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10th anniversary party for Stargate SG-1 out of this world (nathan fillion mention)

Alex Strachan

Monday 17 July 2006, by Webmaster

PASADENA, Calif. - They came from Vancouver, not from outer space. On this night, though, they could be forgiven for being mistaken as space aliens.

A strange sight, indeed. The massive stargate used in Stargate SG-1, the 10-year-old filmed-in-Vancouver sci-fi series that just cannot get respect from the critics, either in Canada or the U.S. it seems, loomed over the manicured lawns of the upscale, faux-Versailles grounds at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel.

Past and present Stargate stars mixed, mingled and made merry for the California natives on the occasion of Stargate’s 200th episode and record-breaking 10th season: Amanda Tapping, holding her tow-headed toddler Olivia in her arms, with matching sky blue eyes; a lean, fit MacGyver-like Richard Dean Anderson, playing a gentle game of tag with his young daughter, Wylie; Michael Shanks, a serious stage actor who looked, for once, as if he’d just stepped off the moon; Christopher Judge, who, his Stargate character to the contrary, is in fact not a space alien; and Ben Browder, rested instead of restive for once, the leading man in his second cult sci-fi series in a row. (The first was the late, lamented - and unfairly cancelled - Farscape. To paraphrase a line from Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, damn you Sci Fi Channel, damn you all to hell.)

The stink of cheap pasta wafted over the grounds above the clink of wine glasses. The dozens of disoriented reporters and visitors from surrounding homes who dropped by to see exactly what the heck was going on in their otherwise sedate, upscale neighbourhood, staggered about the grounds in a daze, like extras in a post-modern remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Milling in the crowd: comics legend Stan Lee and the reality-TV stars of Lee’s latest project, the reality series Who Wants to Be a Super Hero?, including Fat Momma, whose real name is Nell Wilson, the dashing Major Victory, whose alter ego is Chris Watters, and the fabulously endowed Monkey Woman, whose driver’s licence actually states Mary Votava.

“Don’t worry,” Sci Fi Channel executive vice-president Dave Howe said, heading into Stargate’s birthday party. “We’ve got a photographer there who can capture you as you emerge through the gate, and you can give that photo to your grandchildren.”

I tapped Tapping for her thoughts but she was in seventh heaven, holding her toddler in her arms. The facial resemblance between the two is startling.

I gave her an old line from Apocalypse Now - “This sure is a strange sight in the middle of this, um, you know” - and Tapping laughed. Life is good, and as a career actress from Canada who didn’t have to scrape and claw her way from one role to the next, Stargate has proven to be a refuge and a second home at the same time. Filming the series for 10 months in the year in Vancouver for the U.S.-based Sci Fi Channel, then flying down to Los Angeles to celebrate the show’s 10th birthday - only to keep running into fellow Canadians - is a surreal experience, she allowed. Not exactly an out-of-body experience, mind, but surreal just the same.

“I love that we’re here on the lawn of the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena and we’re both pining for home,” she said. “It’s so cool. Ten years?

“Honestly, I had no idea when I signed on for this show - who could ever have predicted we would get this far? A decade. For me, it’s easier to say 200 episodes than it is to say 10 years. Ten years just seems crazy long. Two hundred episodes, I can handle.”

The Sci Fi Channel is riding a record ratings high and no fewer than seven on-going dramas, most of which are filmed in Vancouver, including the dark, cerebral metaphor for terror and paranoia in a post Sept.11 world, Battlestar Galactica. Howe calls Sci Fi’s reality series like Who Wants to Be a Super Hero “the ultimate in aspirational television,” but diehard fans of Stargate reserve that label for their own.

Brad Wright, the Toronto-born writer/producer who shepherded Stargate from that day in July 1997 when the two-part opener Children of the Gods first aired on the U.S. cable channel Showtime, is over the moon himself at Stargate’s durability. “Look at that thing,” he said, laughing, nodding his head toward the stargate on the California lawn.

“It’s still here!”

The stargate is the actual one used in the show - “It’s pretty tall, especially when you drive it on a truck from Canada; it cost 20 grand to bring it down here” - but the first-timers wouldn’t know real from Erector Set.

“I didn’t know what the (heck) that thing was,” a grumpy scribe from Miami said, “I thought it was some kind of plastic monster truck wheel or something.”

Wright said he wishes Stargate would get more attention in Canada sometimes - the homegrown kid doing himself proud, and all that - but, failing that, articles in Salon.com and The New York Times and Sci Fi Channel soirees in Hollywood will do just fine.

“I don’t worry about it any more, I really don’t. One day I’ll do something that is artsy and fun and I’ll get a lot of critical attention. It won’t stay on the air that long, but it’ll get that critical attention.”

Attention is not the issue for Browder. Despite leading-man looks, a ferocious screen presence and the adoration of an army of sci-fi fans for his years in the Australia-filmed series Farscape - a truly fine series that died before its time - Browder enjoys the work and camaraderie of the day-to-day on the set in Vancouver.

He has an undying affection for the genre, too. Finding himself on the same flight from Vancouver as Nathan Fillion, the Edmonton-born actor who played Capt. Malcolm Reynolds in Joss Whedon’s Firefly and later in the feature film Serenity, Browder says he buttonholed Fillion and they swapped war stories about Firefly and Farscape.

Browder nodded toward the stargate on the lawn, where it looked oddly out of place in the California shrubbery and the faux-Versailles stylings of the Ritz-Carlton Huntington grounds.

“The gate’s right there,” Browder mused. “Just looking at it, you sort of feel like you’re going to walk back and end up back at Bridge Studios. And save yourself a two-and-a-half hour flight. The problem is, they probably have customs at the other end.”