Stargate SG-1 returns to Sky One this September - and everybody's favourite Egyptologist Daniel Jackson is back from the dead. Elise Harris talked to Michael Shanks about season seven.
Michael Shanks - Dr. Daniel Jackson - was absent for much of the sixth season, replaced by Jonas Quinn [Corin Nemec]. Now the good doctor is miraculously returned, and he has an even more important part to play in the story.
Many people were surprised that Shanks agreed to come back - the actor had reportedly expressed frustration at his character's development. So what persuaded him? Michael says, "The set-up of this year was that Richard [Dean Anderson] wanted to be in less of the show this year than he had in previous seasons and he was giving a lot more opportunity for the three supporting characters to carry the show.
"The main criteria for tempting me was I knew that the character was going to be utilised." With Teal'c [Christopher Judge], Sam [Amanda Tapping], General Hammond [Don Davis] and Daniel's increased responsibilities, Stargate SG-1 is even more of an ensemble show this season. Even Dr. Janet Fraiser [Teryl Rothery] is given something to do.
Michael says there were no specific storylines that tempted him back, but the opportunity to work more closely with his co-stars was irresistible. "The characters are going off on their own adventures a little bit more, but also when we are all there it's not just the four of us - three people standing about, one person doing all the talking kind of thing - there are a lot more character-driven stories than there were before." "I have a lot of interaction with Teal'c, which was something we didn't get a great deal of over the first five years. We've almost caught up with the interaction in the last two seasons, between Changeling and the seventh season, there's a lot of interaction between us, touching on the relationship and the similarities between the characters. That's been something he [Chris Judge] and I have been dying to explore and now we have the chance to really work with one another and that's a lot of fun."
Asked if the relationships between the other people are changing this season, Michael says: "I would not say so much change in the power dynamics as time in interaction on screen. I mean, Richard is still the star of the show and when he's there it's very much centred around his character and that's the way it should be."
Something many people lamented in the past was the shift of focus away from the Daniel and Jack friendship in the show. Michael says some of these quibbles have been addressed in this series. Michael's admiration for Richard Dean Anderson is apparent. "Obviously, I still enjoy very much working with Richard and I miss him a lot of the time [when he isn't there] because we have such a great onscreen dynamic and off-screen chemistry as well.
"I think the dynamic between all the characters is getting fleshed out. I don't think there's any dynamic that's changed. The strongest change of character interaction between O'Neill and Daniel is that when we are on screen together we relish the time a lot more and the characters relish being around each other more." He thinks the Jack and Daniel relationship on screen reflects his real-life friendship with Richard Dean Anderson. "I think there's less disagreement; it's more seeing the other person's point of view first and understanding what they're going to say and what they're going to think and taking into consideration. There's less bickering, which in a way takes some of the fun out of it." "They are at a place now where they don't have to think about what the other person's point of view might be or be concerned about it, they just recognise it beforehand, and that's the same with any friendship. It's a great evolution of the character dynamics."
One episode that Michael had a lot of fun with this season was "Lifeboat", in which he plays a character with 13 personalities. He says it was "a hoot to do." The episode focuses on Michael and Teryl Rothery, with whom he doesn't usually have many scenes. "I had so much fun acting with Teryl, who's just so solid and so present. It was a real treat - we never had to talk about things, things just happened and that's kind of rare. And because we hadn't worked together that much it was great fun."
The episode that really stood out for him was a two-parter about a camera crew coming behind the scenes at the SGC and seeing the characters from a different point of view. "I think it's one of the strongest double-parter's we've ever had, if not one of the strongest episodes we've ever had. It'll be really poignant, touching and really funny."
After his time away, it didn't take long for Michael to fit right back into the old routine. "I would say that the honeymoon period lasted about a week-and-a-half. We were all really happy to see one another, happy to be working together again and then after that it became business as usual. We've gone so fast in producing the shows this year that I don't think anybody's had time to stop and smell the roses. It's been quite a ride and I think for the most part it feels like the days of old: there's a lot of enthusiasm in the air." He is enjoying being back - all the differences as well as the similarities. "It is the same show, the same people, but there's a different something in the air and it's making it fresh and interesting as opposed to just sitting back and doing the same old, same old."
Michael says he never knows what's coming up on the show - sometimes he discovers things on the internet before the actors are told about them. "Right now, I would say we know about a week in advance what we're doing - if that!" One thing he has enjoyed this season is the chance to work with so many guest stars. "Robert Picardo has just come in, and Jolene Blalock is doing one right now. Saul Rubinek finished a two-parter. Michael Rooker from the movies "Cliffhanger" and "Days Of Thunder" was doing a guest spot, and some of our usual suspects as well for some of our recurring characters. It's been a great opportunity to work with some really strong actors."
Stargate fans will be overjoyed to know that the show has been renewed for an eighth season - so there will be plenty more opportunity for character development - and many more guest stars.