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?”
Whoa. Didn’t see that coming. Well, I kind of did given that I correctly predicted a Seahawks victory (see last blog entry), but I was far too generous in my estimation of the Broncos’ offence (and clearly underestimated the Seattle defense). It wasn’t a great game (unless you’re a Seahawks fan) and those much-ballyhooed Superbowl commercials weren’t all that special either. Alas, being in Canada, we are stuck watching our super-lame Canadian commercials – roughly the same half-dozen replayed ad nauseum – so we didn’t get to see those multi-million dollar ads. Until much later when I hopped online and checked them out. For the most part, highly forgettable. But there were a few winners. The following were my favorites…
NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE
Agree? Disagree? What were your favorites? If they include cloying kids (ie. that Cheerios commercial), then I’m afraid you’re automatically disqualified.
Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch. Last night, Akemi and I (and, I assume, many of you who are rewatching along with us) checked out the show’s third episode, Hide and Seek. So,what did Akemi think?
Surprisingly, she liked it quite a bit. I say “surprisingly” because, well, compared to the thrilling opening two-parter (Rising I and II), episode #3 was comparatively sedate. Also, the fact that she almost dozed off during the search for Jinto suggested otherwise – but she quickly perked up once the shadow creature appeared. Overall, a mixed bag for her – but one predominantly filled with hazelnuts (her favorites) over pecans (her least favorites): “I liked this episode. Very interesting concept.”
Some of you asked why we’re watching the shows in reverse order. Wouldn’t it make more sense to start with SG-1? Well, yes, but if we started with SG-1, we probably wouldn’t have gotten through the first episode of the franchise. Akemi is highly sensitive to a show’s dated aspects. If it looks old, she just won’t watch it. And that’s why we started with SGU, the last iteration of the franchise that boasted the very best visual effects. Akemi greatly appreciates “computer graphics” and, as we started SGA, I wasn’t sure how the VFX would hold up after so many years. The answer? Judging from Akemi’s reaction, pretty damn fine. She thinks highly enough of SGA’s visual effects in general but has particular praise for the establishing shots of Atlantis on the water: “I love this shot. Beautiful.”
Her lowlight of the episode was (ah, a girl after my own heart) the “stupid kids”, especially the wandering/random-button-pushing Jinto. She couldn’t believe kids that age would be so clueless: “How old are they? They look quite old. Middle high school.” And when I suggested they were just mischievous children playing hide-and-seek: “Did you play this kind of thing in middle high school?” No. I played Dungeons & Dragons. For her part, Akemi played mishievous-less trouble-free dodgeball.
And later, when Jinto visits Ford in the infirmary to apologize, she was positively incensed: “I don’t know why he didn’t angry at that kid. I’d be so angry at the kid.”
While she didn’t like the stupid kid, she DID like McKay – and her appreciation for his character continues to grow. A little humor goes a long way.
As for the other characters…
Beckett: “I find he has charming eyes.”
Sheppard: “I getting to like him.” Sort of like smoked paprika, a spice she was only introduced to when she moved to Canada but enjoys just fine now.
Weir: “Still old-fashioned.”
Teyla: “I think she’s nice. She has nice hair.” Wig!
Overall: “I liked this one better. I find more interesting and also very funny. And getting to know the characters.”
Whoops! Almost forgot. I did do a little write-up on this episode way back when:
Carol writes: “If she thinks Atlantis is old fashioned then she’s going to struggle if she ever gets round to SG1…”
Answer: True. If she enjoys Atlantis and wants to check out SG-1, I’ll probably start with season 9.
Maggiemayday writes: “I still have lingering remnants of the flu, so I just slept through a Shrek marathon rather than watch the game.”
Answer: And still clearly feverish. That wasn’t Shrek. That was a homeless man rooting through your backyard.
arcticgoddess writes: “One of the best things about the very first episode that continued later on in the series was the bro-mance between McKay and Beckett. The two of them were awesome together. Many of the best lines were between the two of them. Who made the decision that McKay and Beckett would become friends? It was brilliant.”
Answer: Brad Wright and Robert Cooper established the McKay-Beckett friendship in those early episodes and developed it over the course of the season, writing to the obvious onscreen chemistry between the two Hewlett and McGillion.
Mike from Canada writes: “Does each major character has a bible? How much does it change through out the series?”
Answer: Brad and Robert provided the cast with character breakdowns as well as one on one conversations on where their characters were headed in the show’s first season. Adjustments were made as things progressed of course as Brad and Robert wrote to the show’s (and cast’s) strengths.
Jenny Horn writes: “My favorite line in both episodes is when the bespectacled science guy is in the puddle jumper bay with science guy #2 and says, “Spaceships!”, with an excited demeanor. Very endearing.”
Answer: Yeah. Whatever happened to those nerds?
Jenny Horn also writes: “Now for the music….I’m a musician, a brass player, so I love it when composers use French horns and bass trombones, and all other brass, in their works. I’m sure a lot of the music was electronically produced, but do you know if the theme was performed by a live orchestra?”
Answer: Yes, this was composer Joel Goldsmith at his very best. He was so good at what he did because he truly loved what he did. And, yes, the theme was performed by a live orchestra (in Seattle, if I remember correctly).
Bailey writes: “I don’t quite get comparing Sheppard to Eli though, wasn’t Eli the McKay like character in SGU?”
Answer: It can certainly be argued that all three Stargates were “team” shows. Still, it’s pretty clear that the story is mainly seen through the eyes of a singular main character, one who is a little more grounded than the rest and offers viewers at home the opportunity to live vicariously through this “average Joe’s” experience. Again, one can debate how “average” these protagonists were, but there’s no denying the fact that THEY were the ones audience members connected with most. In SG-1, it was Jack. On Atlantis, it was Sheppard. And, on Atlantis, it was Eli. All three were, to a certain extent, fish out of water amidst the Stargate experts.
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:
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.
4. 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!
3. 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.
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.
1. 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?
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?
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?
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.
First things first! My french bulldog, Lulu, eating kale chips. Please raise volume to maximum before viewing:
One of the worst kept secrets on this blog has been the identity of that scifi series Paul and I have been trying to set up. As many of you know, back when we were working on Stargate, we started developing our own SF series in the hopes of rolling right into production with the same crew if and when Stargate ever ended. The only problem at the time was that there was no end in sight. Every time we thought Stargate would close up shop, the show would get picked up for another season. It was a classy problem that allowed us to really flesh out the concept and characters of this prospective new show.
Unfortunately, when Stargate did end, the timing proved difficult. Instead of taking advantage of our terrific Stargate crew, we ended up having to put our project on hold while we took a job in Toronto. But rather than relegate it to the back burner, we thought of an interesting way to go – and a great way to help sell the show. We hooked up with Dark Horse Comics and launched the series idea as a comic book.
The first four issues of Dark Mattergarnered great reviews and, when the trade paperback came out in October, we used it as a calling card. Having worked in development, I was aware of, and wanted to draw on, the added appeal of an established property. Also, half the battle of pitching is to help a potential buyer imagine the project you have created – and I could think of no better pitch document than that trade paperback.
We went out with a story backed by some fantastic visuals compliments of artist Garry Brown and colorist Ryan Hill. The response was incredibly positive. Even more so after Paul and I delivered the pilot script. Still, my concern was the budget, making sure we had enough money to do it properly (visual effects don’t come cheap after all!), so I was heartened by word from our producing partner today that the response in Europe has been equally great.
Now all that remains is for that final piece of the puzzle to fall into place. Yes, we’ve been waiting a while but all indications are we’ll be receiving word soon. If it’s positive, then things are going to get very busy very quickly. If it’s not, then we’ll have to go elsewhere for that final piece – which will, of course, delay things.
But hopefully it all comes together as expected. And, once it does, dare I say it…
No, better not.
shinyhula writes: “And why no zombies on this list? Night of the Living Dead, 28 Weeks Later, Zombieland; what have the unliving done to deserve your scorn?”
Answer: I was listing Scariest Endings and, off the top of my head, none of the zombie entries came to mind. Well, now that I think of it, maybe the original Night of the Living Dead would have been a good candidate.
ancuetas writes: “Is that you know what music is there at the beginning of the video.”
Answer: This piece of music, from SG-1′s Demons, was before my time (I joined the show in its fourth season), but it’s safe to assume that it was composed by the late, great Joel Goldsmith.
dasndanger writes: “Also, this whole thing with the shutting down of cell towers in cases like this? That’s why I still have a corded old timey landline tele-o-phone.”
Answer: Hmmm. Good point. I haven’t had a landline in four years.
RLAVILLA writes: “Recently there have been two new Stargate games for Android and iPhone, and I think that will be the new product line, which has been selected by MGM for Stargate franchise. How about converting “Stargate Extinction” in a game for these new platforms?”
Answer: Not my call. That would be for the studio to decide.
Jen writes: “A tad random, but I went in on my birthday to have this done but the artist was booked up so I had it done yesterday.”
Answer: Great. But I insist you draw the line at one of those Jaffa forehead tattoos.
baterista9 writes: “Just saw Cookie on Saturday at Sea World of Texas.”
Answer: Yes, he was there for his cousin Esmerelda’s wedding.
fsmn36 writes: “But the entire movie plays off the alcoholic!Tony arc from the comics and the Rhodey scene makes 20x more sense when you consider Tony is basically planning on suicide/knows he’s going to die. What seems a tacky action scene becomes a heart breaking fight between friends while Tony desperately gives everything he loves away to the few people that matter to him.”
Answer: Sounds terrific. Unfortunately, none of that came across onscreen.
gforce writes: “Did you ever take Akemi up to Whistler yet? You should take her out to a nice dinner or even a weekend up there!”
Answer: I retired my krazy karpet years ago.
Seth writes: “How hard would it be to get the cast on board for a Kickstarter for the series or movies? Looks as if Veronica Mars just got 5.5 million in Kickstarter funds from fans!”
Answer: 5.5 million may seem like a lot, but consider that the previous SG-1 movies cost 7+ million each to produce – and those productions made use of existing sets and production personnel.
Tam Dixon writes: “Did you try one of the dog cookies for quality control? You did, didn’t you?”
Answer: I didn’t, but someone I know (hint: she’s Japanese) DOES taste test for quality control.
Tam Dixon also writes: “Anyways, what about another trip? New York, L.A. or maybe even go down South. I wouldn’t recommend Memphis, unless you bring a gun but what about New Orleans or Savannah, GA?”
Answer: Akemi definitely wants to go to New York and, after reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I’ve wanted to check out Savannah. That said, both L.A. and Vegas are closer and more likely short trip destinations. This, of course, is entirely dependent on our finding a dog sitter.
astrumporta writes: “I think you should bring Akemi to San Francisco for her b-day!”
Answer: It’s also on the list. Good eatin’! How goes, Michelle?
pennlynn writes: “You’re brave man Joe! I like having a nice drink but other than the whiskey I’m not sure I would try that haul of liquor!”
Answer: I tried the Nikka whiskey with Lawren last night when he came over for the American Horror Story marathon. It was damn good, and much better straight up than on the rocks. How went the t.v. interview?
I know a guy who knows a gal who knows someone (another guy? another gal? a super-intelligent chimp?) who knows a gal who got me an advance copy of…
Nebula Awards Showcase 2013edited by Catherine Asaro
The book includes Nebula winners in the categories of Best Short Story, Best Novelette, Best Novella, Best Novel, the winner of the Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, various nominees and other goodies. Like any collection of this sort, there will be subjective hits, misses, and delightful surprises.
Some of the entries that stood out for me…
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (Nebula Short Story Winner). I gave this short story a shout-out last year (November 14, 2012: Sweet, sweet, elusive sleep! News of note!) after reading it during my annual Tokyo trip. I described it then as “mighty brilliant” and “incredibly touching”. Some five months later, on re-reading it, it still resonates as strongly with me – the tale of a boy struggling with his sense of identity. Despite the story’s fantasy elements, the heart of the narrative is grounded in the strained relationship between the young protagonist and his mother, a cultural outsider who silently suffers and sacrifices for her son. Check out my previous post for a link to the story.
“Ado” by Connie Willis (2011 Damon Knight Grand Master Award Winner). I imagine that, in the not too distant future. there will come a time when people will look back on our politically correct society with the same amusement and bafflement we, today, reserve for quaintly antiquated notions like “duck and cover” PSA’s, blue eye shadow, and flat Earth theory. But, before we attain enlightenment, we’ll have to hit critical mass. And, in “Ado”, Connie Willis presents us with that point in society. A teacher, eager to have her class study the bard, is informed that some of his work won’t be permissible for various reasons. Othello is racist. Romeo and Juliet promotes teen suicide. There’s all that Devil worship in Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, and Richard III. In the end, after exhaustive research, the teacher proceeds with her lesson and her class is finally able to read The Complete (permissible) Works of William Shakespeare – all four inoffensive lines of Hamlet. It’s funny, pointed, and a little maddening because it’s not that ridiculous a premise.
“The Axion of Choice” by David W. Goldman (Nebula Short Story Nominee). A story structured like one of those “create your own adventure” books that, in a humorous, winding way, questions the very notion of free will.
“Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Nebula Short Story Nominee). The story of Hannah, a five year old girl with temporal autism, who perceives time differently. While her parents wrestle with a decision on an experimental treatment that could “make her normal” (at the cost of her gift), Hannah eventually arrives at her own conclusion. Having just completed some research on autism spectrum disorder, I found this story fascinating and dead-on.
Among Others (novel excerpt) by Jo Walton Nebula Novel Winner). Diary excerpts tell the tale of a fifteen year old girl who is sent away to a boarding school following the death of her twin sister. Her mother, a powerful witch, holds her responsible for the tragedy – but young Morweena has some supernatural connections of her own. In addition to elements of fantasy, the book is peppered with SF references as well, making for a nostalgic, magical, wholly absorbing read. How much did I enjoy the excerpts? Enough to pick up the novel – which I’m presently reading.
The Freedom Maze(novel excerpt) by Delia Sherman (Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Winner). In 1960′s Lousiana, 13 year old Sophie is spending the summer with her aunt and grandmother when she happens upon a trickster spirit in the old family maze. Sophie is eager to embark on an adventure that will whisk her away from her difficult situation – specifically, her strained relationship with her divorcing parents – so the trickster honors her request. Sophie is transported 100 years into the past, back to her own family’s plantation, where previous perceived hardships pale in comparison. It may be a YA (Young Adult) entry, but it’s well-written and engaging.
The Man Who Bridged theMistby Kij Johnson (Nebula Novella Winner). Our protagonist is a bridge builder, charged with the task of connecting the towns of Nearside and Farside, long separated by a treacherous Mist river. While he may be good at what he does, he, ironically, has always had trouble connecting with others. Things change with this new assignment. With it comes friendship, inner awakenings, and a chance at love. A wonderful journey.
Thanks to the fine folks at Pyr Science Fiction & Fantasy for the sneak peek.
This week feels like the calm before the storm. Of course, I could be wrong and it may actually be the calm before the calm before the storm. Or, worse, the calm before the storm that never comes. Paul and I are closing on several writing assignments (an action feature, an SF pilot, another SF pilot), and a few projects poised to move forward (development on one, going to camera on another pilot, and a potential series pick-up on a third), but, of course, in this line of work nothing is assured. Things certainly look promising but, in all fairness, they’ve looked promising for some time now as we’ve maintained a holding pattern in expectation of a decision, one way or the other.
I’m considering working on another spec pilot or going the kickstarter route and just shooting that horror script, but I fear that the moment I start on either, one of the aforementioned deals will close and I’ll have to switch gears.
For better or worse, things seem to be coming to a head so here’s hoping that, sometime next week, I’ll be able to make a big announcement.
In the meantime, I’ve got this blog to keep me busy – and this entry in particular. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a slew of Stargate plans – blueprints, schematics, sketches, and designs – from the last few seasons of Atlantis and both seasons of Universe. Most of these are huge, oversized documents that need to be scanned and digitized. About a dozen, however, are part of Art Department packages for specific episodes. Rather than offer them up in order of their air dates, I thought it would be more interesting to just pick them at random and upload them as dedicated, individual blog entries.
And so, since you asked, today’s entry offers up a host of Atlantis designs. From the season 4 two-part opener Adrift/Lifeline:
While there was a four month hiatus between production of the third season finale, First Strike, and the fourth season premiere, Adrift, hardly any time had passed onscreen. Thank goodness for our eagle-eyed Art Department who placed little continuity reminders throughout: “One monitor was askew at end of First Strike” and “First Strike continuity – windows OUT throughout/aftermath still in place”. These, of course, a reference to the blast that blew out the windows at the end of the season finale, seriously injuring Elizabeth. A reminder also goes out to the various other departments for a Zelenka leg brace and that nasty-looking piece of glass that embeds itself in Ronon. By the way, there’s a reference to “large piano in deep background”. Obviously, we’re not talking about an actual piano – rather, a control console that resembled one (thus the nickname).
Clearly, the meager two-bed set-up is optimistic. Room for plenty more in the event of some unforeseen catastrophe – like an Asuran attack.
Atlantis ZPM room
I love the reminder to “check ZPM functioning”. And then, just in case someone actually did check and found it lacking in the expected energy requirements: “one section lights up”. Oh, is that all? Another reference to those darn “pianos” and continuity reminder as per “The Siege”.
Atlantis – balcony
Whenever we shot outside, on the balcony, we tended to stay on our characters and relied on lighting, the occasional breeze, and the grey practical backdrop to convey a sense of an overcast day. In scenes where we actually wanted to see the background, we relied on our VFX team to create something convincing – in this case, a beautiful night-time twin-moon view.
Atlantis – halls & corridors
That, of course, is the gate at bottom left. The door to Stage 4 (via the productions offices), where the Atlantis set once stood, is corner right.
The layout didn’t really change despite the changes in command although the set dec was a little different. Whereas Elizabeth’s tastes ran to the artistic (ie. Athosian statuettes), Carter added a more personal touch in the various photos that lined the back wall. Woolsey’s office was a little more austere, but he did include a personal touch with the photo of his beloved yorkie, lost to his wife in the divorce.
Replicator core room
The layout of the replicator core room looks a lot like the Atlantis gate room. Note the tiny human figure at the bottom left, included for scale.
Replicator City – control room
This being the replicator version of the Atlantis control room, set dec is reminded to strip away all Earth touches like computers, desks, and chairs. Things should be just as they were the last time we were here – in the episode Progeny.
The doors on the right presumably lead out to the infirmary and the area is “dressed” as such – gurneys, equipment – to suggest the operating room adjoins it. Since the doors on the left remain closed, we have no way of knowing what’s on the other side. My guess is the home theater room. On the bottom left is a note to Prosthetics/Make Up re: Weir’s skull/brain swell. I remember seeing the “brain swell” demonstration and being impressed (and slightly nauseated) by the very realistic brain that expanded as air was pumped inside. If I remember correctly, it was the work of Todd Masters and Masters VFX.
Infirmary outside operating room
This is the area Ronon walks out of to visit Weir and deliver his bedside talk – one of my favorite scenes of the two-parter.
This was shot in the VFX stage, the biggest on the lot. This is where we shot the space jump. There’s a note: for the greenscreens and “Atlantian floor treatment, bordered by green” because the view of the devastation below is a visual effect. Up top, construction is asked to pockmark the wall with “asteroid” (meteorite) hits. Wonder where they got the meteorites?
Hallways – outer city
This, the VFX stage, was so massive it actually held several sets simultaneously including, at one point or other, the village, the hive ship, and the various Earth ships.
And before we took over the space, it was the set of one of the Blade movies – which is why we would occasionally refer to it as The Blade set. Love the attention to detail on the snowflake design bordering the chair.
Atlantis – halls and corridors
There’s a note regarding “Gurney will roll into McKay’s Lab/Infirmary & Operating Room”. This is, of course, part of the frenetic opening sequence in which a badly injured Elizabeth is wheeled through the halls and into the infirmary. So frenzied, in fact, that we didn’t notice that part of the medical equipment being wheeled through the shot off the top wasn’t medical equipment at all but actually a camera.
Replicator City – corridors
Again, similarities to the real Atlantis are intentional on the part of the Asurans – but certain visual cues suggest a different location. SPFX/PROPS are reminded what they need to bring to the party for the scenes in which the replicators hit the AR fields: weapons and, of course, aluminum shavings.
An interesting set. While there was certainly enough space between the bars to accommodate our cameras, one could argue there was also enough space for a determined prisoner to slip through. Which is why there were always guards posted on duty. Still, I would argue you wouldn’t need guards if that cell would have been just a little more secure. What were the Ancients thinking?
Asuran City – ZPM room
The south wall was presumably an issue so we just got rid of it. Bless the set’s modular design.
Puddle jumpers on Asuran rooftops
I always preferred the coziness of the jumpers over the roomier Universe shuttle or utilitarian SG-1 cargo ship. As I mentioned in a previous post, “gak” refers to the exposed inner-workings/guts of some high-tech device – in this case the ARG.
Puddle Jumper Bay before take-off
It’s amazing the amount of work and detail that went into shots that would last mere seconds onscreen. But they went such a long way toward creating this world. None of this: “Hey, we parked the jumper up on the roof. You’ll just have to trust us!”.
One of three different looks outside our parked jumper.
Yes, now that you mention it, it DOES look very similar to the bridge of the Orion, the Prometheus, and the Daedalus. Oh, and the Korolev and Sun Tzu if you must know. But that’s because Earth built them on the same designs. Of course you know you’re on the Apollo thanks to the “dimensional brass Apollo plaque”.
Atlantis to M35 117
And, since some of you asked, the Art Department packages also contained gate addresses when appropriate. Point of Origin: Atlantis = Subido.
Atlantis to Earth
Always wanted to dial Earth from Atlantis? Well, here ya go.