Stargate: Atlantis premiered ten years ago today. I’m celebrating with a look back at my Top 10 favorite SGA memories.
In no particular order…
#10. RODNEY MAKES THE CUT. BUT JUST BARELY!
Production on the new Stargate spinoff was fast-approaching, but we were scrambling to cast one crucial role: the part of the intrepid, dedicated team doctor. Multiple auditions yielded no suitable candidates and the producers were at a loss until… Robert Cooper suggested a different tact. Instead of casting a new character, why not bring in an established one – namely, Dr. Rodney McKay who had already put in a couple of appearances on Stargate: SG-1? To say that this last minute switch “worked out quite nicely” would be an enormous understatement. Could you imagine Atlantis without him?
#9. ENTER GOLDEN BOY MARTIN GERO
Faced with the prospect of 40 episodes of television a season, we sought out new talent for the writers’ room. Enter young Martin Gero who proved himself with his first script, Childhood’s End – and then went on to become the most prolific writer on the show.
#8. ENTER CARL BINDER
Later in SGA’s first season, we added one more writer to the room, a veteran of Punky Brewster with a penchant for schnitzel and off-colour humor. He proved himself with his first script, Before I Sleep – and then went on to become the most prolific writer of ghost-themed episodes on the show.
#7. ENTER RONON
The show saw several cast changes over the course of its five year run, but perhaps none quite as significant as the introduction of the rough and ready Satedan, Ronon. A great onscreen presence, Jason Momoa was also a hell of a lot of fun to work with.
#6. INTRODUCING…TODD THE WRAITH
There’s nothing I enjoy more than an interesting, multi-layered villain and, while the show had them in bunches, none (in my humble opinion) matched the depth and color of Todd the Wraith, a soul-sucking alien with a devilish sense of humor.
#5. GOODBYE, CARSON
This one rivals the closing moments of SG-1’s Meridian as one of the most touching scenes of the franchise. Rodney says goodbye to his friend who fades away to close the episode and Carson’s story…for a little while anyway.
#4. WOOLSEY IN CHARGE
I loved Richard Woolsey’s evolution from pencil-pushing bureaucrat to principled suit, so when Amanda Tapping’s departure opened up the position of Expedition Commander, the first name that came to mind was: Bob Picardo. I called him up, made him the offer and we closed the deal that afternoon. One of my favorite characters to write for.
#3. BEHIND THE SCENES FUN
It’s hard to pick one moment among the countless great ones I enjoyed as a member of the Atlantis writing team. Amid all the story sessions, script notes, cut screenings and mixes, there was much hilarity. More often than not, it involved Carl being “tricked” into eating something awful (https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2007/06/08/june-7-2007/).
#2. MY FIRST SAN DIEGO COMIC CON
Meeting 5000 Stargate fans – simultaneously.
#1. ALL GOOD THINGS….
Although it wasn’t planned as a series finale, the show’s last episode served nicely as a nice send-off, wrapping up existing storylines yet leaving the door open for further adventures. The final group shot on the balcony overlooking San Francisco Bay was an emotional one for all. We’d had five great years – but, dammit, we could have had so many more!
Last night, I met up with my foodie friend – Nicole, Lan, and Missy – for a little culinary tour of Chinatown. Nicole, our guide on this trek, had us hopping from one place to the next, covering four different places in which we sampled about a dozen different dishes…
Fellow foodies: Nicole, Lan, and Missy.
We met at The Pie Shoppe, a tiny place that offers a variety of pies both sweet and savory. On this night, only half an hour away from closing, they were out of savory options so we settled for (and by settled, I mean devoured) two of the sweet pies: apple-rhubarb and chocolate pecan. I can’t fairly judge a fruit pie without ice cream so I won’t weigh in on the apple-rhubarb, but that chocolate-pecan pie was outstanding on its own. I was tempted to try the salted honey pie but Nicole had to remind me to pace myself. This, after all, was a marathon.
A plethora of pies
From there, we headed one block over to a place called Oyster Express that offered about a dozen varieties of oysters on the shell in addition to a number of other menu items. But, come on! The place is called Oyster Express! So we ordered two dozen assorted raw oysters. They were all excellent. Akemi, who had to beg off because she was feeling under the weather, would have loved it.
On the half shell at Oyster Express
One block over and two blocks down, we hit Besties, a restaurant specializing in sausages.
With by besties at Besties
We ordered a number of items and shared. Among them:
The sausage slider
Asparagus with hollandaise. Oh, and an egg!
For me, the highlight of this stop was the venison and blueberry sausage (that, for some reason, I failed to snap). They were out of the intriguing sounding Butter Chicken sausage, so I’ll definitely have to make a return visit.
From there, it was one block over, three blocks up (through the downtown east side’s more colourful area), and around the corner to the Dunleavy Snack Bar. At this point, Lan was tapped out and declared himself stuffed. BUT that didn’t stop him from having some of the bimbimbap – and later, finishing it off when the waiter asked/threatened to take the plate away…
Pork belly and Korean chicken steamed buns. I was hoping the chicken would be spicier, like they serve at that Korean restaurant in Shinjuku where the chicken is so spicy they serve it with a side order of surgical gloves so that you don’t burn your fingers while eating.
We didn’t order dessert, but only because we’d already had some at the start of our tour.
Thanks to Nicole for organizing and Lan and Missy batting clean-up on those fries and rice.
Continuing our discussion of our April Book of the Month Club selection – Annihilation:
vanderworld.com writes: “I wouldn’t normally comment, but…the next two novels are about 100,000 words each, which complicates things, and are *completely separate novels* in their own right, that interlock with Annihilation…they do not pick up the story right after the events in Annihilation. Annihilation is itself a self-contained short novel. Among other considerations FSG weighed in their approach to publishing the trilogy that weren’t at all cynical.”
Answer: Well, you’re in a better position to know so I stand corrected. Still, this first book is surprisingly short and the speedy release of subsequent volumes atypical of any series I’ve ever read. It will be interesting to see how this experiment fares.
skua writes: “The Arkady and Boris Strugatsky´s Roadside Picnic (Tarkovski´s Stalker) sensation at the first stages let me in.”
Answer: Yes, it certainly was reminiscent of Stalker as well with its foray into an uncharted alien landscape where the rules of physics – and logic – no longer apply. Great movie. Perhaps time for a re-watch.
JeffW writes: ” I found the pacing in Annihilation to be slow and ultimately unsatisfying.”
Answer: I didn’t mind the pacing. I was so caught up in the story that the slow build really worked for me. It was like one of those horror movies of old where the meat of the narrative is in the suspense rather than the visceral payoff.
Duptiang writes: “Was the protagonist her whole self or a replacement like what was often explored in the SG series a DNA replacement, replicator conversion?”
Answer: Interesting question. She seemed to retain a certain part of herself as evidenced by the introspective passages in her journal. And yet, there’s the hint that she is losing a part of herself as well. When her husband mysteriously returns from his expedition, she points out that it’s as if a part of him is missing. He’s not quite the same person…
Duptiang writes: “How did the files get into the Light house, and why was she succumbing to the brightness?”
Answer: My guesses would be – 1) the lighthouse keeper (human or otherwise) and 2) any human being will succumb to Area X following extended exposure to the environment. Of course, these are just guesses. Are the answers to come?
whoviantrish writes: “The protagonist is smart, decent, down-to-earth, flawed and brave. She’s easy to like.”
Answer: I found the narrative approach very interesting. It allowed us to get to know our protagonist but, on the other hand, never allowed us to know or in any way connect with the other characters.
sparrow_hawk writes: ” The prose is lovely and evocative and conveys the sense of weird other-worldliness quite well.”
Answer: Agreed. He’s a terrific writer and I’ve greatly enjoyed his previous books.
sparrow_hawk writes: “Why are teams still being sent in? What is done to them before they go in? What is happening to The Biologist and has it happened to others before her? Why the heck is everyone so depersonalized and isolated? “
Answer: In my mind, these first two questions are the ones that really need to be answered. Don’t get me wrong. I too would like an answer (or, failing that, some solid hints) regarding the fate of the biologist and how Area X is influencing its visitors, but I’m willing to cut its enigmatic, alien-centered answers some slack. In the case of the expeditions, I’m in a less forgiving mood since there are real people behind these seemingly illogical decision. As someone else already pointed out, if so many teams have already gone missing, why are expeditions still being sent into Area X? What, if anything, is being gained?
Jenny Horn writes: “The premise reminded me some of Michael Grant’s series and King’s Under the Dome as well as LOST, but had none of the payoff. “
Answer: I’ll have to reserve judgement on payoffs until I’ve completed the trilogy, but you present some very interesting examples. I didn’t make it through the entire Lost run but my friends who did were VERY disappointed with the finale. As for Under the Dome – I read it and, while I thought the premise was great and the narrative fairly engaging, I found the ending hugely disappointing. Sometimes, payoffs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
astrumprota writes: “I guess the antagonist is whoever sends in the missions with nothing but lies. If they want to be successful understanding Area X or stopping its encroachment, why not give them all the information possible, and dispense with having one person, who becomes insane, use hypnotic suggestion on the others? I don’t see an end to the failures.”
Answer: And that fairly encapsulates my biggest bump with the book. Given all of the previous failed missions, why not better prepare future teams? Why not arm them with better resources? This is hinted at early on (ie. the limits to what they can bring, the fact that much of their equipment is outdated, etc.) but these are questions that need to be answered in time.
cat4444 writes: “Overall, I enjoyed the story, but I didn’t find that I was invested in what happened to the characters due to the detached manner in which the story was told.”
Answer: Yes, I had a problem with that too – and the fact that no one had a name It was always “the psychologist”, “the anthropologist”, “the surveyor”. I eventually accepted the conceit – until, at one point, a character is referred to as “the anthropologist” in dialogue. Surely when speaking to each other, I thought, they would use their first names. But then, upon further consideration, I realized that this entire narrative is an extended journal entry written by our protagonist, so she is essentially offering a tweaked account of her experience. It’s a reminder that our narrator is human and, perhaps, not to be trusted.
cat4444 writes: “The psychologist obviously knew more about what was happening than the other members of the expedition and was surreptitiously in control through the hypnotic triggers implanted in the other members’ minds. But how much did she really know?”
Answer: Again, I really hope we get the answers to these types of questions, those related to the Southern Reach organization and the reasoning behind some of their seemingly illogical decisions.
cat4444 writes: “The biologist’s observations suggest that they’re being changed. Some become the mossy pillars, but the diary suggests that others are changed into the very wildlife that Area X is rife with and that they may retain some semblance of who and what they were before they were changed.”
Answer: Yep. And remember her encounter with the dolphin possessed of an uncomfortably familiar gaze?
cat4444 writes: “Is this the 12th expedition to enter from a particular point, the others having entered from somewhere else?”
Answer: Another interesting point is the suggestion that they must pass through some sort of alien portal to cross the boundary from their reality to Area X.
cat4444 writes: “Who or what is the Crawler and what is the purpose of the words on the “Tower” wall? “
Answer: Are those messages a disordered attempt at communication by the Crawler who perhaps makes use of the jumbled memories of those Area X it has absorbed in order to reach out to new visitors?
Line Noise writes: “Clearly Area X affects the mental and physical state of those who enter it. It modifies a person’s perceptions inducing hallucinations and wild emotions. As a result we can’t even trust the biologist’s record of events.”
Answer: Yes, alluded to this earlier, the fact that we could well be dealing with an untrustworthy narrator, one infected by alien consciousness.
2cats writes: “The writer’s style was lovely in places, highly descriptive and inventive, which I do like. I believe this was my first Vandermeer novel and I would read others in the future, when in a mind-bending mood “
Quick! Get cast your votes for June’s Book of the Month Club selection! It’s a tight race and the polls close this weekend:
And continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…
Well, this one did NOT go over well. In fact, it probably ranks as Akemi’s least favorite Stargate episode to date – partly because she found it so gosh darn confusing (“So complicated this episode!”), but mainly due to the “everything but the kitchen sink” plot (“A little too much thing going on for me.”). The word “cliche” also came up quite a few times.
When the countdown clock counts up to 100% in the nick of time: “So cliche.”
On their way back to the jumper, they encounter one more hidden alien to complicate matters: “So cliche.”
When the Daedalus is being attacked by enemy ships and all hope seems lost: “Atlantis will save them.” And then, when Atlantis does save them: “So cliche.”
For some reason, she really fixated on the team discovering their own dead bodies. She HATED that shot. When I asked her why, she explained that unlike the sequence in SGU’s Twin Destinies in which Rush encounters an alternate version of himself, she felt there was no point to their discovery here – outside of the VFX department showing off. I pointed out that the reason this discovery raises the stakes since alternate versions of themselves were in this exact same predicament and failed. She grudgingly accepted this explanation and then, seemingly unconvinced: “So not showing off the computer graphic skills?”
This episode’s single highlight: “I like him [Ronon]. Hansamu.”
A potential highlight, quickly quashed, came when the ship finds itself beside the red giant. “Now they can recharge!” Uh, sorry. Wrong Stargate series.
And she continues to be impressed by David Hewlett’s ability to deliver seemingly endless dialogue: “Don’t you think handsome guy’s sentences are very short and McKay’s are very long? Not fair. I can’t believe he can remember every single sentence.”
All in all however, Akemi found this episode tiresome despite (because of?) the seemingly endless obstacles the team encounters: “Like after drinking scotch or smoking pot, I have huge ideas and put them all into one script. I’m a crazy genius and this is chance to write every crazy idea I’ve ever had in this episode! I need something to make sense to make everything like this happen. I know – a ship! Alien attack! Now very close to sun! Super hot!” You get the idea.
Next up: Ghost in the Machine. Nothing like a Carl Binder joint to get us all back on track!
A team of four women are are set out to explore a mysterious region known as Area X. By all accounts, they are the twelfth group to journey into the bizarre amazon-like territory. All of the previous expeditions have ended badly, marked by murders, suicides, disappearances, and, in the case of the eleventh, the inexplicable return of its members, sickened and psychologically broken by their experience. Our narrator, a biologist, apprises us of her team’s progress as they venture deep into Area X, making strange discoveries and unearthing hidden agendas, all the while dogged by a creeping suspicion that all is not right…
This book is admittedly weird but, surprisingly, actually the most grounded of author Jeff VanderMeer’s considerably weirder body of work. It’s a seemingly straightforward tale rooted in science and exploration that, slowly but surely, veers into the dreaded unknown. No mushroom people or squid-like creatures plague the pages of this book which, nevertheless, possesses an undercurrent of simmering horror reminiscent of Lovecraft. It also reminded me of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves with its slow burn mounting sense of foreboding. Or, for more t.v.-centered readers, it feels like a deeper, more nuanced, intellectually-provocative version of Lost.
As we bounce back and forth between the present and the past, gaining insight through our protagonist’s journal entries – a narrative device that, unlike most first person accounts, offers no assurances regarding the fate of our narrator – the secrets of Area X open up to us, offering glimpses but no real answers. Though if the answers ultimately do come, one can’t help but wonder: Will we be able to understand them or will we, like our narrator in one of the book’s most brilliant passages, be so overcome by its otherworldly nature that we’ll be incapable of processing the truth?
Regardless of where we end up, Annihilationis a hell of a ride. VanderMeer does a masterful job of gradually immersing us in this uncanny environment, every eerie encounter and bewildering find drawing us in ever further until, by the time our protagonist makes her final descent into “the tower”, we find ourselves equally ensnared, unable to turn back and unsee what we have witnessed, unlearn what we’ve been told. With the reminder that the tiny microcosms that thrive under our noses, taken for granted and largely ignored, may hold the key to some vaster enigma far beyond our imaginings, can we ever look at them the same way again? Our reality is teeming with potential alien incursions and the Devil may well be in the details.
I’m a big fan of Jeff VanderMeer and liked this book a lot. What kept me from loving this book is the fact that, despite being a self-contained chapter of a larger work, it’s incomplete. Granted, the second and third volumes of the Southern Reach Trilogy will follow in fairly quick succession (book #2 comes out in May and book #3 in September), but I don’t understand why all three weren’t simply released as a single volume. Okay, scratch that. I understand why. It’s more lucrative for the publisher. Still, it’s annoying, especially given that I’m in the process of reading another book, The Weird, edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, that clocks in at a hefty 1100 pages. And those oversized pages hold twice the print of a regular page so the final tally is closer to 2200! And yet HarperCollins felt the need to make this a trilogy?
Overall, an engaging and enjoyable read. I look forward to the second book, Authority, with equal measures eagerness, curiosity, and annoyance.
Yes, this one was mine and, upon review, I think it takes a while to get going. But, once they’re in the wraith lab – What fun!
Akemi liked the episode – less for the story itself and more for the surprise highlights like…the shocking reveal of actor Mark Dacascos in the tease: “Wha! Chairman!” And she was downright delighted with his performance: “I’ve never heard the Chairman talk so much.” In truth, Mark is a lot more soft-spoken the chatty Tyre. Also a lot more laid-back. And much less likely to ambush you in deserted forest.
Another highlight for Akemi was dog-related = Woolsey’s emotional reflection on his beloved yorkie, lost in the divorce.
And, of course, the sword fight at episode’s end (compliments of longtime Atlantis stunt coordinator James “Bam Bam” Bamford) mightily impressed.
On the flipside, she was saddened by Tyre’s death (“Very sad because I liked the chairman”), found some of the dim lighting in certain scenes annoying (“I couldn’t see very well the getting old getting young parts!”), and had a difficult time understanding what was going on at first (“Chotto confusing because I skipped so many episodes. My fault.”).
Ultimately, Tyre reminded Akemi of another character in another Stargate series: “Chairman remind me of Chef’s [Lou Diamond Phillip's] character a bit. Gets brainwashed, now clear but pretending to be brainwashed. Chef stole idea from Chairman.” Doubtful, but an interesting take nevertheless.
Plug in your top-loading VCR’s and put your video cassette on standby. Tonight, we watch: The Daedalus Variations!
A reminder to all that our book club reconvenes this Monday (April 7th) for a discussion on our April BOTMC pick: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.
You can always check this blog’s right sidebar for info on our upcoming Book of the Month club reads (including our May selection: The Rich and the Dead by Liv Spector).
Last night marked the resumption of our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch or, in my girlfriend Akemi’s case, First Watch. Her thoughts on the season premiere: Search and Rescue…
First and foremost, she was mightily impressed by the visual effects that, in her estimation, have come a long way since the show’s first season. Plenty of oohs and aahs during the space battle, and also plenty of praise for the design and construction of the hive ship interior.
Speaking of the wraith, she missed them in this episode: “I’m kind of missing old-fashioned wraith, both good hair and bad hair wraith.” I assured her that we’d be seeing them – and their memorable locks – real soon.
One of the reasons she so looked forward to the show’s fifth season was to check out Robert Picardo in action who she has gotten to know over the course of his occasional Vancouver visits. When he appeared in the opening credits: “Nice to see Bob.”. Then, halfway through the Woolsey-less episode: “Where’s Bob?”. And then, after his late appearance in the episode’s closing scene: Yay Bob!”.
Even though she only got to know Carter over the course of this one episode, Akemi quite liked her and was sorry to see her go.
When the episode opened and we saw Sheppard and Ronon trapped in the rubble, she predicted Sheppard would die and that Ronon (“He’s is so handsome!”) would take over as team leader. When that didn’t happen, she was genuinely disappointed. Nevertheless, it looks like Sheppard may be growing on her. Sort of: “I don’t hate Sheppard as much as I used to. But hard to say after only one episode.”
She called bullshit on Sheppard’s ability to walk around so soon after his injury and then, when Sheppard disobeys Carter’s order in order to take part in the rescue op: “Don’t be so arrogant. Follow boss’s orders!”.
As usual, McKay was a highlight, especially the birth scene with Teyla that actually had her laughing out loud at times. “He is typical nervous father,”she said.
All in all, an episode with plenty of highlights and surprisingly no lowlights so far as Akemi was concerned: “I’m very excited to see Jewel. Very excited to see Bob. And handsome big guy.”
Quick! Dust off those DVD’s! Our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch resumes tonight with the season 5 premiere: Search and Rescue!
Wait! What?! What happened to season 2 through 4?! Well, Akemi has expressed a desire to skip ahead to the season “with Bob [Picardo] and the Chairman [Mark Dacascos]!”. She admit there may be a few discrepancies between the last episode she watched (the season one finale) and tonight’s episode, but she feels confident that I can catch her up. If any of you are in Akemi’s position, allow me to offer you the following VERY SPOILERISH summary of what you missed:
Weir was kidnapped by these aliens called Asurans who are essentially human-form replicators (that are essentially sentient murderous self-forming Lego creatures),
Dr. Beckett was killed by an exploding tumour but was mysteriously rediscovered alive, a little over a year later, as a prisoner of Michael, a human-wraith hybrid who was the result of an experiment by the Atlantis gang and is now a sworn enemy of our heroes except for Teyla and her baby. And, oh yeah, Teyla had a baby but the father wasn’t Sheppard (as you’d probably assume) but Kanaan. Kanaan, I said. Teyla’s secret Athosian lover. Of course you never heard of him. He was a secret lover.
The new Chief Medical Officer that took over for Beckett, Jennifer Keller, has really hit it off with McKay.
As a result of getting partially fed-upon by a wraith, lieutenant Ford receives a dose of a strange enzyme that masw him super strong AND super crazy. He fles Atlantis, became a renegade wraith hunter, and got blown up (?) on a wraith hive ship.
The team encountered a super strong NOT crazy renegade hunter called Ronon and he joined the team.
Colonel Samantha Carter took over command of the Atlantis expedition after Weir’s disappearance.
Atlantis had to leave its original world, travel through space, and has now settled on a completely different planet that looks exactly the same as the old one.
Also, Earth built ships capable of reaching Atlantis in two weeks and have been making supply runs to the Pegasus Galaxy. For a while there, it was possible to travel back and forth between Stargate Command and Atlantis using something called a gate bridge (literally, a bridge made out of gates) but that was destroyed last season. Sorry. You just missed it. But trust me. It was really cool.
The following characters were introduced and died between the season 1 finale and the season 5 premiere: Dr Monroe, Dr. Lindstrom, Dr. Collins, Ronon’s former commander Kell, Ella a female wraith and her human step-father Zaddik, Walker, Stevens, some tardy Aurorans (Ancients), some of Ford’s equally strong and crazy friends, a guy called Kanayo, an old Athosian called Charin taking with her her recipe for turtleroot soup, Griffin, Otho, the Lord Protector, Phoebus, Thalan, innumerable wraith, miscellaneous Atlantis personnel, Genii, and sundry off-worlders.
Wait! That’s just season 2! Well, just take that number, triple it, and you should have a rough estimate of the interim body count.
Anything else? Let’s see. Oh yeah, Sheppard has an ex-wife, McKay a sister, and Atlantis a new (and not so trustworthy) BFF who happens to be a wraith named Todd.
Did I miss anything? If so, feel free to post it in the comments section of this blog.
Check out our houseguest, the love of my buddy Tio’s life, the lovely Petunia. She’s here for a sleepover and has come armed with her own pink bed, pink blanket, and snacks. According to Tio, she’s a snuggler, so tonight will be interesting. Four dogs on the bed. Just like old times!
But Petunia wasn’t the only houseguest we entertained. Earlier today, our friends Jeff and Barb dropped by for pecan pie, ice cream, drinks and, of course, dogs…
Lulu and Barb hit it off.
Jeff and the Yamazaki 18 year old whisky also really hit it off.
And, for no other reason than the fact that I’m already posting dog pictures, here’s a photo I snapped of Bubba last night sporting his samurai helmet…
I received an email today from our old friend, Trevor in Toronto, who alerted me to GraphTV, a site that charts a show’s performance based on viewer response over time.
As Trevor pointed out, a lot “of shows fluctuate quite a lot, either up or down, but the what is clear from the graphs is SG-1 and Atlantis are some of the most consistent series ever made.”
As for Stargate: Universe, the breakdown is also telling…
And, again, Trevor says it best: “and it’s painful to see the SGU graph, because clearly that show was awesome and gaining momentum…”
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