200 NOT OUT
It's the 200th episode of Stargate SG-1 and we are on hand to catch up with the stars as they party the night away
In September, Stargate SG-1 notches up its 200th episode, matching even the total reached by The X-Files, and as the appropriately named 200 isn't the series' finale, it'll go on to exceed that figure. Of course, some people haven't been around for the entire run, but after a year away, original star Richard Dean Anderson is back for the celebration.
"Put it this way, they didn't kill me," he laughs about his year off, at a party to mark the landmark episode. "Not that that would be a factor in Sci-Fi."
Referring to the show's longevity, Anderson comments, "I'm not surprised and certainly not shocked. After the first two seasons it became apparent to me that it had the potential it has and really had strong legs. Through the Stargate itself you can create whatever story you want and you have unlimited access to your imagination and whatever comes out of it, so if you have two very talented and intelligent guys like Brad Wright and Robert C Cooper it's a no-miss situation. I didn't have a number for it... 10 is nice."
As for why he came back for the 200th episode, he comments. "Both Brad and Robert called and asked me if I would mind being in the 200th episode. It was a milestone and I was off the show for a fair amount of time. It was good timing for one thing. I really honestly missed the environment, missed the cast and the crew. That sense of community and family that we have on the show and I said, 'Yes, of course. I miss you guys, I'll come on up'. And then there's an opportunity to add like four episodes and everybody said sure."
Those other four episodes include appearances on Atlantis. "Atlantis needs me initially," Anderson confirms. "They wrote me back in visually in an Atlantis episode, helping a storyline out, but the storyline I could not tell you as I don't have the slightest idea what it was, neither did the director at that time! Then I started working on a two-parter for Atlantis, working with Brad Turner and Robert Picardo. They had solicited O'Neill out of Washington to go out to Atlantis and supervise some transition with some bad guy entity... I think it was the ancients and some other group."
As on his previous hit, MacGyver, Stargate has brought Anderson a devoted fanbase, and clout in the television industry itself which he could exploit if he ever wanted to return to full time work, rather than spend more time with his family. "It had to be pointed out to me at one point," he comments. "My agent was telling me, because I couldn't understand, and she has been very protective and very maternal as far as my career goes, and she said that if I ever wanted to go back to work whenever it was just let her know and I could have a job tomorrow. Why is that? What is going on? I have very low self-esteem... I don't get it. She said well you've got to understand your name is associated with longevity and with lasting energy for MacGyver was 139 episodes, and there's this show which is going for 10 seasons."
MacGyver has stuck in the public imagination to the point where one recent role Anderson's taken was to reprise the part in a self-mocking commercial commenting on how much older the character would be now. "I wouldn't do it otherwise," he says of the send-up. "That's the difference here. I've had offers to bring the character back to one venue or another and none of the scripts or the ideas ever had any levity to it. It was all MacGyver, as opposed to 'MacGyver is a little bit older, he's got to go buy his stuff.' As a matter of fact, they didn't let me go as far with the humour as I wanted. I wanted to play up the aching knees and bad back and all that stuff!" he laughs. "I mean, if you can't laugh at yourself... first of all get out of the business... think about a different career all together. I've got to have fun or it's not worth it."
That extends to MacGyver's status as a running joke on The Simpsons.
"I became aware of it when they started name dropping him and then they were spending entire episodes of the sisters defending his honour. He is not gay! Then Dan Castellaneta came up and did an episode of Stargate and we got to be chummy, eating lunch together and working together and he asked me if I would interested in doing an episode of The Simpsons. And after I dusted myself off from falling down I said, 'Absolutely... it's only my dream.' He said, well oddly he and his wife had written a script and it was based around MacGyver... so it all fell into line like this and my career is complete... I can go no further."
Not even for the final episode of Stargate, when and if it comes? Asked if he'd be back for that, he says, "Not if it doesn't work dramatically. I would hate to be wedged into something and suddenly I'm floating..." a thought strikes him. "That would be nice... everything blew up and suddenly in the distance you see O'Neill floating in Space, somehow waving goodbye," he laughs in conclusion.
As for Anderson's original co-stars, they also had something to say on the subject of the show's celebrations. Christopher Judge hadn't shared Anderson's confidence at the start, he admits.
"Absolutely not. In all honesty I knew the movie was successful. I knew that it was starring Richard Dean Anderson, so I knew we had a good shot at that time. Still the benchmark of a successful show is five years, that gets you to the syndicated factor, so I knew we had a good shot of going five years. But to ever think that they would go twice that - that's beyond my wildest dreams."
As for Anderson's return, he notes, "Yep, he's back and it was great. It was like he never left. That's part of the great chemistry of it."
Ten years is, arguably, a longer time for a young actress than a mature actor, and Amanda Tapping laughingly admits she feels, "Old! What a ride, who knew it would last this long? It's almost easier to say 200 episodes because it doesn't seem as long as ten years, it seems crazy to me. I think when we started I thought maybe this show could gather the legs to go five years, but I could never of imagined ten."
For Michael Shanks, it might be 10 years but it hasn't been 10 seasons, as he skipped most of year six something that contributed to his character of Daniel Jackson arguably developing more than any of the others. "I think from the last time we were on this very lawn, 10 years ago, the character has made a complete transition, and evolved which is a wonderful thing to play. I think if I'd been playing the same character dynamic over 10 years I would have jumped off a bridge long before now, so I think it's been great to evolve the character along with my personal evolution.
"I'm really enjoying where he is... he's a bit more cynical, a bit more less idealistic, a bit more pessimistic, but it's been the course of the adventure. It's been 200 episodes and 200 adventures and I've enjoyed it tremendously. I can't believe that 10 years later we are still standing on this lawn talking about the same show."