Late last year, after watching the producer’s edit of Epilogue, Carl expressed a sentiment that has echoed throughout fandom since the episode aired: “That would have made a great series finale.”. Yes, in hindsight, it certainly would have. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and Stargate: Universe WILL end on a cliffhanger. Now I’ve noted some discussion here and elsewhere on what, exactly, I mean when I refer to it as “a cliffhanger”. Am I, as some suspect, referring to it in the sense that SG-1’s finale, Unending, was a cliffhanger? In a word: no. Unending was NOT a cliffhanger by any stretch of the imagination. We knew SG-1 was done and Robert told a story that (like, say, Cheers) suggested the adventures of the characters we’d grown to know and love would continue, whether we were witness to them or not. Other fans have pointed to the Atlantis finale, Enemy at the Gate, and wondered whether the Universe finale, Gauntlet, is a cliffhanger in similar fashion. In the same word: no. Enemy at the Gate was NOT a cliffhanger. While the episode certainly left some questions unanswered (what of Todd, Teyla, and Ronon who had taken the voyage to Earth?), it offered closure of sorts. Atlantis finally returned the the Milky Way and our crew finally returned home. At the time we wrote Enemy at the Gate, we were hopeful that we’d be getting that sixth season pick up (Hell, we had a batch of stories ready to go) and, when it failed to materialize, we were disappointed but took solace in the fact that, at the very least, fans wouldn’t be left hanging. No, the Stargate: Universe series finale, Gauntlet, is not a cliffhanger in either respect. It is a true cliffhanger along the lines of a Camelot, Incursion II, and The Siege II. The kind that, once it ends, will leave you asking yourselves: “How the hell are they going to get out of this one! Can’t wait until the next episode!” Except there won’t be a next episode, much less a next season. Also, in response to a question several have posed: Unfortunately, the last few episodes build upon each other so simply switching the airing order wouldn’t have helped. You could consider Epilogue the series finale and move on to some other show (I hear great things about Breaking Bad) but that would rob you of two truly awesome episodes in Blockade and Gauntlet. Both deliver action, adventure, humor, and some terrific character moments. Gauntlet, in particular, is very touching and its conclusion will no doubt you leave you…among many other things…frustrated, incredulous, outraged, offended, annoyed, vexed, saddened, distressed, bitter, aghast, irritated, unsatisfied, pissed-off, melancholy, miserable, confused, furious, dejected, riled, shocked, heartsick, angry, surprised, exasperated, indignant, enraged, despondent, bewildered, dismayed, incensed, stunned, and grief-stricken.
Further reminiscences from SG-1’s fifth season…
As previously mentioned, when we geared up production for Stargate: SG-1’s fifth season, it was with the belief that it would be the final year of the franchise. Showtime had been very, VERY good to us but the prevailing wisdom was they wouldn’t be picking us up for that sixth season. And so, we vowed to go out with a bang. And we did. Sort of. Late that year, I walked in on Brad and Rob in the midst of an involved discussion. “What’s up?”I asked. Brad threw me a look and asked: “How does season six sound to you?”. I didn’t believe him at first. Nor did I believe him the following year when he informed me that the show would be getting a seventh season. Hell, between all of the surprising pick-ups and shocking cancellations, I don’t think there was a year that I WASN’T surprised.
I always found it interesting that, whenever certain fans took issue with a creative decision, they would always blame TPTB (The Powers That Be) as if we were one giant multi-headed monster. In truth, we’re individual little monsters who have had our share of disagreements over the years on everything from wardrobe decisions to major character arcs. Season four had seen its share of minor debates, but this episode stands out as the first big blowout. I don’t even recall exactly what was being disputed; I only remember it had to do with story structure. That and being really impassioned and, ultimately, very annoyed. In the end, Paul and I handed off the episode to Rob and shifted focus to another script, The Fifth Man – and Enemies turned out to be a terrific episode. Also, FYI – the working title for this one was Serpent’s Hat. Don’t ask.
One of my favorite moments of these early fifth season episodes is the Larry David staredown Bratac gives Teal’c to discern whether he is lying or not (I believe it’s in the previous episode). That bug-eyed gawk would always leave me chortling. A great Teal’c episode, though less so for Chris Judge who had to brave the elements on this one. On the day they headed out to shoot the exterior scenes, they discovered a thick blanket of snow on the ground. Oops. It provided what I imagine must have been a somewhat uncomfortable bedding for the shirtless Chris to lie down on.
This was one of those episode’s that hadn’t sold me at the script stage but really came together once we started shooting. Sean Patrick Flanery was great and had terrific onscreen chemistry with Amanda. Another perfect example of writer-producer’s remorse: an actor who does such a good job that one regrets killing off his character.
Actor Dion Johnstone assumed a number of very different roles over the course of the franchise’s run. He drew on his extensive theater background to play the part of Chaka in The First Ones (reprising the role in Beast of Burden), doing a brilliant job of conveying a wide range of emotion through some heavy prosthetic make-up. In this episode, he plays another alien – of sorts – the mysterious Lieutenant Tyler whose existence no one but SG-1 can recall, and delivers another great performance. One of the things I remember about this episode was the hell of a time editing had cutting around all the Jaffa bodies O’Neill has to negotiate on his way to the gate. I mean, holy crap, does he kill a lot of ’em! Apparently, Brad felt the sea of corpses put a damper on an otherwise happy ending.
Ron Wilkerson’s first and best script is a terrific SF tale anchored by one of Richard Dean Anderson’s greatest performances. It’s a darker side of Jack O’Neill we rarely get to see – angry, intense, and deadly serious. The episode also offers up a side of Carter we rarely glimpse as well: fallible and wrestling with self-doubt. Many layers in this one and it all plays out in very counter-Star Trek fashion as the team attempts to force a solution upon the planet’s inhabitants. Tres Anti-Prime Directive, no?
Back in the office today and things are beginning to take shape. Andy heads off to Paris tonight to coordinate with the European unit. And, oh yeah, practice his French. Some progress made on the script front. Page 43! A couple of tough scenes ahead and then it’s smooooooth sailing. Speaking of scripts, Carl delivered the second draft of his first script and we’re making plans to have him back for another week of story-spinning fun. In the unlikely event Carl has second thoughts about coming back, Alexander has offered to sweeten the pot by offering him first dibs on the latest issue of German Times…
How could he resist?
Today’s entry is dedicated to the U.S. Navy Seals. I hereby grant them their own SG team.