July 9, 2011: Transporter production update!

The production train is about to leave the station!  All aboard who’s coming aboard!  Everyone else get the f*ck out of the way.  Move or be REmoved!

We’re now two days away from the start of main unit principal photography on Transporter and I feel like I’m in the heart of a maelstrom.  Time to dispense with the niceties and step up.  From here on in, all paths – creative, production, or otherwise – lead through us.  And by “us”, I mean Alexander, Paul, and me.  It’s been a whirlwind four months, but they’ll be nothing compared to the five months that lie ahead.

Alexander – Episode timing and preliminary schedule in tow, starts his pass on episode #7.  Time to reconsider the B-story and streamline the narrative.  Once he’s done with that, he’s got to get moving on writing episode #8.

Paul – Up to his eyeballs in prep for episode #1 (“Pilot”) alongside Stephen, the episode director.  We had the read-thru on Wednesday and now it’s the final push of meetings, rehearsals, fight training, and stunt planning before this baby goes to camera on Tuesday.  Paul, as the episode’s Supervising Producer, will be on set for its entirety.  Hope his laptop is charged up as he’s still got the rewrite of episode #4 on his plate.

As for me – no sooner did I put out new drafts of episode #2 (“12 Hours”) and #6 than I received another batch of notes.  Spent last night doing another pass on the former and am patiently awaiting feedback on the latter.  In the meantime, I’m about to start a rewrite on episode #5.  A pass on episode #3 also awaits.  As if that wasn’t enough, prep fast approaches on that second episode which I’ll be producing.  Yesterday, we got a jump on that by heading out on a preliminary location scout for “12 Hours” along with Bruce, the episode’s director.

Plenty of fighting room = Check!
To be honest, it's not in the script. Still, an interesting location we can file away for future reference.
The first thing I do when I walk into a room is check out the potential fighting props: the tables, the rolling chairs, the shelves - even the exit sign. Our Frank is a resourceful combatant.
Who knows what lies beyond the yellow doors.
Okay. We do. It's a clean room. Love the lighting.
Potential way out or possible way in?
Not sure what happens when you go inside and lock the door. Unfortunately, Tim refused to be a good sport and allow us to test it on him.
Flammable or inflammable? Which is it?!!
Ah, the lurid reception area.

Yes, we’re all very busy – but perhaps the busiest individual of all is series director Andy Mikita (who you may recognize from, oh, about every second or third episode of the Stargate franchise) who is overseeing style continuity for all aspects the production.  He’s reading scripts, going over storyboards, reviewing second unit dailies from Europe, discussing schedules and timings, meeting with department heads, helping to prep the first two episodes, and addressing endless other issues.  And he won’t be catching a breather any time soon.  In a few weeks, it’ll be his turn to take the directing reins on not one but two episodes as we block shoot #4 and #5.

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the inexhaustible Susan Murdoch who has been juggling a dizzying array of schedules, timings, budgets, and availabilities.

And then there’s everyone else in the production office: Sonia, Anna, Brenda, Mega, Trevor, Tim, Tim, Tim, Craig, Sarah, Patricia, Adrian, Ryan, Jeff, Doug, Patrick, Bruce, and the countless others who you’ll eventually meet on this blog as things move along.

It’s going to be a long, exhausting, but no doubt immensely satisfying rest-of-the-year and I know the finished product is going to kick ass.

Finally, on the heels of yet another broadcaster summit, I leave the final word (in picture) to M6 Executive Julien DeWolf –

All Systems Go!

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 24, 2011: Ensure your legacy in the Name My Co-Worker’s Baby Contest!

I was in Trevor’s office today going over some production details on episode #3 when, partway through our Harry Potter discussion, I noticed two of my female co-workers staring out the window.

“Ooooh, loooook!”cooed one.

“Soooo cute!”, the other.

I hurried over to join them, peering out and scanning the area across the street for a glimpse of the adorable puppy – to no avail.  All I could see was a group of people and a woman holding a baby.  WTF?

“Where’s the dog?”I asked.

“What dog?”wondered co-worker #1.

“The cute dog that has you guys all excited.”

“It’s not a dog.  It’s the baby.”

I took a second, longer look.  The baby wasn’t doing anything particularly amusing like projectile vomiting or driving a car.  It was just there, hanging off its mother’s arm like a loaf of soggy bread. Maybe I’d missed it.

“What did it do?”I asked.

“What do you mean ‘what did it do’?”

“I mean what did it do that was so funny?”

“It didn’t do anything.”  Then, fixing me with an admonishing look.  “It’s just a cute baby.”

“It is?”  It looked pretty much like any other baby to me.

“Babies are cute,”co-worker #2 informed me with the conviction of, say, a “Bananas are yellow” or  a “Vegetarians are flatulent”.

“They are?”

In response, I received the type of glares usually reserved for clumsy drunks.

Anyway, all this to ask: Did I miss something?  Is it widely accepted that all babies are cute by the simple virtue of being babies?  Does the fact that every infant looks exactly the same to me – with the exception of those wide-eyed goofy ones – suggest I lack the paternal gene (to compliment my jazz deficiency)?  I mean, I can certainly sympathize with an individual’s desire to produce an offspring who’ll feel obligated to mark their birthday each year with a requisite salutary phone call and/or banish them to the appropriate nursing home when the time comes but I still don’t quite get it.  For my part, I’m more of a dog guy though, admittedly, dogs do require a little more effort than kids.  It’s not like you can just line the kitchen with newspaper, put out some food and water, and then go away for the weekend and expect them to fend for themselves.  That would be fine for a child but dogs require companionship and the occasional belly rub.

Anyway, speaking of babies, the wife of one of my co-workers – Executive Producers’ Assistant Trevor – is having a baby and, next week, they find out the sex of their child.  Which got me thinking…this would be a perfect opportunity to hold a little contest.

Slap on your creative caps and start thinking as this blog kicks off the: NAME TREVOR’S BABY CONTEST!

Trevor says: "I've got nothing. Thank goodness for Joe's readers."

First post, first served, so if you want to claim the rights to a name early (I’ve already taken Rubella and Spearmint), start posting.  I’ll choose the top three candidates from the list of suggestions after which it will be up to YOU to vote in a winner!

“Hey, wait a minute!”some of you are no doubt saying. “We thought Joe fired Trevor!”.  Well, I certainly should have after THIS incident (June 9, 2011: Oatmeal Snowman! Trevor screws up my page count! Stargate: SG-1 season 9! News of note!) but soon after letting him go, I was informed that it’s actually cheaper for the production to keep him.  Apparently, his departure would require us to purchase a scarecrow to prop up in his workspace to keep the wolverines at bay (and away from our lunches).  And so, I had to re-hire him.

Of course no sooner was Trevor back in the office than he was up to his old tricks.  After hopping onto my laptop and fixing a formatting glitch with my screenwriter software, he starts explaining what the issue was and how he’d fixed it.  “Look,”I told him, “don’t come to me with problems.  Or explanations of solutions to problems.  Just come to me with solutions.”

Geez!

June C, 2011: Five film/t.v. projects I’m looking forward to!

Despite the fact that I work in television, I don’t watch a lot of t.v.  I could say it’s because I’m incredibly busy (which I am) but the truth is that, given the choice, I’d much rather read, cook, work-out, or spend quality time with my dogs.  I do, however, manage to make time for some my favorites (House, Top Chef, Spartacus, and the occasional HBO offerings), squeezing in a viewing while exercising or before lights-out – which is more than can be said for my movie-watching.  After building a home theater, I decided to never again visit a theater and, instead, chose to wait for films of interest to come out on dvd – until the introduction of blu-ray effectively dissuaded me from ever buying another dvd (much less a blu-ray player which, I assumed, would, in turn, be rendered obsolete by the next big thing so why bother?).  As a result, I would be completely lost in any dinner party conversation that shifted to Inception, Avatar, Toy Story 3, Star Trek, and every James Bond installment since Golden Eye.

Still, despite my seeming disinterest, every once in a while the announcement of an upcoming project will pique my interest.  And, occasionally, I may even get downright excited at the prospect of actually checking something out.

What follows is my list of the Top 5 Projects (some in development, some in production) I Most Look Forward To…

Seth McFarlane’s reboot of The Flintstones

After much back-and-forth, a deal has finally been struck that will allow the Family Guy creator to reboot The Flinstones – and I couldn’t be happier.  To those of you who say Seth McFarlane is going to ruin The Flinstones, I say: “Did you watch The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show? Or The Flintstone Comedy Hour?  Or every t.v. special, television movie, and live action feature film made since the original show went off the air in 1966?”  Hell, some purists will even argue that the show jumped the shark with the introduction of Pebbles at the end of its third season.   In my mind, there’s no better candidate to bring back television’s first prime time, politically incorrect animated series than McFarlane.  His sense of humor is perfectly suited to recapturing the show’s original adult sensibility.

The live-action version of Noir

I’m admittedly torn on this one.  On the one hand, I can’t wait to see what Sam Raimi and co. do with one of my top ten favorite anime of all time; on the other hand, I’m bummed that I wasn’t fast enough in snapping up the rights when they were available.  This styling series about two young, female assassins and the mysterious order they work for was one of several anime properties I identified for potential live-action treatment.  Alas, my commitment to Stargate kept me from seriously pursuing it but, all the same, it looks like the property is in good hands.  Don’t know how they plan on translating Noir for a North American audience but so long as they make liberal use Yuki Kajiura’s soundtrack for the original anime, they can’t go wrong.

Powers

One of my favorite comic book series is poised to hit the small screen. Focusing on Detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, partners in homicide investigations involving superpowered individuals, the graphic novels are whip smart and a lot of fun.  Don’t know much about the prospective series beside the fact that it will premiere on FX, but the fact that writer Brian Michael Bendis is listed as an Executive Producer gives me confidence the production will do right by its source material.

World War Z: The Movie

Tired of zombies yet?  No, me neither provided they’re done right – and author Max Brooks did them all sorts of right in his book, a collection of first-person accounts of the zombie apocalypse.  Clever, frightening, and incredibly engaging given the personal nature of a lot of the interviews – a must-read for any fan of the horror sub-genre. Translating Brooks’ unique narrative will no doubt prove a challenge but I’m cautiously optimistic….

Transporter: The Series

Loved the movies for the creative fight sequences and the overall sense of fun that pervaded the action, so when I heard they were going to be doing a television series based on the film franchise, I was interested. And when my agent called to say they wanted Paul and I to showrun – well, I was REALLY interested. European production is already underway while main unit photography kicks off here in North America in July.  The early footage looks great, the scripts are tight, the cast is terrific, and the production is stacked with talent.  Fans of the movies will not be disappointed!

June 18, 2011: Set construction begins on Transporter: The Series! Looking back on Stargate: SG-1’s ninth season! Links!

Since work has commenced on the standing sets for Transporter: The Series, fellow Executive Producer Alexander M. Ruemelin and I figured the least we could do was swing by and check out the work-in-progress before redirecting funds and manpower to construction on the sundecks of our new cottages in Muskoka.

Hey, look! It's Frank's place!
Series Director Andy Mikita (who you may remember from such shows as Stargates SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe) says "Tadaa!" (or "Chadaa!" for those of you in Japan).
Stairs leading up to...upstairs! Where else?
Sarah documents everything from the future lawsuit.
The room where Frank keeps his collectibles (ie. comics, Randy Bowen supervillain statues, etc.).
Not sure. Fireplace? I tried testing it out but only got as far as lighting the kindling before I was tackled and escorted off the premises.
Alex presides over construction, offering such helpful input as "Let's move everything two feet that way.".

And…

Tarconi's office.

Getting back to my reminiscing on Stargate: SG-1’s ninth season…

STRONGHOLD (914)

In this episode, a Jaffa undergoes the Rite of M’al Sharran to rid himself of his symbiote – and dies in the process.  The rite was performed a grand total of three times before and only one of those instances proved successful (Teal’c being the rare exception).  Them 25% odds are pretty bleak.  Compare to the Tok’ra extraction process which, if the Tok’ra are to be believed, has a better but still iffy 50% success rate.  Paul and I called BS on that.  Every time we could remember it being performed, it worked beautifully, so it seemed to be more like 100%.  Which brings to mind one of the many amusing stories from our early days on the show.  Way back when we first started on Stargate, Paul and I wanted to know more about this Tok’ra extraction process.  Brad suggested we check out an episode called Pretense.  Apparently, all we needed to know about the extraction process was covered in that episode.  And so, Paul and I fired up the VCR and sat through forty-five minutes of Stargate’s version of Boston Legal and Zipacna walking around with a Carmen Miranda headpiece and, all the while we kept wondering: “When are they going to get around to extraction process?!”.  Then, as the episode was drawing to an end, the character of Skaara was ordered to undergo the “extraction process”.  Finally!  I was all sorts of curious.  Would it be a surgical procedure or something much techier and advanced?  Would Skaara be awake through the procedure?  If so, how would he react?  So many questions about to be answered!  We watched as the court made its ruling, then watched a time cut to the next scene in which the tok’ra trot out the goa’uld symbiote and proclaim the extraction process a success!  End episode.  WTF?!!!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention guest star Reed Diamond who plays the part of Mitchell’s doomed buddy in the episode.  The former Homicide lead turns in a brilliant performance and, for the record, was terrific to work with.

ETHON (915)

This episode marked the last episode of the earth ship Prometheus, and its unfortunately named commander Pendergast.  To be honest, I would have felt a lot worse for him had he been named, say, Evans or Fitzgerald or even Pangbourn – but Pendergast?  Whenever his name came up in a script, I would always ask where the name came from.  Did some fan win a contest that necessitated we use their name in a script?  Close!  Apparently, Pendergast was the last name of a friend of one of the writers.  With Stargate over, I now regret the fact that I didn’t name one of my characters Jelly.

OFF THE GRID (916)

Look out!  That corn is highly addictive!  Ah, sweet sweet Kassa.  How you’ve been mocked, forced to share ignominious conversation company with the likes of explosive tumors, Zipacna’s silly hat, and Carter infamous “Just because my reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside, doesn’t mean I can’t handle whatever you can handle” line.  Granted, it was one of our sillier episodes that saw the team going undercover decked out as extras from The Road Warrior while, back on Earth, Landry matched wits with the gluttonous goa’uld Nerus (played to pompous perfection by the late Maury Chaykin).  At one point during the editing process, Brad objected to the amount of food Nerus had in his cell on the grounds that it was “over the top”.  !  In my mind, that ship sailed the second Mitchell uttered the line: “Get all the population jonesing for space corn.”

Speaking of silly – a number of fans complained about the fact that the Lucian Alliance weren’t cool enough, that they were a little too silly to be considered a formidable threat to Stargate Command.  Well, to be fair, respect was admittedly an uphill climb considering the concept of the Alliance was introduced by these two lovable members –

Longtime blog regular Paul O’Dwyer gives our little Book of the Month Club a shout-out in the Irish Times (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/magazine/2011/0618/1224298893096.html).  Thanks to Paul for the mention.  And a reminder that July’s book of the month club  kicks off July 4th with a discussion of Jeff Lemire’s Sweeth Tooth (volume 1) –

A heads up from another blog regular, Steve Eramo, who has just posted a recent interview with actor David Hewlett (SGA’s Rodney McKay) here: http://scifiandtvtalk.typepad.com/scifiandtvtalk/2011/06/stargate-atlantis-david-hewlett-checks-in.html

And, of course, opening this weekend: Remember Green Lantern?  Sure you do!

June 16, 2011: That was one night I’m glad I wasn’t in Vancouver for! Dinner with Alexander and Sarah! Another class field trip! Lunch so bad I want to punch the chef in the face!

Yesterday, Akemi and I joined Alexander and Sarah for lunch at Terroni Restaurant on Adelaide Street.

Alex and Sarah putting up with the requisite pre-meal photo op.
Facing off against Akemi and me!

The pizza was fine, the pasta was cold, but the clear high point of the night was the surrounding decor.  Specifically THIS ill-advised piece of art (?):

I think this particular piece is called: "Making an example of potential collaborators". Enjoy your meal!

After dinner, I went home, worked out, watched part of the hockey game, grew disillusioned, then walked the dogs and started reading Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.  It wasn’t until this morning that I heard about the riots.  What amazed me was not so much the fact that these assholes would be stupid enough to loot and destroy property, but that they’d be stupid enough to pose for pictures or brag about it on their facebook pages.

Would love to see all three of these douchebags face charges.

As for the game itself – meh.  There’s no denying the best goalie and best team won.  Although Vegas had the Canucks favored to win last night (-160 to the Bruins +140), one has to remember that the guys who set the odds do so ever-mindful of, not who they think will win, but who the betting public thinks will win. In other words, people were putting money on the Canucks to win, no doubt betting with their hearts and making Vancouver a pricey favorite…much to the delight of Bruin fans who ended up making $40 on every $100 bet.

No doubt feeling the pressure to come up with consistently creative bento breakfasts, Akemi delivered this little culinary masterpiece this morning…

I didn’t have much time to appreciate it though because, today, we were off on another location scout for Transporter: The Series…

Alexander, rarin' to go!
Tim Owen, Location Manager by day, Sears model by night.
First stop = Creepy hospital location.
While the rest of the survey moves on, I'm prepped for surgery.

They're labeled now because I always used to get them confused.
Okay. Let's make it quick.

I'll take one from column A and two from column B. I would also request a sneak peek at the dessert board.
No hospital would be complete without a basement prison.
Tim Bider is locked up until he finishes designing the interior of Frank's house.
Hate to say it, but Alex seems quite at home.
The almost perfect spiral parkade ramp.
Alexander is Vitamin D deficient and, sadly, also lacks the ability to separate good food from bad.
We returned to the Production Offices late - and hungry. Awaiting us was THIS.
Pasta so offensively bad I wanted to punch the chef in the face.
Alex on the other hand...

I ended up tossing my lunch and going out for a burger…

My Gourmet Burger burger with tomato, lettuce, mayo, mushrooms, and caramelized onions.

That’s it.  I’m going to have to start going out for lunch!

June 9, 2011: Oatmeal Snowman! Trevor screws up my page count! Stargate: SG-1 season 9! News of note!

Akemi’s latest breakfast bento creation: oatmeal snowman!

This morning, we checked out a new place, a cozy little apartment in the ritzy Yorkville district.  Pros: Upscale neighborhood, better oven, located close to gourmet shop Pusateri, and the woman who showed us the suite was gorgeous – but, in all fairness, I failed to inquire if she came with the place.  Cons: Longer drive to work, longer walk to the dog park, more traffic outside, father away from St. Lawrence Market, downtown restaurants, vet, doggy daycare, and Martin Gero.  Tough call but I have a feeling we’re staying put.  Akemi doesn’t like the cutlery in the new place.

In the words of little Ralphie from A Christmas Story: “Oooh fuuuudge!  Only I didn’t say ‘fudge”.”  After I incorporated all of the notes for the last draft of episode 3 of Transporter: The Series, the script came in at a weighty and wholly uproducable 60+ pages.  Sadly, since I’m prohibited from redirecting funds earmarked for frivolous expenditures (ie. my fellow Exec. Producers’ salaries, first aid supplies, etc.) toward overages, I had to make some trims to get the page count down. Following days of careful consideration and judicious cuts, I succeeded in bringing the script down to a much more manageable 52 pages.  Pleased, my work on episode #3 presumably complete for the time being, I redirected focus to my rewrite of episode #6.

Until Trevor, our assistant, noted a problem with my script format – specifically, the fact that my default format settings were incorrect.  Trevor corrected them. And in so doing, my 52 page script (formerly 60+ pages long) ballooned to 57 pages (formerly a hell of a lot longer).  Sigh!  So my first attempt to fix the problem – a.k.a. firing Trevor – while personally satisfying, did little to help address the page count.  In the end, I spent another two hours making the proper trims that brought the script down to 53 glorious pages.

On to production!

And a new assistant!

Thank you to those who pointed out my error in mistaking SG-1 season 9’s Beach Head for season 10’s The Pegasus Project.  I will rectify this oversight in the following weeks by switching it around and mistaking The Pegasus Project for Beach Head.

PROTOTYPE (909)

Alan McCullough scripts his first Stargate episode and, based on his efforts here, is invited to join the writing staff.  He’ll spend two seasons on SG-1 and four on Atlantis, working his way up to Supervising Producer, displaying not only good story sense but a real affinity for the editing room as well.  A great guy and much-appreciated member of the raucous writing room of Carl Binder, Marty G., Paul, and myself that produced Atlantis’s final two seasons.

This episode also marked the first appearance of actor Neil Jackson who would turn in an equally brilliant performance as the undercover wraith in Stargate: Atlantis’s fifth season episode, Vegas.

THE FOURTH HORSEMAN I (910)

When we broke this mid-season two-parter, we fully expected to have actor Sean Patrick Flannery reprise the role of Orlin.  Unfortunately, it turned out he was unavailable for both episodes.  As a result, we were forced to rethink his character’s role in the story.  In retrospect, it was different but “good” different, offering up some terrific opportunities for both the Orlin character and Samantha Carter.  The part ended up being played by Cameron Bright who has gone on to play the role of Alec in the Twilight Saga.

It was great to have Don S. Davis back as General George Hammond.  I appreciated the fact that, even though he’d shifted focus to his art and enjoying his retirement, Don still found time to revisit with us.  Like most of my friends, we wound up connecting over our mutual appreciation for food and spent many an evening out on the town, bonding over everything from ribs to foie gras.

THE FOURTH HORSEMAN II (911)

In this episode, Earth officials attempt to contain an alien virus that spreads from Stargate Command to the United States, then North America and, eventually, the rest of the world.  And reporting on the breaking news are – well, news anchors and reporters.  And who better to play news and anchors and reporters then actual anchors and reporters.  Surprisingly, it happens all the time in film and television.  We auditioned a bunch of them and, quite frankly, they were all great, but ended up going with local television personalities Dawn Chubai and Dagmar Midcap.

The part of the Jaffa Aron is played by Chris Judge’s brother, Jeff, who I was a long-time regular at Chris’s notorious poker nights.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE (912)

I loved this episode and, as much as I’d like to lay some claim to it, this was all Paul, my writing partner (I was busy working on the next episode, Ripple Effect). One of the things I loved about working on Stargate was the freedom it gave us as writers.  We could tell a variety of stories – standalone, arc-driven, Earth-based, set off-world, SF, fantasy, horror, comedic, or dark.  In the case of Collateral Damage – standalone, off-world, SF, and dark, and it does all four incredibly well.

In the original pitch, it’s Teal’c who ends up imprisoned on an alien world, charged with a crime he didn’t commit despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Given Teal’c’s existing arc that season, we elected to make it a Mitchell story as it allowed us the opportunity explore his past.

The part of the doomed victim in this episode, Dr. Reya Varrick, is played by the lovely Anna Galvin who is one of a handful of actors who have appeared in all three Stargate series – as the mysterious Vanessa Conrad in one of my fave Atlantis episodes, Remnants, and then as Chloe Armstrong’s mother in Stargate: Universe.

How did I miss this?!  Past Book of the Month Club guest author Daryl Gregory is writing a new Planet of the Apes series for BOOM! Studios, one of my favorite new comic book publishers: http://www.darylgregory.com/comics/apes.aspx

Hey, fellow foodies, check it out!  Interview with my friend and fave chef Robert Belcham of Fuel/Refuel fame here: http://vancouverfoodster.com/2011/06/08/chef-robert-belcham/ – in which he makes mention of the unbelievable 30 course dinner he prepared for me before I left Vancouver (March 18, 2011: The Meal To End All Meals!).

Via Io9 – A site that uses facial recognition software to pair you up with the dog of your dreams.  My perfect match is apparently a beagle mix named Olly: http://www.doggelganger.co.nz/

June 4, 2011: A sneak peek at the standing sets for Transporter: The Series! They eyes (don’t) have it! The Stargate: SG-1 season 8 wrap-up!

Yesterday, we took walk through the preliminary standing sets for Transporter: The Series.

Granted, they still need a little work (and Paul, Alexander and I did have a few suggestions) but here’s a sneak peek at what we’ve got so far…

Frank's garage
House access from the garage
Kitchen and living room
Alexander takes a dip in the pool

Widen the pool, lengthen the back patio, a few tweaks here and there, and we’re ready to roll!

Yesterday, I went to see the optometrist to get my eyes checked (Why else?  Did you actually think I was going there for an oil change?).  After a number of tests that culminated in her giving me some eye drops that almost instantly had me resembling an anime character –

Actual photo of me taken yesterday.

– I was informed I had a slight astigmatism and racy optical nerves.  I assumed the latter was a compliment (my optic nerves are notoriously sexy and vivacious) but, sadly, it turned out to be a red flag for high blood pressure and other unpleasantness.  Fortunately, I remember having a full physical only recently that included passing grades on my full blood panel, blood pressure, and cholesterol tests (although I did lose marks mispronunciation of the word “awry” that I pronounced “awwwreee”).  I don’t remember how recent but I’m sure a quick check of the blog will turn up an approximate date that ends with 2011.  Of course that was back in Vancouver but I can’t think of anything that may have caused me undue stress over the last, oh, three months.

Anyway, the optometrist suggested I was Libra on the cusp of Scorpio needing reading glasses but suggested I could wait and see.  Unfortunately, that’s the problem.  I can’t see – especially when I’m reading in a dimly lit room after a day of computer work.  So I ordered a pair of reading glasses.  I lucked out and took advantage of a sale to score a very cool pair complete with horn rims, rhinestones, and a beaded aquamarine chain to keep from losing them.   And they came with a free cardigan!

So, where was I when I last left off my SG-1 reminiscences?  Oh, yeah!  The end of season eight…

Well, it was a bittersweet conclusion to the season – although, yet again, we were heading into those last few episodes assuming they would be SG-1’s last.  The plan was to pass the torch to young upstart spinoff Atlantis and transition SG-1 from the small screen to occasional dvd adventures.  Of course, plans change and, as a result, after a grueling year of producing 40 episodes of television, we were looking forward to another 40 episode year.

RECKONING II (817)

Baal, Anubis, the tok’ra, the Jaffa, the replicators, uneasy alliances, surprises, death and destruct – this episode has it all, concluding a multitude of outstanding stories in grand style.   For all the inter-galactic splendor and ship to ship battles, my favorite moments comes when O’Neill and co. blow the door to free Siler and others trapped inside.  Seconds after the explosion, Siler pokes his head up out from behind the table he is hiding behind – and discovers an enormous piece of shrapnel embedded in the tabletop only inches from his head.  The part of Siler was played by longtime SG-1 stunt coordinate Dan Shea who parlayed the occasional background role to an actual speaking part on the show.  To this day, he’s still doing the con circuit, traveling the world to meet his many, many fans.

THREADS (818)

And almost every story thread that wasn’t wrapped up in the previous episode gets wrapped up here: Anubis, Oma Desala, the Jaffa quest for freedom, Jacob/Selmak, stalker Pete, and Jack and Sam.  Well, sort of in the case of the latter.  We know both Jack and Sam end their standing relationships for. presumably, each other – but it’s not all that overt which, on the one hand, leaves the door open for future will they/won’t they but, on the other hand, is somewhat disappointing given that if there was ever an episode in which to get them together, this would have been it.  That aside, it was a terrific episode and Exec. Producer Robert Cooper packed so much into the script that the usual 42 minute running time wasn’t able to contain it.  As a result, a special 90 minute version was released (and later mistakenly omitted when the season 8 dvd was released, much to the displeasure of most fans).

MOEBIUS I (819)

What ever happened to all that cool tech SG-1 amassed over the course of their many adventures: the sarcophagus, the healing device, that time-traveling puddle jumper from It’s Good To Be King?  Well, glad you asked because the jumper makes a return appearance in this episode – before heading back for continued R&D (or, in our timeline, just staying right where it is).

Sabrina Gosling, Catherine Langford’s niece, is named after Sharon Gosling – author, editor, and freelance writer – who interviewed the cast and crew on numerous occasions over the course of SG-1’s lengthy run.

Alt. Carter’s “Now, just because my reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside doesn’t …” is a callback to the SG-1’s opener, Children of the Gods, and what has long been considered one of the most cringeworthy lines in the history of the franchise.

MOEBIUS II (820)

The end of an era!  Although the series continued, it did so in radically different fashion.  As far as finales go, this one ranks as one of my very favorites.  Given that it was a time travel story, there were plenty of arguments in the writers’ room on exactly what could and couldn’t work within the two-parter’s SF constraints but, in the end, we managed to get it all worked out and my writing partner, Paul, avoided a nervous breakdown.

May 27, 2011: Getting the Book of the Month Club back on track! More Dark Matter Designs! Mailbag!

Given my increasingly busy schedule, I’ve been finding it very difficult to set aside any time for reading.  As a result, I’ve shifted focus from novels to trade paperbacks which I find equally accomplished, just as enjoyable, yet also offer the added bonus of shorter narratives that don’t require a lengthy commitment. And this got me to thinking.  Present circumstances are ideal for me to do something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time: include the occasional trade paperback in our humble Book of the Month Club discussions.

And so, today, it gives me great pleasure to announce our Book of the Month Club is back, but with a comic book theme.

July’s Book of the Month Club pick is…

SWEETH TOOTH (VOL. 1: Out of the Woods) By Jeff Lemire

A cross between Bambi and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, SWEET TOOTH tells the story of Gus, a rare new breed of human/animal hybrid children, has been raised in isolation following an inexplicable pandemic that struck a decade earlier. Now, with the death of his father he’s left to fend for himself . . . until he meets a hulking drifter named Jepperd who promises to help him. Jepperd and Gus set out on a post-apocalyptic journey into the devastated American landscape to find ‘The Preserve’ a refuge for hybrids. 

This unique and haunting new series is written and illustrated by Eisner-nominated creator Lemire (The Essex County Trilogy) and colored by fellow Eisner nominee Jose Villarubia.

Discussion begins the week of July 4th with author Jeff Lemire!

And while we’re on the topic of comic books…

My editor at Dark Horse, Patrick Thorpe, forwarded me artist Garry Brown’s clothing designs for the characters of my upcoming comic book series, Dark Matter.  Check ’em out:

ONE is our rough-and-tumble hero and, as a result, his clothing should reflect this: cool yet functional.  He’s got to be able to kick ass and shoot ’em up, and look good doing it.

TWO needs something a little sleeker, a little more flexible to suit her fighting style.  Her forte is hand-to-hand combat and her skill and dexterity make her more than a match for anyone on board.  I’d make her boots a little more distinct, maybe make them a little higher and offer protection over the pads.  Also, as I told Patrick: “I want her blade to be less a knife and more of a stiletto.  You know, the kind you use to perforate people’s eardrums.”.

THREE is our resident bad-ass and his clothing should reflect his roughneck persona.  Again, functionality is key for a guy whose most cherished possessions are his wicked sidearms.  The fingerless gloves are a terrific touch, suggesting a desire for the heady tactile experience of squeezing a trigger.

FOUR is our warrior, possessed of dignity, inner-strength, and quiet ruthlessness.  This clothing reflect this nobility of spirit with a nod to the samurai.  Little touches like the more pronounced shoulders and sash give him a more unique and polished style.

FIVE’s spunky personality comes through in her steampunk style: harness, heavy work boots, and oversized gloves.  The goggles – perfect for impromptu riveting jobs – should also come with a night-vision option that allow her to scuttle through the ship’s darker recesses with relative ease.

SIX is our big bruiser with the heart of gold and fists of stone.  We want his clothing to be practical yet comfortable, an outfit that would allow to perform his shipboard duties with ease yet also lift someone over his head and heave them screaming through a plate glass window.

What do you guys think?

BTW – Dark Matter hits the shelves in January of 2012.  Circle the month!

Whew!  What a day!  Worked on my rewrite of episode 3 (formerly episode 2) of Transporter: The Series, digested another round of notes for episode 6 (formerly episode 5), wrote and rewrote the first season episode summary tracking the show’s various character and mythology arcs, signed off on Carl’s one-pager, and discussed Janet Jackson’s affinity for coffee enemas with Alexander.  My work here is done!

Mailbag:

tidusspear08 writes: “Can you speak German?”

Answer: English, Fresh, Italian, and Japanese but, alas, no German.  Fortunately, Alex is here to deal with all German inquiries.

majorsal writes: “is brad going to come to the blog and talk ‘stargate: revolution’? or carl?”

Answer: Remains to be seen.  I’ll talk to Carl once he finishes work on his latest script for us.

Lou Zucaro writes: “So are you and/or Akemi spending any time looking for a new place since this one is so chaud?”

Answer: Yep.  Hopefully we’ll find something soon.  Barring that, I suspect we’ll spend the summer sleeping on the balcony.

Alex Crawford writes: “I decided to post here since you would actually ‘read this’ d hopefully respond. I have a solution for SGU. Can you please sent this message through to MGM. I talked to “The Syzgy Network”, a new channel coming in 2012. “

Answer: Unfortunately, the fate of the franchise is out of my hands.  This is a matter that can only be addressed by the studio, MGM.

jojo writes: “Have you found that your language skills have come in handy with the European crew and locations? Will you have to go to europe to oversee filming or will you have your hands full in Toronto?”

Answer: I haven’t had the opportunity to speak much French yet but suspect I will once our stunt coordinators hit Toronto.  And, no, I won’t be heading overseas. I’ll be here in Toronto, either writing/rewriting scripts or prepping and producing episodes.

enectrixx writes: “How come some civilizations (like the Touched in The Broca Divide and the Cimmerians) are so primitive and still have the same culture, behaviour, etc as when they were taken from Tau’ri when they’ve had hundreds or thousands of years to evolve?”

Answer: Could be a multitude of reasons why some civilizations adapt and evolve more rapidly than others.  The use of tools and the adoption of farming practices, for instance, are huge game-changers that would certainly accelerate development.

enectrixx also writes: “Do you have any explanation as to why all the alien cultures (except the Goa’uld and a few others) speak fluent modern english?”

Answer: In my mind, every time a traveller stepped through the gate, they were reassembled on the other side with the benefit of translator nanites that allowed them to not only understand but be understood in turn.  Some languages (like the goa’uld tongue) proved resistant to the technology.

Squishy writes: “Hey Joe, thanks for the updates on Transporter! Just wondering; what language will you guys using for the series? English only? or perhaps some french/german influences?”

Answer: If we’re in Germany or France, we will be hearing some German or French.  It’ll be entirely location dependent.

Dale writes: “The Lucien Alliance seemed to have greater for-knowledge about Destiny and as to what it really was than anyone involved in Stargate Command. I was left with the impression they (SGC) had no idea what on the other end of the 9th chevron address, but L/A seemed to know a lot more and were prepared for what they were to encounter when they arrived. I realize Telford probably fed them some intel, but I have a hard time believing what he could have given them would have been enough (ie the gadget that opens the locked doors). Ginn mentions in “Aftermath” about legends and stories told about it. Were there any plans to expand on what the L/A knew about Destiny and where that information came from?”

Answer: I think much of it is there in the show.  The information they had heard was almost mythic in nature until Telford, acting as their mole, provided them with detailed information regarding Destiny.

Dale also writes: “Were there any plans in future seasons to introduce any ascended Ancients as guest characters that might ‘walk the line’ to help out the Destiny Crew, in a similar way that Oma or Morgan le Fay did in SG-1?”

Answer: There were no immediate plans to do so.  If someone had pitched the idea, I probably would have done my best to kill the story.  I accept the Ancients as an ethereal background element to our story but object to having all-powerful beings intercede in mortal affairs.

Dale also writes: “You mentioned in the past technologies that you felt shouldn’t have been introduced in past Stargates as they hurt the ‘drama’ of the stories (such as beaming tech). Was there much debate about having the “Stones” be present as a plot-device?”

Answer: Yep.  Not everybody in the writers’ room liked the stones.  That said, they did offer a creative opportunity to contact Earth and get off the ship in a manner that wouldn’t blow the budget.

Randomness writes: “Speaking of which, is being in Toronto cutting down on your anime time too Joe?”

Answer: Yes.  I’ve stopped picking up new releases because I simply don’t have time to watch them.  Looking forward to catching up in a big way in 2012.

Randomness also writes: “Transporter does sound like it has a heck of a lot more stuff to organize than the average Stargate season, am I right Joe?”

Answer: Absolutely. When Paul and I joined the production in SG-1’s fourth season, Stargate was a well-oiled machine.  We dealt with the studio that left us alone to do our thing, and one major broadcaster supplying notes (SciFi eventually; we never received notes from Showtime).  Transporter: The Series, on the other hand, is a new show we’re building from the ground up with many more parties involved.

Randomness also writes: “Do you think Brad will produce a new Science Fiction show Joe?  Doesn’t have to be Stargate, but does he have anything planned, or any ideas?”

Answer: Don’t know but I’d love to see him get yet another SF series off the ground.

Ayrton1 writes: “How did you get to the scene “Numa Numa” :D it was really great, have you some interesting story from behind of scene? How did you think it up?”

Answer: Thanks/blame writer-producer Carl Binder for that one.  He was looking for a suitably annoying tune for the otherwise solemn scene and, after much consideration, went with Numa Numa.  The perfect choice.

enectrixx writes: “How come the concept of time is the same on almost all the planets SG-1 and SGA visited? Is it just to make the story easier to tell or do you and the others have any explanation?”

Answer: Whenever possible, we tried to avoid any off-world time references.  In fact, we spoofed this very subject in Wormhole Xtreme with a scene in which the alien princess notes: “It has been many bleems since my people were enslaved by the minions of Lord Varlock”.

enectrixx also writes: “Also, every time they visit a planet in SG, they just scout the immediate area (a few kilometers) around the gate. Does the SGC send other teams afterwards that investigate the whole planet (or a lot of it)?”

Answer: Given the gate’s importance, it would stand to reason that any reasonably advanced race worth pursuing contact with would build their civilization around (or in close proximity to) the stargate.  That said, I’m sure the SGC followed up initial exploration with follow up missions.

May 25, 2011: More Transporter: The Series Casting Announcements! Another Dark Matter Character Design! Stargate: Extinction Secrets Revealed!

Sacre bleu!  Two more casting announcements for my new show, Transporter: The Series!

As most of you already know, actor Chris Vance (Prison Break, Mental, Dexter, and Burn Notice) will be donning the driving gloves in the role of Frank Martin, the Transporter who delivers anything, anywhere – for a price.  Andrea Osvart will play his handler, Carla, an ex-CIA agent who deals with the details so Frank can concentrate on the job.  Also joining the cast…

Who better to play the role made famous by actor Francois Berléand in the Transporter films than, well, actor Francois Berléand.  That’s right. Inspector Tarconi makes the transition from the big screen, bringing his charming, world-weary self to series television.  And joining him…


Actress Delphine Chanéac (who you genre fans may remember from the movie Splice) has been cast in the role of the mysterious Olivia. What makes Olivia so mysterious?  Well, you’ll have to tune in to find out.  Mysterious,no?

On the comic book side, my upcoming series for Dark Horse – Dark Matter – continues to come together.  I’ve been working with artist Garry Brown and editor Patrick Thorpe on the layouts or issue #1.  I am very, VERY happy.  Check out the prelim character design for the singular seventh member of the crew –

Chotto sinister, no?

Finally – by now, I had hoped to hear back on the ultimate faith of Stargate: Extinction (Novel? Comic book? Radio play? Performance art piece?) but, alas, it’s been very quiet.  I will say that when Paul and I set out to write the script for the proposed Stargate: Atlantis movie, we did so in the hopes that, ultimately, it wouldn’t be produced as a movie at all but as the first two episodes of SGA’s sixth season. Codenamed “Project Twilight”, it would have focused on the city of Atlantis, its personnel, and the journey back to home to the Pegasus Galaxy.  Ideally, that would set the stage for the thrilling 18 episodes to follow – or, at the very least, the jumping off point for future SGA movies.

The movie would have picked up not long after the events of the season 5 finale, Enemy at the Gates.  In the opening scene, two astronauts (who turn out to be a couple of familiar faces – Amelia Banks and Major Lorne) take a walk on the surface of the moon, their lunar stroll ending with a reveal of the city of Atlantis.  A shuttle carrying Sam Carter and a group of dignitaries sweeps overhead and lands.

Within the city’s atmospherically shielded confines, Carter and her guests meet up with the science team headed by – who else? – Rodney McKay.  Frustrated by the interruption to his ongoing research, McKay demonstrates a certain impatience with the whole dog-and-pony show, running through standards explanations, overviews, questions, and answers until – an alarm suddenly sounds.  The bewildered dignitaries are ushered out, leaving McKay, Carter, and Zelenka to investigate.

An examination of the city’s systems reveal the worst.  A self-destruct has been initiated – a safeguard, Rodney surmises, put in place by the Ancients in the event Atlantis was ever removed from the Pegasus Galaxy.  And, once triggered, it cannot be disabled.  Nothing short of a return to the Pegasus Galaxy will save the city from certain destruction.

Of course, getting it there is easier said than done…

Anyway, that was the basic premise: A seeming new beginning.  A threat to the city.  And a desperate bid to outrace a deadly countdown.

But who would join the journey?  How would they get back to Pegasus? And what challenges would they face along the way?

More on that in the coming days.

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to birthday gals Chevron7 and SarahL.

May 20, 2011: Transporter: The Series Casting News! V1 Jets President Andrew Zarrow Comes Through! Stargate: SG-1 Season 7 Memories!

Today, it gives me great pleasure to announce: We have our Frank!

Pictured above (looking suave, tough, and all sorts of charming) is Chris Vance as Frank Martin, The Transporter.  He delivers anything, anywhere, no questions asked – for a price.

We auditioned a ton of very talented actors for the part but, ultimately, Chris stood out as, well, just damn perfect for the role.  And once Transporter: The Series premieres in early 2012, I know you’ll agree.

In other Transporter: The Series casting news…

The beautiful Andrea Osvart has signed on to play the role of Carla, Frank’s handler and partner in danger.  Again, we saw some terrific talent in the auditions but, in the end, it was Andrea’s smart, sexy, self-confident portrayal of our ex-CIA op that won everyone over.

The Movie Network and Movie Central Sign on as Canadian Partners for Transporter-The Series

  • Based on the popular Transporter theatrical franchise, series is set to go into production in Toronto in July
  • Partners include QVF Inc. and HBO/Cinemax
  • Series stars Chris Vance from Prison Break

(May 20, 2010) – Astral’s The Movie Network (Eastern Canada) and Corus Entertainment’s Movie Central (Western Canada) today announced their participation in the 12-part action series Transporter-The Series. Based on the high-octane Transporter films, the series is an international co-production between The Movie Network and Movie Central, Canada’s QVF Inc., M6 and Atlantique Productions in France, Germany’s RTL Group and HBO/Cinemax in the U.S.

“The Movie Network is all about premium entertainment and we’re proud to add this made-in-Canada big-budget action series to our original content offering,” said Aubie Greenberg, Director, Original Programming, Movie Services, Astral Television. “The theatrical Transporter franchise has connected with audiences on The Movie Network and around the world through its iconic characters and frenetic pace. We’re excited to further this connection through participation in such a large-scale production, especially one that takes our long-standing partnership with HBO to the next level.”

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Cinemax, M6 and RTL Television,” said Jocelyn Hamilton, Vice President, Original Programming, Kids, Comedy, Drama, Corus Entertainment. “As a franchise, Transporter offers a solid fan base with appeal to grow into an exciting series. Filming in Toronto with our world class production partners, the action-filled series will bring the beloved character of Frank Martin to premium television.”

Based on the popular film franchise of the same name created by Luc Besson, this fast-paced series follows the adventures of professional transporter Frank Martin (Chris Vance), who can always be counted on to get the job done. Operating in a seedy underworld of dangerous criminals and desperate players, Frank plays by three rules: never change the deal, no names and never open the package. Occasionally, complications arise and rules get broken. Good thing Frank can improvise. The series will premiere on HBO Canada in 2012.

Transporter-The Series is a France/Canada co-production produced by Atlantique Productions SA (Klaus Zimmermann) and QVF Inc. (Susan Murdoch). Executive producers are Luc Besson, Alexander Ruemelin, Fred Fuchs, Robert Cooper, Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie.

Thanks to The Movie Network and Movie Central for recognizing all of our hard work!

I’m also pleased to report some great news on the V1 Jets front.  My disagreement with the company over a recent jet charter has been settled to my immense relief and satisfaction.  Company President Andrew Zarrow called me personally after being made aware of the problem.  After discussing the outstanding issue with me at length, he promised to look into the matter and get back to me asap.  Well, he was good to his word, calling me back the very next day to explain V1’s position and present a solution that has happily put the matter to rest.  A stand-up guy!  A big thank you to Andrew for wasting no time in stepping in, getting involved, and taking care of this customer.

When last I left off my Stargate reminiscences…

LIFEBOAT (707)

An acting tour-de-force for Michael Shanks who delivers a multitude of terrific performances in an episode that sees him playing several different characters. Guest star James Park’s portrayal of the doomed Pharrin is also incredibly touching and the perfect compliment to Michael’s multi-layered turn.  Brad had the idea for this story back in season six but, since he’d constructed the story for Daniel who had since left this mortal coil, he’d shelved it indefinitely.  When Michael came back to the show the following year, however, Brad was able to dust it off and put it back in play.  It’s one of those self-contained pure SF stories, like Revisions (and the episodes Brad used to produce in his Outer Limits days), that always appealed to me in much the same way that I always preferred the stand-alone horror X-Files episodes over the arc-driven entries.

ENEMY MINE (706)

Enemy Mine was the working title of this episode which, like Watergate before it, went from placeholder title to official title before anyone could do anything about it.  FYI, past placeholder titles that didn’t make it to official status include: Teal’c Interrupted, Turn of Events, Dark Gambit, Flowers for McKay, CSI: Atlantis, Ad Infinitum, Remember When, and Beckett Returns.

Writer/Director Peter DeLuise excelled at stories that, like this one, focused on the show’s rich mythology, building upon the races and characters established in previous episodes and developing them in interesting, often surprising, ways.

SPACE RACE (708)

Working on Stargate was a writer’s dream in that it offered a host of wide-ranging opportunities when it came to scripting an episode.  The stories could be arc-driven or standalone, Earth-bound or off-world centered, mythological in nature or purely scifi, dramatic or humorous.  And, every so often, we occasionally did those departure episodes that stood out all the more in the uniqueness of their narrative or execution.  Space Race was one of those episodes and, as a result and to no one’s surprise, was a little divisive went it came to fan opinion.  Some fans loved it.  Others hated it.  Still, whatever negative response it may have received online paled in comparison to the scorn heaped upon…

AVENGER 2.0 (709)

Okay, in retrospect the title was one of the best things about this episode.  We shot Felger’s apartment at the Accent Inn across the street from The Bridge Studios (where we also shot Ronon and Sheppard watching BSG on motel t.v., Teal’c enjoying the thousand finger massage in Point of No Return, and the scene of Kinsey’s shooting in Smoke and Mirrors).  In the original script, Felger is painting his Warhammer figures but the gang at Warhammer nixed the idea because they felt suggesting a character like him (ie. brilliant scientist) played Warhammer would depict the game in an unfavorable light.  So we went with Stargate action figures instead.

At one point in the episode, Felger makes reference to an old science professor of his named Mr. Hoffman.  This was a salute to one of my own high school teachers, Mr. Hoffan, a knowledgeable man in his own right.  Once, during a class, he informed me that the chocolate bar I was snacking on could contain a maximum of three hairs and one rat turd according to regulations set down by the Canadian Food and Drug Administration.  For my part, I always avoided Charleston Chews which seemed to allow for roughly twice that.

BIRTHRIGHT (710)

Actor Chris Judge’s second foray into scripting sees him tackle Jaffa cultural constraints, sexism, and uneasy alliances.  Apparently, he wrote the part of Ishta for Jolene Blaylock.  Thankfully, she was available to play the role.  The episode also features a cameo by Executive Producer Michael Greenburg’s wife, Nicky. At one point in the episode, she rides by on a horse and shouts something.

May 13, 2011: Okay, try to keep up! The Transporter Team! Dark Matter Ship Designs! Movement on the Anime Front! Stargate: SG-1 Season 6 Memories! Notes on Network Notes! And I Answer Your Stargate Questions!

When Stargate finally ended, I figured I’d take a year off to relax and recharge.  As it turns out, 2011 is shaping up to be quite the opposite.

As you all know (or should know if you’ve been reading this blog) my writing partner Paul and I have made the move to Toronto in order to assume co-showrunning duties on Transporter: The Series alongside German wunderkind Alexander Ruemelin.  Everyone involved, from the broadcasters to the production personnel, has been terrific so far and I’m very excited about the scripts we have in play.  The show is going to be a lot of fun and I have no doubt a lot of you will really enjoy what we have in store for you.  Like the movies, we’ve got an incredibly charming hero, high-stakes, eye-popping action, and, best of all, a sense of humor. One of the elements we all loved about the film franchise was the signature fight sequences, like the iconic motor oil fight scene in the first movie (Transporter).  They stood out because they were unique and that’s something we’ll be delivering in every episode – clever, colorful fight scenes and car stunts that will have you reaching for the rewind button.  And how will we achieve such audacious onscreen exploits.  Well, I’ve got to names for you: Cyril Rafaelli and Michel Julienne.  The former was the fight choreographer on Transporter 2 and the awesome Banlieue 13 – Ultimatum; the latter the car stunt coordinator on Transporter, Transporter 2, and Transporter 3.  They’re the very best in their respective fields and they’ll be working on our show!

Also on deck for me is Dark Matter, my SF comic book series.  Originally envisioned as a television series, I spent two years working on the story, fleshing out the characters, developing their relationships, and plotting every surprising twist and turn.  Last year, we closed a deal with Dark Horse Comics that will see the series take comic book form.  The opening four-issue arc launches in January of 2012.  Things are coming together fast and furious now.  My editor, Patrick Thorpe, has been forwarding me the preliminary designs and layouts artist Garry Brown has been working on.  The other day, I received the early concept sketches for some of the ships  Check them out –

In the script, I describe the ship's interior as more Nostromo than Enterprise. I wanted rough and tumble, wear and tear. A ship that looks like it's being held together by bubblegum and rubber bands - but is still deadly as hell.

The Fixed-Wing Pursuer. A two-person fighter with maximum maneuverability.
The Phantom Marauder: the cargo ship for the discerning smuggler.
A G.A. Class B Pacifier.

Very exciting stuff!

I also got a call from Ryan Copple, writer and Executive Producer of Riese: The Series.  Before leaving for Toronto, we got together and discussed the possibility of partnering up to produce a live-action series based on an existing anime property.  We tossed potential titles back and forth, narrowed down our list and, today, Ryan reports we have some serious developments on one of my favorite prospects.  We get into it next week.  Fingers crossed.

When I last stepped off memory lane, I was heading into Stargate: SG-1’s sixth season, a season of change and fan unrest.  Michael Shanks had left the show and actor Corin Nemec brought in.  Corin’s character, Jonas Quinn, introduced in season five’s Meridian, became the new fourth team member.  But it took Jack a while to warm up to the guy.  Some fans, on the other hand, never quite warmed up to a character who, in their eyes, could never replace their beloved Daniel Jackson.  I sympathized with Corin, a really nice guy eager to impress, who unwittingly walked into a firestorm of fan fury.

One of my fondest memories of Corin was his affinity for food props.  Whether it was lollipops, toast, or bananas, Jonas always seemed to be feeling peckish. Maybe he suffered from low blood sugar.  I don’t know.  Whatever the case, that was his “thing”.  One day, Corin decided to drop the food in favor of a mug of coffee.  That proved problematic because the drinking mug was Rick’s “thing”.  This was a running gag on the show, something we didn’t notice at first but, after someone pointed it out to us, would have us in stitches whenever we saw it onscreen.  I wonder if any of you noticed at home?  Whenever O’Neill has a cup or mug in hand, there will come a point in the scene where he’ll peer into it, frown, then dip his fingers in once, maybe twice, to retrieve some mystery object floating within – then carry on with the scene.  Over the course of Stargate’s run, it happened A LOT.  Apparently, Stargate Command had the dirtiest tea in Colorado.

The episodes…

REDEMPTION PART 1 (601)

Appropriately enough, Dr. Rodney McKay makes a return visit to the SGC and takes another giant step toward redemption – a process that would be completed by the time he assumed a lead position in the Atlantis expedition.  This episode was also notable for the introduction of the Jaffa Shaq’rel, an otherwise inconsequential but for the fact that the part was initially written for a certain NBA star who, according to Chris Judge at the time, was interested in doing the show.  Well, that never worked for whatever reason and while I won’t reveal the name of the basketball player, it really shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.

REDEMPTION PART II (502)

Looking back, this was the episode that cemented David Hewlett as a favorite guest star – so favored, in fact, that years later, when we were trying to cast the part of a medical doctor for the new spin-off, Atlantis, he immediately came to mind and Brad and Robert decided: “Screw that!  Let’s put McKay on the team!”. And the rest, as they say, is history.  Also in this episode, the role of Shaq’rel was played by Aleks Paunovic, who also returned to the franchise years later, but in a different role – playing Ronon’s former Satedan buddy, Rakai, in SGA’s Reunion.

DESCENT (503)

One sequence had Carter and O’Neill trapped in a chamber that was slowly filling with water.  We achieved this by actually doing the opposite.  We lowered the specially designed set into a pool, giving the impression that the water was actually rising.  We shot at Vancouver’s Olympic pool and it was a tough day. Rick and Amanda were very wet and very cold, and had to sport wet suits underneath their clothing to keep warm.  This episode also marked yet another cameo by Director Peter DeLuise, this time offering a tip of the hat to his old show, Seaquest, by playing the part of “Lieutenant Dagwood”.

FROZEN (504)

Early in the episode, one of the scientists claims his grandfather was “one quarter Cherokee”.  This was an in-joke and poke at actor Chris Judge who had made the same claim.  Also, at one point, Jack laments having forgotten to tape The Simpsons.  This, of course, paralleled RDA’s love for the long-running animated series. There were many times he would swing by my office to check out the collection of Simpsons talking figures I kept in my office.  Eventually, Rick’s love for the show culminated in a guest appearance by the voice of Homer Simpson himself, Dan Castellaneta – which was soon followed by Rick being asked to guest on The Simpsons.

NIGHTWALKERS (505)

This was one of my favorite episodes of the show’s sixth season simply because it was so different from other episodes we’d done – an old-fashioned small-town alien invasion story.  Loved the gang all decked out in leather.  Vincent Gale, who would later play the part of the cranky Carl Binder Morrison on Stargate: Universe, appears as Agent Cross.  The role of Sheriff Knox is played by the terrific Blu Mankuma, a good friend of the late Don Davis (General George Hammond).  Blu and I shared an affinity for ribs – lamb ribs in particular.  I loved them so much, in fact, that I was “the lamb rib” hotline. Whenever my favorite barbecue joint, The Memphis Blues BBQ Restaurant made a batch, they would give me a call and I’d drive right over.  I remember one night sitting down to a platter of ribs.  So wholly focused was I on devouring them that I didn’t even notice Blue until he was standing right beside me.  “Breathe,”he cautioned.

Mailbag:

BoltBait writes: “Any comment on this? http://www.gateworld.net/news/2011/05/an-open-letter-to-stargate-fans-%20%20from-syfy/

Answer: Back in the last few years of Stargate, I took to giving the network notes on their notes.  Essentially, I would go through the notes, address the concerns I could, then specifically respond to ones I couldn’t do or felt I shouldn’t do.  As I read this article, I felt like responding in similar fashion.  A lot of good points are raised.  On the other hand, a lot of baffling points are made as well.  For starters, I don’t think an official explanation on the part of SyFy is necessary.  While I can empathize with fans who object to the abruptness of the cancellation after ten years on the network, one has to understand that television is a business.  If SyFy has alternate scripted programming that performs better on Mondays or Tuesdays in the fall, then it’s understandable why they would choose those shows over a third season of SGU.  That said, certain statements in the article had me scratching my head…

“When MGM decided to bring Stargate Atlantis to an end after five seasons…”

Hmmmm.  Not to belabor the point (because I have discussed this in past entries) but, at the time, when we asked the studio whether or not there was any interest on their part in producing a sixth season of Atlantis, I was told that, while the increased budget made a season six less attractive for them, there were other reasons to do it (ie. as a lead-in to the new series).  I wasn’t privy to the final decision-making process so it’s possible that the studio had an 11th hour change of heart – but I’m not sure why they would have.

“Because Stargate SG-1 and had performed so well for us in the past, we felt confident about SGU and committed to a two-season deal for it, as long as the show met certain milestones along the way. Two-season deals are rare in the TV world because they tie up a huge amount of investment (both time and money), but our great track record with MGM and Stargate made this seem like as much of a sure thing as you’ll get in the TV business. That means before any footage was shot or any actors were hired, we knew there’d be 40 episodes.”

Craig rightly points out that the second year pick-up was contingent on the show’s first season meeting “certain milestones”.   Which makes the last sentence: “That means before any footage was shot or any actors were hired, we knew there’d be 40 episodes.” somewhat debatable – unless he’s suggesting that the network was insanely optimistic at the time.  If the first season had not met the milestones set forth in the original deal, there would have been no guarantee of a second season pick-up.

“The show quickly moved forward and officially launched on October 2, 2009. The debut was watched by a good if not spectacular 2,779,000 viewers. To give that some perspective, Stargate Atlantis debuted with over 4 million viewers, so SGU was more than 25% below that.”

File this one under baffling.  Comparing the SGA premiere to the SGU premiere overlooks is grossly unfair.  First – Atlantis premiered during the summer while Universe – originally slated for a fall premiere – premiered in the much more competitive fall.  Second the time between the two premiere has seen a significant increase in DVR usage and internet downloads, and a simultaneous erosion in live viewership.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but I don’t think so.  Simply put, back when Atlantis aired, fewer viewers were recording or downloading television and many more were watching television live.

“With untenably low numbers and no sign of growth on Fridays where it had now lost 1/3 of its initial audience, we decided to move SGU for its second season. We’d had tremendous success on Tuesday’s with our breakout hit Warehouse 13, so we paired SGU with Caprica and moved them to Tuesdays, hoping to introduce both shows to a new audience.”

Sigh.  Okay, look – while I understood (and supported) the move to Tuesday night and the pairing with Caprica, I nevertheless take exception to the assertion that the network had enjoyed “tremendous success on Tuesday’s with [their] breakout hit Warehouse 13”.  While Warehouse 13 certainly aired on Tuesdays, it did so in the summer (where, I’d like to reiterate, SGU was originally scheduled to air).

“We moved the final 10 episodes of SGU to Monday nights where we’d just had success with a new show called Being Human, but the ratings remained flat.”

Okay but, realistically, the series had already been canceled so I’m not sure how much reasonable audience growth could be expected at that point.

Like I said – television is a business and decisions are driven by the bottom line.  All the same, we were on the network for ten years.  When my last relationship ended after 10+ years, we enjoyed a nice post break-up wrap-up dinner.  Just saying.

Mr. Scirev writes: “Will there be a box set of all SGU?”

Answer: Eventually, I’m sure there will.

MNP writes: “My only disappointment (other than the scandal thing, which I hadn’t noticed before now) was that the possibility of uploading was never even brought up in the episode. Surely Rush would think of such a thing?”

Answer: Not sure what you mean.  Uploading one’s consciousness to Destiny would be a last resort.  Their body would die even though their mind would live on.

Randomness writes: “Just wondering Joe, why wouldn’t you be a part of the shows second season? I highlighted this part of your answer to Tammy as I was more curious in knowing. So are you planning to join another show, or another project? Or is Toronto not growing on you?”

Answer: As I said, I have no doubt Transporter: The Series will go at least two seasons (probably more).  That said, I think it would be presumptuous of me to assume I’ll necessarily be along for the long ride.  I love the show and the people I work with but, once work on the first season has been completed, our contract is up and no one is beholden to anything.  Who knows what the future holds?

stacy fincher writes: ” I did have a question for you did you are the other ever think of the dimities of the Destiny how big it was?”

Answer: Sorry, that’s something I never gave much thought to – although the design team and VFX crew certainly did.  Head on over to twitter and ask VFX Supervisor Mark Savela.

David Knowles writes: “Your Dark Matter comic, just wondering if is Scifi and is there anything about the plot, either in one of your previous blogs or somewhere on the web.”

Answer: Yes, definitely scifi and, no, I haven’t really talked about it.  As things are moving quickly now and we have an artist on board, I thought I would share in the exciting developments.

Joe Cool writes: “if we gathered fans to donate money and started a project on kickstarter.com for you guys to be able to continue some form of production on the stargate canon (whether it be a movie or a comic book or webisodes or what have you) do you think that could be beneficial at all?”

Answer: Afraid not.  MGM owns Stargate and the final decision on what gets produced and when rests with them.

Expletive:BMP writes: “Mr Joe, how much would it cost to have Kino episodes with Just Eli trying to fix the problem with the stasis pod, and other such adventures?”

Answer: Unfortunately quite a bit since, in a matter of weeks, those sets will no longer exist.

William Francais writes: “Was there ever any discussion of resolving the DHD problem Or bringing on races similar to that of Atlantis?”

Answer: I want to say “yes and no” but am not exactly sure what you mean by DHD problem and races similar to that of Atlantis?  Are you referring to the crew’s reliance on the remotes and an alien species like the wraith?

Vinci writes: “so right now your saying that is mostly likely that stargate universe will not continue?”

Answer: Yes.  Sadly, that is what I’m saying.

Dr. D. writes: “Is “Dark Matter” a comic book or graphic novel (or do you consider those terms synonymous)?”

Answer: It will launch as a comic book series and, somewhere down the line, have its individual story arcs collected in trade paperback form (a graphic novel).

Sparrow_hawk writes: “So are you going to move on to answering SG:A questions next? If so, please tell us: what happened to poor Todd.”

Answer: Will do.

Tammy Dixon writes: “So, at least, two seasons in Toronto but will you get summers in Vancouver?”

Answer: Nope.  We shoot summers.

max writes: “Joe, you mentioned that the fate of the SG movies hinged on DVD sales, so given that no SG movies will be made, would you characterise the sales of DVDs as unusually disappointing for MGM and Syfy?”

Answer: DVD sales have dropped significantly over the past few years.  They’ve been unusually disappointing for everyone.

Zac writes: “Do you think it would have been possible for either Eli or Rush to use the neural link of Destiny to project her surroundings into her head… kinda like when TJ was doing surgery and saw Amanda Perry?”

Answer: An interesting idea, but I don’t think the neural link works that way.

Balial writes: “now that SGU is sadly over, could you please tell us, who The planet builders from episode Faith were? What kind of civilisation or society they were? Something more powerfull than the ascended ancients, or something different?”

Answer: We envisioned the planet-builders as an extremely advanced race who, while very powerful, differed significantly from the Ancients.  They didn’t possess the extensive knowledge of the Ancients nor did they, at any time, evolve from a physical form similar to ours.  Brad threw around the idea of having them pay us a personal visit at some point – but, like so many others, we’ll file that one under “season 3 stories that might have been”.

Ulrike Tannenberg writes: “How would Rush have fared later on?”

Answer: I don’t know.  We would have continued to develop him as an individual who walks the line between darkness and light, someone capable of touching surprises and crushing disappointments.

scottland7 writes: “On a different topic do you think you could have a guest or two on your blog to take questions?”

Answer: I’ll see what I can do.

My Name Is Scott writes: “Did anyone in the writer’s room have that moment between Teyla and Ronon in mind (can’t remember the ep) whenever Teyla’s lack of mercy in front of Sheppard was devised?”

Answer: Motherhood was just one of several life changes that affected Teyla for the better.  Although it wasn’t a conscious decision on our part to do this, it’s fairly obvious that it did change the way we were writing her character.  I think that, after the birth of her son, she became more focused, cautious, but also more a realist when it came to threats like Michael.

Marc writes: “do you think a real stargate movie (in the theatres I mean) could be successful and a possible future for the franchise?”

Answer: It’s a possible scenario – but, I imagine, I long way off.

sss writes: “whether it is possible to agree on the extension of the franchise to another channel in another country?”

Answer: Alas, no.  Not possible.

Rhyney writes: “Is there a chance that you and the other authors could come together to write Extinction and Revolution as comic books, as well as a continuing SGU comic series with your advisorial support?”

Answer: This might be an option MGM could pursue in the not too distant future, but its doubtful any of the writers involved in the production would be the ones to write any comic book continuation of the series.

DougIndy writes: “On another note, do you think it is impossible that there will ever be another sg1, atlantis, or universe dvd movie? Has the studio closed the door on those 3 shows for good or is it more of a not now?”

Answer: Unfortunately, I have no idea what the studio has planned.

Prior_of_the_Ori writes: “I wanted to ask, was there any talk of who created the Berserker drones?”

Answer: If you’re asking whether we considered the possibility that the crew’s descendants were responsible for creating the drones – yes, that was one possibility floated.

Prior_of_the_Ori also writes: “Also, wanted to ask, would Rob Cooper be able to answer questions like whether there was a Stargate network in the Ori galaxy?”

Answer: Rob has been pretty busy of late.  Maybe once his schedule eases up a bit.

Alfredo De La Fe writes: “What are your thoughts of the fan attempts at convincing SyFy and MGM to reconsider?”

Answer: Love the fans and wish them luck!

May 10, 2011: Thanks for the thanks! Transporter: The Series! My Comic Book series!

I’d like to start off today’s entry with a huge “Thank you” for all the “Thank you’s”.  A lot of the people who brought you Stargate over the years do frequent this blog, and I know I speak for all of them when I say your kind words are much appreciated.  Thanks for taking the time to post your comments.  And thanks for supporting the franchise, whether you were fans of SG-1, Atlantis, Universe, or, ideally, all three.

As promised, I will be fielding your questions on Gauntlet, the SGU series finale, as well as any SGU-related queries you may have.  So, start posting.

Later this week, in addition to providing answers to those questions, I’ll also shed some light on the script for Gauntlet, what we had in store for the show’s third season, and what the heck the SGA movie, Stargate: Extinction, was all about.

Well, even though Stargate has ended, this blog will continue to be a gate-friendly place where fans of the franchise can gather, discuss the shows, and, occasionally, gain some insight into the behind-the-scenes thoughts and efforts that went into bringing them to you.

In addition, this blog will also, hopefully, be a place where you’ll come to follow my further professional exploits.

First up is the new series Paul and I are Exec. Producing alongside the ever-jubilant Alexander “Sunshine” Ruemelin…

Transporter: The Series is based on the Luc Besson film franchise (The Transporter, Transporter 2, Transporter 3) and will be speeding your way in early 2012 (?), delivering adventure, attitude, and high-octane action.  In addition, you can expect captivating characters, stunning car stunts, fantastic fight sequences, and a pervading sense of humor guaranteed to hook you from the get-go.

Earl 2012 will also see the release of that comic book series I’ve been talking about.  With two scripts done, another two on deck, and design work underway, I thought it was high time I shared a little more information on the project.  First, our publisher…

Very cool.  Paul and I are very excited to be working with Dark Horse Comic (Hellboy, Umbrella Academy, The Goon – to name but a few of many) and our editor, Patrick Thorpe, who has been nothing short of amazing so far.  Also, after considering many worthwhile candidates, we finally have an artist for our book – the incredible Garry Brown.  Head on over and check out his work here: http://garrybrownart.daportfolio.com/

Yesterday, Garry’s preliminary character designs…

Our crew, ONE through SIX.  Can’t tell you how excited and pleased I was by these preliminary designs.  My thoughts:

ONE: I describe him as a Ben Browder type – charming and a bit of a goof.  The relationship between ONE and THREE will form the core of the series and
I see them as opposites.  ONE, of course, symbolizing light and hope; THREE symbolizing darkness and despair.  To that end, I’d like to play up the contrasts a little more.  ONE is pretty damn close, I just don’t think he should be quite so rough.  I’d give him the lighter hair.

TWO: The crew’s de facto no-nonsense leader.  I think Garry’s take is perfect.

THREE: A true bad-ass – as already stated, he is the flipside to ONE’s coin.  A mercenary through and through, I like his look here a lot.  I suggest scarring him up a bit.  If I’m casting this comic book, I’m eyeing Mike Dopud for the role.

FOUR: Eurasian, androgynous, silent, and stoic.  He needs to be prettier, more androgynous, with longer, darker hair.

FIVE: Twelve year old, precocious ship mascot.  More pixyish, tiny, with a pixy cut.

SIX: A tough-as-hell goon with a heart of gold.  I think his look is great!

I sent my notes Patrick’s way.  In less than an hour, he forwarded me Garry’s revised character designs…

ONE: Changing the hair color makes a world of difference!  Love him.

THREE: A little more scarring and he’s ideal as well.

FOUR:  Getting there.  Still think he needs to be prettier, almost ethereal.

FIVE: Also closer, but she still feels too mature.

The next day, Patrick forwarded me two more takes on FOUR and FIVE…

Almost there for both!  At Patrick’s request, I sent along a couple of reference photos of what I was looking for.  It was easy enough for FOUR and I was having trouble finding something appropriate for FIVE until I came across a pic of Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass, Let Me In).

 Not long after, I was forwarded the revised-revised-revised character designs for the final two outstanding crew members:

Love ’em!  I’m very happy.

With the character designs agreed upon, we’re moving on to ships and suits!

All this to say both Garry and Patrick are fantastic.  If I’d known writing for comics was this much fun, I’d have skipped this whole t.v. thing!

May 4, 2011: Transporter pre-production update! Canada’s Space Channel pays us a visit! Further Stargate SG-1 season 5 reminiscences!

Al-most there!  I hit the 54 page mark of my second script for Transporter: The Series today.  I’ll take the night to think about the big showdown, then write it tomorrow along with the final scenes (surprise, goodbye, flashback, and SHOCK – in that order) after which I’ll be all done.  On the first draft anyway.  Paul continued work on his script for (what will now be episode 2).  And Alexander…oh, he kept busy as well…

The conference call scheduled for this afternoon has been rescheduled to tomorrow.  Rather than head home to consider the unique qualities of the episode 5 beatdowns, I hung around to do a quickie interview for Canada’s Space which will follow up Tuesday night’s series finale, Gauntlet, with a special Stargate-laden installment of Innerspace.  From what I hear, they got A LOT of interviews with Stargate personalities – David Blue, David Hewlett, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge, Louis Ferreira, Alaina Huffman, Brian J. Smith, and Jewel Staite (to name a few) – who’ll be talking about the franchise and its fans. Don’t miss it!

Producer Mark Askwith conducted the interview. Apparently, Mark is a huge comic book fan (he shares company with the likes of Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman in the Batman: Black & White collection) and has alerted me to an upcoming comic book show this weekend.
Michael does the heavy lifting. And shooting.
Sweet ride, no?

Interesting editorial over at Gateworld today: http://www.gateworld.net/news/2011/05/how-wrestling-is-killing-science-fiction/

Also, file this one under “You just noticed?”: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/03/business/media/03television.html?scp=1&sq=tv%20ownership&st=cse Thanks to Chad for the link.

Also, couldn’t resist including a link to one of the stupidest articles I’ve read in some time – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/eerie-links-between-harry-potter-184109  The “eerie links” cited?  Well, both Bin Laden and Voldemort are bad guys with bad minions (Al Queda and the Death Eaters respectively), Obama has been referred to as “the anointed one” by critics which is how Harry is referred to in the books (!), and Bin Laden died on May 1st while Voldemort perished on May 2nd (only one day apart!!!!).  Compelling, no?  No, I didn’t think so either.

Continuing our trip down memory lane, I pick up where I left off in the middle of SG-1’s fifth season.

One of the things I’d often heard about was the toxic on-set atmosphere on certain other shows.  I remember being told that things got so bad on one SF series that, the second the director yelled “Cut!”, the actors would march straight back to their trailers with nary a word or a look exchanged.  The crew was always on edge and it made for a very difficult working environment.  This was in marked contrast to Stargate where the mood was almost always relaxed and, dare I say it, a hell of a lot of fun.  Everyone enjoyed being there, and much of the credit for that rested with Richard Dean Anderson.  It’s often been said that number one on the call sheet sets the tone, and it’s true.  If your number one is miserable, he’ll make every single person on set miserable as well.  If, on the other hand, your number one is a t.v. veteran who loves what he’s doing and feels life is too short for petty on-set squabbles or power plays, then that positive attitude tends to influence the entire production.  Hey, I’m not saying it was always easy and that people never disagreed (ie. Boy, did Rick ever hate Prometheus) but there was always that mutual respect and sense that, in spite of any differences, all the parties would be back at it the next day, sharing a laugh and having a great time.  Rick, as I said, set the tone.  He was always good-humored and charming.  Amanda was an utter sweetheart, adept at pulling off the most challenging of tech talk in front of the camera, yet incredibly and down to earth behind it.  Michael was passionate and incredibly focused, but also kind and thoughtful.  Chris was the exact opposite of the stoic character he played: magnanimous, boisterous, generous.  And then there was Don, the southern gent, who, in many ways, was very much like the character he played: amiable, principled, and very likable.  And, over the years, through the show’s many changes, that’s how they remained.  Simply great people to work with.

DESPERATE MEASURES (511)

A couple of things stand out for me about this episode.  The first was that ridiculously long search sequence near episode’s end that included endless shots of Teal’c and Daniel going up and down stairs.  Yes, the episode was short!  Another thing was a slight dialogue change in O’Neill’s scene with the homeless man.  In the original version, O’Neill says “Yeah, and I’ve got a closet full of Playboys…”, but after some consideration (aka – getting a note requesting we change it), we elected to go with “National Geographics” instead which, while less Jack O’Neill, was certainly more Richard Dean Anderson.  Also the original draft of the script had a couple of very funny exchanges between the doctors who perform the procedure but after further consideration (aka – we received a note that O’Neill provided more than enough comedy for the episode and we didn’t need the guest stars delivering as well) we decided to love them.

WORMHOLE XTREME

Oh, boy, where to begin?  Over the years, I’ve referenced the multitude of in-jokes in this episodes, from the red spray-painted kiwis (a dig at Director Peter DeLuise who used those very alien-looking fruit in Beneath the Surface) to Hank Cohen’s cameo as a studio executive who suggests the show needs “You know what this show needs is a sexy female alien.” (art imitating life).  There’s our faux t.v. hero trying to negotiate a veritable minefield of corpses (a call back to The Fifth Man), someone ridiculing the one shot stuns, two shots kills, three shots disintegrates abilities of the alien weapon (Hello, zat guns), further ridiculing of doing an episode involving “out of phase” physics (we did plenty), another character’s assertion that they’ll surely win an Emmy…for visual effects (the best any scifi show can hope for), and much, much more.  The part of Grell, the Teal’c clone, was actually played by Chris Judge’s stand-in, Herbert, while the episode offered a host of cameos from behind-the-scenes personnel including a much heavier yours truly who demands to know “Hey, what happened to all the doughnuts?!”.  I recall Director Peter DeLuise making me do three takes, directing me: “You’re hungry!  You want some doughnuts!  But there are none!  You’re really hungry!” then “No doughnuts and you’re REALLY hungry!” and then: “Okay!  REALLY HUNGRY!”.  The day that scene was shot, I found my wardrobe awaiting me in the office: a lime green shirt and a pair of atrocious lime green plants.  I wore the shirt but passed on the pants.  Apparently, our Costume Designer did not take the news well.   “Writers,”she apparently muttered with a roll of her eyes.

I would love to dig up the outtakes and extra footage on this one.  One scene that ended up on the cutting room floor involved the character of Teal’c.  SG-1 and Hammond are watching the Wormhole Xtreme trailer at which point we do a PAN OFF the screen, across the briefing room table to Teal’c laughing uproariously and enjoying the hell out of the show – much to the bewilderment of his fellow team members.

PROVING GROUND (513)

Some episodes you hate at the pitch stage but end up warming up once the story has been broken.  Others, you hate at the outline stage but end up actually liking once the script comes in.  Still others, you may hate at the script stage but love once the episode is completed.  This is one of those rare episodes that I took issue with from start to finish and, to this day, ranks as one of my least favorites.  Why?  Because it’s not about our characters.  That and the all-too predictable late twist that anyone who has ever watched television before will see coming a mile off.  On the other hand, the episode was notable for an appearance by a then relatively unknown Grace Park as one of the young cadets.

48 HOURS (514)

The working title for this episode was Teal’c Interrupted, but later changed to 48 Hours.  I was extremely disappointed.  I figured, hey, if you can call an episode Watergate, you should be able to call another one Teal’c Interrupted!  The episode kicks off with the shocking death of Tanith, shocking insofar as he was a mid-major villain who suddenly and all too quickly buys it in spectacularly unspectacular fashion.  From what I recall, we were unable to reach a deal with the actor on another episode and, rather than leave the character dangling, elected to write him out instead.  This episode also saw the introduction of one Dr. Rodney McKay (“Rodney?”I remember asking Rob at the time.  “Is that the name you want to go with?”), an insufferable ass who, over the course of the franchise’s run, ended up redeeming himself in surprising fashion.

SUMMIT (515)

Boy, the costume department had a field day with this one!  This episode was a try-out of sorts, an audition for future system lords.  I drew on a variety of different cultures, creating a colorful rogues gallery.  The hope was that if one popped, we could use him/her in future episodes.  Well, one did: the exquisitely evil Baal played by Cliff Simon.  I remember working on a rewrite of my first draft when we received word that actor J.R. Bourne would not be able to reprise the role of Martouf due to scheduling conflicts.  As a result, my rewrite was a little more extensive.  Rather encountering the Martouf we knew, we encountered his symbiote, Lantesh, who had taken a new host.  It worked but, alas, was nowhere near as powerful as it could have been.  I publicly toyed with the idea of not using a host body and simply having Carter bid a tearful, smooch-filled farewell to the little rubber snake – but it was more an attempt to irritate my fellow writer-producers than a serious pitch.

LAST STAND (516)

Back in the old days, SG-1 used to kill Jaffa with gay abandon.  They were little more than cannon fodder for our team, nondescript bad guys who deserved everything that was coming to them.  Except, as time wore on, knocking off the goa’uld’s foot soldiers wasn’t as easy as it used to be because we started to explore an aspect of the Jaffa that had been glossed over in previous years: the fact that they were essentially pawns.  Unlike the ruthless goa’uld who were motivated by a thirst for power, the Jaffa were misguided and knocking them off grew increasingly problematic.  At the end of this episode, we massacre a slew of them with the deadly toxin that targets their symbiotes and, while it may have seemed a smart strategic move at the time, like the food pyramid, asthma cigarettes, and Coca-Cola for kids print ads, it was the sort of thing that eventually went out of style.

April 7, 2011: The Mystery of the Chewed-Up Chapstick! Stargate links! Pre-Production Update!

Look at ’em.  So easygoing and laid-back.  Little angels they appear to be.  Certainly not the type capable of something like…

THIS!

I’m baffled as to who the guilty party is.  In The Big Red Chewing Gum Incident, Jelly’s cinammony breath was a dead giveaway.  In the Mystery of the Missing Curry Fusilli, the fact that Maximus was suddenly incapable of fitting into his hitherto roomy harness proved his undoing.  And in the Case of the Disappearing Chocolate-Covered Almonds, Bubba’s eyes whispered “Innocent.” while his explosive diarrhea screamed “Guilty!”.  In this case, I’m not sure. Although I have to say Lulu’s lips have never looked more lustrous.

Three links to three different Stargate-related interviews for you to check out, compliments of Steve Eramo over at SciFiandTVTalk:

A chat with Alexis Cruz: http://scifiandtvtalk.typepad.com/scifiandtvtalk/2011/04/sci-fi-blast-from-the-past-alexis-cruz-stargate-sg-1.html

An interview with Kavan Smith: http://scifiandtvtalk.typepad.com/scifiandtvtalk/2011/04/stargate-atlantis-eurekas-kavan-smith-wants-to-hear-from-you.html

And a sit-down with the lovely Carl Binder: http://scifiandtvtalk.typepad.com/scifiandtvtalk/2011/03/stargate-universe-writers-room-carl-binder.html

We were back in the office today to give/get notes on the outlines and one pagers for episodes #3-8.  It ultimately fell on me to tweak the one sheets, reformat them, and then send them out.  As much as I enjoyed the experience, I must admit to enjoying the experience of passing these duties on to an actual script coordinator even more.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Casa Loma for a little location scout after which I’ve got a slew of auditions to check out.

Hey, did I mention I’m working on Transporter: The Series?

No?  Well, I’m sure you already figured it out.