SG-1 was about to attain the loftiest of broadcast heights – its 200th episode – and we wanted to do something special. Something unique. Something everyone on the production would enjoy as much as the longtime fans watching at home. The initial idea pitched out was something called “Remember When…”, trip down memory lane in which our characters’ reflections would form the frames of the varied flashbacks to outrageous missions. While everyone loved the idea of the outrageous missions, the premise of the episode felt too diffuse. We wanted an actual story that would form the heart of the episode. After much discussion, we elected to pay tribute to the franchise by referencing our last milestone – episode 100 – abd bringing back Martin Lloyd and the show within a show, Wormhole X-Treme. But the fun we poked at the franchise through that spoof production was nothing compared to what we had in store for 200…
We finally meet the furlings!
Sort of. Even though it never really happened and we end up getting them killed in the end.
Back in the show’s fourth season, not long after joining the production, I was summoned to Exec. Producer Robert Cooper’s office. He was doing his pass on our first script, Scorched Earth, and needed something from me: the name of an alien race. When pressed, he admitted naming alien races was not his forte and, as evidence, offered up “the Furlings”. I have to admit that whenever I heard the name, I always imagined a cosmic version of the Care Bears, giggling and snuggling their way through various adventures. As evidently, did everyone else on the production. The fans, however, were all sorts of curious and nary a week would go by without a fan or two posting a message board request for a glimpse of the elusive beings. As time wore on, those requests continued and, at one point, Brad suggested an episode in which we actually did get to meet them: a race of gaunt, towering, hairless, grey-skinned creatures. But that idea was quashed and the production went on its merry way, choosing to keep the race a mystery. But with 200 came the opportunity to honor those fan requests, and the viewers at home finally got to see those lovable furry creatures who turned out to be a cross between an ewok and a deranged koala.
And then we SG-1 went and got their planet blown up.
Of course, we quickly reveal that the incident never actually happened and it was part of a pitch for a revival of the defunct Wormhole X-Treme t.v. series, a show that last an inglorious three episodes before being cancelled. But thanks to an impressive second life on dvd (following in the footsteps of Family Guy and Futurama) the show is being revived – and General O’Neill, in a desire to maintain a cover of plausible deniability for the Stargate program (and, let’s face it, screw with his old teammates) charges SG-1 with the task of creatively contributing to the production.
Mitchell takes on the living dead.
Every once in a while, actor Ben Browder would drop by the offices to pitch out an action sequence for his character – so I thought it appropriate that, given the opportunity, his character would pitch out an action sequence for – uh – his character. And, really, nothing says action like zombie hordes. Just ask fans of The Walking Dead. This sequence also allowed us the rare opportunity of witnessing Harriman getting his head eaten. Double bonus!
MItchell’s idea is shot down and Martin gets on the phone with a representative of the studio. He is clearly frustrated and Mitchell asks: “Studio executives, huh?” Martin responds: “What? Oh, no Charlie? He’s a great guy. He’s the only one I trust.” This was a reference to longtime MGM Exec. and Stargate supporter Charlie Cohen, one of the smartest, kindest studios executives I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. As much as he was a fan of the show, we at the production were fans of Charlie.
Martin is outraged because they lost their lead. How, he wonders, can they do the show without their lead. “You just bring in a character to replace him,”suggested Mitchell – an obvious reference to the introduction of Cam Mitchell which followed soon after the departure of longtime SG-1 lead Jack O’Neill. Carter then goes on throw out some alternate ideas for keeping the lead alive: “Well, you could have the other characters refer to him all the time. Maybe, get him on the phone once in a while.” Yep. Been there; done that during SG-1’s seventh and eighth seasons. And then, someone references that time O’Neill was invisible…
The idea of doing an Invisible O’Neill segment was actually a joke I threw out. That ended up making the script. That happened a lot in this episode. As with all the segments, we went off and wrote them individually, and then everyone weighed in and they were tweaked. There’s one beat in this segment that wasn’t part of my original draft, the moment in which Carter catches O’Neill spying on her in the shower. I thought it was a little…oh…creepy.
Anyway, the Invisible O’Neill idea was embraced because we wanted Richard Dean Anderson to come back and do a cameo on this all-important episode, but didn’t know if he’d be able to work an appearance. So, we figured we’d get the next best thing: his voice. As it turned out, he was able to swing the appearance, making 200 all that more special.
Martin then pitches out a tale of high adventure, placing our heroes (SG-1) in an impossible position – and then simply cutting to them escaping through the gate. This was a tip of the hat to the many fans outraged by a similar scenario in a past episode (don’t remember the name) in which our heroes (SG-1) are surrounded by Lucian Alliance soldiers only to effect some miraculous unseen escape. During the ensuing argument over the merits of the pitch, Martin attempts to come up with a reasonable window of time for the team to reach the gate and dial. Ten seconds is too short and thirty seconds is too round a number. He decides on 38! Which, coincidentally, is the same number (of minutes) a stargate can stay open.
Timing is, of course, everything, and nothing says action like a ticking clock. Which prompts the following gem from Martin: “Trust me, jeopardy plus ticking clock is box office. It’s the E equals M C squared of the entertainment world. Ask any executive.” Indeed. If there were two notes we received more than any other during Stargate’s long run, they were: “More jeopardy!” and “We need a ticking clock!”. Having a character race a timer to defuse a bomb? Didn’t get much better than that.
They’re off to see the wizard!
Next to The Simpsons, The Wizard of Oz was probably the most referenced piece of pop culture over SG-1’s decade-long run. The fans certainly took notice and which resulted in one particularly memorable piece of artwork being sent to studio – it depicted the original team as the cinematic classic’s adventurous foursome. So, I suppose, it made perfect sense to reference the show referencing by including a little Wizard of Oz sequence in the episode as well.
Mitchell’s line: “Now, how can something work perfectly fine for ten years, then all of a sudden, it doesn’t work anymore?” was an in-story reference to the gate suddenly stopping operations – and, interestingly enough, could have been interpreted as a comment on the the show’s cancellation.
Okay, that’s enough for today. I’ve got a caponata to make and, time permitting, some kasu ice cream. Ivon, Lawren, and Rob are over tomorrow for some football – and, of course, to cheer on my Snow Monkeys.
GO SNOW MONKEYS!!1