When Stargate Atlantis first became a spinoff of the hit series Stargate SG-1 back in 2004, the case was under no illusion about how the fanbase felt. In fact, as part of Comic-Con at Home this year, the cast (sans one Jason Momoa and one Joe Flanigan) reminisced about the early days of the sci-fi series and knowing that fans weren’t really on board with the idea of another show taking over. Or so they thought.
When Stargate Atlantis was greenlighted, Stargate SG-1 was in the latter part of its run. Don S. Davis had left the original show before Atlantis hit the airwaves and series lead Richard Dean Anderson would follow at the end of Season 8. In fact, the first season of Stargate Atlantis was airing while Anderson’s final few episodes also hitting the schedule.
With this in mind, Torri Higginson recalled during a recent Comic-Con at Home panel that the cast itself earnestly felt what a segment of the fanbase was feeling, that the new show was “killing” what SG-1 had brought to the table. The first time they were really able to interact with Stargate fans was, in fact, at Comic-Con and Higginson admitted:
The studio took us out and gave us all free liquor before. So, I remember we all had a hangover like only new actors with free liquor budget would have, thinking no one’s gonna be at that convention because they’re all mad at us because they think we’re killing SG-1. And then we walked out and it was like a football field of people. And I was so hungover I couldn’t speak. I remember that so well.
I can only imagine. The panel, which Rachel Luttrell says was in Ballroom 20, is a large room at the San Diego Convention Center that has a seating capacity of 4,800 people. That’s a lot of people to be staring at from a hot stage all rigged up with lights right on your face. Per Luttrell, the first time the Stargate Atlantis cast was in that position it was “terrifying,” though I'd also have to guess being in a giant room full of rapt fans had to be validating in some ways too.
I remember being terrified. I remember sweating so much onstage because I was so like [eh]. I just had to keep my hands plastered to [my sides]. It was so overwhelming. I couldn’t move. Listen, [Ballroom 20] is very intimidating.
Rachel Luttrell also said during the panel that she really wasn’t away of “the impact of Stargate SG-1" before she signed on as she was younger and "naive" about the franchise. Once she realized what she’d gotten into, the “pressure did kind of settle in.” David Nykl also described working a room at conventions as kind of developing a “third self,” or a version of himself that told true stories and wasn’t fully a character, but who wasn’t really his own personality either in order to play to the crowd. In general though, it has to be difficult to pick up the mantle as a spinoff of an already successful franchise. It's like you are the annoying younger sibling until you find your own way with the fans.
Years later, Stargate Atlantis has been off of the air for more than a decade -- believe it, the show ended in 2009. The cast and crew, including Rachel Luttrell, David Nykl and Torri Higginson have all gone on to different projects (with Nykl taking a notable role on another Comic-Con favorite, Arrow, a show that also featured Luttrell in a one-off episode). But Stargate Atlantis found its niche within the Stargate franchise even withe the naysayers early on, ultimately airing for 5 seasons and 100 episodes on Sci-Fi.