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Behind the Scenes

Stargate | How We Made SG-1's 200th Episode

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It’s pretty rare that any television show gets to broadcast 200 episodes, which makes it rather special that SG-1 joins such an illustrious (and tiny) group of shows which have done it.

Of course, when time came to make a bicentennial ep, which was the sixth installment of the tenth and final season of the series, it needed to be spectacular. What occurred was a story as bombastic, weird, hilarious, daring and clever than most. And no surprise, it blew the audience’s socks off when it was shown for the first time on 18 August 2006. Here, we speak to three pivotal members of the creative team about how it came together and what it was like to make.

As Told By

Joseph Mallozzi (writer/producer): Rob [Cooper, writer/producer] had in mind doing vignettes. We obviously had to frame the vignettes and initially, he was thinking of something like ‘I Remember When…’ where essentially it would be the rest of the team harking back to previous episodes and filling Cameron Mitchell in on the various crazy adventures they’d had. They would be making stuff up.

I just thought [that] framework didn’t have much to offer and then we thought about bringing Willie Garson back and doing what we’d kind of done with Wormhole X-Treme.

Gary Jones (actor, Walter Harriman): You can only really do that in a 200th episode. They built up enough currency with the fans. It was such a blast to do that episode.

The plot was this: OTT movie writer (and alien) Martin Lloyd, played by Willie Garson returns to Stargate Command to ask for help with ideas for his cinematic version of Wormhole X-Treme, which we’d been introduced to back in the 100th episode during the fifth season. But rather than help much, the crew end up pitching their own ideas of what a Stargate movie should be. Cue an opportunity for the writers to go wild spoofing different genres and styles, from Star Trek, to Ben Browder’s previous show Farscape, The Wizard of Oz and even Team America: World Police.

Mallozzi: Brad [Wright] and Robert loved comic episodes. We just sat in a room and pitched ideas and whoever’s we liked got to write them. I got to write the Farscape, most of the invisible O’Neill, quite a few of the framing [scenes]. I think the PI one was Rob, Wizard of Oz was Brad. I think we were long. I did a Gilligan’s Island take-off that never got shot because we had so much material, we didn’t have time.

Peter F. Woest (series cinematographer): The biggest thing in my mind was the use of the marionettes, the puppets. That posed a whole set of challenges.

See also: Podcast | Joseph Mallozzi and Brad Wright

Team SG-1: Galaxy Police in all their puppet glory. | MGM, 2006.. | MGM, 2006.

Mallozzi: Brad and Robert were big Team America fans. We reached out to the Chiodo Brothers, who created the puppets for Team America.

Jones: The puppet thing was hilarious. I never saw [my] puppet. We just filmed those in real-time, as us.

Woeste: We had standing sets of course in Vancouver and the puppets had to seem like they were performing on these sets. We shot all the background shots in studio and then we traveled to Los Angeles where the company was located and photographed the puppets in front of a green screen. We had to keep meticulous notes of all the backgrounds that we shot right down to the lenses that had to be replicated. The two were married in post-production.

We had these puppets custom-made. I don’t know how much those puppets cost, something like $10,000 a piece.

Joseph Mallozzi

Jones: We did it as a regular scene, but the dialogue was hilarious. All this un-Stargate-y dialogue. It didn’t matter if we cracked up during filming because they were going to turn us into puppets anyway.

Mallozzi: Brad and Rob certainly made the most of that sequence.

One of the funniest vignettes is where we see the cast, well, recast as a younger, cooler crew – a storyline that includes the late Glee star Cory Monteith as a young Cameron Mitchell.

Mallozzi: That was a Rob Cooper idea. He dug deep into those CW shows because it was dead-on. It was very teen soap opera. I remember when SGU came out, some of the fans were not very happy… they equated SGU with that teen soap vignette.

See also: Stargate | Jack O’Neill Shows Us How to be Better, Not Perfect by Kayleigh Dray

The late Cory Monteith as young Cameron Mitchell. | MGM, 2006.

The camera team also had to make sure that the different themes fit in with the overall aesthetic of the show, but felt true to what they were spoofing.

Woeste: We had a methodology for how we would light our main set, but we tried to pay homage to the original cinematography [of the pastiches].

Of course, by the time of the 10th season, Richard Dean Anderson was basically not in the show anymore, having been promoted to major general and assigned as head of the Department of Homeworld Security. Nevertheless, while it was still hoped that Anderson would appear in some capacity in ‘200’, the writers devised ways of having O’Neill be part of the festivities without the actor needing to be on-set. Luckily for the show, he did want to come back in body, as well as voice.

Mallozzi: At that point, Rick had not been involved much. The fact that Rick who’d been with the show for so long wasn’t really a huge part of ‘200’ I guess in retrospect was a little bit disappointing. I pitched out the idea of [invisible O’Neill] and they thought it was funny and then they pitched out the idea of the scene where Carter is in the shower and steps out and I didn’t love the idea. I thought it was kind of creepy of O’Neill. So I disassociate myself from that element of that little vignette. I think [Amanda] was fine with it.

I have a picture I used to sign at conventions of when Jack and Sam get married and I’m sat next to Beau Bridges and I’m wiping a tear from my eye.

Gary Jones

Watching the episode back now, one of the most poignant elements is the presence of Willie Garson as Martin Lloyd. Garson sadly passed away at the age of just 57 in September 2021 of cancer. His character appeared in three Stargate episodes, a funny alien who suffered from amnesia after crashing on Earth before becoming a successful screenwriter. “It was a great character. He’s an alien who doesn’t know he’s an alien,” he told the Gateworld podcast earlier this year about his time on the show. “They thought it was funny and perfect that I’m not a sci-fi person. I’ve done all of them, but I don’t watch any of it and I don’t know anything about science fiction. When I was a kid, we would go to the Star Trek conventions, but it was really because it was combined with the Planet of the Apes conventions. The whole experience [of Stargate] was great, the crew was amazing.”

Meanwhile, the episode was also a particular opportunity for characters who weren’t normally front and center. Gary Jones as Walter Harriman had started his stint on the program someone who generally pushed forward the plot, before becoming more prevalent by the later seasons.

Jones: I was mostly expositional. I didn’t figure in on the main plots. I was there to give information and as the seasons went by there was a bit more comic relief.

Especially by season eight when Richard Dean was the general, he wanted somebody to play off because he was going to be at the base now. So he asked for me. He said, ‘I want a relationship with Gary’s character’. And then they made it like Radar O’Reilly from M*A*S*H. He and I had a great time together.

Jones’s big moment in ‘200’ comes when he got to hark back to his time in improv and theatre by doing a costume quick change live in-camera rather than using any CGI trickery.

Jones: I think it was at the end where I had to do a fast change. I was running from the control room into the Gate room. I say, ‘well sir, I’m not really dressed for it’ and he says, ‘come anyway’. You can see me in my green Air Force coverall. I walk past the window and walk down the steps and by the time I walk into the room, I’m fully geared up in black ops, I got a gun. That was because they did this really cool thing where they locked off the camera, but I was under-dressed, I had a bunch of stuff under my green flight suit. And because I had experience doing theatre you slowly mark it.

They basically strip you and dress you. It was a bit like that. As I left the camera, I started unzipping, and then when I got down the stairs, they ripped my flight suit off, they put a helmet on me, they put the vest on and stuck a gun in my hands and I stepped into the boots and I walked around the corner. I bet it took 10 seconds for that to happen. Man, did it ever look great.

See also: Stargate | Explaining the Greek Myth Behind ‘The Torment of Tantalus’ by Carin Marais

Puppet Walter and Puppet Hammond, forever doomed to be the straight men. | MGM, 2006.

The episode came out and was an immediate hit with the audience. To recognize such an impressive landmark, the studio decided to organize a junket to get the word out.

Jones: Because it was the 200th they’d arranged this little press thing and invited a bunch of the local papers to come in and interview [people]. They said to me, ‘Hey would you put on your flight suit and moderate the talk?’ I said sure. That went really well. There was a handful of journalists there. And then very shortly after that, I get this request from the producers, [saying] would you be interested in flying down to [San Diego] Comic-Con because it was a big deal for the fans. To do the same thing with the cast. On the flight down, Joe Mallozzi turns to me and says, ‘are you nervous about this at all?’ And I’m like, no I’m not nervous. Why would I be nervous? It’s like the other thing? And he said, ‘no, there’s going to be 4,000 fans.’ And I was like, what?! We get there and the place is PACKED.

Then we have the biggest laugh taking questions from the crowd. I would just trash everybody and make it really funny. That went so well that they added that interview to the special features on the DVD of the 10th season.

Even though this wasn’t the series finale, ‘200’ felt very like a show winding down its run – both celebrating the things that made it great but also having fun with the format before it ran its course. The result was one of the fans’ most-love episodes.

Jones: The whole episode was super-fun. I saw a picture posted on Twitter the other day of me being attacked by zombies and it reminded me that the person who was right behind me paying the zombie was a hair and make-up person.

Mallozzi: You figure after 200 episodes, they would allow one or two of these outliers.

Woeste: The group we worked with became really close. It was a long-running and successful show. The show was managed so well and so effectively that we were able to plan our lives which you can’t do in the film business. It offered some hiatus. It was definitely part of what kept me going.

Mallozzi: The producers were rarely on set that much, simply because at the end we were producing 40 episodes a year between Atlantis and SG-1. If you were on-set that meant you had free time and we never had free time. We were up in the office, writing. I remember whenever they would do the big Replicator shootouts, the building would shake. The floors would shake from all the machine gunfire.

Jones: How would you get to do that again? A show on the air for 10 years? It was unreal.

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Ben Falk is an entertainment journalist and author, who’s talked to scientists about whether Skynet will eventually take over the world and to cryptozoologists about who would win in a fight between a Xenomorph and a Predator. He is the author of books about Robert Downey Jr and Professor Brian Cox and particularly enjoyed writing the parts about how the latter helped make Danny Boyle’s Sunshine.

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