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
Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
PBMom

Windows of Opportunity was definitely in my list of favorites from season 4.

Greg
Greg

I have to say that Window of Opportunity is one of my favorite episodes.

pauly4it

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.

Lisa R
Lisa R

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!!!

2cats
2cats

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

Connor P

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. smile

Cheers,
Connor P

T'loc
T'loc

There is a new on air voice for mazda here in the U.S. and it has a Stargate connection.

Shannon
Shannon

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 grin

Penny
Penny

“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!!

Thornyrose
Thornyrose

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.

Steph
Steph

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

2cats
2cats

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

Debra
Debra

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.

DP
DP

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.

dasNdanger
dasNdanger

Wait. I thought Ivon and the cute brunette were one and the same??

wink

das

hal ehrlich
hal ehrlich

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 !

hal ehrlich
hal ehrlich

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 !

Ponytail
Ponytail

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! sad Please tell Akemi “Thank You Very Much!” for sharing her recipe. I’ll be making that again!

Patricia Lee
Patricia Lee

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…

Shiny
Shiny

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?

cat4444
cat4444

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?

majorsal
majorsal

in the renowned words of Nem, what fate Sam and Jack?

majorsal
majorsal

oops, forgot the –> :p <–

Lee
Lee

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.

Narelle from Aus
Narelle from Aus

Window of Opportunity was the episode that made me notice Stargate.