The swanky party at the Pan-Pacific Hotel in downtown Vancouver to celebrate the record-breaking 200th episode of ‘Stargate SG-1’ was missing the guy who opens the gate. Gary Jones, who plays Chief Master Sergeant Walter Harriman, was in Las Vegas doing a gig – so it wasn’t until he returned home that he found out that the show had been cancelled. He chats to Carole Gordon about reactions to the surprise cancellation and what’s next for him and his alter-ego Walter…
"I think everybody thought it was a little odd," Jones says, "because they had this big celebration and it was like ‘Oh my god, the 200th, thank you so much, everybody’s great, the show’s great!’ and then right after it’s ‘Yeah, it’s cancelled!’ But I mean really, what can you say? There’s been so many shows on TV that are great shows that everybody thought were really excellent and critically acclaimed but they last one season. To go ten seasons is unbelievable. I think when they signed up they committed to five seasons so anything above and beyond that was just gravy."
Were people anticipating that this year might be SG-1’s last?
"You know what, honestly? I think they think that every year," he says with candour. "Obviously, to end it after ten years is a nice round number. ‘Seinfeld’ was on for nine and I just read that ‘Will and Grace’ was on for eight, so ten is unbelievable and forget just sci-fi, in the land of TV it’s unbelievable that they went that long."
There have been numerous rumours about ‘SG-1’ continuing in some form, with MGM retaining considerable faith in the franchise. Jones agrees.
"MGM still thinks that it’s a worthy show, so I think now they have two routes to go – to either try to find another broadcaster to continue the series or they would make TV movies or possibly a feature."
The SciFi Channel has confirmed that their reason for not renewing ‘Stargate SG-1’ is primarily the cost. After ten years, the show has become prohibitively expensive for the broadcaster.
Jones accepts this, but says that all the money appears on screen. "It’s expensive, but it’s a big show because there’s special effects and huge sets and you see the money in the production values that they pour into it. That’s part of why fans keep watching because it’s not a cheesy-looking show, it’s a great looking show. They spent the money to make it look the way it did."
As well as being a show with high production values, it has a great team of people who work well together. It’s a well-oiled machine, Jones says.
"It’s not like people stand around and it’s a big bloated thing that lumbers along, it’s not; people know what they are doing. The crew’s been working together so long, there’s this incredible shorthand that I just don’t get to witness on other productions."
The 200th episode of ‘Stargate SG-1’ was a bold venture into self-parody, as the SG-1 team made mock of themselves, other science fiction shows, and just about every aspect of their show and its various fan contingents. No-one escaped a dig or two, from actors parodied for "phoning in" performances, to the Save Daniel Jackson fan movement. Like the fans, Jones was delighted with the 200th episode, and particularly enjoyed the puppet version of SG-1.
"Could you believe the super-marionettes?" Jones says with glee. "Oh my gosh, I couldn’t believe it! Every time I told people about that, they were going, ‘Did you get the doll, did you get the doll?!’"
No, Jones didn’t get to keep his SG-1 puppet, but there is a Walter Harriman action figure in the works. MGM asked him to have his head scanned for the figure while he was attending ComiCon in San Diego, where he hosted the SG-1 panel. Jones is thrilled at the prospect of having his own action figure.
"It’s fantastic," he says. "I thought I’d kind of arrived when I simply had a trading card, so an action figure trumps everything. Once my wife heard there was a possible action figure, she said, ‘Are you telling me there’s going to be an action figure of you? Okay, I want you to order a case lot. I want Christmas presents, and birthday presents for the rest of our lives!’"
Talking of the rest of his life, what plans does Jones have, now that ‘Stargate SG-1’ has not been renewed for an eleventh season? He will, he says, like the rest of the cast and crew, be "beating the bushes, looking for work".
With the remaining episodes of Season 10 being filmed, how would Jones want to see Walter end his Stargate story?
"I would love it if he went through the gate. He’s never been through the gate," he says with sincerity.
But didn’t he go through the gate in the 200th episode?
"No," Jones insists. "You didn’t see him go through. You saw me walk up the ramp."
Where should Walter go on his trip through the gate? Atlantis perhaps? Jones isn’t sure about that.
"I don’t know what the fans would think of that," he says. "In terms of Gary Jones the actor, it would be great to keep working, but I don’t know what the fans would think. I guess if he was going to go to another planet he would go to probably the coolest planet he could remember, with lots of babes. Beaches and babes and cocktails!"
In the meantime, Jones also has other projects under way. He’s been shooting a Christmas movie, ‘The Competition’, directed by well-known Canadian director, Anne Wheeler, about a competition in a small town to see who can put the most Christmas decorations on their house. He’s also been asked to write a story for the Stargate series of comics, published by Avatar Press. The story he has in mind involves taking Walter out of his normal element in the Control Room and putting him into the thick of the action.
"The idea is that the SG-1 team goes on a mission and just as she goes through the gate, Carter leaves a tiny piece of equipment or some piece of technology behind. Walter spots it goes ‘Oh my god, they can’t get back without this’. So he makes this snap decision to give it to them and come right back. He goes through the gate and bursts through the other side and they’re under fire. Walter gets taken on by the people of this planet as a hero. It’s like his life is completely different on this planet, from sitting in front of the computer."
In the outline stages at present, Jones hopes to have the comic ready in time for ComiCon 2007.
Although in Jones’s comic book story Walter becomes the action hero, as the end of Season 10 – and possibly the end of Stargate SG-1 – approaches, will Walter really head for the "beaches, babes and cocktails"? Or will he remain the stalwart technician at his computer, continuing to serve his country and planet?
"That would be more likely," Jones agrees. "He’s the workhorse that stays and does his job. He’s been there 24-7. He never leaves, he’s always there. That’s the kind of guy he is, I like to think."
© Carole Gordon 2006