Greg David, TV Guide Canada, Oct 04
THAT, STAR TREK! SG-I IS THE COOLEST SCI-FI SHOW ON THE PLANET!
It sounds like a mission in failure: create a TV show about a group of
military officers and scientists who step into a mammoth spinning ring and
travel to different parts of the galaxy.
Who believes this stuff, anyway?
Turns out, a whopping number around the world. Now in its eighth season,
Stargate SG-1 is the longest running sci-fi series save The X-Files, and has
made mincemeat out of the once-powerful Star Trek franchise.
If you ask star Michael Shanks, who plays archaeologist Daniel Jackson, if he is
proud Stargate SG-1 has unseated Star Trek as THE sci-fi show to watch, he is of
course diplomatic; he doesn't want to anger any remaining Enterprise Fans.
"I wouldn't be so bold as to say that we've trumped Star Trek. That's a
40-odd-year-old franchise, and I grew up watching the original Star Trek on
television," he says from the Vancouver set, where the show is wrapping Season
"I think right now we're certainly the hotter of the shows, with the original
Stargate in syndication, the spinoff [Stargate Atlantis] and Enterprise getting
all the flak that it's been getting... we seem to be at the pinnacle of
excitement. But I think we've got a long way to go before we hit their success
Based on the hit 1994 film Stargate, which starred Kurt Russell and James Spader
as Col. Jack O'Neil and Dr. Daniel Jackson as the heroes, the characters were
recast with Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver) and Shanks as leads.
It's as American as apple pie: every week, the SG-1 commando team undertakes
dangerous missions in faraway places and blows up stuff real good.
Airing on Citytv, Space and CH in Canada (and the Sci-Fi Channel in the U.S.),
the series bristles with special effects, the most obvious being the magical,
mythical hoop that transports heroes O'Neil, Jackson, Major Samantha Carter
(Amanda Tapping) and bald alien Teal'c (Christopher Judge) to strange new
And the viewers have been tuning in. While other sci-fi shows (hello,
Enterprise?) have been struggling mightily, SG-1 has sustained itself. Vancouver
native Shanks thinks it's for a couple of reasons.
"We've had this quiet success in Europe and the U.S., just doing well enough not
to get canned and not too good to get that X-Files-type hype where we go on for
so long that people start talking about how we've lost our edge and all those
other criticisms that come with it.
"We're also not pressured in that network sense like Enterprise is, where you
don't get the ratings for a couple of weeks in a row and the network wants to
change it up and start to dictate story lines. We're able to do our own thing
and it's earned us a snowballing audience."
Co-star Richard Dean Anderson is more blunt about why SG-1 succeeds.
"You can only fool an audience for a few minutes with special effects," he has
said. "It's the stories that make them stick around."
Anderson is right. The original movie and TV pilot exploited the fact that
aliens had arrived on Earth and interacted with the ancient Egyptians, a cool
futuristic twist on human history. Shanks says that's what fans can relate to.
"We get to take the archaeological mysteries and the mythos of our past and
relate them to science fiction," he says with enthusiasm. "We get to attach them
to this whole other storyline. We're tapping into an audience's notion of the
pyramids, all things we don't have the right answers to or clear answers to, and
we can speculate and weave stories out of that."
And those tales feature characters who live in our time, not some planet a
gajillion light years away in another future. Sure, they travel to other
galaxies, but their base is still good ol' Earth.
The team is stuck using today's technology - indeed in a lot of cases they are
hemmed in by it - and use modern speech patterns.
"It gives us a chance to use pop culture references and sarcasm to fight some
situations," Shanks interjects. "It keeps the science fiction from being too
Says series co-creator Brad Wright: "The Stargate itself is a magical thing, but
the show isn't about some futuristic society. It's about people who are pretty
similar to the people watching."
© 2004, TV Guide
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