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.