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The "Sadistic" Moment Stargate Atlantis’ Joe Flanigan Knew He Was in a Sci-Fi Series
Shooting a sci-fi series is fun, but it can also be a challenge some days.
Joe Flanigan was new to the Stargate franchise when he signed on for SYFY’s SG-1 spinoff series Stargate Atlantis in the early 2000s, but it didn’t take him too long to realize he had stepped into a full-on bonkers sci-fi universe.
Flanigan, who played series military lead John Sheppard, said he got to do all kinds of wild sci-fi things while shooting the series’ first season. But it was the first season’s fourth episode when things really became clear about the types of weird surprises he’d signed on to bring to life, he said in a 2004 interview with Gateworld.
In the episode “Thirty Eight Minutes,” the fourth episode of the show’s first season on SYFY, Sheppard is attacked by a giant alien bug that has latched itself onto his body. So Shepard spends essentially the entire episode immobilized with a giant alien bug attached to him. So for Flanigan, that meant long days of essentially laying on his back in the rear section of a Puddle Jumper space ship set. Which, as you can imagine, is not actually all that comfortable.
“I was on the floor for eight days shooting the episode, and I had a bug on me. And it was this big, classic, ugly bug that looked, you know, completely phony. It hurt like hell, and I was on my back. And I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know what the producers are doing but there’s something very sadistic about this.’ Because, I mean, I actually die in the episode. I don’t know, we’re getting off to a rocky start here!” he said. “And I just thought that it was very funny, sitting there, lying on my back for eight days with a bug on my neck. And you hear people saying things like, ‘Oh, put more blood on the bug!’ It became clear to me that I was actually fully immersed in the science fiction genre at that point. That was a funny moment.”
Though it might’ve looked a bit “phony” while shooting the episode at the time, Flanigan says he was blown away to see the final result in the edited version with all the effects work added in and the
movie (TV?) magic in place.
“It was — I mean people, like I said, it’s remarkable. These guys are really good at what they do. Because if you saw the bug, I mean, we were joking about it,” he said. “We thought they should take the ACME label off. We thought it was phony and ridiculous, but by the time they got finished with the special effects it looked like a good one. So, you know. What you experience there in reality and what you obviously see on screen are two very different things.”
Stargate Atlantis ran for five seasons from 2004-2009 on SYFY. The show was a bona fide hit, a spinoff of Stargate SG-1 that followed an expedition of humans exploring the abandoned city of the Ancients and facing off with all-new alien baddies in a whole new galaxy.