I came across this interesting Screen Rant article today by Toby Symonds which offers up his take on what he felt were ridiculous plot twists (and a few that weren’t) on shows that aired on syfy. Among the culprits was the decision NOT to kill of Ronon Dex in the Atlantis finale and the decision to reveal SIX as the mole at the conclusion of Dark Matter’s first season.
I love nothing more than a discussion or heated debate about the creative decisions made on a production I was a part of. And, while I appreciate Toby taking the time write the article and point out what didn’t work for him, I can’t help but disagree with a few of his points and weigh in –
My response –
First off, thanks for taking the time to feature the series. We didn’t have a lot of money to make the show, nor did we receive a lot of support from TPTB while we were making it, but we had a great cast and crew, and an even greater fanbase that’s still very active online.
Second, I wanted to respond to your take that: a) SIX lacked motivation and b) was an illogical choice to be the traitor.
I started developing Dark Matter way back when I was working on Stargate: Atlantis. The plan was to complete the final season of Atlantis and segue smoothly into the first season of Dark Matter. As it turned out, however, we had two seasons of Stargate: Universe and about a year of development work before Dark Matter finally saw the light of a t.v. screen. Between that gap and the years I spent developing DM while working on SGA, I had a good five years to develop the show. As a result, going into the writers’ room for that first season, I had all of the character and major story arcs mapped out, along with a five-year plan. I approached each season like an installment in a book series, with a beginning, middle, and end. And so, season 1 kicks off with the revelation that our characters are wanted criminals and ends, appropriately enough, with them being hauled off to prison (In season 2, our character come together, finally united, in common purpose – to redeem themselves and do the right thing…only to have it blow up in their faces – quite literally – with the destruction of EOS-7 which ignites a galaxy-wide corporate war).
Before I even sat down to write the pilot, I already knew how season 1 would end – with their capture and the reveal that one of them was a traitor and former mole/agent for the Galactic Authority. And I also knew that character would have to be SIX. It really couldn’t be anyone else given their respective backstories. More importantly, one of the central themes of the series was the nature vs. nurture debate. Are you born bad or are you a product of your environment? Dark Matter, like much of the research that has been done on the subject (check out the excellent Three Strangers) posits the answer is: a little of both. SIX is the crew’s moral center (although you could argue FIVE parallels these values). He is/was a principled law enforcement officer tasked with bringing in this galaxy’s most wanted and, despite the mind wipe, demonstrates these honest and right-minded outlooks throughout the show’s first season. Although he possesses no memories of his past, aspects of who he was inform who he is post-mindwipe (In the same way we see these post-mindwipe characteristics bleed through in, say, TWO’s brutal takedown of the casino staff in Episode 4, and execution of Wexler at the end of Episode 11).
One of the great things about having a detailed game plan going in is the opportunities it affords you to seed in clues that pay off later on down the line. Like the Android’s strange but seemingly innocuous comment to TWO prior to her space walk in Episode 3, a comment that hints at TWO’s reveal as a bio-engineered construct (hinted at in more obvious fashion, two episodes later, when her wound miraculously heals). In Episode 8, SIX flashes back to his past and receives the truth about who he is via an undercover Lieutenant Anders. In one of the episode’s final moments, an overwhelmed SIX sits alone amidst the destruction only to have Anders get the drop on him. In the next scene, ONE and FOUR arrive on the scene – but Anders is long gone. Why did he leave and let SIX go? What happened off-screen? It’s a huge red flag.
In the ensuing episodes, we see a sudden shift in SIX’s character, culminating in his emotional plea to FIVE to leave the ship. At this point, he knows that it’s going to end badly. And, after the delivery of the white hole bomb that ends up destroying the Mikkei facility and the planet, claiming thousands of lives, he finally makes the call on the decision he has been mulling over since Episode 8. These people are dangerous and he has to bring them in. And so he sets his plan in motion…
A second important theme in this series was the notion of redemption. Throughout the show’s first season, we peel the onion on the crews’ histories and they must come to terms with their past lives, their past actions, and look to start fresh, be better. In season 2, this theme is studied in another light, through the prism of SIX who seeks redemption for his betrayal. While the rest of the crew is looking to turn over a new leaf and “do the right thing” (spearheaded by TWO), SIX seeks to regain the trust of his former friends. And it’s not something that happens overnight. It takes theentirety of the show’s second season for the crew to accept SIX back into the fold. In short, like most of the character developments and reveals on Dark Matter, I wanted it to feel earned.
Anyway, all this to say that, perhaps despite appearances, we were never making it up as we went along. There was always a good reason (at least so far as I was concerned) that we did what we did. Every narrative decision was tied to character or thematically linked. As for that Ronon decision on Stargate: Atlantis…
My response –
The only thing I can say to this is that Enemy at the Gate was never intended as a series finale. In retrospect, yes, we could have killed off Ronon, perhaps even destroyed Atlantis itself, but the plan had always been to come back for a sixth season. Had we done so, AND killed off the Ronon character, the show would have been poorer for it.
Just a few nitpicks –
Regarding SG-1 – The plan was not to have the show bow out after two seasons. The show had a two season order but the plan was always to go the full five. When Paul and I joined the show’s writing staff in season 4, it was with the understanding that the show would go one more year and conclude with its fifth and final season.
Also, the creative dream was not to end the show after season 7 either. We were simply under the assumption that season 7 would be SG-1’s last – but, in all fairness, we made the same assumption for season 4, 6, 8, and 9. The show’s tenth season, ironically, was the only one I felt confident would NOT be its last – so, of course, it was.
And finally, on a show I never worked on – but watched the hell out of and loved…
Could let this one go without putting in my two cents –
Regarding the critique of the final moments of the Farscape finale (a show on this list that I was not a part of but I watched and loved) – in all fairness, I’m sure it didn’t seem like such a gamble at the time because, from what I understand, they had already been informed they’d been picked up for another season…only to have the pick-up rescinded.
Check out the article. There are takes on other productions as well: SGU, Wynonna Earp, and BSG to name a few.
Looks like we’ll convene the writers’ room sometime in September. Before then, the show’s creator and I will map out the first season game plan covering all ten episodes, character and story arcs. We’re also aiming to have the pilot co-written by then. After that, it’ll be smoooooooth sailing!
All that will be left to do is get those nine other scripts written, rewritten, prepped, shot, then have the episodes edited, mixed, color corrected and delivered…and we’re done in time for Sanno Matsuri. Yeah! Read more
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. Read more
Oh, sure. As a viewer, your mileage may vary. But, looking over the list of 100+ episodes of television on which I’ve been credited or co-credited as a writer, THESE were the ten I had the most fun writing… Read more
Oh, teasers are teasers and spoilers are spoilers and never the twain shall meet.
The subject of spoilers came up the other day after a New York Times article essentially spoiled the ending to DC Comics’ big Batman/Catwoman wedding storyline. Not only did they spoil it, they spoiled it in the damn headline! Fan response was…heated. Comic shops that had pre-ordered copies were suddenly left holding the bag (and board to ensure its contents remain in mint condition!) as readers responded by cancelling their planned purchases. Twitter was ablaze with a furious fandom who felt betrayed by either the book’s ending and/or the decision to reveal said ending days before the title dropped.
To be fair, it was a curious PR call. I mean, I understand the great buzz that would follow a feature profile in the New York Times, but surely that could have been achieved without ruining the ending. It’s not like you’re going to convince new readers to check out a movie, t.v. show, or book by saving them the trouble of actually watching/reading. I honestly don’t get it.
On the other hand, there are productions that guard against any and all pre-release reveals with merciless determination. Many an extra and crew member has been fired, publicly pilloried, and, on occasion, even sued for posting what they deemed a perfectly innocent pic on their instagram page, or made mention of a seemingly innocuous onscreen development on twitter. In some cases, I get it. In others, not really. For me, it comes down to the difference between a spoiler and a teaser.
And what is that difference? Oh, that’s easy. A spoiler spoils viewers while a teaser simply teases them. I know, I know. Where to draw the line? It varies from production to production, viewer to viewer, but I’ve personally always been very forgiving when it comes to on-set posts and pictures so long as they don’t reveal any major plot twists or surprises. For example, a photo of a presumably deceased character on set would, by my definition, be considered a spoiler. Photos of our series regulars in action would not. Yes to sneak peeks of most concept art, costumes, visual effects designs and props because I want to get viewers excited in the lead-up to the episodes – and hopefully intrigue some new viewers as well – rather than wait until after the episode airs at which point these visual tidbits are rendered mere points of interest for the hardcore fans. No to major reveals – like that new Android costume or a shot of SIX back on the ship after his apparent departure in Episode 303.
I think that’s reasonable.
Inciting a full-scale rebellion among your fandom probably isn’t. But then again, I’m not the one with the marketing degree.
My Top 5 Stargate Spoilers
#5 – The Curse: Dr. Daniel Jackson reconnects with some people from his past, one of who, it turns out, has been taken over by a goa’uld. Who could it be? Well, if you watched the broadcast promo, you’d note a fiery-eyed Anna-Louise Plowman using a goa’uld hand device to blast our heroes. A dead giveaway.
#4 – Apophis episode: Don’t recall which episode, but the network aired a promo that included a scene of Apophis actor, the amazing Peter Williams, snapping orders. Only problem was they inexplicably used raw footage in which the actor’s voice had yet to be flanged to achieve that ominous goa’uld delivery. As a result, mystified viewers were treated to a uniquely terrestrial-sounding System Lord with a slight Jamaican lilt.
#3 – Solitudes: A gate mishaps strands Sam and Jack on an icy wasteland. Stargate Command races to locate them. Where could they be? Well, if the SGC had merely consulted TV Guide before the episode aired, they would have learned Antarctica and saved themselves the time and effort.
#2 – Kindred I: Another network promo totally ruins a surprise the production had kept under careful wraps for almost a year. “You won’t believe the last five minutes!”says the voice-over, at which point we are treated to a shot of a once-dead, now very much alive Carson Beckett asking Sheppard and his team: “What took you so long?!”.
#1 – Forever In A Day: The German title for this episode is “Sha’re Ist Tod”. Translation: Sha’re Is Dead. But maybe not! Ah, who am I trying to kid?
Every so often, I get requests for concept work and designs related to the various ships featured on Stargate. I normally love to oblige but the truth is a lot of these files are scattered over so many folders on so many laptops and portable hard drives, that it’s almost impossible to track them all down. This past weekend, however, while prepping for the tweet-storms, I came across a veritable treasure trove of Stargate ship-related images. Combined with a bunch I already posted (mainly on reddit), they make for quite the curated collection.
Today, I present to you some of the Ships of Stargate: SG-1, many of which were designed by artist James Robbins –
Last night, Stargate fans took twitter by storm. Lead by @StargateNow and The Stargate Initiative, Fandom Force positively lit it up!
Pictured above: Actual footage of tweets being launched!
North American fans showed up en masse, and were joined by international fans in addition to more than a few familiar faces.
I’ll have a full rundown for you tomorrow but, for now, here’s are the key stats –
Over 100k tweets sent. We trended #1 in Canada, France, the U.K., #2 in the U.S., #6 in Australia, and #7 Worldwide! That’s HUGE!
In fact, we continued to trend hours past the scheduled one hour event and, in some instances, still trending into the wee morning hours. Not bad for a SciFi series that has been off the air for five years! Congratulations!
And we get to do it all over again when our international contingent hits twitter today in a little over 3 hours! Check the times in your area and join us for this final round! And make sure to follow @StargateNow and @StargateNow_EU for today’s secret hashtag (to be released 15 minutes before launch).
We’re only going to have one shot at this, Stargate fans, so let’s make it count. This Friday night (in North America) and Saturday night (in the rest of the world), we’ll be sending a message to MGM and the more people that participate in the tweet-storm, the louder the call.
Do you want a fourth Stargateseries? One set in the existing t.v. universe, created by the same team that brought you over 340 hours of Jack, Sam, Daniel, Teal’c, John, Rodney, Elizabeth, Teyla, Ronon, Rush, Young, Eli, T.J., Scott and many more?
The stakes have never been higher. Succeed, and we could soon be watching a new Stargate series, one as accessible to new viewers as it is rewarding for longtime fans. Fail, and it’s the dreaded reboot. All those characters you grew to know and love, those stories you enjoyed, could be wiped away like not so much as a ninth dream season of Dallas.
Beware The Living Eraser’s programming decisions! Remember Professor Ebhardt, the renowned atomic genius from SG-1‘s third season? Of course not because he was wiped from existence!
Do you recall the lovable Bill from Stargate: Atlantis‘s first season, the notoriously shy but kindly cafeteria worker who once saved John Sheppard’s life? No? Here’s why!
No need to sign petitions or write letters or demonstrate. All you have to do is show up on twitter this Friday night (6 pm PST/9 pm EST) and tweet your support using the secret hashtag of the night (follow @StargateNow or me, @BaronDestructo for all the details leading up to tweet-storm). Just an hour of your time could be the difference between an amazing new series that leaves the door open to checking in with old favorites, or this –
Don’t let this happen to your favorite franchise. Show up and support the tweet-storm! Let’s Save Stargate!
I would be remiss if I didn’t include my weekly breakdown of my favorite comic book covers of the week:
The Amazing Spiderman #797 (cover art by Alex Ross)
The 2002 Spiderman movie ranks as in my Top 10 Superhero Movies Of All Time. It misses out on a spot in the Top 5 simply because of the Green Goblin costume design that abandoned the grim and creepy look of the classic comic book version pictured here. Alex Ross captures Spiderman’s arch-nemesis in all his ghoulish green glory.
Batman: White Knight #6 (cover art by Matt Hollingsworth, Sean Murphy)
Behind every villain is a backstory steeped in tragedy and Victor Fries’s backstory, hinted at in this beautiful cover, is also a bittersweet love story.
Captain America #699 (cover art by Chris Samnee)
Oh, Cap, what are you thinking? Love the throwback look of the characters.
Hawkeye#16 (cover art by Julian Totino Tedesco)
I’ve always been a big fan of catching glimpses of our heroes during their downtime – and ice cream cones on the pier, well, you can’t get much more laid back than that.
She-Hulk #163 (cover art by Rahzzah)
Much respect for artists who eschew traditional cover art for outside-the-box concepts.
Oblivion Song #1 (cover art by Lorenzo De Felici)
I’m a sucker for these post-apocalyptic, sandstorm-swept settings.
Rise of the Black Panther #3 (cover art by Brian Stelfreeze)
The color palette of these covers by Brian Stelfreeze has been an utter delight.
Superman #42 (cover art by Patrick Gleason, John Kalisz)
If there was any cover that would prompt me to pick up a book this week, this is it. Love the Rockwell-esque Bizarro family pose – in spite of all, still possessed of a certain warmth. And, yes, I picked up the book.
The October Faction: Supernatural Dreams #1 (cover art by Damien Worm)
Nothing quite sets the tone like Damien Worm’s exceptionally dark and, occasionally, darkly humorous character designs.
The Shadow/Batman #6 (cover art by Giovanni Timpano)
This one has a stained-glass feel I’m really feeling.