Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Real Reason These Actors Left The Stargate Franchise

When the movie Stargate came out in 1994, the creators couldn't possibly have had any idea that their film would spawn a franchise that would become a cult classic for decades to come. It spawned a very successful spinoff TV show, Stargate SG-1, which lasted a whopping ten seasons. But it didn't stop there. In turn, the TV series spawned two more spinoff shows, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe, as well as the web series Stargate Origins. Oh, did we also mention the two additional movies, Stargate: Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum? Needless to say, the Stargate franchise remains very popular, and fans to this day still ask for more.

However, as with any franchise that spans multiple decades, fans have been witness to quite a few cast changes throughout the Stargate world over the years. There are plenty of reasons why an actor would decide to leave a TV or movie series — even when they're departing a franchise as big as Stargate. After all, story arcs close, characters die, budgets get cut, and actors want to move on sometimes. And every so often, you have to do some digging and reading between the lines to figure out why a star walked away. From creative differences to health concerns, here are the real reasons why these actors left the Stargate franchise.

It wasn't in the cards for Stargate actors Kurt Russell and James Spader

The Stargate franchise launched with the 1994 movie Stargate, which stars Kurt Russell as Col. Jack O'Neill and James Spader as Dr. Daniel Jackson. Neither of these talented actors joined the spinoff TV series Stargate SG-1, which picks up where the movie left off. In the TV show, Jack O'Neill is played by General Hospital and MacGyver vet Richard Dean Anderson, and Daniel Jackson is played by Michael Shanks. But that, of course, left a lot of viewers wondering, why didn't Russell and Spader reprise their roles for the televised series?

The answer to this one isn't absolutely clear, but maybe we can sum it by saying that it simply wasn't in the cards for them. Even though Stargate SG-1 is a continuation of the movie Stargate, in many ways, it's basically a reboot. The creators behind the movie had nothing to do with the TV show. Stargate SG-1 essentially worked with an entirely new cast and even tweaked some things within the universe of the franchise. For example, the enemy alien Ra was supposedly part of an extinct alien species in the movie, but the TV series completely contradicted that. Not to mention that there were three years between the movie and the TV show. By the time Stargate SG-1 reached the airwaves, Russell and Spader moved on to other projects — and neither of them were television actors, either. At the time, going from film to TV had much more of a stigma than it does today.

Richard Dean Anderson wanted more time with his daughter

Even though many talented actors joined the spinoff TV series Stargate SG-1, the biggest name on the show was probably Richard Dean Anderson. Previously, Anderson gained popularity by playing problem solver extraordinaire MacGyver in the late '80s and early '90s. Although that show had been off the air for years by the time he signed on for Stargate's spinoff series, he essentially brought a pre-existing fanbase with him when he joined Stargate SG-1 in 1997. Anderson played the witty and loyal Colonel Jack O'Neill for the entire show. However, he stepped down as a main character at the end of season eight and only appeared in select episodes in seasons nine and ten. This fundamentally changed the show, as it forced the producers to introduce a replacement leader for the SG-1 team, which would ultimately be the character of Cameron Mitchell (Ben Browder).

A lot of fans wondered why Anderson would voluntarily choose to forfeit such a fantastic role in television. Well, in a 2018 interview (via GateWorld), he said that he wanted to spend more time with his daughter. His only child, Wylie Quinn Anderson, was born in 1998, during the second season of Stargate SG-1, and Anderson felt the series was taking too much time away from his relationship with his child. These feelings grew stronger as the show progressed, and in seasons six and seven of Stargate SG-1, Anderson started to reduce his workload. The writers would occasionally sideline his character in episodes to allow the rest of the SG-1 cast to step up and fill the gap. Then, in season eight, O'Neill became a minor character altogether. Every so often, Anderson made a guest-starring appearance on the series (and other Stargate shows and movies), but he essentially left the franchise as a main character.

Amanda Tapping wanted to focus on another show

It's no surprise that Amanda Tapping has continued to enjoy a very successful career in Hollywood since the end of her Stargate days. Not only is she an impressive actor, but she also has experience behind the camera as a director and producer. As for her time on Stargate, Tapping played the highly intelligent Samantha Carter, who begins her arc as a captain before eventually getting promoted, and was a member of the cast for all ten seasons of SG-1. After the show ended, she was brought onto the spinoff series Stargate Atlantis as a main character for its fourth season. But after that, she only showed up as a guest actor.

So where did she go? Well, according to an interview with SheKnows, Tapping left the franchise to focus on her own show for the Syfy Network, which was called Sanctuary. In addition to starring in the series, she also produced and directed a few episodes. After all, she had experience calling the shots on Stargate as she'd directed one episode of SG-1 ("Resurrection"). Around the time Tapping left the franchise, she began doing more work behind the camera, and perhaps this desire was one of the big reasons she moved on past her gate-traveling days. But Tapping was never too far from her roots, as she still guest-starred in the Stargate franchise after she stepped down as a main character.

Michael Shanks temporarily left Stargate SG-1 over creative differences

Michael Shanks played the archeologist Dr. Daniel Jackson, who sort of served as the conscience and cultural liaison of the SG-1. Even though Shanks acted until the end of Stargate SG-1, he left the show temporarily during season six. At the end of season five, Shanks didn't renew his contract for a reason as old as time — he had creative disagreements with the writers.

Shanks didn't get terribly specific about the reasons for his departure, but he's claimed his character Daniel Jackson wasn't being used to his full potential. To summarize his feelings, Shanks said in a Stargate interview, "I had begun to think the show would work just as well without me, and that's when I felt that I had to go." Which is somewhat understandable. By the end of season five, Daniel Jackson had finished his story arc with his wife, Sha'uri (Mili Avital), which was the whole reason his character even joined SG-1 in the first place. After that, it was unclear why Jackson was even on the show, despite being a lovable character.

At the end of season five, Daniel Jackson "ascended," which is sort of like dying but not really. The people behind the show brought Jackson back in season seven by having the character "descend" back to the mortal realm. Shanks didn't have hard feelings about the incident and later insisted, "I thought the writing staff was just great and did a marvelous job." He just had some disagreements that pushed him away for a season.

Corin Nemec left to make room for Michael Shanks

Corin Nemec's time on Stargate SG-1 was short but memorable. Nemec initially played a minor character named Jonas Quinn, who was introduced in season five. In the following season, Jonas Quinn joined SG-1 as Daniel Jackson's replacement, since actor Michael Shanks had left the show.

Jonas Quinn was an optimistic alien capable of learning super fast. He was eager to prove valuable to his people — the alien race known as the Langarians — and to SG-1, but he was deeply afraid of failure. Quinn had some big shoes to fill in the wake of Jackson's sudden departure, but Nemec's portrayal helped him win the hearts of the audience pretty quickly, although plenty of Stargate fans still missed Daniel Jackson. Well, as fate would have it, Dr. Jackson returned to the show in season seven and regained his position as a main component of SG-1. The result forced Jonas Quinn to become a minor character again in season seven, and Nemec was only a guest on a few episodes after that.

Despite his quick reversal of fortune, Nemec has insisted he doesn't have any hard feelings about Shank's return. He was happy to just be on the show at all. In an interview with writer Kurt Manwaring, Nemec stated, "Michael [Shanks] originated with that show, his return was very welcome. Though of course disappointed, I still was happy for Michael. Being an actor on a great show like Stargate is the best life ever."

Don S. Davis stepped down for health reasons

Don S. Davis played the leader of Stargate Command, General George Hammond. His character managed the multiple teams that traveled through the Stargate, including SG-1. Unlike a number of similar characters on shows of this nature, he was a benevolent leader who didn't take crap from bureaucrats trying to sabotage the program. He fully supported his personnel and was a big advocate of never leaving a soldier behind.

For eight seasons, General Hammond was a main character on Stargate SG-1, but unfortunately, Davis began experiencing health problems during the show's run. Understandably, Davis wanted to reduce his work and have more time and energy to focus on recovering his health, so in seasons nine and ten, he was only a guest actor. In season nine, George Hammond was promoted and thus left Stargate Command. Eventually, Hank Landry (Beau Bridges) stepped in to replace him. Fans of the show hated seeing Davis go, but they had to understand — sometimes you have to step away from your job for your health.

Hammond later showed up in the direct-to-DVD Stargate: Continuum, but sadly, it would be his last appearance, as Davis passed away from a heart attack in 2008. In-universe, Hammond retired and passed away offscreen. To commemorate him, the franchise named a spaceship after him — the U.S.S. Hammond.

Atlantis creators wrote Rainbow Sun Francks's character out

Stargate SG-1 was so successful that it spawned its own spinoff TV series called Stargate Atlantis, which had its own cast and plot arcs. The first season of Atlantis introduced Lieutenant Aiden Ford, a character played by Rainbow Sun Francks. Ford was a main character and part of the expedition to the city of Atlantis. He was an expert in explosives and a guy who was willing to put his life on the line to save his teammates, which he demonstrated on a few occasions.

But Ford would be the first major loss of Stargate Atlantis. After one season, he was replaced by Ronon Dex, played by Jason Momoa, whose appearance reduced Ford to a minor character in season two. The reason? Simply put, the powers that be wanted to mix up some things on the show in order to make it more interesting, and for whatever reason, they just happened to choose Ford as a victim. Francks explained in an interview with GateWorld that "I think ... they want to make sure that a hit show has lots of twists and lots of this and that. Something had to happen, and I just happened to be the one."

He explained that his character didn't get the development that he hoped for in season one and perhaps another season would've given his character the time to prove himself as mainstay. But Francks doesn't hold a grudge. He also said, "There was no hard feelings."

Torri Higginson stepped down from Stargate Atlantis during a cast change

When Stargate Atlantis went from season three to season four, it marked a big moment in the Stargate franchise. For one, Stargate SG-1 had finally ended its ten-season run, which meant SG-1 would no longer be a lead-in to Stargate Atlantis. On top of that, the creators wanted to shake things up with the cast, and the result was that some characters simply had to go.

One of the casualties of the cast shake-up was Torri Higginson, who played Dr. Elizabeth Weir. Weir was a main character for Stargate Atlantis for three seasons, serving as the leader of the Atlantis expedition, and along the way, she proved to be an exceptional manager and negotiator. Sadly, in season four, Weir sustained severe injuries and could no longer lead the Atlantis team. Thanks to her injuries, she essentially became a minor character, and Torri Higginson faded from the show.

Paul McGillion's character was written out during a cast shake-up

During Stargate Atlantis' transition from season three to season four, there was quite a shake-up that led to some characters falling by the wayside. For example, Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion) was a main character in Stargate Atlantis for three seasons, winning the hearts of his teammates and fans alike. Beckett was the chief medical officer for the team, and he was one of the more compassionate and thoughtful characters on Atlantis.

Beckett died unexpectedly in an explosion near the end of season three. However, Beckett did "return" in season four and five ... but only as a clone and in a much more minor role. Actor Paul McGillion explained in an interview with GateWorld that, "I think SG-1 got cancelled, and they wanted to shake things up, so to speak. Losing a beloved character might do that."

It's a major bummer for an actor to end up being essentially removed from a show just because the executives feel like they have to do something crazy to keep the series going. But at least, in a roundabout way, they complimented McGillion. They wanted to kill off a "beloved" character, and that's exactly what they did.

Teryl Rothery left Stargate SG-1 because writers wanted to kill off a character

Even though Teryl Rothery was a guest star, she felt like a main character. It probably helped that she appeared in over 70 episodes. Rothery played Dr. Janet Fraiser, the gentle and benevolent physician who healed SG-1 of the wounds they got off-world.

While Fraiser usually remained at Stargate Command on Earth, every once in a while, she would leave the base and go out into the field as a medic for soldiers who were wounded during firefights. As a result, she was occasionally in harm's way, and in season seven of Stargate SG-1, Fraiser was shot and killed. It was quite a shock for Stargate fans. Leading up to the episode, Syfy teased that an important character was going to die, hinting that it might be Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson), but instead, it turned out to be Fraiser. Rothery got to show up one last time on Stargate SG-1 in the episode "Ripple Effect" from season nine, during which she appeared as a version of Janet Fraiser from a parallel universe.

It was reported that the show's executives pressured writers to kill off a character. Co-star Don S. Davis was frustrated by the decision to kill off Fraiser, calling the higher-up responsible "some stupid bean counter." At the time, the show transitioned from Showtime to the Syfy channel (previously called Sci Fi), and according to Davis, the new network wanted something major to happen to hook viewers after the move between networks. Ultimately, that something turned out to be Fraiser dying.