SCI FI WIRE: Atlantis Cast Changes Coming

SCI FI WIRE‘s John Sullivan visited Vancouver recently and talked with the producers of Stargate Atlantis about the show’s upcoming Season Five and its major cast changes.

Robert Picardo as Richard Woolsey

Richard Woolsey

Sullivan starts his report with the addition of Robert Picardo as IOA representative Richard Woolsey, “Picardo replaces Amanda Tapping (Col. Samantha Carter), who had to bow out of the new season as a regular cast member to devote time to her forthcoming SCI FI series Sanctuary.”

Richard Woolsey was introduced in parent show Stargate SG-1 in the Hugo-nominated episode, “Heroes” (Season Seven). Woolsey’s interrogation techniques left General Hammond, Dr. Daniel Jackson, Major Samantha Carter, and Teal’c a bit rattled following the death of Dr. Janet Fraiser. None of them wished to answer his leading questions, and Woolsey resorted to threatening them to get their cooperation, which he didn’t get. After that, getting on the team’s “good side” was a bit difficult, but Woolsey started to make some break-throughs. Some, that is. …

“He’s come a long way from the pencil pusher that was introduced in ‘Heroes 1 & 2,'” executive producer and co-showrunner Joseph Mallozzi said in a recent MGM interview. Mallozzi said that Woolsey will clash “right off the bat” with the established Atlantis Expedition members. “In episode two, ‘The Seed,’ you’ll see that.

“The thing about Woolsey is that he’s always been a representative of the IOA, and the IOA have had their agenda. In some ways he’s been the rep for that particular agenda. But on the other hand, we’ve humanized him, to the point where I hope we like the guy and understand him and sympathize with his position and his willingness to at times realize that what the by-the-book situation calls for may not be the right decision. For example, in ‘The Seer,’ he goes back and presents a positive review of Carter’s handling of the situation – which was generally positive [anyway], but he left out some of the more damaging elements. And as far back as [‘Inauguration,’] he’s hired by Kinsey to basically cause trouble for the SGC. He does a little digging and realizes the truth, and rather than be a yes-man he goes behind Kinsey’s back to present evidence to the President. So that shows he has a conscience, and that’s the type of guy you want to write for. The type of character that will create conflict. He has an agenda — and it’s not even a hidden agenda, it’s right out there. You’ll butt heads with him but at the end of the day he’s a character you can sympathise with and understand.”

Robert Picardo is scheduled to appear in 14 of the 20 episodes of Season Five.

Jewel Staite as Dr. Jennifer Keller

Dr. Jennifer Keller

Next up, Sullivan announces, “Jewel Staite (Dr. Jennifer Keller), meanwhile, will become a regular cast member, a promotion from her status as a recurring cast member.”

Keller relunctantly took the position vacated by the late Dr. Carson Beckett during Season Three. She didn’t want the position as Chief Medical Officer, feeling that she wasn’t ready to step into a leadership position. She preferred just being a doctor, but over the course of the next year, Keller started to become more comfortable in the position. “She steps up to the plate a little bit more,” Staite said in an interview. “She’s becoming more courageous.”

According to Mallozzi in his weblog, Jewel Staite is scheduled to appear in 15 episodes in Season Five.

Paul McGillion as Dr. Carson Beckett (the Clone)

Dr. Carson Beckett in "deep freeze" from S4

And speaking of the late Dr. Carson Beckett, “Former regular cast member and fan favorite Paul McGillion, who appeared briefly last season, will return once more to play Dr. Carson Beckett—or at least his clone. (Spoilers ahead!) Beckett was left in stasis at the end of season four, but will reappear for five episodes in the new season,” Sullivan reports.

Mallozzi discussed the process of bringing McGillion back to the sets as the clone of the beloved late Dr. Carson Beckett in his MGM interview, “So we always had the door open, and we were really amazed by the fan reaction. The ‘Save Carson Beckett’ campaign was great, the way they demonstrated. And finally we thought, why not? So we did the two-parter at the end of season four.

“Then we were making plans for season five, discussing it with the Sci Fi Channel. I should mention Mark Stern, [the Executive Vice President of original programming for the network,] his contribution to this as well. He’s a guy who always gets a lot of flack — if the fans aren’t happy with any aspect of the show they blame it on him! But Mark was a very big supporter of the Carson Beckett character. It was one of the things we discussed during the off-season, and ultimately we said, ‘Why don’t we try to nail him down for a number of episodes?’ So I gave Paul a call and asked him if he’d be interested, and he said he’d love to come back. So we’ve got him for five. And then, who knows what the future holds?”

Even though the clone has the memories and physical appearance of the late original (who died in Season Three’s “Sunday”), there are definitely some major differences between the two. Besides the obvious part (one is dead, the other isn’t), the clone has nearly two years of coercion and captivity to deal with, as well as a fatal design flaw programmed into him by his creator, the Wraith-Human hybrid Michael Kenmore. This flaw required that Beckett be put in stasis until a remedy could be found.

Beckett will be coming out of stasis in “The Seed”, and his role is pivotal in helping someone in dire need. His next appearance will be in “Whispers”. This means that a cure to his condition has been found and he won’t be going back into stasis, right?

Torri Higginson as Dr. Elizabeth Weir

Torri Higginson as Elizabeth Weir in SGA 4.11 "Be All My Sins Remember

“One cast member who won’t be returning at all is Tori Higginson (Dr. Elizabeth Weir),” Sullivan tells his readers. “Producers had planned to bring back Weir in several episodes, but Higginson declined to return. It’s not clear at this point how losing Higginson will affect the ongoing replicator storyline.”

Mallozzi addressed the continuation of the Replicator storyline in his MGM interview, “Yeah. That story line we are going to follow through on – but we will not be seeing Torri [Higginson]. When last she was in town for ‘Be All My Sins Remember’d,’ it was a very short scene, and she was at the time very excited that we had left the door open for her character. So based on her response we wrote the script. But when we went out to her she ultimately elected to pass. Which is fine — we don’t want to force anyone to do the show! However, given the script, given the plot, it was possible to do the story without her. So Carl [Binder] went back and did a rewrite and the story will go ahead. It’s unfortunate — the fans would have liked to have seen her for continuity’s sake, but at the end of the day it’s Torri’s decision and we respect that.”

Binder’s script is “Ghost in the Machine”, and it is currently scheduled to be the fifth episode in the new season.

Future Changes

Now for the surprise section of Sullivan’s report: “Regular cast member Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex), meanwhile, hinted that he’s starting to think about life after Stargate. ‘Wouldn’t say I’m sick of [Ronon] yet,’ Momoa said, ‘but one more [season], and I’ll probably be good. I’m 28 now. I’ll be 30. … It’s just time to move on, and I’ll want to play something else.'”

Momoa became a regular cast member in Season Two and is definitely a regular in the upcoming Season Five, but no one knows if there will be Season Six for him or anyone else to return to. Atlantis is produced one season at a time, unlike the show’s predecessor, which got several seasons right from the start when it premiered on Showtime in 1997. Ever since moving to the Sci Fi Channel, however, both SG-1 and Atlantis were renewed one season at a time. Word on Season Six for Atlantis won’t come for a while yet, perhaps not until October or November or even later, but if they are not being renewed (i.e., canceled), Sci Fi might give the producers and writers a chance to wrap up the story by announcing the end in August, just like they unceremoniously did with SG-1 during the production of its tenth and final season.

Even if Atlantis is canceled after Season Five, there is always hope that it will follow in SG-1‘s footsteps and move to the direct-to-video movie format.

Season Five has been scheduled to premiere July 11 at 10pm ET/PT on the Sci Fi Channel.