2007 marked the year Paul Mullie and I took over as showrunners for Atlantis’s fourth season. It also marked my first full year of blogging. As a result, some of these look-backs will be a little more involved, starting with…
The episode opens with a frenzied shot of the medical team wheeling a seriously injured Elizabeth down the corridor and into the infirmary. It was so frenzied, in fact, that no one noticed there was a camera man in the shot until well into post-production. In the original version the shot starts on the Weir’s gurney and various medical equipment being wheeled in and by – except that, unbeknownst to us at first, one of those pieces of medical equipments happened to be a camera men. It was while we were watching one of the cuts that Martin Gero noticed. He rewound, played, paused and, sure enough, there was our phantom invisible camera man, suddenly very visible in the frozen frame. Oops.
Out visual effects supervisor, Mark Savela, and his team were nothing short of amazing, following up our VFX-laden season three finale with this visually spectacular season opener. About a year after the episode aired, Mark swung by the blog to do a little Q&A (check it out here: July 24, 2008: Stargate Atlantis Visual Effects Supervisor Mark Savela answers your questions. And he brought treats!). Among the visuals he forwarded me for inclusion in the entry were a couple of videos I wasn’t able to upload at the time, specifically…
We open on Samantha Carter effortlessly floating through the Midway station as she works with Dr. Lee. The smoothness of Carter’s movement was achieved by pulling her along on a skateboard (don’t know if we borrowed Joe’s longboard for that one).
Then there was the big EVA chasm jump Sheppard and Zelenka execute to repair the damaged stardrive’s control crystals, one of my favorite VFX sequences in Stargate history. And it all started with those bulky (and stifling hot) space suits…
The sequence was shot on our largest stage, what we referred to as the VFX Stage, which was home to the village set, some Atlantis interiors, and the hive ship.
Again, the virtual environment of the chasm, the destruction, and the facing building are achieved through the magic of green screen:
And then there’s the sequence in which puddle jumpers fly ahead to take out the approaching asteroids. Rodney proves himself amazingly adept -
But, of course, he had a lot of help from Mark Savela and co. A few stages of the development of this sequence:
This was the Torri Higginson’s first episode back as a guest star and it was very difficult and demanding, requiring her to spend much of the episode immobilized for her character’s brain surgery. We, of course, didn’t shave the actress’s head for the sequence, instead using a bald cap. After the nanites save Elizabeth’s life, there was only the briefest of discussions on her post-operative physical appearance. They would have shaved her head for brain surgery so it stood to reason that Elizabeth would come back bald, no? Well, no. Fortunately, this is science fiction and one could argue that, if the nanites could repair her physically, they could also regrow her hair.
A lot of great scenes in this episode but, for me, the most memorable remains the one in which Ronon speaks to the unconscious Weir, thanking her for all she’s done for him. It’s a rare, vulnerable moment for Atlantis’s resident bullheaded warrior and one that resonates for that very reason. A wonderful performance on the part of actor Jason Momoa.