By day, Brad Wright is the executive producer and co-creator of Stargate SG-1. By night, he’s … well, he’s still busy working on the show! It’s true that Mr. Wright has devoted himself to the creation of one of television’s best series, but thankfully, he’s not too busy to take some time out to answer questions from Stargate fans.
In June, we collected questions from fans from around the world for GateWorld’s latest edition of “Ask the Producers.” GateWorld received over 300 submissions in just one week! We edited them down and chose the best, most representative questions, to send to Mr. Wright. (Question-askers are identified in italics.) Here are his answers, on everything from the show’s original creation and his role in the production process to Season Six and the future of the Stargate franchise.
Our sincere thanks to Brad Wright not only for taking the time to participate, but for tirelessly bringing us one hour of television’s best each week. The fans salute you!
GateWorld: Do you feel you (the production staff) have creative freedom? Network shows seem to be bound by endless internal politics. Have you ever encountered problems like this? Are they few and far between, or a frequent problem? (Prometheus)
Brad Wright: I think we have far more creative control than most network shows, but probably no more than most successful network shows. After the pilot, Showtime’s input never went beyond, “The show looks great.” I was nervous when switching over to Sci-Fi, and have found them equally hands off. To their credit, they said, “The show isn’t broken, so we don’t want to fix it.” I very much appreciate that.
GW: What job on Stargate would you most like to do (apart from writing), and why? If you could time travel back to any period and change something for the better, when and where would you go, and what would you change and why? (Earthgrazer)
BW: The great thing about being a show runner, is that I can (and must) dabble a little bit in every department. I love working with the art department, adding my own two cents worth as I approve sets and designs for ships, creatures, wardrobe, etc. I also love working with visual effects. Going from a blue “shot missing” banner in a cut to an exciting, CG sequence is a fun process.
I love talking to directors about how we should shoot a given sequence, and working with our film editors to make the final cut. But I suppose to truly answer the question, I’d have to say that I wish I had Joel Goldsmith’s talent in composing our music. His music never fails to elevate our work to a higher level.
The second question is a hard one. I’d have to say — as Carter might — that I’d be afraid to change a thing, for fear of creating a causality violation I couldn’t live with.
GW: How do you judge viewer response to episodes / characters / plot lines? Do you just go by the ratings and online comments, or do you have other methods? (Sally R.)
BW: At the end of the day, I trust my gut. Some fans will love an episode; others will hate it.
GW: Does Joe Mallozzi shares his online experiences with the rest of the production staff? If the answer is yes, are you aware of the vast support the show is currently getting online? (Ann)
BW: Joe and I talk about his online experiences all the time. It always surprises me how much he is blamed for things just because he’s the one with the prominent online presence. Joe takes it all in stride.
GW: Which is the episode where you think you captured the best the spirit of Stargate? (Nausica)
BW: There are many. Of the early seasons, I think probably “The Fifth Race” is the closest to the quintessential episode. It’s funny, sad, it’s got aliens, it’s a team episode. I’m also quite fond of “Secrets,” “Serpent’s Song,” “Torment of Tantalus” and “2010.”
But I always think the stories we’re currently developing are the best ones … partly because I think it’s true, but also because I think it’s important to focus on the present.
GW: What’s the wildest story or concept that has been pitched to you by your writing staff? Are there any stories / story arcs that you wanted to do or elaborate on — that you just couldn’t do with SG-1? (Daniel C.)
BW: Robert once pitched an underwater story that was technically impossible one season, and became “Watergate” just two years later.
GW: When you originally pitched the show to MGM, did you have the whole outline in your head or just a rough outline of the first episode? (Netuiscool)
BW: Jon [Glassner] and I had a concept for a group of teams, taking their first preliminary steps out into the galaxy. We tried to create something that could run a long while, but we never had in our minds a place the series would end. Instead, we planted “seeds” of stories, to see if they would sprout into new ones. Some took root and others didn’t, but by creating an expanding universe within which to tell stories, Stargate has managed to go six seasons.
GW: As executive producer, how much influence do you have on the show? Any examples of your influence (plot, characters, etc.)? (Pilla)
BW: This is a funny question, because I get the feeling that most people have no idea what an executive producer does. The fact is, there are several different kinds of executive producers, even on our own show. I’m what is commonly referred to in the industry as a “show runner,” but even that means different things on different shows. I’m responsible for both the stories and I have the final say on designs, effects, casting, editing, and episode budgets.
That isn’t to say I do everything — far from it! All of this I consult with Michael [Greenburg], Rick [Anderson], and Robert [Cooper]. John Smith and Andy [Mikita] run production so well, I hardly have to worry about it. When MGM or Sci-Fi calls, they call me.
Most of my energy goes into the story department. That’s what I influence most creatively. I spin stories, and suggest ideas along with the rest of the writing staff. I also do a lot of re-writing of other writer’s work (except for Robert, since Season Two, and Paul [Mullie] and Joe [Mallozzi], especially this year.) Those rewrites can be almost from page one — such as “Secrets” or “Serpent’s Song” — other times it is just a polish, like “Allegiance.”
Robert has basically stepped into Jonathan’s shoes, running with his own episodes through prep and editing, which means he does a great deal of writing that doesn’t have his name on it as well — such as “Between Two Fires” or “Menace.” Paul and Joe now do the same this season with their own episodes.
I believe the best way to run a show is pick the right people and let them shine, adding ideas and input along the way, without dictating too much. That makes for a creative atmosphere. Rick, Michael and I have always agreed the best idea wins.
GW: Do you and the writing team enjoy playing with the traditional sci-fi storylines and giving them a new spin, or do you battle to come up with something “new?” (Diane B.)
BW: Both. It’s a balance. I don’t mind touching on a familiar theme as long as we put our own twist on it.
GW: If you could go back to the beginning of the series, is there anything that you would change knowing what you know now after 100+ episodes, story-wise / character-wise, etc.? (Ruth K.)
BW: I would have dropped the symbiotes in the pouch. I’ve never liked the damn things. O’Neill’s feelings for symbiotes and pouches reflect mine exactly. I liked the concept in general, but the execution of it was … not great.
I also would have dropped the nudity in the pilot episode. I was dead against it at the time, and even brought my 7-year-old daughter to the rough cut — just to point out that I had to remove her from the screening room for two whole scenes.
GW: Will there be a possibility of us ever seeing bloopers from the show? Maybe added to a DVD release? (Several fans)
BW: I’m not a big fan of bloopers, because generally it just highlights an actor’s mistakes. Why should anyone have their mistakes put on a reel? On the other hand, I enjoyed putting together the fake bloopers at the end of “Wormhole X-Treme!”
GW: If you could be any of the characters from Stargate, who would you be and why? (And more importantly, what would you do that the character wouldn’t?) (Debbie G.)
BW: You forget that as a writer I get to be all of them. When I write or rewrite a script, I’m getting into the skin of the characters — to a lesser degree than the actors of course, but in a way, I get to play every character in the scenes, at least in my imagination.
GW: What does “Sierra Golf Niner” stand for? Is this the call sign for the leader of the team when off world? (Tom the AF advisor and Joe didn’t know the answer.) (Jahncie)
BW: “Sierra Golf Niner” just means the team leader. This is special forces code, according to our technical advisor.
GW: Stargate SG-1 deals with the characters ‘psyche’ more than other sci-fi, be it single scenes (“Legacy”) or full episodes (“Cold Lazarus,” “Meridian”). Was it planned to make a darker, more realistic series or did it develop over time? (Christopher O’Donnell)
BW: I’ve always thought Stargate was capable of being dark one episode then very light the next. That’s what I love about science fiction. It’s really not just one genre. Part of it comes from having actors capable of doing both comedy and drama.
ON SEASON SIX …
GW: Was Michael Shanks / Daniel Jackson scheduled to be in six episodes in Season Six? Could you list the six episodes Michael Shanks will be appearing? (Several fans)
BW: I never said Michael would be in six episodes. I said “Michael could come back one or two times … he could come back six times, for that matter.” It depends on the stories and his availability. On top of that, he’s expensive as a guest star. To have guaranteed him six episodes would have required a negotiation between Michael and MGM business affairs.
GW: Why did you replace a well-rounded character who was an expert in ancient cultures, languages, etc. with a character who reads the first character’s books and becomes an expert in three months? (Ian)
BW: Jonas has just memorized the facts. That doesn’t make him an expert. And you’re being unfair — Daniel became a well rounded character over time. Jonas will, too.
GW: I have really liked what I have seen of Jonas Quinn. I was wondering if you all had plans to include him in the proposed feature film and/or the spin-off Atlantis? (B.M. Dunlap)
BW: Yes to both, but of course, things change.
GW: Can you put to rest the rumor that Corin Nemec [Jonas Quinn] is Sam’s new romantic lead? And, again, the whole McKay/Sam thing — she was just yanking his chain and not a romantic interest? (Tere)
BW: There are no plans to put Carter and Jonas together romantically. Not a chance.
GW: Will there be an opportunity for a stronger bond of friendship between Carter and O’Neill? (Several fans)
BW: They’re already as close as two people working together can be. It’s not uncommon for people to have deep feelings for one another, but realize it’s impossible to take the relationship further without jeopardizing their careers.
GW: Can you share a funny incident with us that’s happened while shooting Season Six so far? (Feli)
BW: Hmmm. Honestly, I can’t think of anything. There are a lot of little “you had to be there” moments, but other than that …
EPISODE-SPECIFIC QUESTIONS …
GW: Given that Earth is the origin point of the Goa’uld’s host species, why do they care so little for it? When the Gate was buried, why didn’t they send ships to re-establish control? Once the S.G.C. started, why didn’t they do anything? (Derek B.)
BW: They did. Apophis came to destroy Earth at the end of Season One. Two of his motherships were destroyed — thanks to SG-1 — which gave the other Goa’uld pause to attack again right away. Then, in the episode “Fair Game,” Earth became a part of the Protected Planets Treaty. Even then, they tried to wipe us out with an asteroid last season.
GW: Why was Daniel Jackson ascended and not killed? Will his ascension have an impact on Season Six other than the other characters dealing with his absence? (Pandora)
BW: He ascended because that made for a great story, and gave us the opportunity to bring the character back.
GW: In the episode “Shades of Grey” there’s a scene where Jack is listening Opera when Maybourne visits him. The aria is “Vesti la giubba,” from Leoncavallo’s “Pagliaccio,” and it reflects very well how is Jack really feeling. Can you tell me whose idea was to chose that aria in particular? (Nausica)
BW: Joel, our composer, chose it. Like I said, he’s the best.
GW: Can you help settle a 6-year-old debate? Back in “Children of the Gods,” Sam mentioned her “100 hours in enemy airspace” … but she never wears wings on any of her dress uniforms. Is Sam a pilot? And is Jack a pilot? (Several fans)
BW: I always thought Carter worked aboard an AWACS, during the Gulf War, but as a general’s daughter, she might be a pilot, too.
Jack definitely is, because Richard Dean Anderson says so.
MOVIE QUESTIONS …
GW: How is the [SG-1] movie progressing? When will shooting begin? Any tentative release date? (Several fans)
BW: Rob and I have turned the feature in. MGM has received it very well, though we’re already embarking on a re-write based on their notes. We haven’t yet received a green light.
There may even be a year seven of SG-1, which would put the movie production on hold for another season. I have already said I would not come back for a seventh year. Instead, I’d take a “sabbatical” to work on Atlantis, and leave the show in Robert, Paul and Joe’s capable hands.
GW: How closely will the movie tie into Season Six? What is the effect of Devlin wishing to continue with “Stargate II?” (Several fans)
BW: Devlin can wish to do a sequel to Stargate all he wants. MGM owns the rights, and I doubt very much that they’ll ask him to do it. He knows better.
GW: Will the SG-1 movie put an end to the current storyline, or will it remain open for a tie-in with the new spin-off series? (Several fans)
BW: It will remain open, to a degree … you’ll see. I’d like there to be a series of SG-1 features with Atlantis on television. But just like Dean Devlin, I can wish that all I want until MGM makes the deals and secures the broadcasters.
GW: What kind of direction will the new series be heading, in terms of storyline development? (Several fans)
BW: Atlantis is less military in command structure, but I can’t tell you much more than that without giving too much away.
GW: Will the Goa’uld be the main enemies of the new series (Atlantis) or are there new villains that will replace them? What time frame will the series take place? Same as SG-1? (Several fans)
BW: The Goa’uld may still be around, but a new series has to have a new villain.
GW: Will the spin-off series Atlantis be written by the same people who have been writing the SG-1 series? (Jim)
BW: Yes, assuming we can make deals with everyone.
GW: What can you tell us about Stargate Infinity? (Darren)
GW: Do you and the Vancouver production team having anything to do with it?
GW: More importantly, should it be regarded as official Stargate canon, or should we treat it as an entertaining romp through an alternate universe, which has no impact on the live-action stuff?
BW: The latter. By the way, I don’t have a problem with it. I’m just not involved.
NON SG-1 RELATED …
GW: If you could remake/write a script for, an old no longer around TV show, or re-make a film that hasn’t yet been remade, which would it be and why? (Vicky)
BW: This may sound odd, but I always wanted to write for Star Trek: The Next Generation. So, I guess if I could ever write one of those features, I’d jump at the chance.
GW: Who would you pick for the lead role, given the choice of anyone and why?
BW: Patrick Stewart, of course.
GW: Do you read much science fiction literature? Who are your favorite authors? (KMInfinity)
BW: I’ve read a great deal of science fiction. I love Asimov, Saberhagen, Haldeman, but my favorites are Pournelle and Niven, especially as a team. My favorite science fiction novel is The Legacy of Heorot by Niven, Pournelle and Steven Barnes. It’s brilliant. I’d love to make that movie someday.
GW: How did you get started in the film industry? (Tyrel H.)
BW: Believe it or not, I was an actor and a playwright for several years with a small Toronto theatre company. When my wife became pregnant with our first child, I realized that I needed to make a better living and wrote a few spec screenplays that got me work fairly quickly in the Canadian television scene. In 1993, MGM was looking for local writers for their Outer Limits series, and I haven’t left the lot since.
GW: How is producing a series SG-1 with the same cast differ from when you produced The Outer Limits, where the storylines did not have to fit any continuity and the cast would change with each episode? How are the concerns the same and different? (Ann)
BW: I have to admit, The Outer Limits was a writer/producer’s dream. I learned so much, because each episode was like a little movie on its own. Some were great, others failed, but each new episode presented its own challenges. Of course, the beauty of producing a series with recurring characters, like Stargate, is that you can develop them over a long period of time.
I guess that’s it! Thanks for watching. It’s been a great six years.
Brad Wright is an executive producer and co-creator of Stargate SG-1. His previous credits include The Outer Limits, Highlander: The Series and Neon Rider. He has penned such episodes as “Solitudes,” “The Serpent’s Lair,” “2010” and “Abyss.”