Will SG-1 gate to Season Nine?
SUNDAY - AUGUST 8, 2004
It was the winter of 1997 when the cast of Stargate SG-1 first assembled on the chilled hillsides near Vancouver, British Columbia to begin filming the pilot episode "Children of the Gods." Seven and a half years, two networks, a spin-off series, and more than a few children later, the cast and crew are nearing the final weeks of filming for the run-away hit series.
After all, the show's cast and crew have been saying since Season Five that the current year (whatever it was at the time) would be the final season. The spin-off series Stargate Atlantis was created in large part to take the place of SG-1 when the show inevitably takes its final bow. Yet the ratings for Stargate SG-1 have never been higher (the July 9 season premiere scored a record-setting 2.4 household rating and drew more than 3 million viewers), and the cast and writers are experiencing a creative resurgence. Is this really the last year for the long-running SCI FI Channel series, or will SG-1 gate to an astonishing ninth season?
"I will never say never again!" executive producer Robert C. Cooper told GateWorld, alluding to the fact that the show's producers have said in interviews for the last three seasons that it would be the show's last. Cooper took over as show-runner last year, when series co-creator Brad Wright took time off to develop Atlantis, which was to eventually take the place of SG-1. When the network asked for both shows, the team couldn't say no.
"In the current climate of television, from a business standpoint, getting a 20-episode order for a new series and a 20-episode order for the eighth season of a television series is probably incomparable," Cooper said. "There is, in recent memory, nothing to that effect. And so we'd really have a hard time turning something like that down."
Actor Michael Shanks ("Daniel Jackson") is one who is open to another year of SG-1. "Never say never," he said in an interview with Loud Vison Publications. "We were happy to go back to do Season Eight -- the numbers in the U.S. are, apparently, growing. So, who knows. Everybody knows that when something has yet to reach its peak, companies are loathed to axe it. We'll have to wait and see."
Shanks himself took a year off of SG-1 in Season Six, only to return as a full-time cast member the following year. "We really take every year as it comes," he said. "... It certainly depends on how things go. I'm certainly enjoying it at this point. So long as you're continuing to tell good stories, and so long as you're happy in your work, then there's no reason that I can think of not to sign on for another year."
Christopher Judge ("Teal'c") agrees. "The great thing is that you know that when you reach a plateau, you know that it's going to go down from there," Judge told Loud Vision. "We're still ascending the mountain, so to speak. It's like we've got brand new storylines, so we haven't even had to rehash old stuff. So, you know, the show is still creatively growing. I'm not one of the decision makers, but so long as that atmosphere so prevails, there's no reason to end it."
Amanda Tapping ("Samantha Carter") is also pondering whether or not it's time to move on. "It's really a double-edged sword," she told Femme Fatales magazine. "It's been such a phenomenal run and such a great time, that maybe it is time to let it go. At the same time, it's very scary because there's so much invested in it and we're all such a family. ... This has been a great job, but there's a huge part of Amanda Tapping the actress who wants to play characters that don't wear combat boots."
'YOU HAVE A GO'?
Most recently, Judge reportedly told fans last month at the Vulkon science fiction convention in Tampa, Florida that Season Nine is looking more and more likely. "Since money talks and ratings are higher then ever looks like there will be a Season Nine, folks!" he is quoted as saying, adding that negotiations are now underway and the final episodes of Season Eight are being written with a ninth year in mind.
But don't count your symbiotes before they're hatched.
U.S. broadcaster SCI FI Channel probably won't bring down the axe any time soon: The cable network currently lacks a non-Stargate hit. SG-1 airs five days a week on SCI FI, including 5-hour blocks on Monday nights and six hours on Fridays. The series has blazed the path to SCI FI's current streak of seven straight months of record ratings, and has been the top-rated original series on the network every week it has aired a new episode -- more than two years running. Thanks in no small part to Stargate, SCI FI is now a top 10 cable channel.
THE ANDERSON FACTOR
But should the deals be signed by all parties -- SCI FI, MGM, the producers, and the cast -- one key name may end up left off the list. Stargate star Richard Dean Anderson ("Jack O'Neill") has said for years that his goal is to retire from acting in order to spend more time with his young daughter in California. Anderson agreed to come back with a reduced shooting schedule in Season Six, which was further reduced to about three days per week in Seasons Seven and Eight.
The move has brought the show's other principal characters to the forefront, with Samantha Carter promoted to command the SG-1 team in this season's opening episode. The creative move comes on the heels of O'Neill's promotion to brigadier general and base commander, which has made Anderson's reduced schedule easier for the writers to work with -- and has pushed the character into new areas of growth. But is it enough to convince the actor to continue with the hit series?
"At this point, right now, with all that's going on in my life outside all this, it's very unlikely I'd be able to come back," Anderson recently told the Chicago Tribune. "I know what's the most important thing right now. I'm very well aware of the fact that that may interfere with a very successful franchise," he said. "Whether the show would go on without me ... I think it could. I don't know whether it will or not. Honestly I can't answer that question, and it's silly for me to start conjecturing, not until I've had conversations with MGM or SCI FI. I do feel as though this is my last season."
If Anderson really is ready to hang up the uniform, could the show go on without its 8-year headliner? Cooper and executive producer Brad Wright agree with the actor's assessment.
"I don't want to underestimate the value of Richard Dean Anderson to Stargate SG-1," Wright told GateWorld, "because when he's doing his thing in a scene, and when he's on and when it's vintage O'Neill, it's the show. That's the show. And he's great. And I also honestly believe that we're relatively still on top. And it would be great to go out without having absolutely beaten a dead horse."
"I think it could [go on without Anderson]," Cooper told GateWorld. "But I'm not the person who makes those decisions. Having said that -- his energy has been renewed by the new creative direction. And who knows? I'll never say never again!"
If Stargate SG-1 does continue to a ninth season, it will tie The X-Files as the longest-running genre series in American television history. If it does not, it is very likely that Stargate Atlantis -- the spin-off series conceived to inherit SG-1's legacy -- will carry on the torch with its second season. But with the final episodes of Season Eight now being written and five weeks of new ratings numbers to examine, it's a decision that may come very soon.
(Thanks to Waterfall and Denise for contributing)
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