Well, this takes me back. Going through the MGM Atlantis photo archive, I came upon snaps from the season five Ronon-centric episode Broken Ties, a sequel of sorts to the previous season’s Reunion.
This particular story partly came about as a result of a request from actor Jasono Momoa who wanted to see his character go darkside. He pitched out a bunch of ideas for the prospective story including a scene in which Ronon shaves his head as a symbolic break from the past. (In truth, the desire to lose the dreadlocks also had a lot to do with the neck and back problems Jason was experiencing at the time, the result of lugging around some 4 pounds of hair.).
Well, I wrote the script and that head-shaving sequence, but, alas, the network didn’t want the Ronon character to lose the dreads and so, as a compromise, while Jason did lose the dreads (taking a load off his neck and back in the process), Ronon did not, and Jason ended up being wigged for the show’s fifth and final season.
I know, I know. This is old news. But what I struck me about this particular script and another one I wrote later that season, Remnants, are the structural similarities of the two that, quite frankly, made them atypical of most Atlantis scripts and, surprisingly, more characteristic of the type of scripts we are writing for Stargate: Universe. Rather than focusing on a single action or plot-driven A-story, or an unrelated A and B story, these episodes spotlighted multiple characters in multiple thematically-linked through lines that delved into their respective psychologies and backstories.
Broken Ties, for instance, focused on three seemingly disconnected stories – Ronon’s capture and subsequent turning, Teyla’s struggle with motherhood, and Woolsey’s settling in to his new position as commander of the Atlantis expedition – that, upon closer scrutiny, actually dealt with the like themes of belonging, change, and the ability to accept the past in order to move on to the future (similar to season four‘s Reunion). Remnants, on the other hand, dealt with three more seemingly disparate storylines – Sheppard trapped on the mainland with one of his greatest enemies, McKay and Zelenka working to solve the mystery of a piece of alien technology, and Woolsey’s struggle with loneliness – all of which end up dovetailing at the end of an episode that, it turns out, has everything to do with hidden, deep-seeded desires brought to light.
Ultimately, however, at the heart of these episodes are our characters and their relationships with themselves and each other: Sheppard’s drive to protect those near and dear to him, McKay’s secret respect and affection for Zelenka, Ronon’s struggle to come to terms with who he was and how he’s changed, Teyla’s attempts to reconcile her established role as warrior with her new role as mother.
In short, less about the threat-of-the-week or the running and gunning and more about who these people were, who they are, and where they’re headed. Which pretty much sums up our approach to Stargate: Universe and its diverse crew. Yes, there’ll still be plenty of action and humor and exploration and discovery and incredible space battles but, at their core, the SGU stories will be about the characters. And a terrific bunch of characters at that.
Like, for instance, the character of Sgt. Spencer played by actor Josh Blacker, a hard-ass military type who proves himself a bit of a loose cannon with a hair-trigger temper facing the strain and tensions of an unforeseen jaunt through distant space.
He is one scary dude but the actor playing him is quite the opposite – an incredibly gracious and altogether friendly guy.
27 thoughts on “September, 11, 2009: Reminiscent of Scripts Past. All about the characters. Actor Josh Blacker.”
Hey Joe, I loved you delving into the psychology of the characters in Broken Ties & Remnants & presenting several stories n one. I wished you had been able to do it more often.
Jason was so incredible in Broken Ties.
It’s good to see this sort of approach is being carried on in SGU.
Thanks for the super cool pix. When I first saw the one of Josh in the jungle I thought he kinda looked like Tom McBeath. He’s got that cheeky grin.
Oh, I can’t remember if I told you that you literally made my Mum jump watching Whispers…3 times in fact. She’s OK though…no damage done.
Hmm, I could get to like Sgt. Spencer. Loose Canons after all have one redeeming feature; their enemies don’t tend to come back after being spared to threaten the heroes again. Interesting take on Remnant and Broken Ties. Which I’ll use as an excuse to bring up the main reason Broken Ties does not rate as highly with me as it otherwise might. Great episode, even knowing that Ronon would eventually be brought back to the light. But for the rest of the season we see absolutely nothing to indicate that the experience of being broken by his most hated enemy had any effect on him. That just doesn’t wash with me. I understand due to the serial nature of the show, you couldn’t explore this avenue of Ronan’s experiences much, but even a couple of throwaway lines might have been nice somewhere in season five. Something on the order of “yea, He’s been moodier than normal lately, but he’s getting better”. Or even having Ronan standing over a Wraith with a knife, staring longingly at its enzyme sack, with Teyla giving him a concerned but warning look. Anyways, thanks for the pictures, and the great captions to each. Looking forward to a mailbag perhaps, or even a guest appearance by oh, Baron Destructo or the Cookie Monster?
I love the character-driven episodes! So I am incredibly excited about SGU!
The good reviews/critical praise it’s been getting just turn me off from this incredible high, though, so I’ve given up reading them. 🙁 They say things like “no more of the witty banter/humour that marked even the darkest moments in SG1 and SGA”, “darkly lit”, and “BSG-like direction” and all that makes me unhappy (I LIKE that characters find humour even in the darkest times!), so I just don’t read them anymore. Which is, I guess, a good thing.
Josh Blacker never ceases to amuse me on twitter! He and Patrick Gilmore are a hoot! The banter between everyone on Twitter is enough to make me excited for SGU, in fact! 😀
Okay – bald feller looks promising (what IS it with me an hairless dudes lately???! Damn that Chris Heyerdahl and his shorn Druitt! Now all of a sudden, I’m into ears and big foreheads!).
Speaking of which…
Cute (to me) story. When I was little, I used to curl up with my grandpop and take naps. He was totally bald, and he had really bad emphysema, and coughed a lot. My mom couldn’t understand why I didn’t mind his coughing, even while we napped. I said I wanted to be with him because I loved him. She asked me why I loved him so much, and I said, “I love him because him face goes all the way to the back of him head.” (And yes, I used to talk like an Indian. 😛 )
Anyway…back to the bald feller. He also sounds promising. However…I won’t get attached to the bald feller, at least, not until you guys get over your first-season killing spree. I refuse to let another Stargate show break my heart!!!
Speaking of which…
Thank you SO much for the sexy, smiling bug pictures! *rightclicksave!* ‘Rhys’ (as someone at GW named him) was quite dishy, I must say. 😀 I really enjoyed all of Tyler’s performances, but this one, and of course, Kenny, are my favorites. I just didn’t much care for how you HANDled him in the end. 😉 Dangit – I really do miss these guys… *sniffle*
I’m looking forward to the whole ‘character’ thing you speak of. Of course, I’m rather picky in this area, and hate nighttime dramas for over-doing the whole character/relationship thing (same with daytime soaps), especially where relationships are concerned. I’m more into subtle – like John and Rodney on the pier. Nice moments like that, as opposed to the gal aways whining about her lovelife, or the guy always flying off the handle until someone has to physically subdue him. BUT I don’t like things too sappy, either! Too much intimate talk makes me squirmy! ACK! Drives me nuts (like the endings to that lawyer show with Shatner – don’t know the name of it, but those endings were a bit too…sappy…lol. ). I guess I prefer thay you SHOW it , and don’t say it. (Body language and facial expressions go very far with me.)
Like…okay…back to Lewis (since that’s the show I’m watching lately, and so far has given me exactly what I like…sorry to keep using the same example). The last ep had this scene: Lewis in his apartment, listening to Wagner, and Hathaway drops by. He complains about the gloomy music, and when Lewis says it’s ‘his place, and he can listen to what he wants’, Hathaway throws his head back and sighs, like a spoiled child. Lewis gives in and lets Hathaway change the music (to heavy metal), and says (as the two sit on the sofa), ‘sometimes I question your taste in music’, to which Hathaway replies (in reference to an earlier event), ‘sometimes I question your taste in women’…the end. It was light but not comical, they didn’t get overly invasive or personal with one another, and yet it effectively conveyed a sense of camaraderie between the two without relying on sap or drama.
Not sure if I’m making any sense. The thing is, I watch so little tv, that it’s hard to draw on what I like and what I don’t like from current shows. And, of course, I DO realize I’m just one person, and no episode will ever be written with me in mind. I guess I’m just thinking out loud, as it were…hoping for things to be a certain way, though I doubt they’ll be exactly as I would like them.
Gonna shut up now… 😛
Aaaaah, that Jason is a beautiful man! I had to stop and think a minute when you said Woolsey was settling in as commander of Atlantis in Broken Ties. In Reunion, it was Carter who was settling in as commander of Atlantis.
In Broken Ties, there was one scene that I will always remember. It was when Ronon was ‘going up’ and being turned, and Tyre was ‘coming down’ off the enzyme. That was a very tense scene and then you transitioned into a very quiet scene with Teyla rocking her baby and whispering to Kanaan. I thought is was pretty powerful and very well written artistically, to flow a taut, unsettling scene directly into a hush, peaceful one. And Joel’s music was great too.
Thanks for the pictures of Jason!
Joe do you have any specific plans for what you’re going to do for the day of the premier or day after? I’m assuming your planning to do something out of the ordinary?
Defying Gravity is also shot at Bridge Studios, have you seen any episodes yet? Tonight’s episode (ep. 8) was incredible.
Defying Gravity actually airs two days earlier in Canada than the U.S., which makes some sense because it is very much a multinational show, produced by Canadian and U.S. companies and inspired by a fictional UK doc.
SGU will air in tandem on the SPACE Channel in Canada with Syfy in the States, but that wasn’t the case for Atlantis or SG-1. Have you ever heard complaints around the set that the cast or crew (many of whom are Canadian) aren’t able to watch the episodes? Who is able to watch dailies? What are “dailies”?
Josh Blacker looks familiar. I know I’ve seen him in something on TV. Must look that up.
Remnants is one of my favorite episodes of SGA. I loved it that you did these three stories and didn’t follow the A and B storyline plotting. I know that it must be difficult to create a story like that since it doesn’t seem to follow the guidelines of how most TV shows are structured. Although it probably is, but it didn’t seem like it. In some ways, I wish I hadn’t been spoiled for one of the characters that appeared. My fault.
This is the kind of episode I’d love to watch being played out on SGU.
After I got over an odd, melancholic yearning for tea-soaked madeleines, I really enjoyed your revisit of these episodes from Season 5. I tend to forget the more subtle elements of the storylines when I haven’t had the chance to watch eps two or three times, so am glad you wrote about issues such as thematic connections among characters’ disparate storylines. I know preferences differ, but that’s the kind of thing that draws me in for multiple viewings — the chance to draw something else out of a multi-layered, psychocentric story that uses premises such as exploration, enemy confrontation, etc., to keep storylines moving, revealing more and more about what makes characters tick, as well as the underlying commonality of many apparently dissimilar experiences.
I think Thornyrose brought up a good point in regard to follow-up on traumatic events in characters’ lives. I hope that SGU’s scripts have allowed for that type of continuity — say, a lieutenant becoming not just tougher, but experiencing some shell-shock as well, or any of countless variations on a theme.
Sgt. Spencer sounds like an interesting character, and I wonder how he’s going to fare in interactions with, say, MSgt. Greer and Col. Telford, whose profiles seem to hint at zero tolerance for loose cannons.
Funny captions – Ronon and a Wraith as high-school adversaries, LOL.
Jason with “real” dreds and 5th season a wig…I saw outtakes with the wig and thought it was that way always. I am glad they let him shave..I didn’t see a difference on screen (good hair people).
Great pics and story lines. Nice to hear about the story from the author. Felt like a nice Stargate storybook..pictures with text..gotta love it. Did you just read me a bedtime story? hehehehe
I think it is great you have given space to Josh. Wondering when he would show up. Funny how little we know of their characters on SGU and more of them. Twitter is a great forum to watch and interact with much of the SGU team. I have found Josh very thoughtful and sweet. Looks pretty good in the military garb.
Of course I think your pups like twitter too.
Best to you Joe,
Hey Joe- Any reaction to http://www.sfx.co.uk/page/sfx?entry=stargate_universe_first_reaction ? I’m sure you disagree on their description of your characters as too flat- what aren’t they seeing?
Cette épisodes est vraiment bien, je l’ai vu de nombreuses fois. Je ne savais pas que c’est Jason qui en avais fait la demande. J’aurai tellement voulu qu’on lui coupe les dreads, ça ne pas être évident de jouer avec un perruque aussi lourde que la sienne.
a plus tard
Joe you have probably seen this before as well as most people on this blog but I love it!
The song really does fit as well….just change a few words but the right sentiment is really there…
I loved that last season of Atlantis more than any others, and the direction of more-arcs is great news.
Just one thing. I’ve found it hard to rewatch the episodes..
I can easily grab an SG1 dvd and rewatch it, but Atlantis has this weirdness to it that I find uneasy to watch again.
It’s like how the XFiles conspiracy episodes were great, but if you want to watch XFiles again, it’s so much better to watch the standalones.
It’s nice to have arcs, but I sure hope there’s some that ignore ’em.
It’s funny taking these trips down memory lane. I’m glad I wasn’t drinking anything when I saw the caption of Todd that reads, “Look Das! He’s smiling!”
St. Augustine is just as hot and muggy as Tampa. And actually, it’s a creepy city with a very, very, very old and bloody history. 😯
Hope the pups are good.
@Chevron 7: Whispers made me jump, too. I had backed myself into the corner of the sectional while watching. Jeremy and Allie thought it was hilarious how I started out stretched out and relaxed and ended up in a tiny ball shoved into the corner. 😀 It was a good epi. Must watch it for Halloween, I think! 😀 Glad your mom is OK, lol.
I also forgot to add: If you’re ever in St. Augustine, you must try out “The Purple Olive.” It was FANTASTIC! I had baked salmon with mango chutney that was simply delicious! The jasmine rice was almost as good as dessert. The veggie dish on the side was too good to actually have veggies in it. 😀
Then for dessert Jeremy and Allie split a chocolate mousse flambe. We all tried it. And picky, picky Erin said to the waiter, “This is delicious! Please, bring my compliments to the chef.” 😯 My reaction was to burst out laughing. I think if we bring the girls to Vancouver Erin will have to eat at Fuel. She seems to have acquired a gourmet pallete. 😉 And the vocabulary to go with it. I wonder if she’s been watching Top Chef when she’s supposed to be sleeping.
Every time I see the actors in their wraith makeup, I cringe for them. It must have been incredibly uncomfortable for them, right? Did any of the “wraith” actors have to quit because of allergies or other complications from the makeup?
I would have loved to see Ronon shave his head. I am not sure what the network was thinking by not including that scene. However, if Ronan did shave his head then where would he hide his knives?
It’s midnight here in Melbourne Aus and still almost 30 degrees C. Sitting in a bar on the banks of the muddy Yarra at a bar after the footy and hoping that the visiting Mr Shanks is getting a chance to enjoy this unusually mild Spring night in somewhere pleasant.
Do Pug’s shed a lot of Hair???? How often do you brush them????
On holiday here in Knysna. Think map of Africa – me right at bottom middle bit. Nights are freezing but days are lovely. No computer but I have my Samsung Omnia so that doesnt bother me. It has 16 gig storage space so I have all SG1 season 9 loaded. This is MY type of holiday!
when you go to japan my brother suggests for the weird food purchase you hunt down cucumber pepsi and green tea coke.
i’ve been comanded to remind you when you go. so you’ll be hearing from me about this again.
Nice stroll down memory lane, thank you! Wonderful pics.
What I did on my summer vacation:
Pas alors mon pauvre Joseph vous n’avez pas beaucoup de commentaire aujourd’hui…
Moi je suis toujour là =P
Il n’y a pas une journée sens que je pense à vous!
je vous adore tout simplement!
Just thought I would let you know ThinkGeek, my favorite online store, is runnnig a poll, http://twtpoll.com/r/s0kyhy. What geeky TV show/Movie are you most looking forward to this fall? It looks like JelMaxBubaLu’s friend, Grant Imahara has been using his power to persuade people to vote in his favor of Mythbusters, maybe you should do the same and try to swing some SGU votes our way?