Many of you have asked: “What is it like working with author John Scalzi?”. Well, while I can tell you it’s been both fun and informative, I can’t really offer much in the way of details given the secretive nature of his work. As Stargate: Universe’s Creative Consultant, John reads and weighs in on all of the scripts, in addition to providing input on various story ideas. He’s a very knowledgeable guy who can always be counted upon to offer informed advice on everything from vectors of inertia to the politics of woodland creatures.
Take the episode I’m presently working on: Resurgence. The writers had beaten out the story and I was in the midst of writing the outline when I came up against a TBD. A TBD, for those not-in-the-know, is a story element that has yet to be fully realized, a crucial albeit mysterious little piece of the narrative puzzle whose details are shelved for future identification. Like, say, when you actually sit down to write the outline. TBD. To Be Decided. And it was time to decide. I spent the better part of the morning wracking my brain, trying to come up with something clever and cool (and made sense). And then it suddenly dawned on me. Hey, why am I so miserable? We have a Creative Consultant! Why not make him miserable too?
I sent off the following email to John Scalzi [note: in order to avoid giving away any spoilers, I offer a slightly edited version of our exchange].
“Joe Mallozzi here. I was sitting at my desk agonizing over my latest Stargate outline when it suddenly hit me. Hey, why don’t I share the love and have John agonize over it as well.
So the basic premise has Destiny [redacted]. While [redacted], they [redacted] that opens [redacted]. They [redacted] in [redacted]. The reason? Well, here’s where you come in. I was discussing the idea with Brad and we threw out the idea of [redacted] that [redacted]. Of course, the big question then is why doesn’t [redacted]? Perhaps [redacted]? Alternately, we were considering the possibility of [redacted], a result of [redacted], that somehow [redacted] between the [redacted]. Thoughts? And, no we can’t have space dolphins magically appear and [redacted]. I already pitched that out and, for some reason, Brad wasn’t enthused. I think maybe Battlestar already did it.”
Moments later, I received a response from John:
“First, this show’s bias against space dolphins SICKENS me and always has.
[Redacted] won’t work tremendously well because [redacted] without something to [redacted] (and [redacted] would [redacted]).
But I did think of something that might work for your purposes; Destiny, as you know, has [redacted]. Why not [redacted]?
Opportunities for drama include:
2. It can give you a “[redacted]” issue, in either a) there’s [redacted] and/or b) you can have [redacted];
3. Either way it’ll have to be [redacted] who [redacted].
Let me know if this helps.”
Well, you’ll no doubt agree, this helped tremendously. I wrote back:
“Love it. However, I need the [redacted] to be [redacted] so that they don’t simply [redacted]. I want them to be [redacted]. That said, what would be the likelihood of their being able to [redacted]?”
And he replied:
“If [redacted], I think it could be pretty likely. Just have your [redacted] be [redacted], and have that [redacted] be [redacted]. [Redacted] a lot [redacted].”
So. there you have it. A rare glimpse a the creative process at work. Magical, isn’t it?
Anyway, I wrote the script and received John’s notes on Thursday. All great. I’ll be incorporating them into the next draft which comes out next week.
Speaking of which – I fear that this script may end up being a little short. Anyone have any suggestions for an extra scene?
Mishmee writes: “One my brother and I loved as kids was the 1979 The In-Laws, with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin.”
Answer: One of Carl’s favorites.
Zoomeister writes: “
1.) Are we going to get a Ben Browder (Cameron Micthell) appearance on SGU or in ANYTHING Stargate-verse related in the near future? I happen to be a huge fan of the character and actor and I was pretty disappointed to learn that he’s apparently not going to be appearing in Stargate: Revolution. Will we be seeing any more Browder/Cam any time soon?
2.) Are we going to get a fun, Riley-based episode any time soon?”
Answers: 1) It’s possible. Time will tell.
2) No plans for a Riley-based episode per se, but it’s very possible we’ll see Riley or any of our supporting cast play a pivotal role in a given episode.
Becky writes: “You probably have already answered this question, but what happens if, while using the stones, one of the hosts dies?”
Answer: Good question. It remains to be seen, but past experience would suggest it would kill both participants.
ZeroPointBatteries writes: “ok joe great epp sofar but why didn’t carter just beam out the two pilots that were on their way back to the hammond?”
Answer: She certainly could have tried, but the time spent locking onto their lifesigns and transporting aboard were precious seconds needed to escape. Faced with the tough call, she elected to take the sure thing and waste no time retreating, saving the lives of all those aboard the Hammond.
Kymm writes: “Why would the connection not break when Telford/Rush died?”
Answer: Another incident that points to the possibility that, rather than simply severing the connection, killing one will kill both.
crayonbaby writes: “What’s your take on writers of the scriptwriting persuasion getting into the comic trade?”
Answer: Scriptwriters writing novels. Comic book writers scripting movies. Authors writing for television. I think it’s great.
Arctic Goddess writes: “A question regarding your comic book series. Have you had to lay out any of your own money to get this off the ground, or is it more like writing a novel and getting your agent to sell it for you?”
Answer: Our agent and lawyer negotiated the deal.
Former SGU Watcher writes: “No explaination why the Lucian Alliance would want to go to Destiny when it is known to them it will be a one way trip with only a 0.0001% chance they can return. What could they gain by going there?”
Answer: Just because an explanation isn’t immediately offered doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist.
Former SGU Watcher writes: “With the LA knowing the situation aboard the Destiny from Telford, they took even LESS equipment and supplies than the humans from Icarus?”
Anwer: Because, like the humans from Icarus Base, while they may have planned to head through the gate at some point, they didn’t plan on doing it so soon. The attack on the base was unexpected and they were forced to escape through the gate with what they had at hand.
HBMC writes: “
The way the Lucian Alliance succeeded in Incursion 1 was just absurd, especially when you consider at the start of the ep we saw it was possible to have a person unconscious on the ground after a few mins of venting air.
You vent the air for half that amount of time, and every LA member is then on the ground gasping for air, which incapacitates them, which then allows Young’s group to rush in and take them all without firing a shot.”
Answer: Ah, the benefits of Monday morning quaterbacking. Young vents the atmosphere in Telford’s quarters in order to kill him – bring him to the brink and back – because he has no other options. That is the only proven way to overcome the brainwashing. And there was no guarantee it would even work.
The same logic would apply to the attackers in the gate room. Yes, he could have vented the atmosphere immediately and killed them as per his initial plan, but when he saw Telford come through the gate, he elected to offer the Lucian Alliance the opportunity to surrender. It wouldn’t have cost him anything but time and could well have saved Telford’s life. If they’d refused, he would simply go back to Plan A and vent the atmosphere – which he does, but too late because the attackers have technology he wasn’t expecting them to have.
Immediately venting the atmosphere and waiting until they were presumably incapacitated would have made even less sense. How would you know who is incapacitated and who isn’t incapacitated? How could you be certain that some Lucian Alliance members couldn’t be holding their breath, playing possum, in the same amount of time it would take for Telford to suffocate?
HBMC writes: “Sure, Telford is gasping for air alongside them, but really, removing the oxygen from a room doesn’t kill people instantly. 20 seconds would’ve been enough time.”
Answer: But the Lucian Alliance is still armed. Why risk it when you can either: a) give them the opportunity to surrender and save Telford or b) simply vent the atmosphere and kill them all?
imadaman writes: “Why didn’t the F-302 pilots use the Hyperdrive on the ships to jump out from the AoE? (Area of Explosion)”
Answer: Presumably they believed they could make it back to the ship in time or their hyperdrive engines could have been damaged in the attack.
jinx writes: “Why is the “Lootin’ Liance” using earth style weapons?”
Answer: The Alliance, as the name implies, is made up of a coalition of various groups, so it’s very likely they’ll have access to very different weapons and resources.
jinx also writes: “What was the purpose of the Camille character…”
Answer: She is the one pushing for negotiation in order to save the lives of the hostages. And we’ll see her step up next episode as well.
jinx also writes: “In comparison with the Camille character yes, she is lesbian but I felt you really didn’t give us much past who she sleeps with. What was it like growing up being an Asian in a traditional family when her goals were far more western.”
Answer: We’ve established that Camille is in a healthy, grounded and supportive relationship which is in stark contrast to her lonely existence aboard the ship. Back on Earth, we see beyond that cold shell to the warm, caring, and loved individual she really is. That is, in my opinion, far more interesting than finding out whether or not her parents supported her in her career decision. You’re oversimplifying by saying all that Life accomplished was to show who Camille happens to be sleepinh with. That would be akin to saying all those ten years of SG-1 accomplished was to show who those people were working with.
kabra writes: “ So just to make sure I got this correct, Telford is now aboard Destiny physically and mentally? So how does this open the doors for more Destiny/Earth travel????”
Answer: It doesn’t. The power source – the planet – was destroyed. But, to answer your first question – yes, Telford is now aboard Destiny.
Shannon writes: “Where do you guys get your World of Warcraft references?”
Answer: I thought it would be a funny gag, then did a little research to make sure it actually made sense to you WoW players.
Dodoalda writes: “
1) Did LA guys found those “door openers” somewhere or they just created them using Telford’s informations about the Destiny he told them?
2) Is that elevator mechanical or it’s more like SGA’s transporters?
3)And my traditional at the end: Is Joel Goldsmith planning to release the SGU soundtrack?”
Answers: 1) Telford was unaware they possessed this technology.
2) Mechanical. And it can go sideways!
3) Don’t know. Sorry.
Major D. Davis writes: “Im like CUT THE CONNECTION AND THEN VENT THE ATMOSPHERE! Then revive telford like you did at the beginning of the episode.”
Answer: As I already said – easier said than done. Just because it worked the first time doesn’t mean it would the second. Sometimes, attempts to ressucitate people don’t work – and they stay dead. Given the information Young had, he lost nothing by giving the LA an opportunity to surrender. What he wasn’t banking on was the technology they possessed. They surprised him. Happens in battle a lot.
kabra writes: “What’s the difference between “back ordered” and “out of stock”? Either way the item isn’t in the inventory and you still have to wait for it to arrive. Is one or the other suppose to make me feel better as a customer?”
Answer: Yes. “Back ordered” should comfort you in the knowledge that the item in question is already enroute.
lkk222 writes: “why didn’t they just vent the atmosphere, and as the Luciens were grasping for air, go in, shoot them one by one in the back of the head, easy picking”
Answer: Except that they’re all armed and extremely dangerous. Wouldn’t it be easier to just vent the atmosphere and kill them that way?
lk222 also writes: “ or just station soldiers behind/sightly to the side of the stargate, so as the lucians came out one by one, they can be shot in the back.. as they are struggling to get up… why give the enemies the time to regroup and form an assault?”
Answer: Again, why put lives at risk? Why put your men in potential harm’s way when you can simply vent the atmosphere from outside the room?
lkk222 also writes: “not enough dead people! not enough dead people!!!”
Answer: Our guys were in retreat while their guys were looking to take hostages rather than kill.
lk222 also writes: “joe, what are the limits of the communication stones? can a human use it to swap bodies with say a dolphin? or an ant? or a guaold snake?”
Answer: No idea. I’m sure someone somewhere is working on this.
lkk222 also writes: “and speaking of sex, i’ve always wondered… if someone makes a Stargate themed porn, would they get sued?”
Answer: Probably. I strongly urge you to reconsider.
Brandon Williford writes: “Did you have any idea that it would end up being so much fun when you were bashing your head against the keyboard?”
Answer: It’s always a lot more fun than bashing your head against a keyboard. Also, great responses to some of the questions asked – particularly to the individual outraged by the fact that we haven’t immediately explained why the Lucian Alliance wants Destiny.
Kevin writes: “Young vents Telford’s room to undo the brainwashing and manages to revive him…yet doesn’t vent the gateroom the moment the L.A invades for concern over Rush/Telford. He could’ve vented the room and tried reviving Telford again..no 100% certainty it’d work but Telford would have understood the risks. Much better to do that then allow armed boarders to gain a foothold.”
Kevin: “Young vents Telford’s room to undo the brainwashing and manages to revive him…yet doesn’t vent the gateroom the moment the L.A invades for concern over Rush/Telford. He could’ve vented the room and tried reviving Telford again..no 100% certainty it’d work but Telford would have understood the risks. Much better to do that then allow armed boarders to gain a foothold.”
Answer: Again, this is Monday morning quarterbacking. You’re criticizing Young’s decision with the knowledge of what happened. He didn’t have that luxury. Given everything he knew at the time, it would have cost nothing to give them the opportunity to surrender. He could have simply vented the atmosphere anyway if they’d refused.
Also, given the amount of time it took for Telford to collapse when he was losing oxygen, it’s more than likely the Lucian Alliance would have been able to get those doors open anyway.
vvv0472 writes: “Technically speaking, if the Lucian Alliance can dial Destiny in another universe from their Icarus-type planet, could they have dialed Atlantis in another galaxy as well?”