It has been over two months since the release of Stargate: Continuum on DVD. Whether you like it or hate it, the film would not have become what it was without the contribution of one fan, Barry Campbell.
Campbell, the Head of Operations at the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory in San Diego, approached producers at one of Creation’s official Stargate conventions and piqued their interest in visiting the North Pole. After lengthy talks, Stargate productions spent a week on the arctic ice to shoot for the second direct-to-DVD SG-1 movie.
In our interview, Barry discusses the process of negotiating to get a skeleton Stargate crew to the arctic, his respect for the team during their production shoot, elaborates on the aftermath of the accident aboard the HMS Tireless, and much more!
GateWorld’s interview with Barry runs over 21 minutes. Listen online at your leisure, download it to your MP3 player, or subscribe now to the iTunes podcast! The full interview is also transcribed below.
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net I’m David Read and I am here with Mr. Barry Campbell. You are the Head of Operations for the Navy Arctic Sea Lab in San Diego. Did I say that right?
Barry Campbell: That was pretty close. Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory, and we’re in San Diego.
GW: And what do you guys do down there?
BC: We’re the Navy’s center of excellence for anything having to do with nuclear submarines that go under or near ice. We’re a small group, less than 20 people, almost all civilians but because we’re civilians we don’t get transferred around every two or three years like the regular Navy folks do. So we build up an expertise in operations of nuclear submarines in the Arctic.
GW: How many years have you been making this pilgrimage to the Arctic?
BC: I’ve been going for about 23 years now. [I’ve] gone on I think about fifteen trips to the North Pole on nuclear submarines and worked at about seven of the ice camps that we did, similar to what we did when Continuum was up there filming.
GW: And you had something to do with that but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, tell me, what was the genesis for your love of working on the ice and submarines? Where did this come from?
BC: Well it was fortuitous, when I was in the Navy 150 years ago …
GW: [Laughter] Give or take.
BC: I was an officer on a nuclear submarine and we were sent to the Arctic just by happenstance. So I got to go the Arctic on a submarine as an officer in the crew. And then I got out of the Navy after about six years. I stayed in the Navy Reserves. In the Reserves I met up with a fellow who knew a fellow who was the head of operations then for the Arctic Sub Lab and needed someone to work in Hawaii as their representative on the Pacific submarine force commanders staff.
I was living in Hawaii at the time and I had been there once so they flew a guy over to interview me and he liked what he saw and hired me on to be their representative on the staff of the submarine force at Pearl Harbor.
GW: Oh! So you were stationed at Pearl? OK
BC: Right, I was stationed at Pearl. When I got out of the Navy I just stayed in Hawaii because Hawaii’s nice.
GW: Oh yeah! I’ve been [to Pearl].
BC: So about four weeks later I was on my first Arctic trip with the arctic sub lab and it’s been doing that ever since. I was in Hawaii for about 17 years and then the job for head of operations came open and I applied and was selected, so I moved to San Diego then about five years ago.
GW: OK then. And you’ve been there ever since.
GW: Now Martin Wood and … who was it that he was with at the time?
BC: John Smith and Andy Mikita.
GW: John Smith and Andy Mikita! That’s correct!
BC: I was there.
GW: They said that you approached them at a convention in Vancouver.
GW: Did you come up as a fan?
BC: I did. When I moved from Hawaii to San Diego I realized that you can drive from San Diego to different places. Unlike in Hawaii where you can’t go anywhere. And I found out about this convention up in Burbank and drove up.
GW: Oh, in Burbank!
BC: In Burbank. So I found them at a convention in Burbank and loved it. It was a great time and I met a lot of great people and got a chance to see some of the actors and this and that. It was just fun. And they announced then that they were going to have one in March. This was in 2005, in Vancouver, and they were going to offer set tours. And I was a sucker for that. [Laughter]
So I headed up to Vancouver just to get the set tours and that’s where I … That’s why I came to the conventions in Vancouver and that’s how I happened to be in line and had a chance to meet John and Martin and Andy.
GW: Yeah. OK. And you let them know what you did and …
BC: Well I came up with a scheme to be remembered by, anytime anybody would sign an autograph for me I would give them an autographed picture of me at the North Pole. And it worked. People remembered me because of that. And it’s kind of a unique thing.
So that’s what I did. And I presented a picture of me at the North Pole to John, and he said “What’s this?” and I said “Well, that’s what I do. I go to the Arctic on nuclear submarines.” And he said “Man, I’ve been trying to get to the North Pole for ten years. I’ve been trying to go up on a tour or this and that. Can you get me to the North Pole?”
He was just being friendly. And I said “Well I don’t think I can get you to the North Pole, Mr. Smith, but I might be able to get you to the ice camp a few hundred miles south of the North Pole.” Well he almost broke his arm trying to get his business card out of his wallet to say, “If you’re really serious about this you give me a call.”
Well, I don’t know if I was serious or not because I don’t get to make the rules. I came back to San Diego, talked with my boss, and felt like if we could make it something good for the Navy and good for the Stargate folks … Initially it was just going to be John Smith and a few other people, including a couple of the actors who might go down and meet some of the boys on the submarine.
GW: A visit.
BC: Yeah. A glad hand, give the guys on the submarines a chance to meet some of the actors. Over the next year, it blossomed in to “Why not do a little filming up there?” John got Brad Wright involved and excited about putting a script together and the Navy thought it was pretty cool so we did it that way.
GW: Now Bridge has always had a very positive relationship with the Air Force…
GW: Did that help in your, encouraging them to say “Hey, take a look at these guys? It’s a good show?”
BC: Well, that was part of it. The Navy folks that are in Public Affairs know all of the different shows that are on TV and realize that Stargate does have a good reputation with the United States military, and when Brad — who is no dummy — wrote a script that had the U.S. Navy saving the U.S. Air Force, that’s all it took.
GW: [Laughter] Yes, I can see where this is possible.
BC: Boys will be boys.
GW: So they get the idea that it’s possible, possible, to shoot in the Arctic. How long was it before you heard back from them before Continuum started to be sketched out on the drawing board?
BC: Well, when I talked to John Smith on the phone I said, “You know, we can invite you up to do some filming for either or both of the series.”
GW: Yeah. That’s what you’re thinking.
BC: Exactly. But it would have to be a very skeleton crew. We’re going to let you have maybe 7,500 pounds of gear, maybe a dozen, maybe a little bit more, that kind of folks. Can you do that? Would you like to do it? He said “I think we can. Let me see.”
So he went and talked to Brad and they came back and a few days later he came back and said, “Well I think we can put something together. We don’t know what we’d film for but we’d like to go ahead and cast our lot to say, ‘Yes, we would be willing to come up.'”
I have no idea how long it took … it was from them until Brad Wright came up with the script that got them up there but, according to John, he went and talked to Brad about coming up, and Brad says, “What in the world am I going to do that’s going to have the Stargate crew in the Arctic on Earth?”
GW: On Earth. Exactly.
BC: With a nuclear submarine involved. It could be anywhere until that nuclear submarine pops through, then it has to be on Earth. So that’s what he had to wrestle with to come up with a script for Continuum.
GW: How many people can APLIS hold? Generally how many staff it?
BC: Nominally we had staffed up for 40 people. But when we found out that the Stargate folks were going to come up we were going to have to build two more hooches.
GW: Oh you had to build?
BC: Yeah, we had to build extra hooches. And the Navy came to me and said, “In order to keep this from being a conflict of interest we have to get those guys to pony up whatever money it would take for us to boost up the camp.”
So they did. We figured out on paper what it would take to host them, to get them up there and get them back from Prudhoe Bay, to feed them, and helicopter time, and all that stuff. And we told John what the number was and he said, “Yeah, that sounds reasonable to me. We’ll be willing to do that.”
GW: So this wasn’t pro bono?
BC: Not at all.
GW: They treated it like a location shoot?
BC: Exactly right. Exactly right. Yeah. And so we boosted the camp up. At one point this time I think we had as many as 55 people overnight. Which is quite a large camp.
BC: We had to bring up an extra cook.
GW: [Laughter] To feed them!
BC: That’s right.
GW: Now when was this again? This was around …
BC: This was in March of 2007.
GW: 2007 was when they went up there to shoot.
BC: The second two weeks in March of 2007.
GW: Were you there the entire time they were shooting?
BC: Yeah, in fact I went up the in last part of February and was on the flight that went out to look for the flow we were going to be on.
My job at the camp was Officer in Charge of Camp. It sounds a little more grandiose than it really is. I do run the camp. I work for a Navy Captain who’s the officer in overall charge. But my job is to make sure the camp runs smoothly and safely. So I’m just dealing with day to day camp stuff before, during, and after the camp. So I was up there for about five weeks. The submarine was involved for a couple of weeks and the Stargate folks were up there for about seven days.
GW: Now, the rest of the team up there, were they prepared for these guys to visit? I mean, were they psyched? What was the mood around the camp?
BC: A few of them were. A few of them are Stargate fans.
GW: Oh really?
BC: And they knew we were having some actor-types up. But it was a little tense … I mean, it’s a pretty close-knit group of folks that were at APLIS because Stargate didn’t get there until we’d been rolling for about ten days. So we were all very close and very organized and we all knew each other and we all had confidence in each other and knew our individual strengths and weaknesses.
And here we’re going to bring another fairly large group of folks up who have never done this before, who are not military types, but in fact are wacko, you know, actor types and …
GW: Hollywood types.
BC: Hollywood types, you know. So it was a little tense at first but it became obvious very, very quickly that the folks that John Smith and Martin Wood selected to come up here were not typical folks. They were [an] amazing, amazing group of people. As I like to tell people, based on looking at the behind-the-scenes on some of the DVD’s, they can go two blocks from Bridge Studios and they’ll take 18 semi-trailers full of stuff and three hundred people. [Laughter]
Well, we were asking them to go thousands of miles and we allowed them to bring seven thousand five hundred pounds of gear, which is not very much. For us it’s a huge amount. Takes three airplanes to get that much up there. And they ended up with a total of 18 people. And most of those, a core group of about seven or eight people, that were the worker bees. I mean, they had three cameras and one camera man. And typically they have four people per camera. So it was pretty impressive what they were able to do up there. They really worked hard.
GW: You said earlier that the guys that had been up there beforehand were already there for ten days. Is APLIS not run year round?
BC: Not at all. It’s a temporary ice station. We go out and pioneer us a place at the end of February. We get it prepared. If we’re going to have submarines involved we usually like to have the camp ready to go by about the middle of March.
GW: So you guys stake a claim on a new spot every year?
BC: Every year. Well, the ice in the Arctic is constantly in motion. And, in fact, the piece of ice that we lived on for six weeks is no longer a single piece of ice.
GW: It’s gone!
BC: It’s moved off and melted and broken up. And so when we go back up next year we’re going to go have to find a whole new piece of ice to work on. And, the truth is, we like to be off the ice by about the third week in April or so because the instant radiation from the sun has softened things up to the point where we…
GW: … It’s not safe.
BC: We just can’t count on having a 2,500 foot runway every morning when we wake up.
GW: Now you guys have a lot of safety issues up there. What kind of brief did you send Bridge to prepare their team? Because obviously they’re not going to go up there and say “OK! How does this work?” You know? Surely they would have read something.
BC: I put together a PowerPoint brief that was about four and a half hours long. And I gave this brief to every person that came to APLIS including all the Navy people, all the people from Arctic Sub-Lab, all the other people that we got in from other Navy organizations, this was all down in San Diego.
And then I went up with Mike Hacking, who’s our head of engineering and who’s our Prudhoe Bay logistics coordinator. He and I went up and on our way up at the end of February we stopped off at Bridge.
We got everybody together on a Saturday morning, and they’re all in the Bridge conference room with the coffee and donuts, and we gave them a five hour orientation safety and survival brief. And in the process we scared away two people who thought that they were going be coming up but decided “No this isn’t for me.”
GW: Either of them actors?
BC: Both of them were actors. Yeah. One of them you probably know. A big fellow who decided he felt like he might be mistaken for a seal and decided not to come up because that’s what polar bears eat.
GW: [Laughter] Yeah, well he had a good role in the film after all.
BC: He did a good job. No stigma there. I can understand why he didn’t want to come up and, you know, that’s fine.
GW: Well it’s harsh environment. I mean, how does your lifestyle change up there? Aside from the fact that, as Richard loves to tell, your poop freezes to the toilet every time you go.
BC: You have not lived until you’ve sat your bare naked butt down on a toilet seat that’s at forty degrees below zero. You just haven’t. It’s not a lifestyle. I mean, it’s nothing like you can imagine. You work seven days a week.
GW: Oh you do?
BC: You get up at five o’ clock in the morning and go to bed at about 10 or 11 o’clock at night and you’re working constantly that entire time. After supper you don’t sit down and watch a movie or play cards. A couple of folks are able to do that but must of us are not able to. We have work that goes on all the time.
If we have a submarine involved with the camp the submarine works 24 hours a day. Now we can only work safely on the ice in the daytime so when the sun goes down we’ll all retire to our work stations or our bunks. But we have a command hut that works 24 hours a day. We have people on watch communicating with the submarine, communicating with the outside world, keeping an eye on the camp for safety and this and that.
GW: Are there guards stationed 24/7?
BC: We have somebody up and awake 24/7. Not necessarily out and about but we have a rover that goes out every once in a while just to make sure things are safe. We don’t leave anything to chance. It’s pretty impressive. I mean, we’ve done this since the late 70’s.
GW: You guys have got it down to a science.
BC: We’ve got it down. So we’re pretty good about making sure things work right.
GW: Were there any polar bear scares while you were shooting?
BC: In the last four or five camps we’ve done we’ve had a polar bear in camp at one point or another. This camp we did not. One of the helicopters, during a daytime flight, said he had seen a mother and cub about 14 miles away from the camp heading away. That was the group that came the closest to us.
But we have helicopters flying around all the time. Polar bears don’t like them. They make a lot of noise. And any time they’re up there looking for polar bears, besides whatever else they’re already doing. And we have fixed wing aircraft that come in and out during the day, two or three times a day. They’re also scouting for polar bears. And besides, whenever we have anybody away from camp we send them out with a polar bear watch with a shotgun just in case.
GW: Shotguns are obviously a last resort.
GW: I mean, do you have anything supersonic that drives them away?
BC: The best thing we have to scare polar bears is a helicopter and we have those in a moments notice. We also have — you know the little air horns that you have on sailboats? [Makes air horn noise] We have those.
GW: Spook ’em?
BC: Yep, we spook ’em. Now, they’re not good for the long term but they’ll buy you enough time to get the helicopter out there so they can shoo them off.
GW: Very good. The film was dedicated to a couple of gentlemen who died while the film was shooting. Did you know these men?
BC: We had two submarines operating at the camp for the first week or so. The U.S. S. Alexandria from Groton, Connecticut.
GW: Which is in the film.
BC: Right. And the HMS Tireless, a Royal Navy submarine from Portsmouth, England. They were working together. And for the first time ever the Royal Navy submarine, the HMS Tireless, had an explosion on board. And this was about three days before the first Stargate group arrived. And this explosion killed two young sailors almost instantly and badly injured a third sailor.
We had a medical doctor at the camp and we had six guys who volunteered to go out at night, four miles from camp on snowmobiles at night and provide assistance to the Tireless when they surfaced, including our doctor. One of the guys we had up who was a mechanic, [it] turns out in his real life he’s an emergency room RN. We didn’t even know this. He’s there with the doctor, they go out and assist the submarine, in fact. And then we evacuated the injured crewmen back.
The two helicopter pilots we had are contractors. They’re bush pilots, they’re not associated with the Navy. We just hire them. And they volunteered to fly their helicopter at night all the way back in to the mainland 200 and something miles and take this guy back in for medical attention.
At the time Mike Hacking, back in Prudhoe Bay, had contacted the Alaska Air National Guard. And these guys were just phenomenal. He called them up to say, “We have a submarine operating in the Arctic and there’s been an explosion. We have someone that’s badly injured and we need a medical evacuation.”
The guy basically hung up on him and said “I’ll call you back in 15 minutes.” And Mike looks at the phone and says “What is this?” Fifteen minutes later he gets a call from the guy. The guy says “OK I’m in a C-130. We’re heading north right now. Now brief me on what’s going on.” They took off before they even knew what was going on.
The C-130 with the medical team was on the ground in Prudhoe Bay before the helicopter got back with the injured crewman. Phenomenal. So in fact, I think it was John Smith’s idea to dedicate the movie to the two young guys that lost their lives on the submarine.
Now, Tireless, after they got their smoke cleared and everything was cool, they submerged and operated with the camp for about a day just to make sure everything was nice and then they were instructed by the Royal Navy to come on back. So they left. They actually were gone by the time the Stargate guys got there.
GW: OK. And Don S. Davis also recently passed away.
BC: That was a shock, wasn’t it?
GW: My. Perfect health, you know? And he didn’t even get to see the film.
BC: I had a chance to sit down at a table at a convention in Burbank and chat with him. I got my picture taken with. We looked like brothers, it turns out, in this picture.
GW: [Laughter] Hair, no hair.
BC: Other than that. I felt bad that day. I mean, I don’t cry. I was sitting by my computer reading GateWorld and I had tears in my eyes. It was devastating.
Were you aboard the sub when it broke through?
BC: Not at all. Now I have done that. I’ve probably been in the control room for submarine surfacing almost 200 times. Quite a number.
GW: Oh wow.
BC: Interestingly I’ve done a number of surfacings from the control room but because I was in control of the ice camp my responsibility was to be at the ice camp. I’m there to dispatch helicopters, and look after safety, and all the rest of that stuff. So when the submarine surfaced I was actually back at the ice camp.
In fact, I was chatting with Bruce Woloshyn on the way over here to tell him that, in looking back on it, I have never seen a submarine surface through the ice standing on the ice in person.
GW: You’ve always been on board.
BC: I’ve always been either on it, or seen it on video. Bruce has seen it, I haven’t seen it. [Laughter] I’m going to make it a point next time to actually be out and watch one.
GW: Oh wow. Now when you’re aboard do you feel this when it crashes through the ice?
BC: It’s interesting.
GW: Is it jarring? Do they have to warn you over the comm?
BC: Every surfacing is a little bit different. I have had surfacings on submarines where you impact the ice and you’re surfaced and the only people that know it are the people who are in the control room.
GW: I’ll be darned.
BC: But I’ve also had surfacings where when you impact the ice and crash through, every man on the ship knows it. There’s a little shuddering, there’s some noise. It’s never violent but it can get your attention.
GW: I’m sure you’re very modest when it comes to Continuum. [From] one fan to another, you being a fan helped make this happen. And Brad has said that it is his favorite, his most powerful, work to date. The work that he’s most proud of. You’ve obviously seen the film. What do you think of it? What are your impressions of the movie?
BC: I love the movie!
GW: You’re in it!
BC: I am biased. Yes, I am in it. I have, actually, lines in it. I think I pull off me pretty well.
GW: Oh, you played yourself? You didn’t have a … ?
BC: Well, I played a guy. It wasn’t anybody in particular. But, I thought it was a great movie. I mean, I have discussed the movie with some people that I work with, some of the fans that I work with, my boss and Mike Hacking and those guys.
We’re all in agreement that it’s not just a good shoot-em-up, although it is a good shoot-em-up. It’s not just a time travel story, although it is a time travel story. There’s a lot of character in it. They get so much in an hour and forty minutes or whatever it is. There’s so much meat in this movie. It’s pretty impressive.
GW: It’s cherry picking the best of SG-1.
BC: It really is. It’s remarkable. I don’t know how to say it more than that. It’s wonderful.
GW: So what do you plan to do with the rest of your career?
BC: I told John Smith that when Spielberg calls and says, “That guy on top of the submarine, he’s perfect for my ‘guy on top of the submarine movie,'” that it’s OK to give him my name.
Barry Campbell’s Web site