|Beware minor SPOILERS for Season Five in the interview below!
A veteran writer of more than 20 years, Carl Binder
admits he has never been more happy than he is now working on Stargate Atlantis
. Season Five brings new challenges to the production team as Atlantis
becomes a seasoned series with nearly 100 hours of entertainment committed to film.
In our latest interview with the writer, Carl tells GateWorld about "hitting the ground running" fresh from the Writers Guild of America strike, which ended a month after production on Season Five began. We discuss his favorite episodes coming down the pike, including one he has been toying with, the absence of Weir
as regular cast members, and the introduction of Woolsey
as a regular.
GateWorld's interview with Carl runs almost 25 minutes. Listen online at your leisure, download it to your MP3 player, or subscribe to the iTunes podcast
. The full interview is also transcribed below!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I'm David Read. I'm once again here with Mr. Carl Binder. Thank you for taking some time with us, sir.
Carl Binder: My pleasure! Any time ...
GW: Season Five [of Atlantis] just started. Have you been busy?
CB: Yeah. Very, very busy. Hit the ground running. I started the season on strike, so I joined the rest of them about a month late. I've just been spending the first month or so just really hitting the ground running and playing catch up and getting things going. But good to be back. Very good!
GW: What shows are you most excited about so far?
CB: Which shows am I very excited about? Well, I'm very excited about the one I'm doing right now. The one which is shooting right now, which is going to be a lot of fun is "Ghost In The Machine." We are able to revisit some loose ends from last year, and tie them up in a different type of way than what might be expected. That's a lot of fun.
I'm just starting another script. Well, not starting. I've done the first draft of "Tracker," which is a lot of fun. Because it's another "in the woods" adventure/action piece with Ronon and McKay. [They've] been teamed up to track down Keller who's been kidnapped. And kidnapped by someone who is very similar to Ronon. So that one's a lot of action. That one's going to be a lot of fun.
One-on-one moments between McKay and Ronon have been limited in the past, but will be revisited for a full episode in "Tracker."
GW: What do you think is being done differently this year or is unique that fans are going to most look forward to? Last year was this huge arc -- Teyla's baby and the Athosians -- what's this year about?
CB: Last year was great in that we had that real overriding arc. This [year] is kind of about new enemies, a new reality...how do I put this?
GW: A new reality?
CB: I just realized with science fiction, that's probably not the right way to word that, because it can be taken a million [different ways] ... just a new order. A new order to the galaxy. The results of what happened last year are going to be felt this year. The galaxy is a little bit ... the Wraith are not as strong as they used to be. So the people of the galaxy are going to be stepping out a little bit more, and forming more alliances. As a result, other societies are going to emerge. Some very technologically advanced and some friendly and some not so friendly. There's going to be this discovering the new order of the galaxy this year.
GW: What are some of these new races that you guys are looking forward to bringing up out of the woodwork? Now that the playing field has changed...
CB: Well, the one that Martin is working on for the mid-season two parter kind of introduces this new technologically advanced race that we don't want to say too much about. Although I'm sure Martin's probably told you everything about it...[laughter]
GW: Just a little! [laughter]
CB: I'll let him fill in all of that. But it's an interesting -- we haven't seen the last of the Replicators, even though we thought we had. But there's a few loose ends in regards to what happened to Elizabeth Weir that will be addressed, and that storyline will continue. And also with the addition of Woolsey to Atlantis, there's a new order as far as how Atlantis proceeds.
GW: Yeah! Tell us about writing for him.
CB: Oh, he's a lot of fun. What's interesting about him is... You know, I really enjoyed having Amanda [Tapping] on the show last year. And really loved having Carter. I was able to do one episode, "Quarantine," where I was able to write more for her. And I really enjoyed it and really enjoyed what she did with it. She's just a terrific actress. Woolsey brings in a different dynamic. He's more of a foil. There will be a little more conflict. What is interesting is that we already see it happening is that Woolsey is becoming human. That the job forces you to behave in ways that you never thought you would behave...or Woolsey, anyway. And as a result, he's gaining a much broader perspective and becoming a much better person because of it.
GW: Well, you have to make the character likable.
CB: I find him very likable in his faults. There are just these moments, these nice little character moments. These little revelations of personal things that are just included throughout that are a lot of fun.
GW: You have a classic character background. I've loved your character work over the years. It's the best storytelling on Atlantis in terms of the characters. But you came from Dr. Quinn and more traditional types of story telling. How do you feel going several years on with Stargate? How do you feel about sci-fi storytelling for characters?
The prickly Richard Woolsey took over as Atlantis administrator at the beginning of Season Five, and is beginning to show his humanity.
CB: The episodes I connect with the most are the ones that are smaller and more intimate. You know, it's so funny, I do read the message boards and see the response that people have to episodes I do. And often times, I really like episodes that fans are like "Oh, that wasn't one of my favorites." Like "Miller's Crossing," or for me, "Missing." You have the [contingent of fans that think] "Eh! Keller's whiny!" But for me, that was one of my favorites of the ones that I did last year. That and "Quarantine." Oddly enough, the two that the fans responded most to -- "Midway" and "Lifeline" -- were, eh, okay for me.
So it's funny, because I don't come from a sci-fi background. The stories that have good personal dilemmas -- stories like "Miller's Crossing" that had such a grat moral dilemma that Sheppard was placed in -- I just eat that up. I love that kind of stuff. I do enjoy the big [ones]. "Be All My Sins Remember'd" with the big huge space battle. That was really cool. So I enjoy those episodes, too.
When we were trying to figure out [what] to do for a small episode, I think it was Joe Mallozzi who said "Well, what if we're all trapped in different places?" and I was like "I'll do it! I'll do it!" I want to do that one. I'm more attracted to stories where we can really get into characters and just see them not behaving in their typical way.
GW: I loved "The Real World" in Season Three. There are no explosions. A lot of fans aren't fond of it because there are no explosions. It's kind of a dark and twisted character drama. And I wish that we could see more of that in Stargate.
CB: Well, you know, I'll certainly keep trying. The thing that I loved about "Tracker" was that the idea was pitched by a freelance writer. When I heard about the idea -- they would call me when I was on strike -- they'd say "Here's what's going on. Here's what we're doing. We just took a pitch from this guy, and he pitched this idea." And I was like "Ooh, that's good. That sounds good!" And later they said "Well, he did an outline and we're not quite happy with the direction it's going, but is that something you're interested in when you come back?" And I said "Yeah, I'll do that."
So when I came back, they're like "Okay, you do it!" So I jumped on it. I love having this dynamic of McKay and Ronon, which we haven't really seen. I also wanted to revisit Keller a year later. We saw Keller in "Missing" and now we're going to see Keller in a different way in this episode.
GW: So it pays off?
" The show is primarily an action-adventure show. But you can't always do that. You have to have your lulls from the explosions."
CB: Oh, we're going to see a growth from where she's been a year ago to where she is now.
GW: [That's] series television for you. That's the best...
CB: Yeah, it's fun.
GW: Well, the show is primarily an action-adventure show. But you can't always do that. You have to have your lulls from the explosions. That's where I particularly find some of the more interesting episodes. Because it's not normal for something like Stargate. You know -- going through the gate, going into battle, coming out of it again. But I think it explores the characters more. Explores them more as humans.
CB: One of the other things I pitched, but they rejected it, was the whole idea. You know a few years ago, one that Martin [Gero] did was "Sunday." The day off on Atlantis. And the other thing I've always been intrigued by is, you know we always have these mess hall scenes, right? I mean, who's there cleaning up and bussing the tables? They've come from Earth and they are in an entirely other galaxy, and there they are. To work in the mess hall.
GW: Kind of a "Lower Decks"-type episode.
CB: Yeah, "Lower Decks." What if there was this group of friends that always ate lunch together, but they were like the janitor and the one S.O. who wants to be on one of the away teams but he keeps asking. And no, he's just got to guard the gate when the gate activates. So these guys end up getting into trouble.