And when I say “MY” Top 10, I am strictly referring to episodes I am credited on otherwise the list would be comprised solely of episodes scripted by the likes of Cooper (Time), Wright (2010), Binder (Life), and Gero (Duet). And of the episodes I’ve been credited on, I’m not counting those scripted solely by my writing partner Paul (ie. Subversion). I also eliminated those that, for whatever reason, whether better or worse, ended up a far different animal than I originally envisioned in that first draft (ie. Prodigy, Prophecy), those that proved a real bitch to script (ie. This Mortal Coil), and those that I was never enamored with (ie. Shadow Play). Of the ones I was left with, I chose my top ten favorites. Actually, I ended up with a list of fifteen that I considered, reconsidered, and re-reconsidered before I eventually pared them down to that final ten. The five episodes that were close but didn’t make the cut: Whispers (Loved the guest cast and really enjoyed my time on set with Director Will Waring and co. Lots of great memories on this one.), Point of No Return (The first episode Paul and I wrote that turned out almost exactly as we’d envisioned it. Also the first appearance of the lovable Martin Lloyd.), Incursion I (There were a lot of balls in the air here with multiple storylines in play, but the cast and Director Andy Mikita pulled it off in grand style.), Nightwalkers (A small town alien invasion one-off – the best of both worlds.), and Reunion (Jason Momoa was terrific in an episode that allowed me to cast a little light on Ronon’s pre-Atlantis days. Ultimately, I didn’t feel so bad about not including this one since the sequel, Broken Ties, made the list.).
My Top 10 Favorites (photos courtesy and copyright MGM Television)…
10) Revisions (Stargate: SG-1, Season 7)
I remember then VFX Supervisor James Tichenor telling me how much he enjoyed this episode because, in his mind, it was one of those pure SF off-world adventures: no mythology, no ties to previous episodes, simply a cool, SF-themed stand-alone. To be honest, the original pitch was very different but, over a lunch of dry ribs and spicy maki, Exec. Producer Robert Cooper steered us in the direction of what became the eventual story: SG-1 stumbles upon a society living within a hermetically sealed bubble. Members of their community begin to disappear, but no one seems to notice because their memories are mysteriously altered. This was one of those rare scripts where I knew exactly where I wanted to end up: with a final moment in which one of the characters asks Carter to tell him about the wife he no longer remembers.
9) The Ties That Bind (Stargate: SG-1, Season )
One of the main reasons I so enjoyed working on those last two seasons of SG-1 was the cast, and a character by the name of Vala Mal Doran. This episode was an opportunity to examine a little of her (un)professional backstory with a tour de force of the unsavory sorts she did business with over the course of her checkered mercenary past. Claudia had a knack for always delivering a line exactly the way you’d imagined it. Throws in impeccable comic timing, a great onscreen presence and – voila! What more could you ask for? She was surrounded by some equally great talent and, in this episode, a wonderful guest cast as well. Vala, Daniel, and Mitchell set out on a scavenger hunt unlike any other…
8) The Curse (Stargate: SG-1, Season 4)
After some 3+ seasons, we’d figured the backstories of our team had no doubt been good and mined – which is why it was a delight to come up with a story that explored aspects of Daniel Jackson’s life prior to his joining the Stargate Program. It’s a fun little mystery (spoiled by the network promo) with a healthy dose of Egyptian mythology, exploration and discovery, and one megalomaniacal surprise villain.
7) Broken Ties (Stargate: Atlantis, Season 5)
In the sequel to Season 4’s The Reunion, Ronon crosses paths with fellow Satedan Tyre and, in a reversal of roles, falls under the sway of the wraith, leaving his old friend to lead the rescue effort. It’s a story about redemption and friendship that showcases one of Jason Momoa’s greatest performances.
6) Family Ties (Stargate: SG-1, Season 10)
What’s better than a fast-talking, disorderly hustler? How about two fast-talking, disorderly hustlers? Especially if the second is played by the hilarious Fred Willard. We get Vala backstory, off-world adventure, some not-so-subtle digs at the show’s cancellation, and one of the most memorable endings in Stargate history.
5) Morpheus (Stargate: SG-1, Season 10)
On the one hand we have SG-1, off-world, battling the effects of a mysterious plague that threatens to lull them into an endless slumber; on the other hand, back at the SGC, we’ve got Vala undergoing a psych eval – with predictable results. As stand-alone adventures go, this was one of my favorites (the slow-mo funeral-like procession of our team being encased and carried off by hazmat-suited personnel still gives me goosebumps), while Vala’s attempts to “beat the system” made for some incredibly funny moments.
4) Window of Opportunity (Stargate: SG-1, Season 4)
In the Stargate version of Groudhog Day, the unlikeliest of individuals – O’Neill and Teal’c – must use brains over brawn to sever a time loop that has trapped Earth in an endlessly repeating ten hour cycle. Along the way, they learn to juggle, golf through the stargate, and act on certain fantasies without fear of consequence…
3) Camelot (Stargate: SG-1, Season 9)
This one can earn its slot on the merit of its kick-ass cliffhanger conclusion alone: an all-out space battle that sees Earth and its allies get their asses kicked, Mitchell, Jackson, and Teal’c aboard seemingly doomed ships, Carter free-floating helplessly in space, and a very pregnant Vala watching it all from the relatively safe confines of an enemy vessel where she will soon give birth to the “will of the Ori”.
2) Remnants (Stargate: Atlantis, Season 4)
Three seemingly unrelated storylines have more in common than we first realize in an episode that finds Sheppard facing off against his supposedly dead arch nemesis, McKay and Zelenka exploring a mysterious alien device, and a lonely Richard Woolsey finding love where he least expects it. Great performances all around, with the terrific chemistry between the various pairings (Sheppard and Kolya, McKay and Zelenka, Woolsey and Conrad) really making for a memorable outing.
1) Ripple Effect (Stargate: SG-1, Season 9)
Although my head nearly exploded writing the script, I still have nothing but the fondest of memories for this episode which finds multiple versions of our team creating havoc at Stargate Command. Twin SG-1’s team up to close the breach that has created the problem, but it turns out that one of those teams has a hidden agenda. When our SG-1 suddenly find themselves in trouble, they turn the tables on their captors the only way they can: by thinking like themselves.
Capping off this blog entry – Steve Eramo has informed me that he’s posted the introduction to that promised Rachel Luttrell Q&A over on his site. Check it out here: http://scifiandtvtalk.typepad.com/scifiandtvtalk/2010/08/stargate-atlantis-rachel-luttrell-reminices-on-relationships-going-missing-and-being-the-queen.html#tp