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Posts Tagged ‘Days of Stargate Atlantis Past’

IMG_3702Look familiar?  Well, it should.  This is the massive VFX Stage at The Bridge Studios that once housed sections of Atlantis, the village set, various hive ships, and the Daedalus/Apollo/Odyssey/Korolev. Yesterday, Paul and I were joined by an old friend, former Stargate Producer/Production Manager John G. Lenic as we took a trip down memory lane, revisiting our old stomping grounds.  Once Upon A Time is now using Stage 4 (that once held the Destiny set), Stage 5 (the SGC gate room, control room, conference room, Hammond’s office, the infirmary, and surrounding corridors as well as the Alpha site corridors, control room, and gate room), and Stage 6 (the Atlantis gate room, control room, conference room, infirmary, and surrounding corridors) but there is plenty of stage space still available including the aforementioned monster VFX Stage.  While walking the grounds, we ran into a bunch of familiar faces – Ron, Graham, former Stargate Construction Coordinator Scott Wellenbrink, the gals in accounting. Earlier in the day, we’d paid a visit to Atmosphere Visual Effects where we spent some time with former Stargate VFX Supervisor Mark Savela and our former script coordinator Lawren Bancroft-Wilson.  Yep, just like old times.  Sort of.

And what, pray tell, were we doing reconnecting with our former colleagues?  Had we become wistful for times of yore and wanted to relive past memories?  Sure.  Let’s say that.  Also, our production partners on the shows we’ve been developing were in town and keen to see what Vancouver had to offer.  Just in case, say, we get that/those pick-ups.

My heart is with Vancouver and, given the choice, I would love to shoot here but, realistically, Toronto may make more financial sense.  At least, I suspect, until the ruling provincial liberal party gets booted from office this May (despite spending 11 million dollars for the rights to host the Indian equivalent of the Golden Globes).  Still, all options are on the table and being explored.  I hear that if we shoot in Germany, we’d get even more bang for our buck.  And there’s the added cost-effective bonus of being able to move in with our former colleagues – and recent newlyweds – Alex and Sarah while we’re there. I’m sure they’d love to host us – for the eight months to five years that the series will run!

Well, since we’re on the subject, what say we (almost) conclude our trips down SGA memory lane with the show’s final episode…

1ENEMY AT THE GATE (520)

Five years, 100 episodes, and it all came down to a group farewell from the balcony of the City of Atlantis, overlooking San Francisco Bay. Originally, we had planned to land Atlantis off New York but my writing partner. Paul, vehemently objected on grounds of scale.  So we changed it to a west coast location.  And thus ended the series.  Although, if things had worked out differently, the trip to Earth would have just been a stop on their return journey back to the Pegasus Galaxy.  Oh, what fun we’d planned.  Well, more than planned.  We’d actually written a script.  But more on that in another blog entry.

After five seasons, Atlantis had come to an end but, unlike SG-1, it lacked a true sense of finality.  I mean, sure, that last shot of our heroes, all together, finally back on Earth worked as a series ender but that was never the intent.  By the time we got word of the cancelation, the finale was already in prep.  Still, I had no doubt we’d be given the opportunity to truly wrap things up with a movie that would return our heroes to Pegasus and, like the SG-1 finale, suggest that they were still out there and that their adventures continued.

To be honest, news of the cancellation came as a bit of shock.  I’ve already discussed the specifics in previous entries but, suffice it to say, up to a few days before receiving final word, various sources had informed me we WERE coming back for a sixth (and probably final) season.  The story that was eventually turned into the script, Stargate: Extinction, was originally slated to be the following season’s two-parter opener.  But, of course, things changed.

Paul and I found out, walked down the hall and broke the news to a disappointed Carl Binder, Martin Gero, and Alan McCullough, then headed down to the trailers were we informed the cast.  A sad day.

As for the this final episode, while, in hindsight, there were a few things I’d have done differently (ie. introduce the idea of the wormhole drive earlier in the season.  Ironically, it was it was originally conceived, not as a payoff in this episode, but in the “return journey” storyline) it nevertheless worked well in that it closed a chapter while opening the door to endless possibilities.

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Huzzah!  A big 13 page writing day now puts me on P. 51 of my new pilot.  And, potentially, a little too long.  My ballpark breakdown has been pretty spot-on so far and, if my powers of prognostication hold true, the rough first draft is going to clock in at a robust 64 pages.  I think it’s a lot of fun but my colorful supporting character risks overshadowing my protagonist.  That’s something I’m going to have to address on my next pass.

Days of Stargate Atlantis past continues with…

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VEGAS (519)

Robert Cooper coined the term “shepisodes” for these John-centered entries, and this is one of my favorites, an oh-so-different AU story that follows detective John Sheppard in his hunt for a serial killing alien.

The working title was CSI: Atlantis and, given its procedural trappings and colorful eye candy Vegas location, it’s no wonder.  Rob does a terrific job writing, directing and producing one of the high points of Atlantis’s fifth and final seasons, with memorable performances by all involved.  Joe Flanigan is perfect as the washed up detective with nothing to lose while David Hewlett delivers a what-might-have-been version of his character who is, at heart, very clearly, very much Rodney.

Great guest-performances led by Neil Jackson as the wraith-out-of-water.  And there’s even a nod to Stark Trek: The Experience compliments of actor Robert Picardo who added the inside gag while shooting.

Everyone on the production who didn’t get to go to Vegas to shoot was, of course, jealous of everyone who did.  I figured everyone had learned their lesson, so I was surprised that the next series, SGU was set on a spaceship flying through some distant galaxy.  I thought we’d all agreed on Stargate: Hawaii!

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While we were shooting Atlantis’s final episodes, fans were fighting to save the series.

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Sheppard’s sweet ride

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It looks better without the bullet holes.

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To: Das.  Love: Wraith.  The incredible Neil Jackson

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A couple of Sopranos alums guest star: Frank Vincent and Steve Schirripa.  Both were stand up guys.

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Also putting in cameos: the late Joel Goldsmith (left) and former MGM Senior Executive VP and huge Stargate supporter Charlie Cohen (middle).

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Director Robert Cooper demonstrates sleight of hand, setting up a shot and skimming some poker winnings.

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John Sheppard, P.I.

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1So, while Akemi’s been busy making outfits for the dogs (see above), I’ve been busy working on that female protagonist-driven drama series I mentioned the other week.  My research is almost complete.  I’ve hammered out a solid outline, and I started writing the script yesterday.  So far, so good.  But before I can declare smoooooth sailing, there are some details that still need working out – the type of details that require the proper information – the proper information that, for some reason, isn’t readily available online.  Seriously.  I can find those annoying Harlem Shake videos without even looking for them, yet can’t find specific information pertaining to the inner workings of the Witness Protection Program and the obligations of federal witnesses in the event of a re-trial.  Anybody?  Anybody at all? Or, better yet, anyone happen to be related to, or friends with, a U.S. Federal Marshal?  Hook me up!

Only a handful of episodes left!  Days of Stargate Atlantis Past continues with…

1IDENTITY (518)

Keller on the woods and on the run?  This must be a Carl Binder script! A lot of fun in this one with stabbings, planned executions, and even a cameo from Carl himself (as Jennifer’s proud dad in a graduation photo briefly glimpsed).

At this point in the series, it seemed like every episode would engender some sort of controversy whether it was the McKay-Keller relationship (Brain Storm), the Atlantis expedition’s defense of their actions in the Pegasus Galaxy (Inquisition), the bittersweet passing of a colorful antagonist (The Prodigal) or, in the case of this episode, the shooting of a local executioner.  You know the scene: Keller, having been sentenced to death, is trundled off and forced to lay her head down on a tree stump.  The executioner raises his axe to deliver the death blow when – BLAM! – he gets shot and goes down.  Sheppard and co. charge out of the brush and rescue Keller.  There were some fans who were outraged by the seemingly cold-blooded killing of the axe-wielding local.  “But he was about to decapitate Keller,”I couldn’t help but point out.  “So what?”was the uniform response.  “He was just doing his job!” Er, I suppose you COULD look at it that way…

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So THAT’S what they’re looking at on those big screens.  And here I thought it was old episodes of Gilligan’s Island.

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Get your tickets to the gun show!

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Paul McGillion and Dawn Olivieri best of buddies.

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Until Dawn feels she’s being upstaged.

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Jason Momoa always had a way of making everyone feel welcome on set.

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But after a while, the guitar playing can get on your nerves.

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And so can complaining about it.

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1Akemi is still at it, expanding her doggy wardrobe.

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Continuing our stroll down SGA memory lane with one of my favorites…

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REMNANTS (515)

This one was a personal favorite for several reasons.  It offered action, humor, surprises and, best of all, genuinely heart-felt character moments brilliantly conveyed by our amazing cast and guest stars.  It was also a bit of a bitch to write and, as such, incredibly satisfying to finish, a fairly complex script that required a proper balancing act of three seemingly separate storylines – and their ultimate convergence at episode’s end.  My fellow Exec Producer, Carl Binder, considered it my best script of the show’s fifth season.  My other fellow Exec Producers, however, weren’t quite as enamored.  Rob Cooper felt it was “too literary” (which I thought was a nice compliment until I realized it was actually a criticism).  He, and Exec Producer Martin Gero, also felt I was way too rough on our hero, Sheppard.  My writing partner, Paul, meanwhile, had only one real objection – and that was the chopping off of Sheppard’s hand, for both creative and production reasons.  Yes, I agree that Sheppard does suffer greatly but I argue it’s fine because, at the end of the day, it’s all in his head. Also, the Shep-whumpers reaaaallly needed this one!

Just so much to say about this episode – and I already have.  Some Remnants-related past blog entries you might want to check out:

November 15, 2008: The Remnants Write-up – In which I offer some insight into my inspiration for this script (Harvey and a desire to complete Richard Woolsey’s rehabilitation from pencil-pushing suit to lovable Commander) as well as behind the scene photos and a breakdown of some of the scenes, beats, and dialogues that didn’t make the final cut.

July 22, 2008: Remnants Day #1 Behind the scene pics in Woolsey’s quarters.

July 23, 2008: Burgers then Back on the Program then Remnants Day #2 Behind the scene pics of the McKay/Zelenka scenes.

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1Akemi has caught the dog fashion bug!  Over the last couple of days, she’s been hard at work, snipping, sewing, and generally cannibalizing some of her older outfits, transforming them into haute canine couture. Check out her Fall Collection so far:

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Meanwhile, a naked pudgy Bubba awaits his first outfit…

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Sadly, Akemi is running out of material as we cleared out our closet and dropped off our old clothing at one of the local donation bins last month.  It was while we were searching through the drawers last night that the idea came to me: “Hey, you know where we can find some old clothes?  The local donation bin.”  Strangely, she wasn’t thrilled with my suggestion.

Continuing our Days of Stargate Past reminiscing with…

1THE PRODIGAL (514)

One of the high points of Atlantis’s fifth season was this episode (compliments of Executive Producer Carl Binder) that saw the return of Michael, one of the show’s most colorfully nuanced villains.  The episode includes Michael and Ronon going a mano a mano in the control room followed by tower-top battle between Michael and Sheppard.  While the latter was being shot, at one point, Joe Flanigan’s stuntman lost his balance and went off the tower (fear not, he was cabled and there were some nice comfy mats to cushion his fall), which prompted actor Connor Trinneer to throw up his arms and triumphantly proclaim: “I win!”.

Teyla’s decision to – let’s not mince words here  – murder Michael engendered a fair amount of controversy.  Was she justified in her actions?  Did the fact that she was a mother protecting her child color your opinion of her actions?

Setting up the big radio-controlled car showdown.

Setting up the big radio-controlled car showdown (photo courtesy MGM Television)

Boys and their toys (photo courtesy MGM Television)

Boys and their toys (photo courtesy MGM Television)

Michael comes out on top (photo courtesy MGM Television)

Michael comes out on top (photo courtesy MGM Television)

Michael marshals the troops (photo courtesy MGM Television)

Michael marshals the troops (photo courtesy MGM Television)

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The Superbowl is never without its share of controversy.  Power issues. Blown calls.  And, of course, the commercials!

What am I talking about?  Well, find out for yourself.  Presenting, the most controversial ads in superbowl history…

Holiday Inn compares itself to a post-op transexual:

Apple’s depresssing misstep:

The great Fred Astaire dances with a vaccuum cleaner, compliments of Dirt Devil:

Lifeminders’ self-proclaimed worst commercial.  Coincidentally, they’re no longer in business:

Just For Feet’s superbowl commercial was so controversial, it’s almost impossible to tack down.  Check it out here:

http://adland.tv/commercials/just-feet-kenya-mission-1999-030-usa

Ah, women.  So bossy and temperamental.  So says Pepsi:

Snickers manages to simultaneously offend homophobes and the LGBT community:

The HomeAway test baby:

Save the whales money with Groupon!:

Free Tibet!  I mean Save with Groupon!:

Ah, Ching Ching and Ling Ling!  We hardly knew you:

This year’s Volkswagon ad featuring a white guy speaking with a Jamaican accent (and attitude) sparked controvery.  Some found it racist.  Interestingly, all of my Jamaican friends found it hilarious:

And then there was this year’s Go Daddy ad that featured model Bar Rafaeli making out with some uber-nerd – complete with close-ups of them tonguing each other.  Yech!:

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Our walk down Atlantis memory lane continues with…

1INQUISITION (513)

There invariably comes a time in every season when the producers take a look at the bottom line and realize they’re over-budget and need to come up with a relatively inexpensive episode to put the show back on track – and, more importantly, ensure there is enough money for the big season-ender.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  And just how desperate depends on how much money you’re looking to save.  If you’re in not bad shape, you can look to do bottle show, an episode that takes place on the existing standing sets.  No extra builds or moves to exterior locations are a big money-saver.  An even bigger money saver is to eschew the bottle show in favor of the dreaded clip show, an episode that makes use of pre-existing material to tell a story. Sometimes, they can be great.  While other times…well, they can be pretty forgettable.

One of the keys to producing a good clip show (relatively speaking) is to have a great story at its core – and, in the case of Inquistion, we had a pretty good one: Finally, after so many years of playing the role of galactic policeman, the Atlantis expedition was being held accountable for their actions.  One the one hand, they had successfully defended the inhabitants of the Pegasus Galaxy from the wraith.  On the other hand, at what cost?  And there’s also an argument to be made for the fact that their presence in the Pegasus Galaxy only exacerbated the problem.  It was an interesting debate that fandom had been heatedly discussing for years and, while there weren’t any easy answers, there were some convincing arguments on both sides.  This then was the premise of the episode – at turns controversial and complex.  But, hopefully, all sorts of entertaining as we would include flashbacks to various spectacular situations from seasons past.  As clips shows went, it was a tall order – and it happened to fall on first-time writer – and longtime Stargate script coordinator Alex Levine.

Alex was more than up to the challenge.  It was a tough script but, ultimately, a great learning experience – as he explained on his SciFi.com blog:

“Inquisition’ is a clip show, [and] that didn’t make it any easier to write. You see, there’s a particular aspect of writing clip shows that’s extra tough, and that is the part where they move in and out of the clips. Of course Paul Mullie, who did the re-write and produced the episode, has lots of clip show experience, but this was my first attempt. And writing specs and other scripts didn’t prepare me one bit. So let’s just say it was a great learning experience.

“At the end of the day, the writing staff was very kind. They met with me on my first draft, gave me notes and some time to re-write the script. I did another draft too on another round of notes. In the writing I found some things about the characters and the story that worked well; other stuff was discarded. There’s certainly some of my writing in the finished product, but I must credit Paul Mullie and the writing staff with much of the episode’s success. And my experience is not unlike other first time writers of any show. Stargate is no exception.

“The coolest part of the show, which is always why people watch clip shows, is that you’ll get to see pretty much every cool space battle we’ve done. There’s also great acting in this one — keep your eyes open for the character of Myrus (the Council Liaison), who is played by my real life brother, Tobias Slezak (different last name). He did a great job.”

Many of you will recognize his brother, Thobias, from SG-1’s Heroes in which he played the part of Tech Sergeant Dale James, or more recently from the SGU episodes Intervention and Visitation in which he played the part of Peter, or, perhaps even more recently, from my Superbowl get-together where he played the part of “Guy scoffing down doughnuts” -

1As for brother Alex, his writing career continued to blossom post-Stargate with credits on King, The Border, Verdict, Flashpoint, and an upcoming scifi series.

I knew him when…

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Vancouver is celebrating a month long Hot Chocolate Festival and I am trying my damndest to sample most of the 63 flavors available at the 23 locations around town.  I got off to a late start but I’m making up for lost time.  7 down, (about) 56 to go!  I’ll have a full report for you in about three weeks.

If, while you’re waiting, you too would like to check out the festival, head on over here for all the details: http://www.cityfood.com/events/hotchocolate2013/

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Just received word that author Mandy Hager has posted the responses to the 10 Blog Hop questions!  Head on over to her blog to get the scoop on her latest book, The Crossing: 

http://mandyhager.blogspot.co.nz/

Sadly, to today we bid adieu to our dog-nanny, Christine, who heads east for job training for her new career.  The dogs will no doubt miss her, but Akemi and I will miss here even more since we now have to find someone to step into her dependable dog-sitting slippers.  Yep, all we need to do is find someone with experience who we can feel comfortable leaving behind to take care of our dogs – and home – while we’re away.  Or we can put thoughts of a Vegas getaway or another Japan trip on the back back back burner.  I mean, seriously.  Jelly is almost 14!  I think she’s ready for the responsibility of taking care of her siblings.

Continuing our trip down SGA memory lane with…

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FIRST CONTACT (510)

Over time, writer/Exec. Producer Martin Gero became the go-to guy for our Atlantis big event episodes.  And, really, you couldn’t get any bigger than this fifth season midseason two-parter chock full of action, dazzling visual effects, shocking twists, Stargate mythology, and topped off with a visit from none other than Daniel Jackson himself. Honestly, what more could you ask for?

The thing I remember most about the shooting of this episode was the visit by a special needs boy and his family.  They’d won a set visit and, as thrilled as they were be there, they were triply delighted to be meeting and spending time with Dr. Rodney McKay.  And spending time with actor David Hewlett, I’m sure, far exceeded their expectations because he was nothing short of delightful company.  I watched him interact with the kid and his family, making the time to sit and chat with them between the various shots, genuine in his interest and enthusiasm.  And then, later, hurrying over to catch them before they left for the rest of their set tour to arrange a lunch meet-up.  Really nice to see.

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Friday Night Lights alum Daniella Alonso steps into Jill Wagner’s boots as Traveler’s rep Katana Labrea (photo courtesy MGM Television)

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Art Department design for Lost Tribe exo-suit.

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And, the finished product (photo courtesy MGM Television)

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Under all that (faux) armor = Stunts Coordinator James “Bam Bam” Bamford (photo courtesy MGM Television)

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Todd adjusts his bluetooth (photo courtesy MGM Television)

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Every season, we we would measure to see how much taller our guest star Asgard had grown.  Another two inches! (photo courtesy MGM Television)

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David Hewlett and Michael Shanks = BFF!

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Writer/Exe. Producer Martin Gero directs the Rodney/Daniel scenes.  JacKay?

Resident film reviewer Cookie Monster drops by tomorrow as our Supermovie of the Week Club reconvenes to discuss Superhero Movie. Don’t forget to watch!

No.  On second thought – don’t bother.

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