Discover a hidden dimension to your favorite sci-fi shows and movies, and test your knowledge
Stargate | Did You Know?
Stargate SG-1‘s Michael Shanks made his small screen debut in 1993 courtesy of another sci-fi movie-turned-TV show, Highlander: The Series.
In ‘The Zone’ (S2, Ep6), the future Dr. Daniel Jackson played a mine owner’s son trying to curb his father’s corruption.
In true Daniel style… he dies.
In the 1994 Stargate movie, the alien beasts of burden were Clydesdale horses in full-body suits. The humps hid their drivers who operated an animatronic head.
In the long shot where Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is dragged across the desert, the creature is played by a dog.
(Don’t worry: according to American Humane, the horses were rotated, rested and watered in the shade, and didn’t wear their costumes for longer than three hours.)
Stargate‘s Chris Judge and Richard Dean Anderson first acted together in a 1990 episode of MacGyver – ‘Live and Learn’ (S5, Ep13).
The future Teal’c plays Deron, a cocky football player, opposite the future Jack O’Neill.
Both are smashing the hair game.
Robert Picardo originally passed on the role of the Emergency Medical Hologram on Star Trek: Voyager, feeling the character was a “one-joke part, colorless, and kind of robotic.”
He auditioned for Neelix instead and when it came down to Picardo and Ethan Phillips, the producers – who preferred Phillips’ ‘cherubic’ face for Neelix – asked Picardo to reconsider reading for the Doctor. Hell of a near miss there, Bob.
Leeta, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Dabo Girl-turned-forthright-series regular first introduced in ‘Explorers’ (S3, Ep22), eventually lost her ‘big hair’. Literally.
Chase Masterson accidentally left it on the roof of her car and drove off. Unable to afford a new one, she used her own short hair for the character instead.
The simultaneous production of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) with The Next Generation resulted in a ‘Klingon shortage’ in the costume department.
This apparently extended to the Holodeck as two of Worf’s tormentors in ‘The Icarus Factor’ (S2, Ep14) are wearing gorilla boots from 1968’s Planet of the Apes.
Star Wars | Did You Know?
To create an AT-ST cab that buckled and crumpled like metal for Return of the Jedi (1983), the model cab was made in plastic and then plated with nickel 15,000th of an inch thick. The plastic was then eaten away with acid to leave only the delicate – but fully free-standing – sheet metal cab.
The 6″ ‘giant’ logs deployed by the Ewoks in their brutal insurgency had a lead core to give them a real sense of weight as they struck the hapless scout walker.
At the time of his Star Wars audition, R2-D2’s Kenny Baker was a member of a double act called The Mini-Tones. Baker negotiated a role for his co-star Jack Purvis as chief Jawa in A New Hope, chief Ugnaught in The Empire Strikes Back, and Teebo the Ewok in Return of the Jedi.
Jack’s 15-year-old daughter, Katie Purvis, also played an Ewok – scheduling her exams around the shoot.
When it came to filming the scene in Revenge of the Sith where Death Star plans were to be given to Count Dooku, the props team realized that they hadn’t built the device they were being held on.
According to Richard Stride, who mo-capped Poggle the Lesser, someone ran out to a hardware store the day before and came back with a car air freshener.
Corey Dee Williams, son of Lando actor, was invited on the Yuma, Arizona shoot for Return of the Jedi as his father’s stand-in.
Corey brought his friend Stephen Constantino with him so they could continue to work on songs for their band, but so many stuntmen were injured on the shoot that both had to step in and battle Luke Skywalker on the deck of Jabba’s Sail Barge, Corey as the reptilian Klaatu and Stephen as a Gamorrean.
Star Wars animatronic engineer Matt Denton, the builder and operator of BB-8 amongst other critters, holds the Guinness World Record for the largest rideable hexapod.
In 2012 – long before his involvement in The Force Awakens (2015)– Denton created Mantis, a six-legged diesel-powered walker inspired by a childhood fascination with the AT-ATs in The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
At the time of Boba Fett’s first on-screen appearance in the Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), all the animators had to go on was test footage of the unpainted white costume.
The use of pastel blues and greens was partly a homage to the French sci-fi artist Moebius (at the request of George Lucas) and partly because many homes still had black-and-white TVs, so characters needed to contrast with the dark backgrounds.
Razor Crest’s bumpy landing in The Mandalorian ‘Chapter 11: The Heiress’ (S2, Ep3), directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, is a deliberate shot-for-shot recreation of the re-entry in Apollo 13 (1995), directed by her father Ron Howard.
The exact costume worn by reptilian bounty hunter Bossk in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) was previously worn by an astronaut in Doctor Who‘s ‘The Tenth Planet’ (1966).
Similar suits with ribbed vests – actually High-Altitude Windak Pressure Suits used by the RAF – are worn by TIE pilots and their Rebel counterparts across the original Star Wars trilogy.
Miscellaneous | Did You Know?
1992’s Universal Soldier began life with a script called Crystal Knights in which the super soldiers sweat crystals (!) and gradually their skins hardened into diamond-like armor (!!) for combat.
Director Roland Emmerich described it as “pretty hokey” and developed a new story with Dean Devlin.
Temuera Morrison broke hearts as Arthur Curry’s father in Aquaman (2018), but that wasn’t the Kiwi icon’s first comic book movie – neither was Green Lantern (2011).
Following his breakout role in Once Were Warriors (1994), Morrison played freedom fighter Axel Hood opposite Pamela Anderson in 1996 Golden Raspberry favorite Barb Wire. Sorry to remind you.
K9 voice actor John Leeson made use of his anonymity in Doctor Who fandom by wandering around his first US conventions in the 1980s pretending to be from Philadelphia. He even entered two K9 voice competitions… but only won one. Awkward.
David Lynch was contracted to direct two further Dune movies back-to-back if the first one was a success. Dune II was to be based on Frank Herbert’s second book, Dune Messiah, but Lynch admitted: “Dune III is the one that’s going to be trouble for me. I’m not wild about Children of Dune.”
It was a moot point. Butchered in the edit, Dune (1984) was a critical and commercial flop.
Director Philip Kaufman was on the verge of shooting a Star Trek movie in May 1977 when Paramount pulled the plug. Kaufman was told there was no chance of a sci-fi movie earning close to $19 million – the box-office takings of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Later that month, Star Wars was released and hit $20 million in five weeks. A year later, Kaufman’s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers – starring Leonard Nimoy, of course – made $24.9 million.
Jonathan Harris (1914-2002) the original scheming and screaming Dr. Zachary Smith of Lost in Space declined to appear in the 1998 Matt LeBlanc movie, feeling that an “innocuous six-line bit that they laughingly referred to as a cameo” was beneath him.
Harris even rejected an offer to extend his role, as he felt so proprietorial about Smith, then played by Gary Oldman, and loyal to the lighter tone of the ’60s show. Can’t imagine he’d have been impressed by the Netflix reboot either…
Though The Expanse is filled with references to sci-fi noir, the scene in ‘Back to the Butcher’ (S1, Ep5) where Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) is interrupted eating noodles was an accidental homage to Blade Runner (1982).
According to co-creator Ty Franck, the location was chosen because of its unusual shape and textured blue wall – it just happened to be a noodle restaurant.
What they didn’t realize is the production company had issued a ban specifically on Miller eating noodles because they were secretly starting work on Blade Runner 2049 (2017). They got a telling off.
Battlestar Galactica prequel series Caprica began as an unrelated story.
When BSG‘s creators were too busy to develop a pilot, Universal hooked them up with screenwriter Remi Aubuchon, who had just submitted a script about artificial intelligence that hit a lot of the same notes.
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker originally envisaged the whole show having a vast alien conspiracy at its heart, but worried it was too similar to The X-Files, which had just begun on the same network.
As a running joke, the alien visitors from the first episode, ‘Cartman Gets an Anal Probe’, regularly appear in background shots.