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SG-1 Co-Creator Brad Wright Explains One of His Biggest Regrets While Creating Stargate Canon
In a series as vast as Stargate, some things are bound to work better than others.
The Stargate franchise is one of the biggest sci-fi has to offer. Stargate SG-1 alone covers more than 200 episodes of stories, and that's not even counting the two spinoff movies they made. Throw in two follow-up shows, more spinoff movies, and of course the original film, and you've got a lot of narrative spinning out of a single tale about a space portal.
And of course, running out that many story threads for the SYFY original franchise over the course of decades is bound to create a few issues, as SG-1 co-creator Brad Wright explained in a recent piece for The Companion. As part of a larger discussion of the rules you must establish when working within a science fiction universe, Wright laid out various challenges that the SG-1 writers encountered over the course of the series, and how they solved them by creating new rules. But of course, some of those rules come with pitfalls, and sometimes you make a rule so complicated that it starts to get in the way of actual storytelling. In fact, one new rule in particular, created to reduce the number of character deaths on the series, grew so complicated that Wright and company eventually just shoved it to the back shelf of the show.
"Sometimes we found ourselves lamenting the new rules we made up," Wright explained. "[Co-creator Jonathan Glassner] realized that the body count was alarmingly high every time we fought our Goa’uld enemies and so he came up with a new weapon called a 'Zat’nik’tel' or 'Zat gun' (a name I never warmed to). It was basically a phaser, except more phallic. One shot stunned; a second shot killed. Fine. Then one day on set, in an earnest effort to lower the body count of bad guys dead on the studio floor, he added a third setting. A third shot made the bad guy disappear. This was downright silly to me, and we eventually stopped doing that, but it’s in the episode. Sometimes your own rules bite you in the ass."
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In another instance, somewhat earlier in the series, Wright and company found themselves dealing not with a rule they created, but with a rule created by the original Stargate film. The larger concept of the gate itself was enough to propel a TV series through episode after episode, but it turned out other concepts were a little less friendly to adaptation.
"Not all rules are created in the first episode. Series evolve and grow, but if there’s sufficient continuity, that evolution is bound by the rules that came before. That is, unless those rules should be undone," Wright explained. "In season two, [writer and producer] Rob Cooper correctly pointed out that the sarcophagus device from the movie – which could literally bring people back from the dead – was too much of a get-out-of-jail-free card for our characters. He came up with a story that made its continuous use both addictive and destructive. Problem solved! (Although, that didn’t stop us from bringing them back from the dead from time to time in other ways.)"
For more on the weird dance of keeping Stargate's many rules in line, check out the full piece over at The Companion.
Stargate SG-1 was a groundbreaking original series for SYFY, with the franchise spawning two spinoff series in Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe, and serving as a staple of SYFY's originals lineup for the better part of a decade.