On the heels of SGA’s cancellation and the announcement of Stargate Universe, Atlantis showrunner and writer Joe Mallozzi kindly granted Solutions a Q&A to get at some questions he hasn’t answered so far on his blog. Here are the questions and Joe’s answers, which we think you’ll find enlightening!
1. How did you hear that Season 6 of Atlantis wouldn’t happen, and what was your first reaction?
Although we knew that the odds were stacked against us for a sixth season pick-up, we were cautiously optimistic after our premiere. In the ensuing weeks, the ratings held and, given that the first few episodes of season 5 had pulled in better numbers than the back half of season 4, our optimism grew. We had, of course, heard word that SGU was close to a done deal and, with the new series poised to go, we were looking at the possibility of producing another 40 episode season. Taxing but very doable, and we were more than up to the task. But, following a conference call with the studio and the network, Brad came in and told us that this would be Atlantis’s final season. We were disappointed, not only for ourselves (we had a great time making the show, especially these last two years) but for the countless others involved in its production as well.
2. What was the experience like for you and Paul Mullie as you told the cast and crew? We’ve been told they were shocked at the decision.
I think everyone was surprised. When we received word that we would not be coming back, Paul and I headed down to the trailers to inform the cast members: Joe, Jason, Rachel, and Jewel. David was off that day so we phoned him at home. By the time I got through to Bob, he already knew. Once that was done, John Smith and I headed down to set and broke the news to the crew. Reaction ranged from shocked disappointment to philosophical resignation.
3. Do you think the success of the SG-1 DVD movies helped push the decision to move Atlantis to movies? In that sense, were they a mixed blessing for Atlantis?
I don’t know. At the end of the day, I can’t speak for the decision makers. Certainly, producing 40 episodes of television in addition to a couple of DVD movies would have been very difficult. But, again, it would have been a very classy problem. Could we have done it? I suppose we could have tacked on a couple of months to the shooting schedule and wrapped in November but there’s no point in speculating now.
4. Do you think fans who are angry have some valid concerns about what’s happened? Regardless of who is making it, Universe seems like a big departure for Stargate, both in premise and in “target demographic”.
Well, yes and no. I don’t blame the fans for being upset given how much they have invested in this show and its characters over the years. The prospect of doing DVD movies may seem a small consolation, but in comparison to many shows that disappear, never to be heard from again, it’s a pretty nice going away present. As for SGU being a huge departure from its predecessors – it’s a ship-based show, true, but a the end of the day I think it makes little difference whether home base is a ship, Stargate Command, or the lost city of the Ancients, so long as the series is about a group of adventurers traveling to alien worlds through a stargate.
5. Do you think Universe truly will be more of a relationship-oriented space opera aimed at younger viewers, or has that been overstated in press releases?
Individuals on both sides of the issue have made a huge deal about the push for younger viewers. The fact is Atlantis was originally envisioned along these same lines and, in my opinion, it retained the quality of the original series. I expect SGU to follow in the footsteps of its wildly successful predecessors.
6. Assuming the crew and production staff stay on board, it seems all the built-in costs for Universe will be the same as they would have been for another year of Atlantis, except perhaps for actor pay. Can you say what costs might be lower on a new show versus a 5-year-old one?
Across the board, salaries would be lower and the licensing fee commanded by a new series in contrast to a show entering its sixth scene would be higher.
7. Do you know yet which of the standing sets will need to be dismantled to make room for Universe, or will the studio space expand?
For now, we’ll be holding onto Stage 5 (our SG-1 standing set) and Stage 6 (our Atlantis standing set). We’ll probably move the Daedalus and hive sets over to a smaller stage and end the village’s glorious run.
8. Can you shed some light on what’s holding up a second round of SG-1 movies? It’s been over 18 months since the first two were filmed!
Hey, you’re guess is as good as mine. I’m surprised we didn’t shoot any this year.
9. When do you think you’ll have more firm information you can share about the first Atlantis movie?
Possibly in the coming weeks.
10. How likely are crossovers from SG-1 in the first SGA movie?
It’s very possible that we’ll have, at the very least, limited crossover. Given the story we’ve been spinning, it would make sense to see Carter, Daniel, and Teal’c pay Atlantis a visit.
11. With Brad Wright and Rob Cooper busy with Universe, might they turn over the reins of the next SG-1 movie(s) to you and Paul as well? Would you say “yes” to that?
Of course we’d say yes. Paul and I had a great time writing for SG-1. That said, it’s very unlikely we’ll be involved in the SG-1 movie as we’ll be too busy working on the SGA feature.
12. Looking back, what are some of the most rewarding moments you had as show-runner of Atlantis that fans might not know about? What are some not-so-great moments?
I know it sounds like a cliché but one of the most rewarding aspects of working on Stargate in general has been the people I’ve worked with and the friends I’ve made over the years. In terms of specific rewarding moments as a show-runner? Well, back early in season 4, I received a call from composer Joel Goldsmith. I assumed he was phoning to discuss an upcoming score but, instead, it turned out he was calling to tell me what a terrific job he thought we were doing. “You’re very kind,” I told him. “No, I’m not kind,” he informed me in no uncertain terms. “I’m telling you I’m telling you you’re doing a good job because the show is great.”
As for a specific not-so-great moments? Well, getting the news that the show was ending was a low point (I felt the same when we heard that SG-1 wouldn’t be coming back).
13. What episode of Atlantis are you proudest of, as writer, producer, or show-runner?
Hmmm. As a writer, I’d probably go with Remnants. It was a tricky script. As a producer, I’d have to go with Whispers. It was a departure episode and a teamless departures episode at that. It was fraught with a host of potential pitfalls but, in the end, the cast and crew came through with a wonderfully unique episode. As a show runner? Let’s see how our 100th episode turns out.
14. What impacts do you think your blog has had on fandom and on the production itself, given it’s read by the cast and crew? Did you ever imagine it would take on such a life, or take up so much of yours?
When I first started my daily entries back on blogspot, it was intended to be a food journal to document my meals during my two-week vacation in Asia. At the time, I was averaging maybe 50 views a day. In time, the blog-topics have expanded, as has the number of readers, averaging 8 000/day and hitting peaks of over 15 000/day. Within the month, I’ll be hitting my 3 000 000th visitor. At this point, I consider it more a means of honing my skills as a writer than an entertaining diversion. I haven’t missed a day since I started. I suppose I’m not unlike a newspaper cartoonist who feels the pressure of having to come up with something on a regular basis. Fortunately, I’ve been able to diversify my offerings. Thank God for Stargate, my adventurous palate, Baron Destructo, and Cookie Monster. As for the impact this blog has had on fandom and the production itself? I don’t really know.
15. Seeing as how the franchise just won’t die, when can we expect your tell-all Stargate book?
Years after the franchise has wrapped and I am operating my yogurt stand in my local mall.
16. The next Winter Olympics will be right there in Vancouver, in 2010. Can you contain your excitement at the prospect? Can we assume you won’t be leaving your house for those two weeks?
In my less than humble opinion, the Olympics are a farce. I feel sorry for all of the athletes who commit so many years of their lives to training, only to be robbed by the highly questionable judging that seems to pervade The Games. As for the ridiculously wide variety of events… Seriously, at this point, it feels as though they’re just making stuff up. Fastwalking? Ping Pong? How about rock, paper, scissors or maybe duck, duck, goose? And while I know they have a lengthy Olympic tradition, do we really need the discus, hammer throw, AND the shot put? I mean, what the hell else can you throw? How about regulation size toaster or table lamp? Want me to watch the javelin? Change the rules. If your opponent can catch your javelin before it lands, then your throw is disqualified. And why the hell do we need a bobsled event in addition to the luge AND the skeleton? I’ll tell you why. Because the organizers are sitting on a freaking multi-million dollar bobsled run that they can’t use for anything else! Ahem. I might take the two weeks off and go on vacation.
17. If you were a betting man: Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin?
If I was a betting man, I’d take the money and bet on the horses at Happy Valley in Hong Kong. Crusader of Gold looks like a lock.