Hailing from British Columbia in the Great White North, Michael Shanks grew up in the town of Kamloops. He was a bit of a self-described over-achiever as a kid – he played hockey and rugby at school, became a member of the Student Council, and eventually found his way into the school theatre group. Acting hooked him after that, and he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theatre from British Columbia University. His film and TV career began with a few guest appearances and small roles, until he was able to audition for the role of Dr. Daniel Jackson for the TV series Stargate SG-1. Winning the part with his spot-on impression of James Spader, who played the character in the original film, Shanks was able to make the character a fan favorite — so much so that after he left the show at the end of the fifth season, a campaign was launched by disappointed fans to bring him back.
Michael Shanks’ career boasts an impressive range of roles, particularly on a wide array of science fiction/fantasy TV shows. In fact, many people probably know him as one of those “Hey! It’s that guy!” actors. And in a startling number of those roles, his character dies. He’s like the Sean Bean of science fiction TV. And a quick warning for those of you who are both unfamiliar with Shanks’ career and hate spoilers, well, it’s best that you not read further. In fact, even looking at the tags on this article has probably already spoiled some things for you — look away! LOOK AWAY! Shit. It’s too late now. Might as well keep on reading.
10) Death by Werewolf, Red Riding Hood
It was inevitable that massive commercial success of the Twilight franchise would inspire others to chase desperately after the genre cash cow that is Teen Paranormal Romance. No, seriously – that’s a thing now. And for anyone who may have been curious about the erotic potential of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, well, look no further than this 2011 film. In a village plagued by a deadly werewolf, one teenaged girl (you know, the blonde one with the red cloak) holds the key to the mystery of the wolf’s identity. It’s even less interesting than it sounds – more intriguing is the mystery as to why Gary Oldman is also in this film. Michael Shanks plays a village man who is discovered to be having an affair with the teenage heroine’s mother. Unfortunately, most of this is discovered after he loses the chance to explain himself, as he’s dead within the first twenty minutes of the film.
9) Death by Smallvi–er, Sword, Smallville
A semi-recurring role on this ten-season juggernaut, Michael Shanks made his Hawkman debut in the two-part episode “Absolute Justice.” He re-appears periodically, taking time out of his no doubt busy schedule as leader and re-builder of the Justice Society, to give Clark and Lois relationship advice, and finally met his demise while protecting Lois from Slade Wilson in the episode “Icarus,” first getting stabbed by Slade’s sword, then jumping off the building to save a plummeting Lois while on fire. This gives the regular cast members the opportunity to head to “Egypt” for the funeral, where they can look sad and devastatingly good-looking all at the same time. You can watch the clip here.
8) Death by Outer Space, Andromeda
An old wound of Rommie’s is re-opened in season three (“Day of Judgment, Day of Wrath”) when the warship Balance of Judgment returns and takes over a High Guard ship — and Rommie. The Balance forces the High Guard ship to build it a new avatar in the spitting image of Rommie’s old love Gabriel. This new avatar, Remiel, kills the avatar of the Resolution of Hector (Christopher Judge) and seems poised to usurp the High Guard ship and continue its insane rampage, but Rommie is able to remind the ship of its duty. She gets into a fight with Remiel, mano a avatar, and kicks his ass into outer space.
7) Death by Highlander Flashback, Highlander: The TV Series
Actually, this is death by gunshot wound, but anyone who has seen more than a few episodes of Highlander: The Series knows that any non-immortal friend of Duncan McLeod who is featured in his many, many flashbacks is a dead man walking. In the episode “The Zone,” when Duncan’s current friend Charlie gets involved in a conflict in the rough neighborhood in which he grew up, Duncan recalls yet another time in his life when he was up against a gangster-type determined to take something over. His soon-to-be-deceased friend (played by Michael Shanks) was the son of a rich coal mine owner, who’d had enough of the miners’ talk of unionization. Poor Michael Shanks decides to try to intervene in the resulting union-buster smackdown, and is caught in the crossfire.
6) Death by Electrical Alien Insanity, The Outer Limits
This Canadian-produced TV series featured an episode in the sixth season, titled “Manifest Destiny,” in which a salvage crew sent to investigate an abandoned and seemingly empty spaceship. When the crew members start to act strangely violent, one-by-one, the ones left alive realize that some kind of invasive alien consciousness is taking over their minds and driving them insane. Michael Shanks, whose character films a good bit of this episode, is the one that figures out that the alien consciousness had been present in the ship’s computer/electrical system – and that the crew is infected via static shock (no, seriously!). Shanks’ crewmembers slowly kill themselves, and he tries to prevent the alien consciousness virus from spreading beyond the confines of the ship by taking his own life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.
5) Death by Staff-Weapon-Thingie, Stargate SG-1
In the first season episode “Tin Man”, SG-1 visited a planet whose population had retreated deep underground to avoid the radiation that had poisoned the surface, and attempted to salvage what was left of their civilization by transferring their minds to android duplicates of themselves. The one surviving individual created duplicates of SG-1 – hilarity ensued, and the duplicates agreed to remain offworld. SG-1 encountered their duplicates again in “Double Jeopardy” when they were captured by the Goa’uld lord Cronus, and Jack looks on in horror as he sees Daniel executed by one of Cronus’ Jaffa (at about 1:35 in the above compilation clip). Fortunately, it turns out that it was the back-up model that had his head blown off. This episode is also notable as the first time Michael Shanks tried his hand at directing.
4) Death by Number Six from Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice
Okay, so technically it was Michael Weston who finished Michael Shanks’ character off, but “tall, blonde and evil” Carla was the one who originally burned Victor and killed his family. So Victor’s work for the Organization and eventual rebellion was all her fault. When Westen decides to join forces with Victor (even after learning that Victor had tried to kill him), the two make a desperate gambit to get Carla and the Organization to back off in the episode “Lesser Evil.” Unfortunately, Victor is badly wounded by one of Carla’s men, and he convinces Michael that it was in everyone’s best interests if he doesn’t survive. Michael reluctantly takes the shot and uses Victor’s death as an opportunity to make nice with Management.
3) Death by Car Bomb, Sanctuary
When an elemental-delivery between Magnus and a former gang-member named Jimmy goes horribly wrong (“Penance”), Kate tries to drive Jimmy to safety but is wounded in the attempt. Jimmy takes her to a hideout, where they process their feelings and discover that they have a lot in common. “You grew up as a thief and a con artist? No way! So did I!” “Your father was killed when you were young? I was the one that killed your father!” This makes things understandably awkward, what with Kate’s hatred and desire for revenge. Meanwhile, Magnus attempts to trick the gang into thinking that they have Jimmy – but after the illusion is broken Jimmy turns himself in for real, and detonates the C4 he has in his pocket, killing himself and the mobsters.
2) Death by Ship Avatar/Lover, Andromeda
When Rommie falls in love with an android named Gabriel (in “Star-Crossed”), she’s devastated to learn that he’s actually the avatar of the Balance of Judgment, a warship that went completely bonkers after the Fall. Gabriel infects Rommie with a virus that broadcasts the plans of the crew of Andromeda to the Balance, but Dylan uses the opportunity to lure the Balance into a trap and destroys it from the safety of the Eureka Maru. It seems that all is well and Gabriel is free of the insane ship’s influence, but Rommie figures out that the ship transferred its artificial intelligence to Gabriel right before it blew up – which means another, more devastating betrayal is inevitable. She’s forced to destroy him in order to prevent it from ever happening. Things ended much more happily in real life, though – Michael Shanks and Lexa Doig married in 2003.
1) Death by Radiation Poisoning, Stargate SG-1
Daniel Jackson died many times before and since this one, but this death, shown in the “Meridian” episode, is unquestionably the saddest. It lasted a lot longer than the other ones, for one thing, and it’s definitely the most gruesome death on this list. While working to establish diplomatic relations with a planet caught in a Cold War-esque struggle between two major powers, Daniel is exposed to massive amounts of radiation when he bravely averts disaster in a weapons laboratory while touring the facility with Jonas Quinn. In an attempt to save face, the alien government accuses Daniel of trying to sabotage the research, as he lies dying in the infirmary at Stargate Headquarters. Each of Daniel’s team members bid him emotional farewells as his tissues break down and he starts to drown in his own fluids – all last-ditch attempts at healing him fail, and Daniel finishes the journey he began with Oma Desala in the third season when he Ascends to a higher plane of existence.