About 18 years ago, my writing partner, Paul, and I landed staff positions on a little scifi series called Stargate: SG-1 (You may have heard of it!). With one script under our neophyte belts, we were given the green light to start work on our second. It was based on a pitch that involved the team traveling off-world to a planet facing imminent extinction. In an attempt to stave the coming apocalypse, certain members of this civilization were “resetting the clock”, inadvertently trapping SG-1 in a recurring 24 hour time loop.
When it came time to hash out an outline, series co-showrunner Robert C. Cooper had a few notes:
1 – We already have one cool piece of technology on the show = the stargate! Use it instead of our proposed “time-loopy device” to create the problem.
2 – Forget the people on this other planet. Let’s make this episode about OUR characters. Focus on them and their efforts to get out of the loop.
3 – Play up the humor of the situation.
As we received more notes on the planned script, it suddenly dawned me. “We’re doing Groundhog Day!”, a reference to the Bill Murray comedy which sees his character, weatherman Phil Connors, reliving the same day over and over and over again. Rob’s response was “Yeah!” and to throw me a look that seemed to say: “It took you this long to figure it out.”
I considered. We couldn’t just do a Stargate version of Groundhog Day. Could we?
Well, before there was Groundhog Day there was a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called “Cause and Effect”.
And before “Cause and Effect”, there was Ken Grimwood’s novel Replay.
And before Replay there was a Philip K. Dick short story called “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts”.
And before “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts”, well, it’s possible there was something else.
The point is I could have thrown my hands up and said “It’s too similar to something that’s already been done” and moved on. Of course, had I done that, I never would have co-written “Window Of Opportunity”, an episode very similar to Groundhog Day – that nevertheless consistently ranks as one of Stargate fandom’s favorite episode of the entire 300+ episode franchise. And how to account for this episode’s lasting popularity? Well, how about the fact that, while the time loop premise has been done before, what makes it so memorable is OUR CHARACTERS being trapped.
WoW offers so many memorable moments: the juggling, the Fruit Loops, the kiss, golfing through the stargate. It was fun and funny and, despite its similarities to what had come before, stood out and left a lasting impression for many fans.
Fast-forward to this same time last year. We were assembling the Dark Matter writers’ room in anticipation of a third season pick-up. Among the numerous stories I wanted to tell was our own version of the time loop episode. And so, after breaking our first three episodes, we sat down to beat out the story. We went back and forth, argued, hit roadblocks, reconsidered and then, by day’s end, we had…absolutely nothing. I went home that night, came up with second narrative attack, and presented it to the room – only to have it go up in flames. Eventually, we tabled Episode 304: The Time Loop Episode, and moved on to Episode 305. By the we wrapped up the season 3 writers’ room, we had 7 outlines for the first 8 or so episodes. I don’t have to tell you which episode we never got around to breaking.
That summer, I wrote the scripts for Episode 301 and 303 but, before sitting down to start on 304, I decided to do a little research. And said research involved me reading Dick’s “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts”, and watching movies like Run Lola Run and Groundhog Day and Source Code, and checking out t.v. episodes like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Cause and Effect”, The X-Files’ “Monday”, Supernatural’s “Mystery Spot”, Farscape’s “Back and Back and Back to the Future”, Futurama’s “Meanwhile” and “The Late Philip J. Fry”, Star Trek: Voyager’s “Coda”, and a lot more. I wanted to distill the time loop narrative to its structural touchstones, and then write the greatest time loop episode ever – one that honored what came before but would be uniquely Dark Matter in its approach.
I was, admittedly, scared to death as I sat down, sans outline that Saturday morning, and started writing. And, as I wrote, the pieces of the story started falling into place: the mid-loop start, harried THREE, the Android’s assist, third time’s the charm, the complication, the flash-forwards, the treasure trove of teasers. I ended up writing 32 pages that day, the most I’ve ever written in one sitting, then finished the script the following day. And then I slept for about 12 hours.
The episode was directed by Ron Murphy and he did a terrific job in delivering one of the craziest episodes we’ve ever done on this show.
And then there’s the cast, lead by Anthony Lemke and his loopy THREE: Melissa O’Neill, Zoie Palmer, Jodelle Ferland, Ayisha Issa, Mishka Thebaud, Alex Mallari Jr., and guest star Michael Reventar – all of who tear it up.
Greg David for TV, eh?: Things Get Loopy In Episode 4
We’ve gotten a mere peek at Anthony Lemke’s comic timing over the past two seasons. This week’s script allows him to go full-on and it’s a goshdarn treat. I won’t give anything away but I’ll admit I watched pretty much every scene Three was in with a stupid grin on my face. Even the soundtrack in those scenes is different, with a funky bass thump to note this isn’t your usual Dark Matter episode.
Jennifer Griffin for ScreenSpy: The Raza Crew Grapple With Time in Episode 304 “All The Time in the World”
I won’t lie. We’re kind of excited about this one.
Mary Powers at TVGeekTalk: Dark Matter Advance Preview: All The Time In The World
It’s been a while since we had a Three-centric episode, and this one reminded me of what a great talent Lemke brings to the role and how fortunate the series is to have him.
Seriously. If you have plans tomorrow night that DON’T involve staying home to watch this episode of Dark Matter, change them!
Dark Matter Episode 304 – Friday, June 23rd at 9:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 p.m PDT) on SYFY and Space Channel.