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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So many terrific designs.  Which are YOUR favorites?

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

Some photos from our first two days…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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charlie-evans-charlie-x-star-trekLet’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…

charlie_X-e1346677255202Me: 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.

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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!

Me: Exactly.

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!

charlie_x_kirk_roll

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.

Faceless_woman_charlie_x

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!

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Hello and welcome to our Star Trek: The Original Series re-watch.  Cookie Monster and I will be your co-hosts.  We’ll open the casual discussion on the show’s first five episodes, then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

THE MAN TRAP

Me: A rocky start for the Enterprise and its crew in an episode that is at turns silly and confounding, yet enjoyable for the many classic elements established.  It’s an interesting premise with a nice emotional hook involving Dr. McCoy and his former love, but there are logic bumps throughout that make this one a little tough to watch.  For instance, the salt monster seems highly intelligent, yet can’t resist snacking on the unwary members of the away team, opening itself up to all sorts of trouble.  Presumably it wasn’t starving since the scientist shows Kirk his salt stores have yet to be depleted, yet it simply can’t help itself.

Cookie Monster: Me empathize.  If Enterprise crew bodies contain traces of cookie element, dey be VERY hard to resist.

Me: Still….

Cooke Monster:  Mebbe salt monster tink Kirk not bother to stick around since he have emergency pepper shipment to deliver to other planet!

Me:  Doubtful.  But you bring up a great point.  Throughout this episode Kirk demonstrates a wide variety of impressive abilities, from carefully hand picking peppers for delivery to some interesting evasive maneuvers -

But what I found most surprising about the episode was that a secondary character, McCoy, drives the heart of the story.

Cookie Monster: Who?

Me: Dr. McCoy.  Bones.

Cookie Monster: You mean Plum?

Me: Yes, Plum.

Cookie Monster: Plum on receiving end of best line in episode: “Stop tinking wit your glands!”

Me: Yeah, that horn dog!

Cookie Monster: And what about scientist on planet?  What kind of “arrangement” he have wit salt creature?  It be his planet wife?

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Me: Possibly.  He did seem unusually attached and at one point all but says the creature requires salt…and love!  On the one hand, it’s a hideous alien creature that killed his wife.  On the other hand, it’s probably a great spooner.

Cookie Monster: Speaking of killing, it interesting to note dat original red shirt aktually wear blue shirt.

Me: Yes, the costume choices in the first few episodes are interesting.  It’s almost disconcerting to see Spock walking around in that beige turtleneck uniform instead of his science blues.

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Cookie Monster: And dat guy in beekeeper uniform.  What de deal wit dat? Enterprise have its own bee colony?  Me bet Kirk gather his own honey too!  Dere be nothing dis guy can’t do!

Me: Except use common sense to contact a fellow crew member.  Kirk and McCoy discover the second body, then walk around shouting for Green.  Is there any particular reason they couldn’t just use their communicators to contact him?

Cookie Monster: Could be Green not on Friends and Ship and Family plan.

Me: Can I just say that one of the high points of this episode is the introduction of Sulu.  George Takei is terrific and his character is an interesting and integral member of the crew from the get-go.

Cookie Monster: Gertrude, not so much.

Me: Gertrude being the alien plant.

Janice_Rand_and_BeauregardCookie Monster: Alien planet?  Sure.  But more likely just Chekov hiding under table wearing big pink glove.  He notorious practikal joker!  Anyway, it be very weird.

Me: Sure, but not as weird as Kirk on the bridge snacking on crudités before heading down to the planet’s surface.  I mean, really?  Couldn’t he have just swung by the mess hall?

Cookie Monster: Mebbe he be hypoglycemik!  Or he really need to carb up before big showdown wit salt creature!

Me: Actually, if anyone needed to carb up before the showdown, it would’ve been Spock.  Look at him deliver those two-fisted wallops!

“If she were Nancy, could she take THIS?!”  The ancient Vulcan alien-identification test?

Cookie Monster: And big twist come at de end when it revealed Nancy really…

image5 …De Abominable Snowman from de Land of Misfit Toys!!!

Me: Yeah, didn’t see that one coming.

Cookie Monster: Also, while we on de subjekt of toys…dose shots of de Enterprise in space!  Hooboy.

Me: Okay, yes, scifi television has certainly come a long way, but I nevertheless find those less-polished visual effects somehow endearing.  Which is how I feel about this episode in general.  A little rough around the edges -

Cookie Monster: And center!

Me: But nevertheless entertaining for its nostalgic elements.

So, what did you all think of The Man Trap?

We continue our Stargate TOS re-watch tomorrow when we’ll reconvene to discuss Charlie X!

Also, one week from today, we’ll begin discussion on the next five episodes on our viewing schedule: Mudd’s Women, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Miri, Dagger of the Mind, and The Corbomite Maneuver.

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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…

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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).

http://www.chocolatearts.com/

#5…

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Phaun’s Fancy: Made from 64% dark chocolate with parmesan and fresh nutmeg.  Served with a side of Umami No. 5 fudge

Available: At Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver

www.cocoanymph.com

#4..

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Banana Split: Made from 36% Valrhona Caramelia chocolate and topped with walnut marshmallows.  Served with banana pound cake.

Available at: Bel Cafe, 801 West Georgia Street @ Howe (at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia)

http://www.belcafe.com/

#3…

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Trio of Chocolate: The base of this hot chocolate is 66% Mokaya chocolate by Michel Cluizel. Served with a disk of 45% Kayambe milk chocolate and white chocolate ice cream.

Available at: Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe 1059 Alberni Street

http://www.thierrychocolates.com/

#2…

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Hera’s Habit: Made from 50% deep milk chocolate with malted milk balls.  Served with vanilla bean cinnamon shortbread.

Available: At Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver

www.cocoanymph.co

#1…

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Paula Dean White Trash Trainwreck: A 70% dark chocolate ganache with condensed milk, salted kettle chips, and vanilla whipped cream.  Served with a 72% dark chocolate wafer.

Available at: Mink Chocolates, 863 West Hastings St., Vancouver. On the park (cross street, Hornby.)

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Congratulations to all the winners.  I’m hoping I’ll get to see you again soon.  REAL soon.

Continuing Stargate: Atlantis rewatch with…The Eye!

1Ah, 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:

June 13, 2012: Dark Matter at Comic Con! Save Lennox the dog! Days of Stargate Past, Atlantis! The Eye and The Defiant One! Vote on our favorite Stargate mid-season two-parter for a chance to win!

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Every so often, I check out my spam folder for erroneously misdirected reader comments.  Last night, amid the 535 quarantined messages, I came across the following:

“Brazil shemales”

“Star ladyboys”

“Big ass shemales”

“Trilby hat sales”

- I find this offensive, embarrassing and downright disturbing.  How dare they presume I’d wear a trilby hat!

Hey, the results are in for April’s Book of the Month Club.  And the winner is…

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 12.12.43 PM

Winner!

Winner!

We’ll be kicking off our discussion of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation on Monday, April 7th – which should give you all plenty of time to read it.

In the meantime, our March Book of the Month Club reconvenes on Monday, March 3rd with a discussion of Terms of Enlistment by Mark Kloos.

1Ladies and gentlemen, start your reading engines!

Our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch continues with…Underground!

1Hmmm.  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!

Meanwhile, I offered my thoughts on the episode back here: June 10, 2012: Misery! Comic Con! Days of Stargate Past – Atlantis! Poisoning the Well and Underground!

So, what’d you all think on second (or more) viewing?

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Akemi and I finished watching the second half of Stargate: Universe’s first season today.  It’s been interesting to see her develop a genuine passion for the series.  “I love Stargate!”she declared this morning.  “Please call me, geeku-chan!”

Like any fan, Geeku-chan had her favorite characters, her favorite episodes.  Robert Cooper’s Time is still tops in her books.  She can’t get enough of that kino!

What follows are her thoughts on episode #11 through #20…

1 SPACE

Being a big fan of the show’s visual effects, Akemi greatly appreciated this episode, especially the sequence of the ships exchanging fire (“Poom poom poom”).  She, did, however, have some reservations about the alien who proved disappointingly weak in her opinion.  She also wasn’t a fan of Young in the alien suit – “He looked like an oompa loompa!”.

Overall though, a solid episode in her estimation.  “I feel like I’m watching a movie.”

1DIVIDED

She found certain elements of this one confusing, particularly those related to the transfer of the ship’s control.  Still, she did find it suspenseful (“Jamil almost killed Patrick!”she exclaimed at one point) and loved the space walk.  On the other hand, she found the operation sequence “scary”, the part where Rush awakens in the middle of surgery especially distressful.

1FAITH

For some reason, she found this episode difficult to understand and expressed disappointment that we never got to see “the alien who built the Tokyo towerish thing”.

She did find the burgeoning/grudging friendship between Rush and Young interesting, noting: “I find science guy and old Young very friendly now but a few episodes before they were cranky cranky.”

As for T.J.’s predicament, she was surprisingly noncommittal: “Don’t feel sad for her because it’s personal situation going on.  No comment.”

1HUMAN

“I watched twice and still don’t understand!”  Alas, yes.  She fell asleep the first time and then started from the beginning in the hopes that she wold actually understand it the second time around.  No such luck.  What was the problem?  Well, beside all the back and forth between reality and Rush’s world: “Very confusing because science guy very mumblesome.”

1LOST

An emotionally strong episode for Akemi who was on the edge of her seat throughout.  She confidently predicted our intrepid foursome would make it back to the ship at the end of last episode and, when they didn’t, she was downright shocked.  So, when the remaining trio didn’t make it back in the nick of time a second time, she was incensed.  “F**ing scientist!  Why dial?  Give last five minutes to them.  It shouldn’t happen such bad timing!”  Sadly, it did and Scott, Eli, and Chloe ended the episode off-world with seemingly no chance of rejoining Destiny.

Akemi: “I like this episode because twisted.”

Me: “You mean because there was a twist.”

Akemi: “Yeah.  Twisted.”

Her appreciation for Ronald Greer/Jamil Walker Smith continues: “I like Jamil.  I mean Jamil’s character.”, “I like Jamil’s character more because he had bad experience as a kid.”, and “I like young Jamil with yellow t-shirt and crazy hair.”

????????????????????????????SABOTAGE

This episode may not have been a fan favorite, but Akemi liked it just fine, especially the visual effect shots of the robot fixing the ship.  She did find it odd that T.J. (conveniently) didn’t knock when paying a call on Rush, simply opening the door to his room and catching him and Rush/Dr. Perry/Wray in an “awkward” moment.

This episode also begged the question: “When is geek guy going to get with her?  When will other guy die?”.  She’s apparently a Chloli shipper but likes Scott just the same.  “Very handsome,”she told me.  “But geek guy also very cute and unique.  In Japan, both would be equally popular.”

1PAIN

Right off the bat: “Why Young stop shaving his beard?  Depression comes from being father?”  I don’t know.  Maybe?

She thought this a good, scary episode with an ending that left her wanting more. Ultimately, a great episode “because written by Carl Binder-san.”

1SUBVERSION

At some point, she started referring to a character as Chef.  Well, I knew “scientist” referred to Rush and “geek” referred to Eli, but “Chef”?  Turns out she was referring to Lou Diamond Philips because she remembers him from his varied Food Network forays.  Some of her comments on this episode:

“I like the scene of Jamil punching his face, stupid chef.”

“Why chef flip it?  How he get brainwashed?  I guess it is what it is.”

“Nice to see Mike Dopud.”

“Mike Dopud is alien?  Looks like human though.”

As for the episode as a whole: “I like but why stop there?  I’m curious and can’t sleep.”

1INCURSION I

She was on the edge of her seat from start to finish and, when the episode ended, requested we roll right into the next.  The highlight for her?  Eli’s courageous bid to keep Chloe safe, at one point literally sweeping her off her feet. (“I love geek boy.”).  The lowlight?  She didn’t like the fact that Young didn’t vent the the gate room the second the Lucian Alliance came through.  Chef be damned!

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INCURSION II

Not quite the consistent nail-biter that was Incursion I, Incursion II delivered big time for her in its last fifteen minutes.  “Very movie-ish!”was her take on the season finale.  BUT she didn’t like the fact that there was no ending.  “Not finished?  Not happy!”  The problem?  She feared for her favorite characters.  Why?  “I’m afraid because my boyfriend has no mercy.  I like happy ending but my boyfriend not all the time.”

Hmmm.  Makes me wonder what she’ll think of the series finale.

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Okay.  Pursuant to yesterday’s blog entry, some careful strategy is required.

I think that, rather than striking out now as everyone – especially those in a position to make the decisions – prepares for the holidays or, in some cases, is already off on holidays, the campaign should hold off in order to maximize its efforts.

Plan and coordinate now, then launch in the second or third week of the New Year when everyone is back at the office – and eager to start green lighting those new projects!

I leave you to pick a target date.

And, speaking of planning, what do you all have planned for the coming holidays? Visiting relatives?  Staying close to home?  Getting away from it all with a trip to an exotic locale?  Bora Bora?  Fiji?  Vegas?

Given the choice, if you could spent the holidays anywhere in the world EXCEPT home (or the home of a loved one), where would it be?

My Top 5 NOT Home For the Holidays Destinations:

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5. Christmas in Hawaii

Well, why the hell not?  Sure, there’s nothing like a white Christmas, but after one too many festive deep-freezes in my home town of Montreal, I think I’d appreciate a little change of venue.  Maybe less snow and more sand.  Less spruce and pine and more palm.  Less roasted chestnuts, more poi.  And, oh yeah, the beach.

14. Christmas in Hong Kong

The view from Kowloon of the colorfully lit buildings lining the Central Hong Kong across Victoria Harbor is absolutely stunning.  Not quite the rest and relaxation offered by a Hawaiian getaway, but certainly a hell of a lot warmer than an east coast winter, and maybe even more cosmopolitan.  If you’re looking to shop away the holidays, this is the place!

13. Christmas Tokyo

Well, of course.  Tokyo out Christmases most North American cities with its stunning seasonal displays and spirit.  Granted, the Japanese don’t quite celebrate the holiday like some of us do, eschewing family in favor of romantic dinners for two, but it’s hard not to get caught up in the festive mood.

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2. Christmas in Savannah

I chose Savannah, Georgia because I’ve been researching the city of late, but I’d happily do Charleston, S.C. as well or any other down home American city that offers a southern take on the holiday complete with pecan pie and bourbon-spiked eggnog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1. Christmas in Las Vegas

Well, surprise surprised?  Not really.  Unlike any of the other places listed, Vegas is only a few hours away, offering fun, sun, and restaurant lineup to rival New York and L.A.

So, let’s all start planning for next year!  Where are we all going?

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Seriously.  No sooner do I recover from my pulled solar plexus (see previous issues, ed.) than I am now battling a lower back “thing”. Specifically, a lower right hip ache that flares up whenever I shift my weight a certain way – or not.  I don’t remember doing anything that could have caused it – outside of those heavy deadlifts – but that’s not really the point.  The POINT is that I have never been the type of guy to suffer from back issues.  That has always been the “other guy” – you know, the little guy in the office next door who occasionally slips a disc and then either has to sleep on the coffee table or standing up.  Not me!

Today, I received a request for some Atlantis blueprints.  I explained that my collection of blueprints, part of the various art department packages from past Stargate episodes, are incomplete.  Some episodes have plenty of supporting docs, everything from schematics to colorful designs, while others only have a sketch or two.  I’ve been meaning to digitize these files for a while now (maybe a year) but just haven’t had the opportunity to get around to doing so.  I figure the next best thing is to just scan and upload the various packages for your entertainment and edification.

Would you all happen to remember a little Stargate: Atlantis fifth season episode called Remnants?

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With the recent news that Roland Emmerich would like to make a second, big screen, Stargate movie, questions surrounding the future of the franchise have again started popping up throughout fandom.

It’s been three years since Stargate: Universe was cancelled and fans want to know: What’s next?  Whither Stargate?

Well in my humble and somewhat informed opinion: Beats me.

But let’s look at the possibilities…

THE BIG SCREEN REBOOT (TWO WAYS TO DO IT)

Look at the re-imagined Star Trek.  Both movies did HUGE business.  And, like Star Trek, Stargate is an established scifi franchise that would undoubtedly wow with a big screen treatment and visual effects budget.  The potential box-office returns could be tremendous!

Or not.  If the summer of 2013 has taught us anything, it’s that Big Budget Star-driven features don’t guarantee success.  The Lone Ranger ($215 million dollar production budget), White House Down ($150 million dollar production budget), Turbo ($135 million dollar production budget), RIPD ($130 million dollar production budget), After Earth ($130 million dollar production budget), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones ($60 million dollar production budget).  What do the aforementioned have in common?  Yep, you guessed it: Big hopes, Big budgets, and, all of them, Big box office disappointments.  Also, keep in mind that the listed amounts in parentheses are the approximate production budgets which don’t take into account the equally sizeable costs of marketing these movies.  Ouch.

So, it’s clear that “throwing money at it” won’t guarantee a movie’s success. Neither will casting hitherto bankable actors like Johnny Depp and Will Smith.  BUT Stargate is an established property with a pre-existing fan base, so it’s got that going for it. Right?  Well, okay, so did The Mortal Instruments movie but, for argument’s sake, let’s just stick to Stargate for now.  Big budgets aside, the Stargate franchise is much like Star Trek in that it has that built-in SF fan base eager for more.  So it stands to reason that it should follow the Star Trek model and find success as a big screen reboot!

Well, not so fast…

First of all, as proud as I am of everything we accomplished with the Stargate franchise, I’ll be the first to admit it doesn’t have quite the reach or support of Star Trek.  And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Sure, we produced three series, two direct-to-dvd features, and some 300+ episodes over 15 years but, while impressive a feat, it pales in comparison to Star Trek’s five series, twelve theatrical features, and some 700+ episodes over 46 years.  As a result, Star Trek’s influence reaches far beyond its fandom – which is important given that, despite its established fan base, Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled after four seasons.  This is not to minimize the impact of fans but simply to suggest expectations should be tempered.  A robust and passionate fandom doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. Having said that, however, it’s in instances such as these, where a franchise’s reach may not be as wide-ranging as a Star Trek, that fandom is even more important in a studio’s campaign to “get the word out”.

It’s for this reason that you want to make sure you get fandom “on your side”.  And this is where reboots can get a little tricky.  On the one hand, re-imagining a property offers first-timers the opportunity to get in on the ground floor.  They’re on equal footing with longtime fans in that they don’t need to come in to a movie knowing what has come before.  It’s fresh and new to them as, ideally, it would be to longtime fans.  A new beginning of sorts.  Problems arise when you start distancing those longtime fans, the support crew that could prove an indispensable part of any pre-release online campaign, who may not take kindly to the franchise they’ve come to know and love being messed with.  And, by messed with, I mean…

Ignoring what has come before.

Yes, a fresh start is a great idea when it comes to reaching out to a potential new audience, and while some fans would undoubtedly be pleased with a complete relaunch, many others would no doubt take umbrage with a complete dismissal of established canon.  In some ways, it’s the equivalent to the Bobby Ewing in the shower scene in Dallas.  Remember?  Actor Patrick Duffy decided to leave the series and his character was killed off at the end of the show’s eighth season.   But then Duffy had a change of heart and decided he wanted to come back. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a scifi show and cloning, time travel, and ascension were not viable options.  So, to address the issue and bring back Bobby Ewing, Duffy’s character makes an inexplicable appearance in the final episode of of the show’s ninth season. His wife hears the water running, walks into the bathroom, and is shocked to see him there, showering.  When season 10 got underway, it was revealed that Bobby never died and that the show’s ninth season was just a dream. An insanely detailed dream that ran 31 episodes!  Which leads me to wonder how that ninth season performs in syndication and alternate media purchases (i.e. downloads). Anyway, my point is that a creative clean slate could hurt rather than hinder a reboot’s prospects as it slams shuts: a) the book on beloved characters and b) the door on the faces of longtime fans.

On the other hand, instead of a complete reboot, the studio could opt for a reboot that makes use of established characters – which is what Star Trek did.  We are presented with  a new version of long-established characters – Kirk, Spock, McCoy – but the potential to piss off longtime fans is minimized because the story takes place in an alternate universe.  So, quite literally, fans can have the best of both worlds. The new adventures don’t undo what has come before.  Fans will, of course, have a preference, but both versions can happily co-exist without trumping one another.

Of course, one could argue that the reason this type of reboot worked for Star Trek is that, while these classic characters have long been engrained in the SF consciousness, it’s been almost twenty years since we’ve seen them onscreen in a new adventure.  In the case of Stargate, well, it’s been about two years since we last saw Jack O’Neill grace the small screen.  Is it perhaps too soon to expect fans will embrace someone other than Richard Dean Anderson in the role?

A SMALL SCREEN EVENT (TESTING THE WATERS)

Another possibility is to produce a one-shot Stargate television event that could potentially act as a backdoor pilot for a new Stargate series.  If the ratings are great, the studio can move forward with an all new t.v. series while, if the ratings disappoint, they can cut their losses with this single production.  At first blush, this seems like a great idea.  Creatively, it would allow the franchise to head in a bold, new direction while still paying its respects to what has come before, leaving the door open for established characters to make an occasional appearance and help bridge the gap between old fans and new.  Upon closer scrutiny, however, it becomes clear that a “one and done” deal wouldn’t make much financial sense.  In order to do it properly, especially if it was going to serve as a potential backdoor pilot, $$$ would need to be spent, and broadcast license fees and alternate revenue streams may not be enough to make the venture worthwhile. Like any show, it would be a gamble, but the fact that science fiction requires more of a financial investments makes this even more risky.  At some point, the studio needs to ask itself what would be the better scenario: strike now or wait?  There’s an argument to be made for both.  The fact that the last Stargate episode aired only two years ago suggests the fans are still out there and, if a movie or series is produced sooner than later, one could count on their support – in addition to the potential support of new viewers.  Strike while the iron is hot!  Then again, the ratings for SGU’s final season could suggest viewer fatigue and maybe waiting is advisable.

A CLASSIC STARGATE MOVIE OR MINI-SERIES

As much as I would love to see a television mini-series or movie based on either of the three past Stargates (SG-1, Atlantis, or Universe), this one is the longest of long shots mainly because the sets no longer exist and rebuilding them for a one-time adventure doesn’t make a whole lot of financial sense.  At the very least, if one were going the backdoor pilot route, there is the very real prospect of recouping those upfront expenses in an ongoing series.  Back in the day, the two Stargate direct-to-video features, Ark of Truth and Continuum did VERY well.  But that was before the bottom fell out of the dvd market.  Sadly, a “classic Stargate” miniseries or movie isn’t the slam dunk it used to be.

A NEW STARGATE SERIES

Well, yes wouldn’t that be great?  A new set of characters and host of new adventures with the potential for guest spots from the likes of Rodney McKay, Daniel Jackson, and maybe even Eli Wallace.  A new Stargate-based television might be the best way to go.  After all, while the original movie was successful, it was the television franchise that proved an incredibly lucrative earner for MGM. But some of the same questions arise.  When should the studio look to put another series in development?  Sooner or later?  Has enough time passed?

LOOKING AHEAD

So, having said all that, what DOES the future hold for Stargate?  Again, I haven’t a clue and I’ve long since accepted the sheer folly of applying logic to Hollywood decision-making.  But, for what it’s worth…

My gut instinct tells me the studio would LOVE to follow the Star Trek model: take an established property, re-imagine it for the big screen, and makes hundreds of millions of dollars.  Of course, it could be argued that that is a very best case scenario.  If the studio does consider going down this route, careful consideration will present two indisputable facts: a) Stargate is not Star Trek, and b) alienating long-time fans in favor of a new audience could prove  disastrous.

As much as I would love to see that Atlantis movie or SG-1 movie or even a mini-series that incorporates elements from all three Stargate shows, this is the unlikeliest of scenarios for the simple reason that the risks far outweigh any potential rewards.

No, given the history of the franchise, it would seem a new television series would be the best way to go – a fresh take on Stargate that would bring in new viewers while rewarding the long-suffering fans.

However, I’m not the one making the call.

In the end, I think there’s only certainty: On the question of Stargate’s glorious return, it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN.

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