Well, judging from the feedback here and elsewhere, it looks like most of you enjoyed Reunion – which is most pleasing and comes as a relief to me as, history has shown, you never know how the fans are going to react. As promised, I’m going to dedicate this blog entry to my thoughts on the episode so if you haven’t already seen Reunion, you may want to skip today’s entry and come back to it at a later time. SPOILER WARNING!
Looking back at the episode (and it feels like ages since I wrote the script) a number of things come to immediately to mind. The first is the fact that even though this episode aired #3, it was actually #9 in the production schedule. Due to Amanda’s commitments to the SG-1 movies and the time needed to perfect the wraith set, we had to delay shooting this episode – which wouldn’t have normally been a big deal since our premiere had been pushed to October and we had a little more leeway with regard to the air order – but Rachel’s pregnancy made the scheduling juggling a bit of an adventure. Thanks to the magic of television (chiefly her lovely stunt double Lani Gelera), we were able to cheat Teyla’s appearance a little and get away with it on this one. Whew! The second thing that comes to mind is the look of the wraith set. What a difference a year makes! I’m sure you’ll agree that this is the best it’s ever looked and the credit for that goes to many: the Art Department, D.O.P. Michael Blundell, and Director Will Waring for really bringing home the creepy luridness of the place. Finally, one more thing that comes to mind is that damn fright wig the wraith is wearing. Every time he appeared onscreen, I’d wince and refer to him as Granny Wraith.
Entry to the village: These types of scenes are always a pain in the butt because you write so many of them it’s always a challenge to make this one different – even though it’s basically the same thing: heroes walk into new town and are greeted by the locals. Given that we were heading into fairly heavy territory with the rest of the episode, I decided to go with a little humor. The thing that stood out for me with this scene is Ronon’s protective big brother reaction to the villager pestering Teyla. It’s the first of a number of these little moments that will pop up over the course of the season.
Teyla tussles with the Satedans: A fairly straight-forward scene designed to introduce the Satedans and convey their brash spirit. In the original script, after Tyre says “But the wraith don’t always need their own ears to hear” (an perhaps not-so-subtle reference to wraith worshipers), Teyla countered with “I am not a wraith worshiper” – but it was felt that it tipped the third act twist.
We learn that Carter will be assuming command: A number of fans were upset that McKay seemed far too cavalier given that they had just lost Weir in the last episode. The impression is that the events of Lifeline just happened a day or two ago and he’s already forgotten about her. Not true. In my mind, it’s been several weeks since the events of Lifelife and while the loss of Weir still resonates (as demonstrated in some later scenes), some time has passed. Presumably, Sheppard had assumed interim command for the expedition (since our standing enemies, the wraith and the replicators, have had their hands full fighting each other – as Sheppard makes mention when we first glimpse him) and all are anxiously awaiting the appointment of their new leader. Given what we know of Rodney, it makes sense that he would consider himself a perfect candidate, even the obvious choice for the position, not out of sheer selfishness or ego, but because he honestly feels he is the best person to contribute and help out in a big way.
Carter gets Sheppard and McKay up to speed: Omitted. I’ll post the missing scene tomorrow along with my commentary.
The Satedans get reacquainted: Ronon reconnects with his old buddies. Besides the obvious desire to explain how the Satedans survived the attack on their home world and why Ronon never sought them out (he assumed they were dead), I wanted to start layering in Ronon’s feelings of loyalty toward his fellow Satedans and, most importantly, his guilt at having, in retrospect, abandoned them.
Carter says goodbye to Stargate Command: Yesterday’s blog entry pretty much covers this scene. For me, it was a passing of the torch and a thank you to SG-1 which laid the groundwork for Atlantis and, quite frankly, even made the spin-off possible. Only one slight difference between my original draft of this scene and the one we shot. In the original, the scene ends with the following dialogue – Carter: “Well, say goodbye again to everyone for me.” Teal’c: “You may tell them yourself. They are all awaiting you in the gate room.” In my mind, it was a nice suggestion that even though we didn’t see the rest of the team, they were there to support her. In everyone else’s mind, it felt like a bait-and-switch, suggesting that we were going to see the rest of the team and then cutting out of the scene before we did. So I revised the ending.
Carter arrives on Atlantis: In the original draft, and even in the shooting script, Carter’s speech was somewhat longer. In the original, Carter references Weir: “#Today, I assume command of the Atlantis expedition and, although I am honored to accept the appointment, I do so with mixed feelings because I come to you under very difficult circumstances. You’ve all been through a lot these past few weeks, suffered some significant losses including that of Dr. Elizabeth Weir. (beat) It hasn’t been easy for you and having someone, especially an outsider, suddenly step in here and take command may be a little hard to accept. I understand that. Nevertheless, I want you to know that I’ve come here, committed to Atlantis, the expedition, but most of all, committed to each and every one of you. And I look forward to working with you all.” There were some objections to the reference in the room and, after much discussion, the reference was dropped.
The Satedans discuss fallen comrades: When Jason came back from hiatus, he surprised us with a new tattoo – so we found a way to work it into this episode. What better reason for him to get a new tattoo than to commemorate his reunion with his old buddies. If you happen to have recorded the episode, watch the scene from the top and note Rakai’s look of utter astonishment at being slapped. That aint acting folks. Jason decided a little ad-lib for the scene, warning actor beforehand with “I’m going to try something new, but you’re a big boy and I think you can take it.” In fact, all of the reactions are genuine including that of Ara who almost chokes on her drink. The scene also starts off with a little “trip down memory lane” that offers some amusing little revelations with regard to Ronon. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut either, but I’ll include the excerpt in tomorrow’s entry.
McKay drops in on Carter, as does Ronon: I didn’t want Carter to have an easy time of it, so right off the bat I have her butt heads with Ronon – and not back down. Also, given McKay’s “thing” for Carter in the past, I felt it imperative that it be addressed so that both characters could move on since the Rodney McKay of today has really grown from the Rodney McKay from Redemption I and II. By coming in and making reference to the “unrequited lust thing that’s been hanging over our head for what seems like forever”, it is Rodney’s way of saying “Hey, I know I had a thing for you in the past and that’s made things awkward for us, but I want you to know that things are going to be different now.” Rodney is delusional. He knows that the “unrequited lust thing” only went one way, but his ego won’t let him actually come out and admit it. And so, he dances and awkward dance around the fact and, in so doing, still gets the point across.
Tyre makes Ronon an offer: This is the scene in which Ronon begins to really feel to pressure of the choice he must inevitably make. And, within the body of their seemingly innocuous walk and talk, is not only a sense of the type of life these Satedans lead (says Tyre: “That’s one of the nice things about not being tied down. You go where you want, and you leave when you’re not wanted.”) but a reminder of the life Ronon left behind as a runner. More importantly, despite his fiery nature, Tyre doesn’t show the Atlantis personnel any disrespect, never trying to win Ronon over by belittling him but by playing a far more subtle game in appealing to his roots and sense of warrior loyalty.
The Carter-Sheppard balcony scene: As some of you noticed, yes, this was a call back to the scene in Rising. The intent of the scene was to demonstrate that despite the circumstances, Elizabeth is still on their minds and they are not giving up on her. It was also an opportunity to demonstrate to not only contrast the differences, but highlight the similarities between the two strong women. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
Teyla and Ronon spar: If anyone was going to have a heart to heart with Ronon about the decision he faced, it would be Teyla. But, obviously, he’s not the kind of guy to open up easily, so she literally had to beat the admission out of him. However, it’s pretty clear that Teyla has already guessed as much (shows how attuned she is to her friends – nothing gets past her). In much the same way that we can draw parallels between Ronon and Carter’s situation, Teyla offers a much stronger parallel given that she faced a very similar choice. And even though the decision was a difficult one, she ended up choosing not so much with her heart, but with her head. “#I can do more here to help my fellow Athosians, and the rest of the humans in this galaxy, than I ever could on my home world.” Well aware that Ronon is only thinking with his heart at this point, she appeals to his head.
Ronon and Sheppard talk: Given the relationship that these two had developed over the past couple of years, it was important that Sheppard should weigh in on Ronon’s decision. But how to say what needed to be said without seeming to earnest? Easy. Have him not say it. In the end, this turned out to be one of my favorite scenes of the episode.
Planning the op: Amidst the back and forth and the revelation regarding what the wraith are up to is the burgeoning resentment and palpable dislike these two teams have for one another.
Ronon makes the decision to leave: In the end, it’s his loyalty to his former friends and his concern for their safety (ie. he doesn’t want them to end up like Marika and Hemi) that dictate his decision. To those who have complained that the wraith-worshiper revelation robs Ronon of having to make the choice, the fact is he does make the choice here.
Carter pays Ronon a visit: There was more to this scene off the top with direct references to some of the items Ronon has in his rooms (including that painting), all connections to his past. I’ll include the excerpt in tomorrow’s blog entry.
Flashbacks: What flashbacks? An earlier draft included flashbacks to Ronon’s past. They were designed to help cement the bond between Ronon and his buddies AND demonstrate his role as almost a big-brother to them (thus the reason he feels it necessary to rejoin them and keep them out of trouble). Again, watch for these in tomorrow’s entry.
The jumper ride: Tensions between the two teams threaten to boil over – and Ronon is caught in the middle. This scene is pretty much the same as in the original draft except that, in the first draft, rather than say: “Compared to us, you guys are amateurs.”, McKay says: “Yeah, we’re definitely more headline material. We’re The Rolling Stones to your Hootie and the Blowfish.”
The op goes awry: Ah, the best laid plans… Lots of fun with the firefight, but my favorite moments here are the small ones. The team splitting up and Ronon watching Shep and co. head off until Ara snaps him back. Ronon taking off to back up the Atlantis team the second he hears gunfire and realizes they’ve been engaged. In the original draft, in keeping with the gag from the previous scene, after stunning Rakai, McKay glowers down at McKay and mutters: “Who’s Hootie now?”.
Ronon comes sliding through the gate firing: And Jason ends up scraping the crap out of his arm on one take.
McKay is escorted out of the wraith cell: In the original version, as McKay is being escorted out, Teyla tries to hearten him with: “Stay strong, Rodney.” to which an obviously unnerved McKay replies: “I’ll try.” In the original draft, Sheppard calls after him: “Try harder!” But we ended up losing the line because Sheppard is unconscious at this point. Originally, I felt that the fact the wraith had their stunners trained on Sheppard would be enough to keep him in line but Joe felt Sheppard would resist regardless – so we had him zatted instead.
Ronon fills Carter and co. in: One of Ronon’s many trips to the infirmary this season. The two jumpers – a little hint as to what Carter has planned.
McKay is escorted down the corridor: Could the wraith figure out a way to deactivate the replicator threat? It’s probable. Eventually. But with the replicators zeroing in on them, they’d prefer to find a solution sooner than later, and the fastest way of doing so is to get McKay to undo the changes he’s made to their base programming.
Missing McKay-Replicator scene: In the end, I felt that having the replicator converse with McKay actually made him less threatening. Besides, we needed to lose the time. To those of you dying to find out how the conversation went, check out tomorrow’s blog entry.
Carter leads the rescue op: Not such a stretch given her experience with SG-1, what’s at stake, and the fact that the chain of command kicks in on Atlantis (as it did whenever Weir went off-world).
The wraith pays McKay a visit: McKay is stalling. And that wig! Gaaah!
Carter leads the rescue op into the facility: Speaking of growing, check out our little Radek all grown up and casting anxiety aside to help some friends in need. By the way, what he is clutching is not a wraith detector but a device (not unlike similar devices used on SG-1) designed to detect and offer an analysis of energy readings.
Carter and co. spring Sheppard and Teyla: Hurray!
Ronon’s buddies get the drop on him: Boo!
Shep and co. unwittingly spring the replicator: Uh oh!
The replicator makes his escape: And he’s got only one thing on his mind: Kill the wraith! Still, love the shot of Carter standing alongside the team, opening fire on the enemy.
Ronon vs. the Satedans: Mark Dacascos is a friend of Ben Browder’s and sometime last year, while we were casting for Counterstrike to be exact, Ben dropped by the production offices and let us know that Mark expressed an interest in appearing on the show. Well, I was familiar with his work and loved him in Brotherhood of the Wolf, but we all felt that we needed to find a role that would allow him to show off his fighting skills. And, one year later, Reunion was it. Our stunt coordinator, Bam Bam, had worked with Mark on the Crow series and so the two of them got together and choreographed a kick-ass fight sequence.
After much consideration, I decided to let Tyre escape at the end of this scene. He’s an interesting character and one that is likely to make a reappearance somewhere down the line.
Ronon is reunited with his buddies: Carter: “Ronon, where are your friends?” Ronon (indicates Sheppard and co.): “They’re right here. Let’s go.” Enough said.
Sheppard pays Carter a visit: Another scene cut for time. Tomorrow.
Ronon and Teyla close out the episode: It just made sense for me that Teyla (who, like Ronon, gave up everything she knew to trust her these newcomers to the Pegasus galaxy and start a new life on Atlantis) should be the one to close out this episode with him.
Whew! That’s all that comes to mind right now but if I think of anything more, I’ll be sure to add it to an upcoming entry.
Today’s pics: In case you hadn’t noticed, none today. Sorry.
Today’s video: Click on the date for another take of the stroll through the sandstorm.
Today’s mailbag: See tomorrow’s mailbag.