Well, today is the day many of you have been impatiently awaiting. Yes, the day that wunderkind Martin Gero steps into the spotlight to field your comments and queries on his episode, Be All My Sins Remember’d. Is Weir alive? Where are Teyla‘s people? Is there a replicator connection to Carson Beckett‘s rumored return? These are just some of the questions he won’t be answering in today’s blog installment. However, he has taken the time to respond to plenty of other questions.
And so, with out further ado, I turn this blog over to Marty G. –
Martin: First let me just say thanks to Joe for giving me the opportunity to blog crash here. Many people ask me why I don’t blog…well, no one can do it better than this man, so why bother.
Also, I am glad that we were able to keep the major twist at the end of the episode a secret… Now, look, I used to be a spoiler hound like many of you are. And then I realized I was starting to not love movies and TV like a I used to. I like to be surprised…and it’s next to impossible (for me) to get excited about a show I know too much about. I go see Shakespeare even though I know the story, but most movies and TV ain’t Shakespeare (Stargate included). A lot of the excitement comes from the unexpected twists. So, I’m not saying I hate people who read spoilers or I wish the internet would stop giving everything away. I just want to point out how awesome it is not knowing something, being surprised, and would put forth that many of you would like the show more if you didn’t read spoilers. Just a humble opinion from a one time spoiler lover. Ignore it if you wish.
cat4444 writes: “. . . since Carson removed the tumor from Watson’s body before it exploded, it stands to reason that it hadn’t yet reached critical mass, and, once it had been removed, it no longer had access to the raw materials it needed to complete the growth stage. This just begs the question: If the tumor no longer had access to the raw materials needed to complete the process, how could it have reached critical mass and exploded? […] Based upon Joe’s “it becomes highly unstable and can be set off by any number of things”, I rewatched the portion of the episode where McKay is explaining how the tumors are created and when they explode. His explanation was:
“The device emits millions of irradiated particles that have been genetically programmed to enter into our systems and gather behind the lungs. Now, as they go, they collect trace elements from our body that they need to complete an explosive compound, which, once in place, the tumor reaches critical mass and explodes.” He did not say: “. . . which once in place, the tumor reaches critical mass and becomes highly unstable and can be set off by any number of things causing it to eventually explode.”
Martin: This is a great and important question, one that I know many fans have been wondering about, heck, even losing sleep over. And let me thank you for asking it so succinctly. The answer is simply: when the tumor reaches critical mass, it becomes highly unstable and can be set off by any number of things including sudden movements. McKay’s original line was: “…which once in place, the tumor reaches critical mass and becomes highly unstable and can be set off by any number of things causing it to eventually explode.” It was cut for time, ‘cause I thought no one would catch it or care…but you did. Congrats.
Now onto BAMSR:
promogirl writes: “Two questions. 1) Were there any character developing scenes that you had to cut for time? The episode was jammed with so much stuff I imagine something had to go. 2) Will we see a resolution (or continuation) to the Weir storyline in season 5?”
Martin: Hey promogirl…nope…as I recall, we didn’t cut any full scenes for time. I always make inner scene trims here and there to keep the pace going., but we were lucky enough not to cut full scenes. Weir’s storyline will be revisited in season 5.
a. loquita writes: “When you sit down to watch TV at home, do you automatically look at a show much like looking at a Stargate episode you are producing? As in, do you notice little flaws? Or can you just sit back and enjoy as a regular audience member? Secondly, if you don’t mind me saying, from the pictures that have been posted on this blog you are quite handsome. Maybe not at the same level as Mr. Flanigan or Mr. Hewlett but certainly more so than Mr. Mallozzi. Just thought you might want to know that so you can hold it over his head! Feel free to taunt him with that knowledge from time to time J ”
Martin: Stargate is really the only show I nitpick…because that’s my job…they pay me to. Otherwise, I think I’m probably a very forgiving viewer. I always watch a show seasonally, and judge it once I get to the end. Even my favorite shows like The Shield or Sopranos have logic flaws and crap episodes, but if at the end of the season they’ve had more good than bad, than that’s a win. Shows occasionally have runs where they’ll do like seven perfect episodes in a row. That’s rare and should be savored. For the most part, I’m ready for a few duds going in. Second: I’m not at least a tie with David? You’re crazy. Also, Joe M. is better looking in person than all of us combined…seriously…dreamy…I- I-…I’ve said too much.
Jmills writes: “The spacebattle scene, how long did that take to make? Also, when the vfx guys are doing that, what sort of direction (eg. The Apollo needs to kill 5 replicator ships, a traveler ship needs to die, and in the end the good guys win)?”
Martin: That space battle scene took close to four months of work to finish. HUNDREDS of people slaved away to make that happen. As far as direction – in the script I usually lay it out shot by shot. Mark Savela and his team come up with a budget based on my descriptions of those shots, we land on a number (this one was expensive, as I’m sure you can imagine) and shoot the show. (This show had a bunch of effects houses working on the shots. Image Engine, Atmosphere, Rainmaker, and more…)
In the editing room (this show was edited by my dear friend Mike Banas, who also edited my film), Mike and I put in place holders for the shots, cut one here, add a couple there. Then Mark and Shannon (Mark’s right hand lady) come in and we use a lot of hand gestures and make explosion sounds with our mouths and try to make sure we’re all on the same page and have left enough time in the cut for the shots. What a lot of people don’t know is that the show is “locked” (meaning no further editing is done) before most of the VFX’s have even started. So there’s a lot of educated guess work there. All too often I’ve found we didn’t leave long enough time for a shot…something I’ve fixed by leaving longer and longer holes.
I trust Mark and Shannon a lot (they have more than earned it over the years) so, frequently, I’ll just talk about the plot point that needs to get hit in the shot and then let them come up with something cool…more heads the better really.
Then the temps start. These are very basic, usually black and white mock-ups of the shots without a lot of detail. We go back and forth refining the movement of the ships and the camera placement, etc.
Once we agree on temps, better renders and composites (adding explosions and laser beams and such) starts to happen. Again, we see the shot, I give notes, Paul and Joe gives notes, and Mark tells the vendors to make the changes.
Four months later you have your shots…and we’re always done at the very last moment. Shots this big can take DAYS for a computer to output, so congrats to Mark and Shannon and the rest of the team.
Chris C writes: “In this episode, we saw McKay argue for a very narrow view of consciousness. He told us not to be concerned about the ethics of sacrificing Fran because she was only “zeros and ones”, a view Carter quickly agreed with. Was much thought put into this?
I’m mildly surprised McKay doesn’t have a more liberal view of how we can determine whether something is intelligent or conscious or alive. He seems to be saying that anything which resembles a machine can never be an intelligent being worthy of the existential ethical considerations humans merit, by its very nature.”
Martin: I think his view, as is mine, is that a digital consciousness can’t technically die. Fran is a physical manifestation of a computer program. That program could conceivably continue existing even after its physical embodiment is destroyed. I think his feeling early in the ep was: “Look, she’s a program. If we want, we can make her another body once we destroy the one she had. She’ll never know the difference.” A hard line that I think softened once he got to know her. Will he actually do that? We’ll see…
Jenny Robin writes: “There were a lot of moving parts to this episode: team moments, betrayal, revelation, posturing, collaboration, science, friendship, space battles, globs, ethical dilemma, threat of impending doom, etc. How were you able to pack it all into the alloted pages/timeframe without making it dense or hard-to-follow?”
Martin: The hard part in an episode like this, where there’s so much going on, is to really carve out moments for the characters to really interact with each other and not just communicate “pertinent” information. We knew going into this episode that a lot of pots were going to come to a boil. Pretty much every major arc in the series is touched on in this episode, so we made sure to give them all their due screen time – while not forgetting that people also like to see things go boom. I’m particularly proud of how many little moments we snuck into a huge action episode.
vvv0472 writes: “Dear Danger Beckett, 1)Have you mourned the loss of your brother? 2)Do you miss having your brother around? 3)(If answered yes to # 2) what do you miss most about your brother? 4)Has your accent improved?”
Martin: I’ll let Danger himself field this –
Danger: 1) Nyet! (That’s Scottish right?) It’s been a very hard year. 2) Yes and no. He’s dead, which is awful, but that means there’s a Scotsman shortage on the show…which could mean big things for me. 3) I always looked better standing next to him. 4) It soooor heeeesssss.
Charles Schneider writes: “Obviously there was a huge cameo during the conclusion that sets up a new arc (which probably will be paid off near or at season’s end). How much of BAMSR was pure Martin G. and how much of the episode do you credit to the room )or things that you knew “had” to happen)?”
Martin: First off, let me just say that that cameo pays off in Season 5 and is left open for the rest of the Season for a very good reason, explained in Season 5. Second, as I’ve said before many times on my DVD commentaries (you don’t listen to them??), these big episodes are team ventures. It’s weird that only one person gets the credit. I mean, I am the guy that physically writes the script and the dialogue (and cashes the cheque), but the story is very much combed over in fine detail with the other writers. Obviously, because episodes such as BAMSR not only wrap up idea’s from other people’s stories, but they create new arc that other writers will probably have to take on. So yeah, team effort on this one.
anon, good nurse writes: “I know this issue isn’t unique to SG: Atlantis, but how could a beaming device be strong enough to bring McKay et al. back up from the Replicator home world, which by that time must have had a truly incredible gravitational force?”
Martin: Cause those Asgard are so bad ass? Actually they beam out and THEN the planet starts to implode.
Leliana writes: “Are we going to see the replicators again in season four or do we have to wait for season five? Was this Torri’s last episode of the season? Will we see Fran again? Why the leather on Elizabeth? That didn’t look very replicatorish…
Martin: “1. There is one more “replicator” story, but it doesn’t involve a “replicator”. 2. Yes. 3. Hopefully 4. I personally am not a fan of how the Replicators look. I wanted something different for Weir. Torri loved the jacket.
theufw writes: “Does Carter have any flaws? Other than going by the book (for now)? Do we have to anticipate major character deaths in the future? Do you face problems when writing poetry or do they just come out of your mind instinctively? Because the poem you wrote is superb. I want to learn to write like you.”
Martin: “1. Yes, I think Carter has many flaws, but she’s a utter professional and rarely lets them affect her work. 2. Yes. How else will I maintain my “Angel of Death” moniker. 3. I have no idea what poem you’re talking about, but I usually steal pretty words from dead people.”
Kristen writes: “In “Miller’s Crossing” was there a lot of arguments in the writer’s room about that those last ten minutes? What were your thoughts/intentions concerning Sheppard’s decision at the end? You write the most interesting screenplays with a Rodney focus..why do you think you gravitate to his character so much?
You seem to write the majority of the scenes in episodes exploring Sheppard’s not darker side per say, but a more layered one. Ever think you might do something that explores that aspect of him more in a heavier way like you did Rodney’s flaws/redemptions in “Tao”?
Again not to be picky, but how did a tumor create such force and explosion as we saw in “Sunday”?”
Martin: “1. There was an initial concern that we were going too dark, but we felt like it was the right thing to do. Carl put it bluntly: the second Wallace injects Jeanie, he seals his fate – he’s a doomed man. He must die. 2. I made sure to address what bold a move it was and how Sheppard himself wasn’t comfortable with it in that last scene with McKay. I think seeing our character make hard calls like that is what makes them interesting. Wrestling with the consequences is what makes them good. 3. McKay as a person has the most to learn about himself and others. Like how to be a brother, to trust others, be more accepting, etc. He’s also the type of guy that isn’t going to learn those lessons unless he’s faced with a massive crisis…which makes for great TV. Also David and I are very good friends and I enjoy writing for him a great deal. 4. I think I have done that… 5. Cause it’s a space tumor…duh.”
Fishbaum writes: “Will we ever see Rodney’s reaction to Teyla’s announcement of her pregnancy? (I imagine John practically RAN to the labs to tell him!) I have been loving Chris H’s wraith “Todd” — any chance we’ll see Chris in some other role this season? What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten, and would you have it again if you had the chance?
Martin: 1. Sadly, no. McKay finds out off camera. 2. Chris H is amazing, but I am very glad to see that many of you didn’t notice the little trick we pulled this episode. See, Chris is so amazing that he works all the time, and sometimes he’s too busy to do our show. Like, for instance in BAMSR. That wasn’t Chris in the ep playing Todd. That was a young actor named Brendan Penny. He wore the make up and acted with the cast and then Chris re-voiced the part in post. Kinda like we did with Michael in Allies, but much more effectively. But back to your question: will we see Chris H in another role this season: quite possibly. 3. The most unusual thing I’ve ever eaten…so many choices…we’ll go with the most recent: pigs ears. Not my fav. Second place: gazelle and alligator in Africa.”
Rose (formerly OhioAnne) writes: “What is the significance of the title?”
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. – Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.
Pauline Says: “Did you consider making BAMSR into a two episode feature?”
Martin: “The thing I like the least about Battlestar (and I like that show) is that all too often they take one episode or an episode and a half of story and stretch it out into two episodes (we do it too every now and again, but it seems like every other episode of Battlestar is a two-parter). There are great financial reasons to do this (like you get to spread the cost of the big VFX over two shows), but the story always suffers. I know parts of BAMSR seem rushed, but I don’t think it would have made two good episodes. The pace is what makes it so fun to watch.
LibKat writes: “I rewatched Miller’s Crossing during the marathon on SciFi here in the US. Both times I saw the ep. I thought that JF’s performance in the final scenes conveyed some ambiguity about whether Wallace really volunteered to be wraith fodder. Am I just nuts or did Shepard maybe feed him to the wraith?”
Martin: I can’t speak to your mental health but no, Sheppard didn’t feed him to the Wraith. Wallace volunteered.
Emily writes: “What’s Joe’s most annoying personality trait? Any other embarrassing stories you’d care to share about him would be great, as well. (You should see what he’s said about you!!)”
Martin: Joe is the greatest boss a person could ever dream of…that is all.
Joe weighing in: I’d say my most annoying personality trait is that I’m too caring.
Jono writes: “One more thing. Can the 100th episode of Atlantis (due in season 5 I believe) be a musical? Pleeeeeeeeease? If Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Scrubs can come up with excuses to have the whole cast singing and dancing then surely Atlantis’ genius writers can too… Like, maybe Wormhole X-Treme! could have a musically-themed spinoff movie or something.”
Martin: We have an amazing idea for the 100th episode of Atlantis, and it doesn’t involve singing. It will be the Season 5 finale. You’ll want to watch it.
KimberlyFDR writes: “1. Great twist at the end! Since (I think) this was the last of her four episodes that she filmed this season will her presence at least be felt in the coming episodes? 2. Did you feel that the ethical implications of Fran should have been touched on more? OR would have been had there been more time (say having this as a two-part episode)? 3. Was the image of Fran (as opposed to Rodney’s “The Game” dream-girl being a Sam tribute) meant to be an homage to Elizabeth in some way? 4. This would be a question for both Joe and Martin since you both wrote episodes with the Larrin character. Was it a conscious decision to create her as the female counterpart to Sheppard because alot of fans have noticed that she’s virtually the equivalent of Girl!John in alot of ways. 5. Was the decision to not have Teyla’s announcement of her pregnancy to the entire team (Rodney included) done so that Rodney’s reaction could be shown later or will we not get to see how McKay reacts to the news?”
Martin: 1. Glad you liked it. 2. The scene was originally much longer, but I cut it for time. Also, see above. 3. Nope. We cast the best woman for the part and didn’t care about her looks. 4. We definitely wanted to create a character that could be a nemesis for Sheppard. 5. See above.
joanieloveschachi writes: “Mr. Gero—Did you know that the McKay action figure looks just like you? What’s up with that?”
Martin: In fact I did know that. It’s in my office. I was told they needed it to look “more handsome” than David and made the necessary changes…resulting in it looking like me.
Sagacious writes: “On an episode such as this that has so many actors and moving parts involved, who does the scheduling that keeps it all running and when is scheduling done? Is it at the beginning of the episode or is it done nightly (or daily)?”
Martin: Atlantis has possibly the most complex shooting schedule around. Aside from the fact that we sometimes shoot more than one episode at once, the movies were shooting during much of the year using Carter and many of our sets. John Smith and John Lenic and all our very gifted AD’s plan as far in advance as they can, but every now and again a scene or script is rewritten to accommodate people’s schedules. For instance, Chris H wasn’t available for BAMSR and Ronon was originally in Harmony, but had to be taken out because it conflicted with the shooting of Quarantine.
grapesofwraith writes: “Question about Wier though (For Joe or Marty)- do you have a definite plan of what her ongoing role is going to be, or does this just leave the door open for if the right opportunity presents itself?”
Martin: We have a definite plan. Please tune into Season 5 for more.
susiekew writes: “Hi Joe – I hope it’s not too late to put in a question for BAMSR. Anyway, here it is. We all know the story was written by Martin Gero, but the opening credits also showed “Excerpt Written By: Alan McCullough”. What does this mean?”
Martin: “It’s a dumb legal thing. The scene that cuts inside the Wraith ship during the battle is actually a “pre-use” from “Spoils of War”, a script that Alan wrote, so our union says he gets a credit. I’ll have the same one in Spoils, as they use a scene or two from “Sins”.
ohinnj writes: “1) How did the idea of the character FRAN come about? I’m curious because – while I liked the character – it seems to me she really wasn’t needed in the story – you could have simply allowed McKay to finally figure out how to make the block of nanites work. So I’m wondering if you simply wanted another twist in the already jam-packed story (I’m not complaining!), or if you wanted to create another type of character that might reappear in the future. 2) How did the idea for the “compress not diffuse” solution come about? (I loved it.) And do you have real scientists that you consult to get the science right once you come up with a plotline?”
Martin: 1. I wanted another twist in the already jam-packed story (I’m greedy that way). Also, I thought scenes with McKay and blob of nanite particles would be less exciting that scenes with McKay and Fran.
BAMSR took a VERY long to break (to decide what every scene would be). We usually can do it in a day, two max. BAMSR took five days. There was a lot to discuss and agree on – namely how we kill the replicators in the end. It was just TBD for a while like: yeah, then we get to the planet and kill the replicators.
Out of desperation, Joe and I were in the room throwing idea’s back and forth. I came up with Fran, I think and I said, she could up load the freezing program and then maybe we drop a massive ARG pulse bomb or something. Joe thought for a moment, and then said: “We always break them apart…what if we stuck them all together?” And that was that. I think I called Mark Savela five minutes later and was like: can we do a massive replicator blob? Like as big as a city? He, after a long pause, said: “I have no idea how we’d make that work…but if you write it, we’ll figure it out.” So I wrote it, and he figured it out.
Okay, that’s all for now guys. Thanks for the questions but I need to get back to “Search and Rescue” our season 5 premiere. It’s due Monday and I still have a scene or two to write. Glad you liked the show. Hope you enjoy the rest of the season.