I have a lot of respect for British television. Whether you’re watching a comedy like The Office or Little Britain, a thriller like Spooks or Heist, or a procedural like Cracker or Wire in the Blood, the only thing you as a viewer can ever truly count on is the unexpected. Take Spooks for example (and for those who haven’t watched the first three seasons of this brilliant spy series, also known as MI-5 in North America, maybe you should stop reading now because we‘re heading into spoiler territory). It constantly challenges the viewer’s natural inclination toward complacency. On Spooks, no one is safe. This fact becomes readily apparent during an early first season episode in which a character meets a horrifically gruesome end by deep-fryer. Granted, the initial shock was somewhat mitigated by the fact that she wasn’t a headliner. They would never, after all, off a series regular, right? Think again. And again. And again. By the start of the show’s fourth season, the three original leads were gone. I was shocked. I loved Tom, Danny, and Zoe and lamented their respective departures. Furthermore, I was initially unconvinced by new recruits Adam, Raza, and Olga. And yet, I have to admit that, despite the changes, Spooks still managed produce quality stories that made me care about the supporting players, these new additions to the cast, and the world of MI-5 as a whole. In retrospect, the decision to change up the show, while risky, made it that much better because it emphasized the dangers these people faced doing a very dangerous job. They were that much realer because, as in real life, they could be taken away from us at any moment. Fans of the show came to the sudden realization that they couldn’t take anything for granted. Every time the team headed out on a mission, there was the possibility that someone might not come back. And just in case fans had allowed themselves a brief respite, assuming the show’s producers wouldn’t dare make anymore changes so soon, the producers did just that – offing yet another series regular. And it was just as shocking and as effective because, again, it was unexpected.
Scifi fans have it a little easier because in the fantastical world of science fiction the impossible can become possible. Specifically, death is not all that definitive. For instance, it’s unlikely we’ll see a future episode of Spooks in which Danny returns to corporeal form after spending time as a higher being. On the other hand, it’s theoretically possible for something like this to occur on SG-1, even Atlantis. (I must emphasize the word “theoretically”, natch). In this respect, scifi fans have the best of both worlds – the dynamic uncertainty that comes with effective drama AND a backdoor loophole that allows for the THEORETICAL reappearance of long-lost characters. “No one ever dies in science fiction,“Brad Wright is fond of saying. In fact, undeceasing deceased characters has become truly fashionable over on SG-1 where Daniel Jackson, Martouf, and Janet Fraiser have proven that even the act of dying can’t keep a good character down. And then there’s dead-but-not-quite-gone Apophis who has probably put in more reappearances than any offed character in Stargate history. Still, with each ending-for-now comes a new beginning. Without George Hammond’s departure, we never would have been introduced to Hank Landry. If the System Lords had never been defeated, we would not have encountered the Ori. And Ford’s departure from the Atlantis team allowed for the introduction of Ronon Dex.
Over the course of a show’s run, characters will come and go (and, occasionally, come back again). Things change. In that respect, a t.v. show is not unlike real life. And although I’m sure some fans will disagree, I personally think that’s a good thing.
Let’s say we take a walk by the Art Department before checking out the viewer mail…
Anonymous #1 writes: “Wait, wait. I thought that Brad Wright wasn’t writing any Atlantis this year. Is this shoot for Ark of Truth or Continuum? Or maybe Brad is writing for Atlantis?”
Answer: I was referring to the second SG-1 movie, Continuum. Brad will probably be too busy to write an episode of Atlantis this season but has come up with a terrific story that should figure into the mid-season two-parter.
Tony Robinson writes: “What does the magic 8 ball say for the chances of Bra’tac appearing in the SG-1 movies?”
Magic 8 Ball says: Cannot predict now.
Carolina writes: “Are you the leader of the pack?”
Answer: Depends on the situation. I’m more pack leader when it comes to crucial decisions like where we’re ordering lunch from and what we’re going to eat at the cast dinner (incidentally, squash-stuffed agnolotti with black truffle butter).
Vaberella writes: “I noticed a lot of comparison between the Wraith and Vampires; What do you think of the Wraith and Morlocks from The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, similarity wise?! […]Oh, can you give us some hints on what you have in store for Teyla, if anything?”
Answer: I’ve never considered the similarities between the wraith and the Morlocks, although the similarities between the wraith and the vampires are fairly obvious. As for your second question – I’ve just finished reading an excellent revelatory Teyla script written by Carl Binder. Teyla fans are in for a treat with this one.
Arctic Goddess: “There is a growing bet that a certain Joe Mallozzi will not show up at a certain fan party on March 22nd.”
Answer: Really? What’s the pot at? I see a way for us to make some quick cash.
Jenny Robin writes: “Do you recommend Direct TV or Dish Network? “
Answer: I live in Canada and, sadly, we don’t have access to either Direct TV or Dish Network because our government treats us like children and doesn’t permit us access to either. Something about being a bad influence.
Jenny Robin also writes: “While you are dining out with friends and family, how often do you find yourself asking them to wait a second so that you can take some quick pictures of your food for your blog?”
Answer: I don’t have to anymore. They all know the drill by now.
Anonymous #2 writes: “Just on your comment recently that basically no amount of mail is going to influence your decisions, does that mean that you didn’t appreciate all the “Save SG1” people? Because they were writing letters. Or is it just that you don’t like people writing letters when they disagree with your casting decisions?”
Answer: Of course we make the shows for fans of the show and count on their support. And, every so often, fan reaction to certain aspects of the show may influence scripts (look no further than 200 for a good example). However, there has never been a time when a fan campaign has led to a change in the show‘s direction. One of the key elements of the Stargate’s success has been the vision of the creative behind the scenes – and Brad Wright and Robert Cooper in particular. I’m sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings but, from the beginning, the choices made have never been based on fan requests, no matter how pointed. Rob and Brad simply made a show that they would enjoy watching and, in the end, it resulted in one of the longest running science fiction shows in television history. Of course we aren’t perfect. Some decisions may pay off while others may not, but in the long run the choices made have been our own and have helped strengthen the franchise. As Brad pointed out in a recent interview, we would never do anything to harm the show. Furthermore, by the time word gets out about any changes we’ve made to the show, we have already moved on and are deep into production.
Anonymous #3: “Exactly how do you know matter can travel only one way through a wormhole?”
Answer: I think it was something Brad said once. Or it might have been a homeless guy at the bus stop. Just kidding. I know for a fact because I’ve actually tested wormhole travel.
Lizzyshoe writes: “ Did you license the Ewoks for the 200th ep, or did you just steal them, change them a smidge, and hope for the best?”
Answer: In fact, the part of the Furlings in 200 were played by two delightful little woodland creatures, part of a pack that inhabit a heavily forested area near the Bridge Studios. Typically shy in nature, they were coaxed out of their natural habitat and enticed to take part in the production in exchange for various sweets (they demonstrated an affinity for O’Henry bars). All in all, they were wondrous creatures to behold, a true joy to work with, and I regret the production office’s decision to put them down once the episode had wrapped.
Anonymous #4 writes: “Where abouts in Vancouver would you say has the most flexible/eclectic menu?”
Answer: Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you. Remind me!
Anonymous #5 writes: “I read in Variety that Beau Bridges is going to be starring in a new show for Fox. Does this mean General Landry won’t be in the movies?”
Answer: Congratulations to Beau who is hilarious on My Name is Earl and I’m sure will prove just as hilarious on his new series. And, yes, General Landry will be making an appearance in both SG-1 movies.
Akbar Fazil writes: “ Is it just me Joe, or are all of the figures on your shelves bad guys? Is there a story behind that? Or do you just draw from their evil power to intimidate those who come into your office?”
Answer: Yes, my office décor is comprised of villains, villains, villains. Villains on the shelves. Villains on the side tables. Villains lining the window sill. And one pug calendar. Awwwww.
Anonymous #6 writes: “ Out of curiosity, the Battlestar Galactica people have had no problem dropping whoppers of spoilers to the Chicago Tribune, which uses appropriate spoiler space, so why do you avoid questions regarding SGA spoilers that virtually every Stargate fan knows because those episodes aired in Canada (and probably spread like wildfire via ‘alternate sources’ on the web)?”
Answer: Because unfortunately, as a result of the new airing schedule, all of the questions being asked concern season 4 while the back half of season 3 – which has yet to air – is being lost in the shuffle.
Majorsal writes: “With literally every question being an Atlantis themed one, do you miss sg1 questions? do you think you’ll miss writing for sg1?”
Answer: I wouldn’t say I miss answering SG-1 questions, but I definitely do miss writing for SG-1.
Anonymous #7 writes: “So.. Torri’s out of contract and you’ve offered her four episodes, right?”
Answer: Four? No idea where that number came from.
Anonymous #8 writes: “I just wanted to say I’ve noticed you’ve taken a beating from fandom lately and I’m glad you have such thick skin.”
Answer: I’m a villain. I knew the risks when I accepted the position.
ChaosIsBeauty writes: “On Sg-1, did you ever suffer from an overload of familiarity with the characters?”
Answer: Actually, the opposite was true. The more time I spent with the characters, the more fun it was to write for them.
Anonymous #9: “What’s your favorite candy bar?”
Answer: Butter rum. I don’t even know whether they make it anymore. Can you score me a kilo?