It’s not just Daniel Jackson’s doing…
Excerpts from Steve Eramo’s interviews with Stargate SG-1‘s creative team in TV Zone Special #64
“In re-tooling the show we wanted to stay true to many of the ideas that we’d already established,” notes [Executive Producer Robert C.] Cooper. “This included the theme of false gods and what it is to be a god and whether or not you believe in that. We wanted to continue to explore that concept and I think our new villains, the Ori, actually provide greater opportunity for us to do that. With the Goa’uld there really was no question. They were bad guys with snakes in their heads and who used technology to enslave people. With the Ori, it’s not quite so clear to everyone as to whether or not they’re worthy of our devotion.
“So these episodes introduce that idea along with the Ori. Up to now, the Ancients have been protecting Earth; basically keeping it from the Ori’s view, so they didn’t know about us. However, when Daniel and Vala visit the Ori galaxy and start to poke around, all of a sudden the Ori know we’re here. They send their representatives or missionaries, called the Priors, to try to convert our galaxy to their religion. These missionaries have tremendous power at their disposal and a fervent belief in their mission. They’re offering people what is essentially a real religion with this wonderful pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There’s a catch, though,” smiles Cooper. “So this is pretty much what we’re up against this season on SG-1.”
As with the Goa’uld and other aliens on SG-1, the show’s art department played a big role in designing the look for the Ori and Priors. “The Priors are the Ori’s front line 'troops' if you will and we had to develop them from scratch,” says art director James Robbins. “We were given a description of who they were, what that they’d carry a staff of power. We first looked at Japanese and Samurai from a costuming point of view more than anything, but at the end of the day that look got watered down. Then we got into more mystical aspects and I came up with the idea of using scarification. Looking at some of the remote jungle tribes there’s face painting, scarification and burns, and I’ve always found that stuff kind of mystical.
“So I began experimenting with treatments for scarification and carried that through to the final look of the Priors and also the Doci, who are the overseers of all the lower level Ori, who are the Priors. The Priors have the chin and cheek scarification, whereas the Doci also have them on their foreheads. That’s all relegated, though. The higher up you are in their 'establishment' the more scarifications you receive, including on the backs of your hands. We even started out with the Priors having finger extensions, but that became too much of a physical anomaly to deal with. For example, when they tried closing their hands around their staffs it just didn’t look right, so after one episode we jettisoned the whole idea of doing that.
“Each of the Priors has his own symbol that’s part of his wardrobe and is also set into the handle of each staff. With the staffs, we thought it would be fun to have these little glowing orbs encased in natural wood. So the model shop built a number of staffs, each with its own Prior symbol as well as other markings etched into their sides. The staffs are actuated to glow by pressing a little button, either on the side or on the end, which is pretty cool.”