I can’t believe September is almost done and, in a few weeks, I’ll be making the BIG move to Toronto – just in time for what’s predicted to be (and I quote) “the T-Rex of winters” (http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/t-rex-of-winters-in-store-for-canada-old-farmer-s-almanac-1.2012804#). Of course, I’ll be spending most of it on a nice, cozy spaceship set. Or, in a nice, cozy car on my way to a nice, cozy spaceship set. On the one hand, the highway driving may be icy and treacherous; on the other hand, all of the lane shutdowns happening in Toronto will ensure that nobody will be going fast enough to suffer any real damage.
The plan is for Paul and I to fly over to Toronto the week of October 6th for some meetings covering everything from casting and scheduling to DOP’s and editors. I’m going to try to pack everything I’ll need for my 7 month Toronto stay into two suitcases I’ll be bringing with me on that initial trip. Just the bare essentials: shirts, suits, ties, cufflinks, laptop. I’ll try to buy everything else I’ll need – towels, toiletries, dog beds, workout wear – while I’m there that first week. Between approving ship designs and interviewing Directors of Photography, I’ll be hitting the Eaton Center for dress socks and warm underwear!
We fly back to Vancouver at the end of that week and then I’ll have all of the following week to get my local affairs in order, hand off the house keys to my former dog sitter who will become a house sitter until May of next year, and then make the final trip eastward (for 2014 anyway), dogs in tow the weekend of October 18th. Our friend Jeff has kindly offered to help transport the pooches so, once we firm up a date, I’ll get on the phone with the airline and book the flight with the roomiest under-seats. I believe the rules allow for only one dog (as carry-on) per person, and limit pets to a mere two in business class and two in coach. If that’s the case, Jeff (and Lulu) will be flying in style while Akemi, Bubba, Jelly and I squeeze into economy. I’m considering purchasing extra seats, just in case. I have to admit, getting my dogs cross-country is the most stressful aspect of this whole Toronto production.
I’m aiming to have 9 of our 13 first season scripts completed by the time we land in Toronto, October 6th. Paul did a brilliant job on the delightfully creepy episode #5 that went out today and is presently revising episode #6. Rob is working on his first draft of episode #7 while I do a pass on Trevor’s draft of episode #8. And, of course, I already completed episode #9 which sits, patiently waiting to be read.
We’ve approached the first season like a book, the thirteen episodes the equivalent to chapters in an extended story. We set up a big mystery in the opener, one we’ll develop over the course of the first year and, eventually, pay off BIG in the finale. The great thing about having all 13 episodes in advance (besides the obvious production advantages) is that we’ll be able to read the entire first season from beginning to end, tweaking where necessary to ensure a gripping, well-developed narrative layered with intriguing set-ups and surprising/satisfying pay-offs. It also allows our Visual Effects team (lead by former Stargate VFX Supervisor Mark Savela and this show’s VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson) and Playback department to get a jump start on those visual effects and awesome onscreen images. And having those nine episodes in the bank for early October also allows us to choose the perfect sides for each character audition – and there will be plenty: six crew members plus that, uh, non-human character.
We’ve got half our directors in place and you’ll, no doubt, recognize a few familiar names. Very much looking forward to working with them again. It’s been WAY too long.
My biggest point of focus from now until mid-December will be those sets. Construction begins on the ship, shuttle, and space station in late October and I need them to look truly awesome. Also, I’ll need to make sure the shuttle is heated, with a roll-out bed and working bathroom because chances are, if the shoots run late, that’s where I’ll be spending most of my nights.
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:
Well, 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…
Janet’s dog is still coming into work with her at the downstairs Administration Offices. Stylin’ in in those red booties. Dogs love ‘em!
Well, if it isn’t Stargate ace editor Mike Banas P.I., working on his own super-secret project, just a couple of doors down.
As is customary whenever one of my writers’ room assembles, I brought chocolate.
Akemi included a few nougats with a very special message for us hardworking writer-producers.
I returned to discover the office had been holding a bunch of boxes for me…for three years! All free books from publishers and all….
From the same book series which, I believe, is based on a game? Anyone?
Also 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.”
Let’s continue our Star Trek (Not Stargate! I keep making that mistake!): The Original Series re-watch. Today, Cookie Monster and I discuss Charlie X…
Me: A very strong episode this one, reminiscent of The Twilight Zone’s equally creepy “It’s A Good Life”, based on the short story by Jerome Bixby. It stands the test of time and stands out as an incredibly suspenseful ride. Sure, there are a few unintentionally hilarious moments, and the ending is a bit of a letdown, but it’s a powerful, seminal episode.
Cookie Monster: If monster said it once, me said it a hundred times: Kids Be Creepy! And monster have very bad feeling about dis one when he start making funny faces behind Kirk’s back…
Me: Yeah, I was like WTF? The Captain of that other ship couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. It was like: “Here you go, Kirk. Enjoy your new passenger!” And then, as he’s preparing to get transported back to his ship: “Sucker.”
Cookie Monster: More disturbing den creepy kid be Spock rocking out on Vulcan lute while Uhura belt out tune. And everyone else in room pretend like dey enjoying demselves and not wanting to get back to private conversation.
Me: Yeah, she reminds me of an ex-girlfriend who used to do that – break into song at parties. “Food glorious fooooood! Hot sausage and mustard! While we’re in the mooood – !”
Cookie Monster: Shut de fuck up! Me trying to enjoy a cocktail weenie over here!
Cookie Monster: But scene effektively convey first rumblings of trouble with Charlie (ie. Uhura losing her voice). Then, later it eskalate when sore loser Charlie melt chess pieces.
Me: Coincidentally, reminiscent of another ex-girlfriend. She didn’t go quite so far, but would quit a game anytime it looked like she was about to lose.
Cookie Monster: You dated some crazies.
Me: I’d rather not discuss my personal life.
Cookie Monster: Hey, monster not de one dat brought it up!
Me: Anyway, back to the episode. I feel obligated to point out that act breaks have come a long way in fifty years. We learn that the Antares has been destroyed. You’d think that would be the act break. Instead, it’s someone discovering real turkeys in the oven. Dum dum daaaaaa!
Cookie Monster: Me feel more effektive akt break would have been first shot of Kirk in his tight red tumbling pants. Dum dum daaaaaa!
Me: Yep, that was quite a sight.
Cookie Monster: Speaking of sight, what wit de weird lighting? Most of de scene take place in a brightly lit gym, den when we cut to close-ups, suddenly it be all dark and moody.
Me: Well, it certainly reflected the tone of the scene, especially after Charlie makes Sam disappear. Although I had to wonder why Kirk didn’t request Sam’s return. I mean, it couldn’t have hurt to ask, right?
Cookie Monster: Me tink he not want to antagonize Charlie further. Kid have short fuse, as demonstrated later when he make Spock stroke out on de bridge.
Me: And, later, removes that woman’s face. I remember being horrified by that scene when I was a kid. Upon further review, maybe not quite as scary. A lifetime of horror movies has inured me to faceless people.
Cookie Monster: Monster tink she look cute. Like muppet.
Me: Until you realize that, without a mouth and a nose, she wasn’t able to breathe and presumably suffocated to death.
Cookie Monster: But dat okay becuz, in de end, benevolent super aliens come to de reskue and undo everyting.
Me: Ah, don’t get me started. Yes, Kirk and co. have the problem solved for them. By episode’s end, everything is as it was before.
Cookie Monster: Even de chess pieces?
Me: Especially the chess pieces.
Cookie Monster: Lucky for de props department!
Me: Uh, yes. So, all in all, a pretty damn good episode. If it wasn’t for the Deus Ex Machina ending, I’d rate it in my top ten.
Cookie Monster: Monster like it too. But, like most shows, it lose points for singing component.
So, what did everyone else think of this episode? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
And, tomorrow, let’s reconvene to discuss: Where No Man Has Gone Before!
Alas, it was a herculean task and despite my best efforts, I came up short. In the end, I sampled only 47 of the some 60 varieties of hot chocolate offered for this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival. Still, 47 hot chocolates in 24 days aint bad, especially considering I took those four days off to visit mom in Montreal. This year, I doubled last year’s score. And, next year, I vow to do even better!
So, what were the standouts? Well, what follows is my list of the Top 5 Hot Chocolates of this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival!
When all was said and done, six hot chocolates actually made by top 5 list. After much consideration, I decided to offer a Top 5 +1 for good luck!
Honorable mention goes to…
A Snowball’s Chance in Hell:Single origin Mexican chocolate with Mexican chili poured over house made chocolate ice cream. Accompanied by a flourless chocolate cookie.
Available at: Chocolate Arts 1620 West 3rd Ave., Vancouver (Kitsilano).
Ah, now this is more like it! Akemi was on the edge of her seat (or, actually, her side of the bed) throughout this episode. She loved it. Action! Suspense! Humor! And, best of all, those dazzling visual effects! She was blown away by the the sequence of Atlantis shielding itself within seconds of the giant wave crashing down on the city (“Always very last minute your show!”) and also had high praise for the Teyla-Sora showdown (compliments of our former SGA stunt coordinator James Bam Bam Bamford). She continues to enjoy McKay, greatly appreciated seeing her favorite Dr. Beckett, and is even warming up to Sheppard. She had one big bump = McKay dressing his arm wound OVER his sleeve.
Overall: “I liked it a lot. I’m getting used to this city. At first I thought not as good as SGU’s ship but now pretty cool.” And then: “I’m beginning to like SGA too!”
A couple of years ago, I offered some thoughts on this episode (and the next one) in one of my Trip Down Memory Lane entries:
Hmmm. It would appear Akemi is fast losing interest in this show. I keep thinking that if we can just make it to the mid-season two-parter, The Storm/The Eye, we should be okay. Those two episodes, in my estimation the high point of SGA’s first season, should revitalize her interest in the series and keep her focused through to the season one finale. Apparently, Carson Beckett’s charming eyes will only get the series so far.
Alas, Underground didn’t rate that highly for her because she had a hard time following what was going on. But once the episode moved past people the various people-sitting-at-tables-talking scenes (about two-thirds of the way through), her interested picked up. Still…
On the story: “Chotto difficult to understand this episode. A little bit complicated. Seems very odd from the beginning.”
On Teyla: “Too much make-up this episode.”
On Teyla informing the Genii that team Atlantis had awakened the wraith: “She is stupid!”
On McKay: “I like arrogant guy!”
And overall: “Surprisingly not so much episodes of the actual Atlantis. I’m looking for more inside of Atlantis.” Crap! She’s beginning to sound like YOU guys!
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?”
- Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
- Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer
- This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
- Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
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- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
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- We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt
- The Troop by Nick Cutter
- Shroder by Amity Gaige
- The Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner
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- House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
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