Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok started on the franchise around the same time we did.  Back then, though, he wasn’t doing Special Features.  He was just a recent Toronto-transplant looking to land a job as an assistant to Gecko Films Corp., a partnership between actor Richard Dean Anderson and Executive Producer Michael Greenburg.  I remember strolling through the production offices with Paul and glimpsing Ivon for the first time as he sat alongside his competition for the position, a cute brunette.  He seemed like a nice enough guy but, in the interest of full disclosure, Paul and I were rooting for the cute brunette.  As it turned out, the interview process ended in disappointment for the cute brunette (and, by extension, Paul and I) as Ivon got the job. Over the years, he developed his skills and, eventually, moved on to special features where he produced what were, without a doubt, the best dvd extras the franchise has ever created.  He also became a good friend and, more recently (check out entires related to my last trip to Tokyo) an excellent travel companion.

SG-1’s fourth season also served as a launch point for both Paul and my career.  With the support of Executive Producers Brad Wright and Robert Cooper, we were given the opportunity to learn the ropes, first by sitting in on all aspects of the production process from prep week to post-production edits, and eventually by being entrusted with the task of running our own episodes.  We learned a lot in that first season, and it was all thanks to Brad and Robert who trusted us and helped us grow as both writers and producers.  And we weren’t the only ones.  Throughout the run of the franchise, Brad and Robert adopted the same approach to many, many others involved in the production, promoting from within and allowing talent to flourish.  Paul and I – and countless others – will be forever in their debt.

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, our first episode produced was actually our second episode written (Scorched Earth being the first)…

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY (406)

We had no idea this episode would become so beloved by fandom and yet, looking back, it’s easy to see why.  It’s one of those fun episodes with a fairly straightforward premise that allows our characters to shine in ways unexpected.  Specifically, Jack and Teal’c who, in past episodes, have relied on Carter and Daniel to handle the science and Ancient, and suddenly find themselves having to step into their team members’ shoes.  Yes, it’s our version of Groundhog Day but it works because the time-loop conceit is secondary to the heart of this story: the characters.  And yet, in its earliest form, the pitch for this story was very different, much darker in tone.  It involved the team gating to a planet and becoming trapped in a seemingly endless time loop orchestrated by a dying race seeking to buy more time to come up with a solution to an impending armageddon (which became the backstory of the device’s genesis mentioned in the episode by Malikai).  Rob suggested another spin on the time loop angle and, while I was dubious at first (“Isn’t this Groundhog Day?”I remember asking.  “Yeah,”was Rob’s counter.), I was proven wrong (that happened a lot with regard to some of Rob’s ideas those first couple of years).

A lot to love about this episode but it was the “time off” montage that remains my favorite.  And, like the Ground Hog Day aspects of this episode, it almost didn’t happen.  The episode was timing short, it was clear we would need to come up with some extra scenes, and that gave Brad the opportunity to do something he had always wanted to do: see our characters golfing through the stargate.  And so, several scenes were added (they were all scripted, not improvised as some fans assumed): the juggling, Teal’c’s repeated door run-in, Jack riding his bike through the corridors of the SGC, Jack trying his hand at pottery, the golfing through the gate and, oh yes, THE KISS.  The latter was Paul’s idea and I loved it.  Note: We made sure to have Jack tender his official resignation before dipping Carter and planting one on her, just to make sure we didn’t catch any flak from our Air Force tech advisors.

WATERGATE (407)

A great episode with a lot to love about it, but two things about the production stand out for me.  The first was Paul’s ballistic reaction to the scene in which a frozen Maybourne is discovered.  In this case, Paul (aka Captain Logic) could not accept the fact that someone could be frozen in a standing upright position. Rather, he argued, if you were freezing to death, you would be hunkered down, trying to keep warm.  The fact that Maybourne is discovered on his feet, frozen solid, suggests a sudden freeze – which isn’t what happened here.  Anyway, it wouldn’t be the last logic issue to set my writing partner off, but it was memorable for being a fiery first.  As for the second thing that stands out about this episode for me: the title.  I swear, I thought Rob was kidding when he said he was going to call it Watergate.

THE FIRST ONES (408)

Peter DeLuise kicks off his writers’ room stint in fine style with this episode, the first in a string of Unas episodes.  Peter’s office was located across the hall from mine and, whenever someone would bring their kid to the production office, they would invariably stop to visit with Peter who had a whole routine for the lucky little guests, an act that always started with “Pull my finger” and always ended with an imitation of Barney the Dinosaur.  It goes without saying, the kids loved him and stopping by his office was always the high point of any tour.  Until years later when I decorated my office with cool supervillain-themed statues.

SCORCHED EARTH (409)

The first script we ever wrote for Stargate, the one that got us our staff position, was produced as the fourth season’s ninth episode.  Before Paul eventually came up with the Scorched Earth title, I was simply referring to the script as “Whose Planet Is It Anyway?”.  The onscreen version of this episode differed in several respects from the early script, the biggest difference being the ending.  In the original version, Daniel convinces Lotan to make a difficult decision and the caretaker does, destroying his ship and the building blocks of an entire race, leaving the planet to the Enkarans.  In the episode’s final scene, Daniel sits alone in his quarters, listening to Lotan’s parting gift: the music of a now extinct race.  The ending was changed to allow for a compromise that led to a happier resolution for all.  While I didn’t mind the shift to a more positive conclusion to the story, I still regret that the solution to the issue seemed, in hindsight, somewhat convenient and obvious.

Another aspect of the script that didn’t make it onto the screen was a resolution to the Jack/Daniel conflict at the core of the episode.  At one point, Jack makes the painful decision to trigger a bomb that would destroy Lotan’s ship, knowing Daniel is aboard.  The bomb never detonates but the intention was there – an attempt to save an entire race by sacrificing the life of a close friend.  A defensible decision?  Fandom was split – and the divide was made even greater by the fact that there was no apparent resolution to the conflict.  No apology from Jack.  Nothing.  Well, in truth, one had been scripted – an apology of sorts that saw Jack approach Daniel at episode’s end and say something along the lines of: “Just so you know, I’m glad I didn’t blow up that ship.”  To which Daniel responded: “Just so you know, so am I.”  For some reason, the actors found it too on the nose and suggested they would come up with something on the day.  Which, unfortunately, never happened.  That was a big learning experience and, from that episode on for as long as we did table reads, if I knew an actor didn’t like a line, even if they didn’t ask for an alternate, I would supply one.

BENEATH THE SURFACE (410)

I liked the premise of this episode and the first couple of versions of the script even more.  Whether it was because the episode came up short or simply because I was aware of those early drafts, Beneath the Surface came up short for me.  In the end, it seemed to lack the emotional core present in those early versions where the relationship between the amnesiac Jack and Sam was a lot less nebulous.  They WERE together and, given the ground work we’d laid in the episodes leading up to this one – the admission of feelings, the time loop kiss – it seemed like a logical progression.  However, there was some feeling (most notably from Amanda) that it was too much too soon and that the arc might prove a disservice to the characters, so the episode’s romantic elements was stripped away.  I loved the notion of our two main characters having to abandon their established relationship for a forgotten life in which they are no longer together.

Some fans were disappointed.   Others breathed a sigh of relief.

40 thoughts on “April 24, 2011: Days of Stargate Past – SG-1 Season Four!

  1. Thanks for the insight! It’s great to hear about the progression of episodes from ideas to scripts to what fans see on TV.

    Oh, and Windows of Opportunity is one of my favorite episodes. Those last minute additions really completed the episode.

  2. I will probably repeat myself over and over while you’re doing this, Joe, but your journey down Stargate memory lane is so so cool!! I agree with the others who say that this is all good material for a book. I would buy it hands down, and I know a lot of other people who would too.

    Have a good evening!!!

  3. Enjoying another wonderful trip down memory lane Joe. Thanks again for providing these POVs, they are precious.

    I’m not surprised to know that Brad and Rob have mentored others. They’re smart cookies, who know that time spent helping and challenging a talented person to grow, will often result in a better person asset for the franchise. It reflects well on them and on those whom they’ve mentored, now become excellent in their craft.

    Yet another example of the quality and awesomeness that is the Stargate family. May it live forever.

    Cheers!
    2cats

  4. Hi Joe,

    As a recent Stargate fan, I hadn’t seen many of the older episodes, so given your high praise of it, I watched Window of Opportunity today, and greatly enjoyed it. My favorite moment was when O’Neill was reading “Latin for the Novice” by Joseph Mallozzi, Ph D. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Connor P

  5. Perhaps it was because I was a later Stargate fan, but I always appreciated the ending of Scorched Earth. Life is so ambiguous and sometimes there aren’t right choices. Plus, that’s the military mindset in a lot of ways, make a choice and stick with it – no apologies. It could have taken a really cheesy tone (sort of like S. 1, 2) but I really like the Jack O’Neill I see in this episode.

    As for Beneath the Surface, I felt it lacked an emotional core too, although AT and RDA are superb at subtle undertones, so they made up for it in a lot of ways. It makes me think of an episode of Star Trek Voyager “Resolutions” in which two characters (that were also heavily shipped) are stranded on a planet alone with no way of leaving (and knowing they can never leave) and they don’t do more than hold hands. I would have been curious to see an early version of this script. (It’s sort of a shame they didn’t shelve the story for later so they could keep the S/J thing – I actually was enticed by the way S/J were handled – I don’t generally ship, but these two had so much chemistry).

    And WoO? Awesome 😀

  6. “Window Of Opportunity” worked well for me as a great episode!! I actually use Jacks lines in real life. When I find myself saying the lines (which happen in the scene pictured) I smile fondly to myself!

    I’m going to have to watch “Scorched Earth” again it hasn’t been replayed a lot but I remember feeling frustrated alongside Daniel.

    For “Beneath The Surface” I agree with Amanda and like how the finished episode came together. There was a sense watching it that Jack and Sam cared a great deal for each other even though they didn’t know each other. I also liked the side relationship that Daniel had!

    I’ve gotten to tweet a bit with Ivon and think like you he is a stand up guy!!

  7. loving it. Though I’m going to go insane at this rate, waiting for the SGA days recounted. Not complaining mind you. I liked SG 1 a LOT, though Atlantis is my true love, so to speak, and seeing how a good sci fi show comes together(or somtimes misses a beat) is worth the time invested. I hope your new commitments leave you the time to continue these posts for some time to come.
    Oh. and book. Think about it. Write it. even if you offer it as a e-book only, you will have buyers. Heck, I’ll even break down and buy a kindle if you make it available electronically.

  8. I just wanted to thank you for all the memories you are sharing. I’m sure I’ll probably cry at some of the later ones. I already got choked up after yesterday’s entry. It’s really nice that you are so involved with the fans. (Thanks for not letting the mean ones scare you away.)

    Also, thanks for all your hard work on Stargate. It was a great run, and while I’m sad it’s over, at least we got a lot more than most series these days. (Including two great spinoff series and 10 seasons plus two movies of SG-1.) I may not have loved every episode, but Stargate SG-1 is and I’m pretty sure will always be my favorite television series. (Prodigy was the episode I first watched that turned me off Stargate for a year before I saw Wormwhole Extreme one day, and was immediately hooked.)

    I will definitely be checking out the new series as it sounds like a lot of fun. Good luck in the future.

    Steph

  9. Shame on me, I neglected to mention Ivon’s special features have been a don’t miss event on the DVD’s for me.

    Thank you Ivon, for your wonderful contributions, artistic eye and flair for sharing Stargate intricacies. We all appreciate your work.

    I follow you on Twitter and will continue to watch for your future creative works. Much success!

    2cats

  10. Interesting to read the transitions of scripts and how very different they can become from the original. It must be hard to write and have to change your stories, but I suppose letting go of your “baby” and accepting editing needs are part of any professional writer’s work.

  11. I’m plenty happy with the subtlety of the ship for the episodes discussed so far. Ships aren’t fun anymore once they’re resolved. Of course, I can only claim to be speaking for myself.

    The lamest part of the series Torchwood was every ship playing out in short order. Where’s the tension, people? If they’d left that area alone, it’d been a darn good series.

    Despite outing myself as being for subtlety in ships, I still maintain I ain’t for subtlety when it comes to space battle explosions, nanites eating semis, driving Audis like they run on fairy dust made out of Tony Hawk, tornado surfing, or dragons scissor-kicking hover jets.

  12. hi Joe:
    I am absolutely loving you going through each episode like this.
    Window of Oppurtunity , Scorched Earth and The Fifth Race are my all time favorites !
    Thanks for all this, and looking forward to reading every night once again !

  13. Hi joe :
    question # 2 :
    Did you happen to watch the season opener to doctor who last night ?
    It was great !
    I think that show just keeps getting better and better each year !
    I love the new doctor !

  14. Window Of Opportunity is one of my favorite SG1 episodes. It was/is extremely intertaining! And I love all of Ivon’s DVD features. They are what make the DVD’s extra special.

    Mentors are a powerful thing. They can produce greatness. Taking the time and interest to personally guide and help someone is priceless.

    I made Akemi’s Scalloped Sweet Potatoes today for Easter dinner. We have had lots of regular scalloped potatoes but never with sweet potatoes. It was very good and everyone really enjoyed it. No leftovers for me! 🙁 Please tell Akemi “Thank You Very Much!” for sharing her recipe. I’ll be making that again!

  15. A simple thank you will never do…. There is gold in these memories! I agree, why don’t you write a book? It would be read by more than just Stargate fans, future writers/producers would benefit greatly from these stories surrounding your experiences. Think about it…

  16. Thanks for sharing your great memories of SG. I’ll be forwarding this to my sis, many is the time she’d call to kvetch about SG1 being preempted in her city, or I’d be calling her to fuss about hockey preempting my SGA. It’s was fun to be SG family, and since we’re big Transporter and Luc Besson fans I look forward to being a Transporter family as well – needs an acronym tho; TPR? T1?

  17. Window of Opportunity is one of my favourite SG1 episodes. Very off the wall.

    SGU Question: Are the drones a tip of the hat to Fred Saberhagen’s Berzerkers?

  18. I love Window of Opportunity. Humor plus connection to the Ancients storyline plus a fish out of water story. And another great part of it is, even among all the humor, it still maintains a bit of darkness when Jack has to explain that he can’t live through what happened to his son again. It still gets to me today.

  19. I have been rewatching SG-1, and particularly watching 2010 made me think: in SGU, why is the Stargate program still secret? By that point, the Goa’uld, the Ori, and the replicators have been defeated and the Wraith are out of the picture (assuming all those who knew the location of Earth have in fact been destroyed), so the argument that telling the people of Earth of those threats would just cause panic would not apply anymore (not that the government necessarily needs good reasons to keep secrets). On the other hand, information about the Destiny mission would still need to be kept secret from the Lucian Alliance.

    Did you consider (or plan on) having the Stargate become public knowledge any time in the SGU timeline?

  20. G’day Joe

    This trip down memory is very entertaining. WOO is awesome as is Scorched Earth.

    For all the Aussies and Kiwis,
    ANZAC Day today.

    Lest We Forget.

  21. Window of Opportunity! 🙂 Gotta be one of the best SG-1 episodes! Love all the loops that Jack and Teal’c go through. Of course, Jack and Teal’c playing golf through the Stargate will always be remembered. Hammond: “Colonel…what the hell are ya doin’?!!” Jack: “In the middle of my BACKSWING?!!!” LOL! 😀 And….the Wacko scene! Very funny! Still makes me laugh when I watch it. 🙂

    The First Ones. Good episode! I remember that was a Daniel episode. Michael Shanks acted his heart out in that episode. Love the how Daniel interacted with the Unas. I especially love the campfire scene. Very insightful and deep moment. “Don’t say ka till you’ve tried it.” 🙂 😉

  22. Joe i have to say i am loving this recap you are doing. My favorite season 4 episode was Scorched Earth, and im not kissing ass either. The reason i visit this blog(can you visit something that doesnt exist) is because your very entertaining and talented. <—THAT was ass kissing!

    You should ask Paul to give some opinions on the episodes aswell, and make him do a song and dance while your at it.

  23. I was one of the disappointed ones. I wanted their romance to blossom — but tastefully. This show SG1 is my favorite every produced, the 2nd is like to SGA. I will never miss SGU but will miss the franchise. I keep hoping for MGM to produce the promised movie of SGA.

  24. Amazing, you hire actors to say the lines, and then they can’t be bothered. Fire the lot of them!

  25. Hi Joseph,

    I will like you even ask a few questions, if you will answer me:

    • I know you do not know the plans for MGM Stargate franchise. But you, do you think Stargate is frozen for the time like other projects at MGM? (James Bond, The hobbit Bilbo, etc … etc …)

    • Today, there is no Stargate project into production … nothing. MGM did she let you think there will probably another series or another project?

    MGM did she let you think you have to come back for a new project Stargate? … in a near or distant future.

    Finally …

    • Have you any idea on a tiny little project SG? Maybe you’ve heard a vague rumor?

    Thank you and sorry for English.

  26. Joe, thanks for going down memory lane.
    I have really enjoyed the Stargates, all of them. Window was certainly very high on the list. You all had such a talented cast and crew, writers, producers, directors, hope I didn’t miss anyone. It was wonderful entertainment and I am glad I sat down to watch.

  27. @Lloyd67

    Although you didn’t aim your question at me, personally I think the Stargate francise on a whole is in Stasis until someone comes along with a good idea to bring it back, and when MGM has the kind of money to do another one.

    Meaning

    Good Stargate Idea + Low production cost = Thumbs up
    MGM having money + That idea = Yay
    News of the show + Fans = More Yay.

    That’s why I was like OMFG Joe, Brad, you and everyone else should do a 3rd spinoff series.

    I just hope someone doesn’t reboot the series. It would pretty much void all the hard work done by everyone for over a decade and would suck majorly.

    Bring back Brad! We, the non hating people who enjoy Stargate love Brad so he should save the francise.

  28. I loved SCORCHED EARTH(Copy pasted from your entry lol, my caps lock key works still :3)

    Mostly because it showed 2 different ways to deal with a problem affecting a civilisation.

    Meaning you have Jack and co thinking the old fashioned way of protecting the people on the planet via military means.

    Then you have Daniel that looks beyond this and tries to reach out to the people behind the *attack* as Jack and co sees it and ultimately finds a better way to resolve the problem.

    And with Daniels way seeming like the only viable solution things kinda work out..

    And that everyone, is the most vague way I have ever explained why I liked an episode.

  29. @Randomness

    Agree with the first part of your 1:18PM post.

    But I again repeat my previous comment about the current SGU brain trust have to fade away before MGM decide to do something with the franchise.

  30. @Montrealer

    Sorry that I missed your comment, haven’t had a chance to read the latest stuff from people.

    But I honestly think the best way to save Stargate is simply by having people that know how to make Stargate that fans enjoy. Both SG1 and Atlantis were widely successful, if it came down to it I would have faith that Joe, Brad and co could do the same by going back to the old formula that appealed to a wider audience.

    But that’s just my opinion, I’m sure MGM would think the same way as you in all honesty, it makes sense to bring new people in, however bringing new people in that may not know or understand what fans want could be disastor.

    However I would have more faith if MGM brought in people involved, or otherwise in the three Stargate shows that have experience in producing TV shows, such as Amanda Tapping.

    Speaking of which, I wonder if she knows she’s a fan fav choice for being a producer for Stargate lol, I’ve seen no end of people say she should do a Stargate show as Producer..

  31. (Belatedly…)

    Greetings from Austin, Texas! Long-time reader / first-time commenter here.

    I love your blog, and just have to tell you how much I adore Window of Opportunity to this day. I had been a casual SG-1 viewer, but that’s the episode that got me hooked and made me a fan of yours and Paul’s. (I vividly remember, about half-way through the episode, asking myself “who wrote this?!” and rewinding my TiVo to find out.) Great stuff.

    Also, I know it’s been said by many others, but the impending loss of SGU is increasingly heartbreaking, given how impressively strong this stretch of episodes has been. (That shot of T.J. on the beach alone!) You guys have literally made me gasp at your brilliance (more than once).

    Finally, as you’re now on Transporter and also an avowed anime fan, I’d be remiss if I didn’t urge you to drop everything and snag yourself a copy of Riding Bean this very moment. It’s a vintage, obscure ’80s OVA that’s gleefully insane and intensely brilliant, about a Chicago-based courier for hire. Unbelievably fun stuff. Trust me. You’ll love it.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00008G6U4/robogeekcom-20

    Anyway, I salute you from afar in admiration.

    P.S.: You should bring Transporter to Austin for Fantastic Fest! (Check out fantasticfest.com.)

  32. Woaw, I should have known it was you who came up with “Window Of Opportunity”. That was the funniest episode ever. No BS, thanks a lot for that one. I had to pauze so many times so I could LOL or I would miss parts of it. I really wish it was a 2 part episode or a movie 😀

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