Richard Dean Anderson is happy to be back where it’s cool and green, settling into a 100-year-old house he’s rented in Vancouver, the British Columbia city where he spent four years making ABC’s “MacGyver.”
With a 44-hour commitment for his new Showtime cable series, “Stargate SG-1,” he plans to be there awhile.
The series, a science-fiction action-adventure spinoff from the 1994 “Stargate” film, debuts tonight at 8 with a two-hour opener, then settles into its regular one-hour slot Friday nights.
Anderson is Air Force Col. Jack O’Neill, who comes out of retirement to lead a second expedition through the Stargate, a portal that allows almost instantaneous travel to the planet Abydos - and, as it turns out later, to other places in space.
Initially, O’Neill and Air Force Capt. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), a theoretical astrophysicist, set out to rescue Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), a scientist and scholar who was left on that planet when O’Neill returned to Earth. Besides Jackson, O’Neill also finds Skaara (Alexis Cruz, reprising his film role), and adds fierce serpent guard Teal’c (Christopher Judge) to his reconnaissance team.
Like the movie, “Stargate SG-1” has special effects, the most impressive of which are the Stargates themselves. One is deep inside super-secret Cheyenne Mountain Complex (home of the North American Air Defense Command - NORAD - at Colorado Springs), the others at various places throughout space.
The movie, directed by Roland Emmerich and starring James Spader and Kurt Russell, was faulted for being weak dramatically. Anderson hopes this will not happen to the television series because its limited budget means it will have to depend heavily on the stories.
“I’ve read some reviews of some recent big-budget movies that have gotten torn apart quite disparagingly,” he said, “and the overriding comment is that you still have to tell a good story rather than impress an audience with special effects.”
That’s the challenge for the executive producers, Anderson and his partner Michael Greenberg at Gekko Films and Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner of Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions, who are doing “Stargate SG-1” for MGM. Glassner, Wright and director Mario Azzopardi also made “The Outer Limits” series for Showtime.
The “Stargate SG-1” premise is that humans were once transported to other planets and now live in various stages of advancement, from primitive to highly evolved.
“What we’re basically talking about is bad guys who have come to Earth in the ‘60s and taken people from a variety of cultures to enslave them,” said Anderson.
“What we want to do is tell really interesting, intriguing, thought-provoking, profound - add your own adjectives - stories. There’s a potential intellectual vein of intrigue through this thing, as well.”
Lofty plans, perhaps. Still, “Stargate SG-1” is mainly about action and special effects.
And parents, be forewarned: There’s also full frontal female nudity in a scene involving a parasitic snake-like creature called a goa’uld that uses human bodies as hosts and enters through bodily orifices.
“That didn’t seem to be in bad taste,” Anderson said of the nudity. “I’m fine with that. I’m happy to be in a cable venue - we’re able to loosen the parameters.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TV PREMIERE ‘Stargate SG-1’ premieres tonight at 8 on Showtime.
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