STARGATE UNIVERSE concludes its two-season run tonight at 9 PM on the Syfy Channel. With U.S. military and Earth civilians co-existing uneasily on an alien vessel called Destiny, trying to find their way back to our solar system, SGU was markedly darker than its predecessors, STARGATE: SG-1 and STARGATE: ATLANTIS.
Series regular Brian J. Smith, who plays series regular Lt. Matthew Scott, will be seen this summer on the Syfy telefilm/pilot/videogame adaptation RED FACTION: ORIGINS (stay tuned for that interview). Here, the Texas-born actor talks with ASSIGNMENT X about his time aboard the Destiny.
ASSIGNMENT X: At what point did everyone at STARGATE UNIVERSE know the series wasn’t coming back for a third season?
BRIAN J. SMITH: We came back for a second season, they started airing the second season episodes, and those first ratings came in, and it was like [disappointed sound], “Oh.” And then they went down. The idea was maybe it stopped building a new audience, and then the night [it aired] changed. Just everything happened all at once and we just couldn’t recover. It’s a serialized show and if people don’t stick with it, you’re screwed, royally.
AX: SGU also seemed markedly darker than the rest of the STARGATE franchise.
SMITH: It’s not exactly something you sit around with the family with and kind of chuckle. It’s a lot darker, and I think a lot of the STARGATE: ATLANTIS and SG-1 was very family-based and this just wasn’t.
AX: Well, the regular characters on the other STARGATE series weren’t trying to kill each other quite so frequently.
SMITH: Yeah. There was a lot more getting along [on SG-1 and SGA], not as much discord, not as much inner conflict. I’m an actor, and the conflict and the discord – I love it. That’s what I’m all about, and I can understand why, if a franchise has been a little more cheery and a little more everybody getting along, even though there has been – I mean, didn’t Jack O’Neil [Richard Dean Anderson] destroy an entire planet? There’s been a bit of genocide, which to me has kind of been presented with a little bit of a smile and a joke afterwards, which I find a little bizarre. On UNIVERSE, there were always consequences, and they’re not in an easy situation, there’s no easy way out, there’s no real way to really help these people. It’s a really bleak outlook and the kind of people who like it are the kind of people who enjoy the dark side a little bit. I do – the kind of theatre that I like, the kind of music that I like, the kind of film I like, is pretty dark. It’s just a taste thing.
AX: How would you describe Lt. Scott’s position as a character on the series?
SMITH: Well, his function was really, really important in the beginning, because he was the highest-ranking officer, he had to keep everybody together and deal with Rush [the secretive scientist played by Robert Carlyle], he was the first person who realized that Rush might be a problem. His role is really, really clear there. And then once you have Col. Young [Louis Ferreira], who’s calling the shots, and then you’ve got Telford [Lou Diamond Phillips] in the mix, too, Scott’s role on the ship became sort of a facilitator. He’s the guy who goes out and he’s on the planet, he’s on the away team and he explores. So as far as him making decisions, he’s not really doing much in that department.
And it’s hard – I mean, look, it’s a big cast, there are a lot of really interesting characters, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be as a writer to juggle all these stories and find ways to make the different characters shine and come out. I think that that was something we were getting a lot better at as we went along and I think something I was pretty hopeful that we might have been able to do if the show had continued to go on. I remember Joe Mallozzi came up to me and asked where I’d like to see the character go. And I was very interested in seeing Joe Mallozzi, one of the writers/producers, ask me that question. “Awesome. Let’s talk about that, let’s play with that a little bit.”
AX: What did you tell him?
SMITH: [laughs] Something along the lines of, I wanted to see Scott in situations that were more about empowerment. Because so much of what happened with Scott was terrible, terrible, terrible things happening and then not much real empowerment. I would say the exception to that was second season [episode] “Trial and Error,” where he basically slaps Col. Young around and says, “Get your shit together, be a commander, be a leader, we need you.” That was the best moment for me for Scott in the series, because he really contributed and really made a difference. It’s a good episode.
AX: There’s a rumor flying around that there may be a two-hour STARGATE UNIVERSE wrap-up movie. Do you know anything about that?
SMITH: I know that’s something they really want to have happen and it’s complicated, everyone’s kind of starting to move on a little bit, it’s, “How do you get everybody back in the same room, back in the same city?” Production-wise, it’s very, very challenging, but I’ve been talking to the producers and [executive producer/series co-creator] Brad Wright is really, really, really working hard on it. And not just on SGU, but he’s also trying to get a finish to the ATLANTIS storyline, and they also want to get the SG-1 movie made, too. It’s a lot, and I don’t know if they’ll be able to do it, but [if it doesn’t happen, it won’t be] for want of trying.
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