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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Team Spirit: Michael Shanks
Sharon Gosling & K. Stoddard Hayes, Stargate SG-1 Official Magazine #1, Nov/Dec 04

As Daniel Jackson, Michael Shanks' journey over the past eight years has been nothing short of an epic odyssey. He may have started off as a mild mannered archaeologist, but now he's just as capable in a gun battle as he is translating a wall of Goa'uld hieroglyphs. With Jack O'Neill concentrating on his duties as leader of the SGC, Jackson's role in SG1 is set to evolve even further as SG1's intergalactic adventures roll rapidly towards their eighth year conclusion.

"This year we have a different dynamic, with O'Neill being a General and Carter being the commander of SG1," agrees the actor. "I think all three individuals left on the team have proven themselves. Their roles are very defined."

This new adjustment has not required Daniel to become even more attuned to the military sensibilities of his two remaining colleagues, Samantha Carter and Teal'c. Rather, this already unique SGC unit has become even more fuid in its operating methods, discarding some of the complexities of Air Force protocol in favour of getting their job done as efficiently as possible. Something the actor feels befits both the team's component members and it's history.

"What you have is three people who respect each other," Shanks says of the way SG1 has been operating so far in season eight. "Orders aren't necessarily given, because the chain of command is kind of vague. The ranking military officer is going out with a scientist and an alien. It's very important that everyone on the team has to take control of their job. Everybody implicitly understands what the other's role is and what the arguments will be. So it's just about redefining the team"

Team tactics

Redefining the team is something that SG1 has become used to, particularly during their last few seasons of gate travel. It has, for example, only been a year since Daniel returned from his stint in the non corporeal realm of the Ancients. Having arrived bqack with no recollection of what he'd done over the past year, Daniel threw himself back into being part of SG1 without much time to find out what he had been through during his prolonged absence from the SGC. Now though, Shanks is looking forward to addressing that disappeared year, and thinks its high time Daniel recovered his memories of that period.

"There's an episode that Robert Cooper is polishing up called Threads, which will have to do with some sort of visitation of the Oma Desala ascended storyline." In fact, the episode will once again find Daniel forced to choose between ascension and possible death, with the figure of his ascended friend guiding him in his decision.

"We talked about needing some sort of closure. Some sort of explanation about what that universe was like and what conversations happened between Daniel Jackson and Oma Desala, and why he ended up being descended." Though the device of Daniel's amnesia served well to get season seven straight back into the old swing of SG1, the actor feels it's now time to rewind and find out what really happened to the archaeologist during that year. "When he came back, he had no memory of it, so therefore not only did we not show it, the character doesn't remember it. We have no exposition of it in season seven, so it remains a mystery that exists only in the imagination of the fans. Rob felt we have to explain that somehow, so that will be interesting."

Although the exploration into Daniel's absent year has been a long time coming, the actor say's that the opportunity to revisit that aspect of his character's life didn't move him to put pen to paper himself. Though Shanks was behind the season six episode Resurrection, he reports that this year he decided to pass on the opportunity to write for Stargate SG1 again.

"It was just a matter of timing. It was in our contracts last year, this year it was more of an open ended thing. If you want to pitch something, we'll see if we accept it. i just couldn't come up with any storylines that I was attached to in an emotional way. On a personal level, for me to write, if it's not a labour of love, it becomes a task that I'm not skilled enough to perform without an emotional attachment to the material. I knew I wasn't going to be able to hash one out in the course of acting throughout the season. So I guess I'll just have to wait for another time."

Black Days

Besides visiting some old storylines, season eight has also provided Daniel with some entirely new challenges, not to mention a brand new sparring partner. Prometheus Unbound, season eights episode 11, features the feisty character of Vala, played by the former leading lady of another hit US Scifi channel show, Farscapes's Claudia Black. Vala is a former Goa'uld host that has been freed by the Tok'ra. Determined to liberate the rest of her people from the parasite's oppression, Vala leads a resistance cell dedicated to thwarting the Goa'uld. To do so her faction steals any and all technology they come across, which unfortunately for Earth, this time means the Prometheus.

Shanks is more than enthusiastic when it comes to discussing his guest co-star, announcing, "She was a great pro, and we had this wonderful rapport that was established within the first 30 seconds of talking to each other. Within the first two hours, Claudia and I had this wonderful push pull dynamic between us, which had a lot of different layers to it. It was written in a very antagonistic, amusing way, with a lot of sexual tension and a really interesting fight scene in the middle. It was just so much fun. I had such a blast! She's definitely the best guest star we've had on the show in a couple of years, and even while she was still shooting it, we were finding a way to involve her character and have her back on the show. If there's any more future to SG1, I'll definitely be broaching that notion."

Whether there will be any other opportunity for SG1 to continue their adventures through the gate is a question every fan is eager to have answered. Happily, Shanks admits that it wouldn't take too much to convince him to report for duty for another year.

"I don't think it would take a lot, except more of the same dynamic we've had over the last couple of years on the show. It's been fantastic. me leaving the show and coming back to it was such a great thing, it really reinvigorated me into wanting to work with this group of people. it's been a lovely ride. I don't think there could ever be finality to the show because we've opened up the universe. This universe is not going to go away, these characters live on in your imagination. I don't think there's a proper way that this show could be wrapped, to do it justice. But we've had a wonderful run, and if it did end this year, then I think I'd be very proud to walk away."

2004, Stargate SG-1 Official Magazine.  Buy Stargate SG-1 Official Magazine #1 online.

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