Quentin Brichet, a 26-year-old theater stage technician, discovered the Stargate SG-1 TV series when he was a teenager growing up in Switzerland, and he got hooked. He started watching it with his family, and was fascinated by how it was made.
"I always loved watching the behind-the-scenes in movies and series to discover how they made the sets, props, and did the special effects," Brichet said. "That's what I really liked about Stargate: a set with intricate design, huge and beautiful."
To celebrate his love of the series, Brichet, who at the time was in an active LARPing (live action role-playing) group with friends, got the idea to build his own stargate, the device that allowed characters in the series to travel great distances (think intergalactic) in an instant. That whim set him on a 10-year path to build a replica of the 19-foot stargate portal that appeared in the TV series, Stargate Atlantis, a project he just finished this month.
He said that pretty soon after he floated the idea by his friends, they bailed, realizing how much work it would be, so Brichet took to the internet to find like-minded fans.
The Stargate universe, which spans more than 20 years of content including four films and three TV shows, as well as video games and comic books, has been growing its devoted fandom long before the sometimes toxic internet fan culture that we know today.
Slowly, after posting about his project, a few people signed on. Then Brichet hit sci-fi conventions, eventually recruiting a team of fans from across Europe, mostly based in France and Switzerland.
The group of 10 calls themselves Les Enfants de Mac Gyver, a nod to actor Richard Dean Anderson, who starred in the TV series MacGyver before his role as Jack O'Neill in Stargate SG-1.
Because the 10 are spread out across Europe, Brichet and his team worked on different pieces in their free time and met up a few times a year, usually during holidays, which made the building process take 10 years.
"Some of them are really by best friends now," Brichet said. "Throughout the year, I'm speaking with them more than I'm speaking with my close friends."
The team lacked the technical skills needed to build an intricate stargate, at least at first, so they did lots of research on how the original prop was made. Brichet got his hands on several pieces of the original at auction.
The finished project is mostly made of resin and fiberglass cast in silicone molds.
"We all learned so much, especially learning how to manage a project this big," Brichet said. "For most of us, we had no knowledge on how to build something like this. But together, we discovered it was doable."
In total, the project cost close to $60,000 for the original pieces they purchased as well as materials (resin, fiberglass, silicon, LED lights, and the metal and wood for the frame to hold it up). They received funds partially from donations and EMG membership dues , but most of the money came from Brichet himself. "Every day, I thought, 'I don't have the money to continue this,'" he said. "Each year, I said I would stop, but for some reason I kept going, and now here we are."
EMG debuted the finished stargate for two days this month at a small theater in London for a group of their followers to see, but now it's already broken down and packed away. It likely won't be displayed again.
Brichet said that's because it was largely a test to see if the team could build it. They're already onto the next project, their main focus: a replica of the stargate that appeared in the television series Stargate SG-1 and original Stargate film.
This project is more challenging, Brichet said, because it involves motorized moving parts. When the team's finished, which is expected to be in 2020, it hopes to take it on tour at different sci-fi conventions, as well as to rent it out to fans for events if Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios says it's OK.
Brichet said finishing the first stargate was a thrill, and he can't wait to finish the next one to share it with even more people. "There's this feeling that we're bonded together. It's something we all share now."
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the caption on the main photo incorrectly named one of the members of Les Enfants de Mac Gyver as Quentin Brichet.