At the end of April I joined thousands of other fans as we descended upon Wrexham for Wales Comic Con. Even now as I write this, I’m still buzzing from the event — even if I have been struck down by the dreaded “con crud.”
The guests scheduled for WCC had starred in shows including Doctor Who, Gotham, Game of Thrones, The Umbrella Academy, and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to name a few. But I was there for two guests in particular: Amanda Tapping and Richard Dean Anderson, Stargate‘s Sam Carter and Jack O’Neill.
I’m fortunate to have met both Amanda and Richard before, albeit separately at different events. But it’s not very often that they appear at an event together, so this was an opportunity I did not plan on missing.
DAY 1: STORMS
I had been looking forward to the event for weeks. But just days before the convention was due to take place the local news channels revealed that Storm Hannah was on her way, and would reach the U.K. on Friday night and continue through the Saturday. As I’ve been doing the con circuit for a few years, I learned early on to pack for the weather, so I wasn’t too concerned with the forecast. However, I don’t think any of us were prepared for just how stormy Day 1 of WCC would turn out to be.
Despite the torrential rain and gale-force winds, everybody seemed – and remained – in good spirits. It was just as well, because the way the venue had been set-up meant we had to queue outdoors for a majority of the photo ops and for the autograph hall.
Typically, I like to be at a convention when the doors open, have a walk around, and discover where everything is located before I have to start joining queues. But on this occasion the schedule revealed that I would have no time to explore beforehand: I had an early photo op, with none other than RDA.
So, with the storm causing havoc outside, my friends and I braved the elements and headed down to the venue. With the crowds quickly growing we found the queue we needed, and waited. Some of us were wrapped up in raincoats and waterproofs, while others – kitted out in their SG-1 cosplay – chose to face down the elements. Seeing men, women and children dressing up to pay homage to the characters always makes me smile because it reaffirms that there is still a loyal fanbase and support for the show.
Talking about the series’ longevity helped to keep us all going on this Saturday morning. We waited for over an hour in the storm before we were allowed into the assigned marquees to try and warm up and dry off before our pictures were taken.
All of us were in the same position, resembling something akin to drowned rats! But in the spirit of fandom, everybody pulled together. People passed compact mirrors, tissues, and hairbrushes up and down the line as we all went from bedraggled to glamorous in minutes.
And soon enough, it was time. As the photo line started to move and I got ever closer to RDA, I thought back to the last time I’d met him. It had been four years previously, and all I could remember was being so nervous that I could barely say hello. This time, however, before I could give myself a pep talk of any kind, I was standing in front of the camera with RDA smiling down at me! I even managed a brief conversation with him before our photo was taken. It’s always difficult to chat to the guests at this stage – especially if they have a lot of people to get through. So while I knew I would have another chance to speak to him over the weekend, it was a great way to start the con and to see RDA looking healthy and happy.
As much as I wanted to stay inside the marquee, I had to quickly venture back outside and queue all over again for my next photo op – which just so happened to be with Amanda! The last time I met her was three years ago, and today she is still one of the nicest guests. Ever. She has so much time for her fans, but what surprised me the most is that with all the people she comes into contact with and the numerous conventions and events she attends each year, she remembered me.
Again, I didn’t get too much time to speak with her at this point. But as I was waiting to pick up my photo, Amanda was finishing her session. And as she was about to leave, she was surprised with a photo op of her own – with David Tennant. As she walked by my friends and I, she stopped and positively beaming, said, “It just happened! I had a photo with David Tennant!” (For those who don’t know, Amanda is a big fan of the former Doctor Who star and she subsequently posted this pic on her Instagram account).
STANDING ROOM ONLY
After my photos I grabbed an early lunch and made my way to the other side of the campus, where the Stargate duo panel was to take place. People were queuing an hour beforehand — so I, too, joined the line. The time went by quickly as we engaged in conversations about the show and how excited we were at finally being able to see “Samantha Carter” and “Jack O’Neill” side-by-side. Some of us admitted we were “shippers” (something that later came up in the panel), while others were just happy to see the two lead actors appearing together in the U.K. – a rare sight indeed!
When the doors opened we made our way into the hall and grabbed a seat near the front. Within minutes I turned around to find the room filled to capacity – with fans still streaming in!
The photo to the left, taken by my friend Amy, captured the turnout for this panel exceptionally well. It’s one of those moments that will stick in my mind for a long, long time, because even though Stargate SG-1 came to an end in 2007, the support for both Amanda and Richard over the weekend would have anybody thinking that the show was still on air and turning out new episodes week after week.
It was just incredible to see. And when AT and RDA appeared on stage they too appeared taken aback by the crowd that had gathered.
‘SHIPPING’ AND BEING 70
The crowd was full of die-hard fans of the show, but some of those fans were also die-hard shippers. So it was only natural that the subject popped up early in the Q&A session. The topic of RDA’s age also quickly became a running joke throughout the panel: as a result of the shipper question.
Here are just a few highlights from the duo’s talk (which you can watch in full here):
Q: I have a question for all of the shippers …
[RDA looks confused, so AT leans over to explain what a “shipper” is, after which he turns to the audience and says, “I’m seventy, you know!”]
Q: If the Stargate fandom, and the shipper fandom in particular, could have their canon confirmation moment – similar to what The X Files did after 20 years – what would you like it to be?
RDA (frowning): Canon?
AT (nods): It would be an exterior shot of Jack’s cabin as the sun’s coming up. And then cut inside and you’d see Jack, and Sam would roll over and there she’d be all of a sudden on the same pillow, and then they’d get up and … go fishing.
RDA (seemingly now understanding the question): Given hers [Amanda’s answer], mine would start the evening before.
[Cue lots of laughter and applause from the audience]
Q: If you were to meet an alien like the Goa’uld, how would you react?
AT: I’d kill them and then dissect them, just because I have knowledge of what could happen if they took over (laughs). So, I’d kill them first and then see what they were all about. That’s what Sam Carter would do. Amanda Tapping would probably run screaming!
Moderator: Richard, what would you do if you came across an alien parasite?
RDA: A parasite? … I’d take an antibiotic.
Q: Have you seen the new MacGyver?
RDA: I have, and I’m not real crazy about it, I’ll be honest. They approached me early on. They’d done a testing for the show and found it wasn’t as attractive as they wanted it to be, so they called and asked if I wanted anything to do with it. And I said no.
It’s a business, but … I don’t think they’ve been fair or true to the franchise, e.g. they’re shooting up everybody and there’s so much going on that you don’t see the thought-process that we prided ourselves on. You know, MacGyver sees the problem; he sees solutions to the problem; you see him gathering the solution; and then solving the problem. In this new one, it’s boom-boom-boom and it happens so fast.
Q: Some of the humor in the episodes is very subtle. Was that scripted?
Amanda shakes her head ‘No.’ RDA nods ‘Yes.’
AT: What happened with Stargate very quickly was that when [Richard] agreed to take on the part, [to RDA] you said you didn’t want to play this jarhead. You wanted somebody with a sense of humor. So, there was a lot of ad-lib early on from Rick — the rest of us were too scared, but it was his show so he could!
Rick really paved the way, I think, to make the show a lot more accessible because of his sense of humor, even in the direst situations. The hardest part was keeping a straight face.
RDA: There was a transition in tone as the episodes went by. We used to have the luxury of a table reading for every script. It didn’t last very long because it took time, and nobody was around – but it kind of fell apart after a conversation Brad Wright had with me after one of those meetings. [Amanda starts to laugh, and RDA smiles slightly before he turns to her and says, ‘I’ve told you this story, right?’]
So, during the table reads I would be ad-libbing on a fresh script. And Brad took me aside into his office and said, “You know, you’re not doing the writers a great service by doing that in rehearsals. Every one of us works hard to write these scripts and when we first hear them, we like to hear the words.” He chastised the hell out of me – which I deserved – and it occurred to me that I should be showing more respect.
So, we stopped having that process [of table readings] and I tried to be more true to the words on the page. But the caveat I made with Brad was that we’d do our rehearsal, we’d find our moment of levity and I’d clear it with him first.
Then, the other actors started to do the same thing … and it made for some terrible episodes! [He laughs.] No, it made for a really nice, tight group of actors that could improvise with each other. It was an ideal place to work, for me.
Q: Do you think there is any chance we will ever see SG-1 on TV again?
RDA: My initial statement will be, “I hope so.” There was an element of working with that group that was so dynamic and wonderful and comfortable and creative. And we had freedom with each other that I haven’t experienced in other venues. But it’s not up to us.
AT: I know there is interest from MGM to try and revitalize the franchise in some way. And they had approached Brad [Wright] about it. But it’s not black and white. I think it would be great to revisit, even if it was a series of movies or a limited run mini-series. I don’t think it’s out of the question.
But I think it’s more possible now than it was five years ago, as the idea has been germinating for a while and now MGM seems to have latched onto that. And, because so many shows are being rebooted, it’s more possible now than it ever was.
I highly recommend watching the panel in full! Suffice it to say, Amanda and Richard were fantastic together. The friendship and camaraderie they have is just so natural and a joy to watch, and they genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves.
The only negative point I took away from the panel was that the session was too short! We could easily have filled another hour asking questions.
With the Q&A portion of the day completed, all that was left for me to try and do was to get their autographs. So I battled the outdoors again until I could get into the signing hall.
A majority of the convention’s special guests were in one big room, so it was pretty jam-packed. But despite some of the big-name guests that were there (including Kiefer Sutherland and Jennifer Morrison), Amanda and Richard had two of the longest queues all weekend. After picking up my VQ tickets I, alongside a few friends, decided to queue for Amanda first while the rest of our group decided to wait for RDA.
It’s only when I shuffled forward a little more, and Amanda’s assistant asked if I wanted any of my items personalized, that I realized I was next in line. I had a DVD cover for Amanda to sign, plus a Sanctuary-related item, so I chose to get the latter personalized.
When Amanda saw me, she immediately stood and made her way around the table to give me a hug and we spoke for a few minutes. When she was the Sanctuary item, she grinned. It was a prop from the show (a couple of handwritten letters), and she read through the messages on each page before she added her own message to me alongside. After admitting that it was “awesome” to see the letters again after all this time, Amanda made me promise to keep them safe!
Deliriously happy, I then made my way to the end of the queue for RDA’s autograph line. As I waited for my turn I spoke to Richard’s agent, but I was so caught up in our conversation that I didn’t realize Richard was now waiting for me. So, I quickly apologized and handed over the same DVD cover Amanda had just signed. Once he had signed it, he studied it and said, “Oh, cool! You now have a complete set!” (The cover had previously been signed by both Michael Shanks and Christopher Judge — so I now have the full team on there.)
When he asked if I planned to get anything else signed by the four of them, all I could do was laugh and explain that it had taken me 15 years to get that item completed!
Nervously, I then handed over my prized item: a copy of MacGyver on Ice. This was the only official MacGyver novel ever published. Richard was intrigued by the book, admitting that he didn’t even know it existed. He asked if I’d read it (thankfully, I had because when I said yes, his next question was, “What’s it about?”).
After that, the conversation diverged towards the new MacGyver, as well as a few other topics. I spent 10 to 15 minutes talking to him. He was, as always, such a gentleman and in absolutely no rush to move his fans along, instead taking his time to speak to each one of us and thank us for braving the weather to come and see him.
DAY 2: SUNSHINE AND SELFIES
Thankfully, the weather was on our side on Sunday as the sun shone down. It made queuing a lot more enjoyable, and as soon as the doors opened for Day 2 I accompanied a friend back to the autograph hall (as she needed an item signed by Amanda). We didn’t have to queue that long this time, which was a relief, and I even managed to snag a selfie with the Grand Empress of Sci-fi herself!
Just as I was about to leave, she asked if she would see me later (for the Stargate duo photo op) and I confirmed that she would. To be honest, I think Amanda was even more excited about the photos than I was!
With a couple of hours to kill before my photos, I navigated the Wrexham campus and made my way into the vendors tent for the first time that weekend. For fans of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, or Marvel, there was a range of memorabilia to pick up. But for the Stargate fans, the choices were very poor. I always find the show to be under-represented by the vendors. Of course this isn’t their fault, because they are always going to target the larger and more recent fanbases. But it’s always disappointing when you can’t even find a T-shirt referencing the series.
However, I do have to give a special mention to the Legends stall. They catered specifically to the Stargate crowd, and had an array of memorabilia on offer — from coasters and commemorative coins, to screen-worn items and various props that had been signed by RDA.
After spending a sufficient amount of money (Don’t tell anybody!), it was time for me to make my way down to the photo op area. Similar to Saturday, RDA’s session was my first of the day. The moment passed by in a blur, however, because all I could think about was how my next photo op was the one I had been waiting all weekend for.
Well, waiting 20 years for, if I’m being completely honest. The Stargate Duo.
TWO FOR ONE
Now, shortly before WCC was due to begin, the organizers revealed that they were trying to arrange a duo photo op with Amanda and Richard for the Stargate fans. But it was proving tricky due to the already busy schedule. However, they came through for us and graciously confirmed that they had managed to find a time slot that worked.
The photo session ended up selling out three times before the convention even began – and it ended up being one of the top five best-selling photo ops on Sunday. How amazing is that?!
While I queued, I spent my time agonizing over what I wanted my “pose” to be. And just when I decided to let the duo decide, it was my turn to step forward – and I froze. My childhood dream was about to become reality … and I wasn’t ready.
Thankfully Amanda must have caught my expression, because she walked straight over, grabbed my hand and explained to Richard that I had been waiting for this moment since 1999. Between the pair of them talking away to me (and trying to figure out my age!), I managed to calm my nerves slightly, even if I was still shaking like a leaf. So when Amanda asked what I wanted our photo pose to be, I said: “I’ve been waiting 20 years for this … just squish me!”
So, they did.
When that photo was taken, they asked what I wanted the second photo op to be like and since I knew this would probably be the one and only time I’d be in this situation, I said they could do whatever they wished – and I was just going to fangirl in the middle of them both.
“Fangirl!” Amanda smiled. “Alright, cool!”
“What’s a fangirl?” asked Richard.
“Just you come back here with me,” she laughed.
I didn’t know what pose the pair of them were doing behind me, but I was just so happy I did not mind in the slightest. After thanking them both profusely for the photos, I waited to pick up my prints – and they immediately became my favorites of the entire weekend.
I had just enough time to compose myself for one final photo with Amanda, and say goodbye to my friends before I had to grab my suitcase and catch my lift back to the airport.
I am thoroughly glad I made the journey to Wales to see both AT and RDA. It was an absolutely superb weekend, full of great memories. All that’s really left for me to say is that if you ever get a chance to meet Richard or Amanda at a convention, do. You won’t regret it!