After speaking with Paul on Sunday, it was decided that we would head back into the office Tuesday morning so that we could, at the very least, start spinning the SGA movie. I rolled in at around 10:00 a.m. to find Carl, Martin, and Alan conferencing in Martin’s office. We got up to speed on one another’s lives (amazingly, no major developments since Saturday’s wrap party), then moved on to our individual business. Carl got to work on his beat sheet, Alan made some calls, Martin cleaned up his office, while I responded to some emails, approved some promo pics/footage, and cleared up my desk. Rob was already at post, working on an unfinished director’s cut of Vegas. Brad arrived soon after and retired to his office to deal with SGU matters. Paul – well, my writing partner never showed. When we called him up to find out whether he was, in fact, coming in, he seemed genuinely surprised. “Did we say we were going in today?”he asked.
“Yes.” I reminded him: “You were the one who suggested it.”
“Really?“he asked as though I‘d just informed him I‘d seen a flying mongoose perch itself atop the hood of my car. Yes. Really. After some discussion, it was decided that we would reconvene on Thursday to spin AND watch a Day 1 mix of The Prodigal.
Well, while all may be quiet on the office front, things are decided busy on the blog front. In addition to some behind the scenes pics and vids I’ve been saving, we have upcoming visits from various guest authors, SGA personnel, Baron Destructo, and Cookie Monster. There’s also that “list of episodes that never made it to your living room” I’ve been meaning to get around to. Which reminds me – if you have any questions for actor Tyler McClendon, the newest wraith on the block, or any more questions for author Glen Cook (The Black Company) start posting. And, finally, check out the bottom of this entry for some further discussion on The Black Company, the mailbag, and a behind-the-scenes video snippet from the last day of shooting.
And now, it gives me great pleasure to turn this blog over to one of my top 5 favorite Stargate Atlantis writer-producers: Carl “the truth” Binder. As many of you online stalkers already know, Carl’s professional background is both interesting and varied. Well, varied anyway. He got his start in the biz as an NBC page (imagine a geekier version of Kenneth from 30 Rock) where he made the acquaintance of such show business luminaries as James Stewart, Cybil Sheppard, and Markie Post. He also once shared a limo with Gallagher. He served as a Production Assistant on Punky Brewster, a show for which he received his first writing credit on an episode titled “Loved Thy Neighbor” (formerly titled “Neighborhood Witch”). From then on, there was no holding him back. He wrote for Adderly, Friday the 13th, War of the Worlds, The Black Stallion, Neon Rider, and then wrote the screenplay for a little movie called Pocahontas. You may have seen it? (I didn’t, but I have a problem with singing raccoons). After being touched by that Disney magic (I can assure you, not inappropriately), he blazed a trail for former production assistants everywhere by assuming the reins of Executive Producer on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, followed by Little Men, Mysterious Ways and, finally, Stargate Atlantis. Carl continues to frequent The Bridge Studios where he can still be found to this day – writing, producing, reading scripts penned by friends and family members, and eating take-out Italian. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the distinguished Carl Binder…
q-ball-er writes: “What was the most difficult scene to shoot during the filming of Tracker? And will you be working on Universe?”
1) That’s more a question for Will Waring (the director), seeing as during the filming of Tracker I was holed up in my comfortable office writing episode 14, The Prodigal. 2) Yes, I hope to be a part of Stargate Universe.
Linda Gagne writes: “The device you had gerrick use for dissappearing was similar to the sodan warrior’s device, was that intentional?”
No, Linda, any similarity wasn’t intentional. The Sodan device was for cloaking. Kiryk’s device was for teleportation.
Patricia Lee writes: “What was your favorite scene in Tracker and why?
I’m partial to the swinging log gag. I just love it when McKay starts to get back up and Ronon shoves him back down. Also the final scene of the episode. David and Jason were perfect in that scene. Oh yeah, and the doll scene between Keller and Celise (“He’s not mean. Just pretends to be.”).
It looked like it was very cooled in the forest on the day you shot the scene when Rodney was first confronted by the wraith… were you on location when they filmed this part and was it really cool or did they CG the breath effect? Was there anything interesting that happened when you were on location?
Yes, it was very cold on location that day. The breath was not CG. It was real. It was also raining the day we shot the scenes at the Stargate. But no, I was not on location that day. I was back at the office (wimp!).
This is my favorite Keller episode to date! She deserves an Emmy nod for this one too!
Sulien writes: “I don’t watch episodes with the active intent of reading subtext into a given story, but I can’t help but notice that the subtext between McKay and Sheppard most definitely exists, especially when the subtext just reaches out and grabs me. I noticed that John seemed to be quite put out that Rodney was using his day off to go off world with Keller in the first scene of “Trackers” and there have been numerous other instances where the subtext was pretty obvious. Do you, or any of the other writers that you know of, intentionally write the scenes to include subtext?
While it is true we very often try to put subtext into scenes, this particular scene is not one of them. I was going more for Sheppard finding it odd that Rodney was volunteering to work on his day off rather than him being put out by it.
Squeakiep writes: “I so enjoy your episodes. I find them quite character driven and I gain so much insite into the lives of the people I have come to love on Firday night. When you sit down to write an episode, how do you decide how much of the character to reveal? Or does that just happen as the script falls into place? Do you specifically “grab” the character episodes, or do they just happen to fall into your lap by rotation?”
Thanks for the kind words, Squeakiep. Quite often these types of episodes fall into my lap by rotation. But I also tend to gravitate toward them as well. When the guys first told me about this story (from a pitch by writer David Schmidt), I jumped at the opportunity to write it for two reasons: 1) After last year’s Missing, I really wanted to do a follow-up Keller-facing-adversity story, to show how she’s changed and grown during the last year; and 2) Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to put McKay and Ronon together tracking in the woods?
flygirl writes: “Keller states that the tracking implant in Kiryk is more complex than Ronan’s. Would this mean that Kiryk was made a “runner” later than Ronan, using better technology?
The use of the defibulator to create an eletrical malfunction in Kiryk’s tracking device was very innovative. Did you research this to determine if it could really happen?”
1) Yes, that was our intention. 2) My friend, an I.C.U. nurse, assured me that a defibrillator dialed to 360 joules would definitely disable most implanted electrical devices, including a Wraith tracking device.
MyNameIsNada writes: “1) It feels like when John walks into Rodney’s room (great shot with the mirror, by the way) that there is a missing scene-as if John had the same interaction with Ronan earlier. I kind of feel that John would be more curious that both are volunteering to go with Keller as opposed to Rodney going on his day off. Am I right about this one? 2) Read in an interview that Jason feels that Keller is wrong for Ronan, but I’m more curious to see how Ronan would grow within a relationship than Rodney. If Keller chooses Ronan, how do you see his character changing? 3) How come we haven’t seen any of the sparring sessions? 4) Was it wrong of me to feel that Ronan and Rodney jump to the conclusion (albeit correct) that Keller is missing too quickly? Finally, and this question has nothing to do with Tracker, rather with a comment that Joe made at comic con (just watched the video on the website). Ok, maybe this itself is more like a comment. Anyway, the question was thrown at Joe as to how he’s seen his character grow over the course of the series. He commented that that has been one of the larger arcs, but I have to disagree. I feel as if there is one character that resembles themselves the most from the first season it would be John. However, I see this as a good thing. I feel that his character provides a foil for the others-he enables them to change and grow through their interactions with him.”
1) There was no missing scene. In my mind, Sheppard wasn’t aware that Ronon was also going off-world with Keller. Sheppard merely finds it odd that McKay has volunteered to work on his day off, nothing more. 2) I’m curious to see it, too. 3) We wanted the surprise of seeing Keller actually fight. Seeing the sparring sessions beforehand would have diminished (in my opinion, anyway) that surprise. 4) In my mind, as soon as McKay radios Keller and gets no response, they would realize something is wrong. 5) I agree with you, MyNameIsNada.
Michelle writes: “Is Ronon really interested in Keller, or is he pulling Rodney’s chain?”
Or perhaps he thinks this won’t be much of a competition.
Wraithfodder writes: “1) Where was the sunset filmed? It was gorgeous!
2) Oh, not Tracker but just general: What will you be doing now that SGA is done? Do you think you’ll move on to SGU or another series? I have enjoyed the episodes you’ve penned.”
1) That sunset is actually re-used from the episode Harmony. It was shot in Widgen Park, B.C.
2) Thanks, Wraithfodder! Yes, I hope to be part of the SGU team.Stclare writes: “Who’s decision was it to have Rodney be unable to load his gun properly and why? as I found this aspect beyond annoying and can not figure out why this was done.
Well, since I wrote the script, I guess I’m to blame. But I can assure you that was not my intention. McKay had emptied his clip and needed to reload. Quickly. I just felt that sometimes, when we have to perform a task while someone dear to us is about to be fed upon by a Wraith, we might not be able to do said task as smoothly nor as quickly as we’d like.
Ive never felt that Ronon was great friends with Rodney but felt there was a great deal of respect there. However I did find some of the banter harsh and unnecessary towards Rodney and wondered where the respect had gone. Was there a concious decision to portray there banter this way or am i missing something here?”
There is respect between them. But they are two completely different personalities. Ronon has an abrupt, in your face quality. So if someone is slowing him down while he’s pursuing the man who’s kidnapped someone dear to him, he’s going to let him know. I did not intend for it to be unnecessarily harsh, just Ronon being Ronon.
DasNdanger writes: “1. So, in your mind, why do they hunt – for sport? For training? And do ALL Wraith hunt in this fashion, or just the elite? Or, is it reserved for those who have a more sadistic taste for the kill, who savor human suffering more than those who simply feed in order to survive (in other words, are the hunters Mallozzi-Wraith )?
2. Since when did the Wraith become the Keystone Cops? Seriously, these guys are predators – hunters by nature – and yet an entire army of them is taken down by Mad Max McKay, Ronon, Rambo Keller, dude that just had a heart ‘attack’, and an unconscious kid. Really, now.
3. Would the Wraith have fed upon an ailing child? After what happened to Steve, I doubt any Wraith would opt to feed on someone so ill, unless it was absolutely starving. So, was it your intention to suggest that the Wraith was about to feed on the child, or just kill her outright? If so, is this (attempted killing of a child) your way of turning them back into monsters in viewers’ minds, perhaps to counter the enlightening episode last week?
4. Since I thought he’d be stunning as a Wraith, I asked Alan M. if he’s ever considered shaving off his eyebrows, slapping on some green face paint and plopping a cotton mop on his head, and he said no, because he’d look like you. Do you take that as a compliment? “
Thanks for the kind words DasNdanger.
1) I think only a few Wraith partake in this activity, for training as well as sport. 2) Several Wraith were killed, but I would not call what we saw an “entire army.” And nowhere near all of them were taken down. Some were killed by Ronon and Kiryk (both Runners experienced in the art of killing Wraith). A few were killed by McKay, who needed to fire many shots to bring them down. As for Keller, she fought with a Wraith for a few seconds (more or less distracting it while McKay reloaded his gun), but if McKay didn’t then immediately shoot that Wraith several times, she would have been fed upon as well. 3) Yes, a Wraith would feed on a child. 4) Yes. Looking like a Wraith would be a huge improvement in my appearance.
Scary writes: “What inspired to have Rodney make mention of Fort MacMurray and Whitehorse? Should we assume that Rodney spent a portion of his childhood up north?”
Yes, but not as far north as Whitehorse. In Miller’s Crossing it was mentioned that, as a child, McKay got lost in the Edmonton mall. So I needed a Canadian city near Edmonton for McKay to mention. As luck would have it, we have a staff filled with Canadian writers to assist with such research.
Quade writes: “Are you optimistic about SG: Universe and how was your last day on Atlantis?”
The last main-unit shooting day on Atlantis was sad. It’s never easy saying good-bye, especially to characters you’ve become quite fond of. I will miss them, and the incredibly gifted actors who gave them life. As for Universe — I’m very optimistic. From what Brad and Robert have pitched to us, it sounds great.
Fred writes: “When writing “Tracker” (fantastic episode, by the way), how did you differentiate between all the various forest locations in the script?”
Thanks, Fred. To be honest, we don’t have a huge selection of available forests up here in which to shoot (and getting smaller), so there isn’t a whole lot of differentiation other than specific places within the forests (i.e. the stump McKay hides behind, or the clearing where the Stargate is located). For the cliff scene, we had to travel further out. And that cliff needed some help from VFX to make it higher.
Rose writes: “Have you ever been given a “note” from the studio that required you to take a story in a direction that you didn’t agree with? Can you give us any examples, if so? Thanks again.”
Not on this show. The stories are pitched to the network beforehand, so when they get to the script stage, the notes they give don’t send the story veering in a completely different direction. They do, however, often give notes that help make the story we’re telling better. For instance, with Tracker, Keller trying to escape from Kiryk by making a run for it, as well as McKay and Ronon coming upon the Wraith caught in one of Kiryk’s traps, were network suggestions.
Riley writes: “Did feel, though, that the Runner’s traps were a little too intricate to be whipped up so fast… can you explain the reasoning?”
You’re not the only one who thought so. I just figured, hell, this guy is really good. And if the Extreme Makeover guys can build a house in seven days… But yes, I know, I was pushing the limits of credibility with this.
(Note from Joe: I’d like to weigh in on this one. When we broke the story and talked about these traps, in our minds Kiryk was not building this traps along the way. He had heard of Keller’s visits to this village and planned her abduction. Part of his plan involved creating traps well beforehand to help him stay one step ahead of any pursuit).
Trish writes: “My question for Carl Binder: How are you so awesome? I totally loved Tracker! I’m such a sucker for the self-sacrifice stories. Thank you for a great epi.”
Thanks Trish! I’m also a sucker for the self-sacrifice stories.
Antisocialbutterflie writes: “A lot of your scripts seem to focus on individual character growth or one-on-one interpersonal growth. Do you prefer writing these sorts of scripts over the action-centered team-based episodes?”
Yes, I do like the smaller, “character” episodes. Preferably ones with a moral dilemma. But a good shoot-em-up like Midway, or a monster movie like Vengeance are a lot of fun too.
Thornyrose writes: “What is your all time favorite episode to have worked on?”
Wow. That’s like asking which child is your favorite. So I’ll pick four — one from each season (2-5) I’ve been on staff: Michael, Phantoms, Missing and The Prodigal.
Sherwood Forest Maiden writes: “My question for Carl Binder is, how difficult is it to work on personal writing projects when working for a franchise that requires weekly input??”
Very difficult. Especially for me. I don’t multitask well. So it’s all Stargate, all the time.
Perragrin writes: “a. What initially inspired you to want to write stories? And is there a specific genre that you prefer to delve into above all others?
b. If you were given the opportunity to travel back in time and meet one significant person, who would it be?”
A) I’ve always had an overactive imagination. And a deep-seated fear of things that go bump in the night. Writing is a kind of therapy. Difficult to get through, but I sure feel better afterward. As for a specific genre — I do love the supernatural. I’m mocked mercilessly by the other writers about it.
B) I would travel back in time to meet Joe Mallozzi’s parents. To warn them.
Uh. Yeah. Thanks to Carl for that.
The Black Company Discussion:
KaziWren writes: “I was sufficiently terrified of The Lady, Limper, Whisper and the rest of the Taken. Come on, who in their right mind would want to work side by side with The Taken?!”
Answer: Not I, although I was greatly reminded of a story editor I once worked with when I read Cook’s description of The Hanged Man: “He was improbably tall and lean. His head was twisted away over to one side. His neck was swollen and purpled from the bite of a noose. His face was frozen into the bloated expression of one who has been strangled.” Yep, takes me back.
Thornyrose writes: “I also love the sense of decay, of loss, morally and physically the permiates the book. This could be a pessimist’s bible, with each chapter demonstrating more strongly than the last bringing on a stronger sense of increasing entropy.”
Answer: Well said. In fact, I found the book so unrelentingly grim that I was actually depressed after reading it. The visceral description of the climactic battle is particularly unsettling.
Thornyrose also writes: “ My biggest disappointment was probably in the character of Raven. He almost felt like a character visiting from another novel, though he was certainly dark enough a creature through most of the book. Perhaps it was his stereotypical aptitude with his knives, and his too-close-to perfect combat skills. I don’t think the removal of Raven would have skewed the outcome of the plot significantly.”
Answering: I found Raven an interesting contrast to Croaker. Croaker was a healer; Raven a killer. Croaker was well-loved and respected by his fellow mercenaries; Raven a distrusted outsider. Croaker, as the Black Company’s historian, embodied the past and future; Raven lived for the present. So it was fascinating to see how things developed for them – Croaker becoming the favorite of the dark and merciless Lady while Raven risks all for the love of the sweet and innocent Darling.
Terry writes: “ JM said: (I thought the story would have really benefited from some insight into the cultural, socio-political or economic backdrop of the land they were fighting over)” Do you think this would have made the current situation more understandable or the characters more sympathetic?”
Answer: While I don’t think it would have made the characters more sympathetic, it certainly would have helped ground me in the world of The Black Company. Although the accounts of the various battles are disturbing, I believe that the story could have been served by a little more depth in the background of the various factions and the lands they were warring over.
Terry also writes: “Did you find anything sympathetic or redeemable or engaging about any of the characters in this book?”
Answer: I’ve always been a big fan of darker characters and, as a reader, have always gravitated toward stories with morally flawed players. Often, beneath their dark exterior, these characters possess hidden traits that are often appealing, sometimes even worthy of respect. A great example is the character of Glokta from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series, a frightening, seemingly reprehensible torturer who, despite his many flaws, still manages to redeem himself over the course of the three books. In The Black Company, it was a lot harder to connect with the characters on this level because we were never really offered any insight into their inner workings. Even Croaker, our narrator, was in most respects unfathomable.
Tina writes: “how are your canine sidekicks????”
Answer: Great!!!! Maximus and Lulu have taken to hanging around the garden so that they can pluck cherry tomatoes off the vine and eat them when no one is looking.
Maggiemayday writes: “The good wishes must be helping, my brother is now making his own white blood cells, which means the stem cell transplant took. Yay! Progress. I am doing cautious happy dances.”
Answer: We’re all wishing the best for him. Please keep us posted on his progress.
Alicia writes: “Joe would you rather do a couple episodes instead of the movie?”
Answer: Yeah, a bunch of episodes would be preferable. Say, 20.
Abbas Karimjee writes: “ Will the Atlantis movie wrap up the wraith storyline?When will the members of the production who were at Vegas be finished with their filming?”
Answers: 1) No comment. 2) The Vegas shoot starts and wraps next week.
Luis writes: “When SGU goes into production will all the SG1 AND SGA crew members be there or will it be a much smaller crew?”
Answer: It’s a safe bet that most of the SGA crew will find their way over to SGU.