Published May 12, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome
I came to the Stargate TV franchise at the tail end of its incredible 14-year run in Vancouver. The third and final series Stargate Universe (SGU), set aboard an Ancient starship called the Destiny, reminded me of Battlestar Galactica, my favourite sci-fi series ever, also filmed here. Only the long, complex mythology of the long-running sci-fi Stargate saga occasionally defeated me.
To summarize: stargates are ring-shaped technology from the Ancients which create wormholes that allow travel between worlds cosmic distances away. In the 1994 MGM feature film Stargate, one is discovered on Earth and kept secret from the public by the U.S. military. Following up on the movie’s mammoth success, TV series Stargate SG-1 began filming in Vancouver in 1997 and ran for ten seasons. Partway through. a spinoff Stargate Atlantis (SGA) — set in the legendary city of Atlantis — launched in 2004 and ran for five seasons. It seemed like Stargate, already setting records for series longevity, would go on forever here when the third series Stargate Universe (SGU) started airing in 2009, but it was not to be.
Darker-edged but more critically-acclaimed Stargate Universe took home six Leo awards at last year’s annual celebration of film and television in British Columbia, winning Best Dramatic Series and Best Supporting Actress for Julia Benson. I took photos of Destiny crew Benson (Lt. James), Patrick Gilmore (Volker), Elyse Levesque (Chloe) and fan favourite Lou Diamond Phillips (Col. Telford) on the red carpet, without knowing what characters they played.
Not long after, I caught up with Stargate Universe’s first season and wondered if it would be possible to see them filming any of the second season on location in Vancouver. That was easier said than done, since 80% of SGU was filmed on studio sound stages, i.e. the Destiny, with the production only going on location to film rare planetary visits using the ship’s stargate or Earth visits using the communication stones (don’t ask).
Four months later, I found Stargate Universe filming a planetary visit at the old Terminal City Ironworks site (often used by film & TV productions) in East Vancouver. SGU filmed there for several days with a CGIed Stargate inside one of the buildings and virtually the entire cast there, with the exception of Robert Carlyle (Rush) and David Blue (Eli) left aboard the Destiny in studio. I photographed a green-screen on the roof to CGI a scene of Louis Ferreira (Col. Young) looking down on a deserted city: “It wasn’t abandoned. These people were wiped out.” I didn’t stick around once they finished the roof scene and moved inside, so I didn`t get to witness any of the cast`s crazy antics or shenanigans often involving cutup Ferreira, but I did see a happy and relaxed Jamil Walker Smith (Master Sgt. Greer) and Alaina Huffman (TJ), with her two young children, chatting outside their trailers with crew and fans while Ming-Na (Camille Wray) strolled around the block in the sun. SGU filmed other key scenes of this deserted city at the old Watchmen set in Burnaby. And these scenes ended up in the penultimate episode of the SGU series, in fact of the entire Stargate TV franchise.
More critical acclaim fell on Stargate Universe’s first season when the series earned multiple Gemini Award nominations last fall, including one for Best Dramatic Series. The entire cast and the creators flew to Toronto for an action-packed day on November 12th, with stops at Canada AM and then an InnerSPACE: SGU Special Read More »BIG READ: STARGATE UNIVERSE (SGU) Meets its Destiny