When Stargate made the leap to the small screen in 1997, one of the biggest challenges for the production team was recreating the look and feel of Roland Emmerich’s hit feature film.
In addition to rebuilding a U.S. military base on the lot at The Bridge Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia, of course that meant recreating the film’s iconic prop — in painstaking detail, but also with some noteworthy changes from the movie gate.
Stargate SG-1‘s original production designer Richard Hudolin talks about getting the show up and running in a brand new interview with “Dial the Gate,” which premieres today on “Dial the Gate.” Check out an exclusive early look below.
Hudolin helped to launch Stargate on television in 1997, and served as the show’s production designer for its first five seasons. His genre credits also include Battlestar Galactica, Arrow, 1996’s Doctor Who: The Movie, and the Painkiller Jane feature film.
Viewers who are paying close attention will recognize that the TV show’s Stargate has some clear differences from the giant prop that Kurt Russell and James Spader stepped through. SG-1‘s gate was slightly larger, and replaced the flat chevrons with larger units built around those now familiar red crystals.
The glyphs along the inner track, which represent star constellations, also got a subtle but important makeover.
“The glyphs themselves came down to what would look better, for one thing, and I would prefer that a shadow cast on the glyphs — which means you raise them as opposed to indent them,” Hudolin said. “So it worked on that level for me, visually. And then also it worked in the manufacturing of them because it was easier to do it as an appliqué than the other way around.”
MGM gave the team access to everything that had been saved from the movie production three years earlier, but most all of it proved to be in poor condition that was not usable. But it did give Hudolin’s team a starting reference point, and pieces for taking molds.
“We went up to a ranch hours north of L.A. and we found bits of the Stargate,” he said. “It was in pieces. It was scrap at that point. And if you look at the detail on it you say, ‘I could pull a mold off of that,’ or ‘At least I’ve got something I can draw from or pull an image from it.’
“I sent back up [to Vancouver] two tractor trailers full of things like that — nothing that was complete. It was all bits and pieces. It’s sort of like being an archaeologist — you find one bone and try to reconstruct more from that.”
While the movie “cheated” a little on the spinning inner ring (using manual labor and carefully edited close-up shots), the television series needed a working prop that could be spun up on command week in and week out. The team built a motorized rig to achieve this, with a custom-made motor shipped up from south of the border that barely fit through the door of the sound stage. Hudolin boasts that the rig never broke down during the series’ 10-year run.
“Even after I left it worked perfectly,” he said. “It just worked.”
Don’t miss Dial the Gate’s full conversation with Richard Hudolin, streaming this Sunday at 11 a.m. Pacific time (2 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. BST) on YouTube. While you’re there, subscribe to GateWorld’s YouTube channel for more content like this!