SGA "Trio": The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Carter in SGA 4.16 "Trio"

Tonight’s episode of Stargate Atlantis, “Trio”, written by Martin Gero and directed by Martin Wood, involves a mismatched trio of Expedition members who have fallen into an old mine shaft and can’t get out. Where’s the Daedalus when you need it? And what about this whole adventure makes it good, bad, and ugly?

The Good: Showing that “no good deed goes unpunished,” Col. Samantha Carter, Dr. Rodney McKay, and Dr. Jennifer Keller are trying to do the good thing by helping a population move from an area fraught with seismic activity. While crossing a field, McKay falls through the ground into a subterranean chamber. What’s worse, in trying to see how he is, while on the edge of the hole, Carter and Keller fall down too. Which leads, of course, to the bad…

The Bad: They can’t get out. What’s worse, they hurt themselves trying. Where is the Daedalus that Caldwell doesn’t save the day and beam them out? Why aren’t any other Expedition members missing them? Is this chamber lined with something that prevents communications? Are the tremors going to bury them for good?

McKay and Keller in SGA 4.16 "Trio"

The gimbaled set built for Stargate: Continuum impressed executive producer and co-showrunner Joseph Mallozzi so much that he wanted to use it in his show. Mallozzi, executive producer and co-showrunner Paul Mullie, and writer and producer Martin Gero took a tour of the set back in May 2007 (beware of spoilers for Continuum and other Atlantis episodes at this link). “As they started her up, I took one giant step over and positioned myself facing a corner of the massive structure, assuming that in the unlikely event the sides dropped off, they would collapse to either side of me and I would be able to walk off relatively unscathed. I know, I know. Silly of me. It was all very safe in Wray Douglas’s infinitely capable hands. Nevertheless, I did experience a few seconds of sheer terror when they decided to test the thing – while I was inside. It tilted. It rocked. It shimmied and shook. My life flashed before my eyes. Martin and Paul, meanwhile, were casually spitballing a story which could make use of the magnificent set once Continuum was done with it.”

That story became “Trio”. Script coordinator Alex Levine wrote in his blog that the episode was supposed to be an inexpensive “bottle” episode, taking advantage of an existing set. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy or as inexpensive as they thought. Levine lamented, “But in shooting Continuum, the producers realized the set didn’t gimble enough – only about 8 degrees. So they raised the set so it could slant to 20 degrees. There’s your first big expense.”

Another expense included the time it took to shoot the episode. Levine explained that there were eight different stunt gags in this episode alone, all of which take time to set up for safety and realism. Levine watched a featurette produced by Ivon Bartok for the Season Four DVDs and related what director Martin Wood said about filming this episode: “His job, as he explained it, is to push the real action as far as possible, right up to the point that it becomes dangerous for the actors. Then the stunt men and women are called in. And according to James Bamford, our intrepid stunt coordinator, the stunts in this one are awesome.”

The Ugly: And finally, we get to the ugly part. What could possibly be so ugly about this whole trapped-in-a-box scenario that allows for great character interaction? You’ll have to tune in tonight at 10pm Eastern on the Sci Fi Channel to find out!

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