The Stargate franchise suffered a double blow in recent years, with both SG-1 and spinoff Atlantis meeting their (arguably premature) ends. But now fans have something new to look forward to: a brand new spinoff, Stargate Universe!
The latest instalment follows the adventures of a present-day team, stranded in a far corner of the universe on board the Ancient spaceship Destiny. Leading the cast is Trainspotting’s Robert Carlyle, who plays the brilliant-but-twisted scientist Dr. Nicholas Rush. We hooked up with Robert to explore Stargate Universe.
Were you a fan of the original Stargates?
“To be honest, no – I haven’t really seen much of it. But it’s funny, after I’d agreed to do the show and I got sent all the DVDs – two hundred f**king hours of SG-1 and all the rest of it! – I was surprised how much of it I had actually seen. I’d probably seen about twenty episodes of SG-1 over the years and I didn’t see anything at all of Stargate Atlantis but that didn’t seem to matter. This is a whole new deal, so I didn’t have to sit and watch the whole back catalogue – that would have been a bridge too far!”
Do the audience have to have any prior knowledge to be able to enjoy it?
“I don’t think so. There’s quite a clever device in the first episode where Michael Shanks, who was one of the actors from SG-1, actually appears on a video screen to explain the workings of the Stargate to the new young boy who gets taken onto the ship. I think that’s incredibly clever because it goes by in a couple of minutes and that couple of minutes tells you everything you need to know about Stargates.”
What can you tell us about your character?
“Dr Rush is a scientist on this project. It’s very difficult to talk about this guy without using buzzwords but they do apply! He’s a very Machiavellian character, a very driven kind of guy, he’s difficult and very, very unpredictable – you’re never sure where he’s coming from or where he’s going.”
Where does he fit in with the rest of the team?
“The ship is pretty much split into two camps. You’ve got the military and you’ve got the science team and Rush is the head of the science team. But even within the science team you’ve got two camps – you’ve got Rush and the rest of them. He would quite happily stick every one of them in an airlock and pump them into space if he could get by without them!”
He’s quite involved with the young boy you mentioned earlier, Eli. How does that relationship come about?
“Eli is the one who’s solved this puzzle which is pertinent to the problems they have to solve in the discovery of the holy grail in the Stargate world – the ninth and final chevron. This leads them to getting through to this ninth chevron and finally making it to this address which turns out to be their destiny in the end. There’s actually quite a beautiful episode – episode fourteen – which is Rush’s back-story so you have to wait til the fourteenth hour before you realise what’s going on with the guy!”
There are a few original Stargaters doing the series. How do they fit in?
“We’ve got Richard Dean Anderson who plays his own part [Jack O’Neill] in the first episode, also Amanda Tapping [Samantha Carter] is there. I think the reason these guys were there – and God bless them for coming in and doing it, because they didn’t have to – is it’s a way of saying ‘here’s who we were, those guys are gone now and these are the ones who are going to go forward’. There’s not a lot of actors who would do that and it shows you how well run Stargate is that these guys didn’t mind at all coming back and doing a couple of days to help out.”
Do you think any of them will stick around?
“I think that RDA might do – I think that he could come and go – and even Michael Shanks could come and go too, but the difficulty for them is that [the new team] are marooned in a spaceship on the far side of the universe. You can only get there through using these interesting devices called communication stones where they actually inhabit the consciousness of someone on Earth, but that person would have to be willing to do that. Of course in science fiction you can do anything, but with RDA and with Michael and Amanda it would take a specific episode to have them back.”
How hopeful are you for a second season?
“Honestly? I’d be absolutely f**king stunned if it didn’t go again. I think it’s quality, they’ve spent a load of money on it, they’ve assembled a terrific cast and a terrific crew – they’ve normally gone for five to ten years – so I don’t think these guys were putting this together to do it for a year.”
Does the season end in a way that leaves it open for a second run?
“I don’t actually know how it ends to be honest. The interesting thing about this for me is I can actually use the technique I used for my old Ken Loach days which is: don’t let me see the scripts! I don’t like to know what’s happening in episode twenty when we’re only at episode five. The danger Ken Loach would tell you is do not play the end, play what’s on the page – play the moment. That’s what I’ve always tried to do in my career whenever I can and, strangely enough, high-end American TV it may be but I can still apply Loachian techniques!”
If it’s successful do you think it could restart Stargate Atlantis?
“No – that’s done, I can tell you one thousand percent!”
Stargate Universe premieres October 2 on Syfy in the US and on October 6 on Sky1 in the UK.
Drama has never been better on Sky…