The other day, I did a rundown of the top ten episodes I had the most fun writing. Today, I switch gears to focus on My Top 10 Toughest Episodes. Why were they tough? Well, the the issues varied, ranging from script challenges to productions issues, scheduling headaches to post-production problems.
A few may surprise you…
Notwithstanding the fact that this episode turned out to be a fan favorite – and I ultimately ended up very pleased with the results – this one was a tough script to write and, at times, an even tougher episode to produce. Plenty of twinning also meant long days that turned into nights, and one memorable Fraturday.
The issues with this one were rooted in a fundamental disagreement in pre-production regarding the character of Cadet Jennifer Hailey. In the end, I lost that particular argument and a character who was introduced as a potential recurring player faded into obscurity once the episode aired.
While I loved the exploration of Jonas Quinn’s backstory, the tale of his addled mentor never quite synced for me.
This one had the misfortune of being overly ambitious – everything from scripts to sets, scheduling to extras conspired against us. Ultimately a great performance by Roger Cross and some nice moments save the day, but it was a very tough time getting there.
One of the last episodes my then writing partner, Paul Mullie, and I truly co-wrote (moving forward, although we would share onscreen writing credits, we would do most of our scripting solo), it’s one of those episodes you wish you could do-over.
Although I’m happy with the way this episode turned out (and include it among my favorites), I pitched a very different version of this story only to end up being steered in another direction. I was not convinced it was the right choice. Even while writing the script, I was not convinced – which made for a very unhappy process. But, as I said, it all worked out and all it cost me was a little extra time…and some of my sanity.
I don’t think I’ve spent more time in an editing room working on an episode than I did on this two-parter that proved an exercise in frustration.
Another episode that turned out surprisingly solid despite the pains it took to get us there. I was sent back to the drawing board multiple times on the script, writing, rewriting, and re-rewriting. “It’s still a little bumpy,”fellow EP Carl Binder informed me following what must have been my fourth pass, couching his words in the gentlest way possible, no doubt fearing I was close to hurling my laptop out the window, and me after it.
The network hated the first draft of this script and, to be honest, I don’t think they were ever particularly fond of subsequent drafts or the finished episode. Given my hitherto solid experience writing for SG-1 those prior four years, the overwhelmingly negative feedback I received to this script shocked me. Fortunately, my next script for Atlantis, Siege II, was a much more positive experience.
When I got my first draft of this script back from Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Greenburg, I marveled at all of the check marks that adorned its pages.
“No,” showrunner Brad Wright solemnly informed me — “Check marks are bad.”
Oh. In all fairness, I was never privy to Rick’s notes on scripts not my own but, at the time, I remember thinking I’d never seen him hate on a script so much. Despite my attempts to address his notes, he simply never bought into the possibility that this ship could have been hijacked in the first place. Throw in one of my, uh, least favorite guest stars in franchise history, and you have an experience I’d sooner forget.
Ah, but I’m sure tough times are not limited to television production alone. Please, regale us with your professional lowlights.