Solutions Salutes Robert C. Cooper

On June 19, 2010, Joe Mallozzi surprised fans by revealing in his blog that executive producer Robert C. Cooper was leaving the world of Stargate. Having worked on the shows since the first episodes of Stargate: SG-1, Rob Cooper moved out of his office at The Bridge Studios on Friday, June 25, 2010, after 14 years, an incredible length of time for anyone on a single television franchise. While he’ll have some limited participation in the rest of Stargate Universe‘s second season, his tenure as a full-time executive producer on the Stargate franchise has come to an end.

Because Mr. Cooper’s influence on the Stargate franchise was so extensive, we felt it only fitting to examine and celebrate his contributions, which we Solutions editors have followed since 1998. The material here is gleaned from our site’s archives of episode guides, interviews, and DVD specials, as well as from other internet sources. In the interest of readability, we’re only giving formal sources for exact quotes.

After you read the article, be sure to scroll to the bottom and vote for your 10 favorite Robert Cooper episodes!

Robert C. Cooper, Executive Producer

Robert Cooper began his Stargate career in Season 1 of Stargate: SG-1 as an executive story editor, and he is credited as such through the episode 2.10 “Bane”. While an editor he also wrote five SG-1 episodes, including 1.11 “The Torment Of Tantalus” and 2.02 “In The Line Of Duty”. SG-1 creators Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner must have seen great potential in Cooper, as they promoted him to co-producer beginning with 2.11 “The Tok’ra Part 1”. By the beginning of Season 3, he was a full producer, and by 3.12 “Jolinar’s Memories” he was a supervising producer. Each promotion gave him more responsibility for the many decisions that go into creation of a single episode, as well as for the direction of the show overall.

At the end of Season 3, co-creator Jonathan Glassner left Stargate: SG-1. Mr. Cooper became co-executive producer at that point, meaning he shared show-running responsibilities with Brad Wright. Beginning in Season 7, Brad Wright stepped back to become a consulting producer on SG-1, while spending most of his time developing Stargate Atlantis, with Cooper’s input and participation there as well. For Seasons 7 through 10, Cooper ran SG-1, although Wright was still involved as a producer and writer and credited as co-creator.

Conversely, on Stargate Atlantis, Cooper is credited as an executive producer and co-creator, although he was less involved in the day-to-day producing than he was for SG-1. By Season 4 of Atlantis, SG-1 was canceled and Wright relinquished day-to-day Atlantis show-running duties to long-time producers Joe Mallozzi and Paul Mullie. Cooper and Wright continued to work on new concepts for the franchise, mostly aimed at movies. They wrote and produced the two SG-1 direct-to-DVD movies, whose sales exceeded expectations. One of Cooper’s Stargate movie concepts became the premise for the third series, Stargate Universe. After it was green-lit, they became co-show-runners for Season 1. For Season 2, Mallozzi and Mullie became executive producers as well. Midway through Season 2, Cooper moved on from Stargate, although he will write one episode for the latter half of the season.

In all, Robert Cooper is credited with writing 36 episodes of SG-1 plus the movie Stargate: The Ark of Truth. He was co-writer for a further 11 episodes of SG-1. He wrote four episodes of Atlantis and co-wrote seven more. He wrote one episode of Stargate Universe’s first season and co-wrote five others. For those interested in statistics, Cooper wrote or co-wrote 65 of 336 episodes and movies, or about 20% of the 16 seasons’ worth of Stargate entertainment we’ve enjoyed so far. That’s a uniquely prolific chunk of television.

Robert C Cooper directs Ark of Truth - close-upBeyond the episodes he wrote himself, once he became an executive producer, Cooper had influence over all the elements of the Stargate series, including editing and even rewriting others’ scripts. He partnered collaboratively with Brad Wright to oversee the writing and production staff, the directors, crew, and cast — well over 100 people in all on each show. Along with Wright, he dealt with all the business aspects of the show, working with Showtime, MGM and Syfy on everything from budgets to script approvals to publicity. During the years when SG-1 and Atlantis were in production at the same time, and when Richard Dean Anderson was not available full-time, Cooper added complex scheduling to his list of difficult tasks. Not to be overlooked, he also became a director of some of his own scripts, and those episodes represented his singular vision, often one outside the Stargate norm.

Notable Contributions

Since the production of a franchise like Stargate is so collaborative, it’s often hard for fans like us to pin-point exactly who contributed which aspects to the show. It’s also often been said that no one person contributes in a vacuum, as ideas are bounced around and evolve to the point that no one person can claim credit for the end result. However based on episodes he wrote and what he has said in interviews, DVD specials, and elsewhere, we can infer Mr. Cooper’s contributions with some degree of confidence.

Such evidence leaves no doubt that Robert Cooper created many enduring aspects of Stargate canon, establishing arcs that spanned many seasons and developing the characters audiences came to love. Following is a discussion of some of the many ways he contributed.

Allies and Adversaries

Wraith from SGA 5.19 "Vegas"Many enduring friends and enemies appeared for the first time in episodes Robert Cooper wrote:

A consideration of the list reveals Cooper created villains who were purely villainous. Among the Replicators, Ori, Anubis and the Wraith, none were open to being reasoned with. They operated only according to their own benefit, and mercy didn’t enter into their behaviors. In this sense they were not ambiguous in their evil. Some viewers may argue this made them less interesting, but there was no question it would be a monumental challenge to defeat them.

On the other hand, the allies he created for Earth were not unambiguously good. The Tok’ra had their own secret motives and weren’t above lying about them. Ascended beings at first appeared to be purely good but were revealed to be quite undependable — their arcane and unfathomable rules regarding helping beings on our plane of existence meant they had to be renegades to their own kind to be helpful to humanity.

Looking back on the history of SG-1 allies and enemies in the special Behind the Mythology of Stargate SG-1, Rob Cooper had this to say about how they came to be:The Asgard Thor

Initially what we had was SG-1 were the good guys and the Goa’uld were the bad guys, but the Goa’uld were so powerful that there was really no way that SG-1 even stood a chance. That’s why the Asgard were introduced. In a way, the Asgard were as much an adversary to the Goa’uld as we were, and we became friends with them.

Shortly after the Asgard were introduced, we realized ‘uh-oh, we’ve created an adversary for the Goa’uld that are in fact are so powerful that it doesn’t really make sense why the Asgard haven’t wiped the Goa’uld out.’ And it was kind of looking at that hole in the series that made us invent the Replicators.

Really, the reason we invented the Tok’ra was, how do you get out of the problem of having a Goa’uld in one of your main characters? Well, the twist is what if that Goa’uld was actually a good guy.

The Ancients and Ascension are very much about the continuation of the human soul beyond humanity as we know it… And the idea of the Ancients is that they evolved, eventually they became so knowledgeable of the universe and of the understanding of existence that they were able to shed their human bodies and turn into energy.

In Season 9 came new villains and a significant change in direction for SG-1. Also in the mythology special, Brad Wright gave Cooper credit for giving the show a new start, while still keeping all the groundwork laid out in the previous eight seasons. “Robert, I think quite correctly, said, ‘Look, let’s introduce a new bad guy. Let’s introduce a new long-term large arc that can essentially be a new mythology that’s still very much within the Stargate universe.'” Cooper then explained the concept further:Doci of the Ori from Ark of Truth

I wanted the new bad guys to have the same feeling, to have the same essence, that the relationship with the Goa’uld was at the beginning of the series. They can be posing as gods, but have even more power.

One of the things that we intentionally did was looked at the colorful flamboyance of the Goa’uld and took a decidedly darker approach to the Ori. The Priors are quite obviously the priests in the religion. What’s interesting about them is that, again, they have supernatural abilities. […] I was really interested in making the warriors multidimensional. I really wanted to kind of understand what it would be like on the other side. So, by putting Vala behind enemy lines, so to speak, and having her develop this relationship—I mean, here’s a guy who she really could have probably spent her life with, who just so happened to be a holy crusader.

The Ancients

Heliopolis atomic display from Torment of TantalusOf all the elements Cooper introduced and explored in his episodes, perhaps the Ancients were the most significant to the franchise. Identified initially as the gate builders, their existence, influence, and the technology they left behind became a driving force of Stargate SG-1‘s quest to find The Lost City. This search gave rise to the series Stargate Atlantis, and later a means to wipe out the Ori of SG-1. The Ancients built Destiny and so became the narrative impetus for the Stargate Universe series as well. In the mythological sense, then, the Ancients turned out to be a much more fruitful creation than the Goa’uld, who after all only ruled one galaxy. The Ancients fueled three television series!

Heroes’ Journeys

SG-1 prepares to go through the gateThe story arcs of Stargate reflect Cooper and Wright’s appreciation of The Hero’s Journey, that is, the fundamental elements of mythological storytelling: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

Cooper has alluded to this literary concept directly, such as when discussing why the teams have four people (SG-1 season 10 aside):

There’s a very in-depth writing theory about groups of four, four characters being the perfect symmetrical number for writing. There was an analysis of the Coen brothers’ movie, ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ about how, within classic storytelling, having four characters is not just creatively, but mythologically, the best scenario.

The Wizard MerlinEspecially in Stargate: SG-1, the hero’s journey is very evident, with SG-1 being the heroic team, and our galaxy being the place of wonder and fabulous forces. The team ventures forth, encounters amazing things, fights fearsome enemies, and brings back knowledge and technology to protect and advance humankind on Earth and throughout our galaxy. There are also individual journeys, such as Daniel’s ascension and return, and Teal’c’s quest to free his people. As in the monomyth, often the team is helped on their journey by wise guides, be it Thor, Oma Desala, or Merlin. Individual journeys end with the characters transformed in some way, as each member of SG-1 matured, grew, and changed their views of and interaction with the universe.

In Stargate Atlantis, the heroic journeys were not as apparent, as the situation in Pegasus became one of survival and reaction right from the beginning. Beyond that, the main quest was that Sheppard and his team were driven to undo the damage they’d done by awakening the Wraith, to save Pegasus from them and other scourges such as the Asurans (Replicators). Still, the expedition members did return to Earth with new knowledge and technology, and the characters certainly did evolve.

In Stargate Universe the idea of the classic hero’s journey seems to have been largely abandoned in favor of other types of storytelling. Rather than a “band of brothers” on a planned journey, nearly all of the crew of Destiny didn’t choose to go on the adventure, and for the most part wouldn’t have chosen each other to travel with. They have no control over their course, and their continued survival is so tenuous that returning home to Earth seems impossibly far out of reach. Moreover, if and when they do return to Earth physically (e.g., not via the stones), the premise of the show would appear to be over. It would be interesting to know if this change was one Cooper chose purposefully, since he was such a strong architect of the heroic form on SG-1.

Major Character Arcs

Ronon fights, from SatedaThe episodes Cooper wrote alone had some fundamental, often unforgettable character developments that became touchstones of the shows’ canon:

Behind the Camera

Cooper at the camera in Ark of TruthCooper branched out to directing beginning in Season 9 of SG-1 and Season 3 of Atlantis. With one exception (SGU 1.14 “Human”), he directed episodes he also wrote and produced, meaning what ended up on screen represented his vision in every essential respect, from casting to editing to special effects. Many of his episodes became fan favorites due to their stylistic distinctness and their tendency to explore new facets of the characters. To be fair, as executive producer he had more leeway with his episodes’ budgets than other directors, and he often said his goal was to make sure every penny spent ended up on the screen.

Cooper’s first foray into directing was the Vala-centric 9.19 “Crusade Part 1”, which, while featuring intense special effects, was filmed more-or-less in the typical Stargate style. Next was the Ronon-centric SGA 3.04 “Sateda”, whose style was quite a departure for Stargate, especially due to its extraordinary fight sequences featuring Jason Momoa. These had the multi-camera shooting typical of The Matrix or a John Woo movie. The film treatment was different too, with blue-tinted hues and ethereal lighting. On-line fans responded to this episode very positively, both for its insights into Ronon and its fresh look. SGA 4.04 “Doppelganger” was also stylistically unique and action-oriented, exploring in dream-like sequences the deepest fears of the Atlantis crew. It was also well received.

Cooper and Flanigan on set of "Vegas"Perhaps the Cooper-directed episode most beloved or at least most discussed by fans was SGA 5.19 “Vegas,” which was shot in a CSI-style on location in Las Vegas, and set in a completely alternate universe. In an extensive Q&A at Joe Mallozzi’s blog, Cooper talked about the episode in detail, from the practicalities of shooting to some very poignant observations:

The most difficult aspect of shooting in Vegas was, as always, a lack of money. Sorry, but that’s what it usually comes down to. We went way over budget on this episode but it’s never enough. Money equals time. We had two days to shoot something that we needed much more time to do properly… A lot has been said about how different Vegas was from the series. I think it’s refreshing to try different things every now and then… This was a tragedy. The hero always dies at the end of a tragedy. It’s a dark story about a lonely man with a broken past who sees a chance to be a hero and possibly end his life-long pain.

Cooper wrote, produced, and directed one of two Stargate DVD movies so far, Stargate: The Ark of Truth. From a viewer’s perspective, the movie was not a huge stylistic departure for SG-1. What made it especially memorable stylistically, aside from the great visual effects, were the mountain scenes shot from a helicopter, some featuring Teal’c. There was also an incredibly long fight sequence with Cameron Mitchell fighting a human-Replicator hybrid. Cooper did another revealing Q&A for Ark of Truth, and he was asked if there are dangers to being the producer, writer, and director all at once. He provided some great insights on the benefits of doing all three jobs:Rob Cooper and Claudia Black laugh on Ark of Truth

Sure there is danger in taking on all three roles. It’s a minefield where the mines are very close together. But there are also benefits. I can see the big picture as far as the production goes. I understand every facet of what is going on screen. For example, I can limit the budget by writing a scene in a set I know we already have thus saving the money for a big shot I have planned with a helicopter. Or I can tell the production designer to only build three walls of a new set instead of four because I already know how I’m going to shoot the scene. A director hopefully tries to achieve the vision of the writer with the time and money allotted. As producer, I can put money where I think the director really needs it. And on set, I know exactly what I mean as a writer but may not have conveyed properly on paper. It saves a lot of phone calls. I think the crew and cast will tell you its a lot more convenient having the writer/producer there to clear up any issues they might have with the director. Also, if the director gets behind, the writer might be able to cut some scenes by re-writing a few lines. Now, it’s always helpful to have more brains. I have benefited greatly over the years from creative collaboration with many people. That’s why I try to listen to my fellow writers/producer’s opinions and talk endlessly with other more experienced and talented directors.

Controversies and Campaigns

It’s fair to say Robert Cooper experienced all sides of fan reaction to the decisions he, Brad Wright, and their colleagues made. Those that caused the most unrest involved character relationships, character deaths, and associated casting changes. Here’s a rundown of the major fan controversies in which Cooper was clearly in a decision-making role, and some examples of his reaction to them:

O’Neill/Carter “Ship”

Jack, Kerry, Sam in "Threads"Cooper was very aware of the pro- and anti-“relationship” aspects of fandom, especially with regard to Jack O’Neill and Sam Carter. From this interview:

We get the polar opposites of, we want to see shipping, and non-shipping. […] I think that people are afraid that if Sam and Jack get together, it will destroy ‘Stargate’. It will be all about their relationship, and not be about going on adventures. That’s ridiculous. ‘Stargate SG-1’ is never going to be a soap opera in which all we talk about are how people feel about each other and not about whether we’re going to save the world or fight the Goa’uld or go on missions through the Stargate. […] These are people who work very closely with each other. Of course they’re going to develop close personal relationships. […] There is some fun sexual tension between Carter and O’Neill. That we are exploring that as drama this season should be no surprise to anyone.

While Brad Wright took responsibility for the Jack/Sam “ship” flavoring of the early part of Season 4, Cooper was apparently responsible for the Sam Carter/Pete Shanahan arc of Season 8. This seemed on the surface to be counter to Carter/O’Neill ship, but the Sam/Pete break-up in 8.18 “Threads” strongly hinted that Carter was still attached to O’Neill, and that perhaps O’Neill was equally unable to move on to other relationships. Therefore Cooper recently had this to say to fans who accused him of being “anti-ship”, in response to Joe Mallozzi’s list of Cooper’s best ten episodes:

May I suggest Threads as a possible replacement. I propose that one only to respond to those who suggest I was anti-ship. Good grief. How much more ship can I get?

Daniel Jackson and Jonas Quinn Arc

Daniel about to ascend from MeridianPerhaps the most volatile and long-lived fan response to any Stargate development was to the departure of Michael Shanks, which played out as the ascension of Daniel Jackson and his replacement on SG-1 with Jonas Quinn, the man whose cowardice had in part doomed Daniel. A relentless fan campaign followed that went on throughout Season 6 until it was announced Shanks would be returning to play Daniel on a full-time basis. Cooper gave a few interviews during this period indicating his views on the matter.

From this interview conducted while Daniel was gone:

I wrote ‘Meridian,’ but Brad Wright was the one who first suggested the new character of Jonas. I agreed with him. I thought it had a nice symmetry. The fans of Daniel Jackson have been very upset about his leaving and thought we were unfair in not giving him the proper send-off. They felt he at least deserved an entire episode of his own in order to be able to say goodbye properly. To me, I think there is something very interesting about having his work, his life, honored by someone culpable for an ending.

Daniel Jackson as Arrom in 'Fallen'And from this one, just before Daniel’s return episode aired:

We like to think that he never actually went away. You know he did sort of request some time off and he was frustrated. I think he felt that his character was not necessarily taking the track that he had hoped for. But you know what, after five seasons and a lot of different ups and downs for his character I think maybe he just, you know, it’s a long time to be on one series and he just needed a little bit of a break. We left the door open for him certainly within the Stargate universe. He ascended in an episode called Meridian and went to a higher plane of existence. He was in three episodes the following year. So it wasn’t like he went away completely, and then at the end of the season we talked and sort of mutually agreed that it would be great if he wanted to come back. And he has and I think come back with renewed energy. People who watch the premiere on Friday I guess will have seen a Daniel that very much resembles the Season One Daniel. The wide-eyed, excited, happy to be here, Daniel Jackson.

Jonas Quinn and his banana in 'Descent'And this about Jonas:

I love the character of Jonas. I think he had a wonderful arc and there was some great closure to his character. He kind of went on this great journey of being considered an outsider, a traitor to his country and to his planet, and then kind of growing and learning about what’s happening in the galaxy and in the world of ‘Stargate’, and then going back as a hero and kind of becoming a leader of his own world. I think that was a nice story, it was a nice arc. Daniel Jackson was the guy from the feature film who started it all, and has a much grander arc to be fulfilled within the world of ‘Stargate’. Jonas is not dead! He’s still out there.

Death of Janet Fraiser

Janet Fraiser and Daniel Jackson with wounded Wells in 'Heroes'Another decision that earned Cooper a fan campaign was the one to “kill off” Dr. Janet Fraiser during the two-part Season 7 episode “Heroes”. In interviews, Cooper said he wanted to do a tribute to the “real” military, and that he was sure Season 7 would be the last for SG-1 anyway. Nevertheless, skeptical fans decried the decision as one motivated by ratings-grabbing or as an unnecessary shock to fandom. During his commentary for “Heroes Part 2” for the Season Seven DVDs, Cooper explained his reasoning and reflected on why he selected Dr. Janet Fraiser to represent all the service personnel who have died both in real life and on the battlefields of the Stargate world:

It was a nerve-wracking script…because I knew that people were going to react. Even in the room when I said, ‘What if we kill Fraiser?’ everyone kind of [gasped], ‘Whoa! Oh…you’re not really thinking of doing that, are you?’ Then, [it was] how we were ultimately going to try and pull it off. These things can come off horribly—very badly—very uncomfortably bad drama—and I didn’t want to do that to her character. I didn’t want to make the character melodramatic…

There’s a lot of people who were very upset about this episode and the fact that we decided to kill off a major character, but I think it’s one of those things—People are always asking me why is Stargate so successful? Why has it lasted so long?—The characters are people we love and yes, we don’t want to see them die, but at the same time, they’re living in a real world—they’re living in a world we can identify with and this is the real military, this is the Air Force, and maybe the Stargate Program is really going on—and so here are these characters we’ve gotten to love and care about in real jeopardy. You can’t have real jeopardy unless once in a while you prove that something is going to happen that has consequence.

Sam Carter in 'Heroes'One of my strongest feelings was, having worked with the Air Force on the show for so long, is that whether you agree or not with the decisions made by the powers that be, the people in the field, the soldiers, have chosen to give their lives for all of us, for our freedoms. I know I wouldn’t be much good in a war, on the front line, and I’m very, very thankful that there are people who are doing that job for my own freedoms and I think that, to me, was what was most interesting about the episode. Stargate is a metaphor—it’s a wacky metaphor—it’s science fiction—it’s fantastic, certainly, but it’s also about people who go out and risk their lives every day for the rights and liberties and freedoms of everybody on the planet…

Certainly people have died over the course of seven seasons in Stargate and I thought it was important to show that we do care when that happens, that it’s not callous… I wanted to show that we do care and those people are important and the dedication that they’ve devoted themselves to is extremely worthy, whether you agree with the political choices that are being made at any given time. I think that’s why it had to be someone we cared about. If we just had introduced Joe Red Shirt and tried to make you fall in love with that character, then killed them off, it would have been cheap.

There were other notable, much lamented character deaths in Stargate, notably Elizabeth Weir and Carson Beckett of Stargate Atlantis, and these also resulted in fan campaigns. Since Brad Wright was more prominent in running Atlantis, he took more of the heat for those decisions. Still, at the 2007 Comic Con, when Rob Cooper was asked what he has against doctors, he assured the audience dryly that it was only Scottish people they hated. This prompted the many Beckett fans in the audience to wave the Saltire flags that had been handed out by the SaveCarsonBeckett.com campaign, which was quite an appropriate response to Cooper’s statement.

Robert Cooper’s Stargate-related Awards and Nominations

Rob Cooper’s work has been recognized in writing, directing, producing, and even life achievement categories:

  • 2010: Nominated, Directors Guild of Canada, for directing Stargate Universe episode “Human” (winner not yet announced)
  • 2010: Nominated for Constellation Award for best overall science fiction film or television script, for Stargate Universe episode “Time”
  • 2010: Winner, with Brad Wright, et al, of Leo Award for Best Dramatic Series, for Stargate Universe
  • 2010: Nominated for Leo Award for directing Stargate Universe episode “Human”
  • 2010: Winner, Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award, for Stargate Universe episode “Time”
  • 2009: Winner, with Brad Wright et al, of Leo Award for best Dramatic Series, for Stargate Atlantis
  • 2009: Winner of Leo Award for Best Direction in a Dramatic Series, for Stargate Atlantis episode “Vegas”
  • 2009: Winner, with Brad Wright, of Leo Award for Lifetime Achievement
  • 2007: Winner, with Brad Wright, of Constellation Award for Best Overall 2006 Science Fiction Film or Television Script, for Stargate: SG-1 Episode “200”
  • 2007: Nominated, with Brad Wright, for Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, for Stargate: SG-1 Episode “200”
  • 2005: Nominated, with Brad Wright, et al, for Leo Award for Best Dramatic Series, for Stargate Atlantis
  • 2005: Nominated for Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, for Stargate: SG-1 Episode “Heroes”
  • 2004: Nominated, with Brad Wright, et al, for Leo Award for Best Dramatic Series, for Stargate: SG-1
  • 2004: Nominated for Leo Award for Best Screenwriting, for  Stargate: SG-1 Episode “Heroes”

Final Thoughts

Rob Cooper waves to Joe MallozziWe’d like to end by thanking Robert Cooper for all the ways his work on Stargate has entertained us, surprised us, made us laugh, made us cry, and yes, sometimes made us yell at our TVs. As fans we might not have appreciated every aspect of his decisions at the time, but we never doubted they arose from his passion for Stargate and the final product. Now we can look back on many hours of television that resulted from Mr. Cooper’s work, that on balance have greatly enriched our experiences as Stargate fans. We wish him all the best wherever life takes him next, and we hope he’ll keep in touch with us from wherever that is.

Now, please take a moment to vote for your 10 favorite Cooper episodes! To see the current poll results in order of number of votes, visit our poll results page.

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Solutions Review: Children of the Gods Remix

Children of the Gods Remix

Frequent contributor and wiki editor Aurora Novarum presents her review of the recent DVD release of a remixed version of the Stargate: SG-1 pilot, “Children of the Gods”. Enjoy, and let us know if you find it helpful!

The latest to come out of the Stargate franchise is actually an old classic. Brad Wright, co-creator of all three Stargate TV series, spearheaded a revisit of the Stargate SG-1 pilot, “Children of the Gods”.

cotg_pyramid_new

Initial suspicion that Wright was “pulling a Lucas” transformed into pleasant surprise. The final cut version of “Children of the Gods” is a wonderful new look at an old friend. Sharper, clearer imaging (you can actually read the name-tags on the poor red-shirt airmen in the opening sequence), new music, and various alterations of camera angles give a different look and feel, while maintaining the core story, and even giving a stronger portrayal for many of the characters.

It’s amazing how much difference the new soundtrack has made. Emmy nominated composer Joel Goldsmith has always been talented in creating the feel of the various Stargate series, but the first pilot relied heavily on the original Stargate movie soundtrack, and sometimes the ubiquitous music didn’t fit the scene. This new soundtrack, more judiciously used than the original version, subtly enhances the tone of the episode.

It’s difficult to explain how the new variation compares with the original. Wright and the editors went back to the original dailies and started from scratch. Sometimes it’s a matter of seeing a wide shot of all the characters rather than a single or dual shot, or vice versa. Sometimes it’s a completely different angle. For example, the forest scene on Chulak had a major flaw in the film, and so a lot of footage was unusable back in 1997. New technology allowed them to repair the damage and thus the editors had more options in how to portray the scene cinematically. Another factor is with high definition and widescreen TVs now the norm, the editing could take advantage of the 16:9 aspect ratio film standard and have more action/character moments showing within a frame.

cotg_old_deathglider cotg_new_teltak

Many of the special effects were redone for the pilot, but most are more subtle. The biggest change was a more uniform Stargate “puddle”–the original pilot used three different outside firms. The most noticeable change is the space ships in the climactic scene. The over-sized death glider that rings down the Goa’uld at the Stargate has been replaced with the canonically more accurate tel’tak cargo ship, introduced in Season Three’s “Deadman Switch” as the Goa’uld standard “sedan” transportation.

The Characters:

A major change for the film was Christopher Judge’s performance as Teal’c. Judge re-recorded all of his dialogue, and instead of the hesitant “Yul Brynner alien” performance (as Wright refers to it), Teal’c’s voice is the deep resonance of Judge portraying the centenarian character he molded for over a decade. Between that and the newly cut footage, the road to Teal’c’s betrayal of Apophis flows organically as what happens to Weterings, Skaara, and Sha’re affects him. Mixed with only slightly altered moments of him studying this new Tau’ri technology, when O’Neill tells him, “I can save these people”, Teal’c’s response is natural.

Carter’s introduction to the team has been shortened, including removal of the infamous “reproductive organ” speech, giving her less of a chip on her shoulder when introducing herself to Jack O’Neill. But screen moments have been added during the arrival on Abydos, showing Carter’s first true love–-technology, specifically the DHD and later the Cartouche room. There’s also new cuts between her and Daniel in both the Cartouche and prison sequence, cementing that friendship. Overall a stronger set up to the Samantha character.

cotg_new_smellydaniel

The alterations to Daniel are seconds added/altered here and there, but they have an impact. There’s more of a homey feel to Daniel’s presence on Abydos, not just with Sha’re, but with all the Abydonian “boys”. His angst and despair at leaving them is profound, the speech leaving Abydos is more intense than the first edit. It echoes throughout the rest of the movie, from the moment he’s so lost, Jack takes him to his place, all the way up through his attempt to share Sha’re’s fate in the prison scene, which plays out slightly differently than the original pilot.

Daniel’s concern over Sha’re is echoed in Jack’s relationship with Skaara. The “shoulder bump” bypassing Daniel is seen from a different angle, emphasizing Jack isn’t so much dismissing his friend from Earth as focusing on the Abydos boy. The extended feast scene also cements that relationship, which plays out through the rest of the movie, making an appropriate final moment of Daniel and Jack worried for Sha’re and Skaara. However, the focus on that has narrowed the breadth of Jack’s introduction as a character. Gone are the early banter with he and General Hammond taking their measure, as well as Hammond noting Jack’s grey background, unnecessary for the standalone nature of the movie.

Hammond’s characterization has also narrowed. Without some of these lighter moments in the O’Neill introduction, Hammond is more the hard-edged military commander hinted at in earlier edits, before more of Davis’s influence by the grandfatherly mentor became established. Understandably he’s focused on the invasion of his base by aliens, a recalcitrant colonel and a smelly academic forcing his way back into an active role on the base. Even the President disagrees with George’s opinion. This hard edge wars with the single scene where he keeps Samuels from sealing the Stargate for as long as possible, with the effect of that quiet moment having more of an impact.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some of the major changes (Spoilerphobes beware!):

What’s Out?

  • The harem. There is no harem in this new version. The story-line of this new CotG differs the most dramatically in that Amaunet’s rejection of Sgt. Weterings is the impetus for Apophis to go to Abydos and capture Sha’re and Skaara.
  • “I never knew you had a kid.” Kawalsky’s lack of knowledge about Charlie O’Neill has been cut, which actually improves canon since later eps like “Gamekeeper” reveal Kawalsky and O’Neill had a familiarity with each other aside from the original Abydos mission.
  • The nudity. One of Wright’s oft quoted reasons to revamp the series was to cut the frontal nudity on the original “Showtime”/DVD version of the pilot. The impact and horror of the sequence is still intact (and with the musical changes, much more powerful than the syndication cut), but lacking some the graphic nature that would keep this from being family fare for at least some in the American audience.
  • O’Neill & Hammond introduction: Jack’s explanation of jokes and the classified nature of his work has been cut as extraneous to the movie setup of CotG, and they go “straight to business”. It keeps the story flow with the urgent call to drag O’Neill to the mountain, but it also cuts some characterization.
  • Carter’s entrance. “Just because my reproductive organs are on the inside…” Apparently Wright and Glassner battled over that line for years. Ironically, the mocking references to it over the years in “200” and “Moebius” have cemented it in canon, and its presence is obviously missed. Unfortunately, losing that line also meant the appellation lines needed to be cut, and thus there’s no “Captain/Doctor” debate either in this scene or on Abydos.
  • The MacGyver line. This loss is my biggest regret in the recut version. The cute “insider” joke Tapping’s Carter makes at Richard Dean Anderson’s previous iconic character has been replaced with the originally written dialogue of “jury rigging” the SGC’s computer.
  • Samuels/Hammond waiting. At least one scene between Samuels and Hammond while awaiting word from the teams was cut from this new version, but to be honest, if they hadn’t mentioned it in the commentary, I would never have caught it.
  • Teal’c’s surrender of his staff weapon. The original version makes a big show of Teal’c peacefully handing his staff to Carter. This sequence is cut and the weapon just magically disappears while Teal’c and the giant prisoner escape.
  • Kawalsky’s fate. Wright has set up this new cut to be an “independent movie” rather than the pilot to the series, and so the cliffhanger of Kawalsky getting Goa’ulded has been judiciously cut. It’s not as if the events don’t happen to change the later canon of “Enemy Within”, but it’s not visible on screen, and the denouement is properly on Jackson and O’Neill’s concern for Sha’re and Skaara.

cotg_kiss_new

What’s New?

  • * A Stargate Dial. One of the “pilot” errors was not explaining how Apophis and crew got out of the SGC in the first scene, since Stargate canon is “no two-way wormholes”, which has caused various fan theories throughout the years. Peter Williams actually came in for new filming to have Apophis bark Goa’uld-y orders to manually dial up the Stargate.
  • Female Jaffa. One of the Jaffa revealed in the SGC makeshift morgue was a female warrior. It had been cut when they were still not sure whether there should be women Jaffa.
  • The Abydos Feast. The whole arrival on Abydos has been recut, so the angles are all different, but there’s also some added moments while they’re cooking; even the crushed MALP parts were recycled as frying pans. The entire sequence is rich with minor moments.
  • The Abydos Cartouche. This too has been recut with wider shots. Carter’s recording of the walls is clearer as is an entirely new and slightly different sequence of dialogue amongst the expedition. Tapping and Shanks agreed to come and redo their dialogue for at least this scene.
  • Abydos attack.  The aftermath of the attack has new angles and a fresh view of the confusion and panice after the Jaffa leave, including the farewell between Daniel and his adopted people.
  • A completely new briefing room scene right after the return from Abydos. We learn how many addresses were part of the Abydos cartouche and see a bit more of Hammond’s skepticism about Dr. Jackson.
  • Kawalsky’s team. While “Planet Kawalsky”‘s line is gone, the scene is much more intense amongst the members of SG-2 and their waiting and worrying for their comrades as well as more screen time when they come to SG-1’s rescue in the climax.
  • The prison sequence. The sequence seems more streamlined and extended, from the point of Daniel waking up through to the picking of the “children of the gods”. There’s much more interaction between Sam and Daniel woven in with Jack and Skaara, and Daniel’s attempt at self-sacrifice has a slightly different spin.
  • Teal’c. Teal’c’s betrayal of Apophis has a more continuous arc in this final cut. Some is the nature of the vocal performance being less stilted, but a lot is a second or two reaction shots throughout the movie. When he confronts Jack at the pivotal moment, his allegiance switch is much more believable.
  • The escape. There’s added footage of SG-2 coming to the refugees rescue and the interplay in the battle/escape to the Stargate (especially regarding the big man…who obviously was captured with his family.
  • Dedication. The end credits dedicate the film to Don S. Davis, the actor who played the beloved General Hammond in both Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis

Extras

An opportunity was lost here for added content considering this is a re-release, not a new original movie. Only two “extras” means many people excited about Easter eggs and added content will be disappointed. One is a short interview with Wright and a few others discussing many of the major film changes. It includes side-by-side glimpses between the original and new version. The main extra is the audio commentary by Wright and Richard Dean Anderson (Jack O’Neill), which is candid and friendly. Anderson happily offered to do more, to which Wright responded “You tell me this NOW? After 300 episodes?” (Note to Mr. Wright and MGM: The other episodes of the first three seasons have no commentaries attached. Put those, deleted scenes, and bloopers in make it an easy re-purchase for a lot of fans.)

The Bottom Line

A chorus of franchise viewers and fans legitimately wonder why they should buy the new CotG when for a few dollars more, they can get a variation of the same story plus twenty more episodes in the Season One DVD set. Many fans may be perfectly happy with keeping/getting the original pilot, but it’s definitely recommended viewing for:

People who are just getting introduced to the franchise (yes, there’s still new fans getting introduced to the show…as Wright and Cooper realized at the Stargate Universe panel at Comiccon). This show has a lot of the heart of the series to come, without the cheesiness and faltering steps that often happens with any pilot.

Family fans concerned about the nudity aspect of the pilot. This is a wonderful addition/replacement to the original airing, and much better than the hacked up version of the cut used in syndication.

Big fans of the franchise. Of course the uberfans have probably already added this to their library, but for those sitting on the fence, there’s definitely enough freshness to the tale that it’s worth viewing.

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Cooper Speaks Up On SG-1, SGA Movies

Stargate executive producer Robert C. Cooper gave an interview over the weekend about the prospects for new SG-1 and SGA direct-to-DVD movies. In this exclusive interview, he cites the current economics of DVD sales as the major stumbling block:

Robert C. Cooper

“We’re ready to go,” Cooper said in an exclusive interview over the weekend in Pasadena, Calif., where he was promoting SGU at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “We’re just waiting for the right opportunity,” he said. “We want to be successful with it. The studio wants to be successful, and we really don’t want to proceed with something in the wrong climate, which I think financially it is right now.”

Two previous SG-1 straight-to-DVD movies, Continuum and The Ark of Truth, sold well, but the current economic downturn makes DVD premieres less lucrative than they were in the past.

“It’s tough, because we were very successful with the first two SG-1 movies,” Cooper said. “Since then, the economics have changed a little bit. DVDs aren’t selling the same way they were when we released those even just a year, and a year and a half ago.”

This line of reasoning matches what producer/writer Joe Mallozzi has said numerous times in his blog, for example, here, as we discussed here back in June.

Fans may wonder why the studio can’t look at alternative distribution methods to DVD, such as iTunes, Amazon UnBox, and other pay-for-download media. Consumers aren’t watching fewer movies; they’re just watching them differently. In any case, this confirms what we suspected back in June: the movies are by no means a sure thing. Filming for Stargate Universe wraps at the end of October, and the producers had hoped to keep the crew on board to move directly to filming the movies. With no green-light nor deals in place, this becomes ever more unlikely as the weeks pass. David Hewlett recently expressed doubts via twitter as well:

cast has heard nothing about Atlantis movie. I think the chances of it happening now are slim to none…such a waste!

Watch this space for more news as it arrives.

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Further Delay for Stargate Movies?

Fans anxious to hear definite word about the Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis DVD movies must resort to reading the internet tea leaves, as no “official” word seems to be forthcoming, one way or the other.  We’ve heard rumors of filming dates, but none of the cast has said they have a deal in place, and we know the scripts are not yet finalized.

Based on recent hints, fans might need to prepare themselves for yet more uncertainty and delay. First, MGM Studios, which has to fund the movies’ production, is in deep debt amid the current financial turmoil. As the New York Times reported:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the 85-year-old movie studio behind “The Wizard of Oz” and the James Bond franchise, has hired an adviser to help restructure its mountainous $3.7 billion in debt and keep its film pipeline running,

[…]

Analysts have also grown concerned about the studio’s ability to raise financing for new film production amid the depressed credit markets. MGM has scaled back its ambitions to produce as many as 12 movies a year.

It’s likely that as DVD-only movies, the two Stargate films would not be counted among the 12 productions;  still it does not bode well in that MGM doesn’t seem to have capital to invest in anything remotely risky. The SG-1 movies were by all accounts more successful than expected, but the DVD market has since been in decline, as reported here.

In his blog entry for 12 June, Joe Mallozzi also described some financial realities:

In addition to the stark realities of a suffering DVD market (the victim of a perfect storm of circumstances – the evolution of alternate media platforms, the recession, and – my #1 suspect – Blu-ray). In order to set an official date for the commencement of principal photography, the studio – which is taking the lion’s share of the risk by bankrolling the production – must first sort out a number of issues. Still, as I’ve been saying all along, we all want to make this movie (me most of all as, from a purely mercenary standpoint, I’ll be producing it – and not for free), and we now have a first draft script in place.

These hints point to the need for fans to adjust expectations about filming in 2009. Perhaps we can give MGM the confidence it needs to fund the movies by buying the upcoming Stargate DVD releases: the SG-1 Children of the Gods remix, and Stargate Atlantis Season 5. Strong sales will prove DVDs still have a place on the shelves of Stargate fans!

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Sci Fi Wire: Shanks on Stargate Universe

Dr. Daniel Jackson

SCI FI WIRE has a brief interview with Michael Shanks about his cameo appearance in the series premiere of Stargate Universe.

In interviews past, Shanks has always been sensitive to the needs of the new cast. He repeats that sentiment in this recent interview, “It’s a cameo. It’s a popping in, popping out kind of thing. They’ve got a lot of cast that they definitely need to facilitate. Certainly the Stargate audience knows my character and Richard’s character and Amanda’s character and the others that show up very well. So they have to spend some time developing their world and fleshing out their characters. So I’m just a face.”

We here at Solutions don’t agree that Dr. Daniel Jackson is “just a face”—he’s much, much more than that to us—but we do understand that the newest addition to the franchise is a very different animal from its predecessors and needs to develop in its own unique way. Shanks explained, “I don’t expect to be popping in [again] anytime in the near future. Because it is such a different tone to the show, I don’t know how disruptive it would be to have characters from a different-feel Stargate show come in. It’s just a very different aesthetic to it and a very different emotional dynamic to it, that it would be very strange to see familiar characters in this environment, at least initially.”

Make sure to visit SCI FI WIRE: Michael Shanks dishes Stargate Universe, other projects for the complete interview, which also covers the the third SG-1 movie, Living Out Loud, Burn Notice, and The Eastmans.

Stargate Universe is currently filming in Vancouver and is slated for a fourth quarter premiere on the Syfy Channel (most likely, early October).

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Can We Trust Spoilers Ever Again?

SPOILER WARNING FOR STARGATE UNIVERSE EPISODE “LIFE”

We here at Solutions have had a pretty good history of reporting spoilers concerning the episodes in production with some degree of accuracy, but it’s always a good thing that we publish a disclaimer in the report just to make sure that our tail end is covered. The one we’re using this year goes something like this: ALL SPOILERS ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE WHILE THE EPISODE IS IN PRODUCTION.

Yes, it’s in bold and in all caps: a sure sign that you need to proceed with caution.

Recently, spoilers have been published for Carl Binder’s “Life” in two separate articles here at Solutions (check them out HERE and HERE as a foundation for the “rant” that is to follow). These articles were based on two sources of information: character breakdowns from Spoiler TV and audition sides for actors that we’ve actually purchased with our own hard-earned money, just like struggling actors do.

So when we got this breakdown recently from Spoiler TV for the same character that we just read the audition sides for, SHARON—”[SHARON] 35 years old, Camille Wray’s (Ming-Na’s.) long term partner. Sensitive, soulful. Strong emotional scenes. Possibly recurring. GUEST LEAD. Please submit all ethnicities. NAMES ONLY”—we had to combine it with what we already published to arrive at a new conclusion: SHARON is WRAY’s long-time lesbian lover, not MUNROE’s.

It appears that the production office is now using a big Find-and-Replace-All on character names! So, WRAY is easily replaced with MUNROE. And, unfortunately, the changes don’t stop there for this particular script. Find-and-Replace-All MARY with SHARON and RUSH with BENTON (but make sure you verify that all occurrences of “rush” replaced with “benton” make sense).

So, now we need to revise our spoilers because we weren’t in the loop when it came to this new approach taken by the production office to “leak” spoilers. We’re just a small group of fans trying to do a service to the fan community, so when something doesn’t feel right, there’s definitely reason to believe it isn’t and we can comfortably say so. And since we are merely a fan site, we probably can get away with this revision with a little more grace and acceptance by the fans than for-real professional media outlets. Lucky us (and we indeed hope so).

So, is SHARON (aka MARY) Camille Wray’s lesbian lover? Probably. And BENTON is really RUSH who makes a great discovery in the database about the seeder ships that planted Stargates on planets long before Destiny reached them. Is LT. GARY MICHAELS most likely another regular character, perhaps Lt. Matthew Scott, who got a girl pregnant (ANNIE BALIC, or is it JEAN?) and thought she got an abortion when actually she didn’t and he went on his merry way by joining the Air Force about eight years ago? Probably. But who knows for sure?

And it doesn’t stop there, sadly. Is MICHELLE really MICHELLE and WARREN really WARREN and BAKER really BAKER, or are they Find-and-Replace-All substitutes for other regular and semi-regular characters?

Joseph Mallozzi has long complained about spoilers coming from sources such as those for actors’ audition sides. They’re not something that can be faked; actors must study them and go to the audition prepared with something authentic. Mallozzi said they’ve looked into ways to fix the situation, and it looks like substituting character names is one way to go. Clever that.

So, can we trust spoilers from these sources ever again? To be honest, the nature of spoilers has always made the disclaimer necessary because scripts can change quickly and easily. The production office even has a system of colored pages to show these updates. They start off with white pages and then when a change is made, they issue the changes on blue pages. Each and every change thereafter gets a different color until it’s possible for an actor’s script to look like it was printed using a variety pack from a nearby office supply store.

It’s a new twist for us fan sites to maneuver through. Certainly, with enough of a variety of sources, we may succeed in revealing the “truth behind the myth,” but from now on, there will always be doubt. Spoiler reporting may never be the same again and that’s exactly what the production wanted.

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Sci Fi Author John Scalzi Joins SGU Team

The award-winning science fiction novel author John Scalzi has joined the Stargate Universe team as a creative consultant. In his blog entry yesterday, Joseph Mallozzi mentioned he was meeting Scalzi for dinner. Today, Scalzi has announced the reason for the dinner in his own blog entry:

The reason I’m in Vancouver, aside from having dinner at Fuel last night with Joseph Mallozzi, can now be revealed: I have a new gig as Creative Consultant for the upcoming Stargate: Universe television series.[…]

To answer questions that immediately come to mind: What “creative consultant” means in this case is to assist the producers and directors in shaping the direction of the series, to offer technical writing suggestions and advice, and basically to be useful when they want another point of view on something; it’s a background rather than foreground sort of job.[…]

Yes, the producers and writers are very smart folks who have a definite idea of what they want SGU to be, and I think it’s a good and intriguing idea with lots of interesting possibilities, which is why I signed on.[…]

Joe Mallozzi and others on the Stargate production staff, as well as actor David Hewlett, have publicly declared themselves big fans of Scalzi’s works, notably The Android’s Dream and Old Man’s War and its sequels. Visit his Amazon.com store for a complete listing.

Mallozzi also chose Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream as one of his “book of the month club” selections, and Scalzi stopped by to answer fans questions about the book.

Speaking personally and editorially, this is another big coup for SGU, after the casting of Robert Carlyle. Scalzi’s works are engaging, fast-paced, funny, and intensely imaginative. Scalzi’s influence promises to be a creative boon to the SGU production.

Look to Mallozzi’s blog tonight for what are sure to be more details on the deal, and the dinner.

Stargate Universe is due to start principal photography February 4. To-date, the only cast announcement that has been officially released is that of Scottish actor Robert Carlyle, who is to play one of the series’ leads, Dr. David Rush. Mallozzi promises more information concerning the rest of the cast will be released soon.

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Little Pieces of the "Continuum"

Here are a few pieces of info about Stargate: Continuum that might be of interest:

  • Visit MovieWeb for two exclusive video interviews with Brad Wright and Ben Browder concerning the movie (and other interesting little tidbits).
  • Visit io9 for video interviews with Ben Browder and Amanda Tapping. (There’s a mention that both will be in the third Stargate SG-1 movie.)
  • Visit Sc Fi Pi for an interview with director Martin Wood.
  • Visit MGM for an interview with Amanda Tapping.
  • Pre-order the soundtrack at Joel Goldsmith’s Free Clyde website. The CD will be available August 12 for $19.95 plus S & H at $4.95 (Dom.) or $7.95 (Int.). From the website: “This exciting score has many highlights and is accompanied by an amazing 24-page full color booklet that includes articles by Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper, Martin Wood and Joel Goldsmith. Stargate fans will be inspired by the original artwork designed by the FreeClyde team and exclusive photography from the film. … First 100 Orders wil be signed by the composer.”
  • The movie is currently #3 in “Top Movies” and #1 in “Action/Adventure” at iTunes! Download your copy at $14.99. The movie will be available for rental download August 28.

Stargate: Continuum‘s DVD/Blu-ray release dates (if you know of other dates, please let us know and we’ll add them to the list):

  • July 29, 2008: North America
  • August 6, 2008: Australia
  • August 18, 2008: UK
  • September 10, 2008: France
  • September 10, 2008: Italy
  • September 12, 2008: Germany, Austria, Switzerland
  • October 27, 2008: Czech and Slovak Republic

[Thanks to nicolas for France’s release date and to heikki for Germany’s.]

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"Continuum": Wood on the Opening Scene

Control Room at Stargate Command

In a recent interview conducted by MGM’s Official Stargate website, director Martin Wood talked about how the opening scene of Brad Wright’s Stargate: Continuum introduces Stargate Command to a possibly new audience at the same time it makes the fan feel the comfort of “home.”

The series itself lasted ten years, and there is plenty of history into which to delve, but one of the goals of Wright and Wood was to prove that this movie—and any future Stargate movie—belongs on the big screen and could appeal to a wider audience, including those who might not be as familiar with the characters as fans are.

Wood explains how the opening scene to the movie goes through this history in an elaborately executed camera shot that shows viewers the people of Stargate Command. “I wanted the very first thing that people saw to be home. This is where we’ve lived for 11 years, look at this place, and give you a little tour around it. Everybody’s there, and what’s funny is that they’re sprinkled in weird little ways.

“I just had this thought in my head, ‘You know what? I am missing one element, I need someone to come out of this elevator.’ What’s funny is that all the people you see in there are regular background extras that have been there for 11 years of the show. So they’re all very familiar and I needed somebody that the audience would go ‘Oh!’ There were a lot of different choices that we could have made, and Lexa [Doig] busted me on it. She said, ‘Why didn’t you ask me?’ And I should have done. I should have had them both.”

Major Paul Davis in Season Six's "Descent"

Whom did Wood choose? “Major Davis comes walking out of an elevator,” he reveals with a laugh. “I asked Colin (Cunningham, Major Davis) if he would do it for me as a favour, and he very kindly said yes.”

Major Paul Davis was introduced in Season Two’s “A Matter of Time” as the liaison with the Office of the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon. He sometimes had to be the messenger delivering unpleasant news, and sometimes, he was caught in the middle of tense negotiations, but always, he presented himself as an officer and a gentleman. He even got to share on a grand adventure with SG-1 in outer space! Some of his latest exploits included negotiations with a pair of bickering alien representatives and instruction in the creation of a democratic government with the fledgling Free Jaffa Nation.

Like Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell, Major Davis has read every mission report that has come out of the Stargate Program. He hasn’t been seen in the base since Season Eight, but his name was dropped in Season Nine.

“In that whole shot,” Wood continues to explain Davis’ appearance, “we see Beau Bridges, he doesn’t say anything as he walks by the camera, and there’s Siler and one of the technicians. It’s all saying, ‘This is a day in the life’ and then Major Davis comes out and then we see our team and we land back at the end of our shot, back where we started.”

Cunningham’s appearance in the elevator sounds like a brief cameo, but even so, he was glad to do it. He explained in a Stargate Planet interview, “It was an absolute blast. Martin Wood was actually helping me put together my own project at the time, Centigrade. He was kind of mentoring me through the process of directing. And so, when he called and said that he and John Smith has a little something for me, if I was willing to help them out, it was a no brainer. I owe many people over at Stargate a lot. I truly do. Deluise, Martin Wood, John Smith, Michael Greenburg, Brad Wright, all those guys. And when I needed help, they were there.”

Gate Room

The opening scene Wood envisioned brings the viewer, whether new to Stargate or a seasoned fan, into the story right from the start, giving him the point of view of someone who is walking along the corridors just as Stargate Command’s personnel do every day.

To read the full interview in which Wood provides more details about the technical aspects of the opening shot, visit MGM: Director’s Cut: Continuum (Part 1).

Release dates for the movie (DVD and Blu-ray) are as follows:

  • July 29, 2008: North America
  • August 6, 2008: Australia
  • August 18, 2008: UK
  • September 10, 2008: France

If you know of other dates, please leave them in our comment section below, and we’ll update our list. Thanks.

NOTE: Wood’s mentoring of Cunningham paid off: Centigrade recently won five Leo Awards out of its seven nominations, including those given to Cunningham personally as the film’s director and lead actor. The short is also now eligible for an Academy Award nomination since it took home an award at Cinequest. To read more about the film visit Cunningham’s Centigrade the Movie blog.

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Wright Talks Character Study in "Continuum"

Spoilers … Spoilers … Spoilers … and Spoilers….

Carter, Mitchell, and Daniel in Continuum

In an interview held recently in Vancouver, Brad Wright talked with Bryan Cairns at newsarama.com about some of the character arcs in his first made-for-video movie Stargate: Continuum. “I like seeing characters forced to look at themselves in different ways,” he stated.

Writing Continuum gave Wright the opportunity to explore each of the SG-1 team members in a different light because it is an alternate timeline story. What if the Stargate Program never happened? Where would each of them be?

Each of the three team members who are aware of the change in the timeline—Carter, Mitchell, and Daniel—find that their lives were very different in their new reality.

Samantha Carter

Carter in \"Continuum\'

“I have Carter having been an astronaut that brilliantly sacrifices herself, as usual, and saving her crew,” Wright revealed about the Samantha Carter in the alternate timeline. The SG-1 team member had dreamed of being an astronaut before joining the Stargate Program, so this new timeline appears to be very close to the “original” one that was changed by Ba’al when he prevented the Stargate from ever reaching the United States from Africa.

Amanda Tapping described how Carter felt upon realizing her new situation in an interview with Dreamwatch. “We shot this scene two days ago with Beau Bridges where he basically says, ‘You are on your own and we are going to give you new identities and lives.’ That, for me, was probably the most telling scene of the movie. There is that element where we are left to our own devices and we can’t even contact each other. That is pretty scary – to be thrown into a world where you don’t know anybody and can’t even do what you love for a living.”

Carter’s adjustment is made even more difficult because her alternate self is supposed to be dead and was apparently quite famous. It was revealed in another article published by SCI FI WIRE that Wright wrote a scene in which Carter goes shopping in this new timeline. The context of this scene wasn’t revealed in the SCI FI WIRE article, but it could be meant to show how difficult it is for Carter to even do the simple tasks of daily living if she’s easily recognized as this dead astronaut.

Cameron Mitchell

Mitchell in Continuum

At least Mitchell can be seen in public without potentially being mistakened as his own doppelganger, because, as Wright revealed, “Mitchell doesn’t exist because I wanted to do the grandfather paradox literally for fun.”

In time travel stories, the grandfather paradox goes something like this: A Time Traveler goes back in time and kills his grandfather before the grandfather had any children. Thus, because the grandfather didn’t have any children, the Time Traveler wasn’t born; he doesn’t exist. If he doesn’t exist, then he can’t go back in time to kill his grandfather. Therefore, his grandfather is alive to have children and then grandchildren, including the Time Traveler. And so, it goes…

In Continuum, Wright revealed in a Gateworld interview that Mitchell’s grandfather was the captain of the Achilles, the very ship that Ba’al intercepted that was carrying the Stargate from Egypt to the United States back during the World War II era. It was Ba’al’s intention to detonate a bomb to destroy the Stargate. For Mitchell not to exist in this timeline, it is very possible that his grandfather dies when Ba’al boards his ship.

Wright revealed in the Gateworld interview, “Another heroic figure performs a heroic act of getting the bomb off the ship before it explodes and hence the ship just keeps going on the course it was when they were navigating their way, zigzagging across the Atlantic, and ends up lodged in the ice in the Arctic.”

Mitchell, Carter, and Daniel end up ‘gating into the frozen cargo hold of the Achilles, which starts their adventure in this alternate timeline on Earth. After their rescue and being told to go their separate ways to live new lives, Mitchell visits a farm that he knew as a child. Then, he is reunited with Carter and Daniel, but his fate apparently is left hanging as Wright told Gateworld, “I think the funny part of this movie is people go ‘That was fun,’ and then they start asking questions. ‘Wait a minute, then what happened to Mitchell … ?'” He also teased, “If this were a television series and Continuum was one of the episodes, oh yeah, there’s a whole bunch of stories that I’d like to tell. There’s an interesting period of time for Mitchell that could be a story all by itself.”

Daniel Jackson

Daniel in Continuum

What happens to Carter and Mitchell in this alternate timeline is quite serious, but Wright wanted to interject some of Stargate’s trademark humor into the story. He delightedly told Cairns about a scene involving Daniel, who has already suffered quite a bit by this point in the movie, but realizes that his alternate self is alive and has published his theories about the Pyramids.

“Daniel phones himself. That’s kind of a neat scene,” Wright explained. “Daniel reads his own book and phones himself. There is a moment when he picks up the book, wants to tell somebody, and turns it over to see his face. It’s a pretty funny face and that’s the sanest look he gave in the photo shoot.”

Apparently, Daniel, being his typical Daniel self, found a loophole in the rules about not contacting each other in their new lives…

To read the full interview, visit Newsarama: Writer-Producer Brad Wright Talks ‘Stargate: Continuum’.

Release dates for the movie (DVD and Blu-ray) are as follows:

  • July 29, 2008: North America
  • August 6, 2008: Australia
  • August 18, 2008: UK
  • September 10, 2008: France

If you know of other dates, please leave them in our comment section below, and we’ll update our list. Thanks.

NOTE: The Dreamwatch interview with Amanda Tapping, Tapping on the Gate, posted July 27, 2007, has apparently been removed by Dreamwatch from their website. (Former URL: http://www.dwscifi.com/articles/show/759?type_id=4&category_id=34)

[Thanks to the MGM Official Stargate website and Andreas of Repro Images for the images used in this article.]

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