Over the course of Stargate‘s history on television screens, several characters (many of them fan favorites) have made their final exits through one form of death or another. We don’t mean a Daniel Jackson-style death where it doesn’t stick and by the end of the episode (or season) he’s alive and well. We mean the ones that were permanent. Be it the end of that character’s story arc or merely trying to serve a dramatic function, those deaths stayed with us. Skaara in SG-1‘s “Full Circle”. Janet Frasier in the same series’ “Heroes” two-parter. And although he eventually returned through the miracle of sci-fi storytelling, it doesn’t make Carson Beckett‘s final scenes in “Sunday” any less gut-wrenching or emotional. And that last event would make Atlantis‘ next character loss even more profound.
When last GateWorld talked with actress Torri Higginson, who portrayed Atlantis’ civilian expedition leader Dr. Elizabeth Weir, it was while she was just finishing up the first handful of episodes in Season Four — a season that would reduce her character to a recurring status before essentially killing her off. And while her exit from the series (both on-screen and off) may not have gone as smoothly as anyone would have liked, time heals all wounds and Higginson’s (who went on to more mainstream fare like NCIS) are no exception.
After a long absence from our pages, we finally caught up with Torri last fall at the Chicago Offical Stargate Convention hosted by Creation Entertainment. In our interview, Torri Higginson chats with us about the current state of the franchise, her personal feelings on Weir’s unceremonious exit, the impact of the character and the franchise itself, what she’s up to currently, and more!
GateWorld: It’s actually been five long years now since the last time the site talked to you. How are you? How have you been?
Torri Higginson: I’ve been very well. Yeah! I haven’t died as often in the last five years.
GW: [Laughter] That’s probably a better thing. Now being outside the genre – that helps a little bit.
TH: I think so.
GW: Do you still have Sedgewick?
TH: I do.
GW: How’s she doing?
TH: She’s amazing. Yup.
Actually, it’s so funny. I was on … I asked some questions at the Q&A [at the Chicago convention] back to the audience and one of them was going to be about my dog. And I couldn’t remember how many episodes she did. So I went online to double check that. And I didn’t know she has a … I guess somewhere on the net, she has like a wiki page and she’s actually got her own little page. But she is called a he. I thought, “How do I correct your grammar?” It’s all wrong.
To clear up any confusion going forward, Higginson wishes it to be known on the record that her dog Sedgewick is, in fact, female.
GW: [Laughter] We can fix that. Knowledge is power.
TH: Can you fix it? She’s a she.
GW: 2012 is really the first full year where there isn’t any Stargate on the television landscape for the first time in fifteen years.
TH: How are people dealing with that?
GW: They’re missing it quite a bit.
What are your thoughts on the fact that something that was so vibrantly alive just a few years ago is kind of in a state of dormancy right now?
TH: I’m surprised. I’m very surprised because it does seem like such a strong franchise. But I also know, I mean, the business is … it’s also amazing that the first show went ten years. I mean, it’s such a rare thing in this industry.
And to have a spin-off off a spin-off off a spin-off off a spin-off. And the fact the first show was a spin-off and that survived, so … that was so strong is surprising in itself. And then … so, I mean, I am surprised that it lasted so long. I’m also surprised because there was such a strength to it that the second two didn’t have the same legs.
TH: Yeah. And I feel, actually …
GW: You think that’s more the economics of just the television landscape in general right now or … ?
TH: I think you’re probably right. I mean, I know in Los Angeles there used to be, I think, two to three hundred shot every month and now there’s about 27 things filming.
I mean, the industry has changed hugely. The economy has changed hugely. And this is the first time the economy has affected the entertainment world. In the past, you’d always felt that it had armor against that. That it didn’t matter what was going on with depressions and recessions. Hollywood would be okay.
GW: And studios are more resistant to taking on new properties that, you know, aren’t proven to where they’re going to actually make them money …
TH: It seems to be. It seems to be. Which, in a weird way, you’d think that Stargate should be sticking around because that is such a proven format and formula.
And it does seem like Hollywood, especially with the movies, they’re just doing nothing but remakes and part twos, part threes and that kind of thing. So, with that theory, then, why aren’t there Stargate movies? I’m not sure.
GW: The last time that we talked to you was actually just as you were filming the first few episodes of Season Four. Which was kind of providing a little bit of closure for the Weir character. Obviously, we know behind the scenes that there was some stuff going on. And at the time, at the beginning of Season Four, you had talked about the fact that you kind of understood the reasons why they were making the changes that they had.
We see you in a cameo mid-way through the season, at the end of “Be All My Sins Remember’d”. That’s never followed up on. Did you just … are you able to talk at all at liberty as far as …?
Higginson in the final moments of Atlantis Season Four episode “Be All My Sins Remember’d”. The episode would be her last contribution to the series and franchise.
TH: Yeah. I didn’t sign anything. And, also, I don’t know anything. I mean, I don’t know. They asked me to come back in Season Five to do a little part. And I remember saying to them at that point, “I would love to know what you’re planning to do with this character because I feel right now she’s just floating in space.”
And I feel it’s sort of disrespectful to her because I think she deserved more of a closure. And I really like Dr. Weir. And I didn’t like how she kept sort of being brought in and killed and just sort of hung out to float until they brought her back again.
GW: And, ironically, that’s how the character …
TH: That was exactly what they were going to be doing with her. So, I said, “You know, I’d be happy to come back, but can you tell me if this is going to tie it up? Can we tie it up?”
Also for the fans. I was getting letters from fans and people going, “What’s going on?” I’m like, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” And, you know, I have no right to this opinion but I sort of felt like were they using her a bit as a carrot to keep some of her loyal fans there. I’m not sure. That’s, maybe, arrogant even of me to suggest. But I just sort of felt out of respect for the character and out of respect for the fans I wanted them to tie it up. And they weren’t willing to tell me if that’s what they were planning to do.
And, yeah, I think my ego just kind of said, “I don’t want to just zip in and be floating in space again.”
NEXT: Stage work versus screen work, and the legacy Elizabeth Weir (and the franchise) leaves behind…