As with our previous features, this is a list designed to celebrate the very best performances by guest actors in Stargate SG-1. However, we did come across a couple of challenges in compiling the list for this particular series. We’ve defined ‘guest performance’ as an actor playing a character who is not a regular or recurring character – so the actor must have played the character no more than twice in this particular series (though they may have appeared more often in other branches of the franchise). Stargate SG-1 liked to re-use its best guest characters as often as possible, frequently bringing back characters like Claudia Black’s Vala Mal Doran after what was initially a one-off appearance, which is great as the audience get to enjoy them again, but seriously reduces the number of eligible performances.
The other problem, meanwhile, relates to the nature of the show. Stargate SG-1 gave us a number of memorable guest characters over the years, but they were often played by members of the main cast – like the Tok’Ra Jolinar, for example, who was played for the entirety of their appearance by Amanda Tapping, since they were occupying Samantha Carter’s body the whole time.
Still, with all that said, there are still guest appearances that were memorable, whether because they were touching, dramatic or funny. These are ten of the best.
10. John Billingsley as Dr Simon Coombs in The Other Guys
The first of two Enterprise alumni to appear on this list, John Billingsley’s character in The Other Guys plays to his strengths – a socially awkward, rather clumsy, nerdy specialist in a narrow field (see also: The West Wing: Somebody’s Going To Emergency, Somebody’s Going To Jail). A number of actors were called upon to play such roles in SG-1 – James Spader’s Daniel Jackson in the original Stargate movie was the first, and in the early years Michael Shanks’ Daniel Jackson was played in a similar way. As the series went on, however, and Daniel became increasingly cooler and less caricatured, others were called upon to fill the role, especially in season 6, when Daniel was absent all together. Billingsley may be there primarily to make in-jokes about Star Trek in a rather daft comedy episode, but he does the job better than most.
9. Sean Patrick Flannery as Orlin in Ascension (character played by Cameron Bright in The Fourth Horseman Part 1)
Discounting the torch she held for years for her boss Jack O’Neill, Samantha Carter had a type; quiet, sensitive guys, possibly aliens, generally hiding some terrible secret or burdensome knowledge, and almost certainly doomed. Orlin was only half-doomed, since he was able to ascend, but otherwise he fits the bill perfectly. Sean Patrick Flannery manages to deliver a performance that eases over the extremely creepy way Orlin treats Carter at first, basically sneaking into her house and stalking her, and creates a sympathetic, while markedly alien, character.
8. Robert Duncan as Seth/Setesh in Seth
Given the premise of SG-1, that the Goa’uld pose as gods, including numerous Earth gods, it’s not surprising that they decided to do an episode centred around a Goa’uld posing as a cult leader. What makes Seth really fun, though, is the sort of cult leader he decides to be. No sackcloth and ashes for Seth; he is too cool for school, all black leather and floppy hair.
Robert Duncan’s performance perfectly blends the arrogance adopted by all actors playing Goa’uld (most of whom are ineligible for this list, as they tend to become recurring characters) with a truly Earthly sense of cool and style that would partly explain his appeal to his followers, even without his drugging and literally brain-washing them.
7. Jolene Blalock as Ishta in Birthright and Sacrifices
Birthright is not one of SG-1’s best episodes. It was written by Christopher Judge and clearly motivated partly by giving him an opportunity for a love story with a gorgeous co-star, not to mention drawing on that hokiest of concepts, the planet full of women with no men. However, the fact that it works at all is largely thanks to Jolene Blalock’s performance as the pseudo-Amazons’ leader, Ishta.
Embodying a male fantasy of a woman who combines a maternal gentleness with formidable fighting skills is not easy, and Blalock does it well. The episode was made during Star Trek: Enterprise’s run and there are elements of the Vulcan about her performance, but these work well for the character, and there is a greater sense of ease and comfort in her own skin in Ishta that does not exist in T’Pol of Vulcan.
6. Jan Rubes as Nicholas Ballard in Crystal Skull
Jan Rubes, best known for his role as an Amish grandfather in Peter Weir’s Witness, gives a gloriously hammy performance as Daniel’s troubled grandfather here. While he never believed Daniel about the pyramids being spaceships, Daniel never believed in his encounter with giant aliens either – such a bizarre family rift requires some enthusiastic acting and Rubes delivers it. When he is finally reunited with his beloved giant aliens, his joy and wonder is equally heart-warming.
5. Dwight Schultz as The Keeper in The Gamekeeper
Another Star Trek alumnus – SG-1 liked to hire Star Trek actors and did so often – Dwight Schultz’s character here takes all the highly strung aspects of Lt. Barclay, dials them up to eleven, and removes not only the stutter, but any sense of being a decent human being. His villain is both horrifyingly funny and supremely creepy, and watching him disintegrate as his carefully preserved lifestyle is brought down, having seen him subject our heroes to the worst kind of emotional torture, is extremely satisfying.
4. Megan Leitch as Ke’ra/Linea in Past And Present (character played by Bonnie Bartlet in Prisoners)
There’s a fascinating concept behind Megan Leitch’s Ke’ra – a character we have met before and known as a ruthless killer (indeed, a Destroyer of Worlds) becomes a completely different person when deprived of her memories. It’s a really interesting philosophical idea, and it requires a nuanced performance from Leitch, in which she must convince as a genuine love interest for Daniel Jackson, but hint at the possibility of a darkness underneath, were circumstances different. Her character has been a mass murderer, but without the memories that made her that way, she becomes a person willing to sacrifice her memories, to avoid going down that path again. It’s a tricky job, and Leitch pulls it off nicely.
3. Keene Curtis as Ernest Littlefield in The Torment Of Tantalus (character as a young man played by Paul McGillion)
The part of Ernest Littlefield in The Torment Of Tantalus is a really juicy one for an actor – stranded for 50 years without human company, separated from his fiancée, then reunited with her but still unable to grasp the answers he’s looking for, it’s the sort of role an actor can really get their teeth into. Keene Curtis does not waste the opportunity – his Ernest is equal parts weary, disillusioned, hopeful, romantic and emotional isolated, and thanks to him, the high concept of the episode works so well you won’t even wonder how his was able to refill his pens to keep his journal.
2. Dom DeLuise as Urgo in Urgo
Dom De Luise plays himself – but then, who could do it better? DeLuise’s son, Peter DeLuise, was a writer, director and producer on SG-1, so it’s no wonder that he took advantage of his famous comedic actor father and featured him in the show (his two brothers also made smaller guest appearances). Urgo is an episode built entirely around DeLuise’s character, who literally gets into SG-1’s heads, and metaphorically into those of the audience as well. Comedy episodes were always a relative strength of SG-1, and this is one of the best and fondest-remembered, not so much for its plot, but for the joy of watching DeLuise’s performance.
1. Robin Mossley as Malikai in Window Of Opportunity
Window Of Opportunity is one of the most beloved episodes in the entire Stargate franchise, and a serious contender for the best SG-1 episode overall. For the most part, its beloved because its a glorious comedy episode, featuring fruit loops, playing golf through the Stargate, Teal’c being hit in the face by a door and Jack trying to learn Latin. However, what raises it above SG-1’s other excellent comedy episodes is the climax. Suddenly, the episode turns on its head and becomes about grief and loss, and the lengths to which we might go just to see a loved one again, even knowing we couldn’t save them.
Richard Dean Anderson is great here, but the final act turn really depends upon Robin Mossley’s Malikai, the unwitting cause of all Jack and Teal’c’s problems. Malikai has done something selfish, but for such tragic, relatable reasons, and Mossley’s despair and desperation are beautifully portrayed. A perfect, tragic ending to a perfect episode.