TV Crush

Stargate SG-1 Finale Focus: Robert C. Cooper, showrunner

6/21/2007 9:27 AM

These never published grafs are lifted from the rough draft of story written April 2006 from the set of Stargate SG-1 during the filming of the 200th episode.  Also, following is the raw transcript of an interview with Robert C. Cooper which contains  insights into the series and the background of Cooper, long-time Stargate executive producer, writer and showrunner.

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Robert (Rob) C. Cooper, executive producer and Stargate SG1’s showrunner, says the series is a “feather in the cap” for [MGM] international distribution. According to reports he was privy to at the time of the sale, the Stargate franchise was touted “as one of MGM’s single biggest assets.”

From his second floor office overlooking the studios, Cooper has seen Stargate through many iterations.  Only 37 years old, he started as a story editor and sat in on the read through of the pilot 10 years ago.  But he had his eye on the ball. “I measured the office,” he quips. 

By season seven he ascended to showrunner, taking the reigns from Brad Wright, who shifted to Stagate Atlantis. (Wright shared SG-1 showrunner duties with Jonathan Glassner until season four.)  Cooper has written 40 to 50 of Stargate SG-1’s 200 episodes and an additional 50 drafts with other writers’ names on them. 

His office walls are painted in soft neutrals.  His desk sits in the far corner, opposite the door and faces outward, the classic Feng Shui power, never-sit-with-your-back-to-the-door position. Across from the black leather sectional is a 42 inch LG monitor, perfect for screening the special effects laden Stargate. 

On Stargate’s enduring appeal, Cooper’s remarks echo [Sci Fi Channel executive vice president original programming] Stern’s. “The fans have always responded to the interpersonal aspect of the team.  They cling to the camaraderie, and the team/family dynamic among the four leads…It just feels as if there’s a magical quality…that makes you want to spend an hour with those people.”

Like the original Star Trek, fans are apparently watching episodes over and over and over again.   Cooper says three million viewers tune into Stargate SG-1 in syndication on Saturday afternoons.  Sci Fi Channel’s Monday night, four episode stack of re-runs has so far cycled previous seasons through “at least twenty times.  We’re surprised there’s any magnetic material left on the tape!”  He also says the show has the dubious distinction of being “in the pirated download top ten.”

His proudest accomplishment to date? -  a season seven two-parter titled Heroes directed by Andy Mikita. Heroes was cobbled together as a second unit show simultaneous to shooting other episodes.  Cooper admits he was forced into it for no other reason “than I needed the money. I realized if I did a whole show with the second unit it would save us a ton.”  Originally shot as a single episode with an extra 15 minutes of footage, Cooper milked his budget by later writing and weaving additional scenes throughout.

Cooper has labored in obscurity, for the most part.  “Five years went by and we weren’t even sure anyone was aware of the show,” he says, “but we made the switch to SciFi which bumped up our audience significantly. That’s when the series started to gain the big mo.”

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The original, raw transcript, below:

RCC Transcript

Five years went by and we weren’t even sure anyone was aware of the show inside North America   Now you hear stuff like Forest Whitacre was doing an interview about his run on The Shield and was asked what he considers must see tv and he mentions Stargate.  It seems to be starting to filter into the pop culture.  We’ve been pretty much ignored by Entertainment Weekly and when they do mention us its in a rather snarky way.  They had a guest reviewer, lead singer of kiss, who wrote about Atlantis which apparently he’s a huge fan of.

[Q:  When did you feel that you’d finally hit more of the big time?]

We had our first cover on the TV Guide in season seven.  It felt like our coming out party.  On the other hand, Showtime and the business plan put in place initially helped us to find our legs creatively and to develop an international fans base. 

The fans have always responded to the interpersonal aspects of the team.  There’s almost a soap-opera way in which people cling to the camaraderie, the team/family dynamic among the four leads and their chemistry. [Tapping, Shanks, Judge and Anderson]  It just feels there’s a magical quality that regardless of the story is that week that makes you want to spend an hour with those people. We work very hard coming up with interesting stories, moral dilemmas, metaphors for important issues.  Then it comes down to ‘did you see the way Teal’c looked at Carter in this scene?’ or ‘Did you see how O’Neill patted Daniel on the back?’ That’s something that makes you a fan of the show.  I think people will tune out eventually to plot-driven shows that reset to zero at the end of every episode. But when you have a show with characters that you love, that you want to spend time with that evolve and change, that makes you fan.  Not every fan has been happy with the changes over the years. But the creative people do pay attention to what came before.

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