So, in yesterday’s blog entry, I offered up a short but sweet summary of my rise from humble animation freelancer to landing a gig on the biggest television production in Canada.  I had uprooted, wife and dog in tow, and joined my writing partner, Paul, on a west coast adventure that – at the time, was planned to run two years, culminating in a no-doubt fantastic fifth and final season that would then see us all go our separate ways.  Of course, whether Paul and I would be around to witness that fifth season was up in the air.  Our first season deal was a composed of two parts: the first, a ten episode guarantee that came with co-producer titles; the second, an option to pick us up for the fourth season’s back twelve episodes (remember the days of the 22 episode season?) and a bump up to producer titles.  And so, Paul and I settled in and got to work.

I remember spending a lot of time in our offices that first season, writing.  There was talk of a past writer who had spent much of their time hanging around set in an attempt to ingratiate themselves to the actors, neglecting their script work much to Brad and Robert’s chagrin – and I vowed I would not be that guy. Every day Paul and I would gather in an office (either his or mine) and write.  Back in those days, we were a true writing team.  We would bounce dialogue back and forth between us, essentially giving life to the scene by acting it out in the room.  One of us would pace, the other would write it all down, then we’d switch.  At day’s end we’d head home and, whoever happened to have the updated version of our latest script (usually the last one writing) would spent the evening going over the scenes.  The next day, we’d read what we had and pick up where we left off.  In retrospect, it’s a wonder we were able to get anything done at all using this collaborative method – yet we managed to write 7 of season four’s 22 episode run.

That’s not to say we didn’t spend time on set.  Occasionally, we’d swing by to say hi to the cast and crew, especially when our episodes were being shot, but, for the most part, we tried to stay out of everybody’s hair and get those scripts written.  On any other show, we probably should have spent more time on set to ensure things ran smoothly but, we quickly learned, after three years, the Stargate production was a well-oiled machine.  Executive Producer Michael Greenburg was our dedicated onset producer and we could take comfort in the knowledge that he would put out any potential fires.  Also providing back-up were Co-Executive Producer N. John Smith and Unit Manager John G. Lenic who made sure the ship ran smoothly.

I remember the first big dinner we went to soon after our arrival.  All of the producers gathered for a meal at what was then one of Vancouver’s top restaurants.  John Smith, who has been in the business so long I’m actually more surprised if he DOESN’T know someone, chatted away with the affable owner.  It was a magnificent meal.  The following week, I drove by and was shocked to find the place shuttered.  I had been planning a return visit but, clearly, enjoying another meal there would be out of the question.  What happened?  Well, eventually I learned that the restaurant owner had a little tax disagreement with the government.  You can probably guess who won.  For years, the other producers wondered what had happened to the affable owner and then, some time later (I think it was SG-1’s sixth season) ,Michael Greenburg told us he’d seen him working in a mall sandwich shop.  The story amazed and horrified, branding itself into the back of my mind as a cautionary tale.  The lesson: Work hard, save your money, and PAY YOUR TAXES!

And, in SG-1’s fourth season, I did just that.  I spent my days in the office writing then returned home where I spent much of my free time writing.  As any writer will tell you, ours is not a 9 to 5 job.  It’s not like we can simply switch off our brains in mid-script.  Even if we’re not sitting behind our computer or pacing the corridors of the production offices running dialogue with our writing partners, we’re writing.  Sometimes in the shower.  Often in bed. Occasionally, during dinner when your wife is talking to you.  It can be a lonely business.  For all involved.

I also found time to reach out to the fans, hitting some of the forums in a desire to interact with our audience.  It was a lot of fun and very enlightening, then, eventually, baffling, hurtful, and irritating.  But always entertaining.  Most of those I met online were very nice.  A few, not so much.  And, as that fourth season of SG-1 developed, I was introduced to the wild and wacky world of fandom wars!  But I’ll save the discussion on that topic for a later entry.

Anyway, like I said – we worked hard that fourth season, completing seven scripts.  AND also finding the time to come up with lyrics for the SG-1 opening theme – which we sang, at Peter Deluise’s behest – during the recording of our season four commentary:

http://youtu.be/CqDE8kocoTI

Looking back on SG-1’s fourth season:

SMALL VICTORIES (401)

I remember sitting in Brad’s office when we first came to Vancouver and having Brad ask Robert how he planned to conclude the season three finale, Nemesis.  Well, Rob knew exactly where he wanted to go with the story and broke it down for us.  I remember thinking “There is no way they’re going to be able to pull this off.”.  And yet, he did.  WE did.  Again and again.  The high point of this episode isn’t the Rick Moranis lookalike taking a face full of acid in the teaser, or the Russian dialogue that, when translated, reads: “What’s that noise” “Maybe it’s that bug from the last episode.”, but the outtakes  – specifically, one depicting a seated Thor requesting a Mokochino and another with the Asgard reaching up to goose Carter and getting his face slapped as a result.  This was also the first episode I saw Director Martin (“AND CUUUUUUUT!”) Wood in action and he was a sight to behold.

 

THE OTHER SIDE (402)

I remember coming away from this episode impressed by Brad and Robert’s willingness to take chances, especially with regard to our characters.  O’Neill kills someone at episode’s end – and I’m not talking in the heat of battle.  He gives the order to close the iris and then, seconds later, the Eurondan leader apparently steps through and ends up pasted on the other side.  Granted, Jack did warn him not to follow but still – it was a calculated move on the part of the usually happy-go-lucky team leader.  Actor Rene Auberjonois, who played the doomed leader Alar, was a pleasure to work with.  Soon after wrapping production on the episode, he swung by Brad’s office to tell him Alar had a twin brother who’d be more than happy to make an appearance in a future episode. Two other things stand out for me about this episode.  The first was being on set and discovering how they pulled off the chamber-rattling off-screen concussive bursts of the bombings.  Director Peter DeLuise would yell: “Boom!  Shake-shake-shake!”  The actors would feign being rocked while members of the crew would rain dust and sand down on them, unseen overhead.  The second aspect of this episode that will forever stand out for me were those crazy alien glasses that are SO alien that they’re completely counter-intuitive.  In fact, I believe Rick made a gag of it in the episode by going to take a sip, giving the glass a curious look, then turning it around and drinking from the backside.  This was Peter DeLuise at his best and his desire for alien props (from rounded hammers to red spray-painted kiwis) would be a source of endless amusement for Paul and I.

UPGRADES (403)

This was the episode that introduced me to the realities of the scriptwriting process.  The fact is, as a show’s Executive Producer, it’s your job to make sure the episode is as good as it can be.  As a result, you’ll be asked to cast the best actors, choose the best costumes and props, approve the best visual effects, sign off on the best cut and, most important of all, see to it that the script is as good as it can be.  Often, this involves providing a writer with detailed notes for a rewrite.  Occasionally (but a hell of a lot more than you, dear viewers, will ever know), it involves doing a pass on a script not your own – anything from a dialogue polish to a full script rewrite.  But even in cases where a script is thoroughly rewritten, the original writer will retain sole credit.  And so, more times than I can count, I’ve perused the boards and had to bite my tongue (or cross my typing fingers) as I read posts lauding Writer X, knowing full well that while Writer X’s name may have been the credited writer, the person who should’ve been lauded was Brad or Robert or Paul.  I remember Paul sitting in our offices at one point in our Stargate run, amused because he had two scripts nominated for an award: one, on which he’d been co-credited on that I actually wrote, the other on which he’d received no credit but which he’d actually written.  It’s a strange, strange business.  Anyway, in the case of Upgrades, it was simply a case of a script that was tonally very different from first draft to shooting script.  The original version had actually been very serious but, after Robert Cooper did his pass, it was transformed into a hilarious entry and one of my very favorites.  The highlights of this episode for me was the memorable saran wrap force field (augmented with visual effects, but saran wrap nevertheless – I loved watching the dailies of our hero getting their face smooshed as they ran into the damn thing).

CROSSROADS (404)

In the original version of this script, Teal’c exacts his revenge on Tanith and the episode concludes with, if not exactly a happy ending, then sure a satisfying one.  But Brad suggested that, instead, we end the episode with Teal’c restraining himself and Tanith getting away with Shau’nac’s murder – at least temporarily.  “That’s pretty dark,”I recall Paul saying.  “I like dark,”countered Brad.  And so did I.  The original version of the script also contained a reference to the fact that Teal’c had gotten a (Jaffa) divorce from his wife, freeing him up to pursue that amorous rendezvous with his long lost love.  Unfortunately, for some reason, it didn’t make the final draft and, as a result, Teal’c ended up looking like a big slut to many fans.  All that being said, the high point of this episode for me was that damn pointy Tok’ra digs, everything from the porcupine walls to the lethal high-backed chairs.  It’s a wonder they weren’t impaling themselves all the time.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER (405)

Some point to this episode as the genesis of the grand shipper vs. anti-shipper debate as O’Neill and Carter finally admit their feelings for one another – and I suppose it was, except it didn’t come as much of a surprise.  Shippers rejoiced as, after after three years of unspoken mutual attraction, “Sam and Jack” became canon.  Anti-shippers, on the other hand, were less than enthused.  And the forums lit up!  And it wasn’t just the ship they were referring to.  It was also the death of their beloved Martouf and the continuing presence of the Anise character, introduced in response to then President of MGM Television’s Hank Cohen’s request for “a sexy female alien” (A suggestion he got to repeat onscreen when he played himself in Wormhole Extreme).

In my next entry, I’ll tackle a few more episodes (including our version of Groundhog Day), the hiring of Ivon Bartok, and “the ship” sails on (at least in the early drafts of Beneath the Surface it did).

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Mike
Mike

I love the lyrics to the Stargate theme song. I can remember listening to that commentary and hearing it. It was perfect. Season 4 was pretty damn good.

majorsal
majorsal

enjoying! grin

Penny
Penny

Don’t suppose there is any more film of the Saran wrap takes?? You could win $$ on America’s Funniest Home Videos!!

See I read this and I read your reaction to the fans and I wonder if there is something wrong with me. I never ever thought Tel’c was a slut I knew he was married but I don’t know. I have tunnel vision when I watch shows I love. I feel the writers, producers, actors and all involve can do no wrong. I can’t wait to read what you mean with Fan Wars…. This interesting to me. I don’t go on many fan forums because of my very low tolerance for ignorance. As a job as a manager I deal with stupid people on a daily basis and it’s not in my nature to be confrontational and I don’t enjoy using words to hurt people. So I’m curious to see how you took people’s negative words, did it motivate you? Anger you?

I was SAD to see the character of Martouf go but such is life the people we care most die and it brought more of a connection from audience to Carter!! But again that’s just my opinion!

Thanks again, to be honest these have been some of my favioute

Penny
Penny

Joe last entry not done!! Damn auto correct was trying to hit the little “x” on iPad and it posted comment. Please add th following and delete this comment.

“favourite posts that you have written, can’t wait to read more!!”

Thanks Joe sorry if I make/made more work for you!!

Sg1efc
Sg1efc

Really cool, Thanks. smile

dasNdanger
dasNdanger

So, Joey…when you’re writing in the shower, is Paul in there with you, too?? wink

das

Lou Zucaro

I gotta say, Joe, that I love these entries. They’re bringing back some great memories of “discovering” SG-1 and doing our own little marathons to catch up to current eps.

These that you wrote for season four were some really fun ones.

And I’m SO glad you included a link to your song lyrics, especially since my wife and I wrote (and would sing) lyrics to the End Title music after every episode

Just follow along the main melody of the End Title and sing it with us! (you have to lead the third line with the “We” so that you hit “love” on the first note of that line)

We all love to go through the Stargate
Every voyage seems to tempt the fates
We love to go and gate to other worlds
And in the process take out some Goa’ulds
We killed Apophis AND his Jaffas
We all love to go through the Stargate
We all think that it is really great

(love that End Title melody!)

sylvia
sylvia

These entries are wonderful! Thank you so very much.

Ponytail
Ponytail

And he sings too!! Is there anything you can’t do?
LOVE this blog theme! What Sg1efc said. Really cool.

Shawna Buchanan
Shawna Buchanan

Ah yes, the Tanith story. The first case (that I can think of) of our good guys basically screwing over a total innocent. Tanith’s host, I mean, who thought he was doing a good, helpful thing by becoming a host. Then when it turned out it was really a gould at first they’re all like, we’ll totally save him. And then when Tanith killed someone one of our heroes cared about, they’re like, screw it, vengeance is more important than trying to rescue an innocent. Teal’c’s possible skankiness aside, *that’s* the thing that annoyed me about that storyline. That and the really weird way that it wrapped up in the teaser of a completely unrelated episode.

If I was on a writing team and a network exec asked us to add a ‘sexy female alien’, I’d probably have a hard time restraining myself from banging my head on the desk right then and there. I mean, really.

PBMom

@Shawna: I agree.

These are such great memories Joe. With as many episodes and many memories you have of them, this will fill your blog until 2012. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched SG-1 from episode 1 season 1 all the way through (I have the 10-season boxed set). I had forgotten about that little gem (the song).

Any special Easter plans for tomorrow? I’m working (and not complaining by the way; just a statement of fact). Tomorrow is just a weird trifecta day. There is Easter, there is my aunt’s wedding anniversary and it’s the anniversary of my dad’s death (21 years). No sadness in that, just an acknowledgment of the day. Just hard to believe 21 years have passed.

Patrick’s previous public school is going to visit his current placement on Monday. I still don’t know what their agenda is–if they are doing this to have a period of free discovery (to see if there is actually something to worry about if I were to file due process, which I still can do before August of this year) or if they just want to get rid of me because they know the damaging things I have on them. Can’t imagine it’s because they want to do the right thing, but I guess it is within the realm of small probabilities. The only reason why I’m letting them do this is because they have offered to help “maintain” the placement. I don’t know if that means pay the whole tuition or a portion of it. Trust me, it better be all of it because their re-involvement into our lives is not worth just a portion of it. I hope he will be feeling okay that day, that he won’t freak out by seeing them. Keep good thoughts for him that day everyone please.

paloosa
paloosa

Thank you so much for taking the time to revisit SG1 and Atlantis, especially since you must be crazy busy with Transformers.

I loved so many episodes, it’s hard to pick just a few. But what was equally fun to watch were your behind the scenes videos. I really loved Harmony, and it would be great to see your on set visit again.

Is it possible in the future for you (or someone else) to organize them by show as a sidebar on your blog?

Hope you have a Happy Easter with Akemi and the pups! And a Happy Easter to everyone here as well.

max
max

One of the most enjoyable blogs yet, Joe! Thanks.

steph
steph

Hope you (and everyone else here) are having a wonderful, happy, blessed Easter!

Michelle
Michelle

Don’t forget it was also Carter’s suddenly sexy, non-Air Force hairdo and moon eyes, and Daniel’s sudden marginalization, that got fandom going.

Actually, I don’t think I can stand to relive the years of fan vs TPTB, fan vs fan, and TPTB + fan vs fan struggles. It’s only been 10 years and the wounds are still raw. smile See you in Season 7!

snakey
snakey

Oh yeah! That scene with Teal’c and Tanith and how intense T is, doing all he can to restrain himself from choaking the life out of Tanith. And Tanith just pushing the perverbial knife in deeper and deeper. And everytime I see Peter Wingfield in a show, that’s the scene that comes to mind…Tanith, you SOB!!! Great writing. I’m glad it was changed so Teal’c could get his revenge later.

paloosa
paloosa

Ack! Transporter! I knew that.

slamaina
slamaina

Yes sir, may I have another… episode. I love that you are going episode by episode.

╔══╣╚╦═╦═╦╦╦══╗
╚╗╔╣║║╬║║║═╬╗╚╣
─╚╝╚╩╩╩╩╩╩╩╩══╝

Slam

Anais
Anais

Coucou!!

ça va bien Joseph? Je vous souhaites une JOYEUSE PÂQUES!!!!!!…ne mangez pas trop de chocolat wink

Que des bons épisodes! Mes amis pensent que la saison 4 et l’une des meilleurs de sg1 moi je prefère les saisons 8,9 et 10 =D!

Passez une bonne journée!
Gros bisous!!!

Jumble
Jumble

Ah Joe! So enjoying your SG memories, thank you for sharing them with us.

I was lucky enough to see Martin (AND CUUUUUT!) Wood in action last year – he’s still a sight to behold! smile

*hugs*

Jumble

MNP
MNP

Why did you quit with Vanessa Angel?

I’ve heard she didn’t get along with you guys that well but I have no idea if that’s true. Her outfits sucked, but then, most of the Tok’ra outfits sucked. Surely that could have been fixed. I remember thinking she would have been handy to have in a few episodes when you needed a “scientist” type.

SGUnity
SGUnity

Excellent entry.
I didn’t know for the Russian translation in Small Victories:
“What’s that noise?”
“Maybe it’s that bug from the last episode.”
That is SO funny!

wandahose
wandahose

love to hear news.. old news i know but still smile
I dint think, like Penny, that teal’c was a slut nor did i think that he was cheating on his wife. Ive always thought that they were more like friends than actual lovers.
and i was wondering. in what episode do the asgaard kill themselves? I simply cant find it.
is it stupid to hope for an ending of sgu?

Birdy
Birdy

It’s so much fun reading this. It brings back so many memories of the time I watched these episodes =D

Thank you again, for sharing!

It’s funny, because I really like the other side just because it is so dark.
Stargate always had more the touch of reality than most other shows. I can’t name one that came even close, especially in it’s genre.
It’s also the biggest reason for making it my favorite out of the three wink
Guess that’s taste right there!

mike mcginnis
mike mcginnis

On another note, I was rewatching some stargate atlantis episodes and why did you kill off carson beckett, he was my second favorite character, and then you only brought him back for 5 episodes in the last season, you should have made him a main character again.

Was there a role planned for him in the 6th seaason?