I’d like to thank John Picacio for an entertaining and very informative guest entry. As someone who possesses the drawing and design skills of a six year old, I am in awe of John’s talent. I’ll be ordering myself a copy of Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio (containing over 180 images of John’s award-winning work) and, while I’m at it, I’ll also be ordering up copies for NarellefromAus and Terry who were the winners of the last BOTMC contest. Every month, I select two random winners from the list of those taking part in our book of the month club discussions, so if you’d like a shot at winning books, magazine subscriptions, or signed Stargate scripts and swag, start reading. We have some terrific literary guests lined up on the BOTMC front:
Cordelia’s Honor, Lois McMaster Bujold
Discussion the week of August 11th, with author Lois McMaster Bujold.
The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden, Catherynne M. Valente
Discussion the week of August 18th, with author Catherynne M. Valente.
The Church of Dead Girls, Stephen Dobyns
Discussion the week of August 25th, with author Stephen Dobyns.
It was also great to see former guest-blogger and author Jeffrey Ford drop by the comments section to say hello. While I initially started the Book of the Month Club as a way of introducing fans of scifi television to writers in the fields of SF, fantasy, and horror, it’s actually been a pleasantly enlightening experience for me as well. If not for our little club, I may have never checked out the works of Jeffrey Ford – which would have been a huge loss since I now consider it him one of my top 5 authors writing today. For those of you who missed out on Jeffrey’s visit(s), go here: http://josephmallozzi.com/2008/04/21/april-21-2008-author-jeffrey-ford-drops-by-to-say-hello-and-get-your-opinion-on-a-work-in-progress/
For any of you interested in submitting a question for actor Mark Dacascos (aka Tyre from season four’s Reunion and season 5’s Broken Ties), you have until midnight tomorrow to get them in.
Tanja in the production office asked me to tells fans about a very special auction. Tanja writes: “I have just posted the last of the two North Face Duffle Bags we had autographed during the filming of ‘Continuum’ on ebay. We auctioned the first of the bags in September ’07 and raised almost $1000 for Ryan’s (camera) son’s charity. Ryan’s son, Trey, has a disease called Hunter’s Syndrome. This disease is part of the Mucopolysaccharide (MPS) family and causes damage to the cellular functions of the body resulting in damage to organs and mental development. It also affects the bones, skin, tendons and cartilage resulting in deformation.
I would like to ask you to help me promote this auction and to help me raise money for this charity.
The bag also includes Don Davis’ signature which makes it even more special.
The link to the ebay posting is: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&item=220261015138
Well, I guess that’s it for today’s entry. Thanks for stopping by…
No, wait! There was something else I was supposed to mention…What was it…?
Oh, yeah. Broken Ties aired last night and you’re all no doubt wondering “What the hell was he thinking?” Well…
I knew I was going to write this story as far back as last season. From the moment I made the decision to have Tyre escape at the end of Reunion, I knew there had to be re-match. And what better slot than episode #3, one that has played host to Ronon stories in four of the last five seasons. I pitched out the bare bones idea to the room (Tyre captured Ronon and offers him up to the wraith who attempt to turn him) and we spent a morning spinning it. It was Paul who suggested we needed to see Ronon turn which dovetailed nicely with actor Jason Momoa’s off-season request for his character to go darkside. So I sat down and beat out an outline, working with main goals: 1) Ronon had to go darkside and 2) I wanted these former Satedans to have a re-match but this time their role would be reversed and Tyre would be on our side. As I was working on the outline, I mentioned the script to our stunt coordinator Bam Bam and he expressed an interest in choreographing a sword fight, something we had yet to do on the show…
There were a number of elements I wanted to balance in the script. Of course, there was the A story charting Ronon’s capture, torturous treatment at the hands of the wraith, his turn, his rescue, and his equally torturous detox, but I felt it was important to juxtapose the big man’s descent and restoration with Tyre’s ascent and redemption. There was also the matter of Teyla and the difficult decision she faced as a new mother, essentially having to choose between being a stay at home mom or continuing her dangerous job as an off-world explorer. And then there was Woolsey whose by-the-book priggishness belies a warmth, compassion, and vulnerability that I wanted to hint at if not glimpse. In addition to the aforementioned, I wanted to service the other characters by demonstrating their affection for Ronon (John’s resolve in the jail cell, Rodney’s inability to sleep) as well as their determination to get their friend back. In the end, I think it came together pretty well. This was certainly the most character-driven episode I wrote this season and I’m pleased that the character moments were what most of the fans took away from the viewing.
On to specifics:
EXT. FOREST – DAY: The Ronon/Teyla walk and talk. Ronon is captured.
A slightly different opening in the script:
RONON: Well, sounds like you’re going to have your hands full…
INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – ATLANTIS — DAY: Ronon is missing. The team decide to check in with a former Satedan.
I really liked the character of Solen Sincha when he was introduced way back in the episode Trinity, but I couldn’t think of a way to bring him back – until this episode. I contacted our casting director who made the call to Sean Campbell’s rep, checking on the actor’s availability. The response from Sean’s agent was almost immediate: Sean would love to come back and do the show.
For those of you complaining about Woolsey’s lack of tact in giving Carter her bad news in the middle of the SGC gate room, how about him unwittingly putting Teyla on the spot here by asking her about her decision vis-à-vis her standing with Sheppard’s team. Poor optimistic Shep gets the rugged pulled out from underneath him by Teyla’s uncertain response – which feeds into the confrontation later in the script.
Finally, the conference room doors. How do they open and close? I imagine that they have built in motion detectors and will pretty much open for anyone but, like certain mechanisms, may require a “pause period” before they can activate again. Poor Woolsey. In my producer’s cut, I actually had him wave, then attempt to peek through the slats and offer a plaintive: “Hellooo?” but Carl and Martin thought it was too much. In retrospect, I regret not going with it in the final version.
Off Ronon –
C) EXT. FOREST — DAY
Note: In this scene, eagle-eyed observers will not that Ronon now sports Tyre’s pendant.
INT. ABANDONED HOUSE — NIGHT: The wraith arrive.
In an effort to vary our wraith looks, we hired a few new actors to portray the Pegasus baddies. Tyler McClendon, who plays the wraith in this episode, offers a distinct interpretation of the wraith commander. One of the things we like about Chris Heyerdahl who plays Todd is his ability to infuse the character with a unique personality – and Tyler does a nice job of it here.
INT. WOOLSEY’S OFFICE — NIGHT: Teyla pays Woolsey a visit.
Given that Woolsey kicked off his command of Atlantis by potentially alienating Teyla through his brusque attitude toward Kanaan in The Seed, I felt it was important to see a little understanding between these two characters. Woolsey is, of course, socially awkward and yet despite this he is both sympathetic to and understanding of Teyla’s situation. I love Teyla’s reaction to Woolsey’s “I never got a chance to say goodbye.”, a line that was improvised by Bob on the day that I thought was just brilliant. Can you get any sadder than that?
INT. ABANDONED HOUSE — NIGHT: The process begins.
Ronon defies the wraith. Like Marik and Hemi before him, he will die before he submits. But the wraith is aware of Ronon’s strength and informs him “No. You won’t.” What seems like a throwaway line is actually a hint to what lies in store for our hero.
INT. CAFETERIA — DAY: Sheppard and McKay are tipped off.
I’ve often found that I come up with my best ideas when I’m not forcing the issue. I’ll hit a roadblock in a script and spend days trying to solve it and then, suddenly, the answer will come to me when I’m shaving or out to dinner or driving to work. So I thought it would be fun to have McKay adopt this strategy, modeled after the success of Archimedes’ bathtub revelation. In the first draft, at Rodney’s mention of the ancient Greek mathematician, Sheppard says: “You mean that Greek geologist who used to have a crush on Teyla?” But the other writers bumped on geologist for some reason, so I changed the line to “You mean that Greek microbiologist who used to have a crush on Teyla?” Yes, infinitely funnier. For some reason, on the day, Joe changed the line to “You mean the Greek dude who used to have a crush on Teyla?”.
Also, this little exchange didn’t survive the first draft either:
Too bad. I thought it was kind of funny and played to McKay’s ego. Sorry, McSheppers.
Finally, their going over the information actually paid off in the first draft:
INT. ABANDONED HOUSE — DAY: The wraith take Ronon.
In the first draft, a flashback segued into this scene…
It’s the first time I really feel that Woolsey is onside and one with the team rather than apart from Sheppard and co. He is just as determined to get Ronon back as his fellow teammates.
EXT. VILLAGE — NIGHT: Sheppard and co. discover Tyre.
This scene was initially scripted to be shot all interiors, but director Ken Girotti felt the wormhole transition wasn’t enough. He wanted to start with an exterior shot. So James Robbins and co. did a brilliant job of redressing a section of the village set for the scene and it worked beautifully.
INT. INFIRMARY — DAY: Tyre starts to go through withdrawal.
Fairly straightforward. Mark does a terrific job showing just how far Tyre has fallen – and foreshadowing Ronon’s equally difficult return.
INT. CORRIDOR – ATLANTIS — DAY: John and Teyla have it out.
Sheppard: You’re the one having second thoughts about rejoining the team. What the hell am I supposed to do? Give you the option every time we’re going off-world? I can’t do that. If I’m heading into action, I need to know that every member of my team is committed to being on the team – today, tomorrow, a year from now.Beat. Teyla nods, reprimanded – which causes Sheppard to feel bad.
Robert felt that Sheppard was coming off as little too insensitive, so I softened him a bit in the next draft. Still, the conversation remained more or less as initially scripted and there were a few takes in which Sheppard did come across a lot harsher.
INT. OBSERVATION DECK — DAY/MONTAGE: Tyre recovers/Ronon is turned.
This episode has a record three montage sequences and this is the first, juxtaposing the pain and terror both men face as they go in different directions. Pretty much as scripted, but kudos to editor Brad Rhines for building such a memorably visual sequence with the various cross-dissolves, ending with Tyre staring up at the ghostly wraith image that fades as the montage ends.
INT. CORRIDOR – ATLANTIS — NIGHT: A recovered Tyre offers to help.
In the first draft, Tyre informs Sheppard that he knows where Ronon is being held. End scene. The other writers felt that the scene would play better if Sheppard actually considered Tyre’s offer. And so, rather than simply offer the information, Tyre makes a desperate pitch to join the rescue mission, demonstrating his desire to make amends.
INT. ND WRAITH CHAMBER — DAY: Ronon has turned.
INT. ND WRAITH CHAMBER — DAYCLOSE ON the wraith and FOLLOWING him as he paces, hands behind his back.
OFF a fiercely determined Ronon…
INT. ATLANTIS CORRIDOR — DAY: John pitches Tyre’s involvement to Woolsey.
To be honest, this was one of the most frustrating scenes in the episode simply because it seemed so surreal to have the two of them talking in a deserted corridor. Where the hell is everybody? We tried to fix the problem in post by adding a bit of crowd noise in the background but it still felt a little weird.
A glimpse into Sheppard’s psyche here as he makes subtle allusion to his past, specifically his willingness to put all on the line to save a friend in combat.
Rachel bumped on the idea of Teyla handing her baby off to Woolsey so that she can head off-world, so I added Teyla‘s “I was about to meet Kanaan in the cafeteria. If you could explain the situation to him…” Loved Bob’s panicked reaction to the crying baby. Again, it’s the little moments…
INT. WRAITH FACILITY — DAY: The team is captured.
Jason was very involved with this episode at the script stage which I thought was great. He came up to my office and asked me if Ronon could punch Sheppard. Hell, yeah! Given Jason’s penchant for improvisation (ie. The slap he delivers to Rakai in Reunion was unscripted and came as a total surprise to actor Aleks Paunovic), I thought this would have been a perfect opportunity to surprise Joe Flanigan. But ultimately decided against it.
INT. ND WRAITH CHAMBER — DAY: Ronon and Tyre make a pitch to keep the team alive.
A bit of Tyre’s dialogue trimmed in editing room –
TYRE: Teyla is well-respected on many worlds. McKay’s knowledge of Ancient technology is unmatched. And Sheppard’s military background makes him the ideal candidate to lead a future attack on Atlantis – if that’s what you’re planning. (beat) They’re much more useful to you alive – and cooperative.
INT. WRAITH CELL — DAY: McKay plots.
In the first draft, his plan was a little more detailed…
MCKAY: Alright. I’ve got it. What we do is we tell them we have some vital information we’d be willing to give up, but we’ll only share it with Ronon. So they send Ronon and when he shows up, we appeal to him – you know, that part of him that’s still him.SHEPPARD: Okay, so far I can think of three things wrong with that plan. But go on.
SHEPPARD: I think I’m good, thanks.
This scene was in case any fan (or network exec) wondered when the hell Sheppard could have picked up his guns.
INT. ND WRAITH CHAMBER — DAY: The wraith about to feed on Sheppard.
Sheppard: “Hey, you know what’d be creepy and unexpected? If you knelt instead.” Truer words were never spoken.
Sheppard: “Okay, I’ll try and make it work.” Entertainment industry in-joke alert. Ask an actor.
Yes, it’s Tyre that cuts off the wraith’s feeding hand. It was even more confusing in the director’s cut because we go from Ronon straight to the hand being cut off. Normally, I would just call for a pick-up – get the actor (in this case Mark) in to get a simple shot of him drawing his sword so that we could tie it into the sequence. Unfortunately, Mark was on a tight schedule and unavailable – and, unfortunately, we didn’t get the shot. So we ended up doing a pick-up with a double drawing the sword. Still confusing I see.
My description of Sheppard in this sequence:
INT. ANOTHER WRAITH CELL — DAY: McKay and Teyla rescue Lorne’s team.
This quick scene was scripted as follows:
McKay and Teyla rush into the room.LORNE: Teyla! McKay! Where’s Colonel Sheppard?
LORNE: How’d you get out?
MCKAY: Tyre freed us. Let’s go.
I ended up ADR’ing Sheppard’s “We’re clear!” to indicate the team is well on their way.
Someone (won’t say who) suggested we ADR the wraith screaming “NOOOOOOO!“ over Tyre hitting the remote and the subsequent explosion. Shades of Jim Rome.
Love Jason’s “You kill me or set me free! Sheppard!”
Love Teyla and McKay’s pained expressions from the observation deck as they watch their friend’s struggle.
Jason is incredible in the ensuing shots as he fights the effects of the enzyme.
The second montage sequence of the episode.
INT. ISOLATION ROOM — DAY: Ronon is back.
A little call-back to early, early Rodney McKay. Remember back in SG-1’s Redemption II when he admits to Carter that he always wanted to be pianist…?
INT. CONFERENCE ROOM — NIGHT: The wrap-up.
Fairly straightforward. Another nice little touch added by Bob Picardo is his uncertain look at the conference room doors.
INT. WOOLSEY’S QUARTERS — NIGHT
This gag in which we find Woolsey back in his quarters, having slipped into something “more comfortable” was one of the first ideas Bob pitched out after signing on. I thought it was hilarious and worked it into the script. Every time we watched this particular scene in the room, Paul would matter-of-factly inform us: “Our base commander is insane.”