Posts Tagged ‘Stargate: SG-1’

Well look who dropped by the comments section.  None other than Robert C. Cooper.  I mentioned his upcoming miniseries, Unspeakable, in yesterday’s entry and, today, he left the following message:

“Thanks for the shout out Joe! If you’re interested in following the progress then head on over to http://www.unspeakableseries.com and please like us on Facebook at Unspeakabletv!”

Ah, this takes me back to Rob’s directorial debut, back on a little show called Stargate: SG-1

So what inspired Rob to become a director? His love for the art?  Creative ambition?  Would you believe…fear.

Parents be warned…

And what did I expect from Rob’s debut?  Well, I never had a doubt…

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About 18 years ago, my writing partner, Paul, and I landed staff positions on a little scifi series called Stargate: SG-1 (You may have heard of it!).  With one script under our neophyte belts, we were given the green light to start work on our second.  It was based on a pitch that involved the team traveling off-world to a planet facing imminent extinction.  In an attempt to stave the coming apocalypse, certain members of this civilization were “resetting the clock”, inadvertently trapping SG-1 in a  recurring 24 hour time loop.

When it came time to hash out an outline, series co-showrunner Robert C. Cooper had a few notes:

1 – We already have one cool piece of technology on the show = the stargate!  Use it instead of our proposed “time-loopy device” to create the problem.

2 – Forget the people on this other planet.  Let’s make this episode about OUR characters.  Focus on them and their efforts to get out of the loop.

3 – Play up the humor of the situation.

As we received more notes on the planned script, it suddenly dawned me.  “We’re doing Groundhog Day!”, a reference to the Bill Murray comedy which sees his character, weatherman Phil Connors, reliving the same day over and over and over again.  Rob’s response was “Yeah!” and to throw me a look that seemed to say: “It took you this long to figure it out.”

I considered.  We couldn’t just do a Stargate version of Groundhog Day.  Could we?

Well, before there was Groundhog Day there was a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called “Cause and Effect”.

And before “Cause and Effect”, there was Ken Grimwood’s novel Replay.

And before Replay there was a Philip K. Dick short story called “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts”.

And before “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts”, well, it’s possible there was something else.

The point is I could have thrown my hands up and said “It’s too similar to something that’s already been done” and moved on.  Of course, had I done that, I never would have co-written “Window Of Opportunity”, an episode very similar to Groundhog Day – that nevertheless consistently ranks as one of Stargate fandom’s favorite episode of the entire 300+ episode franchise.  And how to account for this episode’s lasting popularity?  Well, how about the fact that, while the time loop premise has been done before, what makes it so memorable is OUR CHARACTERS being trapped.

WoW offers so many memorable moments: the juggling, the Fruit Loops, the kiss, golfing through the stargate.  It was fun and funny and, despite its similarities to what had come before, stood out and left a lasting impression for many fans.

Fast-forward to this same time last year.  We were assembling the Dark Matter writers’ room in anticipation of a third season pick-up.  Among the numerous stories I wanted to tell was our own version of the time loop episode.  And so, after breaking our first three episodes, we sat down to beat out the story.  We went back and forth, argued, hit roadblocks, reconsidered and then, by day’s end, we had…absolutely nothing.  I went home that night, came up with second narrative attack, and presented it to the room – only to have it go up in flames.  Eventually, we tabled Episode 304: The Time Loop Episode, and moved on to Episode 305.  By the we wrapped up the season 3 writers’ room, we had 7 outlines for the first 8 or so episodes.  I don’t have to tell you which episode we never got around to breaking.

That summer, I wrote the scripts for Episode 301 and 303 but, before sitting down to start on 304, I decided to do a little research.  And said research involved me reading Dick’s “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts”, and watching movies like Run Lola Run and Groundhog Day and Source Code, and checking out t.v. episodes like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Cause and Effect”, The X-Files’ “Monday”, Supernatural’s “Mystery Spot”, Farscape’s “Back and Back and Back to the Future”, Futurama’s “Meanwhile” and “The Late Philip J. Fry”, Star Trek: Voyager’s “Coda”, and a lot more.  I wanted to distill the time loop narrative to its structural touchstones, and then write the greatest time loop episode ever – one that honored what came before but would be uniquely Dark Matter in its approach.

I was, admittedly, scared to death as I sat down, sans outline that Saturday morning, and started writing.  And, as I wrote, the pieces of the story started falling into place: the mid-loop start, harried THREE, the Android’s assist, third time’s the charm, the complication, the flash-forwards, the treasure trove of teasers.  I ended up writing 32 pages that day, the most I’ve ever written in one sitting, then finished the script the following day.  And then I slept for about 12 hours.

The episode was directed by Ron Murphy and he did a terrific job in delivering one of the craziest episodes we’ve ever done on this show.

And then there’s the cast, lead by Anthony Lemke and his loopy THREE: Melissa O’Neill, Zoie Palmer, Jodelle Ferland, Ayisha Issa, Mishka Thebaud, Alex Mallari Jr., and guest star Michael Reventar – all of who tear it up.

Don’t believe me?  Check out Aimee Hicks’ preview at SpoilerTV or Tom Gardiner’s preview at ThreeIfBySpace or…

Greg David for TV, eh?: Things Get Loopy In Episode 4

We’ve gotten a mere peek at Anthony Lemke’s comic timing over the past two seasons. This week’s script allows him to go full-on and it’s a goshdarn treat. I won’t give anything away but I’ll admit I watched pretty much every scene Three was in with a stupid grin on my face. Even the soundtrack in those scenes is different, with a funky bass thump to note this isn’t your usual Dark Matter episode.

Jennifer Griffin for ScreenSpy: The Raza Crew Grapple With Time in Episode 304 “All The Time in the World”

I won’t lie. We’re kind of excited about this one.

Mary Powers at TVGeekTalk: Dark Matter Advance Preview: All The Time In The World

It’s been a while since we had a Three-centric episode, and this one reminded me of what a great talent Lemke brings to the role and how fortunate the series is to have him.

Seriously.  If you have plans tomorrow night that DON’T involve staying home to watch this episode of Dark Matter, change them!

Dark Matter Episode 304 – Friday, June 23rd at 9:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 p.m PDT) on SYFY and Space Channel.




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Thanks to everyone who joined my reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything).  Topics ranged from Dark Matter to Stargate to pugs.  In case, you missed it, here’s catch-up link:

And special thanks to moderator Kishara for all the heavy lifting!


Hey, check out this awesome article by ThreeIfBySpace’s Tom Gardiner in which he makes the case for Dark Matter being a worthy successor to Stargate:

Why Dark Matter Fills That Stargate-sized Hole In Our Hearts

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 6.45.22 PM

Looks like FOUR’s got something on his mind in today’s Dark Matter season 2 sneak peek screen shot.

DARK MATTER -- "Welcome To Your New Home" Episode 201 -- Pictured: Anthony Lemke as Three -- (Photo by: Jan Thijs/Prodigy Pictures/Syfy)

DARK MATTER — “Welcome To Your New Home” Episode 201 — Pictured: Anthony Lemke as Three — (Photo by: Jan Thijs/Prodigy Pictures/Syfy)

In addition to the three hours I spent doing that AMA today, I also found time to go to Best Buy to buy a new washing machine (The old one makes the alarming ka-klung ka-klung noise and has tried to make a break for it.  On several occasions, I’ve found it a good two feet closer to the door.) only to be told my local Best Buy doesn’t have any in store and that I would have to purchase one online.  So I did.  Exciting, hunh?

ALSO – I’m halfway through my rewrite of the new scifi pilot.  The plan is to finish it up before month’s end, then send it to my agent and have him set it up.   OR, if that fails, turn it into a comic book series.  OR, if that fails, publish it on this blog, then wait for one of you to win the powerball and finance the show’s first season!

Hey, Stargate fans!  I’ve got you covered too!  Check out these little art department goodies…

Supersoldier helmet

Super soldier helmet.


Super soldier design by James Robbins.

Supersoldier drone

And profile.

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Well, well, well.  Look who it is.  Director Martin Wood (Stargates SG-1 and Atlantis) hits the streets of Toronto – in his trademark shorts.  Yes, if there are two thing I remember about Martin Wood from our days on Stargate, it’s: 1) His penchant for wearing shorts year round, and 2) His onscreen cameo character, Major Wood, always lugged around a giant wrench.

Alas, no giant wrench on Dark Matter (but who knows?  We’ve yet to shoot his episode, #111) but the shorts are still in full effect!


We had our final (?) notes session with Executive Producer Jay Firestone the other day.  Soon after, we made the necessary changes and released our season finale, episode #113.  As I may have mentioned, I want to approach each season as a instalment in a book series.  And so, #113 offers answers to many of the questions we set up over the course of our initial 13 episode journey and includes one HUGE reveal.  But I made a point of scripting it in a way that keeps the mystery reveal a secret…until our very last day of production.  A LOT of theories swirling around set right now…


B 1st Assistant Camera Marcel Janisse enjoys lunch in the infirmary’s isolation chamber.

I’m thinking it’s high time for another mailbag.  If you’ve got questions about the show, post away.  I’ll answer later in the week.

I’m also thinking of doing one of those reddit AMA’s.  How do they work?

Finally, here’s another look at the Dark Matter teaser trailer:

Over 47k+ views and counting!  Share!  Share!  Share!

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Well, well, well.  If it isn’t another Dark Matter guest star with a Stargate connection.  Which of you diehard SG-1 fans recognizes Supreme High Council Per’sus of the tok’ra, who nearly lost his life at the hands of a za’tarc way back in the season four episode “Dive and Conquer”?  Small galaxy, no?

Back when Stargate concluded its awesome t.v. run back in 2010, I knew that, when all was said and done and all the sets had been struck, the final episode delivered, and I took that closing walk from the production offices to my car for the last time, I knew in my heart that there was one thing I would miss more than anything.

The money.

But coming in a close second was the people I worked with, some of whom I’d spent the better part of twelve years of my life along, making three fantastic t.v. shows.  I honestly thought I’d never be lucky enough to work with a group as talented, kind, and supportive as the cast and crew from Stargate.  But four years later, here I am, in Toronto (of all places!), working with an equally talented, kind and supportive and supportive cast and crew.  In many ways, they actually remind me of the old gang, and my experience working with them has been, at times, very reminiscent of the great days I spent on the Stargate franchise.  This, of course, is a testament to the hard work and careful management by Prodigy Picture’s (and Dark Matter Executive Producers) Jay Firestone and Vanessa Piazza who assembled a great team for this project, made up of Lost Girl veterans and other familiar faces.

Anyway, they’re great people – who are all too often unsung heroes of the production process.   So here are a few of the behind-the-scenes individuals who help make this show great…


2nd Assistant Art Director (and budding amateur taxidermist) Kelly Diamond. You’re already familiar with some of her work (the videos for Cosmic Tonic and Intergalactic Pet Shipping! to name a couple), but you’ll see her awesome grapahic/playback skills on full display once the series starts to air.  That Android data stream in episode #103?  That’s her!


If he isn’t juggling the front office action or overseeing supply runs, Production Assistant Kyle Dolphin can be found showing off his physical prowess during the weekly Friday Push-Up contest.  Remind me to show you pics of that time he was drafted to model the space suit.  It’s like he was born to perform an EVA!


I’ve only had the pleasure to work with editor Teresa Hannigan on a single episode so far, but rumor has it I’ll be fortunate enough to re-team with her soon.


On Set Carpenter Jesse Partin notable for, among many other things, riding the mechanical bull that time we shot the casino episode in Hamilton.  Also, he’s our resident doorman – in charge of ensuring a smooth open and close on those sliding ship doors.


The title of “Craft Server” doesn’t do justice to the culinary wizard that is John Schieder.  Mornings, if you’re looking for a breakfast burrito or omelet, he’ll make you one to order.  Then, throughout the day, will ensure you’re well-fed, offering up a rotating assortment of impressive food items, from sausages and schnitzel to greek salads and the best damn clam chowder I’ve ever eaten.

And I’ll undoubtedly miss them all once the show ends.

Five years from now.

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We’re heavy into prep on episodes #101-102 and, with the commencement of principal photography about a month away, sets are coming together nicely.  Our ship, The Raza, has come a long way in the past couple of weeks.  The corridors have been textured with faux-grate flooring, pipes, vents, and grills, its walls painted in metallic hues, sliding doors installed; the quarters are coming to life, the sub-level cargo hold and walkways finished, and the bridge…the window are in, front AND top, and the consoles went in today.

Meanwhile, work is being completed on the shuttle (the Phantom Class Marauder) interior design.  We’ve gone back and forth on its various elements – width, depth, seating layout, windows, and location of the door – and are in the process of finalizing the look.  I wanted something similar to the puddle jumper in terms of layout with a little more of the depth of the SGU shuttle.  Ultimately, I think we’ll also incorporate an element of the SG-1 cargo ships with its sectioned cockpit and separate hold.

Anyway, I contacted Stargate Production Designer James Robbins, who has been doing some fabulous design work for us on Dark Matter (Can’t wait to show you his work on The Marauder, the space station, and the various cruiser, destroyer, and shuttle class versions of the Ferrous Corp, Mikkei Combine, and Galactic Authority ships!), and asked him about the dimensions of those smaller Stargate ship designs.  He sent me the following which I thought were too cool not to share with you –

SGU Shuttle_Dimensions_R001

As James points out, the dimensions are from our VFX department and may not reflect what was actually built.  80 feet long for the SGU shuttle seems a bit much, but the 40 foot length of the Atlantis puddle jumper sounds about right.

ships small 01

Takes you back, no?

Many thanks to James for digging these up from the archive!

Prep continues with non-stop meetings.  Today, it was the concept meeting followed by visual effects, playback, and impromptu hair meeting, stunts, and special effects.  Tomorrow, it’s an Art Department review, props, paints, another hair meeting, and not one but TWO gun meetings!

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So my flight got into Toronto at about 7:00 p.m. local time and it was a half hour later when the driver dropped me off at my new residence.  I had just stepped out onto the sidewalk with my four pieces of luggage when some passing pedestrian stopped and pointed at me, eyes wide, mouth agape, like Donald Sutherland in that last scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  “Is that guy pointing at me?”I wondered and, since he obviously was, my next question was: “Who is that guy?”.  It was dark and he was wearing a baseball cap but there was something familiar about him.  And, as I stared back, the wheels turning, I realized: “Hey! That’s the star of Saving Hope!”  And then: “And Stargate: SG-1!”  And finally: “Michael Shanks!  I KNOW him!”

What a surprise!

As it turns out, he was on his way back to his place and happened to spot me. What are the chances? Despite an early call tomorrow morning, he helped me roll my luggage over to my new (temporary) digs, then walked back with me to meet up with my writing partner, Paul, for a brief catch-up session before he called it a night.

Chances are we’ll be crossing paths a lot in the coming months.

It was great to see Michael, great to see he’s doing well, and even greater to know we have a prospective dog sitter for our next Japan trip.  Maybe he can keep them busy by getting them guest spots on his show?

Hey, according to this article –


This marked the first weekend in America with no network Saturday morning cartoons.  Several reasons are cited, from the FCC’s politically correct strong-arm tactics to the fact that, nowadays, cartoons are accessible 24/7 through a variety of alternate sources.

But the sad fact remains: this is the end of an era.

I remember waking up early every Saturday morning and racing downstairs with my sister to mainline a septuple feature of animated programming.

At the risk of dating myself, these were my favorite cartoons growing up…



I had a love-hate relationship with this show.  I enjoyed it enough, but really hated that smug panther.  I always thought he was an incredible jerk and tuned in every weekend in the hopes that he would finally get his comeuppance.  No such luck.  I much preferred The Ant & the Aardvark.



There was something quaintly endearing about this cheap-as-hell production whose use and re-use of static images made Ralph Bakshi’s Spiderman look like an elaborate Disney movie by comparison.



Endless Saturday morning viewings prepared me for a career in science fiction.



I mainly checked it out for Melody.



To be perfectly honest, I came for the Sherman and Mr. Peabody but stayed for the squirrel and moose.



I always enjoyed the show up to the point where the gang would play a song at Bill’s behest.



Its comforting, paint-by-numbers plotting would pre-date shows like House by some forty years, yet prove even more durable.



Okay, full disclosure.  If I was stranded on a deserted island and could have only one incarnation of Spiderman to watch, from his humble t.v. beginnings to his recent big screen forays, I’d pick this version who I always felt was closer to the original comic book representation of the nebbish Peter Parker/quippy Spiderman.




A cartoon for grown-ups that kids could enjoy as well.   I own the entire Looney Tunes collection and I still find them equally hilarious today.  It’s sad that, nowadays, kids can only watch censored versions of these brilliant animated shorts.



Another clever animated series, written for an adult audience but enjoyed by children as well.  Nothing takes me back to my youth like that theme song or those trademark sound effects.

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