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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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An all-new episode of Dark Matter is only two days away.  This one was directed by Jason Priestley and features guest star David Hewlett as the crew’s colorful handler, Tabor Calchek.  This episode features some fun Tabor/Android interactions, a transfer transit-themed op, a big reveal about that mysterious key card, and a shocking ending.

Theres’ a sneak peek scene featuring Tabor and the gang at Syfy.com but, unfortunately, it may be geo-blocked for those outside the U.S.

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From Shadow to The Red Leaves of the Red Forest, here’s a rundown of various Syfy-related illicit substances: Just Say No To Syfy Drugs

SciF And TV Talk’s Steve Eramo chats with Roger Cross, Dark Matter’s SIX: Burden of Guilt

I’m often asked if I still keep in touch with the old Stargate gang.  Truthfully, some more than others.  My former writing-producing partner, Paul Mullie, former special features producer Ivon Bartok, and former production assistant Lawren Bancroft-Wilson are presently  working on my new show, Dark Matter (Paul – writer/EP, Ivon writer/Supervising Producer, Lawren – VFX Supervisor/Supervising Producer). Having a new scifi show in production has also allowed me to touch base with some of the old Stargate guard: Amanda Tapping, Andy Mikita, Will Waring, Peter DeLuise, Martin Wood, all of who directed episodes of DM.  I’m still good friends with former Stargate Executive Producers Martin Gero (Blindspot, Dark Matter) and Carl Binder (Houdini & Doyle).

And then, there’s former Stargate creator and showrunner, Robert C. Cooper, who wrote scripts for both seasons of Dark Matter, served as a consulting producer on the show’s second season, and can currently be found serving as an Executive Producer on the upcoming Dirk Gently series…when he’s not cooking up varied pizzas in his backyard pizza oven.

I keep in touch with Rob on a regular basis (or as regular as possible considering our respective production schedules).  And, whenever possible, we like to get together for a meal.  While I appreciate a fine meal, he does me one better: appreciating AND preparing!

The other night, he and his wife Hilary invited Akemi and I over to their place for a little backyard pizza party.  Not only does Rob have a special, built-in pizza oven for the occasion but, in addition to the legit equipment, he also special orders the pizza flour to ensure the crust has the right taste, texture and consistency.

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Check out the offerings…

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Pear, fig, spicy salami and goat cheese.

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Crispy potatoes, bacon, and green onions.

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Burnt tomato, spicy sausage, and mozzarella.

4Peking duck: barbecued duck, hoisin, green onions, and mozzarella.

Finally!  Great pizza in Vancouver!  I’d almost given up hope!

We finished the meal with blueberry pie and four types of ice cream.

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Our affable host and hostess.

ROB & HILARY’S

Food: 5/5

Service: 5/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Final verdict: Highly recommended!

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Today, the season 3 writers’ room followed up yesterday’s blisteringly creative outburst – in which we broke not one, not two, but two and a half episodes! – by spinning our wheels in frustration, watching an adorable cat video, and having soft serve for lunch.  Ah, well.  There’s always tomorrow.

And the day after when Dark Matter season 2 premieres!  Here are a couple of cast interviews to get you psyched up:

Interviews: Anthony Lemke, Alex Mallari Jr., Shaun Sipos

Interview: Melissa O’Neil

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Awww, how adorable.  FIVE’s firing some sort of energy-based weapon.  At who? And why?  And why is she wearing that red lab coat?  Consider today’s Dark Matter season 2 sneak peek screen shot.

Still a very beatable tie atop the leader board for the chance to win a cast-signed annotated copy of the first episode of our season premiere: “Episode 14: Welcome To Your New Home”!  Time is running out to enter!

Win a Dark Matter script!

I’ll be live-tweeting our season premiere Friday night – with a little help from some friends.  Follow my dedicated Dark Matter account for all the live-tweeting action – @DarkMatter_show – this Friday at 7 p.m. PDT, 10 p.m. EST/PDT.

Then join me July 4th @BaronDestructo for a live after-show Periscope directly following the U.K. premiere (20:00 on Syfy UK!  Then 21:00 on Periscope!).

Off to do another interview.  But, before I go…

A little something from the Stargate archives – for all of you wraith enthusiasts out there.  Designs (as almost always) by James Robbins.

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dismembered hand

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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!

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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

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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.

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Super soldier design by James Robbins.

Supersoldier drone

And profile.

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Hey, Dark Matter fans!  Who’s up for another behind-the-scenes Q&A?  While we await Melissa O’Neil and Zoie Palmer’s responses to your burning questions (There were A LOT of them, so be patient!), let’s turn our sights to architect of The Raza – and countless other cool sets, from episode 3’s Blade Runner-esque noodle bar to Alexander Rook’s lab – Production Designer Ian Brock.  Seriously.  If it wasn’t for him, the crew would be flying around in a refurbished winnebago!

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Post your comments for Ian in the comments section.  I’ll gather them up over the course of the next few days and send them his way.

And several more Q&A’s in the works including cast members, new AND established (notice I didn’t say “old”?).

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Oh crap.  Today’s Dark Matter season 2 sneak peek screen shot of the day suggests all sorts of trouble.

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MyM Magazine is out now featuring Dark Matter.  Check it out!

Well, that’s a wrap on week 1 of the writers’ room.  Looks like I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me this weekend fleshing things out and writing things up.  It’s ALL coming together. Ish.  Sort of.  Let’s circle back on this Monday.

Stargate fans, rejoice!  I’ve got you covered with glorious art work from SG-1’s “Nightwalkers” courtesy of former Stargate Production Designer James Robbins:

ship02 ship01 ship03

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Holy smokes!  Approximately two weeks to the Dark Matter season 2 premiere – July 1st on Syfy and SpaceChannel.  But what if you don’t live in North America?  When will Dark Matter’s second season premiere in YOUR region?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Please consult this handy chart that comes our way via the kind folks at SyfyInternational:

GolbalTXdetails_DM

Please save and tweet/retweet.  Get the word out because you will NOT want to miss our first episode back.  Trust me when I say that if you miss it, or wait to watch, you are going to miss out on something BIG!

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Today’s Dark Matter season 2 sneak peek screen shot of the day!

The writers’ room was back at it today.  Some of the highlight quotes of the day to give you a taste of our creative process:

“It’s very very very rare for time travel stories to make sense.”

“Snakes on a ship!”

“We have no tag.”

Further insight into our creative process, this time in photos capturing my response to some of the ideas thrown my way…

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Dubious.

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Go on, I’m listening…

Tomorrow, another big Dark Matter fan Q&A announcement!

Continuing our trip down Stargate memory lane with some gorgeous art department material from one of my favorite SG-1 episodes: Nightwalkers!

nightwalk_bg

Spooky barn.

nightwalk

Partially built ship (drawn by James Robbins).

shipbuild

Ship build (sketched by James Robbins).

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Damnit, I knew this was going to happen.  52 pages into the new pilot and things have slowed to a standstill.  With the Dark Matter writers’ room in full swing, my attention is focused elsewhere, however I did manage to write a single new scene this morning.  At this rate, I’m going to have to revise my ETD (estimated time of delivery) to end of the month.  That’s when my “military advisors” (You know who you are!) can expect to see a first draft for vetting purposes.

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Yes, it’s military SF.  In addition to input from the experts, I’m also doing a little research – by way of reading six books simultaneously to put me in the proper headspace.

By mid-July, all I’ll need is a proper series title and then it’ll be smoooooth sailing!

Not quite as smooth sailing on the DM third season story front, but progress is being made.  As I mentioned in previous blog instalments, I have all the pieces of the puzzle but just need to figure out a way to put them together.  Which is where Paul, Ivon, Alison, and Lawren come in.

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Me, poised to write down one of Ivon’s brilliant ideas.

Like previous seasons, the goal is to pack as much story as possible into these 13 episodes because – who knows? – it could be the show’s (or my) last.  Ideally I’ll get to tell the full five season story I have planned, paying off all those clues (hidden and otherwise) and arcs we’ve set up over these first couple of years. If not, don’t worry – you’ll get your ending whether it’ll be in a movie, a comic book, or write here on this blog.

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In preparation for the Dark Matter season 2 premiere comes this awesome –

Season 1 retrospect and season 2 look ahead

by Aimee Hicks over at SpoilerTV.com.

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Hey, Aussie fans!  Dark Matter and Killjoys return to Syfy Australia July 2nd!

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Today’s Dark Matter season 2 sneak peek screen shot.  Devastation!

More from the Stargate archives = Stargate: SG-1, “Redemption I and II”. Illustrations and designs by James Robbins…

firingunit

glidecamp

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