Robert C Cooper

Writer/producer Robert C Cooper has been part of the Stargate SG-1 production team for pretty much the entire duration of the show. He's currently overseeing the last few episodes of the sixth season of the series, which was meant to be the last, however rumours are spreading that the show might be continued.

Note: The interview I commissioned for Cult Times #82 (from myself!) was basically a run-through and breakdown of each of the episodes of the sixth season as it stood when I visited the Stargate set earlier this year. As I'm very good at obeying my own instructions, I removed the extraneous bits and simply left a paragraph or so on each story. Here you can read the remaining bits I didn't print, which are mainly part of my discussion with Robert about Michael Shanks leaving the show, and are here to provide some balance (the journalist's best friend} to the interview with Michael that I've recently posted. The interview was conducted on Robert's rather comfy sofa in his office on 3rd May 2002.

Why were so many plotlines wrapped up in season five?
Because we didn’t know for sure that season six was coming around, we had this plan for the movie that Brad and I are writing now to follow up the end of the series, so we had sort of started down this road of wrapping things up in some ways in season five and then found out we got season six and had to postpone all those plans. So in a way, season six is going to do what we had always intended and that is ramp up the mythology towards the story of the movie. We’re going to be trying to tie up all the loose ends to the storylines that we’ve set up in the first five years and also to lay down the groundwork for the back-story to the big pay-off. It’s nice; we have the privilege of knowing that the series is going to be over, and we have the time to plan the arc of the stories to lead up to that, unlike maybe a network show that finds out they’re going to be cancelled next week. So it’s great; in a way we’ve been spoilt from the beginning when we had a 44-episode order and then found out pretty early in season one that we’d be going for another 44. So you always kind of had the opportunity to plan ahead.

Is there a plotline you regret not having done more with?
No. In fact what happened was we put all the plans on hold when we did find out. The fact of the matter is, we’re also dealing with a new character and we’re introducing ourselves to Sci-Fi’s audience – we’re on a new broadcaster this year – and they and MGM are pleased with the first couple of episodes.

How did you feel when Michael Shanks said his character was less and less a part of storylines in season five just before he left?
He’s had a rather revisionist memory about things and I’m a little disappointed about it, to have read some of the things he’s said. Quite frankly it doesn’t affect my day to day life too much, but having been someone who spent a great deal of time pouring my heart and soul into the writing of episodes that centred around his character, [it hurts] that he would say something like he can’t imagine any highlights in the last little while, when in fact I spent a lot of time and effort writing episodes that were Daniel-centred episodes. And in fact, right from Season One, I personally wrote a bunch of episodes that I think helped to define the character. The Torment of Tantalus, …the Grace of God. It’s a little disappointing for me, having put all that effort into the character and have him dismiss it in such a negative way. He’s obviously reversed that and seemed to think we stopped caring about his character, but quite the opposite. I’m sort of saddened that his character is gone, but I was also starting to feel like he no longer wanted to pay Daniel Jackson.
He’s got his opinion and we’ve got ours; quite frankly, we wanted to write him out in such a way that he could be back and we think we did that and then he could be back in pivotal ways as he will be in episode six, Abyss, which Brad Wright [wrote], and we would like to continue to develop ideas in which he would be back in pivotal roles. But if he keeps bad-mouthing the writing… I mean, we’re the writers. What does he think, that we’re gonna just sit around and go, ‘Yeah, he hates us and thinks we have no talent, let’s think of ways of paying him even more money!’ I’m not sure what the mentality going on there is.
Anyway, enough about Michael. I really feel that, as I’ve said, I personally, having put a lot of effort into the development of his character over the years, I’m sad to see him go. And I feel in many ways we wanted the new character, Jonas, to be a tribute to Daniel Jackson. I know fans haven’t seen that yet, but they haven’t seen season six yet. They saw one episode in which he was introduced in a very marginal way, but what happened was he felt in many ways responsible for Daniel’s demise and it’s that weight and the impact of that on his life that is going to then force him to want to take on the mantle that Daniel has sort of established and follow in Daniels’ footsteps and finish Daniel’s work. Our intention was not to simply replace him with another white male with blond hair that's 6ft2 or whatever, what we wanted was someone who would have some crossover with the character, who would feel as though he had Daniel Jackson on his shoulder when he was doing what he was doing. And we also had never intended to make it easy for SG-1 to just forget about Daniel or for the series to forget about Daniel and to incorporate this new character in the blink of an eye. The first two episodes of season six are about them getting over the loss of Daniel and how they learn to then trust a new member of the team.

Is there a story arc for Jonas?
[Shadowplay is] all about going home after you’ve made this choice, which was one that was very difficult for his character. He saw that maybe his government and his people were making a mistake, partly out of ignorance for what was out there in the universe that Daniel was able to enlighten Jonas about, and partly just in terms of being stuck in a rut of world war. They didn’t think they had choices, and Jonas felt that he could do more for his people as part of the SGC, in many ways the way Teal’c did. That’s another step in his arc, that he’s sort of coming to terms with what he did in Meridian.

You're doing some bigger things this year; freezing a stage, sinking ships. Is the budget similar to normal?
Yeah. The fact of the matter is every year you produce a television show, the money that goes on the screen seems to shrink a little bit each year because the cost of paying everybody involved goes up. In many ways we’re trying to do more on less, but you also get much better at doing the job, the production crew and the guys who really put the money on screen are doing as good a job as they’ve ever done. Part of that comes from experience of having done it for so long.
One of the things I love about Stargate is that every week you tune in, it has a different look and a slightly different story. I feel it’s almost like a new series all the time. There’s so many different types of stargates. There are the offworld, alien episodes, there’s the ones that take place on Earth, there’s the ones with Goa’uld in them, there’s the ones with interesting new aliens. It’s never the same to me, and Nightwalkers is another episode that puts kind of a new twist on things. The company which Adrian Conrad, which is the guy who basically procured a Goa’uld on Earth in season five in the episode Desperate Measures, his company, in doing the research on the Goa’uld prior to implanting it in him, figured out how to clone symbiotes and they’ve been trying to use those cloned symbiotes to further medical research. But what has happened is that one of those symbiotes got into a scientist and then he in turn took some of the other symbiotes and went and implanted a bunch of other people in a small town where this research plant was. So that’s actually kind of a spoiler, but ultimately [he whispers], they’re Goa’ulds.

Do you feel the Michael Shanks situation is similar to David Duchovny's when he left The X-Files and fans said they'd never watch the show again?
Yeah, true, but to my knowledge David Duchovny didn’t then turn round and badmouth Chris Carter. David Duchovny is coming back to star in the finale and he’s directing an episode. He’s also been in a ton of feature films since and knows that this business is all about word of mouth and whether or not people wanna work with you. So people are gonna say to Chris Carter, ‘Hey, how’s that Duchovny guy to work with?’ and he goes, ‘He’s great,’ and more people are gonna be inclined to do stuff with him.