I’ve had my share of online skirmishes. Not surprising give the fact that I: a) maintain a consistent (daily) internet presence and, b) work in a genre with notoriously passionate (rabid) fans. In the past, the blow-outs have progressed thusly –
1. A certain section of fandom objects to a creative decision made.
2. The angry fans vent in various forums, criticizing said decision and the people (TPTB) who made it.
3. Eventually, the outrage washes up on the shores of this blog and I offer my take on why the decision was made and/or why I thought it was the right call.
4. A certain group within that group of critics takes exception to my response and counters, sometimes with rude and/or immature remarks.
5. I call them on their behavior.
6. They grow even more outraged and lets the insults fly.
7. Repeats steps 5 and 6 as many times as required.
All this to say that readers of this blog know I’m no stranger to controversy. Which is why, two years ago, I was intrigued to read of another genre writer/producer, James Moran, who was experiencing a firestorm of fan fury over a creative decision made by TPTB over on Torchwood. The original blog post is here (http://jamesmoran.blogspot.com/2009/07/stepping-back.html) and, while perusing it, I was struck by the similarities to some of my experiences dealing with fandom. For instance:
“Why? I started trying to discuss it, but swiftly realised that it was pointless. It simply turns into “No it isn’t” / “Yes it is”, and there’s no way I can win the argument, because in certain people’s opinion, I am wrong, and that’s the end of it. And it’s all just opinion anyway. It would also feel like I was trying to justify the show, and I’m not doing that. I have absolutely no need to. The show is the show. Whether you like it or dislike it, that’s up to you.”
“I’ve received over a thousand messages from viewers talking about the show. The vast majority have been extremely positive. Even though many of them are upset, angry and shocked, they have managed to express that without making it personal. So to you, I’m extremely grateful. I’m glad you liked the show, and love that it made you respond so strongly. I can’t reply to everyone, it’d take weeks, so please accept my thanks.
But the rest of the messages? Unacceptable. Some have been spewing insults and passive aggressive nonsense. Accusing me of deliberately trying to mislead, lie, and hurt people. Telling me I hate the fans…”
So delighted was I to discover a kindred spirit that I fired off an email that essentially welcomed him “to the wonderful world of online fan interaction!”. He kindly responded. We commiserated. And, over the years, have continued to touch base on various – thankfully – non-internet related matters.
The other day, James dropped me an email to pass along his condolences on the premature passing of the Stargate franchise. I asked him what he was up to and he informed me he had just finished wrapping his latest movie, a horror comedy called “Cockneys Vs. Zombies” (Cockneys Vs. Zombies?! As Brad Wright was fond of saying: “SOLD!”). Meanwhile, his web series, Girl Number 9, starring Torchwood’s Gareth David-Lloyd, hits FEARnet this summer! Check out the trailer here: http://www.denofgeek.com/television/333874/girl_number_9_the_trailer.html
With the Book of the Month Club on hiatus, I thought it might be nice to broaden our horizons and invite some guests from the world of film and television to take part in our reader Q&A’s. And who better to kick things off than my brother in genre fandom strife, a guy who has written for shows like Dr. Who, Torchwood, Spooks, and Primevil – Mr. James Moran.
So, starting today (and through early next week), I’ll be gathering questions for James.
Post ’em if you got ’em!
The topic of fandom fury is a perfect segue to a wrap-up of my thoughts on SG-1’s fifth season…
In season five, actor Michael Shanks decided to leave the show. When Brad told me, I was shocked. I’d never known him to be unhappy or dissatisfied with the show’s creative directions (specifically as it affected his character) but, to be fair, being relatively new to the franchise, I can understand why I wouldn’t have been first on his list of people to confide in. I’m sure he’d had many discussions with Brad and Robert, the series show runners, leading up to what was, no doubt, a very difficult decision for him. Anyway, Brad was clearly disappointed and promised Michael his character would have a memorable farewell. Despite what fans may have thought at the time, there was no ill-will, no bad blood – simply a professional understanding and a desire on both sides to parts ways on good, respectful terms. Which is exactly what happened. I remember Michael visiting the production offices to say goodbye and Brad telling him the door would always be open for him to do guest appearances if he was so inclined. Michael voiced his appreciation for the potential opportunity to revisit the Daniel Jackson character. And that, sadly, was that.
Until word broke and fandom reacted. To say a lot of fans were displeased would be an understatement. The boards lit up! The fans were furious! And I didn’t blame them. Daniel had been there from the beginning. Hell, he’d been there before the beginning (As a character in the original Stargate movie, he pre-dated SG-1) and, over his 4+ seasons on the show, had been the team’s moral center. Losing him was a huge loss, not only to the fans but the show’s creative as well as DJ had always offered that strong civilian and philosophical counter-balance to SG-1’s forceful military approach. More than Teal’c, Daniel was the true fish out of water, braving his strange, often hostile environs in surprisingly spectacular fashion. His absence would hurt, not only his fans, but the show as a whole.
Realistically, however, there was nothing to be done. The decision had been made and we had to live with it. We also had to live with the fan anger directed at us for letting him go and, more pointedly, for creating the circumstances which, in their minds, forced Michael to leave. To say I was surprised by the criticism – well, let’s call that another understatement. I wasn’t aware of any creative issues surrounding the Daniel Jackson character. I went back and looked over the episodes produced to date and, to my eye, DJ was well represented in episodes like Beast of Burden, Summit, and Last Stand. And, as the online outrage swelled, it suddenly dawned on me that there was fundamental difference in the way the Daniel Jackson fans and I saw the show. To them, the relationship between Jack and Daniel was the heart of the series and they felt the show’s fourth and fifth seasons greatly lacked in this all-important dynamic. To my mind, however, SG-1 was about the team (although I was always mindful of the print ads for the series that always said: “Richard Dean Anderson in Stargate: SG-1”) and, as a result, I measured the success of each season by its ability to shine the spotlight on all four of our main characters in an equitable manner. Clearly, it was a divide that couldn’t be bridged and, as season five ended and work on season six commenced, that divide started to widen.
And, oh yeah, season six! We had all assumed that we would end our run on Showtime with a fifth and final season. And we did. On Showtime. But late in the show’s fifth season, we received word that the SG-1 had been granted new life. We were moving to SciFi for a sixth and presumably final year. There was much rejoicing, but also a bittersweet farewell to a place we’d called home for those five years. Showtime had been very, very good to us and, in as a final thank you, we elected to break tradition and not end the season on a cliffhanger. That way, we figured, our Showtime fans would have some closure, yet also have the option of continuing SG-1’s adventures elsewhere.
FAIL SAFE (517)
When we first started on the show, Paul and I were a true writing team, often working on scripts together, bouncing dialogue back and forth in our offices. Then, as the demands of production became more pressing, our partnership evolved. Rather than write together, we started to write separately. One of us would start a script and send it to the other who would revise what was written, then forge ahead. When he’d hit a wall, he would send the script back and the other would take over, revising all that had come before, then moving forward. We eventually settled into this routine but, in time, again as a result of production demands, we became a writing team in name only. We would write entire drafts separately, then switch off and do polishes on each other’s work. Eventually, we would do our own polishes, yet we maintained our official onscreen partnership. Why? Because while I was doing more originals, Paul, in his duties as a producer on the series, did the lion’s share of the uncredited script rewrites on other writers. And so, for instance, while both our names may appear in the credits, this episode was pretty much Paul’s from start to finish. One of my favorite exchanges from Fail Safe:
Carter: Now find the wires leading from the timer to the detonator and cut the red one.
O’Neill: Carter, they’re all yellow.
Carter: Say again?
O’Neill: There are five wires, and they’re all yellow!
One of the things that I remember about this episode was how uncomfortable Rick and Chris were in those spacesuits (a recurring on-set theme that ran through both shows) So much so that they simply refused to wear them any longer than they had to. Of course, how long was necessary was open to debate. In one sequence in the episode, they discover Sam and Daniel have managed to save themselves by taking refuge inside a ship’s pods. Rather than releasing them immediately, Jack and Teal’c apparently take the time to repressurize the ship AND THEN remove their spacesuits (which would take them at least a half an hour) before releasing Sam and Daniel. Nobody else at home seemed to notice, but we sure did.
THE WARRIOR (518)
I was awakened at a little past 7:00 a.m. by my ringing cell phone. I got out of bed to answer and discovered I’d already missed two calls from my sister in Montreal. What the hell? I answered. She asked me if I had the t.v. on. I told her I just got up. She informed me that two planes had flown into the Twin Towers. Another had hit the Pentagon. I was stunned. For a split second, my scifi mind assumed some mass mechanical failure, but the truth, far more insidious and disquieting took hold. I turned on the t.v. and immediately phoned Paul. “You watching?”I asked. “Yeah,”he said. I’m watching.”
When I got in to work, the Production Offices were quiet. Someone had turned on the t.v. in the conference room (reserved for screening visual effects) and anyone who wasn’t on filming was in there, silently watching the horrific events unfold. It was surreal. Down on set, we were finishing up second unit on this episode while main unit photography had started on Menace. 911 is the first thing that comes to mind when I think back to either of these episodes.
Danielle Nicolet, who guested as Reese in this episode, delivered such a terrific performance that I started trying to think of a way to bring the character back almost immediately after killing her off. Hey, it happens. Given the events in New York, most flights were grounded and she unable to fly back to L.A. As a result, she ended up having to stay in town a few extra days. I remember treating her to dinner where the topic of conversation ranged from the music business to the wonderful time she had as a recurring character on Third Rock From the Sun. Total sweetheart.
THE SENTINEL (520)
Another misfire in my books, this was one of those episodes I just never got onboard with. It was also one of those rare instances where we had to use a little trickery to tell our story, in this case showing newly shot footage in the Previously On as a means of introducing (back-selling) some characters who hadn’t appeared in the episode being referenced. This episode also marked what I believe was the first appearance of the wonderful Christina Cox who would later return to the franchise to play the part of Major Anne Teldy in SGA’s Whispers.
I know, I know. Most of you assume my heart is made of stone. But, believe it or not, the ending of this episode always gets to me, even more so that time has passed. I wasn’t a fan of the ephemeral cuttlefish but I did think Corin Nemec (Jonas Quinn) gave the best performance of his Stargate run in this heartbreaker of an episode.
Our final farewell to Showtime and Daniel Jackson ends with the suggestion that while DJ may be physically gone, he’ll always be there in spirit. I remember thinking the gust of wind that catches Jack’s attention in the final scene (and his subsequent reaction) was perhaps too subtle but, in retrospect, I guess I was wrong because all of our fans caught it. Another aspect of this episode I recall is the tiny spiked interrogation device Anubis tells Thor he will implant in his brain. Every time we watched that scene in dailies, I imagined the following dialogue:
Thor: Even should you succeed in implanting the device in my ear –
Anubis: Oh, it doesn’t go in through your ear.
Thor: Well, my nose then. Even if you succeed –
Anubus: No. Not in through your nose either.
Thor: Well then where – ? Oh. Oh $%&@!
I always wanted to hear an Asgard curse a blue streak. Now that Stargate is done, it stands out as one of my biggest regrets.