WOW! There’s nothing like Stargate on the BIG screen. Yesterday, the show’s producers (minus Alan who was in Toronto and Carl who was in Los Angeles, both of him were, thus, subsequently fired) gathered at Sharpe Sound Studios in North Vancouver to watch the Ark of Truth mix. It took me about an hour to get there from my place and, by the time I rolled in, most everyone was there: Marty G., Alex Levine, Brad Wright, and Robert Cooper. Yep, almost everyone except my writing partner Paul who, interestingly enough, actually lives closer Sharpe than anyone else. Well, once he finally arrived, ten minutes after our agreed-upon meeting time, we were raring to go.

Now I’d love to go into detail about the movie but I have a feeling that Rob Cooper, who wrote and directed Ark of Truth and will be stopping in to do a special guest Q&A today, will probably kill me if I reveal any secrets. Suffice it to say, this is a movie that will richly reward longtime fans. As for yesterday’s surround sound experience – another WOW goes out to Joel Goldsmith for an incredible score. He has truly outdone himself on this one.

Anyway, we sat back, took assiduous notes, and when the lights came up, tossed ’em Rob’s way: take down the sounds of the streaking ships, hit the jumping into and out of hyperspace a little stronger, and, oh yeah, lose the space crickets. And that was pretty much it. See you at the premiere!

Yet another in a long, loooong line of rainy days had the dogs in lounge-mode today, sprawled all over their mini-couches and each other. Every time I’d endeavor to bring them out – physically picking them up and placing them on the lawn – they would shake off the rain and bound back in. Having Lulu don her fashionable rain gear didn’t help any either. I can’t wait until the weather clears up… right around May of 2008.

Well, I have one chapter left of The Legacy of Heorot, Lord Fouls Bane (aka JM’s Bane), and Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer, the first half of the first Book of the New Sun. (Anyone read the latter? If not, I would highly recommend it). Come Monday, I’ll be ready to weigh in to both of this month’s BOTM selections. Anybody else in?

Today’s pics: Yesterday at Sharpe Sound, Lulu stylin’ despite the weather.

Today’s video: None.

Today’s mailbag is brough to you courtesy of special guest answerer Robert C. Cooper:

Anonymous #1 writes: “Who had the fun of throwing dirt at Jason?”

RCC: Joe Flannigan who normally would head back to his trailer when not needed off-camera, stuck around to eagerly support his fellow actor. I’m going to get in trouble for that, aren’t I?

Promogirl writes: “I have to ask both to Joe and Robert, what was your favorite effect in this one? You certainly had several amazing ones to chose from.”

RCC: The one I was most worried about turned out to be my second favorite and that is McKay being eaten by the whale. It’s not all that realistic looking but then it’s a giant alien killer whale in a nightmare after all and it sure looks cool. My favorite though is when Heightmeyer falls and we see it from her POV. Maybe I’ve missed it somewhere else but I don’t think I’ve see that shot before. You always get the person waving and screaming.

Joe: I agree on the Heightmeyer fall. As someone who is scared to death of heights (clowns, it turns out, are a close second followed by falling WITH a clown), it was extremely unsettling.

Pauline writes: “After watching Doppelganger I felt cheated. … The premise was a slight re-hash of Cold Lazarus …I kept feeling that the story could have held more scope for the actors and that ‘Bad Sheppard’ could have been utilised more to create the reaction he seemed to get from his victims, apart from leering menacingly at people. …I take it that when Sheppard was defibrillate at the end, that they meant just to administer an electric shock to his body. Because if they were trying to restart his heart they had the paddles a bit too low!!”

RCC: You say slight rehash I say evolution. Although, slight rehash is one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast. We often take elements from other episodes and build on them. If it results in a new story and a chance to put different characters in situations unique to them I think that’s worth doing. When we introduced a new Goa’uld on SG-1 people didn’t go ach! Again with this snake in people’s heads thing. (Okay some of you did, but not that many.) As far as the defibrillating not being high enough, Joe Flannigan didn’t want to take his shirt off. Something about causing too much squee? I didn’t get it myself but whatever.

Joe: You felt cheated? You’re not going to ask for your money back, are you?

Waffle writes: “I am so very impressed with the quality of the episodes in Season 4. Everything just keeps getting better and better. Please pass on my highest regards to Mr. Cooper (and evderyone else for that matter) for giving us such an amazing episode.”

RCC: I have passed on your compliments to our caterers Steve and Anthea. Without them, I assure you the quality of everything would suffer.

Anonymous #2 writes: “I expected more out of Rodney’s dreams actually. After his encounters with the whale type animals before and then tonight’s with the explanation of his Dad reading Moby Dick to him to explain his nightmares didn’t seem to totally work for me. The scary clown was a nice touch.”

RCC: To be honest, I wasn’t that happy with how Rodney’s dream sequence turned out. We were very limited by the rain towers and the horizon at the lake we were shooting at and the angles didn’t really work for me as much as I had hoped. David and Joe were troopers though, enduring freezing cold water on a brisk day. Mark Savela, our brilliant VFX supervisor saved the day … again… by enhancing the sequence digitally. I’m not sure what part of the McKay’s whale fetish not jiving with his childhood fear didn’t work for you but I think we all tend to be a little fascinated by the things that scare us most. For me it was sharks. Landsharks. A real shark could never get me because I don’t go in the ocean. Too many jellyfish.

Keirberos writes: “Coupla’ questions: when Sheppard was fighting pseudo-Sheppard, who was Joe F fighting? Do you know what kind of effects were used for that; i.e., someone in a really good wig, or CGI-ing Flanigan’s face over theirs, or what?
Oh, and— you guys really do hate doctors, don’t you?”

RCC: Jeff Robinson did some awesome stunt fighting and threw himself around with reckless abandon as JF’s double. We did a lot of split screen work to double Joe. For the record I don’t hate doctors. I owe my life to quite a few different ones. And I actually have many in my family whom I care for a great deal.

Anonymous #3 writes: “Let’s talk Arc of Truth. First, when do you think Arc of Truth might be released? Are you satisfied with the way the Ori are wrapped up or do you think it feels rushed? We know that Jack O’neill doesn’t appear in Arc of Truth. Do you think that really makes sense given the scope of the story and the events that must happen? It’s been confirmed that Morgan Le Fay will be making an appearance in the movie. Is there a chance that we’ll see any other Ancients? Maybe even Oma? It’s also been teased by Joe Mallozzi that we may even be seeing “an enemy we thought long vanquished” or some such. Could that maybe, hopefully be Anubis? Cause that would be cool. The interference of the Ori is one of the only plausible ways I can see the will of the Ancients regarding Anubis’ and Oma’s sentence( for lack of a better term)being subverted. Carter is also said to be a full colonel in both movies. Can you either confirm or deny the prevalent fan hope/dread that Mitchell will also be receiving a promotion in order to maintain the rather muddled status quo? Are there any other tidbits, spoilers, or teases that you’d be willing to share about Arc of Truth? And what about Continuum? Will you at least speculate on when we may get to see the movie? Are there more SG-1 movies being planned for next year? Is Richard Dean Anderson going to be in them?”

RCC: Wow, aren’t you full of questions. Okay… Right now the target for release of Ark (notice the ‘k’) in North America is March 11, 08. But don’t quote me. That could change. Sarah Strange is in the movie. I know a lot of people were disappointed that O’Neill doesn’t appear in Ark. The story didn’t really call for it and I didn’t want to wedge him in as I know you would have accused me of doing afterward. But in our tireless effort to please all the people all the time he is back in a big way in Continuum. As far as whether the story in Ark feels rushed, while I’m sure diehard fans would have like to see the beats play out over a whole season richly textured with detail … the trade off is that in one jam packed 90 minute movie you get a lot more impact as the big moments unfold. I hope.

Anonymous #4 writes: “I know it’s an actor issue, but is there any chance that in future SG-1 movies you guys can get Chris Judge to cut his hair? Teal’c should be bald. In fact, hair in general on Stargate has been a problem lately, but Teal’c’s hair is the worst.”

RCC: I will forward your opinion promptly to Chris Judge. Anonymously.

Charles Schneider writes: “I can’t believe I almost forgot to comment on the episode.
I love the eerie dreamscape mortal peril fell during the spooky month of the year. Did you know it would air in Oct.? Joe F. was great as evil Sheppard. Not only did he own the episode in a good way, the Sheppard battle scene at the end was great.
McKays 11th hour rescue of Sheppard was the icing on the cake. Very very suspensful, very awesome. Props to Coop for a masterful interweave of dream/reality sequences. Eventually I was just sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see a “twist”.
Vfx were awesome. The Moby Dick references throughout were great, and the cg Moby Dick was perfect. I love the McKay boat scene. Bravo to all the writes, post production, cast, and crew members that had a hand in making this awesome episode!”

RCC: I can’t believe I almost forgot to say thank-you.

Micky writes: “Can’t wait for the movies!! Will there be any trailers for them to tease us with??”

RCC: There will be trailers for Ark emerging shortly. I believe Fox intends to put them on other DVD releases prior to March.

Connor writes: “So, why keep every light on in Atlantis if they only have one (fastly depleting) ZPM?”

RCC: In a bid to prevent galactic climate change, Zelenka has been busy replacing all the light bulbs on Atlantis with low wattage fluorescents. Also, the city shots are often reused from other shows.

Anonymous #5 writes: “Thank you for a wonderful episode! This is my new favorite episode of all time! Season four is shaping up to be very exciting. Thank you also for the John and Teyla moments in this episode. They were beautiful. The hug was so touching. If it is not too much trouble, it would be great to hear RCC’s thoughts on these moments.”

RCC: Actually the “hug” scene continued and they went inside, sat down and talked a bit. Teyla tried to make Sheppard believe Heightmeyer’s death wasn’t his fault. I know you will hate me for cutting the scene now that I’ve told you it exists but sometimes a visual is enough. When you write a script you think the words are all that matters because you can’t see the pictures. When you see the pictures you realize there is nothing you can say that is more powerful so you might as well just shut-up. (I’m talking about me, the writer.)

Joe: Spoken like a true director.

Jedi writes: “Great job on Doppelganger Rob. Question for you…a friend of mine caught it early on ITunes and said that JF played 4 different roles in the episode, is this true?”

RCC: If you real look closely, in fact, Joe Flannigan is not just playing himself in this episode but his evil twin in everybody’s dreams as well as Teyla, Ronon, and the guy who hand’s Telya an AGR at one point. That was a complicated shot believe me. Hey, seriously, are you a real Jedi?

Tesajb writes: “LOVED tonight’s episode. Probably my favorite yet this season!
The only thing I’m confused about is why the alien entity had such evil intentions. Unlike URGO, who just wanted to experience new things, this entity seemed bent on their destruction. But to what end?”

RCC: I have often wondered the same thing about jellyfish.

Anonymous #6 writes: “Doppelganger was amazing. I can’t wait to see the rest of this season if this is how it’s beginning!!!! After an epidode airs do you or any of your co-workers check out popular fan sites to check out the reactions? Which sites do you visit?”

RCC: Only one. The blog of one Joe Mallozzi but to be honest, that’s more to see what Joe has recently eaten. Oh yeah and sometimes Gateworld. I like to see what Darren’s been eating too.

Sarah writes: “Oh, Joe! I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to fangirl Robert Cooper now, because Doppelganger was the best thing ever! I think only dogs could hear the squeeing sounds that episode caused.”

RCC: Thanks for fangirling me. I think. You know when I sat down to come up with an episode for this season I started as I usually do by saying to myself, what do people like? Easy answer! Joe Flannigan. What do people like more than Joe Flannigan? Two Joe Flannigans! Beating the crap out each other!!!! This show writes itself.

Alipeeps writes: “Actually – here’s a question for Rob’s Doppelganger Q&A: How did you film that scene where Ronon walked from an Atlantis corrdior into the forest?”

RCC: Mark Savela our brilliantly talented VFX supervisor sweated many buckets of bullets over this shot. And I owe a nod to Martin Wood who suggested the hand off. Basically what we did is shoot Jason both in the hall and then in the forest and blend the two shots seamlessly by adding a CG door/hallway to the top of the forest shot. The transition happens as we pan down to the door and Ronon is out of the frame for a mere blink of your eye.

How long did it take to film the Sheppard vs Sheppard fight scene?

RCC: It took roughly two days to shoot the fight. Fights and stunts take a long time to shoot but when the fight has to be shot twice it takes twice as long. (Math genius.) We would shoot one side with Joe. Then he’d change outfits and we’d shoot the other side.

Anonymous #7 writes: “A question though, if I may? If you had longer with the episode to explore more personnel’s fears, what would we see for the likes of Zelenka and Carter?”

RCC: Strangely Zelenka has a mortal fear of both kittens and walnuts and Carter’s worst fear was already featured in Marty Gero’s Grace Under Pressure.

Primate-Studios writes: “Doppleganger was awesome! I was completely blown away. I’m still in shock. The episode was right up my ally. These first 4 episodes have been insanely awesome. The cast changes have definitely been for the better! And Joe Flanigan would be an awesome serial killer!”

RCC: Yes, I agree. Awesome. We’re talking on TV right?

Cheeky Lil Devil writes: “Thank you Mr M and Mr C the great episode, it’s one of my favourites.. oh before I go, was that Joe flung off the balcony, or a stunt double? I had to wince at that. Great job all round, the choreography, the stunts, the story, and not to mention Evil Shep. *fans self*”

RCC: We used a new and very cool 3D flying rig for these stunts. It’s very precise and very safe allowing Joe Flannigan to actually do his own stunt for that scene.

Joe: By the way, one of my favorite outtakes is from this episode, specifically this scene. Director Rob yells action, Joe F. braces to get yanked and then, for some reason, the ratchet fails. Joe relaxes – at which point the ratchet kicks in and he is yanked – through the guard rail and across the room. The look of sudden terror on his face and the “Urk!” he utters as he is pulled up and away is priceless. Heh heh.

Anonymous #8 writes: “Hey Joe and perhaps your special guest! I am hoping you can breakdown the fears in each dream for us. There has been much debate over how to interpret what our teams fears are, so would love some insight into them. For example, is it true that Teyla’s big fear is being in a relationship with Shep?”

RCC: I think her real fear is being misunderstood and not trusted…and having the life sucked out of her by the Wraith. And squirrels but that was too much to cram into one dream sequence.

Thank-you all for your positive thoughts. And thank-you to our gracious host for turning over his mailbag for the day. I must say, I hope everyone appreciates all the love, devotion and hard work Joe puts into his blog universe. I know I’m thankful because it keeps me from having to make conversation with Joe around the office. I already know everything that’s happened to him … and so much more.

Robert Cooper

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