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Here is a breakdown of the Stargate SG-1 panel at Comic Con 2007 on Friday, July 27. Gary Jones was the moderator for the panel. He encouraged the audience to raise the bar and ask good questions (perhaps compared to last year?) and promised prizes to those who asked really good ones.
Gary greeted the audience and played up his Harriman role. He said the one line he always wished he could have said on Stargate: “I don’t know, sir. I could have sworn Teal’c was right behind me.” This was a reference to him wanting to travel through the gate on missions along with the others.
He remembered saying to Brad Wright ten years ago, “Brad, sure it’s going to be the star vehicle for me, but if I’m going to be spending ten years sitting on my ass, talking to a pane of glass, I’m really going to need a kick-ass support crew. Of course over the years they just became more popular than me, but that’s okay!”
Then he introduced the SG-1 tribute video, followed by the Ark of Truth trailer, which is described here. Those were very well received, with big cheers at several points, especially at the end of the trailer.
Gary joked he wasn’t in the movie, but was in many of the outtakes. Then he introduced the panelists, who took the stage and found their seats. They were: Martin Wood, Ben Browder, Amanda Tapping, Chris Judge, and Robert Cooper. At first glance it was clear that Ben has grown his hair out, Amanda has long hair, and surprisingly Chris Judge has long hair and a beard and mustache.
Gary asked the panel how everyone was feeling, sitting there with 4,000 people. Martin said he was full from eating and that it was very fulfilling looking at all the flashbulbs going off. Ben Browder yelled, “Hello San Diego!” Then Amanda said, “Just chillin’ with four thousand of our closest friends.” Chris said, “I’m way less hungover than I usually am. Hello, Riverside!” Robert Cooper said with mock nervousness and meekness, “Hello, San Diego.”
Gary opened up the questions to the audience. The first was a man asking what Chris Judge has lined up other than Stargate. Chris said very briefly that “Rage of Angels” is a “go” with MGM. He said they are “full steam ahead” with Brad Turner, and asked Charlie Cohen, sitting in the audience, if it was okay to say that. Based on the lack of clapping, it seemed a lot in the audience had no idea what Chris was talking about, but perhaps feeling pressure to keep the subject of the session to SG-1, he didn’t say much more.
Then Gary said how relieved he was to know Chris had a job. And Chris said his ex-wife would be happy to know it, too. He said answering that question was going to cost him a lot of money.
To reward the man who asked the first question, Gary called him up and gave him an autographed copy of the script for “200”! The guy was very happy, needless to say.
The next guy directed his question at the producers: “What do you have against doctors?” The audience started screaming and waving the Scottish flags handed out earlier by the Save Carson Beckett campaign (read more here). Robert Cooper responded that, “The problem with doctors is when they get mortally wounded, there’s no one to save them.” Then he blamed it on Martin Gero. Then, amazingly, he added, “It’s not doctors we have a problem with, it’s Scottish people.” The audience started booing like crazy, waving their flags even more. Cooper looked a bit surprised at the fan preparation. Then he said to ask that question in the Atlantis panel, and that he was sure Joe Mallozzi would be glad to answer it.
The next guy wanted to praise the show for it’s depiction of strong, independent female characters. Chris Judge started preening as if he were a strong female character, then Ben joined in. The questioner took Chris to be referring to the strong females he had written (e.g., Ishta), but the audience just laughed. The man said he was referring particularly to Colonel Sam Carter and Doctor Janet Fraiser. He asked if it would be possible to see Janet Fraiser in Continuum, since it involves time travel. And if the panelists didn’t want to answer that, what were their fondest memories of working with Teryl Rothery? Amanda spoke up right away that Teryl had the best giggle ever. She would spontaneously burst into laughter, and snort and laugh at the same time. Chris added that he missed it first thing in the morning. Martin Wood explained that the sort of time travel that would be in Continuum might not be what we are expecting. But he said there would be a street scene where Daniel Jackson is walking down the street, and he will see Janet Fraiser’s parents. The audience was pretty quiet. Then he said, “I’m kidding!” This was the first of several false leads by Martin.
The same guy thanked Brad Wright for bringing back Nirrti, who would “kick your ass for a nickel and give you back 4 cents change.” Chris Judge said, “You’ve been dying to say that!”
Then Gary Jones asked Amanda about how important it was to play a strongly written character in terms of fueling her to continue on the show, other than… “To be with you!” Amanda finished. He joked that when he was playing Harriman and Carter would stroll in, move him to the side at his console, and take over, he would always think, “Wow, what a strongly written character!”
Amanda explained that that aspect was very important to her continuing to play Carter: the evolution of the character, her expanding horizons, and her most important relationship, that with her father. She finished with “I like her!” to which there was great applause.
A woman said she’d heard “there was something that Amanda Tapping was doing on-line,” which got everyone laughing at the possibilities. Gary Jones said that joke pretty much wrote itself. Amanda said, “This is an SG-1 panel, and I’m grateful for my tenure on Stargate, but sanctuaryforall.com,” the last said very quickly. She added that she’s very proud of it. Again, there was a sense many in the audience didn’t know about the project. Gary asked if everyone was aware of it; quite a few people cheered, then he repeated “SanctuaryforAll.com.”
The next fan asked Ben whether he’d be in the Farscape webisodes, and asked him to tell the audience about “Homer.” He said the Farscape question would be best asked at the Henson panel later, and explained “Going Homer” is a mini-series for which he’s currently writing the story with Andrew Prowse from Australia. it will be a 2-part mini-series, and they will see when that happens in terms of it coming to fruition.
Then a very odd guy came up and begged the panel to make him happy by letting him sing a Stargate song. The audience instantly started booing him down, without mercy. Only geeks can be this mean to other geeks! He said it was a parody and asked to sing a little bit, and again the audience booed. He said he didn’t care what the audience thought, only the panelists. Gary Jones told him, “You know what? The actors aren’t going to beat you up in the hallway.” The panelists looked vaguely disturbed, but then Amanda said she wanted to hear it. The audience gasped. Gary Jones said, “Go ahead, Captain Deathwish.” So the guy started singing, to the tune of the Smashmouth song, “Somebody once told me, there’s a big ring in the dessert, I think they said it was from Egypt…” He got another line or two out before he gave up.
Gary Jones, nearly speechless, said “Wow, those are some cojones you got on you, man.” Then Chris Judge seamlessly went into an imitation of Randy Jackson from American Idol: “Dawg, dawg, you know I’m keeping it real.” He gestured just like Jackson and the audience quickly picked up on what he was doing, howling in laughter. He went on a bit, then turned to Amanda, who said, “The audience loved you, man,” a la Paul Abdul. Then it was Ben’s turn to be Simon Cowl. He said in a fair fine British accent, “That was the worst thing I have ever heard!” What a brilliant bit of improvisation, and the audience loved it. Chris then asked for a round of applause for the guy.
The next guy asked if we’d see Walter in Atlantis, and if we’d actually see the Furlings. Martin Wood said we did see them in “200”. That was them. Gary said as far as Walter in Atlantis, “Yeah” but Martin cut him off and said, “Next question please!” But Gary said Martin had just directed him in a very funny scene with Jason Momoa. Martin said Harriman actually had more words in that one scene of Atlantis than he had in ten seasons of SG-1. Cooper said, “The great thing about Gary is you don’t really even have to cast him — he’s just there. You just go into the stage and there he is sitting in the chair.”
A man asked if we’d see Ba’al again and if we’d see how his clones were created. Martin deadpanned, “They were cloned,” and turned it over to Robert, who revealed that Ba’al is the villain in Continuum. Martin said in the episode of Atlantis they are filming now (Kindred Part 1) there is an explanation about what happened to the clones. He said he was kidding but it seemed maybe he wasn’t.
A Navy Petty Officer stepped up and asked about military support for the show and Continuum. She asked what the positive aspects of that military involvement are. Cooper explained there had been long relationship with the Air Force and that in addition to advice and support, they had given equipment many times. He said it’s been a tremendous relationship. The Air Force appreciates the show portraying the military in a positive, respectful manner. They’ve always been aware of that and have written episodes that speak for themselves and show their respect. He said there is no comparison between what they on the show do and what the military folks do. “We’re just playing; that’s real life.” He said it’s a mutual admiration society. Recently he got to sit in the cockpit of a parked F-15 that had been flown up to Vancouver for filming. The pilots thought it was so cool that he produces Stargate, and he thought it was so cool that they fly airplanes.
Amanda pointed out that they have benefitted from the rivalry between the different forces. Once the Navy heard the Air Force was sending up aircraft to support the movie, they offered to crash a nuclear submarine through the ice in the Arctic.
Martin related the story of how he went down to Cheyenne Mountain ten years ago to get all those external establishing shots of the tunnel and the guards walking around. No one knew who they were or what they were doing beyond making some new TV show. Then he went back in Season 8 to get a new set of shots. Suddenly there were hundreds of airmen standing waiting, offering to be extras. And inside Cheyenne Mountain, because people always look for it, they actually have a door with a sign on it that says “Stargate Command.” A Colonel showed it to him. Martin asked him what was behind it, and he said, “Brooms… and detergent.” This story got a huge laugh for Martin, who told it very well. He clarified that that story was “true”.
Robert Cooper talked again about the competition between forces. Apparently he couldn’t hear Amanda speak earlier; none of the panelists could hear each other! But anyway Robert mentioned the name of the Naval officer who had, at a con, offered the trip to the Arctic for filming on the ice and with the nuclear sub. It turned out that man was there, so Martin Wood introduced him (Barry something) and told the audience we have a lot to thank him for. So he got a huge round of applause.
Barry was up at the Arctic lab during filming and has a cameo in the movie. Nodding at Ben and Amanda, Martin said the filming in the Arctic was the time of their lives. He said we won’t believe how great the movies look compared to the TV show.
Gary Jones broke in to describe how as Harriman has been promoted year after year, they have to be very careful how he’s addressed on film. Once Mitchell referred to him simply as “Sergeant” and they got an Air Force memo about how he should be addressed as “Chief Master Sergeant”, giving him the respect that his rank deserves. So he went and shoved that memo in Ben’s face, and that’s why they often call him Walter or Chief since then.
A woman asked if there were any decisions that any of the panelists regretted over the past ten years. Gary asked Rob if he regrets any decisions, “besides that fashion choice,” referring to Cooper’s sort of western-style shirt. Cooper said they always make decisions at the time that they think are best for the show. So he couldn’t really think of one. Martin pointed out one — what happens when you fire a zat gun for the third time. Cooper countered that that was not his decision, although he does regret it.
Gary tried to draw the question out by asking Cooper if there were any decisions that didn’t go the way he thought it might go. Cooper had nothing, but Martin piped up with “casting choices.” Not of major characters, but of “secondary and tertiary,” referring to an earlier comment by Martin that Harriman was a tertiary character.
The next fan asked if the military connection put restrictions on them. Cooper said certainly and brought up the example from Season 1’s “There but for the Grace of God.” In that alternate reality O’Neill and Carter were married. In the early drafts, they were both still officers and they were to kiss before O’Neill went off to his death. The Air Force said there was no way that two officers could kiss on duty like that. Cooper pointed out that O’Neill was going to his death, but they still said no way. So Brad had the idea to make Carter a civilian doctor, which was okay with the Air Force. But then on the day of filming the actors and director decided to make it a hug instead of a kiss, so it didn’t really matter anyway!
Martin pointed out that Carter has not “legally” been able to call O’Neill ‘Jack’ in this reality. Cooper said the first time was in “200,” but Amanda pointed out she called him ‘Jack’ in Season 1’s “Solitudes.” But he was dying…vand there was no military around. The fan who asked the question said, “So basically whatever happens on the deathbed stays on the deathbed?” to much laughter.
Cooper talked about another example, “Foothold” in which aliens get into the base, overcome security, and get out of the mountain. The military advisor said that would never happen, meaning the security wouldn’t fail. Cooper said, “You mean the aliens would never get out of the base where there’s a Stargate to other planets?” And the advisor said, “That’s right. We would not allow that to happen.” Very funny.
The next person wanted to know about the experiences of filming in the Arctic. She said to Chris that she knew he didn’t go because he has an aversion to bears. Christ came back with, “No, I have an aversion to being eaten by bears!” Then he added, “I’m roughly seal-colored.”
Martin said that there were several actors who changed their minds about going up to the Arctic after attending Barry’s briefing on what it would be like. Martin was facing Chris at the meeting; he seemed okay with it until Barry started to talk about the polar bears. Barry said to a polar bear, everyone is an upright seal. Chris said, “Yeah, I’m the one they’re going for.” Amanda saw Chris change his mind, too, when he whispered, “I’m not going” after hearing he’d have to check his colleagues for frost bite.
Marin said when the landed, it was minus 39 degrees F, and it got as cold as minus 58. At Gary’s prompting, Ben talked about he and Amanda walking hundreds of yards for the helicopter shots, and how no one had walked out there nor knew exactly how thick the ice was. They could hear it creaking and moaning as they walked. But it was stunningly beautiful and no one will ever see exactly those formations again, because they come and go. Amanda said on the third pass of the helicopter they were doing snow angels. Martin pointed out all of the shots in the movie are Ben and Amanda, never stunt doubles. And they never complained about the cold. Ben said he thought it, but he never said it.
Then Cooper said he had to defend Chris. In filming the Ark of Truth, they had to take him up to the side of a mountain, on a very thin ridge. They filmed him with a helicopter that got very close to him at times. There were wind gusts and the helicopter downwash blew him around at times. They asked Chris to walk closer to the edge but he declined. At one point the rudder of the helicopter almost hit him. Chris said in his mind, he was thinking of the guys who’d been to the Arctic. And so he thought, “If I don’t stay up here, I’ll never hear the end of it.”
I shouted from the audience, “Where is Shanks” which set Chris on a mission to phone him from his cell phone… this went on for a while.
Meanwhile the next fan question was whether we can expect Daniel Jackson to die in the movies, with the implication that he’s died so often already. Cooper said it wouldn’t be a movie if Daniel wasn’t dying. Martin said the magic number for sci fi deaths is six. That’s the maximum number you can have in a show, and they know because they made up the rule.
Chris announced he was going to call Michael, to many cheers. He set about dialing.
The last question was whether there would be any more spin-offs. Cooper announced they are actively working on another series. Gary said it would be called Stargate: CSI, but Cooper said he’s been pitching Stargate: Hawaii for a long time. Cooper said, thanks to all of the fans, the franchise is alive and well. They’re hopeful the movies will do well, that there will be more of them, and that there will be a lot more Stargate.
I asked when the movies are being released, and Gary Jones said next year (2008), with Ark of Truth in the Spring, and Continuum in the Fall.
Gary then asked for a round of applause to close the panel, but just then Chris reached Lexa and asked if Michael was in. She said no, then he asked to call back and for her not answer so he could leave a message. But she answered again… or the fax answered or something. There was mass confusion on the phone call.
While that was going on, Martin Wood pointed out that Brad Wright and Robert Cooper had created what we love. He said we have no idea how hard they work to produce the shows. So he asked for and got a round of applause for Brad and Robert. Chris spoke up to applaud their tremendous ability to sign checks and told Robert, “I love you.”
Gary tried once more to end the panel, but Chris was phoning Michael again. He finally got through and said, “What’s up, home girl? Is the frowner around?” Chris yelled for him several times, but Lexa finally told him Michael was in the bathroom. So Chris had everyone yell “hi” into the phone, and it was a very loud hello. Then he told Lexa he wished everything would come out well for Michael in the bathroom. Ewww.
So that was the end of the funny and lively SG-1 panel! In retrospect I wish there had ben more questions for the actors. Ben in particular didn’t say much, but he seemed to be having a good time.
We will provide a summary of the Atlantis panel in the next couple of days…