2007 marked the year Paul Mullie and I took over as showrunners for Atlantis’s fourth season.  It also marked my first full year of blogging. As a result, some of these look-backs will be a little more involved, starting with…

ADRIFT (401)

The episode opens with a frenzied shot of the medical team wheeling a seriously injured Elizabeth down the corridor and into the infirmary.  It was so frenzied, in fact, that no one noticed there was a camera man in the shot until well into post-production.  In the original version the shot starts on the Weir’s gurney and various medical equipment being wheeled in and by – except that, unbeknownst to us at first, one of those pieces of medical equipments happened to be a camera men.  It was while we were watching one of the cuts that Martin Gero noticed. He rewound, played, paused and, sure enough, there was our phantom invisible camera man, suddenly very visible in the frozen frame.  Oops.

Out visual effects supervisor, Mark Savela, and his team were nothing short of amazing, following up our VFX-laden season three finale with this visually spectacular season opener.  About a year after the episode aired, Mark swung by the blog to do a little Q&A (check it out here: July 24, 2008: Stargate Atlantis Visual Effects Supervisor Mark Savela answers your questions. And he brought treats!).  Among the visuals he forwarded me for inclusion in the entry were a couple of videos I wasn’t able to upload at the time, specifically…

We open on Samantha Carter effortlessly floating through the Midway station as she works with Dr. Lee.  The smoothness of Carter’s movement was achieved by pulling her along on a skateboard (don’t know if we borrowed Joe’s longboard for that one).

And the sequence itself – the Midway station wasn’t actually constructed until later that season.  The impressive station environment was actually created by our VFX department.  Check it out:

Then there was the big EVA chasm jump Sheppard and Zelenka execute to repair the damaged stardrive’s control crystals, one of my favorite VFX sequences in Stargate history.  And it all started with those bulky (and stifling hot) space suits…

Actor David Nykl (Radek Zelenka) was always a good sport. Here he is, modeling the space suit prior to shooting the sequence.
And practicing his space dance maneuver.
Space zombie!

The sequence was shot on our largest stage, what we referred to as the VFX Stage, which was home to the village set, some Atlantis interiors, and the hive ship.

Again, the virtual environment of the chasm, the destruction, and the facing building are achieved through the magic of green screen:

And then there’s the sequence in which puddle jumpers fly ahead to take out the approaching asteroids.  Rodney proves himself amazingly adept –

But, of course, he had a lot of help from Mark Savela and co.  A few stages of the development of this sequence:

This was the Torri Higginson’s first episode back as a guest star and it was very difficult and demanding, requiring her to spend much of the episode immobilized for her character’s brain surgery.  We, of course, didn’t shave the actress’s head for the sequence, instead using a bald cap.  After the nanites save Elizabeth’s life, there was only the briefest of discussions on her post-operative physical appearance.  They would have shaved her head for brain surgery so it stood to reason that Elizabeth would come back bald, no?  Well, no.  Fortunately, this is science fiction and one could argue that, if the nanites could repair her physically, they could also regrow her hair.

A lot of great scenes in this episode but, for me, the most memorable remains the one in which Ronon speaks to the unconscious Weir, thanking her for all she’s done for him.  It’s a rare, vulnerable moment for Atlantis’s resident bullheaded warrior and one that resonates for that very reason.  A wonderful performance on the part of actor Jason Momoa.

28 thoughts on “September 4, 2012: Days of Stargate Atlantis Past! SGA’s Fourth Season! Adrift!

  1. Really cool, Thanks a lot, love the green screen video clips. 🙂 Studios should put lots of this great behind the scenes stuff in their DVD releases.

  2. I really liked “Adrift”. It was non-stop action. I can still hear McKay whining as he departed the jumper to yet another emergency.

    I’m glad you mentioned Ronon’s thank you speech. It brought tears to my eyes, especially because it was so unexpected. I found it far more awesome than the Space Jump.

    Another moment I found very touching was Sheppard swallowing back tears after Keller told him the bad prognosis for Weir.

    Good jobs by absolutely everyone. Great episode.

    Anne Teldy

  3. It was indeed an amazing episode. I remember watching it when it first aired and was on the edge of my seat the whole time! Just so much going on, and yet everything was so well handled. And yes, Mark Savela and his team did some incredible work. Plus, he’s a super nice guy!

  4. Lots of good stuff here, and not just the fx. (though my personal favorite is the shrinking shield, leaving more and more of the city exposed to the cold of space). And Rodney calling Sheppard John(finally!), the tension between them as McKay sets out to save Weir, unwilling to lose another close friend. Have to admit I wasnt thrilled with Carter coming over to SGA, but Ms. Tapping did well with the material she had to work with. Glad to see you continuing down memory lane and looking forward t more.

  5. Thanks for these memories and wonderful photos and videos! Adrift was a terrific episode with many stand out moments some of which you have mentioned. One of the best scenes was the fight between Rodney and John over using the nanites on Elizabeth. The emotions and tension between them – just a superb acting moment from Joe and David. I loved the space walk and the Asteroid shooting too.

  6. G’day Joe
    Adrift was way cool, one of my favourites…and Carter. Yipppeeeeeeeeee
    Ronon’s talk to Weir brought tears to my eyes.

  7. Season 4 was a pretty strong Season all things considered, and I agree Joe, the VFX people did some amazing stuff, then again Stargate was a pinicle of excellence in almost everyway whilst on the air.

    Pity there wasn’t a Lucius episode by the name of Irreplaceable in this season, would of been a great trilogy of humor for the series in general.

    Add the Atlantis team dealing with the Wraith + Lucius being involved somehow + Serious goings on and you’d have a classic episode right there.

    Joking aside I bet most people wouldn’t of been able to tell that the midway station was ever green screened when watching initially, it was that well done.

  8. Adrift was a great episode. I loved how the fate of the city paralleled Weir’s fight for survival.

    I too loved the confrontation between John and Rodney over the Weir’s nanites. Sheppard’s angry but conflicted expressions were right on. And I think it was the only scene in the series where I thought Rodney and Sheppard might come to blows.

    Also, I think I remember when it first aired that someone mentioned if the city was starved for power, why were the all the lights still on 🙂

    I never fully appreciated the quality of the special effects, or the sets on the show while it was originally airing. But it’s a joy to watch again, and this episode had it all.

  9. It was a great episode. My son and I have made it through all of SG-1, SGA, and now SGU. The depressed feeling kicked in, again, after watching the final episode. So wish there was a movie to wrap that one up.

    Today, I take my youngest daughter, Bethany (14 yrs old), to an appointment at Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. She has been suffering with IBS and other issues for almost 2 years now and still hasn’t made it to a manageable level of dealing with it. We have another appointment next month. Hope to get more answers.

    We really enjoy reading about the making of the episodes and your food adventures!!! 🙂

  10. I actually enjoyed Amanda coming over to SGA for that season. It did start a fear of musical expedition leaders when she was replaced by Bob Picardo though. It did seem strange to see Carter and McKay together for an extended period without Rodney acting creepily and leering at her the entire season. Must have been character growth.

  11. I enjoyed Adrift. The interaction between Sam and Dr. Lee was funny.
    I cracked up when he was trying to take pictures of the off world.

    Sam’s character seemed like she was weightless. Good job, Special Effects team!

    It was good seeing Zelenka being heroic/stoic.

    I did wonder about all that hair after brain surgery but nanites explain everything 😉

    Oh, I was surprised no one died in the asteroid field. Glad but surprised.

    I agree with something you said in earlier posts. A few more weeks traveling in space would have been an interesting direction.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. Today started out with a bang. I went to sleep at 4:30 a.m. and was a little late getitng up (8:30), so Riley decided to entertain herself while I slept. She climbed up on the bathroom counter (you should see the mirrors, apparently she liked the dog staring back at her), “killed” the toothbrushes and a Steripod, destroyed a plant, and peed and pooped on the bath mat. WTF? I got up, scolded her, went into the kitchen for some tea and an English muffin, then dropped a huge jar of jam on the floor. While I was cleaning that mess up, Gumbo decided the foyer was a good place to poop (again, WTF?). Mind you, they’d both been out at 6:00 a.m.! My son’s car has been here for a few weeks because it broke down and he doesn’t care (he drives a company car), so I finally told him to have it towed or I would, There’s no room on the driveway, and the garage is still a mess after our move (Mr. Deni only has one day off a week). Naturally, he decided to have it towed this morning and gave me 15 minutes notice. Meanwhile meanwhile (yes, two meanwhiles), I had agreed to help out a lady that inherited three cats from her mother-in-law last week and could not keep all 3, and seeing that she’s a friend of my favorite vet, I agreed to take the cute little black one. She showed up at exactly the same time as the tow truck. 🙂 Yeah, lady, the cat will be fine, no worries, I’ll call you later, leave me your phone number and move your car, it’s in the way! Cat’s in the huge cage (scared sh*tless), glass and jam have been cleaned up, Riley has forgotten all about everything and the frickin’ car is gone! Perhaps I should go back to bed, hey? 🙂 The new cat is a girl, but her name will be Kenny to keep the Wraith theme going. Todd and Bob are also girls and they don’t seem to care… 🙂 Riley (aka “Good Girl”) is ready for her photo op now, must go.

  13. Sam floating in space is such a great scene, she’s so relaxed and unaffected by the fact that she’s doing something that looks so cool. Plus she looks so pretty, just adore Sam.

    I missed so much on this blog due to a very bad 2012, but I’m having fun catching up, can’t believe you went to comic con, so jealous. I didn’t even make it to dragon con this year. But my student loan bill was $100 bucks less this month; not sure if it’s a computer glitch but I’m debating whether I should say something or quietly hoard my moolah.

    If I’ve learned anything from Family Guy it’s that lying to the feds is bad, even when it’s their mistake. But I’m thinking I bank those extra 100 once a month until next summer then I could be going to dragon con in style! Or to paupers prison with Bernie Madoff.

  14. Joe:

    Please delete my last post above and this post. Unfortunately the new medicine I mentioned is not for people under the age of 17 years old. 🙁

    Thanks. 🙂

  15. @Joe:

    Adrift was one of my favorite episodes in terms of the visual effects…great work by Mark Savela and his team. It was fun to see your behind-the-scenes look at the visual effects process and development. Being a technically oriented guy, that kind of thing always fascinates me.

    On Weir’s hair growing back, I accepted that viewers would assume that the nanites caused her hair to grow back, but I did wonder how to explain how they knew where to stop the growth…images of Crystal Gail came to mind 😉

    Sorry for the lack of comments over the past few days…it’s been a busy Labor Day weekend for me: I fixed my smoker (we smoked country-ribs, salt pork, and a whole chicken for Labor Day…perhaps more on that later), bought a used car (a 2006 Black Mustang GT for my dear wife…I still drive my truck), and spent my spare time grouting and caulking my bathroom (sealing comes this weekend).

    On the Salt Pork; I was trying to recreate that pork sandwich (you know the one!) and have been having a problem sourcing the ingredients. I chose salt-pork because it was available and was hoping the salt flavor wouldn’t be too strong. Well, it ended up having a heavy salt flavor, so I’m still not there yet on the recipe. I will keep looking to see if I can find a local butcher that will source fat-back or pork-bellies, which is what I think I need for this recipe. No luck so far, but I’ll keep looking.

    The chicken and ribs tasted fantastic though! I went with hickory chips (I was afraid that apple wood would have been too light a flavor for the salt pork (and I think I was right). I’ll put up some pictures on my blog when I get a chance…

  16. Opps…sorry for the bold html tag. One of the machines I use on the house network has a funky keyboard, and I always mess up the bold un-tag because of where the forward slash is on this keyboard.

    Sorry about that.

  17. Nice memories. I’m going to have to do a little mini-marathon of season 4 to refresh my memory. Maybe this weekend in between picking jalapenos.

  18. @ Deni – using 2 “meanwhiles” back-to-back in a sentence is never a good sign. I read that and said, “oh no, now what…?” 😆

    Now off the watch Adrift.

  19. The Ronon & Elizabeth scene was my favorite part of Adrift too I just watched it again last night as part of the rewatch that we are doing on Gateworld. Season 4 & 5 were not my favorites because of Elizabeth being gone I don’t know if you remember but I was non too pleased about it. I am curious if I will still feel the same way after watching it again we shall see.

  20. Each of the characters, either alone or jointly had a meaningful part that brought the episode together for a great show. I like the bickering between John and Rodney. They both have great comedic timing. They’d make a great “Odd Couple” for modern times, wouldn’t they? It’s really amazing how such (somewhat “unknown”) great talent was brought together to form this show that ended far before its time.

    I mean no disrespect by calling these people unknowns. It can take many years for actors to become an “overnight” success. In the meantime, we see these vaguely familiar faces on shows and think, “Oh yeah, there’s that actor again”. It is these familiar faces that would draw me to watch a show because they’re that good.

  21. Adrift was really, really awesome. I’d like to say one of my favorites, but I can’t because of losing Weir. I really liked Weir. I think Sheppard should have been the one to make the decision about her fate because he was more like her…”husband”…or family, than Rodney. I think Dr Keller seemed a little cold and as-a-matter-of-fact in this. I guess it took a while to “warm” her up. She just kept telling everyone she talked to that Elizabeth had no chance or at best would suffer severe brain damage. She did not have a good bedside manner yet. I noticed in season 5 that Sheppard’s personality had gotten a little dark, like he was carrying a lot of weight or worry on his shoulders. Now I think it might have started with this episode because I see some of that seriousness here. The special effects were awesome! The city damage and space walk was fantastic. Zelenka’s space blood was…very interesting. The Midway Station is super cool. When Ronon was talking to Weir, I kind of expected him to gently kiss her on the cheek. In a very respectful, half goodbye way, not anything sexual. Just a simple little kiss. (That might have cured her!) (It would have me!!) Thanks for the very interesting photos and videos. Looking forward to more behind the scenes of season 4.

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