Boy, the costume department had a field day with this one! This episode was a try-out of sorts, an audition for future system lords. I drew on a variety of different cultures, creating a colorful rogues gallery. The hope was that if one popped, we could use him/her in future episodes. Well, one did: the exquisitely evil Baal played by Cliff Simon. I remember working on a rewrite of my first draft when we received word that actor J.R. Bourne would not be able to reprise the role of Martouf due to scheduling conflicts. As a result, my rewrite was a little more extensive. Rather encountering the Martouf we knew, we encountered his symbiote, Lantesh, who had taken a new host. It worked but, alas, was nowhere near as powerful as it could have been. I publicly toyed with the idea of not using a host body and simply having Carter bid a tearful, smooch-filled farewell to the little rubber snake – but it was more an attempt to irritate my fellow writer-producers than a serious pitch.
Back in the old days, SG-1 used to kill Jaffa with gay abandon. They were little more than cannon fodder for our team, nondescript bad guys who deserved everything that was coming to them. Except, as time wore on, knocking off the goa’uld’s foot soldiers wasn’t as easy as it used to be because we started to explore an aspect of the Jaffa that had been glossed over in previous years: the fact that they were essentially pawns. Unlike the ruthless goa’uld who were motivated by a thirst for power, the Jaffa were misguided and knocking them off grew increasingly problematic. At the end of this episode, we massacre a slew of them with the deadly toxin that targets their symbiotes and, while it may have seemed a smart strategic move at the time, like the food pyramid, asthma cigarettes, and Coca-Cola for kids print ads, it was the sort of thing that eventually went out of style.
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.
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.
No concept art 🙁
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.
No concept art 🙁
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.
No concept art 🙁
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.
3 thoughts on “February 13, 2023: SG-1 Season 5 Episodic Concept Art and Insights!”
I couldn’t stop laughing at that proposed conversation between Anubis and Thor. Great job.
Blended Lantash/Elliot was a good idea, I always thought it would have been better to have them in more episodes.
I’m awed by the artwork! Very talented people you had working there.
Love the story about the process and “birth” of the stories.
Can you believe 9-11 was nearly 22 years ago?