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From Canada.com

After eight years, Stargate TV franchise expands with Atlantis spinoff

By Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn

Thursday 8 July 2004, by xanderbnd

VANCOUVER (AP) - Brad Wright appears as weathered as the rugged B.C. landscape on this misty morning on the Bridge Studios lot.

"I’ve never worked so hard in my life," says the co-creator and executive producer of the syndicated sci-fi TV series Stargate SG-1, and his fatigue is showing. For the last six months, he’s been spending many a late night writing for both the long-running series and its much-anticipated spinoff, Stargate Atlantis, as their season premieres rapidly approached.

In the time it once took to develop 20 episodes of SG-1, Wright and producing partner Robert Copper are having to write twice as many shows because they’re writing for the two series. And they’re only halfway done.

But Wright’s not complaining, saying, "It’s one of the classiest problems you can have."

Based on the 1994 feature film, Stargate SG-1’s eighth season premieres Friday night on The Sci-Fi Channel in the U.S. In Canada, it’s a year behind with season 7 debuting on Space: The Imagination Station this September.

Stargate Atlantis, meanwhile, debuts with a two-hour movie July 19 on premium channels The Movie Network and Movie Central.

Richard Dean Anderson, who rose to TV fame on the popular MacGyver series, stars as Jack O’Neill, leader of a covert military commando squad. Also on the crew: archeologist Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), astrophysicist Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) and alien warrior Teal’c (Christopher Judge).

With "zat guns" at the ready, and plenty of computer-generated effects, the SG-1 team steps through the shimmering Stargate each week to be transported around the universe to fight the Goa’uld, evil overlords who kidnap and enslave humans.

In the season premiere, Anderson’s O’Neill will take over as commander of the Stargate program. The actor will have less screen time this season as he reduces his work schedule to spend more time with his five-year-old daughter back home in California.

Anderson won’t say whether he’ll sign on for a ninth season, but "the likelihood of my coming back is very slim," he says before leaving the cavernous SG-1 soundstage for one of his frequent trips to Los Angeles.

"I harbour a little guilt about my situation here," he continues. "It becomes a mad scramble to get production done to accommodate my schedule. But it was the only way that I could come back for an eighth season."

What’s probably of more concern to Stargate fans right now is whether O’Neill and Carter will ever become an item.

"I think she should just go fishing with him," Tapping says about her character. "He’s always asked her, and she’s always said no. So I think she should say yes, and let people imagine what they will," she laughs. "And they will."

Item or not, there are no plans for O’Neill and Carter to be involved in Stargate Atlantis, which centres on a team of civilians journeying via the Stargate to the ancient city of Atlantis in the unexplored Pegasus galaxy.

Led by Torri Higginson as Dr. Elizabeth Weir, and co-starring Joe Flanigan, Rainbow Sun Francks, David Hewlett and Rachel Luttrell, the explorers have only enough energy to power a one-way trip through the Stargate.

Not only must they contend with unknown technologies, they encounter a sinister new enemy, the vampire-like Wraith, which they have unknowingly unleashed on a civilization that has so far managed to avoid the life-suckers.

"We just keep showing up on planets and screwing up the worlds with all the best intentions," says David Hewlett, who reprises his SG-1 role as Dr. Rodney McKay on the new series. "That’s the human dilemma in itself, and we see that in all different facets of society."

But for Wright and his creative crew, the real challenge of Atlantis is twofold. "It’s gotta be different, and it’s gotta be the same," he says.

"Atlantis will be more like an exploration to Antarctica," Wright continues. "We’re living on our own resources and our survival depends on our wits, and there’s fun to that and challenges to that that are slightly different than SG-1.’

Nor is Atlantis resting on the laurels of SG-1 for its success.

"We know that there’s a built-in fan base for people who are going to be interested in finding out what this show is all about," says Luttrell, who plays alien ally Tyla. "But if this show doesn’t hold its weight on its own, then it doesn’t matter."

So could another Stargate spinoff be in the offing?

"Like Stargate Miami?" quips Sci Fi Channel executive vice-president Mark Stern. "I don’t think this is the last you’ll see of an incarnation of Stargate," he says. "It’s definitely our crown jewel."