Farscape’s Ben Browder and Claudia Black to join star Michael Shanks in Stargate SG-1’s pivotal 9th season
Season 9 of Stargate SG-1 is shaping up to be the most challenging and interesting of all the seasons to date.
Star Richard Dean Anderson [General Jack O’Neill] has been adamant on the subject of his retirement in recent interviews and this week Sci Fi Channel confirmed on their news service Sci Fi Wire that “the show?s producer, MGM, is still working on a deal to bring back SG-1 star Richard Dean Anderson in some capacity.”
Co-star Amanda Tapping [Colonel Samantha Carter] is pregnant and expecting the birth of her first child in March 2005, just as the show goes into production on its 9th season at the Bridge Studios in Vancouver. Producers have confirmed to fans that she will be missing for at least the first five episodes of the season.
So how have MGM, Sci Fi Channel and the producers at Bridge responded to these huge challenges?
This week, TV Guide Online broke the story of Farscape star Ben Browder joining Stargate SG-1 as a regular member of the main cast. Stargate’s Co-Executive Producer Joseph Mallozzi, posting to the Gateworld forum, has this to say about the casting of Browder:
“Yup, its true. Ben Browder will be joining the cast for SG-1’s 9th season. I met Ben at this year’s Saturn Awards and, while telling him how much my wife and I enjoyed Farscape, he told me how much he and his son enjoy SG-1. In fact, Michael Welch was on the red carpet being interviewed at the time and Ben looked over and noted ‘Hey, it’s Young Jack.’ He’s a terrific actor and we look forward to working with him.”
In response to fan speculation about the as yet undetermined role Browder will play in the production and of course in the SG-1 team, and the incredible physical likeness fans have remarked on between Browder and series star Michael Shanks[Dr. Daniel Jackson], Mallozzi noted, “More on his [Browder’s] character in good time but, suffice it to say, as a series regular he should be appearing in all episodes. As for his being DJ’s long-lost brother or other relative…don’t hold your breath.”
Mallozzi went on to confirm that series star and fan favourite Michael Shanks will be back in Season 9 to reprise his role as Dr. Daniel Jackson.
As for Amanda Tapping, a Solutions source said today that she *may* have signed a contract to appear in ‘up to’ fifteen episodes in the 9th season. If officially confirmed, this is a generous gesture on the part of MGM, Sci Fi and Bridge to keep Tapping as part of the production while accommodating her schedule and needs as a new mom. She will therefore take a recurring rather than regular role, offering her some flexibility and freedom. As a regular, she would have been expected to be available for every episode in the season.
A source revealed last night to Solutions staffers that Ben Browder’s Farscape co-star Claudia Black had just that afternoon signed a contract to appear in a recurring role as the alien Vala. British fans will see Black as Vala on their screens in the highly-anticipated Season 8 episode “Prometheus Unbound” on 21st December. Black’s contract commits her to appear in ‘at least five episodes’ of Season 9 ? clearly a safety measure put in place by the show makers should Tapping’s new family responsibilities keep her from appearing in the production for longer than expected or for fewer episodes than hoped. The news was confirmed when MGM gave fansite Gateworld.net the go-ahead to report Black’s casting in a ‘five story arc.’
Co-star Christopher Judge [Teal’c] has not yet been confirmed as a cast member for Season 9, while fans of Don S. Davis [General George Hammond] will be disappointed to learn that although Don is expected to appear in Season 9 [writer, director and producer Peter DeLuise, at London Film and Comic Con] it will not be as the SGC’s original commanding officer. Our source tells us that the producers are seeking to cast a ‘new’ general.
The casting of Browder and Black is both a publicity coup and a possible controversy in the making. The pair are popular with the British and American scifi press and with the influential TV critics of key US publications such as TV Guide, who joined in the very public mourning when low ratings proved the death knell for the original and innovative Farscape. Stargate SG-1, in securing higher ratings and without the complicated financing that dogged the Sci Fi/Jim Henson production, is inextricably linked for some with the demise of Farscape. Even Stargate’s Executive Producer Brad Wright drew a connection between the two productions. How will those critics and the legions of loyal Scapers react to the casting of both of Farscape’s stars in Stargate SG-1?
The enthusiastic response of the stars themselves to Stargate SG-1 is unequivocal. Browder is a self-avowed fan who watches the show with his son, and he and co-star Black were joking with fans at recent convention appearances about her ‘new leading man’ Michael Shanks, with Browder wanting to kick his ass in at least a ‘three story arc’. Now Browder will have all season to kick Daniel Jackson’s ass, while Black has been raving about her experiences on set filming “Prometheus Unbound” with Michael Shanks.
“When I guest starred on Stargate I was one of those people who was in awe of everything around me,” Black told TV Zone for its 2004 Yearbook issue. “It was an absolute blast and I was lucky enough to bring with me all that I had learnt as an actress from doing Farscape. It was wonderful to be able to walk onto a new set in a foreign country and be able to get on with the people and do the work quickly as well as deliver a solid performance. It was just an amazing experience and the cast and crew were very good to me.
“As soon as I read the script, I fell in love with the character of Vala. She’s a hoot. I thought it would be a wonderful acting challenge for me. What I especially liked was that the action…was very much self contained. It was its own story within the episode, and that allowed me to be introduced into the Stargate world, at a comfortable pace. To top it off, I was working mainly with Michael Shanks and the director Andy Mikita, both of whom are extremely kind and giving.
“Fortunately, as with Farscape, the onset environment is both encouraging and collaborative. For example, I noticed that Michael Shanks had a great deal of excellent input and Andy Mikita respected his opinion and was keen to listen to him. As an actor, it’s preferable to be thought of as part of the wheel that turns as opposed to something that makes the wheel stop.
“I can’t tell you what a buzz I got from working on Stargate. It allowed me to test my acting wares and get out there in front of the camera and really takes some risks. At one point Michael Shanks said to me, ‘It’s all up to you now’, meaning that I had made some very specific choices and was either going to fall flat on my face, or make it work. Andy Mikita was terrific about it. The more he encouraged me, the more I pushed. We were all working together to achieve a common goal and I loved every minute of it.”
Black loved it enough to step in for the absent Tapping and accept an ‘at least’ five episode arc in Season 9, with the inherent uncertainty of balancing out her recurring role as Vala with Tapping’s dual commitments to her new baby and to her own recurring role as Carter.
The show makers have without a doubt made a casting coup within the scifi world, with Browder and Black worth their weight in gold in publicity terms to a show which is reeling from the double-blow of losing Anderson and Tapping as regulars and which has never been courted in the press as the cool, critically acclaimed scifi success Farscape was. The hope may be that along with the additional press attention and coverage their casting will garner, Browder and Black will draw in even the disaffected Farscape fans who have never watched Stargate SG-1 or have abandoned it in the wake of Farscape’s loss.
It’s possible that in creating this hybrid ‘Farscape SG-1’ MGM, Sci Fi Channel and the producers at Bridge may have given the Stargate SG-1 franchise an infusion of new energy and creativity which will see it run and run, a powerhouse continuing to buck the customary television trend with increased ratings into a 9th season and beyond.
Michael Shanks and Ben Browder are confirmed as regulars for Stargate’s now pivotal 9th season. Claudia Black is confirmed in an open-ended recurring role in order to balance out Tapping’s reduced availability or replace her if called upon to do so. Chris Judge is expected to sign as a regular but has not yet been confirmed. Don S. Davis is expected to reprise his role as Hammond but now the producers are seeking to cast a ‘new’ general in command of the SGC. MGM continue to court departing star Richard Dean Anderson, who remains obdurate about not appearing after the Season 8 finale, “Moebius,” perhaps robbing the producers of the opportunity to write out his character O’Neill on-screen.
All that can be said with any certainty at this point is that the fans’ beloved SG-1 team no longer exists as we know it. Daniel Jackson, Teal’c and likely Ben Browder’s new character [logically, with the loss of SG-1’s military team leader, an Air Force officer] will form the new SG-1, aided in their turn by either the manipulative alien Vala or the absent Samantha Carter, with the SGC commanded by an as yet unknown general who may prove to be antagonist or sympathiser.
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