To celebrate, we sat down with fan-favourite star Amanda Tapping, to talk about all things SG-1…
Do you remember where you saw the original Stargate film?
I saw it actually just before I auditioned for the series, I rented it. So I saw it at home, I didn’t go out and see it in a theatre.
That was a hit at the time it came out, but no-one envisaged the life it would go on to have, resulting in these stand alone features Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum?
No, I don’t think so and yet it makes sense for the film to have lived as a series the way that it did because the possibilities are so limitless.
It’s remained very popular for a long time hasn’t it?
It’s crazy when you think about it, we kept thinking we’d get cancelled. We’d done five years, and then they signed us for another season, and then seven, which is really the template. That made sense to us, and after season seven we thought we were done and then they went onto season eight, and nine. So when we were picked up for season ten we really didn’t foresee the end at that point, we’d all gotten a bit cocky about it. But we knew the conversation was going to happen eventually but when it finally did we felt nobody could complain, 10 years is a long time. In fact I think the movies are the perfect way for all of us to keep SG-1 alive in a really fun and big way.
How was it going from filming a standard episode to a feature?
In some ways it was kind of easier to wrap your head around, because when we were doing the series it was like ‘phew, it’s February, we’re going to be going at this full tilt until October,’ it’s daunting, it’s exhausting. So when you have this finite period of time to make this really big movie and take a month, it’s brilliant. It’s a great way to do it.
So were there bigger budgets, and more toys for the director to play with?
The budget’s bigger, absolutely. It was interesting because I was shooting The Ark of Truth abut the same time I was starting out on [the tv series] Atlantis. So I would go from the film set which was a much slower pace, bigger, where they did these huge crane shots and three times the number of extras on set. And then I would run over to Atlantis where it was ‘quick, quick, quick shoot’ because of the nature of a seven day shoot on a television series. And then I would run back.
Is it tough to get your head in the right place, on each job?
It’s what you do, you prepare yourself for it and as long as you’ve done your homework the transition should be fairly easy.
But the homework is more than just learning the lines, isn’t it?
Oh absolutely, it’s getting into the ideology behind the story, where your character’s at, what happened the moment before the scene and what you hope to get out of the scene. All that ‘actor homework’.
How different is it going onto Atlantis – are there still people on that who you know?
Yes, but it is different, SG-1 was home. I came in in the fourth series of Atlantis, where they’ve established their own home so it did feel completely different. I’m physically comfortable on the set SG-1 with all the guys, so to walk onto Atlantis it was like ‘this isn’t my home, this is somebody else’s home,’. It’s like I was visiting.
What was the timescale between the three projects?
For my character SG-1 series 10 finishes and we go straight into Ark of Truth and then I go off to Atlantis for series 4 of that. I start series 5 and then I leave to do Continuum. That’s in the big timeline. The way we did it was we shot some of Continuum up in the Arctic and then I started shooting Atlantis and at the same time I was shooting The Ark of Truth, and after that we shot Continuum at the same time as I was still shooting Atlantis. It was an embarrassment of riches for me, really.
How was working in the Arctic?
Phenomenal, I would go back in a heartbeat. It’s almost indescribable because you go there with such a sense of trepidation because it’s completely unknown. And as much as I would like to think I was a great adventurer, you’re dealing with elements that you wouldn’t deal with on a consistent basis, the real possibility of freezing. And the real possibility of falling through the ice, and the real possibility of getting eaten by a polar bear. That’s just an insane thing to wrap your head around.
There’s a real possibility of being stranded as well, isn’t there?
We had a four and a half hour briefing about what to expect, and it was ‘these are all the things that can go wrong, and these are all the ways that you can die up in the Arctic’. You’re like ‘what? Do we have insurance?’. At which point you’re sitting there in this briefing with all the crew members going up thinking ‘what are we doing?’. But then once we left Prudhoe Bay, which is the last land that you see, and you fly two hours northeast above the Arctic Circle over open water onto an ice floe. You land and you sort of go ‘here I am, I’m not going anywhere so I just have to make the best of this situation,’. Then once you embrace it it becomes this incredibly fun adventure.
But there must have still been some hairy moments, mustn’t there?
We made a lot of stupid mistakes, your gear freezes, you forget the real elements. I was watching our DP at one point and his nose was turning white because he hadn’t pulled his scarf up. Your skin freezes in a minute in some of the conditions we were dealing with. But you also look around and as far as you can see it’s this sculpture garden of ice, and you feel you’re in the most beautiful place on Earth.
Could ecological issues relating to the Arctic be addressed by the series?
It could. In this case we didn’t because it didn’t fit within the storyline of what we were doing up there. Really we were stranded up there and then this submarine comes. But yeah, it’s something we should definitely address if we do another film, or even for Atlantis to address. As much as Stargate doesn’t try to stand too firmly on a moral soap box, we tell very moralistic stories about the treatment of human beings, and enslavement throughout history, so why not deal with the environmental aspect of what we we’re dealing with?
There are distinct modern parallels with Ark of Truth too though, aren’t there?
Yes, the whole storyline to begin with about this fundamentalist group that rules by oppression is, I think, politically very topical.
Is it satisfying to communicate some of these ideas to a fan base that may not be that politically engaged?
I always thought that our fans kind of were, our fans are really savvy. As much as it’s interesting to hear the outside world’s perspective on sci-fi fans, as someone who’s lived in the sci-fi world for over a decade sci-fi fans are not what the outside world perceives them to be. Which is these geeky, living in their parents’ basement, computer watching, pasty – that’s the outside view of it. You meet these people and they’re incredibly savvy, incredibly intelligent, they’re online all the time so they’re very up to the minute on what’s happening. And they have an encyclopaedic knowledge of what’s happening in our series that they can relate to anything else in the world. So I find that they’re actually far more savvy than most people give them credit for.
Have you noticed changes, in all your time on the show, in the audiences who have followed these adventures?
I’ve seen the demographic change, definitely, from when we first started. And [sci-fi convention] Comic Con has just gotten bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s crazy, when we went last year there were the big buses, the Stargate buses. So there was a big bus for Continuum, a bus for Ark of Truth, an Atlantis bus – seeing your face on the the side of a bus you’re like ‘ohhhh’. You can’t take any of that seriously, but there is something really cool about it too.