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Known for its nature, its tax incentives and its relative proximity to Los Angeles, Vancouver, British Columbia has long been a beautiful place where shows have chosen to film. However, filming in a place like Vancouver was challenging for Stargate SG-1, a series in which the plotlines revolved around multiple planets the team would explore. The big problem? How do you make Vancouver not look like Vancouver?
Episode 1, Episode 2, we’re always outside. It’s always in the rain because that was the weather at the time. So we really started struggling to create locations that were not just in the forest.
Per John Gajdecki, the creative team did its darndest to find locations that would fit plotlines for new types of worlds and keep the look of the show from growing too stale. However, the process to finding these locations and coming up with new ideas in a heavily forested area like Vancouver, British Columbia was not always simple.
Even when the creative team had good ideas things could ultimately go awry, as he also noted, citing early episode “Cold Lazarus” as an example. That episode was filmed in yellow sulfur pits, which again proved challenging.
There was one episode where they were on this planet and everything was yellow. It was sulfur — it was this bizarre yellow planet. And we were filming in these huge sulfur pits that they have down by the docks. It was such a sunny day that everybody was sweating, and the sulfur … you’d walk through it and it would kick up and get on your face, and your beads of sweat would just drop it into your eyes. And they had lots of people there to take care of us!
Granted, sometimes it was easy to create a new environment. Some planets in the Stargate SG-1 universe, for example, had multiple moons or other structures that could be created with VFX without breaking the bank. But according to John Gajdecki there were myriad environments that were written into the show that were simply difficult to bring to life given the location the show filmed.
Ultimately, these issues never seemingly got in the way of creating a good series. Stargate SG-1 ultimately ended up running for 10 seasons and spawning multiple spinoffs, most famously Stargate: Atlantis (which featured a young Jason Momoa) and Stargate: Universe – both which also filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia. It's been popular enough that there have been talks of a movie or revitalization happening for years, though those seem to be halted for now.
So, it seems eventually the VFX team found competent ways to create planets that featured much more than the forested landscape notable in the area. In fact, if it weren’t for these comments from John Gajdecki, I don’t know I would have ever even have noticed a reliance on forested planets, but perhaps that’s simply a detail many of us never latched onto. At the end of the day, it’s good to know all of this factored into the creation of the well-liked sci-fi franchise, and its attention to detail is maybe one of the reasons it lasted as long as it did.