Time travel can be tricky business. By now, everyone knows the number one cardinal rule is that even the smallest change in the past can lead to devastating consequences for the future. In the upcoming direct-to-DVD movie Stargate: Continuum, that ripple effect is exactly what the evil Goa’uld system lord Ba’al is counting on when he journeys back to a crucial moment in Stargate history to ensure the program never existed.
Suddenly in present day, Teal’c and Vala disappear in front of their friends and when the rest of the team race back to Earth, they find themselves in an abandoned WWII cargo ship stuck in the Arctic ice. Naturally, that is only the beginning of their headaches. For writer/producer Brad Wright, this caper was not only the chance to continue Stargate SG-1’s adventures, but raise the stakes in an alternate timeline where anything goes.
“It’s not the first time I have done that,” explains Wright late one Tuesday night on the Vancouver set. “I actually did an SG-1 episode where I killed everyone. The only thing that survived was a note that said ‘Don’t go to this place.’ That was the fun part of that story ... that I got to kill everyone. Somebody said I have a God complex but it is fun to watch your characters sacrifice themselves for what they believe in. There’s a nobility of the character and that’s fun to do in a time travel story because you know you can get away with it and it will be okay.”
Indeed, Wright didn’t pull any punches with Continuum, opting to turn some of the main characters to the dark side, kill others, and in poor Daniel Jackson’s case, amputate his leg after an accident.
“Daniel’s leg is a funny story because Michael Shanks was not available to do the Arctic shoot,” says Wright. “I knew I had to separate Carter and Mitchell from Daniel, but he was on the boat with them! I didn’t know what to do. I thought how do I keep him there? I called Ben to discuss the script and he asked what I was going to do with Shanks. I told him I fixed it by having him step in the water and getting frostbite. He asked ‘What happens next?’ I said, ‘We cut off his leg.’ He said ‘Man, you are harsh!’ What I did to Jack O’Neil was pretty harsh too.”
It is not all doom and gloom though. In true Stargate fashion, there is plenty of humor and poking fun at their own expense.
“I like seeing characters forced to look at themselves in different ways,” notes Wright. “For example, Daniel phones himself. That’s kind of a neat scene. I didn’t know what to do. I said ‘Ok, I have Carter having been an astronaut that brilliantly sacrifices herself, as usual, and saving her crew. Mitchell doesn’t exist because I wanted to do the grandfather paradox literally for fun.’ But Daniel reads his own book and phones himself. There is a moment when he picks up the book, wants to tell somebody, and turns it over to see his face. It’s a pretty funny face and that’s the sanest look he gave in the photo shoot.”
Months ago, Stargate’s mythology heavy Ark of Truth proved extremely successful on DVD and while Wright is hoping to duplicate those numbers, Continuum is more of a stand alone tale that could potentially have a broader appeal.
“Honestly, my goal is not to alienate the Stargate fan; hopefully Continuum still rewards the fan,” says Wright. “But because the franchise has been off the air for two years and if we are going to go forward with new movies, we have to get new fans. We can’t hope to get your base from years and years ago. It’s not the first time we tried to write a feature.
"My first deal for a movie with MGM was for a big feature and they said it had to be stand-alone. They said they needed access to 100%of the viewing audience. There’s no question Continuum could have been the same story but even bigger. If they had given me more money, I would have spent it. Trust me; we were saving paper clips on this one. The bombardment from space was cool but it would have been nice to see real repercussions on the ground.”
With an epic concept, a significantly larger budget than an average Stargate episode, a cinematic feel, and part of production incredibly taking place in the Arctic, many hardcore fans seem disappointed Continuum won’t be making it to the big screen.
“The reasons that this could never be theatrical are entirely business and not at all creative,” reports Wright. “Apparently it had to do with pre-existing deals with the original feature film and subsequent production. In other words, we would have to go into a theatrical release with a lot of deals already properly made. We can’t just make a movie and put in on the screen.
"Knowing that SG-1 was being cancelled, I wanted to announce something positive. ‘Yay! We’re celebrating the 200th episode and we’re cancelled.’ That’s what SCI FI did to us but I don’t hold it against them because in the same breath, they picked up Atlantis for another year. I was happy about that. I have said a million times over that one of the reasons I wanted to do Continuum was as an audition to prove we could do Stargate as a theatrical release. For the amount of money we had, Martin Wood did an extraordinary job directing it. The visual effects team did an amazing job. Robert saw some vfx of the F-16 planes and he said ‘Big deal, you shot some planes.’ He was kidding. If this does as well as I hope and think it will do internationally, we may get that shot.”
After 10 ground breaking seasons, Stargate SG-1 was finally shut down although its spin off, Stargate: Atlantis, is currently gearing up for its fifth amazing year and there are still talks of another Stargate project waiting in the wings.
“Stargate: Universe is very much something we have been discussing with SCI FI and MGM for a long time…too long actually,” concludes Wright. “They need to make some decisions. I think we are at the point of finding out soon. We know what we are doing and what we want to do. We are excited about the prospect but as long as Atlantis is going strong and as long as there are prospects for new movies, it doesn’t matter to me if my next project is two more movies for next year. Essentially, we would put a third series off another year but MGM wants one. They know the franchise is still strong.”