So much for the Christmas spirit. Today, Akemi did something she rarely ever does. She actually bought herself something. The girl hardly ever spends on herself but, this afternoon, she made an exception when she came across a cup emblazoned with the letter A at a local shop. Being a big tea drinker – and having a name that starts with the letter A – she thought it would be perfect, so she bought it. About an hour later, she was getting off the subway, when some guy, in an obvious rush, bumped into her, knocking her purchase out of her hand. The guy didn’t even slow down, jumping into the car and heading off, leaving Akemi to check on her cup – which was, of course, shattered. Her disappointment was apparently so apparent that a subway employee consoled her with a shoulder pat and some words of encouragement.
Still, in good spirits. And silly slippers.
Well, two more days until we depart for the holidays – which means roughly a week’s worth of ground to cover before we go. In addition to tomorrow’s early EARLY morning tech survey (which leaves the production offices at 7:00 a.m., meaning I’ll have to leave my place at 6:30 a.m., meaning I’ll probably have to wake up for 5:45 a.m.), I’ve still got to do another pass on scripts for episodes #103, #104, #105, and #106, incorporate Jay’s notes into #107, #108, and #109, and get notes from Paul on #112. Oh, and then there’s the meetings. And the camera tests! Today, Lawren, our VFX Supervisor, showed us some preliminary FTL (fast than light) effects as well as some animatics of the ship – and the missile pursuit. Very cool. I’m making a note to keep everything on file so that I can share with you all in time.
Meanwhile, the production offices are embracing the Dark Matter theme…
I need to place this on my dash, otherwise Vanessa will knock off my side mirror with a baseball bat.
Adorning the walls of the cafeteria
Bon Appetit! Please note our strict no Facebook, no twitter, no photo policy.
And one more day for our Dark Matter Holiday Toy Drive!
We’re heavy into prep on episodes #101-102 and, with the commencement of principal photography about a month away, sets are coming together nicely. Our ship, The Raza, has come a long way in the past couple of weeks. The corridors have been textured with faux-grate flooring, pipes, vents, and grills, its walls painted in metallic hues, sliding doors installed; the quarters are coming to life, the sub-level cargo hold and walkways finished, and the bridge…the window are in, front AND top, and the consoles went in today.
Meanwhile, work is being completed on the shuttle (the Phantom Class Marauder) interior design. We’ve gone back and forth on its various elements – width, depth, seating layout, windows, and location of the door – and are in the process of finalizing the look. I wanted something similar to the puddle jumper in terms of layout with a little more of the depth of the SGU shuttle. Ultimately, I think we’ll also incorporate an element of the SG-1 cargo ships with its sectioned cockpit and separate hold.
Anyway, I contacted Stargate Production Designer James Robbins, who has been doing some fabulous design work for us on Dark Matter (Can’t wait to show you his work on The Marauder, the space station, and the various cruiser, destroyer, and shuttle class versions of the Ferrous Corp, Mikkei Combine, and Galactic Authority ships!), and asked him about the dimensions of those smaller Stargate ship designs. He sent me the following which I thought were too cool not to share with you -
As James points out, the dimensions are from our VFX department and may not reflect what was actually built. 80 feet long for the SGU shuttle seems a bit much, but the 40 foot length of the Atlantis puddle jumper sounds about right.
Takes you back, no?
Many thanks to James for digging these up from the archive!
Prep continues with non-stop meetings. Today, it was the concept meeting followed by visual effects, playback, and impromptu hair meeting, stunts, and special effects. Tomorrow, it’s an Art Department review, props, paints, another hair meeting, and not one but TWO gun meetings!
My writing partner, Paul, got in yesterday for what should be a big week. We’ve got budget meetings tomorrow, script meetings with Jay Tuesday and Wednesday, and a whirlwind trip to the SyFy offices in New York that will see us flying out early Friday morning and flying back later that night. Today, we sat down with (well, actually, we all stood but you know what I mean) the Art Department, Costumes, and Props. In the case of the latter, it was all about the guns, guns, guns! And some swords and miscellaneous weaponry…
A veritable smorgasbord of firepower!
So we’re looking to use replicas of established guns as the base models for the futuristic sidearms and ordnance our crew – and everyone from Galactic Authority officers to Corporate Guards – will be packing. Both Three and Six will wield big-ass guns and carry chunky holstered handgun variants (something along the lines of what you see bottom left). One, Two and Four will go with sleeker shooters. Holster options range from hip and leg to shoulder and back.
Yo, Slashy McStabberson!
Apparently the longer swords are your go-to blades if you’re looking to decapitate someone – but you already knew that. Four, our resident swordsman, would be adept with all four sheathed varieties – so we’ll keep all four in his quarters so that he can always have a choice.
And this lovely medieval pruning knife can be yours…if the price is right!
The ship’s training room will house a variety of weapons, from simple training staffs to more exotic blades. Here, Property Master Victoria Klein shows off a little something from her personal collection.
Trevor gets mouthy with Alison. She responds in kind.
Our Props Buyer’s (Susan Woorts) shopping list will include: milk, eggs, cheese, and a half dozen fresh Berettas.
Testing Alison’s reflexes. Her rubber training sword is no match for my steel!
And you thought today was fun! I can’t wait for tomorrow’s two hour script note session!
Two down, one to go. The Toronto and Vancouver second round casting sessions are in the books and only the L.A. session remains. Be Vanessa and I won’t be able to attend, we’re going to live stream it to the production offices. Theoretically anyway. I imagine it’ll be sort of like those interactive video conferences that look so cool in the movies but never quite work out the way you want them to in real life, with participants dropping out, losing audio, losing video, the whole punctuated by the background caterwaul of children or dogs in desperate need of feeding. Still, we’re going to give it the ole college try (let’s say more Devry than Harvard). Festivities get underway at noon PST, which means we’ll be watching well into the twilight hours. Guess we’ll be ordering pizza!
The plan is to have our selects, Top 3 for each of the seven roles, by early next week. And that’s when the decision-making will get REALLY tough…
Paul delivered his first draft of episode #10, the first part of our late season two-parter. He promises to have #11 to us before his weekend arrival – which means I’ll be able to do my pass on #12 (already written) have that out by early next week. Leaving us with…only the grand (season one) finale to write. Or, rather, finish since I’m already 15 pages in.
Meanwhile, no rest for our awesome construction crew who have been working their little tool belts off -
Right this way, step right up…
On our way to the bridge.
The crew of The Raza = Alison Hepburn and Trevor Finn.
So I DIDN’T imagine the whole thing. Unless, of course, this is also part of my elaborate, ongoing hallucination and those url’s actually link to the live cam of a cat hotel in Cornwall.
But, just in case, I’d like to thank a few of the people who got us where we are today: poised to go into production on a glorious 13-episode SF series…
First and foremost, Jay Firestone of Prodigy Pictures who worked tirelessly for months (and months and months!) relentlessly pursuing (I suspect he’s really a T-1000) and piecing together the various deals that made Dark Matter, the t.v. series, a reality. If not for all of Jay’s determined hard work, none of this would have been possible and I would have had to find something else to blog about today.
Next, Keith Goldberg at Dark Horse Comics who green lit the original four issue Dark Matter comic book series (available as a graphic novel here: https://digital.darkhorse.com/browse/brand/52/. As I suspected, the graphic novel proved an invaluable visual tool in conveying a proper sense of the prospective show’s tone and plotting – and ensuring people didn’t automatically imagine “the worst version”.
I’m sure I’ll have at least another hundred people to thank when all is said and done but for now, a final thanks to Vanessa Piazza who has been overseeing early prep (everything from The Raza and space station designs to casting) and will be joining me on set for all the space-faring fun in the coming months.
Spread the word. And check back here for plenty of behind-the-scenes insights, tidbits, and sneak peaks.
Yes, our Book of the Month Club is back and we’re kicking things off with a March 3rd discussion of Matthew Kloos’s Terms of Enlistment, the book YOU selected in our January poll. Aint democracy grand? With February upon is, it’s time for another round of voting as we choose our April Book of the Month Club pick. Like last month, I made use of SF Signal’s handy monthly rundown of genre book releases complete with covers and links to synopses:
I refined the process, selecting only those books available in paperback so that everyone can participate. As a result, some of my hardcover nominees failed to make the cut (The Martian, The Winter People, Influx, Strange Bodies, and The Waking Engine) but, for those of you nevertheless intrigued, I’ll be reading and reviewing them as part of my new “Monthly Reads and Capsule Reviews” which will also include all of the nominated titles in our monthly poll – so that I can inform you whether you made the right choice or not.
Anyway, here are the nominees for our April Book of the Month Club discussion…
SKYLIGHT (Kevin R. Hopkins) Paperback, 400 pages.
One October night, millions died when the air suddenly became unbreathable. Miraculously left alive, Martin Fall journeys home to Los Angeles and watches as society collapses all around him, leaving him to pick up the pieces. But when he’s recruited for a dangerous mission, he must confront his tragic past to rescue a technology that could save the earth from destroying itself.
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Davis Grubb) Paperback, 198 pages
Inspired by serial killer Harry Powers, “The Bluebeard of Quiet Dell,” who was hung in 1932 for his murders of two widows and three children. This best-selling novel, first published in 1953 to wide acclaim by author Grubb, (who like Powers lived in Clarksburg, West Virginia), served as the basis for Charles Laughton’s noir classic . Renamed “Harry Powell,” the lead character in this book, with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his fingers, is remembered as one of the creepiest men in book and cinema history.
[This one is, obviously, a re-release of the original book. But I’ve heard mixed reviews of the new edition so feel free to grab any copy if this one wins out].
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.
This is the twelfth expedition.
Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.
[Jeff is a past Book of the Month Club participant who was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions – included here because I enjoy his work:
THE SUN WARRIORS (Robert Mills) Paperback, 288 pages.
This captivating combination of science fiction and political satire draws the reader into an alternative present, where the threat of alien life destroying our beloved planet is all too real. It’s raining salt-water in the Sahara desert. In Thailand it’s snowing. All over the world, strange phenomena are beginning to occur and the young Thai climatologist, Dr. Thongchai Pakpoom, concludes that there is only one possible explanation: intervention by extraterrestrial beings. He is soon to be proved correct. Fugitives from the unstable Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy have decided to settle on Mars. In order to make it suitable for their needs, they decide to fire missiles carrying warheads into the sun, which proves to be effective for them but disastrous for Earth. Meanwhile, Thongchai is one of four humans who are ‘collected’ by alien scientists as part of their research. As the national leaders of Earth are unable to reach an agreement with their new neighbours, it’s up to the captives to persuade their abductors to change their policy before it’s too late.
[Political satire. Hmmm. It’s all in the execution.]
HER HUSBAND’S HANDS AND OTHER STORIES (Adam-Troy Castro) Paperback, 336 pages
A utopia where the most privileged get to do whatever they want to do with their lives, indulging their slightest whims via the bodies whose wombs they occupy; a soldier’s wife tries to love a husband who is little more than backup memory; a society in which the citizens all make merry for nine remarkable days, and on the tenth get a taste of hell; the last ragged survivors of an expedition to a savage backwater world hunt down an infamous war criminal; a divorcing couple confront their myriad troubles to gain resolution, reason, respect – but not without sacrifice.
[Another familiar name – Adam is also a past Book of the Month club author who took the time to answer our questions. Also included because I enjoyed his past work:
THE 400lb. GORILLA (DC Farmer) Paperback, 232 pages.
Matt Danmor thinks he’s lucky. Not many people survive a near death accident with nothing more than a bout of amnesia, a touch of clumsiness and the conviction that the technician who did the MRI had grey skin and hooves. Still, it takes time to recover from trauma like that, especially when the girl who was in the accident with you disappears into thin air. Especially when the shrinks keep telling you she’s just a figment of your imagination. So when the girl turns up months later looking ravishing, and wanting to carry on where they left off, Matt’s troubled life starts looking up. But he hasn’t bargained for the baggage that comes with Silvy, like the fact she isn’t really an English language student, or even a girl. Underneath her traffic stopping exterior is something else altogether, something involving raving fanatics bent on human sacrifice, dimensionally challenged baked bean tins, a vulture with a penchant for profanity, and a security agent for the Dept of Fimmigration (that’s Fae immigration for those of you not in the know) called Kylah with the most amazing gold-flecked eyes.
[Sounds crazy. Crazy-good or just crazy? That’s for you to decide!]
Start voting! Polls close on Tuesday!
Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch with…Poisoning the Well!
I offered some insight into this episode a couple of years ago. In the blog entry, I discuss Steve, pro-wraithers, and perhaps the unwieldiest line in Stargate history:
Well, right off the bat with the opening scene: “So many humans on these planets. I don’t believe it.” And: “And everyone speak English! And no Asian!”
On Beckett: “He’s so handsome.”
She was impressed with wraith-Steve’s patience in approaching his offered meal: “He was waiting for feeding time politely even though he is super hungry.”
Still, she couldn’t help but notice a certain wistfulness on the part of Sheppard on Steve’s demise: “Maybe Sheppard a little attached to him.”
But then, when he doubled-over and fell to the ground in obvious pain: “Caca?” Probably.
On the bittersweet ending: “Too bad for Scottish guy. Not happy ending. He has such beautiful eyes, don’t you think?”
Overall, a solid episode: “I liked the idea of the underground city. I found pretty smart.”
Our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch takes the long weekend off and resumes on Monday when we watch…Underground!
Randomness writes: “Do you think team Atlantis ever returned to the planet to check on how things were going there? It seems like a whole new chapter unfolding on that planet what with the suicide pact not being needed, do you think they will progress a bit as a society now?”
Answer: Actually, we did revisit the planet – albeit off-screen – in a later episode. Remember? The one where Zelenka returns to Atlantis covered in warpaint? Come on you, SGA-xperts. Which episode was it?
gforce writes: “Also why, after getting an arrow in the chest, did Keras then have his arm in a sling in the scene after?”
For some reason, they chose “pink goop” as an ingredient to publicly refute. Which is fine except the question would really be more applicable to their “beef” products. I didn’t see the answer to that one.
But the commercial did provoke some thought. What DOES go into a chicken McNugget? I wanted to know. So I hopped online to find out:
“But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to “help preserve freshness.” According to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food…”
“Dimethylpolysiloxane– used as an anti-foaming agent, this industrial chemical is typically used in caulking and sealants and comes with a list of safety concerns. It’s best reserved for industrial sealants than for food.”
Er, okay McDonalds Canada. Thanks for prompting me to do my own research – and convincing me NOT to eat at McDonalds.
Hey, the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce has invited Michael Vick as a guest speaker for some event called the “Evening of Champions”. Kind of odd given that Michael Vick hasn’t won any championships over the course of his football career. Most recently, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles who backed their way into a division title – on the strength of back-up quarterback Nick Foles’ performance.
Last week, I posted a story about Pennie Jekot, the director of The Humane Alliance of Rutherford County, who, it’s been alleged, swiped some poor, elderly couple’s chihuahua. Perhaps this all some innocent misunderstanding on the part of Ms. Jekot? Well, if so, she’s in no hurry to return the dog. Unfortunately for her, a lot of people are pissed off. And getting organized. If you’d like to help the Bring Buddy Back Home cause, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bringbuddybackhome/
Ouch. Many of the early episodes actually improve with a nostalgic reviewing. This one…not so much. Nevertheless, I kept my mouth shut during the screening so as not to unfairly sway Akemi. As it turned out, it wouldn’t have mattered if I had. She wasn’t a fan. In fact, she was downright bewildered.
Surprisingly, she didn’t bump on the plastic bug latched to Sheppard’s neck for most of the episodes, but she did have a problem with those two filler scenes. The first, the one in which Halling and the Athosians approach Weir regarding some Athosian pre-death ceremony; the second, Kavanaugh’s extended complaint scene with Weir: “Why? What the purpose? It’s like they just want excuse to show she is good commander.” Hmmm.
She also took exception to Sheppard’s poor marksmanship: “He’s not good at shooting. Jamil [SGU’s Ronald Greer] is better.”
Again, the episode highlights for her were humorous, both intentional (“I like the cranky guy. Chotto funny. McKay need sugar.”) and unintentional (“When the bug saw him with bug and left him. Adios.”). In fact, her most impassioned response came in the episode tag when the rest of the team visit Sheppard in the infirmary and Teyla walks in wearing a rainbow top. “WTF is that?!” And then, noticing Weir’s bizarre all-brown (leather? suede? mohair?) ensemble: “WTF IS THAT?!!”.
Overall: “I preferred last night’s episode.” And leave it at that.
For my part, in reviewing the show, one thing stands out for me above all others: the Athosians. Damn, they’re annoying.
Also, Kavanaugh has a point. I mean, consider this: He and a bunch of scientists are in the midst of spinning various scenarios for rescue when he posits the possibility that McKay’s access of the puddle jumper’s systems could initiate an explosion, an explosion that could transfer through the gate. He doesn’t say it’s a certainty, but a possibility. Hell, the scientist he is arguing with doesn’t deny the possibility although he she considers it unlikely. It’s still a possibility. Weir’s response is to dress Kavanaugh down for having the audacity to bring up the potential danger, even going so far as to suggest he did so out of concern for his life over the lives of those trapped in the puddle jumper. Uh, what? If Kavanaugh’s worst case scenario does unfold, he’s going to be one of MANY Atlantis personnel injured or killed by the blast. Also, he wasn’t suggesting they give up on rescue (as Weir intimates), only that they reconsider allowing McKay to poke around at random.
Needless to say, I await tonight’s screening of Suspicion (Paul and my first Atlantis episode – and a heavy Athosian one no less!) like a street fight bracing himself for a baseball bat blow to the head.
Line Noise writes: “The most memorable scene of Hide and Seek was when Sheppard pushed McKay off the balcony in front of Weir. Weir’s horror and the boyish gleam in Sheppard’s and McKay’s eyes is priceless.”
Answer: Agreed. That was my favorite moment in the episode.
Line Noise also writes: “I think Jinto just needs a mother. What happened to Jinto’s mum?”
Answer: Sadly, she ran off with a traveling hand-held fire-starter salesman.
Line Noise also writes: “What, for that matter, happened to Jinto’s dad’s leg that required him to hop around on crutches? Was that originally in the script or did Christopher Heyerdahl hurt himself and it had to be written into the story?”
Answer: Chris, the actor, suffered an injury prior to filming so Robert Cooper simply wrote it into the script – much like the Daniel appendicitis of SG-1 season 3’s Nemesis.
Deborah Rose writes: “this episode rose above the material. The energy monster was meh, though the way the heroes resolved it was sensible. Loved that Teyla saw what the others took a long time to grasp. Loved the comedy in the episode, especially Sheppard’s evil delight in having shot at McKay. Loved McKay’s growth, in stepping out to be the hero, even knowing the high probability of death. Handled less adroitly, this whole episode would have reeked. But cast and production managed to put together something that was worth watching, and even rewatching.”
Answer: Uh, you appear to be contradicting yourself here. You start off by stating the episode rose above the material (the implication here is “the script) and compliment the cast and production, but everything you lauded (“Loved that Teyla saw what the others took a long time to grasp. Loved the comedy in the episode, especially Sheppard’s evil delight in having shot at McKay. Loved McKay’s growth, in stepping out to be the hero, even knowing the high probability of death.”) was actually scripted.
majorsal writes: “Answer: True. If she enjoys Atlantis and wants to check out SG-1, I’ll probably start with season 9.
you’ve got to be kidding. to me, that’s the *worst* season of the entire sg1 run! come on, joe, let her see the golden and BEST of this series!”
Answer: As I said, if I sat her down to watch SG-1’s first season, she’d probably excuse herself and then secretly hop on the first plane back to Japan. That was a rocky first season with some very rough visual effects.
kabra writes: “We’re commenting on Hide and Seek, correct?? I am a little puzzled by the “force field” that McKay wears. He can pick up,physically wrap his hands around the the coffee mug, but he can not drink from it. How is that?”
Answer: Yes, a very unique force field that doesn’t allow foreign matter to enter the body (i.e. food and drink) with the exception of air. I’ve always wondered about the reverse.
arctic goddess writes: “I also loved McKay’s general hypochondria with fears that he was dying from all sorts of innocuous issues. Who came up with these very interesting personality quirks? Do writers add that to the script, then it is approved or not approved by the producer?”
Answer: On Stargate, the writers WERE the producers, so the steps to approval were very short. McKay’s personality quirks were scripted and developed by Robert Cooper and Brad Wright who based these quirks on certain individuals they worked with in the past.
Randomness writes: “Realistically do you think the Athosians could have settled on Atlantis over the long term? Naturally as the expedition was relatively new to the city, do you think there was some concern that they may press something/do something that may cause trouble(Even accidently), that could have made the team think that perhaps while they get to grips with the city and its functions that the Athosians would be better off elsewhere?”
Answer: Sure, I think that the Athosians could have proven themselves capable enough. But I suspect they would have been no less annoying.
Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular 2cats. Happy belated birthday!!!
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