kind of put a damper on that plan when they said, "we want both Atlantis and SG-1 to run together concurrently."

 

Cooper: It came to a point where I think we felt that we had defeated the Goa'uld so many times that they no longer were a formidable villain. At the end of the day, your good guys are only as good as your bad guys are bad. Once you beat the crap out of the bad guys for eight years, eventually they kind of lose their teeth. We even talked at one point about perhaps spinning SG-1 off into a different show. There was a concept for a show called Stargate Command, but ultimately we decided just a bigger reinvention of SG-1, keeping the core concept and our hero characters of Teal'c, Carter, and Daniel and just somehow spinning into new people and some fresh blood both on the hero side and on the villain side, was the way to go. Thus, we kind of turned our attention to the Ori.

Wright: Rob took over Stargate as the showrunner when I moved on to do Atlantis, which is a different show but the fact is we did both shows out of the same story department. Our offices were kitty-cornered and we would have meetings for both shows and break stories for both shows as we did them on the same lot together. That had a natural impact when you combine universes and do crossover episodes.

The technology was expanding so that at the beginning sometimes just the visual effect was we go through the Stargate and that was it. When you expand to being able to do whole sequences in space and fighter battles and much bigger stuff because of the nature of computer generated things we were able to expand the show that way as well.

10 years is an awfully long time for writers, producers, actors' growth, and it was always our intention to evolve and to expand and to make the show better every year so that's one of the reasons we stayed on.

Weber: I remember getting a call from Wayne Brady's agent. Wayne Brady was just such a huge fan of the show and his agent said, "can you please find something for him? Can you write him a character? He'd love to be in the show."

Wayne Brady was someone I would never have necessarily thought of as an actor for the show. Yet, when I brought the idea up to the producers they were so touched and flattered by this that they wrote him into one and those are the kind of moments that I love to hear. When a show becomes such a fan-favorite that it attracts actors who are fans not only of the genre but of the series itself. There were 200-plus episodes and it was a machine. We just kept casting season after season.

Stories of Stargate

A decade spent together created a family atmosphere at the show and left those involved with some unforgettable memories.

Greenburg: Every day was a real joy and challenge in doing this kind of filmmaking.

The stuff that I remember fondly is meeting people like Isaac Hayes, Wayne Brady, and Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson. We cast him and Rick and I got a huge kick out of meeting and becoming friends with Dan.

Judge: The 200th episode ["200"] we had people who had worked on the show for 10 years who had never come to set and that week was a very stressful week for a lot of departments because, basically, we were doing five mini-episodes within the episode and they had the same amount of time to do it.

I know that's stressful for a lot of departments but you would have never known it. There was such joy and love. We got a chance to say thank you to each other for the 10 years we'd spent together and the joy we had, the fun we had.

The 200th will always be special.

Cooper: I think for me I still very much look back at "Heroes" as one of my favorite episodes. I know everybody who worked on it really enjoyed that episode… for a few reasons beyond even the script and the way it turned out. The fact that it was a bit of a departure for the series. It was also how it was produced. We actually shot an episode that ended up being about 15 minutes too long and I didn't want to cut it down. We edited the show and it was basically finished shooting and I said, "we're going to hold off on putting it where it was supposed to be in the schedule." I ended up writing a whole bunch of new scenes and an entire new subplot that went in-between the scenes that existed.

We took a hiatus in the summertime and made a couple of other episodes in the interim and went back and shot these new scenes and then recut the episode to turn it into two-parts. There's a sequence you probably notice, there's probably a million of these types of fun mistakes in there, but I remember coming back after hiatus and going to shoot some scenes and Richard Dean Anderson walked on the set having gotten this rather extreme haircut. I was like, "what are you doing?" He was like, "what do you mean? I felt like getting a shorter haircut." I'm like, "yeah, but we're shooting scenes from ‘Heroes' today and you're supposed to look like you did two months ago." He was like, "oh well."

There's a point at which O'Neill's hair gets quite a bit shorter during the episode. I guess he just stopped in the middle of this crisis to get a haircut.

Michael Greenburg and Brad Wright in Stargate Sg-1's 100th episode "Wormhole X-Treme!" Photo from Michael Greenburg.

Wright: The 100th episode ["Wormhole X-Treme!"] stands out for me because it was so much fun and I thought we were near the end and who knew we were only less than halfway through?

Arguably my favorite is still an episode called "2010" directed by Andy Mikita. It was his first directing assignment and it was a script that came out of me very quickly and organically. He absolutely hit it out of the park. He did such a good job directing that episode that it feels like a little movie to me. Every episode that has Joel's Goldmsith's amazing music cues. He did so much music for us on Stargate and you forget how much work that was for him, but some of his cues still haunt me and I'll watch an episode basically just to listen to his music for a few minutes.

I'm happy to say there are as many good episodes in the later episodes as there are in the early ones, probably more so. I think the show got better. It's easy to forget that we were not that well received at the very beginning. We did not receive glowing reviews and part of that is what I referred to earlier, we didn't know what we were. There was this fun aspect and then at the same time this nudity and basically alien possession storyline that was violent and brutal, and the show didn't know what it was at first, but we found it.

 

Glassner: There's an outtake from the episode where they're stuck inside a crevice of a glacier and Amanda says, "I'm stuck in a crevice with MacGyver and we can't figure our way out of here?" I thought that's one of the funniest things she ever said. I miss the show. It was a blast. It was a lot of fun.

Cooper: I remember directing the last episode of the series and how emotional that was. We ended up going quite a bit long that day. Being our last day, we had kind of overloaded the schedule. I can't remember whose idea it was, I think it was our AD at the time, but we had boarded the day so that the last shot we shot was the team going through the stargate. That ended up being I think around one or two o'clock in the morning and people had gone home who were not on the crew, the office staff or the other people associated with the show, all the producers and writers, and they all came back. Everybody came back at two o'clock in the morning to be there for that last shot. It was pretty emotional. The actors were all very teary in even doing the shot, having trouble holding it together I remember that as being a sort of nice goodbye.

Stargate Continues

With the release of Origins, it seems possible that we might be seeing the first sign of a new return to the Stargate universe. The streaming service includes the film, TV shows, and all-new content, including an interview series hosted by Judge called Dialing Home. Whether or not Origins continues or a different form of Stargate emerges from it, that first series, SG-1, has continued to live on in its fans' hearts for the past 20 years and shows no signs of stopping its impact on those that it meant so much to.

Judge: [Dialing Home] has given me a different appreciation for the show and for the people that I worked with. On a personal level, it's been a great chance to catch up with old friends.

Wright: There's a lot of people who say to me, "I grew up watching that show with my dad," or "I loved watching that show when I was a kid," and you realize how much time has passed even since we ended the show.

But that aspect of family that we sort of represented on the screen with the team was echoed in the crew. There were many people who stayed with that show the whole 10 years… I don't think in the lexicon of amazing science fiction of the 20th and 21st century we're at the top, but we have a place. We're there and I think it's a positive that people still think of the show fondly.

Weber: I think it was really sort of a forerunner of what was and is no longer a sort of under-appreciated genre. There have been many fantastic shows in this genre that have grown up since Stargate and they're rich and different from each other and yet I think Stargate was part of that foundation that I thought was a bit underappreciated… I think it laid a foundation for what came after it.

In the 16 years I was at the studio doing casting, working on this series because of the people I was working with and the studio I was working with, made it among the best and most gratifying series that I've ever worked on. I think that's due to the relationships that developed over the years between the cast and the crew and what made it a real family and it was really among 10 of my most happy casting seasons was working on this show.

Cooper: Regardless of what people perceive the finished product as and where it ultimately lands in the pantheon of television shows or science fiction shows as people look back on it, it was a tremendous experience. I don't know if television watchers quite understand how much work it is to make a show, let alone a show like that. I, to this day, have people come up to me who worked on it and say it was the best experience they'd ever had and wish they could go back to it.

That experience was unlike anything I'd ever had in my career and I'm not sure I'll ever replicate.

Judge: I really think the show's sense of humor was something that resonated and the fact that you could actually, as a family, watch Stargate. Kids could relate to it. Parents could relate to it. Their parents could relate to it.

I think Stargate was really something for all. That's one of the great joys now, 20 years removed, is now parents who brought their kids [to it], their kids are now grown and have kids and they still watch the show together as a family like it's the only show we can watch together. That's one of the things I love about Stargate.

Jones: It was the right balance of action, comedy, and drama. The show in a way was a little bit like Star Trek in the sense that they could travel and meet new cultures and all the answers didn't come in firing off machine guns.

Yes, they got into scarps and stuff, but generally, it was about exploring cultures and different lands. It talked about tolerance and acceptance and curiosity. It wasn't like the first response was to pull out the guns. It was, "how can we solve this with diplomacy or using our smarts."

Judge: I think Stargate got more relevant to what's going on in the world now than it was when we did it. I say this often, but Battlestar was such a great show that then everybody wanted to do Battlestar. I think it took the genre to a very dark place.

For a long time, I really think it missed what sci-fi was about: exploration. What's out there? Technology, acceptance, joy and optimism — and I really think that Stargate captured all that lightning in a bottle.

I have watched other sci-fi shows that are pretty dark and I enjoy them, but some sci-fi, like the sci-fi that I grew up on, truly created this hunger to know what was out there and to be optimistic that something wasn't coming to shoot you and kill you. You didn't dread the unknown. I'm missing that.

Wright: I hope that MGM finds a way to continue the franchise. The third iteration of the show ended with MGM's bankruptcy, but now they're a studio again and they have a new show, Origins, and I hope it's an indication that there will be more Stargate again in the future.

Judge: It's not over yet. With Origins, it's a definite step into going back into the Stargate world. I think it's been said, but it's the greatest storytelling device that has ever been on television. You can walk through to anywhere. I really hope that Stargate continues on in whatever form.