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Another day, another story.  This episode, like episodes #7, 9, 10, and 11, was envisioned as a tough one that would take a couple of days to break.  But, like episodes #7, 9, 10, and 11, we ended up breaking it over the course of a single day.  And that leaves us with one final story remaining: episode 13, the big season finale.  As we were heading out to our cars this afternoon, one writer remarked that this one probably WOULD take us a couple of days due to its complex plot. Maybe.  But, then again, maybe not.  I have the tease, tag, all five act breaks, and the major moves in my head.  In fact, I’ve had them in my head for over a year now.  After writing the pilot, THIS was the episode my mind automatically went to whenever I imagined getting the green light on the series.  The big closer, the Holy Sh*t! season finale that will trigger the colossal fan forum meltdown after its eventual airing.  As my buddy would say: “It’s gonna be bananas!”

Alas, as you may have noticed, there was no official announcement at Comic Con. Apparently, they’re still crossing the last t’s, dotting the final i’s, and executing the finishing squiggly flourishes that accompany most official-looking signatures.  So…soon.  Soon.

In the meantime, it’s full speed ahead.  I’d like to see a revised pilot and first drafts of episodes #2, 3, and 4 by end of August, first drafts of episodes #5, 6, and 7 by end of September, and first drafts of #8, 9, and 10 by the time I touch down in Toronto in early November.  We’ve already generated a list of potential directors while, internally, we’ve started talking about casting.  We’ve got quite a few colorful roles to cast and finding the right people isn’t going to be easy – but we do have a few familiar faces we’d like to bring in for an audition.  Or two.  Ultimately, we’ll be looking for actors who are not only good, but good to work with.  And we know a few. :)

Damn, I’m going to miss going into the office to spin stories.  I’d like to say it’s been hard and rewarding work but, the truth is, it’s simply been a hell of a lot of fun.

We HAVE to do this again.  Next season!

Jelly is out like a Chicago White Sox designated hitter.

After an exhausting day of waiting for me to come home, Jelly is out like a Chicago White Sox designated hitter.

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Today, we finished breaking episode #10 of my new SF series.  It’s a little rougher than the preceding stories with a few TBD’s, but it’s great fun and ends with a jaw-dropping sequence that will no doubt have this blog buzzing when it eventually airs.

Can’t wait until next year?  Want a hint as to what to expect?  Well, okay.  Check out the above diagram, lovingly-rendered by one of our writers.  And – spoiler alert! – here are two more:

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1

Let the speculation begin!

I was informed yesterday that we have the conference room until the second week of August but, at this rate, I doubt we’ll even need it past this Wednesday.

Also, yesterday, we were treated to two surprises:

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Surprise #1: Former Stargate Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok who dropped by to experience our awesome spinning skills.  And eat our chocolate.

Surprise #2: A gift basket of fruit and chocolate from blog regular Gilder (Thanks, Gilder.  Very kind of you.).

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Tomorrow, we reconvene to discuss Episode #11.  Can’t wait to find out what other surprises you guys have in store for us.  Pizza?  Homemade cookies?  Matching macrame vests for the entire writing department?

We’ll see…!

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Another day down, another story done.  That makes 8 out of our 13 first season episodes broken in less than three weeks.  I feared today’s episode would prove tricky, but I got in early this morning and hashed out a rough outline.  My writing partner, Paul (aka Captain Logic) had surprisingly few problems in the early going and we positively breezed through the first three acts.  “Wow,”he marveled.  “We’re moving quickly!”  “Sure,”I said, “but I’m sure that we’ll eventually come to that sticking point.”  And we eventually did, sometime after lunch and somewhere in the fourth act – but, thankfully, it wasn’t one of those “Let’s sleep on it” bumps.  We talked it through, came up with some great scenes, and completed our beat sheet in record time.  Sadly, not quite fast enough for us to roll right into episode 9, but still.

Today, we also received some early concept designs.  I love this part of my job: weighing in on space ships.  We had a choice of five sketched variations and then three color models.   They were all terrific, but Paul and I preferred #2.  I’m not a big fan of winged ships in general, but I do love armaments: gun turrets, plasma cannons, etc.  This ship should be bad-ass, retrofitted with all sorts of illegal weaponry, and Bart’s first pass is a huge step in that direction.  Very exciting.

While considering the different looks, I hopped online to do a little research and came across this interesting rundown of The Top 75 Spaceships in Movies and TV. A pretty solid list – but Stargate: Universe’s Destiny is conspicuously absent. Given the fact that this list was published back in July of 2009, however, I’m willing to cut the gang at Den of Geek some slack:

http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/286589/top_75_spaceships_in_movies_and_tv.html#indexmain

SFX came up with their own list, this of The top 51 Sci-Fi Spaceships where Stargate is well-represented:

http://www.sfx.co.uk/2012/12/02/top-51-sci-fi-spaceships/

And if you’re wondering how they all compare, check out this chart by Dirk Loechel comparing vessels from various SF worlds.  Damn impressive!

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http://dirkloechel.deviantart.com/art/Size-Comparison-Science-Fiction-Spaceships-398790051

So many terrific designs.  Which are YOUR favorites?

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The thing I miss most about my days on Stargate is the writers’ room: the camaraderie, the laughs, the heated discussions and, every so often, the occasional creative accomplishments.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was hard, sometimes frustrating work but, when all was said and done, they were productive sessions that generated some great television.  And fun times.  We were lucky.  A successful writers’ room has as much to do with talent as it does personality.  Being good at what you do is important, but so is getting along with others.  And, in the case of Stargate, we were fortunate in that respect.  We didn’t always agree, but we got along and, in the end, I like to think it showed in the shows we produced – while I was there, some 340 hours of television.

BUT while the writers’ room can offer exhilarating highs, it can also mete out crushing lows.  In the case of the former, take last week’s creative output for example.  We ended up breaking an episode a day, a blistering pace that is not only impressive but almost unheard of in most rooms.  On the flip side, you need look no further than today’s disappointing gathering that wasn’t just unproductive but actually counter-productive in that the basic story we agreed had merit last night suddenly evaporated over the course of the morning, leaving us with NO story heading into the weekend.

Yep, it can be damn frustrating, but it DOES happen.  And the reasons why it happens are the following:

1. The story is deemed too similar to something that has come before.

This is a tough one because, if you look harder enough, anything can be deemed similar to something that has come before – especially when you’re talking about science fiction.  The Purge was an episode of the original Star Trek series, but that didn’t keep it from making $64 million.  Elysium was another movie with similarities to an old Star Trek episode.  It made $93 million.  Hell, South Park even did in an episode called “Simpsons Already Did It!” in which we are reminded that, just like science fiction, the world animation is fraught with the dangers of unintended imitation.

Closer to home, one of our very first episodes of Stargate: SG-1, “Window of Opportunity”, was unabashedly inspired by the movie Groundhog Day, but that didn’t stop us from producing what turned out to be one of the franchise’s most beloved episodes.  And, in the end, the admitted similarities to Groundhog Day, while enormously entertaining, were less important than how OUR characters responded to them.

So, yes, stories involving time loops and bleak alternate realities and emotional robots have been done before.  But that doesn’t mean they can’t be done again – so long as you can make them unique to the world and characters you have created.

2. Logic issues.

Even in the far-out world of science “fiction”, you must operate within established parameters.  A theoretical FTL drive wouldn’t work that way.  You can’t perform an EVA without a space suit.  Difficult to argue against these.

3. Suspect character motivations.

This one’s a little tricky because it often comes down to a matter of opinion.  “I don’t believe this character would do that.” can be neatly countered with: “Well, I do.”  Sure, there are instances where certain actions would be completely out of character – but in these instances, you’re presumably dealing with an idea from a writer who doesn’t know the show.  For the most part, character motivations come down to proper set up.  Would mercenary Character X risk his life for the robot?  At first blush, probably not.  But what if the robot just saved his life – AND holds the key to solving the shipboard mystery that could pay off handsomely?  Then, maybe he just might.

4. Bias

Yes, it happens.  Sometimes, someone just doesn’t like the story or is grouchy and in a combative mood – in which case they’ll attempt to argue #1-3.

Two of the best writers I’ve ever worked with were Brad Wright and Robert Cooper who had two very different approaches in the room.  Brad always excelled at pinpointing the heart of the story and finding a way to make it work.  To him, the bells and whistles were less important than the emotional crux of the narrative (ie. how it affected our characters on a personal level).  Once he could identify that, he would work tirelessly to build a great episode.  Robert, on the other hand, was a straight shooter who never shied away from telling you what he felt wasn’t working – BUT, invariably, ALWAYS offered alternative solutions.  No one could spin ideas like Rob.

All this to say I miss those guys and could have really used their expertise today.

No story brainstorming for me this weekend.  I’m taking a break to revise the pilot and put together overviews of our first six episodes covering synopses and production requirements (sets, locations, significant props, and visual effects) for each.  It’s all preliminary but it’s designed to ensure we’re all on the same page moving forward.  And, hopefully, steers them in the proper creative direction as we head into prep.  After all, we’ve got a spaceship to build!

 

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I say “surprising” because, whenever I mention I haven’t seen or watched one of the following, I am always met with equal parts distress, dismay, and disbelief:

et_1474485b10. E.T.

Friends-e13661419647849. FRIENDS

star-trek-tng18. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION

goonies-then7. THE GOONIES

big-bang-theory-46. THE BIG BANG THEORY

Avatar-Wallpaper-Neytiri75. AVATAR

The-West-Wing4. THE WEST WING

trek_2441578b3. STAR TREK (reboot)

DotF_TPM2. STAR WARS EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENAE

MCDFEBU EC0041. FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF

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Our writers’ room wrapped up its first week by knocking completing its fourth story in as many days: tease, five acts, and, because you demanded it (and, frankly, I recall how much you wanted them back in the Atlantis days), a tag.  I’m very happy with the first five episodes.  As one nameless writer (let’s call him Ramone Kluegelhopf) put it: “They MOVE!”.  Oh, that they do.  We’ll take the weekend to decompress and then, next week, we’re back at it.  I think we’ll take a few days to look over what we got so far, discuss the various arcs, nail down the remaining premises (making sure each of our characters has their opportunity to shine and suffer) and then we’ll resume spinning again.  We were aiming to have 10 of our 13 episode first season broken by end of July but, at this pace, it’s looking like we’ll have all 13 stories heading into August, a.k.a. Writing Month!

September will also be Writing Month II + a side order of Japan as I pull up my annual culinary pilgrimage to Tokyo to accommodate series prep.  We’ve already started discussions on production design (ships, space stations, etc.), visual effects, and locations (I think we got us a space freighter!) and, by the time we make the move to Toronto on November, constructions will have already begun on our sets.  I will, of course, spend the first two weeks sleeping in the crew’s quarters and eating in the ship’s mess (maybe even performing an EVA to disable the long range sensors) to really get in the mood in the build-up to principal photography.

It also sounds very involved and complicated but, really, a week into The Bridge Studio’s elaborate recycling system, I’m up for anything:

1Their plastic bodies are soft but their bottoms and caps are mighty hard.  So where do the empty plastic bottles go?

Trick question!  They go in the bottle bin at the bottom left.    The bin at the right is for cadaver bones.

Oh, and speaking of being up for anything, I came across this interesting option in the cereal aisle of my local supermarket:

1I’m going to go ahead and call this one a “niche product”.

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Whew!  Despite the pessimism of one nameless writer, we managed to finish breaking our second story in as many days, setting a torrid pace that should see us hit the mid-season(ish) mark by week’s end.  Could we actually have all 13 of our stories by end of next week?!

Not a chance.  That opening three-parter has become an action-packed two-parter while one of our off-world stories has been turfed in favor of…well, I’m not sure what at this time.  Hopefully, another off-world story!  But the point is we now have two story holes to fill – which isn’t too bad considering we already have ideas for 8 of the remaining 10 slots.

I’m very happy with the three episodes (one script and two beat outlines) we have in place and have no doubt you’ll love ‘em too.  They’re a lot of fun with plenty of action, adventure, humor, and scfi goodness.  But, above all, it’s all about the characters.  If there’s one thing I learned from Stargate, it’s that audiences may initially tune in for the series, but they keep coming back for the characters.  And, oh, do we have some great characters in this one.  Casting, once we eventually get around to it later this year, is going to be a blast.

In addition to the dark chocolate I brought for the room, we were inspired by a few visitors today: editor Mike Banas (who dropped in for said dark chocolate), his gal Ruby -

1And our former Stargate colleague, Kerry McCarthy (formerly Kerry McDowell, formerly Kerri McDowell) who brought along her five month old daughter, Saoirse -

1We all took a break to watch the world cup semi-final shootout between Argentina and the Netherlands, then returned to work on our outline.  At which point Saoirse bumped on the third act character motivations and called bullshit on our fourth act break at which point we had to ask her and mom to leave.  But it was nice seeing them nonetheless.

I’m exhausted (Jelly had me up at 5 this morning), so it’s an early night for me. And tomorrow, we’re right back at it.  We’ve got a big two-parter to bang out!

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1Well, this takes me back.  On Monday, we kicked off the writers’ room for my new scifi series.  Even though the show will be produced in Toronto, most (if not all) of the pitching, spinning, breaking, outlining, writing, and rewriting will be done here in Vancouver.  And I couldn’t think of a better place for us to convene – or in this case, reconvene – than our old Stargate stomping grounds at The Bridge Studios. Alas, our former offices are now occupied by a production called Monster Trucks (sic?), but that’s okay because all we really need is the boardroom – once the scene of all of our Stargate prep meetings, now,  for the month of July, the place where we’ll be coming up with 12 (only 12 because the pilot has already been written) thrilling SF ship-based stories!  Ah, just like old times.

Some photos from our first two days…

1Janet’s dog is still coming into work with her at the downstairs Administration Offices.  Stylin’ in in those red booties.  Dogs love ‘em!

1Well, if it isn’t Stargate ace editor Mike Banas P.I., working on his own super-secret project, just a couple of doors down.

1As is customary whenever one of my writers’ room assembles, I brought chocolate.

1Akemi included a few nougats with a very special message for us hardworking writer-producers.

1I returned to discover the office had been holding a bunch of boxes for me…for three years!  All free books from publishers and all….

1From the same book series which, I believe, is based on a game?  Anyone?

1Also awaiting us: a box of office supplies.  But, at the end of the day, all we really needed was a whiteboard, markers (blue is always a favorite!), a dry eraser, and board spray (which wasn’t included so Paul will have to pick some up on his way in tomorrow).

We spent Monday discussing “the big picture”: our world, first season arc, character backstories and arcs, spaceships, transfer stations, faster than light travel,  weaponry, and technology.  Today, we finally started breaking and, by afternoon’s end, had our first (actually second) story.  1 down, 11 to go!

Would love to tell you all about the show (specifically, what it’s about) but I’ll have to defer to our broadcast partners for the official announcement that, if I’m right, will be made to coincide with Comic Con in a couple of weeks.

As we left the offices for the day, one of my fellow writers summed up the experience thusly: “It’s nice to be arguing about robots with you guys again.”

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Mudd's_womenContinuing our Star Trek TOS rewatch!  Come on, who’s watching along with me and Cookie Monster?

Me: Hunh.  I remember this being a seminal episode back when I was a kid but, unlike, say, The Enemy Within, it fared much, much worse on rewatch.  Silliness aside, I wasn’t at all sure what the hell was going on.  Did these women have special powers?  What were they?  Why was Kirk immune?

Cookie Monster: Mebbe he built up a tolerance over time from all dat Kirking.

Me: The episode starts off promisingly enough with The Enterprise harassing an unidentified spaceship that looks like a flying cronut.

Cookie Monster: Cronut get in trubble and it blow up – but not before survivors manage to beam aboard Enterprise: guy called Harry and tree sexy ladies.

Me:  Who looked like they’d been beamed out of the evening gown portion of the Miss Universe competition.

Cookie Monster: Scotty, who apparently not been wit a woman since high school, reakt like dey be made of chocolate chip cookie dough.  Also, McCoy wide-eye grinning like he about to get some.  Hey, dey not nickname him “Bones” for nothing!

Hello, ladies!

We just blew our lithium crystals!

Me: Even Spock, initially, seems susceptible to their charms.

Cookie Monster: Yep, monster suspekt someting is up (Pun intended.  Dis what me write dese reviews for after all)!  Me also instantly suspishus of guy who talk like a leprecon.

Me: I found it interesting that after saving their lives – and being treated to a lingering triple butt shot of the ladies sashaying down the corridor – Kirk makes Harry submit to a lie detector test.  Is this common practice for all passengers?

Cookie Monster: Of course!  Monster sure dis not de last we’ll see of Enterprise lie detector.  It do great job of catching Harry lying.  Also, do bang-up job of finding copy of his old driver’s license.

Me: But Harry is of lesser concern in this scene because the women are definitely having an effect on the crew members – with the exception of Spock and (again, for some reason) Kirk.  Physiological scans show: “Perspiration up!  Blood pressure higher than normal!”

Cookie Monster: Set erektions to maximum!

Me: Anyway, instead of quarantining them – which would seem the wise thing to do – Kirk gives these strange women free run of the ship.  One pays Dr. McCoy a visit.  The second she shows up, he can’t wait to get rid of that cock-blocker, Connors (“Connors, are you finished?!” – throwing him that “Get lost, I’m about to get laid here” look_.  Later, when she walks past his, uh, sensitive…er….equipment…he receives all sorts of strange readings, prompting him to ask her to walk past his medical instrument again.

Cookie Monster: For medikal purposes of course.

Me: She asks if he’d like to examine her but he turns her down on the basis that he “wouldn’t trust his judgement”.  Dude!

Cookie Monster: Later, Kirk return to his quarters and find woman sprawled out on his bed.  She be like: “You mind?”  Kirk horrified, probably becuz lying on bed is one step away from borrowing your toothbrush.  Gross.

Me: The women are able to exercise some sort of mind control over the male crew members.

Cookie Monster: Heh.  Members.

Me: Then, suddenly, there’s a suggestion that there’s trickery afoot.  Or a strange alien pill.  Or magic.

Cookie Monster: One second, she be woman wit no make-up and, de next, she be woman WIT make-up!

Me: But is it mind over matter?  It’s something one of the women hints at when she wonders whether self-confidence makes one beautiful: “Or is it that they act beautiful?  No, strike that.”

Cookie Monster: Strike dat?  What she be, in a court of law?  Objektion sustained!  Next witness!

Me: I feel as though something was left on the cutting room floor, something that would have given us a better understanding of these women and their powers – and why, exactly, they were so eager to go marry a bunch of doofus troglodytes and live out the rest of their lives on some barren mining planet.

Another perfect match.  Thanks eHarmony!

Another perfect match. Thank you, eHarmony!

Cookie Monster: It look to me like she really, REALLY love to cook.  And den, when hubby-to-be insult her cooking, she run off into dust storm.  He run after her and Kirk…

Me: For some reason, Kirk doesn’t even help look for her.

Cookie Monster: Mebbe he not want to get involved in marital spat.

Me: Fortunately, the husband-to-be rescues her -

Cookie Monster: But he complain becuz she homely.

Me: Even though she just looks like the same woman – without make-up.

She's not wearing make-up and her hair is messy!  Avert your eyes!   Aaaaaargh!

She’s not wearing make-up and her hair is messy! Avert your eyes! Aaaaaargh!

Cookie Monster: But Harry give her speshul pill dat improve her looks.

Me: Yes, he says the pills make “men more muscular and aggressive, women more feminine and beautiful”…but doesn’t mention any weird chemical properties that allow the people who take them to have a supernatural effect on others.

Cookie Monster: On de bottle, it specifikally state: “Not effektive on vulcans and spaceship captains.”

Me: She takes it and, magically, her skin clears up and she’s wearing make-up again.  BUT the twist is that the pill was a placebo.  It wasn’t the pill after all that made her beautiful.  It was her belief in herself!  Wait!  What?!!

Cookie Monster: Yes, ladies, you too can have de confidence to have make-up magikally appear on your face.

Me: Wait.  This doesn’t make any sense.  How could she have been transformed by her belief in herself when we clearly see she lacks confidence, which is why she takes the pill in the first place?

Cookie Monster: Don’t ruin happy ending wit your nitpicking.  Miner decide to keep her becuz she hot after all.  Awwwww.  Dat true love!

Our Star Trek TOS re-watch continues…soon!  Apologies.  My schedule is suddenly crazy.  Believe it or not, I’ve been reading the same book for four days now.  FOUR DAYS!

Anyway, Cookie Monster asked me to draw your attention to blog regular Bethany’s gofundme drive for a therapy dog: http://www.gofundme.com/ServiceDog4BethanyDraves

P.S. Happy Birthday to Golden Boy Martin Gero!

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I was in a bookstore in Montreal, browsing for some suggested reads for my sister, when a song started to play over the P.A. system.  It was a great tune, very catchy, but my attempts to Shazam and identify it proved futile, so I flagged down one of the floor staff and asked if she recognized it.  She seemed downright enthusiastic I’d inquired.  “That’s the theme song to Veronica Mars!”  Really?  How the heck did I miss that?

Anyway, it just reinforces the importance of a great opening theme.  I know, I know.  The recent push has been away from actual theme songs in favour of those brief single digit note openers -

And who could forget -

As effective as they are, I still prefer the lengthier, more robust themes that ramp up the excitement and really sets the tone for a show, like -

And, of course -

We’re a long way from finalizing a theme song for my new show, but I already have one in mind.  In fact, I’ve had one in mind for over two years now and it’s been my iPhone ringtone for the past three months.  Of course, there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to license the song, but it’s interesting to note that, as I developed the series, I had two songs I was convinced would be PERFECT for the series – one for the opening (30 second) credit sequence, and one for the heart-stopping sequence that closes the season one finale.

Of course, much will depend on how we’re looking, budget-wise, late in the production schedule.  We may get one – or both!  Or we may have to settle for me humming a few bars of my own creation, Ship Happens.

But first things first.  The writers’ room shifts into gear this Monday and, in preparation, I’ve gone ahead and started beating out stories.  Working off my 13 episode game plan, I’ve completed beat sheets for episodes #2-7 and am presently working on episode #8. Nothing is written in stone and all is up for discussion, but at the very least these narrative blueprints will give us a terrific head start.  We’ve got 12 episodes to break (the pilot having already been written) over the month of July!

I will, of course, download our prospective theme song from iTunes for inspiration.

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