August 10, 2008: Near FTL Travel – Weekends = Temporal Constant! Plus The Weird Food Purchase of the Day!

Science has shown that time slows down as one approaches faster than light velocity and then speeds up on weekends. Seriously, it felt like only hours ago I was jumping out of bed, ready to make the most of my Sunday. Flashforward eight hours and what do I have to show for my efforts? A basketful of clean laundry, some mailbag answers, and a written reminder to run a list of errands whenever I have some free time. Maybe next weekend.

Well, last night, not even the lure of women’s beach volleyball was enough to convince me to sit down and watch some of the unremitting Olympic coverage. While Fondy whooped and hollered at the t.v., criticizing every errant spike and flubbed serve, I was sitting on the neighboring couch reading Jeffrey Ford’s The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant and Other Stories. Despite the fact that it’s early in the month, I predict this collection will be making my Top 5 Reads of the Month – unless, of course, I happen to read another five books by Ford that end up bumping it out of contention.

Following the shocking news of Bernie Mac’s passing comes word that Issac Hayes has passed away. This one hits a little closer to home as Isaac actually guested on SG-1 during the show’s eighth season, returning to provide the voice for the Teal’c P.I. spot episode 200. His appearance came about as a genuine interest on his part. “Isaac Hayes is a fan of Stargate?”I remember asking. “How cool is that?” Yes, it was very cool – especially when he finally showed up on set and was politely mobbed by the cast and crew. We’ve had a number of notable guest stars over the franchise’s 10+ year run, but none have come close to provoking the giddy fanboy/fangirl reaction Hayes commanded the second he stepped onto that set. Though “commanded” is probably not the right word because he was anything but assuming. He was friendly, soft-spoken and, surprisingly, a little nervous at the prospect of tackling the role of Tolok. I can’t claim to have known the man but, simply judging from the way he handled himself on set, the countless autographs he signed, and kind words he exchanged with the delighted crewmembers, he struck me as a genuinely goodhearted soul. Like Don Davis before him, he passed far too young.

Today’s video: The Weird Food Purchase of the Day = Beef Tendon. Hey, I think it’s what Teyla and Keller ate in Missing!

Today’s mailbag:

Dignan50yp writes: “Joe a while back you told us that Vegas was a Sheppard episode. When did that change?”

Answer: It didn’t.

Squall78 writes: “I just don’t see how the odds have “not” gone up for a 6th season. Last 2 season renewal saw lower numbers.”

Answer: Our ratings, while certainly improved, are only part of the equation. Hey, I’d love to get a sixth season pick-up, but I know that for it to happen a lot of factors must come into play.

Steph writes: “Do the available choices mean that you will not have anything to do with the SG1 movie?”

Answer: Like The Ark of Truth and Continuum, I’ll probably provide script notes at some point. Last year, there was early talk of three SG-1 movies and I was looking forward to the possibility of writing for the old gang. Paul and I spent 7 years writing 50+ scripts for SG-1 so the prospect of writing an SG-1 feature appealed to us in a big way. Alas, we only ended up producing two features last year. Still, those two did so well that I’m fairly confident that there’ll be plenty more SG-1 features to come.

Isa writes: “who’s office is the one with the people choice award at the window??”

Answer: Why, that would be mine.

Jen writes: “ I would’nt judge Kellers character on an applause ‘o meter for Jewel and I can’t believe that you are even compairing one actors applause response to another.”

Answer: You missed the point. My response was to a poster who felt the anti-Keller sentiment may have been a disproportionate sampling given the forums she visited. I countered with the Comic Con example.

NCC-72452 writes: “Actually, I stopped by because I remembered hearing somewhere that you, Joe, created the character of Elizabeth Weir.”

Answer: You heard wrong. Stargate Atlantis and all of its main characters were created by Brad Wright and Robert Cooper.

Sebastian writes: “ Now, this looks like a fairly major damage to the city.

How does the city cope with this?”

Answer: There is a team on standby who are charged with the responsibility of effecting all structural repairs. They’ll be busy this year.

MysteryMadchen writes: “If Season six is a go will you guys put hexed back in other shows embellish on Sheppard’s past, i.e. what happened to his mother, why he had no contact with his family and as always a very healthy dose of whumpage?”

Answer: It’s more than likely that Hexed is D.O.A. even if we return for a sixth season. The episode was intended to be comedic, not a character piece. As for Sheppard’s mother – there was mention made in a late season 5 episode that, after some consideration, was cut at the script stage.

MysteryMadchen also writes: “ I was wondering would you guys ever consider doing an Atlantis movie while Atlantis is still running?”

Answer: It’s certainly possible, but highly unlikely.

August 9, 2008: Are Human Yawns Contagious to Dogs? Let’s Find Out. And the Weird Food Purchase of the Day.

A study published in the journal Biology Letters this week claims that dogs are highly sensitive to catching human yawns. Of the 29 dogs tested, 72% yawned after observing a human doing so. Apparently, this strongly suggest that they are capable of a rudimentary form of empathy. Interesting. I decided to pursue a parallel study using my four little furry couch potatoes as test subjects. At the risk of giving away my findings, you can find the video, titled 0% of Dogs Tested Sensitive to Human Yawns, at the bottom of this entry.   Ultimately, I think that what both studies prove is that dogs, in general, do display an empathic nature as manifested in their mirroring of human behavior while my dogs, specifically, just don’t give a shit.  

To all those of you asking: No, I didn’t watch any of the Olympics coverage. Nor did I stab myself in the eyes with cocktail fork or set my shoes on fire yesterday. I did, however, sample some dehydrated miniature crab from a Chinese specialty store (see the Weird Food Purchase of the Day video, also at the bottom of today’s entry).

Well, after much back and forth, I’ve finally booked our trip to Asia. We’ll be visiting both Hong Kong and Shanghai and, in preparation, I’ve started to learn Mandarin. Among the many useful things I now know how to say “Why are you too busy to see me?”, “I am not well because your teacher can’t read a book.” and “I don’t like electricity.” will undoubtedly serve me well once I’m actually in China. Hopefully, the timing of my holiday will mesh with whatever will be happening on the work front come winter but, at this point, there’s really no way to tell what I’ll be up to. Choose from among the following:

1) Working on Stargate Atlantis season 6.

2) Working on Stargate Universe season 1.

3) Working on a Stargate Atlantis movie.

4) Any two of the above.

5) All three of the above.

6) None of the above.

Reminders! Reminders! I’ll be taking questions for actress Lexa Doig (aka SG-1’s Dr. Carolyn Lam) until tomorrow, so if you have any burning questions you want to ask her, now would be a great time.

Now would also be a great time to finish up Cordelia’s Honor and start composing your thoughts and queries. Discussion begins Monday, July 11th and author Lois McMaster Bujold will be swinging by later in the week.

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to early birthday gals kdvb1 and Mackenziesmomma.

Mailbag:

PG15 writes: “Meanwhile, got a bit of a health problem happening here.”

Answer: Get well soon, you sickly thing you.

Clementine from France writes: “When will be shot the other episodes with the beloved Dr Carson Beckett ? Did you write them ?”

Answer: The character of Carson Beckett will be appearing in five episodes this season. They are – The Seed (written by Paul Mullie), Whispers (written by me), Outsiders (written by Alan McCullough), Identity (written by Carl Binder), and episode #20 (written by Paul Mullie).

Freidag writes: “I understand that a lot of fans like this “ship” and I’m happy for you. But for some fans who just want good sci-fi without all the loving, and enjoy all the characters and the team as a whole, this season is shaping up to be a nightmare.”

Answer: First of all, this season will have more “team” episodes than any other. Fully half season 5’s episodes can be classified as such.

Freidag writes: “YES ARC! I know someone else on the blog once mentioned “romance arc” once and was kind of maligned for it.”

Answer: I suppose it depends on what you consider an arc. The pairing in season 5 is an arc in the same way as Teyla’s adjustment to motherhood and Woolsey settling in to the command position can be considered an arc.

SusantheTartanTurle writes: “Joe – you moderate the comments. Do you actually get comments that you have to trash? Are they genuine, but unacceptable, comments or just SPAM?”

Answer: My anti-spam folder handles most of the spam – as well as some legitimate posts as well. It’s very rare that I’ll have to delete a post from a fan.

Linzi writes: “I too am disappointed Sheppard only gets one episode, right at the end of the season, and is rarely mentioned in spoilers, and so are many Sheppard fans I know.”

Answer: Actually, Sheppard gets one, alongside Beckett, in Whispers and another, alongside Woolsey, in Remnants.

Cheeky lil Devil writes: “Now i’ve not held a focus group, or conducted a poll to assess her liking amongst the fandom, and i’m sure there’s a fair few that like her, but equally it seems that there is a fair few that dislike her… something i’ve never seen before in a fandom… although ti could be argued that this is the only fandom I play in.”

Answer: I suppose it can depend on where you’re sitting. If you were sitting in the audience during the Comic Con panel, for instance, you would have noted that Jewel’s fan reception was the most enthusiastic of all.

 

Muddypiddypop writes: “ Joe, The writing staff seems a very collaborative bunch. However, how much contibuting to a script gets a writing credit and how much is helping out the team.”

Answer: Every writer in the room is involved in building a story before it goes to script, and then helping to fashion said script once it’s been written. Regardless of how much of a contribution they make to the process, the writer who writes the script is usually the one to receive sole credit for a given episode.

Aqualegia writes: “I heartily dislike Keller – I really can’t get past the dithering and the constant whiny voice…”

Answer: Well, see, it’s because certain fans are so vocal about their dislike for the character that we’re really making a concerted effort to redeem the character in their eyes. If everybody had liked her, then we probably would have redirected our efforts elsewhere. Like, say, Sheppard for instance.

Herbertsommeffeld writes: “…do you ever feel that your creative genius is stifled at all with thoughts about production expenses or do you let the others on the team edit out the expensive parts?”

Answer: My creative genius remains unstifled, thanks for asking. Rather approaching a script with a no-holds-barred attitude, you have to go in with a realistic sense of what is and is not producible and take it from there.

Jess writes: “ We see him willing to sacrifice himself for pretty much anyone, even Keller whom he only knows for a few months, and his almost suicidal tentancies are put into place once more. But still we never get any reason behind his actions.”

Answer: Remnants.

August 8, 2008: With Special Guest Blogger Writer/Supervising Producer Alan McCullough

Alan McCullough
Alan McCullough
Alien prosthetic treatment - The Daedalus Variations
Alien prosthetic treatment - The Daedalus Variations
Alien fighter design - The Daedalus Variations
Alien fighter design - The Daedalus Variations
Alien ship design - The Daedalus Variations
Alien ship design - The Daedalus Variations
Interdimensional Drive - The Daedalus Variations
Interdimensional Drive - The Daedalus Variations
Design for Spoils of War
Design for Spoils of War
Thinking
Thinking
More Spoils of War
More Spoils of War
Stil thinking.
Stil thinking.
Village design for Outsiders
Village design for Outsiders
Part of the big Pepsi tie-in campaign
Part of the big Pepsi tie-in campaign

Today, I turn the blog over to Alan McCullough. Some of you will of course recognize Alan for the close to 20 Stargate scripts he’s written to date. Others will recognize him for his boyish good looks that occasionally grace this blog. Still others may recognize him Man in Stall from American Psycho, Bip from Funny Things, or the irrepressible Ned Handleson from Jake Moxie. A couple of years ago, when Paul and I were put on the spot during a Comic Con panel and asked to comment on the writing staff, my writing partner said this of Alan: “Well, he chews with his mouth closed. Which is, I suppose, more than you can ask of any writer.” Truer words were never spoken. In addition to chewing with his mouth closed, the soft-spoken Alan also finds time to act as the show’s Supervising Producer AND supply the writers’ room with the odd hilarious zinger. Over to Alan…

Hi everyone. First of all, I’d like to thank Joe for letting me guest blog this week. I really appreciate all the comments and questions about “Daedalus Variations”. Hopefully I can answer them all. Before we get to that, though, I’d like to give a few shout-outs to people who helped make this episode what it was; in particular Andy Mikita, who did a fantastic job directing, James Robbins, who designed those incredibly cool aliens, and Mark Savela, whose team created some of the most spectacular visual effects battle sequences Atlantis has ever done. If you enjoyed this episode, guaranteed it has something to do with these three.

On to questions:

Linda Gagne writes: “I loved DV. When writing the episode did you intend on the team bonding/developing moments I got out of it (i.e. A lot of McKay/Teyla building on previous episodes where she seems to be able to get him to calm down and focus more as well as him beginning to value her more)?

Hi Linda. Yes, the team bonding moments were planned from the beginning. We knew this episode was going to air number 4 in the schedule, so Teyla would still be feeling her way as a new mom whose other job was saving the galaxy. Getting the team trapped together seemed like a good way to get these feelings out in the open. In addition, these scenes provided a nice breather between the action-heavy sequences.

Loved the McKay dropping the baby comment. It is so like him or at least I imagine it to be from watching the show. Also loved the McKay/Shep scene where McKay said he had to not think like himself and used Sheppards idea (I find a lot of humor in that kind of stuff). Liked that Teyla was knowledgable in how to use the computers on the ship. On a seperate note, your daughter is beautiful (yes, I read end credits). In S&R did she cry on cue in the birthing scene? Because that was very real sounding but it looked real too.”

Much as I’m sure young Annalise would benefit from my considerable parenting skills (“Car seat? What’s that?”), she is not, in fact, my daughter, despite the similarity of our names. For the moment, the only baby in my household is a two-year-old mini-Schnauzer named Monty. Re: S& R, can’t say for sure whether or not the baby cried on cue. My suspicion is the sound was added later.

Jason writes: “Hi Alan, I thoroughly enjoy your work on Stargate. I especially appreciate how you incorporate Major Lorne in so many of your episodes of not only Stargate Atlantis but also SG-1 where he played a prominent role in Road Not Taken. Is it a conscious effort to include Major Lorne in your episodes? Do you find the Lorne Character as interesting to write as the leads? Will we ever hear his first name spoken on the Show? I know from reading previous blog entries that he was suppose to mention that he was “Uncle Evan” in Spoils of War but that was cut during editing. Thanks for guest blogging and continued success in your career.”

Hi Jason, thanks for your comments. While I don’t go out of my way to include Lorne in my episodes, I’m delighted whenever I get the chance to use him. Kavan Smith is a first-rate actor who seems to hit it out of the park no matter what we throw at him. I definitely like writing stuff for our supporting cast, finding out more about them. I think it makes them more human and enriches the show as a whole. Unfortunately, if we are ever tight for time, moments like those are the first to go, as was the case with the “Uncle Evan” line.

Squall78 writes: “Question for Alan. I enjoyed Daedalus Varaitions a lot, I think the plot was excellent and hope we get more of these kind of episode. My question is will we see anymore episodes with this enemy? It seems this enemy in the alternate reality have establishment and Sheppard points out the certain symbol on the ship and then on the dead alien. I think it would be excellent if in a future episode the team comes in encounter with a ship or facility on a planet with that symbol and perhaps the enemy themselves.”

I agree with you Squall78 — I think the enemy in this show turned out incredibly cool and would love to find a way to meet them in our own reality. As far as this season is concerned, that’s not going to happen. But I wouldn’t rule out an encounter in the future, should the show get renewed.

Cat1 writes: “ In my opinion, SGA works because of the balance between humour and serious issues, between action and relationships – “team” especially.

Do you have a particularly fondness for one element of the stories, or do you prefer to write a mixture of humour, drama, action adventure or whatever?”

My favorite SGA episodes combine a nice mix of the three, so that is what I prefer to write.

Lorr54 writes: “Were there any AUs you would have loved to include, but couldn’t? What was the hardest to cut and why did it lose out over what we saw?”

There weren’t any AUs that we cut, per se. Early on, I had conceived of a reality where the Ancients won the war against the wraith and thus had never left Atlantis. But it didn’t fit with the story we were developing, so I eventually dropped the notion.

Cyn writes: “I noticed at your page on IMDB that you were ‘man in stall’ in the movie ‘American Psycho’. Care to elaborate on the experience?”

Yeesh. If I could crash the internet and remove all traces of my former acting endeavors, I would. We did 18 takes of my “big scene”, no exaggeration. Try saying “Can you keep it down? I’m trying to do drugs” 18 times while standing on the wobbly seat of a public toilet. You would start looking for a new career too.

Dvid writes: “I enjoyed daedalus variations alot.but i did have a question. how come the starmap on the bridge was orange instead of green? was it meant to point out the fact that the ship is from a alternate universe or was it a prop error?”

Good catch. As you guessed, this was intentional, one of a few things our art department threw in to highlight the fact that this Daedalus was not our own.

Linda Gagne writes: “More questions for Alan: In one of the realities Atlantis was using F302’s for fighting, are we to presume that reality doesn’t have puddle jumpers or theirs were all destroyed? Also for the new Alien race, did you choose how they’d look or was that a group effort? Will other shows coming up use some of these reality scenarios to work with in some way?”

We can assume that either the puddle jumpers were destroyed, or perhaps taken by the Ancients when they left through the gate 10,000 years ago (I always wondered why they didn’t do this in our reality) In any case, the F-302s were salvaged from that reality’s Daedalus before it was destroyed, and were used as an effective fighting force. Re: the design of the alien race, James Robbins was the mastermind behind their look, as he is with virtually everything that appears on our show.

Aboleyn24 writes: “Does the Daedalus have an automated response to turn life support down to minimal when no life signs are detected? If not did the other team have a reason for doing so?”

I’m assuming the other team powered down the Daedalus to conserve energy, in much the same way as our team did during the episode.

Kristen writes: “I wanted to thank you for all your wonderful episodes since season four, you’ve become one of my favorite writers on the show. I’m not sure if its the stories you’re assigned or just your muse, but to me, you’ve done the best job of balancing all the characters in your scripts as you did in “Tabula Rasa, “Spoils of War” and of course the “Daedalus Variations” Everyone always has a vial part or aspect and your stories also do a wonderful job of juggling tense, fast paced plots, and character moments.

DV was the best team eppy this season and I especially enjoyed how you write Teyla’s continued use of technology and the awesome banter between John and Rodney and what I thought was a nice homage to Star Wars with Sheppard and Ronon using the rail guns.

So, yes, questions

In “Tabula Rasa” was it in the script the way it was shot with a filter to give everything that fuzzy feeling or was that the director’s choice? Did you write Ronon’s line about it ‘never getting old’ in regards to stunning Sheppard or did Jason ad lib that? Also Ronon’s speech to John to get him to lower his gun was awesome, you nailed their relationship right there.

In “Outcast” there was no mention about Sheppard’s mom in regards to if she is alive or dead. Was this your choice or because it pertained to Sheppard’s back story…it wasn’t allowed in? I loved the fact that Ronon went with Sheppard to Earth.. again was this your choice or was it a scheduling thing?The scene where he joins John at the gate was a wonderful moment.

Lastly, is there any particular character you really love to write for or whom you feel you ‘get’ the most?”

Hey Kristen, thanks so much for the compliments. As to your questions, the filter effect in “Tabula Rasa” was the brainchild of Martin Wood and Jim Menard, the director and DOP, respectively. I had envisioned some kind of visual distinction between the timelines, but what they came up with was way cooler than anything I conceived of. Can’t take credit for Ronon’s line either — “Never gets old” was all Jason.

In “Outcast”, there was a fleeting reference to Sheppard’s mom in my draft of the script — something along the lines of “…after mom died” — but I’m pretty sure it got cut before the script went to camera. In my mind, however, Sheppard’s mother died of an illness, which drove a further wedge in an already fractured relationship between him and his father. Perhaps we’ll find out more about this down the road?

Ronon accompanying Sheppard back to Earth was largely driven by scheduling (“Outcast” was shot opposite “Trio” so David H. was out, and Rachel was having her baby) but I’m really glad it worked out the way it did. I absolutely loved the interactions between them in this episode, some scripted, some not, e.g. Ronon appearing behind Sheppard as he stood by the coffin, but knowing better than to interrupt.

Airelle writes: “questions for Mr McCullough:
-Did they happen to bring one of the neat alien weapons with them to their reality?
-Could they have gotten into the space suits to get to the hangar bay for the jumper?
-thank you for taking time to answer questions.
—Linda Gagne said–[i]On a seperate note, your daughter is beautiful (yes, I read end credits). In S&R did she cry on cue in the birthing scene? Because that was very real sounding but it looked real too.[/i]

—-I thought the ending credits said Torren was Annalise MacCulloch? different spelling?not sure?!? that print is tiny and then they shove it all to the side to show yet another commercial….”

1) While we never saw it happen, I like to think that the team did bring one of the weapons back for study. 2) Theoretically, they could have put on the space suits and gone to the jumper, but it would have taken longer since they would have had to repressurize the jumper as well as remove Sheppard’s space suit so he could fly it. 3) Good eye. As I mentioned above, Annalise MacCulloch is not my daughter.

The SkyPig writes: “Questions for Alan: How did you come up with the science to explain the incredible reality jumping in TDV? Did you have to consult knolwedgeable people or reference works to ensure that the science made sense? PS: Loved the episode.”

Thanks SkyPig. The science in this episode was the topic of some discussion among the writers. Not only did we need to describe how the drive was supposed to work, but also what went wrong and how to fix it. Sadly, the “expert in alternate reality drive mechanisms” I found on Craig’s List turned out to be a fraud, so we had to come up with the solutions ourselves.

Thornyrose writes: “Some questions for Mr. McCullough. First, thank you for taking the time to participate in this forum. In regards to Tabula Rasa, how did you decide on a virus that affected memory?

Re: Tabula Rasa, I believe the concept of the virus affecting memory was something that came from my host this afternoon, Joe Mallozzi. In fact, my original pitch for this episode involved a virus that attacked the city, not its occupants — essentially rotting it from the inside out, making it no longer seaworthy. As we spun the story, this idea was discarded for the memory one.

What sort of medical research, if any, was involved?

I did a fair bit of research for this episode involving which areas of the brain are responsible for memory, and about how we access stored memories. However, much of the research in this area is still theoretical — so I had to fudge a bunch of stuff as well.

How much of a story do you have mapped out in your own mind when first presenting it as a possible story; a bare outline, or do stories seem to spring full blown to mind?

Most start out as a simple idea that is fleshed out as we discuss it as a group. For example, in Daedalus Variations I knew I wanted the team to find a device that shot them to other realities, but couldn’t be shut off. In my original pitch, the device was located in a room on Atlantis, but this was problematic for a variety of reasons — most notably, what would happen if they went to a reality where Atlantis didn’t exist? Through discussion, we arrived at a solution: put the device on a ship. From there it was a short step to making it the Daedalus, having it show up from another reality, etc.

What aspect of working on a show like Atlantis is most rewarding, and what is most challenging?

Challenging? The writing, bar none. Rewarding? Working with Joe Mallozzi. Did I mention how great he is?

Do you see yourself going on to directing episodes, or do you have some other career goals?

Directing interests me, but I have no plans to tackle it in the short term.

DasNDanger writes: “Questions for Alan:

1. In a recent GW interview, you talk about the cloning tech used in Spoils of War. Are we to understand that ALL Wraith (faced and masked) are supposedly cloned? Does this, in turn, mean that the males are sterile?

To clear up any confusion: there is a distinction between the way the wraith reproduce normally and the cloning technology seen in Spoils of War. Both require the queen to secrete genetic material into pods, but in the case of the cloning facility, that genetic material is then copied many times over to create hundreds of wraith all at once. Normal wraith reproduction takes place on hive ships. While it’s never been established, my feeling is that some part of the male wraith’s DNA is used in the process.

2. With the exception of Todd, individual (pure) Wraith have not been developed beyond the ‘grrrr! I’m gonna eat you’ expendable villains they started out as, even though we now know that – as a whole – the Wraith are far more complex than first thought. Any chance of seeing other Wraith developed beyond one, deadly episode, perhaps even moving a few into the more survivable gray area – as neither friend nor foe?

No plans for another wraith “ally” à la Todd, but we make a concerted effort to write wraith with personality, and cast actors who can bring a human quality to them.

3. In Spoils of War, when Teyla insisted upon waiting for Sheppard to return to the hive ship, Todd became a bit snarly there for a moment. Was this an attempt to show the limits to the character’s patience, or was he just hoping to get away with the ship, and a few ‘hot meals’, before Sheppard could interfere?

A little of both. Todd is a fun character to write for because he’s always got his own agenda.

4. Are you guys aware of how very important the Wraith are to a certain percentage of fans out there?

Don’t worry, the wraith aren’t going anywhere. We love them too.

5. Have you ever considered shaving off your eyebrows, painting yourself green, and plopping a white cotton mop on your head?”

I’m afraid I’d look too much like Carl.

PG15 writes: “ For Alan (and maybe Joe as well): If you can, please share with us the alternate realities that you guys thought up that didn’t end up in the episode; like, I don’t know, a reality where New Lantia was actually Unicron or something. Thanks!”

See above. We also left out the universe where Sheppard had a mustache.

Jean writes: “Do you have a favorite character to write for?

In DV, when they jumped back to the reality with the alternate Atlantis and were bailed out by the F302s, where did the fighters come from? Are they able to be launched from the surface?

1) Vala was my favorite character until SG-1 got cancelled. As for Atlantis, McKay is a lot of fun to write for. In both cases, it’s because of the opportunities for humor these characters present. 2) The F-302s came from the city. They are able to launch from the surface.

Michelle writes: “ My questions for Alan M. re DV, which I enjoyed very much:

1. In the spinning/breaking stage, did you envision that the VFX would be so huge (and playback too)? Was it supposed to be more of a bottle episode?

We always knew the VFX budget for this episode would be big, we just didn’t know how big. Luckily, we were able to save some money in other areas, e.g. sets and additional cast.

2. Which VFX shot cost the most or was the hardest?

Consulted Mark Savela for this one. He said the hardest shot was the sequence where the F-302s first engaged the enemy fighters. The choreography was particularly complex, especially since he didn’t want to give away who was firing until later in the shot.

3. How do you imagine the other team died? They didn’t really look starved or ill (just dead, heh). I loved that they lay down together, though. Sniff.

I suspect they died of dehydration. But they stuck together right to the end.

4. I love the new aliens. Do you have a backstory for them yet? What is the red glowing light in their foreheads? Whose idea was the green weapons fire/beams? Nice new color for Stargate, I have to say!

No backstory for the new aliens yet; however, we do have an idea for a special power they might have, should they ever come back. As for the red lights in the forehead, you’d have to ask James Robbins when he assumes guest-blogging duties. Re: the green weapons fire, you’d be amazed how many decisions on this show are reached by people saying “That would be cool!”

5. This may be more for the director, but in quite a few scenes, the actors were alone, reacting to radio conversation or computer screens. Do they get to hear each other’s dialog, or see something played back on the screens? How do you or the director convey to them what they’re supposed to be seeing? I thought they all did a great job, btw, but it must have been hard!

Lines are fed to the actor from off-camera by the script supervisor, in this case the lovely Amanda Alexander-McLean. When the actors have to react to a visual effect that isn’t there, it’s up to them to sell it, with help from the director. Luckily our actors/directors are the best in the business.

6. Did David Hewlett threaten to harm you for all the techno-babble he had to memorize?”

I did my best to stay clear of him during the shoot…

Paloosa writes: “I love the episodes that isolate the team together and this was another great one! Would you have written DV differently if the network hadn’t required five act breaks for the US market? If so, how would it have been different?”

Not sure I entirely understand your question. We make a seamless version of the show for DVD, without act breaks. Do you mean would we have changed the story if we had more time to play with?

Bailey writes: “What kind of stuff can you not put through Ring Transport?
And what would happen if you did?”

Little touches like this demonstrate the genius of our art department in creating a realistic world for our characters to live in. As for what can’t be ring transported? Joe M’s action figures, of course.

Jenny Robin writes: “Ok, mister writer-man extraordinaire, can you compose a haiku about one of the episodes you’ve written this year?”

Vessel of lost hope

Flying Dutchman, no way home

Throw it in reverse.

Squeakiep writes: “How is it that Sheppard has learned to manage all stations on the big D? Seems he handled weaps, flight, and miscellaneous engineering.”

Sheppard is a highly skilled pilot who has spent much time on the Daedalus. He’s been given basic training in most of the ship’s systems.

Elf-ears writes: “My question. Sheppard has been shown as both A) Smart and B) able to fix ancient tech. Why was he being a pill and demanding Rodney fix it when it would have been much faster and more productive if he HELPED RODNEY?

Come on! We like Sheppard being smart. And it’s cool he’s learned from Rodney. This was a good chance to put it into action. Yes, nice to work in showing Teyla is learning things. But they all three could have been helping Rodney. (and Teaching Ronon as well), or Teyla could have been on the bridge. They didn’t show her how to fire the guns?”

Sheppard can make basic repairs to some systems, but when it comes to complex programming, he’s out of his league and McKay is the man for the job. Re: Teyla, it’s not that she couldn’t have fired rail guns, but she was in Engineering when the ship made its surprise jump back to the battle reality.

Chevron7 writes: “Thanks Alan for guest blogging. When I saw your photo on the Gateworld interview page I thought you looked like someone else. Maybe Tobey Maguire? Perhaps grow a beard and don a Spidey suit and I can decide. Anyhoo, on with the questions……

1. Do you have to be very disciplined to be a writer?

2. Do you ever watch the episodes you’ve written?

3. Which character (main or supporting) do you enjoy writing best?

4. What’s your favourite word?”

Coincidentally, Tobey Maguire has just been hired to play me in the upcoming summer blockbuster Man in Stall 2.

1) Writing takes a lot of discipline. Especially when you leave it ‘til the last minute.

2) We watch every episode at least four times, at various stages of completion, in addition to time spent in editing.

3) See above.

4) My favorite word is “catamaran”.

Arctic Goddess writes: “It seems, with Joe’s latest taste testing endeavor, that you are surrounded by crazy people. Someone once told me that most of the entertainment industry is completely insane and that, with my background in psychology, I’d fit right in. I am working toward script writing. Do you feel you are the normal one in a room full of lunatics, or do you include yourself to be as wakko as everyone else?”

I’m not crazy. But at least three of my multiple personalities are.

Caitlyanna writes: “What was/is the most difficult or interesting script you have written, for Stargate Atlantis or any others and why?”

“Tabula Rasa” takes the cake. Keeping track of both timelines nearly killed me.

Flygirl writes: “The new “bad guys” in DV are very different from anyone else we’ve met on SGA. They reminded me of the “Cardassians” (sp?) from Star Trek-Deep Space 9 and a bad version of the old “Rock ‘Em, Sock’ Em Robots”. Did they turn out the way you initially envisioned them to be? Was their “Kamikaze” actions an attempt to board the Daedelous or destroy it?”

I was thrilled with how the aliens turned out. The dive-bomb was an attempt to board the ship.

Rosie writes: “ In each of your episodes, there is always at least one great McKay/Sheppard friendship moment. Is that by design — in other words, is there a conscious effort to include such moments in your episodes — or is it just a by-product of the plot? Whatever the reason, your episodes are some of my favorite of the series. Thank you!”

Thanks Rosie! Most of the time such moments arise as part of the plot of the show, but I try to make the most of them when they occur!

Beverly writes: “How hard is it to write all the technobabble? Do you have a science background or do you have to do much research when writing the script?”

No science background. To be honest, a heavy science background would probably get in the way on this show.

Leesa Perrie writes: “Of the episodes you that have written for Stargate, are there any that didn’t turn out quite as well as you had hoped? Were there any that turned out better than you had hoped? Also, which is your favourite episode, whether written by you or someone else, and why? Thanks.”

That’s a tough one. I think “Off the Grid” is my least favorite episode of the ones I’ve written. A lot of things didn’t quite work for me on that one. My favorite episode that I’ve written is “Tabula Rasa”, although I also like “Dominion” a lot. My favorite overall episode (at least since I came on board) is probably “Collateral Damage”.

Cheeky Lil Devil writes: “Alan – *waves* I’ve noticed in the episodes you tend to write that there’s very much a time/space element to them; The Road not taken, Tabula Rasa, TDV, Line in the sand. Does this element of story writing come naturally to you, or have you had to research AU’s and shifting realities to make sure you get the science correct?

I never really remarked on this before. I do love a good AU story, but I’m also drawn to stories where our characters are isolated, trapped away from each other, e.g. Line in the Sand, Road Not Taken, Tabula Rasa and the upcoming “The Queen”.

Also with episodes like Tabula Rasa (which I adored) how difficult was it to write the timelines for it and have them finally merge into a central point? And were there any particular obstacles you had to overcome writing that ep? Did you literally write a timeline and then fill in the gaps? What was your writing process for that? Sorry, I should have warned you that i’m extremely long-winded.”

As mentioned above, Tabula Rasa proved extremely difficult to write. I wrote it straight through, jumping back and forth in time. But at one point, I was going so cross-eyed I rearranged the script in chronological order, just to see if it still made sense. I found several errors, e.g. Teyla referring to “the soldiers” when she hadn’t been affected and still had her memory.

Tam_Myst writes: “Question about the AU team that died on the Daedelus: How did they die? If they were starving why didn’t they use their puddle jumper t abandon the the ship and get down to the planet’s mainland or was every AU they came across worse than starving?”

Even if the planet had been there, it would have been very risky to take the puddle jumper down to it. If the Daedalus had jumped while they were gone, they would have been stranded forever I think it says a lot about our team that they never gave up trying to find a way home.

Kim writes: “Thank you Alan for a wonderful episode on Friday. I’m not sure if you can field this question but after listening to the commentary to “Outcast” the idea was mentioned that Dave have returned for “Hexed”. Since I think, I’m not sure, you might have been the one who was asked to pen that script….and now that its been shelved.

Could you tell us what that one would have been about? I’m very curious even though it’ll never see the light of day what would have brought back John’s brother in the picture not to mention elsewhere it was mentioned that Sheppard’s hair would have needed to be flat for the eppy.”

I don’t want to say too much about “Hexed” in case the idea resurfaces for season six. Suffice to say it could also be titled “Sheppard’s Really Bad Day”.

Debi writes: “I have to admit that your first SG-1 episode “Prototype” got me upset concerning Daniel’s not forgiving Woolsey at the end. But, after some time, I’ve grown to list that episode among my favorites.

Was there any debate in the writers’ room concerning Daniel’s ending scene with Woolsey? Did you have something else in mind?

What did you do to prepare to write “Prototype”? Were you afraid that there was too much “previously-on” history in the episode and that it would get bogged down? If you had had more time, what else would you have included in the story?

I also read that there was a scene that was originally written for Cam that was given to Daniel instead. Is there any truth to that rumor, and if so, which scene was it? Why was it changed?

I was living in Toronto when I pitched “Prototype”. At the time, I wasn’t that familiar with the franchise, so Rob Cooper said he’d send me some reference materials to help out. A couple of days later I got a call from my agent saying he’d received a FedEx box with 20 episodes of SG-1 inside: everything from “Metamorphosis” to “Meridian” to “Lost City” to “Threads”. I thought it was a joke. Little did I know how much history would play into that story. As for the Daniel/Woolsey scene at the end, the intention was always to end with some bitterness between them. To my mind, it’s justified by the fact that Woolsey refused to listen to reason and nearly got them all killed. Re: the scene written for Cam given to Daniel, I’m not sure which one you mean. Do you have any more details?

How was your transition to Atlantis for Season Four after having written for SG-1 for two years? Do you miss writing for the SG-1 characters? Do you identify with any of them? Do you wish that you could write a cross-over episode in SGA just so you can have a chance to write SG-1 characters again?”

I definitely miss both the cast and the characters of SG-1. They were wonderful people and a pleasure to write for. I’d love to write a crossover episode someday.

LcShepp writes: “Comment for Alan. I enjoyed DV very much especially McKay’s comment to Sheppard about being opposite of himself and Sheppard praising himself for McKay’s benefit. The team’s reaction to that was hysterical.

Question for Alan. In ‘Outcast’ what were your thoughts when you decided that Sheppard would come from a wealthy family versus middle class or needy? I enjoyed Sheppard’s interacton with his older brother Dave. Lot of feelings/emotions expressed in those few short minutes they had together.”

Hi LcShepp, thanks for your comments. Having Sheppard come from a wealthy background was something we had been tossing around for awhile — not sure who originally came up with it. But it seemed to fit with what we knew about Sheppard’s character.

Thanks again, y’all. Hope you enjoy the rest of the season!

AM

August 7, 2008: Road Triiiiip! And The Weird Food Purchase of the Day

Well who do we have here?
Well who do we have here?
MEMORIAL theatre?  But I'm still alive!
MEMORIAL theatre? But I'm still alive!
The line-up for the Martin Gero autograph session
The line-up for the Martin Gero autograph session
Kramer Innovations throws quite the shingding!
Kramer Innovations throws quite the shingding!
Carl Binder - Thrilled to be here.
Carl Binder - Thrilled to be here.
Director Marty G. reflects on his lunch order
Director Marty G. reflects on his lunch order
Keller meets 003.14159265358979323846...
Keller meets 003.14159265358979323846...
Lookit!  They cut the crust off the finger sandwiches!
Lookit! They cut the crust off the finger sandwiches!
A Meeting of Minds I
A Meeting of Minds I
A Meeting of Minds II
A Meeting of Minds II
An extra accidentally sets himself on fire and plunges through the skylight.  Marty G. and Dave Foley share a chuckle.
An extra accidentally sets himself on fire and plunges through the skylight. Marty G. and Dave Foley share a chuckle.
Marty G. corrects Bill and Neil on their misinterpretations of string theory
Marty G. corrects Bill and Neil on their misinterpretations of string theory
Our lovely intern, Alex, joins the party
Our lovely intern, Alex, joins the party
HD Tech Paul Trudell considers booting me off the set.  But I know the director!
HD Tech Paul Trudell considers booting me off the set. But I know the director!
Fox and the foxy Leah
Fox and the foxy Leah
I think she was drinking real champagne because she tried to kick my ass after I took this picture
I think she was drinking real champagne because she tried to kick my ass after I took this picture
Bill Nye the Science Guy and Neil deGrasse Tyson Also the Science Guy
Bill Nye the Science Guy and Neil deGrasse Tyson Also the Science Guy
Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye
Stargate Atlantis physics consultant Mika meets with the legends of science: Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye
WTF are you guys still doing here?!
WTF are you guys still doing here?!

ROAD TRIIIIIP!

This morning, fellow Exec. Producer Carl Binder and I threw caution to the wind, jumped into my Q7, and hit the road. We took an impromptu journey guided only by our spontaneity, our sense of adventure, and the directions to the location of Marty G.’s Brain Storm shoot. As it turned out, however, we’d been given a map for people who already knew the way there. I say this because only someone with an intimate knowledge of the area would have known that the Route 7A on the street sign was a.k.a. the St. John’s Street referred to in the directions (“Take a left on St. John’s). Oblivious to this crucial fact, we drove right by it and into off-road territory where Carl followed the guidelines of proper bear safety procedure – and I quote “Never run from a bear! Talk to it, wave your arms, and back away slowly” – by appealing to it’s sense of reason (“Seriously, you don’t want to do this. Devour us, and you’ll just be sinking to our level. You’re better than that.”) while I made a lovely soup out of stinging nettle, birch bark, and a hapless giant centipede. We eventually doubled back, played Carl’s hunch and took a right on Route 7A, and we were right back on track.

We pulled into the parking lot, right behind Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok who was documenting Martin Gero’s foray into the dark side of directing, and followed him into the high school – down a flight of stairs, around a corner, and into the gymnasium that – through the magic of television – had been transformed into the Carl Binder Memorial Theatre. Extras milled about in tuxes and cocktail dresses while Marty G. set up his next shot. Jewel Staite looked, well, nothing short of drop-dead gorgeous in her evening best while David Hewlett exuded the roguish charm of a nerdy James Bond in his flash jacket and pants. Sitting by the monitor was former Kids in the Hall/News Radio alum Dave Foley who, for reasons unknown, had been given a way-too-early call and was good humouredly killing time until his first scene. As we were chatting, I received a call from the production offices informing me that a network employee named Averie was a HUUUUGE Dave Foley fan and would it be possible for me to get him to sign something, anything for her? Hearing this, Dave suggesting going one better. So, I phoned up Claire at SciFi who put me through to Averie’s cell. Unfortunately, I got her voice mail. “Hi, Averie,”I greeted her. “This is Joseph Mallozzi, the show-runner of Stargate Atlantis. I hear you’re a big Dave Foley fan. Well, I have Dave Foley sitting right here.”

At which point, Dave took the phone and left his own message: “Hi, Averie. This is Dave Foley. How are you? Sorry I missed you but if you have time, swing by set. I’m here all day.”

And I capped off the message with: “Doesn’t this just call you? If you leave L.A. right now, it’ll take you maybe three hours to fly, an hour to clear customs, and then another hour traveling time to get here.”

Dave Foley = Class Act.

Equally pleasant and engaging were the sovereigns of science Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. They turned out to be a lot of fun both in front of and away from the camera, regaling the rest of the cast and crew with stories of their empirical exploits. They seemed to be as happy to be there as we were to have them.

Well, Martin appeared to have everything well in hand so, after a couple of hours of hanging around on set, we hopped back into the Q7 and returned to the studio – but only after dropping the bear off at the Burnaby sky train station because it was on the way.

Thanks to everyone who posted questions for Stargate Atlantis Director of Photography Jim Menard. He is working on them as we speak. And now, on to our next guest blogger…Andromeda’s A.I., SG-1’s Dr. Carolyn Lam, The 4400’s Wendy Paulson, and Michael Shank’s wife, the lovely Lexa Doig will be swinging by to answer your questions next week. So if you have anything you’d like to ask her, start posting. I’ll be gathering your questions through Saturday.

Also – finish up Cordelia’s Honor. Discussion begins on Monday when I’ll start gathering questions for author Lois McMaster Bujold who is the guest of honor at the WorldCon in Denver happening NOW until August 10th. If you’re in the area, go check it out and report back on the Stargate-14 Boot Camp being held on Saturday (http://www.denvention.org/index.php).

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to husband-to-be Kyle Hanson. Best of luck, buddy.

Today’s pics: Brain Storm – A Marty G. Joint.

Today’s video: The Weird Food Purchase of the Day – Shrimp Chips.  In case the video below doesn’t play…

http://s230.photobucket.com/albums/ee164/BaronDestructo/?action=view&current=ShrimpChips.flv

Today’s mailbag:

Tam_myst writes: “Should you be eating strange foods when your not feeling well?”

 

Answer: Sometimes, you have to be willing to make sacrifices for your art.

Davidd writes: “I’ve wanted to know for some time now, what made you want to become a producer? Or did it just happen with no prior wish for it?”

Answer: I actually wanted to be an writer and assumed more producer duties over time until, the next thing I knew, I’d earned the title. It’s not at all uncommon for writers to become producers in television. In the feature world, however, it’s much less likely to happen.

Sparrow_hawk writes: “I can’t believe you didn’t like the Wasabi peas — I always have a can in the pantry for snacks.”

Answer: Not a fan. That said, I DO enjoy Wasabi cashews!

Ganymede writes: “Of your list of bad intake choices, I do see a common [if not slightly frayed] thread… All of these things one way or another involve fermentation and or fungi… You might want to talk to someone with a degree in microbiology and/or organic chemistry about this…”

Answer: Where’s Bugguy when you need him?

Cat4444 writes: “Anyway, do you just toss the rest of the failures or do you try to foist them off on Carl somehow so you can get his reaction to your murderous attempts on his life?”

Answer: I think I’ll just bring the leftovers to work.

PG15 writes: “1. Chris Judge recently said that it’s possible that the 3rd movie might start shooting in January of next year. Is there any truth in this?

2. Any new info regarding the Ancients’ war with the Wraith in Season 5?

3. Will the Wraith try to get to Earth again in Season 5?”

Answers: 1) Hey, anything is possible. We’re a long way from an actual production date but I’d be VERY surprised if a third SG-1 movie wasn’t in production in 2009. 2) Off the top of my head – nope. 3) Wouldn’t that be interesting!

Jean writes: “Seems like SciFi is going to air all 20 episodes without a large break as usual after the mid-season cliffhanger. From a producer’s point of view, do you prefer this or rather a longer break between the 2 halves of the season? Do you think it impacts ratings at all?”

Answer: Although it is a bit more work for the production, I think running the show straight through is preferable to taking an extended mid-season hiatus. I find that the hiatus tend to break a show’s momentum. As for how it impacts the ratings – time will tell.

Kdvb1 writes: “*wonders if Joe read her comment about Carl Binder and bday dedications on August 10th*”

Answer: Joe read the comment but needs you to remind him closer to the date as he has a mind like a sieve.

Green writes: “Wait! Wait! I get it! I think you only get a monster icon thingy if you don’t have a pre-existing icon! Right? Maybe?”

Answer: Right!

Silver_comet writes: “ Do you know all the non-Stargate related guest bloggers personally before you ask them for a guest appearance?”

Answer: I certainly make a point of asking them before announcing their guest appearance.

TBA writes: “When you write scenes for major Wraith characters, do you usually give them names?”

Answer: Not usually. They’re simply referred to as Wraith Commander unless one of our characters names them – as was the case with Kenny.

Drledeboer writes: “Joe – try two consecutive shots of 100 proof vodka before bed.”

Answer: You sound like the heavy-set Russian man who used to walk his dog in my old neighborhood. He claims his dog was feeling unwell so he took him to the vet, only to be told he’d need to pony up $50 a month for meds. Rather than fork over the big bucks, he cured the dog himself by giving the pooch a weekly vodka shot.

Demon Hunter writes: “ I was wondering what your veiws are on salt. Do you take salt in your food, do you add it after or only when cooking?”

Answer: I rarely add salt to anything. My wife, on the other hand, is a salt-aholic.

Moscowchick writes: “I have a question – does the Atlantis expedition have a janitorial staff or does the city magically clean up after its inhabitants?”

Answer: There is a service crew in the city that, among other things, prepares the meals, cleans up after everyone, and, most important of all, keeps a very low-profile which explains why you don’t see them.

Jenny Robin writes: “Joe, you know what would be utterly fascinating for all your readers? I’ll tell you. I should be a guest blogger.”

Answer: A random fan guest blogger. Interesting…

Smiley_face06 writes: “Thanks for answeing my question about Ba’al. It makes me feel better knowing Sam isn’t sulking after being relieved of command in Atlantis.”

Answer: One of the things we wanted to make sure of was that Carter’s being relieved of the Atlantis command isn’t seen as a demotion because, as our team pointed out in The Seed, she was actually a victim of her own success. As such, the next time we see Carter (in episode 20), she’ll have assumed another command position.

Sandra writes: “First question: What would be the Daniel, Mitchell, Vala, Teyla, and Ronon commercials be for “With a Little Stargate Anything is Possible?” Second: If you could write a crossover episode with any other book or TV show what would it be? Third (and this is new): what, in your mind, happened to SG-1 while Sam was on Atlantis? Now that she’s back, will she rejoin the team?”

Answers: 1) Not a clue. 2) Dr. Who. 3) With the Ori dealt with, things were decidedly quiet on the Milky Way front. While not disbanded, SG-1 (made up of Daniel, Teal’c, Mitchell, and Vala) curtailed their off-world exploits.

ElisaD writes: “Now, I was wondering some of the other writers have mentioned who they love writing for or their favorite character on SGA, so I wondering who your favorite character is and who you love writing for.”

Answer: This season, it’s been Ronon and Woolsey.

Anais33 a ecrit: “ 1) Qie préférez le plus dans votre travail?
2)Connaissez vous bien la france?”

Reponses: 1) Les personnes avec qui je travail. 2) Non.

Translation: The best part about my job is the people I work with. And, no, I don’t know the French region very well.