As the eighth season of Stargate SG-1 enters production alongside its first live-action spin-off series, Stargate Atlantis, co-executive producers Paul Mullie and Joseph Mallozzi give Dreamwatch's Sharon Gosling an exclusive preview of the Stargate franchise's latest offerings...
Dreamwatch: How is work on Stargate SG-1's eighth season coming along?
Joseph Mallozzi: We're working on a couple of scripts at the moment. Paul and I are actually so busy that we're doing something that we rarely do, and that's write scripts separately and then swap. The show is actually in excellent shape this year, in that we have about 10 scripts already in various stages of development.
Paul Mullie: We have story ideas for almost the entire season - maybe 17 or 18 episodes, although some of them are pretty vague right now. We're in pretty good shape.
Can you give us an idea of how season eight will begin?
Mallozzi: Well, as in previous seasons we've got a big opening two-parter.
Mullie: Our first episode is essentially a 'bottle show', so it takes place mainly on the base [to utilise the series' standing sets]. A lot of the story of the two-parter is about unfreezing O'Neill, because at the end of season seven he's in a frozen stasis pod in Antarctica, so we have to get him out of that. And when we unfreeze O'Neill he still has all of the Ancients' knowledge in his head, which will kill him, as we know from [the season two episode] The Fifth Race. So we have to find a way to get that out, and the only people who can help are the Asgard.
Mallozzi: But as it turns out, they have problems of their own.
Mullie: Yeah, so it's an intertwined adventure involving the Asgard and getting O'Neill out of jeopardy.
Does the Asgard/O'Neill storyline span beyond the initial two-part opener?
Mullie: It's an arc.
Mallozzi: There are plenty of arcs this season. There are also going to be a number of instances where we are going to take a look at characters' home lives, like we did with Carter in season seven. In particular we'll be checking in on Teal'c. He finally gets a place off-base. We have a story that [co-producer] Peter DeLuise wrote focusing on Teal'c, in which he's just trying to live life as a regular, tattooed human being!
There are a lot of changes this year, including Jack O'Neill being promoted to General.
How easy has that transition been for the show's writing staff?
Mallozzi: It's been different and at times actually quite a challenge. That's not so much because we're missing O'Neill out in the field, because we've got three great characters and I'm sure the actors appreciate the fact that we can concentrate on their individual characters a little more.
But having O'Neill play the General in the briefing room is real fish-out-of-water stuff. You can play it for humour, which is fine, but he also has to accomplish what Hammond used to accomplish in the briefing room environment, and at times it almost goes against character - against the O'Neill we know. So the challenge is to find a way for General O'Neill to debrief the teams and ask the questions and make decisions that Colonel O'Neill never really had to do. They are almost decisions that you'd never imagine Colonel O'Neill making.
Mullie: He's just in a different position and is being forced to do stuff that he just wouldn't normally do, or necessarily like to do. Robert [C. Cooper, head writer/executive producer] has written a whole episode called Zero Hour about O'Neill as General, in which O'Neill faces that and almost wants to resign. He just has to do a bunch of stuff that he doesn't really like doing. Obviously, he doesn't resign, he comes to realise that he's in the right place doing the right thing. But there are difficulties for the character in adjusting, and there are difficulties for us in writing it. We've only written a couple of episodes that really show him as the General and we're still finding our feet with that.
So is SG-1 a three-person team this season?
Mullie: It is a three-person team. We thought of getting a fourth member of the team, and then we realised that a lot of the stories didn't really call for it. This person, whoever it would have been, would just have been standing around watching them do what they do. So we decided to make it 'as needed': in other words, if we needed a fourth member who had a certain specialty - say a scientist, or a soldier, or someone who had information about a particular thing that they were going to do or encounter - then we would add that person for that mission. That was how we were going to approach it.
But then when we came to looking at the stories, there just weren't that many things that called for that. So we just didn't worry about it.
We had to address the issue in the early stories. At the end of the big two-parter, O'Neill gets promoted, and then in the next episode, Lock Down, which we've written, they ask O'Neill, "Who's going to be the fourth member of SG-1?" He doesn't want to make a decision. He's got a Russian character lobbying to be the fourth member, and he doesn't want to put him on, and everyone's bugging him about it. Finally, I think Carter says, "There's nothing in the regulations that says there has to be four people in the team." And O'Neill just goes, "OK, there you go! I don't have to make a decision."
Does that mean that Carter is now officially SG-1's leader?
Mullie: She's now a Lieutenant Colonel - she gets promoted as well, so she's the leader. Unfortunately there's no one directly under her command in terms of the Military! There's no one for her to order around - neither Teal'c nor Daniel are Air Force, so technically they don't have to follow her orders! [Laughs] But she's in charge.
Overall, how do you feel season eight is shaping up so far?
Mullie: The scripts are good. The ideas we have are good. We've just had some rude budget awakenings! As we started to prep Lock Down, which is a very small show, we realised that we didn't have as much money as we thought we did.
Mallozzi: The Canadian dollar has really, really hurt us this season.
Mullie: MGM pays in American dollars, so when the Canadian dollar goes up, we get less money on the screen, which in unfortunate. It's going to hurt, and the jury is still out on how much that's going to affect what actually appears on screen. At fist I thought, 'This is going to be great, we're not going to miss a beat from last season. We have really good stories lined up.' Then, after a week of prep and rewriting our scripts to cut budgets, I started to get a little concerned. But we've faced these problems before, and we found a way around it.
It's going to be tougher this year, the goal posts have been moved even further back, and we're just going to have to deal with it. We'll find ways. We've still got the cast, we've still got the characters, we've got all the situations that have been set up and the arc and mythology are there for us to draw on.
The stories may be a little smaller, more focused on the people and less on big extravaganzas, but I don't think it's going to hurt us. We do those stories pretty well. And we'll still save enough money to do a big two-parter at the beginning of the season, we'll probably do a big mid-season two-parter and something big at the end. We just may do a few smaller and more personal stories in between.
Is this definitely the last season for SG-1?
Mullie: Well, we've said that for three years! [Laughs] I think this is really the end. It just makes sense to let season eight dovetail into Atlantis. It's just so hard to do this show now. It's become very expensive, as any show will after this many seasons.
If it didn't exist, I would be sad, because the concept is completely open-ended. The idea of a gate that takes you to other planets means you can do stories forever. But I think maybe it is time, and Atlantis is a good excuse to bring in new blood. So I think since Atlantis is out there and the concept can continue on, it does make sense to end it. Eight years is a really good run. I'm sure people will miss the characters - we are going to miss them! It's going to be sad when it all comes to an end, but I think this a good way to go out.
Speaking of Atlantis, how is the new show looking so far?
Mallozzi: The early footage looks great. It's a young and enthusiastic cast - and we have the added bonus of a cross-over character in Doctor McKay, who was a great character in the 'SG-1 verse'. It's just great having him to write for, and the other characters are great as well.
Mullie: I think Atlantis is going to be great. It's weird, because the casting process was difficult. They looked at a lot of people. This is the first time I've been part of casting a new show, and it's hard! It's about finding this really indefinable quality - and you're not just looking for it in an individual, but you're looking for it in a team. They have to play off each other and have a chemistry. Sometimes you'll get an actor who does a great audition but just isn't right for the part based on who he or she has to play against. It was so crazy in the end, so last-minute.
Mallozzi: Bits and pieces were falling into place, and there was one final little piece - Dr Ingram. We found some very good actors out there, but we just didn't find anyone who really responded to the role or really gave us what we were looking for in the character that Brad [Wright] and Robert [C. Cooper] had created. And when it looked like we weren't going to find anyone, I remember someone mentioning, "It's too bad we don't have someone like McKay on the team!" And we thought, well, why not? So we contacted [former Stargate SG-1 guest star] David Hewlett.
Mullie: It's early days, and we're just getting the dailies from the first couple of weeks' shooting. There is always going to be some elements of finding the characters and they're going to change at first. I'm looking forward to seeing a cut, because dailies are so disjointed. But I think the show's going to be fun. The set is awesome, a monumental thing and beautifully decorated. I think it's going to be pretty cool.
Dreamwatch issue 116
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