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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Christopher Judge

A Good Year, Generally Speaking
Sharon Gosling, Xpose Yearbook, 2001

Don S Davis settles back into a plush hotel armchair, taking a well-earned sip of the best scotch he could find. Having just stepped away from the stage for the final time after three days of entertaining convention-goers at the British event SG-3, Davis is visibly drained, both physically and emotionally. He loves these events, puts his all into entertaining the devoted fans who revel in the warm, humorous persona that floods from the stage, but sometimes things happen to shake his generally unwavering good spirits.

Partly as an in-joke harking back to Stargate SG-1's pilot episode, partly as advertising for next year's follow-up event, someone activated the set-piece Stargate on the stage while Don was speaking and threw a tissue box marked, 'See you in February; love Dr Jackson' through it. Davis' reaction was extraordinary and immediate - for a moment his choked tears were visible from three rows back. The departure of Michael Shanks from his role as Daniel Jackson has evidently been a hard cross to bear.

Now, interviewed just moments later, he is somewhat subdued, his naturally warm personality weighed down by memories of the Stargate cast - memories that include Michael Shanks - which have accumulated over the past six years. "People don't realize, I think, how close you get to being when you are on a series and you are regulars together. You spend more time with each other than you do with your own family. So when one of them makes a decision - for whatever reason, that he is going to leave, it's like, well, a member of your family saying, 'I can't be here any more, I can't stand some aspect of living here, I've got to go to another city somewhere' - it tears you apart."

Looking back at the past year in the Stargate universe, it is easy to see in retrospect how the news of Shanks' departure and the lead-up to the event affected the performances of the ensemble cast. Regular viewers have commented on the change of focus of the latter episodes. Previously, the show had increasingly been concentrating on the characters themselves - the way in which they interacted with each other, and their reactions to events in which they found themselves involved. The overall tone was (as it has always been) fairly light, with characters quipping and joking their way through the saving of the world. Right from the beginning of season five, though, a new dynamic introduced itself, as episodes took on a far more serious note, some of the easy humour lost, and the camaraderie between SG-1 was a little more strained, if not diminished.

"I think it creeps in," Davis explains with a sigh. "We have been told by people that worked on the show that the atmosphere was different in the last few episodes - because we knew it was coming." It's hard to imagine why the departure of one character could have such a universal effect, particularly on a show where each of the actors is so experienced and talented. However, Davis goes on, "I don't think any of us were shocked at this decision he made, but I think the writers - you know, they are vulnerable to it, they don't live in a shell or a cocoon. I think they saw something happening and they did what they could, what they had to do. There were a couple of episodes that tried to introduce new mythological elements and I don't think they were really successful, and I think that that also had an effect on the general ambience of the show."

The news of Shanks' decision not to renew his contract whatever happened came on top of the general uncertainty as to whether or not Stargate would run to a sixth season. So, for a while, it was possible that season five would be the final one for all of them, which opened up a whole other set of emotions for the cast.

"We knew, going in from year one, that we had five years. So we didn't have any job security hang ups, concerns about the future really, we knew we were going to make a little money," says the actor frankly. "We would have enough to live our lives and probably have a better life than we had before financially - all that's over now. Now we know that in one more year we're back out there,. In my own case, that's a major problem - shooting in a satellite [Canada], we let our contacts grow cold in LA, which is where most of the work is generated for us. I've now got to juggle the rest of these 12 months in such a way that when Stargate finishes I can find something else."

Despite the effects of these underlying concerns, season five holds up as possibly the strongest yet in terms of plot solidity, a point with which the actor readily agrees. Davis also praises the strength of the guest actors the powers that be brought in, explaining how much easier it makes his role. "Acting is more reacting than anything, so if you've got somebody giving you something that is provocative, your reaction is stronger and easier to come up with. In seasons four and five, they added a couple more recurring characters - one of them is played by John DeLancie, who is a remarkably gifted individual, and it's fun working with him."

Beyond that, season five also celebrated the show's 100th episode with the comedy extravaganza which was Wormhole X-treme. Though generally well-received, the episode disappointed some viewers who'd hoped for more involvement by some of the regular cast, in particular the characters of Hammond and Dr Fraiser. While O'Neill, Carter and Teal'c saw themselves parodied on the small screen, their colleagues were left unscathed. Davis, however, is happy with the limited treatment that General Hammond received in the script. "I thought that it would have been inappropriate for him to have been parodied, because then you are parodying the institution rather than the individual," he says, touching for a moment on his personal respect for the US military. He goes on, "I came to this job knowing that Hammond would be a peripheral character, that it was a show about four people going through the gate to save the world. That's what the show is, it's all I ever expected.

His humility is surprising and somewhat touching, particularly given the struggle Davis expects to face in re-establishing himself as a 'player'
following the end of season six. Despite the rumours of a spin-off expected to launch after the confirmed film, Davis does not anticipate being involved ("No, no, I can't see that happening") and is happy for his character to continue pretty much as he has been. "They have allowed me to keep acting a little more human, a little more of a father figure rather than a dictator. It didn't work being a dictator anyway," he muses with a smile, "no one ever followed his orders!"

Going into the new season, Davis expects the focus to revolve heavily around the new team structure. "The early episodes of the final year are going to have to involve reconstituting the team - having the remaining team members deal with accepting a new face. We've seen how they have opened up, and become stronger as a whole than they are in parts. Now that's been reduced, so I think the natural thing to do is deal with [that]." In reality, he says that the actors are ready to move on, to make the final season as enjoyable as possible. "Everybody is hoping that we all move on positively and successfully. We want the sixth season to be a good season. But we also know it's the last season - and that changes the color and shape of everything."

Don S. Davis, Xpose yearbook, December 2001

© 2001 Xpose. All rights recognised. No copyright infringement intended. All extracts appear with permission.

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