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SYFY WIRE Stargate SG-1

One of Stargate SG-1's Greatest Episodes Was Originally Supposed to Be a Movie

An important change to the direction of SG-1's final seasons changed the course of the franchise.

By Matthew Jackson

As the writers and producers of Stargate SG-1 worked on wrapping up the show's sixth season back in 2003, they started to think that the series might be at the end of its run. Star Richard Dean Anderson was considering moving on, there was talk of other Stargate shows to tell different stories, and most importantly, writers Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper had an idea for a feature film that would take SG-1 to the big screen. 

So, why didn't it happen? Well, because that movie idea ended up becoming the pivot point for one of the biggest stories in Stargate TV history. 

How a movie idea led to more Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis

In a new in-depth interview with Dial the Gate, excerpted by the folks at GateWorld (Stargate fansites remain fiercely devoted), Cooper explained in a little more detail exactly how a movie idea eventually led to more SG-1 and, of course, the spinoff show Atlantis. The original idea, according to Cooper, was a feature film in which the SG-1 crew would discover the Lost City of Atlantis as an alien spaceship submerged beneath the Earth's oceans. The story was big enough that it could be told on a grand scale, giving the SG-1 cast the chance to go to work on the big screen and bringing Stargate back to theaters for the first time in years, and it was even big enough that Atlantis itself could be used as the seed for a spinoff series, Stargate Atlantis, featuring a new cast of explorers. 

RELATED: Where is the Stargate SG-1 Cast Now?

Then came a fateful meeting with Bonnie Hammer, who was then president of Sci Fi (now SYFY) at Universal Television. Though the movie pitch had originally gone to MGM, Hammer was interested in a way to launch a spinoff show entirely through the television space, so Cooper and Wright pitched what would become the SG-1 Season 7 finale, "Lost City," with the Atlantis idea as the centerpiece which would then launch a second series. It was then that Hammer gave the writers some exciting, and surprising, news about the future of Stargate.

"We pitched the whole thing out to her," Cooper recalled. "We had kind of had some inkling that it was probably going to happen no matter what we said, that this was maybe a bit of a formality. She's like 'Oh yeah, that's great,' and we said, 'And then, 'Lost City' would be the transition from SG-1 to Atlantis.'  And she was like, ‘Oh no no, we’re going to do both!’ And that was the first time we'd heard that. We were both like 'What?' We had talked all about essentially ending SG-1 at the end of Season Seven. Rick [Richard Dean Anderson] had been talking about really ‘time to move on’ and ‘enough of O’Neill’ and that type of thing.”

RELATED: The 'Stargate' pedigree behind SYFY's new series 'The Ark'

Suddenly faced with the prospect of doing two shows at once, Cooper and Wright had to make certain key changes to accommodate the network's wish for more Stargate. On the casting side, they had to promote Anderson's Jack O'Neill to Brigadier General, giving him a job that allowed him to appear on the show part-time while the adventures of the SG-1 team continued without him. On the story side, they had to make a key change to the "Lost City" story, moving Atlantis to another galaxy in order to avoid too much cross-pollination in what would now be two shows running simultaneously. 

Atlantis needed to stand alone from SG-1,” Cooper said. “We wanted Atlantis to be a fresh, new adventure without the baggage of SG-1 — without going, ‘Where are the Goa’uld?’ and all that stuff. ‘And the Replicators?’ So we wanted to start with a clean slate. And the best way to do that was to start fresh in a new galaxy.”

In the end, it all worked out. SG-1 continued as a flagship SYFY original series for three more seasons, while Atlantis launched the same month as SG-1 Season 8 and ran for five successful seasons of its own. Sometimes movie pitches work out and get to the big screen. Other times they launch hours of new stories somewhere else.