When Stargate finally ended, I figured I’d take a year off to relax and recharge. As it turns out, 2011 is shaping up to be quite the opposite.
As you all know (or should know if you’ve been reading this blog) my writing partner Paul and I have made the move to Toronto in order to assume co-showrunning duties on Transporter: The Series alongside German wunderkind Alexander Ruemelin. Everyone involved, from the broadcasters to the production personnel, has been terrific so far and I’m very excited about the scripts we have in play. The show is going to be a lot of fun and I have no doubt a lot of you will really enjoy what we have in store for you. Like the movies, we’ve got an incredibly charming hero, high-stakes, eye-popping action, and, best of all, a sense of humor. One of the elements we all loved about the film franchise was the signature fight sequences, like the iconic motor oil fight scene in the first movie (Transporter). They stood out because they were unique and that’s something we’ll be delivering in every episode – clever, colorful fight scenes and car stunts that will have you reaching for the rewind button. And how will we achieve such audacious onscreen exploits. Well, I’ve got to names for you: Cyril Rafaelli and Michel Julienne. The former was the fight choreographer on Transporter 2 and the awesome Banlieue 13 – Ultimatum; the latter the car stunt coordinator on Transporter, Transporter 2, and Transporter 3. They’re the very best in their respective fields and they’ll be working on our show!
Also on deck for me is Dark Matter, my SF comic book series. Originally envisioned as a television series, I spent two years working on the story, fleshing out the characters, developing their relationships, and plotting every surprising twist and turn. Last year, we closed a deal with Dark Horse Comics that will see the series take comic book form. The opening four-issue arc launches in January of 2012. Things are coming together fast and furious now. My editor, Patrick Thorpe, has been forwarding me the preliminary designs and layouts artist Garry Brown has been working on. The other day, I received the early concept sketches for some of the ships Check them out –
Very exciting stuff!
I also got a call from Ryan Copple, writer and Executive Producer of Riese: The Series. Before leaving for Toronto, we got together and discussed the possibility of partnering up to produce a live-action series based on an existing anime property. We tossed potential titles back and forth, narrowed down our list and, today, Ryan reports we have some serious developments on one of my favorite prospects. We get into it next week. Fingers crossed.
When I last stepped off memory lane, I was heading into Stargate: SG-1’s sixth season, a season of change and fan unrest. Michael Shanks had left the show and actor Corin Nemec brought in. Corin’s character, Jonas Quinn, introduced in season five’s Meridian, became the new fourth team member. But it took Jack a while to warm up to the guy. Some fans, on the other hand, never quite warmed up to a character who, in their eyes, could never replace their beloved Daniel Jackson. I sympathized with Corin, a really nice guy eager to impress, who unwittingly walked into a firestorm of fan fury.
One of my fondest memories of Corin was his affinity for food props. Whether it was lollipops, toast, or bananas, Jonas always seemed to be feeling peckish. Maybe he suffered from low blood sugar. I don’t know. Whatever the case, that was his “thing”. One day, Corin decided to drop the food in favor of a mug of coffee. That proved problematic because the drinking mug was Rick’s “thing”. This was a running gag on the show, something we didn’t notice at first but, after someone pointed it out to us, would have us in stitches whenever we saw it onscreen. I wonder if any of you noticed at home? Whenever O’Neill has a cup or mug in hand, there will come a point in the scene where he’ll peer into it, frown, then dip his fingers in once, maybe twice, to retrieve some mystery object floating within – then carry on with the scene. Over the course of Stargate’s run, it happened A LOT. Apparently, Stargate Command had the dirtiest tea in Colorado.
REDEMPTION PART 1 (601)
Appropriately enough, Dr. Rodney McKay makes a return visit to the SGC and takes another giant step toward redemption – a process that would be completed by the time he assumed a lead position in the Atlantis expedition. This episode was also notable for the introduction of the Jaffa Shaq’rel, an otherwise inconsequential but for the fact that the part was initially written for a certain NBA star who, according to Chris Judge at the time, was interested in doing the show. Well, that never worked for whatever reason and while I won’t reveal the name of the basketball player, it really shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.
REDEMPTION PART II (502)
Looking back, this was the episode that cemented David Hewlett as a favorite guest star – so favored, in fact, that years later, when we were trying to cast the part of a medical doctor for the new spin-off, Atlantis, he immediately came to mind and Brad and Robert decided: “Screw that! Let’s put McKay on the team!”. And the rest, as they say, is history. Also in this episode, the role of Shaq’rel was played by Aleks Paunovic, who also returned to the franchise years later, but in a different role – playing Ronon’s former Satedan buddy, Rakai, in SGA’s Reunion.
One sequence had Carter and O’Neill trapped in a chamber that was slowly filling with water. We achieved this by actually doing the opposite. We lowered the specially designed set into a pool, giving the impression that the water was actually rising. We shot at Vancouver’s Olympic pool and it was a tough day. Rick and Amanda were very wet and very cold, and had to sport wet suits underneath their clothing to keep warm. This episode also marked yet another cameo by Director Peter DeLuise, this time offering a tip of the hat to his old show, Seaquest, by playing the part of “Lieutenant Dagwood”.
Early in the episode, one of the scientists claims his grandfather was “one quarter Cherokee”. This was an in-joke and poke at actor Chris Judge who had made the same claim. Also, at one point, Jack laments having forgotten to tape The Simpsons. This, of course, paralleled RDA’s love for the long-running animated series. There were many times he would swing by my office to check out the collection of Simpsons talking figures I kept in my office. Eventually, Rick’s love for the show culminated in a guest appearance by the voice of Homer Simpson himself, Dan Castellaneta – which was soon followed by Rick being asked to guest on The Simpsons.
This was one of my favorite episodes of the show’s sixth season simply because it was so different from other episodes we’d done – an old-fashioned small-town alien invasion story. Loved the gang all decked out in leather. Vincent Gale, who would later play the part of the cranky
Carl Binder Morrison on Stargate: Universe, appears as Agent Cross. The role of Sheriff Knox is played by the terrific Blu Mankuma, a good friend of the late Don Davis (General George Hammond). Blu and I shared an affinity for ribs – lamb ribs in particular. I loved them so much, in fact, that I was “the lamb rib” hotline. Whenever my favorite barbecue joint, The Memphis Blues BBQ Restaurant made a batch, they would give me a call and I’d drive right over. I remember one night sitting down to a platter of ribs. So wholly focused was I on devouring them that I didn’t even notice Blue until he was standing right beside me. “Breathe,”he cautioned.
BoltBait writes: “Any comment on this? http://www.gateworld.net/news/2011/05/an-open-letter-to-stargate-fans-%20%20from-syfy/”
Answer: Back in the last few years of Stargate, I took to giving the network notes on their notes. Essentially, I would go through the notes, address the concerns I could, then specifically respond to ones I couldn’t do or felt I shouldn’t do. As I read this article, I felt like responding in similar fashion. A lot of good points are raised. On the other hand, a lot of baffling points are made as well. For starters, I don’t think an official explanation on the part of SyFy is necessary. While I can empathize with fans who object to the abruptness of the cancellation after ten years on the network, one has to understand that television is a business. If SyFy has alternate scripted programming that performs better on Mondays or Tuesdays in the fall, then it’s understandable why they would choose those shows over a third season of SGU. That said, certain statements in the article had me scratching my head…
“When MGM decided to bring Stargate Atlantis to an end after five seasons…”
Hmmmm. Not to belabor the point (because I have discussed this in past entries) but, at the time, when we asked the studio whether or not there was any interest on their part in producing a sixth season of Atlantis, I was told that, while the increased budget made a season six less attractive for them, there were other reasons to do it (ie. as a lead-in to the new series). I wasn’t privy to the final decision-making process so it’s possible that the studio had an 11th hour change of heart – but I’m not sure why they would have.
“Because Stargate SG-1 and had performed so well for us in the past, we felt confident about SGU and committed to a two-season deal for it, as long as the show met certain milestones along the way. Two-season deals are rare in the TV world because they tie up a huge amount of investment (both time and money), but our great track record with MGM and Stargate made this seem like as much of a sure thing as you’ll get in the TV business. That means before any footage was shot or any actors were hired, we knew there’d be 40 episodes.”
Craig rightly points out that the second year pick-up was contingent on the show’s first season meeting “certain milestones”. Which makes the last sentence: “That means before any footage was shot or any actors were hired, we knew there’d be 40 episodes.” somewhat debatable – unless he’s suggesting that the network was insanely optimistic at the time. If the first season had not met the milestones set forth in the original deal, there would have been no guarantee of a second season pick-up.
“The show quickly moved forward and officially launched on October 2, 2009. The debut was watched by a good if not spectacular 2,779,000 viewers. To give that some perspective, Stargate Atlantis debuted with over 4 million viewers, so SGU was more than 25% below that.”
File this one under baffling. Comparing the SGA premiere to the SGU premiere overlooks is grossly unfair. First – Atlantis premiered during the summer while Universe – originally slated for a fall premiere – premiered in the much more competitive fall. Second the time between the two premiere has seen a significant increase in DVR usage and internet downloads, and a simultaneous erosion in live viewership. Coincidence? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Simply put, back when Atlantis aired, fewer viewers were recording or downloading television and many more were watching television live.
“With untenably low numbers and no sign of growth on Fridays where it had now lost 1/3 of its initial audience, we decided to move SGU for its second season. We’d had tremendous success on Tuesday’s with our breakout hit Warehouse 13, so we paired SGU with Caprica and moved them to Tuesdays, hoping to introduce both shows to a new audience.”
Sigh. Okay, look – while I understood (and supported) the move to Tuesday night and the pairing with Caprica, I nevertheless take exception to the assertion that the network had enjoyed “tremendous success on Tuesday’s with [their] breakout hit Warehouse 13″. While Warehouse 13 certainly aired on Tuesdays, it did so in the summer (where, I’d like to reiterate, SGU was originally scheduled to air).
“We moved the final 10 episodes of SGU to Monday nights where we’d just had success with a new show called Being Human, but the ratings remained flat.”
Okay but, realistically, the series had already been canceled so I’m not sure how much reasonable audience growth could be expected at that point.
Like I said – television is a business and decisions are driven by the bottom line. All the same, we were on the network for ten years. When my last relationship ended after 10+ years, we enjoyed a nice post break-up wrap-up dinner. Just saying.
Mr. Scirev writes: “Will there be a box set of all SGU?”
Answer: Eventually, I’m sure there will.
MNP writes: “My only disappointment (other than the scandal thing, which I hadn’t noticed before now) was that the possibility of uploading was never even brought up in the episode. Surely Rush would think of such a thing?”
Answer: Not sure what you mean. Uploading one’s consciousness to Destiny would be a last resort. Their body would die even though their mind would live on.
Randomness writes: “Just wondering Joe, why wouldn’t you be a part of the shows second season? I highlighted this part of your answer to Tammy as I was more curious in knowing. So are you planning to join another show, or another project? Or is Toronto not growing on you?”
Answer: As I said, I have no doubt Transporter: The Series will go at least two seasons (probably more). That said, I think it would be presumptuous of me to assume I’ll necessarily be along for the long ride. I love the show and the people I work with but, once work on the first season has been completed, our contract is up and no one is beholden to anything. Who knows what the future holds?
stacy fincher writes: ” I did have a question for you did you are the other ever think of the dimities of the Destiny how big it was?”
Answer: Sorry, that’s something I never gave much thought to – although the design team and VFX crew certainly did. Head on over to twitter and ask VFX Supervisor Mark Savela.
David Knowles writes: “Your Dark Matter comic, just wondering if is Scifi and is there anything about the plot, either in one of your previous blogs or somewhere on the web.”
Answer: Yes, definitely scifi and, no, I haven’t really talked about it. As things are moving quickly now and we have an artist on board, I thought I would share in the exciting developments.
Joe Cool writes: “if we gathered fans to donate money and started a project on kickstarter.com for you guys to be able to continue some form of production on the stargate canon (whether it be a movie or a comic book or webisodes or what have you) do you think that could be beneficial at all?”
Answer: Afraid not. MGM owns Stargate and the final decision on what gets produced and when rests with them.
Expletive:BMP writes: “Mr Joe, how much would it cost to have Kino episodes with Just Eli trying to fix the problem with the stasis pod, and other such adventures?”
Answer: Unfortunately quite a bit since, in a matter of weeks, those sets will no longer exist.
William Francais writes: “Was there ever any discussion of resolving the DHD problem Or bringing on races similar to that of Atlantis?”
Answer: I want to say “yes and no” but am not exactly sure what you mean by DHD problem and races similar to that of Atlantis? Are you referring to the crew’s reliance on the remotes and an alien species like the wraith?
Vinci writes: “so right now your saying that is mostly likely that stargate universe will not continue?”
Answer: Yes. Sadly, that is what I’m saying.
Dr. D. writes: “Is “Dark Matter” a comic book or graphic novel (or do you consider those terms synonymous)?”
Answer: It will launch as a comic book series and, somewhere down the line, have its individual story arcs collected in trade paperback form (a graphic novel).
Sparrow_hawk writes: “So are you going to move on to answering SG:A questions next? If so, please tell us: what happened to poor Todd.”
Answer: Will do.
Tammy Dixon writes: “So, at least, two seasons in Toronto but will you get summers in Vancouver?”
Answer: Nope. We shoot summers.
max writes: “Joe, you mentioned that the fate of the SG movies hinged on DVD sales, so given that no SG movies will be made, would you characterise the sales of DVDs as unusually disappointing for MGM and Syfy?”
Answer: DVD sales have dropped significantly over the past few years. They’ve been unusually disappointing for everyone.
Zac writes: “Do you think it would have been possible for either Eli or Rush to use the neural link of Destiny to project her surroundings into her head… kinda like when TJ was doing surgery and saw Amanda Perry?”
Answer: An interesting idea, but I don’t think the neural link works that way.
Balial writes: “now that SGU is sadly over, could you please tell us, who The planet builders from episode Faith were? What kind of civilisation or society they were? Something more powerfull than the ascended ancients, or something different?”
Answer: We envisioned the planet-builders as an extremely advanced race who, while very powerful, differed significantly from the Ancients. They didn’t possess the extensive knowledge of the Ancients nor did they, at any time, evolve from a physical form similar to ours. Brad threw around the idea of having them pay us a personal visit at some point – but, like so many others, we’ll file that one under “season 3 stories that might have been”.
Ulrike Tannenberg writes: “How would Rush have fared later on?”
Answer: I don’t know. We would have continued to develop him as an individual who walks the line between darkness and light, someone capable of touching surprises and crushing disappointments.
scottland7 writes: “On a different topic do you think you could have a guest or two on your blog to take questions?”
Answer: I’ll see what I can do.
My Name Is Scott writes: “Did anyone in the writer’s room have that moment between Teyla and Ronon in mind (can’t remember the ep) whenever Teyla’s lack of mercy in front of Sheppard was devised?”
Answer: Motherhood was just one of several life changes that affected Teyla for the better. Although it wasn’t a conscious decision on our part to do this, it’s fairly obvious that it did change the way we were writing her character. I think that, after the birth of her son, she became more focused, cautious, but also more a realist when it came to threats like Michael.
Marc writes: “do you think a real stargate movie (in the theatres I mean) could be successful and a possible future for the franchise?”
Answer: It’s a possible scenario – but, I imagine, I long way off.
sss writes: “whether it is possible to agree on the extension of the franchise to another channel in another country?”
Answer: Alas, no. Not possible.
Rhyney writes: “Is there a chance that you and the other authors could come together to write Extinction and Revolution as comic books, as well as a continuing SGU comic series with your advisorial support?”
Answer: This might be an option MGM could pursue in the not too distant future, but its doubtful any of the writers involved in the production would be the ones to write any comic book continuation of the series.
DougIndy writes: “On another note, do you think it is impossible that there will ever be another sg1, atlantis, or universe dvd movie? Has the studio closed the door on those 3 shows for good or is it more of a not now?”
Answer: Unfortunately, I have no idea what the studio has planned.
Prior_of_the_Ori writes: “I wanted to ask, was there any talk of who created the Berserker drones?”
Answer: If you’re asking whether we considered the possibility that the crew’s descendants were responsible for creating the drones – yes, that was one possibility floated.
Prior_of_the_Ori also writes: “Also, wanted to ask, would Rob Cooper be able to answer questions like whether there was a Stargate network in the Ori galaxy?”
Answer: Rob has been pretty busy of late. Maybe once his schedule eases up a bit.
Alfredo De La Fe writes: “What are your thoughts of the fan attempts at convincing SyFy and MGM to reconsider?”
Answer: Love the fans and wish them luck!