Beware of SPOILERS for Stargate: The Ark of Truth in this interview!
Robert C. Cooper has worn many different hats for the Stargate
franchise, from story editor and writer to executive producer and director. His influence has culminated in the Ori story arc, which he played a major role in creating. The Ori spanned the final two years of Stargate SG-1
and the new DVD movie, Stargate: The Ark of Truth
-- which Cooper also wrote and directed.The Ark of Truth
left us with a number of questions about the mythology, from the Ancients and the Ori to the final fates of some of our favorite characters. In this extensive, two-part interview, Cooper goes more in-depth than ever before on the Ori storyline and The Ark of Truth
In Part 1 he answers questions about the concept of the Ori and what he found most interesting about them, Adria and her relationship with Vala, and the challenge of keeping the series accessible to a broad audience. He also reveals what Season Eleven would have looked like, had SG-1
not been canceled when it was.Continue to Part 2 >
GateWorld: Conceptually, the Ori as false gods were like the Goa'uld taken to the Nth degree. They use their power to force people to worship them. Do you think this aspect worked as well as you intended it to in the last two years of the show, and in the film? Especially considering that we ended up spending so much time fighting the followers of the Ori, rather than the Ori themselves?
Robert C. Cooper: Well, that was always the intention. To me the followers of the Ori were the interesting part. I wanted to do a story that was in some way reflective of the differences between people's beliefs that we see around us in our society, and how conflicts arise as a result of that.
And, you know, I think that you appropriately identified [in GateWorld's review of The Ark of Truth] the fact that Stargate is essentially an action-adventure show first, and that while we do try and layer issues and mythology and maybe more realistic analogies into the fabric of the show, first and foremost we're trying to entertain people. We're really not trying to preach to them or beat them over the head.
Cancellation can't keep a good team down, as SG-1 returns in Stargate: The Ark of Truth.
To me, the Ori was a natural extension of where the Ancient mythology had gone. And in trying to create a new bad guy -- because I felt we needed to reinvigorate the show in Season Nine -- we talked about what hadn't we done. Where hadn't we gone? Wouldn't it be pretty scary if there was a group of "Ancients" out there, essentially, who didn't follow the non-interference code that the Ancients we know follow? And what if they were bad guys? What if they used that knowledge and power to their own advantage?
It took the stakes of impersonating a god that the Goa'uld sort of began -- but they were essentially just a physiological parasite inside a human being, and they used technology to create the illusion of their godlike status and power -- but what if the person or being taking on that position actually had very much more godlike powers? Wouldn't it be much harder to convince people not to follow them?
Those are the stakes that I thought it would be interesting to set up with the Ori in Season Nine. A lot of diehard SG-1 fans kind of feel like the show kind of ended in Season Eight and a new show started. And there's a little bit of a division amongst fans. Some people love Seasons Nine and Ten, some people think the show was over at the end of Season Eight and everything else has been an insult to the first eight seasons.
I really do feel like we were given a choice, at the time, of continuing to make the show under the umbrella of SG-1, or not. Originally we had talked about possibly retitling the show, reinventing it and making it a new series. But ultimately, when it came down to it with the discussions with the network and the studio, we wanted to keep the core cast of SG-1. And so we decided to just reinvent the show within it.
And so we tried to take the bad guys in a new direction, take it up a notch, make it a little more of a challenge. Because, as we've discussed before, it came to a point in the later seasons -- Six, Seven, Eight -- it felt like our guys were going to win every time. And we wanted to set something up that felt really difficult to deal with.
Normally a writer and executive producer for the show, Cooper stepped behind the camera to direct episodes including "Unending," the SG-1 series finale.
I think to a certain extent people had certain expectations about dealing with the Ori. But the gods themselves were never the aspect of the mythology that was as interesting to me, because they are so powerful. How do the humans who are dealing with that interact? And how are they affected by that? I find that more interesting and identifiable, and more of an analogy to our own existence, because we can't seem to prove one way or the other who's right! And that leads to a lot of conflict. And I think that's interesting, and I think that's an interesting thing to explore in the milieu of science fiction.
GW: Right. You know, from a fan's perspective looking back at the Ori story arc, it feels kind of strange that the Ori themselves have been so elusive -- that we haven't actually seen them a whole lot, other than at Celestis in early Season Nine ("Origin"), and briefly when Vala is impregnated ("Crusade").
RCC: Yes. And that's because to me if you look at any religion that mankind has ever been exposed to, there's very little direct interaction with the actual deity of the religion. There's a whole lot of interaction with the subsequent writings and the human beings who follow those religions. But there's a mysterious aspect and quality to religious belief and the passion that it invokes. And that was the interesting aspect of the story to me.