June 29, 2011: Dinner and drinks with Hawkman! Episode 10 on track! Bento Breakfast! And a Sweet Tooth reminder!

Hey, look who it is!  It’s Michael Shanks (Stargate’s Dr. Daniel Jackson, Smallville’s Hawkman) who’s in town shooting Saving Hope with Erica Durance (Smallville’s Lois Lane).  Michael texted me last week to let me know he’d be in Toronto and that I should set aside a night for catching up.  He suggested drinks, I countered with dinner, and we ended up covering both.  He left it up to me to choose the restaurant and, after much consideration over countless choices, I ended up going with my go-to place: Scarpetta.  There we enjoyed a great meal and an even better conversation, three and a half hours spent talking about past and future projects, life on the home front and, of course, Stargate. About the only topic we didn’t cover was the Vancouver Canucks.  I figured it was too soon.

After Toronto, Michael heads back to Vancouver (lucky!) to work on yet another project.  It’s great to hear he’s been keeping busy between work and family (he received text updates on the latter from the lovely Lexa).  He knows T.O. fairly well – apparently having lived here at one point – and assures me that once the summer events kick into full swing, I’ll be much happier here.  Yep, as soon as they finish with all that construction, I’m sure I’ll be a lot happier.

Orecchiette with fava beans and mint.
The spaghetti with tomato and basil.

At one point, we were discussing the fantastic Alaina Huffman (who, coincidentally, I had dinner at Scarpetta with just last week).  Michael explained how, during one of her convention appearances, he had sensed her nervousness and sought to put her at ease, reassuring her that, despite the online vitriol directed at SGU, the con fans would be polite to her.  They were sitting on the panel when Michael said something to her along the lines of: “You look worried.”  At which point some fan in the front row piped up with: “She should be.”

Oooh, scary.  Please, angry fan – don’t lasso me with your Dr. Who scarf!

Heard this story before from three other sources, but thought it warranted repeating since there are a few doubters out there.

Speaking of cons, I finally cleared up a mystery that has dogged fandom for years: The Mystery of the Script Surprise.  It went something like this: the SG-1 (minus RDA) are onstage at a con preparing to auction off a signed SG-1 shooting script when Amanda flips through the pages and has something catch her eye. She gives it a quizzical look, then shows it to Michael who seems equally mystified. Ultimately, they tear out the curious page, toss it, and auction off the script. This odd incident has given rise to conspiracy theories, conjecture and countless rumors.  What WAS on that mysterious page? Some say it was the offensive ramblings of some embittered actor.  Others say it was a set of incantations I had scribbled into the margins in a failed bid to curse the winning bidder.  Still others claim it contained the alternate ending to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows in which Snape is redeemed through a final heroic act and it is revealed Dumbledore faked his own death.  Alas, it was none of the above.  At first, when I asked him about it, Michael drew a blank.  And then, casting his mind back, he remembered: nothing anywhere near as exciting.  It was actually personal information in the form of a director’s contract that had been mistakenly included along with the script. Damn.  And I was really pulling for Snape!

Uh oh.

Anyway, after dinner, we grabbed a seat in the lounge and reminisced some more.  Even though I’ve known Michael for years, I never really had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him one on one until last night, and it was great to get his perspective on his time with the franchise, from the early years through the controversial mid-stretch to the fun and incredibly satisfying final two seasons (and on this we are in total agreement).  It was a terrific night.

So terrific, in fact, that we’re doing it again on Monday, hopefully, this time, with Paul, Rob, and Marty G.

On the Transporter production – Finally!  Movement on episode 10! Look at how happy Steve is!  We actually got around to spinning his story and breaking it, beating out the teaser and two and a half acts before being distracted by one of those massive conference calls where no one can hear anyone else but ultimately culminates in everyone agreeing on the information already outlined in previous emails.

Today’s Bento Breakfast…

Akemi schools me on the finer points of cute meals by informing me that the face on the left is female because – of course – she has rosey cheeeks.

And a final point of interest.  It’s been a while since we’ve brushed my pug Maximus (pictured in this blog’s banner).  How long?

THIS long!

Tomorrow, I reveal the three finalists in the “Name Trevor’s Baby Contest” after which YOUR VOTES will decide the name of my assistant’s newborn.

And, finally, if you’re thinking of taking part in July’s Book of the Month Club discussion, pick up and read volume 1 of Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth…

If you’re not thinking about it – well, start thinking about it.  It’ll only take you a couple of hours to read!

Then, prepare your questions for author Jeff Lemire.  He’ll be joining us next week for the discussion.

June 13, 2011: Akemi’s latest culinary creations! Food! Checking out one of the new cars! And, the new, improved, more cerebral me!

 

The other day, Akemi shifted her creative focus to eggs.  I almost didn’t have the heart to eat my breakfast…

Dinner is my job on weekends and so, on Saturday, I took requests and made Akemi’s favorite: Braised Short Ribs.

Sear them on all sides, make a mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots and herbs), then add port and reduce.  Actually, the recipe calls for a half cup of port and two cups of red wine but I go full port, reducing a full bottle by half, then topping the whole with beef stock and popping it in the oven at 325 for four hours.

By the time it’s done, it’ll practically melt in your mouth.  I accompanied our meal with a selection of cheese:

Chateau de Bourgogne, Riopelle, and Pierre Robert. A celebration of triple-cremes!

Inspired by Throwdown with Bobby Flay, we decided to have a sandwich-off on Sunday.  I spent most of the day planning my sandwich and, when the time came, Akemi decided she would just eat mine…

Pan-fried oyster mushrooms, Berkshire pork bacon, caramelized onions, St. Andre triple creme cheese, avocado, and polish mayo on ciabatta.

Today, we welcomed one of the stars of our new show – Transporter: The Series – to Toronto…

I spent the day tweaking scripts, talking casting, and eating sushi so bland that I suspect it was ordered from “White Guy Sushi”.  Oh, also picked up and modeled my new glasses for the girls in the office.  I thought they made me look more intellectual so I made it a point to wear them in meetings today, taking them off and thoughtfully chewing on the end piece whenever someone said anything remotely interesting.

Hey, it’s a veritable Stargate reunion in Toronto.  First Rob Cooper, then Carl Binder and Martin Gero, and now two actors are headed thsi way.  Alaina Huffman (SGU’s Tamara Johansen) will be here shooting a secret project (AlainaHuffman) while Michael Shanks (Michael Shanks Online – The Official Michael Shanks Website) comes to town to shoot a pilot (Saving Hope).  Congrats to both!  Looking forward to drinks, dinner, and having someone to pair off with all four dogs.

August 13, 2009: Awaiting word. Michael Shanks guests. Actor Luis Ferreira drops by the office. And Carl Binder in: Set Trouble!

Rob has been directing Human, Brad has been prepping Sabotage, and Paul has been finishing up his first draft of Subversion, so the only producer who has actually had the time to read my scripts, episodes #19 and #20, is Carl. He dropped by my office today to offer his opinion. Yes, I agreed, the B story will require some rethinking and there are a few sequences that will need some tweaking but, happily, Carl found it exciting, well-paced and seemed quite intrigued by the ending. And, most importantly, he felt it worked well as two scripts.  Hopefully, the others will feel the same.

Rob dropped my office after lunch while the production was making the move from the location to mess set, waved my first script and joked: “It’s so hard to know what’s going on without having read episode eighteen.” – a reference to Paul’s script, still being written. “Yeah, tell me about it,”I countered. “You think reading is confusing. Try writing the next script!” And, since he was there, I told him how much we’d enjoyed the previous day’s dailies. The film looks amazing. For his part, Rob had nothing but praise for the actors and, given their significant roles in this episode, Robert Caryle and guest star Michael Shanks in particular.

Actor Michael Shanks
Actor Michael Shanks

Also dropping by my office today was actor Luis Ferreira who was in the neighborhood and decided to stop in and say hi. And get the scoop on the last three episodes. Luis is a guy whose onscreen persona is in sharp contrast to the character he plays on Universe. Off the set, he’s incredibly gregarious – animated, affable, and very funny. In front of the camera, however, as Colonel Everett Young, he is a rock – cool and unflappable, a solid and steady leader. He’s a wonderful actor possessed of major talent and – I couldn’t help but notice after those first few days of production – an amazing voice. Young is the calm in the eye of the storm, the guy you want calling the shots when things get heated – and Luis is nothing short of perfect for the role. And, did I mention, he’s a hell of a nice guy?

Luis on set with fellow actor Patrick Gilmore (Dr. Dale Volker).
Luis on set with fellow actor Patrick Gilmore (Dr. Dale Volker).
Luis does his Daniel Craig impression.
Luis does his Daniel Craig impression.
Luis gives Stargate fans the thumbs up!
Luis gives Stargate fans the thumbs up!

This afternoon, I had a conference call with Grey, Erika, and Craig to discuss this blog and ideas for cool SGU exclusives. Very exciting stuff.

I leave you with a recent stroll through Stage 5 that ended rather, uh, abruptly for Carl. Check it out.

But first…I’d like to dedicate today’s entry to Platschu. Thanks for the Hungarian cookbook.

IMG_4009

And happy birthday!

No sooner do we start our walk through Stage 5 than Carl takes a wrong turn and we end up lost.
No sooner do we start our walk through Stage 5 than Carl takes a wrong turn and we end up lost.

 

We hear some unsettling noises coming from the top of the staircase and send Carl to investigate.  What we initially took to be the sound of a bugbear feeding on carrion turned out to be a teamster eating his lunch.
We hear some unsettling noises coming from the top of the staircase and send Carl to investigate. What we initially took to be the sound of a bugbear feeding on carrion turned out to be a teamster eating his lunch.

 

You wouldn't believe how many unionized spiders we had working overtime to complete this project.
You wouldn’t believe how many unionized spiders we had working overtime to complete this project.

 

Yes, Carl, that was the exit.  Nice going.
Yes, Carl, that was the exit. Nice going.
A panicked Carl tries to dig his way out.
A panicked Carl tries to dig his way out.
Demonstrating formidale strength!
Demonstrating formidale strength!
Ha!  Just kidding!  It's a prop rock!
Ha! Just kidding! It's a prop rock!
Just like this one!
Just like this one!
Oh!  Oh %&@$!  This one's real!
Oh! Oh %&@$! This one's real!
He went doing what he loved most.  Moving big rocks around.
He went doing what he loved most. Moving big rocks around.

May 19, 2009: Victoria Day, Developments on the SGU Front, Michael and Lexa Drop By But Don’t Stick Around For the Spring Cleaning!

Well, we were all back at work today following the Victoria Day long weekend – Victoria Day, of course, being a recently adopted Canadian holiday commemorating one of history’s most remarkable pioneering female Brits. Yes, I refer to none other than Ms. Victoria Beckham. Looking back, I suspect the vote to bestow the honor on the former Posh Spice may have had more to do with a desire to have an extra holiday in May than anything else. All the same, this is the third year the country has marked the occasion with songs, dance, and goat kebobs in a vast nation-wide celebration that brings together peoples of all races and religions. Except, of course, for the Irish who are prohibited from participating and have to go to work instead. It was a great three-day break and now, Canadians have to wait a whole month for their next big holiday when the Emeril Legasse Day long weekend rolls around in late June.

Today, the SGA movie script, Stargate: Extinction, went out to the writing department. No one has gotten around to reading it yet but I imagine it’s just a matter of time before the accolades start rolling in. Carl, however, did read my short story over the weekend and, to my delight, enjoyed it. So 3 down and 2 356 689 to go!

Before lunch, Carl, Paul, and I headed down to Stage 1 where work is ongoing on the jungle set for Time. It’s looking mighty damn impressive. I took plenty of snaps, including a couple of shots of Carl posing beside a giant alien fern. From there, we headed over to the Destiny set where Peter DeLuise was directing Bobby, Louis, and David in scenes for Darkness and Light.

After lunch, we sat down to watch the director’s cut of Life. I can’t say enough good things about this episode, from Carl Binder’s script to the individual performances to Alex Chapple’s direction. Some incredibly poignant moments delivered by Brian J. Smith, Ming Na, and a couple of wonderful guest stars. I LOVED this episode.

Later, I was sitting in my office when I heard a familiar voice ask: “Is Mallozzi here?” I glanced up and, sure enough, it was Michael Shanks – with his lovely wife Lexa. I was mortified. Had I known he’d be bringing her by, I’d have cleaned the place up. My desk is a drop-zone. They stopped in and we spent a good half hour talking about exorcists, chiropractors, and exorcist-chiropractors. On their own, they’re very funny people but together, these two are absolutely hilarious. A terrific couple – who, conveniently enough, had to rush off to buy some roast chicken after I suggested my office would be clean in no time if we all pitched in.

I Remember the Future discussion:

Michael A. Burstein writes: ““Like “I Remember the Future”, this one resonated with me on a personal level, reminding me of the day I came across the webpage of Thomas M. Disch only days after his passing.”

Wow. You probably had the same thoughts I had when I came across Charles Sheffield’s webpage after he died (which, as I noted in the afterword, was the genesis of the story).”

Answer: Camp Concentration is one of my favorite SF novels. In fact, just the other day Paul returned a whack of books I’d lent him over the past year and he singled CC out (alongside Frederik Pohl’s Gateway) as his favorites. I considered making the book a Book of the Month Club selection and inviting Disch to take part in a Q&A but, sadly, never got the chance. While surfing for news about his sudden passing, I came across his website and was surprised to see that he kept a fairly active online presence. Sadder still to learn that, late in life, he suffered depression for his failure to gain recognition for his work. Too late to post a comment and let him know his work was appreciated by this reader at least.

Sylvia writes: “Re the old ending and the new ending. I loved the new ending as it gave Sarah the choice and the rite of decision – to take action – to get the tattoo. She did not have to prove her love and devotion. She chose to take a stand to make progress in the struggle that we learn from the lessons of the past. I rather liked that posture of doing the right thing and because one wanted to do the right thing.”

Answer: Yes, it’s a tough call because both endings offer up two very different but very positive elements. In the end, I think Michael’s editor (and his wife) echoed your sentiments – which is why he decided to go with that particular ending.

Sylvia also writes: “Was a bit surprised but gladdened to discover that Miss Ellis also resorted to changing appearance.”

Answer: I kind of suspected the surprise but loved it nevertheless. It cemented her relationship with Tony and offered up the most touching beat in the ensuing story, TelePresence, in which we learn of her dedication and eventual passing.

Thornyrose writes: “TeleAbsence was the best of the stories in combining emotion and sci fi elements. “

Answer: I would agree. All of these elements were nicely balanced and despite the future setting, the depth of the characters grounded the story in the here and now.

Thornyrose also writes: “It’s all too easy to look at technology as the solution to all social ills, but Mr. Burnstein rightly points out that economics and human nature will prevent an even distribution of such technologies.”

Answer: Which is something the author goes on to discuss in the afterword, making reference to someone who predicted that everyone would have a computer by the years 2001 (I believe it was). Well, not quite. While the technology is there, the means to acquire said technology remains problematic for many.

Thornyrose also writes: “With Spaceships, we’re given a slightly melencholy view of immortality. ( Can one say Ascension?). It seems even in the far future, eccentricity is frowned upon, and Kel is victimized by those who are not actually harmed by his peculiar obsession. I did have a minor quibble here; how did Kel get possession of the actual originals?”

Answer: I assumed that, in time, as humanity shed their corporeal forms, they gave up on what they considered physical affectations – like spaceships. Kel collected the abandoned ships, amassing them into a personal collection.

Thornyrose also writes: “While I found it a bit suprising that the Church would rule aliens as soulless, and thus ineligable to become members, the device works well enough here.”

Answer: That was curious – but not altogether surprising. By the way, if you’re looking for a terrific novel that explores the issues of faith and alien visitation, I strongly urge you to pick up Michael Flynn’s Eifelheim. From Booklist: “In the fourteenth century, the Black Death ravaged Europe. Most towns decimated by it were eventually resettled, except for Eifelheim, despite its ideal location. Mathematical historian Tom discovers this anomaly and an unexpected connection to his domestic partner Sharon’s research in theoretical physics, which seems to be leading to a method of interdimensional travel. In fact, as Eifelheim’s priest back then, Father Dietrich, relates, before the plague’s arrival, an interstellar ship crashed nearby. The encounters between its passengers and the people of Oberhochwald, as Eifelheim was first called, reflect the panoply of attitudes of the time, from fear of the foreign to love and charity for one’s neighbors to the ideas of nascent natural philosophy (science), and the aliens’ reactions are equally fascinating.”

Thornyrose also writes: “ Decisions was a story that had me waiting for Rod Serling’s voice to speak out of the ether.”

Answer: It had a definite The Outer Limits feel for me.

Thornyrose also writes: “As soon as Reverend Haas mentioned a steamboat excursion, I recognised that the tale was centered on the tragedy of the General Slocum. […]. But the “instant romance” of Schmidt and Adele just didn’t ring true.”

Answer: Agreed. This was the one element in the story that felt awkward and forced. I could see Adele being smitten with Schmidt, but to have the two of them suddenly profess their love for one another, in spite of the circumstances, seemed all to quick.

Thornyrose also writes: “Of all the stories, Absent Friends is definitely my least least favorite. Levinson’s obsession over his dead friend goes beyond any sane level of grief. There is something more than a little creepy about his insistance at seeking out his friend’s alternate self.”

Answer: This is something I agree with as well. It seemed a single-minded obsession one would reserve for the love of one’s life rather than a friend, no matter how close.

Sparrow_hawk writes: “ Many of the stories just felt flat to me. When I tried to analyze what was missing (for me) in the stories I realized that although the premises of many of the stories were interesting, the settings were weak or non-existent. I’m a very visual person, and just couldn’t “see” where the story was taking place.”

Answer: Are you saying that you would have benefited from a more descriptive narrative?

Mailbag:

Morticae writes: “You know, there was an episode of SG-1 with a guy that used toothpicks and whatnot to booby trap his doors. Something like that!”

Answer: I know. Paul and I wrote it. Point of No Return.

DasNdanger writes: “1. We know that the Iratus bug that attacked Sheppard was in a sort of web, and in The Defiant One the Wraith webbed up his victim, suggesting that – perhaps – he produced the web/silk from his own body. So, in your mind (or had it ever been discussed), do Wraith have the ability to produce ’silk’ from their bodies, and if so…from where?

2. Since a Wraith – by definition – is a doppelganger, has this ever been taken into consideration in how Sheppard and Todd deal with each other? Todd, the ‘harbinger of bad luck’, ‘haunting’ his double – Sheppard – always present, reminding John of his darker side? Or am I just thinking too hard about this…lol.”

Answers: 1. In my mind, the webbing/cocoon is a byproduct of the ship, itself an organic construct.

2. While the wraith warrior class are clones, queens and the other males are not. They are unique.

O6untouchable writes: “1. In “Misbegotten”, Weir and Woolsey travelled to Atlantis on an Asgard ship, and got there nearly two weeks faster. That’s in roughly the same ballpark as the Daedalus’ 4-day trip from “The Siege”. Since the Asgard designed the Daedalus’ hyperdrive anyway, are their ships faster only because they’ve got a better power source?

2. If it is an issue of the power source, do the Daedalus, Apollo, et al now have better generators (to power the Asgard beam weapons and what-not)? Are they capable of making the trip to Atlantis faster?

3. After “The Return”, the ZPMs that the Asurans put in Atlantis were split up; one of them went to the Drone Chair. When the chair was moved to Area 51, was it still powered by that ZPM, or by some Asgard Core-inspired alternative? If the former, what happened to that ZPM?

4. The other ZPM from “The Return” went to the Odyssey. Between the Asgard Core and the fact that the Ori aren’t a threat anymore, did the ZPM get removed at some point? Was it depleted during “The Ark of Truth”, or is it still alive and kicking somewhere?”

Answers: 1. That’s a safe assumption to make.

2. No. Again, it comes down to the power source not the engine design.

3. Yes, the ZPM went with the chair.

4. More on exactly what is up with the Odyssey upcoming.

Scifan writes: “When it comes to guest actors, do you know who you want for the roles while your doing the script or do they have to ask? I remember someone told me that Goran Visnjic aka Dr. Luca Kovac from E.R. is a big fan of SGA. Do you look for those types of actors?”

Answer: We generally write the script and then look to cast. There have been occasions when we have sought out actors who have turned out to be fans of the show – Isaac Hayes for one, Wayne Brady for another. Goran Visnjic was a big fan of SG-1 and actually visited the set while in town working on Elektra. He and the cast really hit it off. We even offered him a guest spot but, unfortunately, he was unable to make it work schedule-wise.

Jim from WVa writes: “Will Stargate Universe employ shaky camera techniques like the movie Cloverfield?”

Answer: The camera work will certainly be more dynamic, but not to a jumpy, nausea-inducing extent.

T’loc writes: “I have a question, I am watching the Shrine from this past season, what would happen if the team had flown to that planet instead of walking could they have dialed a space-gate to escape? Would the water flown out into space? Would love to know the answer.”

Answer: The planet was only accessible via the planet gate. However, had they traveled their through a space gate, then escape would have been much easier – yes, them along with an enormous amount of water.

SebiMeyer writes: “what software is this? I either use Final Draft or Celtx for scripts, but this is new to me.”

Answer: Movie Magic Screenwriter.

O6untouchable also writes: “On a Movie-related note… you’ve already hinted that an Earth Battlecruiser might crop up in Universe somewhere, but what about the Atlantis and SG-1 movies? Are we going to find out what happened to the Sun Tzu, or see the Apollo and/or Daedalus again? (My girlfriend is particularly eager for more Caldwell!) And what about the Odyssey – will we ever find out what that secret mission was, or was that just an excuse to write her out so that she didn’t kick Hive Ship ass before Atlantis got there?”

Answer: Several of these ships will be making future appearances in the, uh, Stargate franchise.

Major D. Davis writes: “1. Would you like to edit my 5 page script (a script for the FBI files part 2?

2. Can I please send you a link to my best video I made(the script I was telling you about is part two of the FBI files. The link I want to send you is part for part 1)?

3. So there are a few stargate suprises for MGM’s 85th b-day. So what day is MGM’s 85th?

4. How is time going? Almost done?

5. Do you guys have a email address I can email(Instead of physically mailing something)?

6. How is the music and visual effects coming for Air?”

Answers: 1. Thanks but no.

2. Sure.

3. Not sure. Carl knows as he’s ordered the cake.

4. Stage 1 is looking awesome ahead of production. The episode is still in prep.

5. Trust me, you’re better off posting a comment here.

6. Great. Brad and Rob had a spotting session with Joel late last week.

Dovil writes: “I’m bitterly disappointed that Stargate Altantis: Glitter Ponies of Hope didn’t jump the last hurdle to be selected, though a two hour movie on SGA-1’s attempts to save the Spotted Owl from the brink of extinction does somewhat make up for it.”

Answer: Glitter Ponies of Hope was our first choice, but it was already taken for the SG-1 movie.

Georgia writes: “I came across ostrich eggs ($29.99 ea) and Vosges bacon chocolate. Ever try either?”

Answer: Haven’t tried ostrich eggs but have tried the Vosges applewood smoked bacon truffles (which, in my opinion, are better than the bars).

Chevron7 writes: “Joe, can you please give us a hint whether you’ve finished judging the Fans Choice bluray DVD cover contest?”

Answer: Sorry, I don’t even know what that is.

Davidd writes: “So, now that you have joined the Twitter masses, do you think you will ever get a Facebook account again?”

Answer: Correction. My dogs joined the twitter masses. They have no plans to get on Facebook however.

David Blue writes: “You know, in my defense:

I ran into Rob at work and told him about the party. He said he couldn’t go because he was having you over for dinner. So I decided not to tempt you to stand him up because you were so interested in coming to my tiny, small apartment instead.”

Answer: Well I feel doubly bad because I returned your apartment-warming gift on Sunday = a home theater system complete with reclining chairs and big screen. And before you complain that it wouldn’t have fit in your small apartment, you should know that it was the second part of your gift. The first part was an all-expenses paid rental of a mansion in Shaugnessy for the show’s entire run. Oh well.

Ytimyona writes: “Wow, Rob Cooper is truly a man of many talents… writer, director, cook! Is there anything RC can’t do?”

Answer: Brain surgery. At least not yet. We’ll find out for sure tomorrow when he removes Lawren’s basal ganglia.

Quade1 writes: “I heard that SGU Pilot was to air during summer followed by the rest of the season in the fall. Is this still the plan?”

Answer: Sorry, no. That was never the plan.

 

Recycled Funk writes: “I found this very enlightening blog post by Neil Gaiman, writer of the brilliant Sandman comics, where he discusses the relationship of blogging writers and their fans and the entitlement issues that sometimes develop (http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html). I’m not sure if you had come across it as well but I was wondering what your thoughts were on the subject. Since you are so visible on the web, do you think that sometimes fans can feel a little too entitled to your time and the next project, especially when it’s Stargate related?”Answer: I don’t think any fan is going to be pestering me for a release date on that short story – or any non Stargate-related project – anytime soon. Realistically, most of my blog regulars come for the Stargate, but stay for the snark, dog pics, and videos of me sampling strange food products. That said, I certainly do notice a sense of entitlement from certain fans who feel that online interaction should translate into some sort of working relationship. They bitterly complain when their hopes or desires regarding character or story aren’t realized, or adopt the attitude of a petulant child (Hello, Gate world’s Falcon Horus and G.O.D.) sulkily hating on anything and everything because they feel they’ve been personally sleighted by some creative decision made. Maintaining an internet presence has its rewards (as evidenced by the many, many wonderful people who frequent this blog) but it also makes you a convenient target for those terminal grumps seeking an outlet for their pent up aggression. And what better place than the arena of anonymity offered by the worldwide web.

 

Rachael writes: “ With the changes in the writer’s room in the past few months, I was wondering a) which writers were in the room for spinning the story for the movie, and b) if there were writers there at the time who are no longer on the SG writing team, would their departure affect the storyline at all (eg can’t use their ideas any more)?”

Answer: Back in November, Paul and I spun a general idea of what we wanted the SGA movie to be with Brad and Robert. Then, Paul and I went off and worked on the outline, pitching it back and forth between us until we had a pretty solid template. Paul wrote the first sixty pages and I wrote the last forty, although we did tweak one another’s passes.

May 1, 2009: Projects Galore!

I’m well into the rewrite of Space, episode #11 of Stargate: Universe, and finally got it down to a full 46 pages from a robust 54 (and that’s down from its original 60!). Paring down the dialogue, stripping away some of the superfluous beats, but still maintaining a lot of the character beats that Rob and Co. responded to in the original version (the Boone scene, the James beats, that thing with the sock). Hope to have a nice, tight, revised draft for when everyone comes back in about a week.

Yes, that‘s right. About a week. Things are going to be very quiet at The Bridge for a while as production of the show shifts to New Mexico. Andy Mikita, who‘s already there, sent some great pics of the location gate at White Sands. Hopefully, him and the rest of the gang won’t suffer a repeat of the location scout scenario that saw their truck give out on them in the middle of nowhere, causing them to weigh the option of hiking the twelve miles back to civilization before eventually being rescued (Thank you, OnStar!). And, hopefully, I’ll be able to share those location gate pics with you in time – but, in the meantime, here’s a behind-the-scenes snap from the two-hour premiere, Air I and II – actors David Blue and Chris McDonald on the Icarus set, Stage 5.

Actors David Blue and Christopher McDonald on the Icarus set (Stargate: Universe) - photo compliments of Lawren Bancroft-Wilson
Actors David Blue and Christopher McDonald on the Icarus set (Stargate: Universe) – photo compliments of Lawren Bancroft-Wilson

Although the Atlantis script is back in Paul’s hand, I went over my last draft today in search of opportunities for some downtime character moments. I found a couple and, over the next couple of days, I’ll have to decide which character relationships I’m going to explore and how. I’d prefer to go with something less obvious…maybe a Sora/Jinto scene:

Sora: Thank the gods, I thought they had forgotten about me! I’ve been trapped down here for three years!

Jinto: That’s nothing. I got lost playing hide and seek four years ago and nobody even noticed I was gone.

Hey, you guys are truly inspirational. Paul and I have a pilot script we’ve been dying to go out with but haven’t on account of our continuing commitment to the Stargate franchise. Well, the other day, Shawna Buchanan (I believe it was you, Shawna) posted a comment asking whether I might be interested in writing for comics. I replied that, yes, I had an original series kicking around – that I kicked around even more after that day’s mailbag. I got in touch with my agent and floated the idea by him. His response was: “Are you psychic?” I admitted I was slightly psychic and somewhat synesthesiac (Matrix II and III taste like terrible!). He informed me that he had just had a conversation with a major comic book publisher interested in potential film and t.v. properties. Did I have a pitch prepared? Did I! I pitched out the broad strokes of the story and he seemed very excited, suggested we set up a conference call. So, sometime next week, I’ll be pitching them the idea and, if all goes well, Paul and I may be on our way to working on our very own comic book series. Unfortunately, neither Paul nor I can draw so we’d need to track down an artist. Hey, I wonder what former Stargate: Atlantis Production Designer James Robbins is doing? Oh, right. He’s working as the Production Designer for Stargate: Universe, coming up with stuff like this –

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So, looking ahead to next week, I have the comic book pitch, those Atlantis scenes to write, the revised draft of Space to go over and, oh yeah, that short story to finish up. I’ve only been working on it for seven months now and it’s almost done. Also genre-specific, but not the genre you’re thinking of. I’ve got the next seven days to go over it, send it Kellie’s way, get some feedback, another couple of weeks to do the rewrite, and then it’s in my editors hands. And, if he likes it, I plan to join him and the rest of the writers of the anthology for a San Diego Comic Con appearance – in 2010.

Of course, I’d love to make an appearance at this year’s Comic Con, partly so I can say hi to all of you in person, and partly to track down those two Bowen supervillain statues (Juggernaut and The Scorpion) I missed out on when they first came out. They’ll grace my office shelves alongside the likes of Darkseid, Magneto, Apocalypse, Doctor Doom, and, perhaps, this lovely piece of artwork actor Michael Shanks seems very attached to –

Michael Shanks shows off the set dec.
Michael Shanks shows off the set dec.

Mailbag returns tomorrow with, hopefully, that long overdue visit to the Icarus set.

April 24, 2009: Bon Voyage! (And if not “bon” then at least not “mauvais”). One Doctor Checks In, The Other Doctor Drops In. And, Some Mailbag.

I walked into Ashleigh‘s office and leveled with her. “I’m worried. All this morning, I was reading about that possible pandemic in Mexico…”

The implication was clear. She was about to head off on a week-long Mexican getaway and the prospect of her flirting with danger was paramount on my mind. No doubt touched by my concern, she nodded, wide-eyed, and said: “And it’s not just me coming down with it. The worst part would be if I came back to work and brought it back with me.”

Deadpan, I informed her: “Uh, yeah. That’s what I’m worried about.”

She threw me a look, then redirected her attention to her laptop. I pointed out that the chances of her coming down with something while down south were much smaller than, say, contracting some form of dysentery or getting kidnapped. All things being equal and given the choice, getting kidnapped would probably be the way to go. While we wouldn’t be able to offer any assistance on the dysentery, Lawren helpfully pointed out that Tanya in the front office, besides being an excellent coordinator and marvelous cook, is also a skilled hostage negotiator, so she’d have that going for her.

Hey, you’ll never guess who called yesterday. Well – uh- yeah, right on the first guess. Paul McGillion. He’s in L.A. and gearing up for the Star Trek premiere. For those of you who don’t know, Paul has a part in the movie. Oh, and he also just shot a guest spot on 24. He sounds like he’s doing great and will be up in our neck of the woods neck week.

And, hey, you’ll never guess who dropped in for lunch today. Uh, right again. Michael Shanks. We had Thai and talked about old times, then he swung by my office and approved some of the pics I snapped of him for blog use. Oh, and he was also quite pleased about the performance of his favorite hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks…

Who are in my bad books. Why? Because they won their series against the St. Louis Blues, thereby costing me my bet with my co-worker Kerry that will see me accompanying her to a musical production of her choice. I need as much advance notice as possible on this one as I’ve decided to research the production and memorize the songs in advance so that I can belt them out unabashedly on the night of the performance.

Went over the Stargate: Atlantis movie script today and I think it’s pretty tight. I’ll be sending it Paul’s way next week as I switch gears to work on the rewrite of Space (They’ve been threatening to give me notes for weeks now and I have a feeling it just might happen this time.).  Once that’s done, I’ll finally finish up that short story and send it on its way. 

SGU cast news of note: Holy crap is David Blue a funny guy! Yes, in person he’s laugh-out-loud hilarious but I’m talking about onscreen where he’s added so many wonderful little touches to his performance as Eli that the character has motored past likable and directly into lovable territory.

The Mailbag:

Major D. Davis writes: “1. Will the Atlantis Movie’s A plot be about the Wraith?

2. Will there be lots of action? Such P90 fire, Space battles, hand to hand scenes. Or will it be like a common episode’s dose of action? Do you think it will have more action than the previous movies?

3. How do I contact Mrs. Val Halverson?

4. So are you done Filming Water yet? Has it taken longer than usual to film? Has Life Started Filming yet?

5. How close is Air to being finished.? How are the visual effects coming? Are they almost done? How is the music coming?

6. Do you think the Atlantis movie will be released in the summer or the spring of 2010?”

Answer: 1. While Todd the wraith will play a significant role in the proceedings, the A story will not focus on the wraith.

2. Yes, plenty of action for those who like that sort of thing.

3. Someone in today’s mailbag already posted the production office mailing address.

4. Nope. As I mentioned in yesterday’s entry, Will was on Stage 2 shooting Water. Life started filming today. Carl was away on location.

5. Significant sections of Air III have yet to be shot. The visual effects take time so our premiere won’t be finished until August.

6. I have no idea what MGM’s plans are regarding the movie’s release.

Tammy Dixon writes: “I’ve read that SGU is going for an ediger, younger crowd. Will those of us that are not edgy/older like the show, also?”

Answer: As Brad Wright pointed out in a recent interview, the term “young” and “edgy” are industry buzzwords. We (the production) never referred to SGU as “young” or “edgy”. I think that most Stargate fans will enjoy the new series and, hopefully, plenty of franchise first-timers will also join the ranks.

Major D. Davis also writes: “Will the unlimited ammunition aka unlimited p90 clip situation be delt with on SGU, cause they could not have possibly evacuated the icarus base with all the ammo they could possibly need for the coming years?”

Answer: Yes, this will eventually be addressed.

April 16, 2009: Almost a Full Script, Shanks on Set, Comic Book Round-Up

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I spent the morning working on the Atlantis script and hit the 90 page mark. From the looks of things, we should have a first draft by Monday. There are a lot of BIG moments throughout and the last third of the movie will be nothing short of spectacular. Action, humor, drama, and at least one character’s life will be forever changed! Yeah, I know. I’ve been watching too many network promos.

Then, this afternoon, I was down on Stages 3 and 5 to say hi to Michael Shanks and get the update on his work south of the border on the CBS pilot Eastmans in which he shares the screen with Donald Sutherland and Jacqueline Bisset. It’s always nice to see the SG-1 alum make their return to familiar territory. A lot of fun on set. Andy Mikita was directing second unit while…

Over on Stage 4, Will Waring was directing main unit on Water. I stopped by and chatted with Justin, David, and Bobby, of course steering the conversation toward food in general and chocolate in particular.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been re-immersing myself into the wonderful world of comics. A lot has failed to impress, but some titles definitely have…

Wolverine Weapon X – Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist: Ron Garney

Issue #1

Despite the glut of Wolverine titles out there, I have to say that this first issue felt fresh and interesting. We get to see our anti-hero as a true bad-ass (in an inspired subway scene) while also beginning to deliver into his past with the Weapon X program. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Destroyer – Story: Robert Kirkman, Art: Cory Walker

Issue #1 of 5

To be honest, this book’s over-the-top violence came very close to quashing my interest. It’s so extreme it’s downright silly and, as a result, undermines the drama. Still, the basic premise in intriguing in that our dark (again) anti-hero is, in reality, a senior citizen. Some nice moments focusing on his home life hold promise, so I’ll stick around for now.

Ms. Marvel – Writer: Brian Reed, Pencils: Patrick Oliffe

Issues #35-37

A nice, tight script with a couple of surprising twists and turns including an eyebrow-raising ending, marred only by lack of understanding re: the whole Captain Marvel b-story. The way it spins off at the end of the last issue promises some dark tidings ahead.

Wonder Woman – Writer: Gail Simone, Penciler: Aaron Lopresti

Issues #26-30

Okay, to be honest, I didn’t hold up much hope for this title, mainly because I don’t find the character all that interesting and really dislike any mythology-centered storylines. Well – surprise, surprise – writer Gail Simone held my interest throughout. Even though the Greek deity-centered B-story failed to win me over (who the hell was that guy who got his heart ripped out by Zeus?), the A-story was solid enough to keep me around for the time being.

Marvels: Eye of the Camera – Writer: Kurt Busiker, Artist: Jay Anacleto

Issues #1-3 of 6

The best of the bunch! Busiek’s follow-up to the equally excellent Marvels focuses on the world of superheroes as seen through the eye of the unlikeliest of protagonists, photographer Phil Sheldon. The public perception of these heroes as shaped by an unforgiving media is fascinating but, ultimately, peripheral to the heart of the story which is Phil himself – his home life, his health, and the twilight of his career. Beautiful.

February 21, 2009: Fond Remembrances and a BIG Guest Blogger Announcement!

Holy shit!  Amanda Tapping is standing beside me!  Somebody, please take a picture!
Holy shit! Amanda Tapping is standing beside me! Somebody, please take a picture!

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Whenever my career draws to its inevitable conclusion, I’ll be able to reflect back on the many fond memories of my time in “the business“. I‘ve had good times, bad times, and everything in between. That said, the high point for me were the years I spent working on Stargate: SG-1. They were memorable for a number of reasons, but chiefest among them were the incredibly talented and wonderfully generous people I was fortunate enough to collaborate with over the course of those seven years: my fellow writer-producers (especially Brad and Rob who gave us our first shot and showed us the ropes), the directors, the crew, and, of course, the cast – specifically, that core team of Richard Dean Anderson (Jack O’Neill), Amanda Tapping (Samantha Carter), Michael Shanks (Daniel Jackson), and Christopher Judge (Teal’c). These four were a pleasure to deal with both on and off the set and, in the ten years the show was on the air, they made fans of, not only the viewers at home, but the people they worked with as well. A couple of weeks back, I wrote: “If you want to get the real story and truly separate the princes from the pricks and the beauties from the bitches, then get to know the men and women who spend the greater part of their days on set with these people…”.

Yes, the crew is the ultimate bullshit detector. Their exposure to actors isn’t limited to the t.v. interviews and convention appearances in which everyone is on their very best behavior (ie. Fan #1: “Wow! I met Charles Manson who was out promoting his new book! He took a picture with me and talked about his family! He is such a sweet guy!”). They are with these people 12-16 hours a day, 5 days a week, 6-7 months a year (and, the case of SG-1, 10 years!). They know them better than they do their own wives, husbands, and significant others. So what did the crew think of team SG-1 after all that time? Did they respect them? Are you kidding? Yeah, they respected them. Hell, they loved them! Every time any of them made a return visit, be it for the SG-1 movies, or a guest spot on Atlantis, the set was a veritable love fest. Everyone was all smiles and the positive energy carried over into the episode itself. It was – and I hate to say it – like a family reunion.

I hate to say it because, all too often, I hear people liken the casts of certain shows to families. “They’re like family.” or “They’re one big happy family.” Yeah, sure, to the uninitiated they may seem like family but, when you’re in the business, you become privy to the real behind-the-scenes drama behind numerous productions and, while there are some great family-like relationships between the cast members of some shows, this is usually exception rather than the rule.

In spite of what some would have you believe, I refuse to bullshit. If I like something or someone, you’ll know. And if I don’t like something or someone, you probably won’t know only because, as my mother would say: If you can’t say something nice about someone…keep your mouth shut. But when it comes to Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks, and Chris Judge – I have plenty to say. They’re talented, hardworking, and generous professionals who cared deeply about the show, their characters, and the people around them. And when I think about these four, certain memories crop up that, personally, capture the essence of who they are.

In the case of Rick, it was the very first day we met. I was settling into my office, putting my Simpsons toys up on the shelves, keeping an eye on my pug Jelly who I’d brought in for the afternoon, when THE Richard Dean Anderson poked his head into the doorway and welcomed me to Stargate. He noticed my collectibles and, being a fan of the show as well, he started to talk about his affinity for The Simpsons. At one point, I turned away to set up my laptop, said something, then turned back – only to discover he wasn’t there anymore. I was briefly stunned, wondering when he’d left and if I’d said something to offend – then glanced down and realized he hadn’t left at all but was down on the floor, playing with Jelly. I’ve always been of the opinion that anybody who loves dogs has to be a good person at heart and Rick, the original Dog Whisperer, is a perfect example.

In the case of Amanda, it was the day my auntie Antoinette came to visit. Now I rarely go to set, partly because I’m usually up in my office working, but mainly because I don’t want to bother the actors while they’re working. But, on this particular day, my aunt had come to visit and really wanted to see the sets. So, we went down to one of the stages where they were in the process of shooting a scene. We hung back and watched Amanda finish up an exchange with a guest star. When the director called “Cut!”, signaling it was okay to move around (ie. slip away before the cameras started rolling again), I was about to steer my aunt away when Amanda walked over, all smiles, and greeted us. She introduced herself to my aunt and then spent a good twenty minutes happily chatting with her before she was called away for some hair and make-up touches. I was truly impressed by that display of genuine kindness and, to this day, my aunt still mentions the day she “talked with Amanda” as though they were two old friends.

In the case of Michael, it was late in season six, the Jackson-less year. Like me, Michael is a passionate individual, and its this passion that makes him such a hugely talented actor. I look back over his body of work on the show and am amazed, and frankly, a little pissed off, that he hasn’t been recognized for some truly remarkable performances. Of course, that has everything to do with the bullshit nature of the Canadian awards systems that punishes Stargate for having the audacity to be: a) science fiction (and thus, not to be taken seriously), b) an American production (even thought almost everyone working on the show is Canadian), c) a west-coast production (as opposed to the far more deserving east coast productions). Anyhoo, Michael is a passionate individual and he won’t bullshit you. If he doesn’t like something or disagrees with you, he’ll let you know. And back in season five, he let us know. And I disagreed and let him know. So, anyway, Fondy and I were downtown one night when we ran into Michael and Chris. I hadn’t seen him since season four and wondered how he’d react. Would he chew my ear off? Slug me? Ignore me and walk off? Try: none of the above. He bought a round of shooters and we rechristened our working relationship through his generosity and the magic that is Jack Daniels. A class act.

In the case of Chris, it was actually a post-SG-1 incident. Early Atlantis’s fourth season, the character of Samantha Carter leaves the SGC to assume a command position in the Pegasus Galaxy. I was working on the script in which Carter says goodbye to the life she knew and, for it to work, I needed someone to see her off – a touchstone representative of her time on SG-1. I approached Chris Judge but was somewhat hesitant since we hadn’t budgeted for a big guest spot. He’d be in one scene, a cameo, and would be looking at a nominal fee. Well, before I could even get into money discussions, Chris smiled and told me he’d be happy to help out in any way he could. End of discussion. That demonstration of generosity and loyalty neatly encapsulates the kind of guy Chris Judge is – and it pretty much guaranteed him a return engagement in a later episode, Midway, in which we thanked him for that cameo with a kick-ass guest spot.

So all this to say that, yes, it IS like a family reunion whenever I run into any of them. I miss writing for the show, miss writing for their characters, and just plain miss them in general. Chris dropped by the office the other day and it was great to see him. And, when I asked him if he’d be up for a fan Q&A, he was, not surprisingly, good to go. “It’s simple,”I told him. “I gather the fan questions and send them your way. You can pick and choose among them, answer the ones you like, then send them back my way and I’ll post as part of a special Chris Judge entry.”

“Too complicated,”was his response. “Just take me to lunch.”

Done and done. All I have to do now is find a way to slot that lunch into his busy schedule.

But, in the meantime, another big announcement: I was exchanging emails with the lovely Amanda Tapping and I asked her whether she might be interested in doing a fan Q&A. Well, I’m happy to report that she’s more than happy to visit with us. And with production on Sanctuary’s second season poised to begin soon, she has a rare/brief window of calm before the inevitable storm. So…

If you’ve got questions for Amanda Tapping, start posting. But please avoid duplicating questions that have already been asked. Be concise and let’s avoid burying Amanda under the inevitable avalanche of well-wishes and meandering queries.